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Locomotor skills start developing in babies as young as 11–12 months of age. Locomotor skills are an important part of the gross motor skills and should be developed from early on. If you have a little bundle of energy in your house, you must act soon to help develop locomotor skills in your child at the right time. Locomotor skills form the basis of sports and leisure activities that a child takes part in as he grows up, hence the importance of these skills cannot be emphasised enough. Let’s understand in detail what are locomotor skills and how you can develop these skills in your child.
What Are Locomotor Skills?
There isn’t an exact definition of locomotor skills, but they can be defined as the basic ways of movement and coordination that form a foundation for the physical health of the kids. As mentioned above, locomotor skills are a part of gross motor skills which begin to develop in children after they turn one year of age. Walking is the first locomotor skill that develops in a baby, and soon others follow too.
Various Types of Locomotor Skills
The various types of locomotor skills that a child develops as he grows up are mentioned below:
Babies attempt to stand with the support of counters, tables, and chairs, or by holding their caregivers’ hands when they are about 10 months of age. It most likely will take a lot of effort to start standing or walking independently but children can be quite persistent when required.
Kids love to jump. It’s something they learn instinctively and need not be taught. Expect your little one to perform that little dance of victory and jump of joy when he is happy. To avoid any inadvertent injury while jumping you may teach him the correct jumping technique.
By the age of 4 years, most children learn to hop. Jumping up and down on one foot and by keeping one leg up in the air is known as hopping. After jumping, the next skill your little one might try is hopping. You can teach him how to hop if he doesn’t know it yet.
At age of 18-24 months, a baby learns to run. Initially, the baby might lose the balance or fall forwards not able to control the momentum of the body. After a few attempts, your kids will start running. Kids find running to be a very enjoyable sport. However, it’s highly recommended that you ensure that your kids maintain correct posture while running. Children can be quite clumsy in the beginning so as parents you must keep an eye on your child when he starts running.
Galloping can be a little challenging to teach but it’s worth the fun. Once your child is comfortable with jumping and hopping the next step is to teach galloping.
Leaping is when one jumps forward or backwards with one leg outstretched in front, taking off one foot and landing on the other. Leaping requires some training and one also needs to consider some safety measures while teaching it to babies and kids. It is highly recommended that you let your child start practising leaping a soft mattress, to begin with.
By age of 5 years, most children tend to learn how to skip a rope. A combination of walking, hopping, and a little bit of jumping is skipping without a rope. If using a skipping rope then it can be more chaotic. Practising skipping can be a little tricky for kids, but you can teach your child how to skip by showing him how to do it. Ask them to observe your feet and then the way you hold your rope as you skip.
Galloping sideways is termed as sliding. A slide in the park is the most effective way to make the children understand the concept of sliding. You may also check out the toddler slides for your very young kids before they go for some actual stuff.
When Do Locomotor Skills Start Developing in Kids?
Locomotor skills start developing in kids from a very young age. Most children require some assistance and instructions to learn difficult physical skills. If you have toddlers and pre-schoolers, then make sure that they get enough opportunities to put these locomotor skills into action. If your child has turned one year of age, he should start walking independently by now. By the time 4 years, he should start running, hopping, or jumping. And, as he crosses 6-7 year mark, he should master more complicated skills like skipping, galloping, sliding, and leaping.
Games and Activities to Encourage the Development of Locomotor Skills
Children require proper instructions and assistance to master locomotor skills. As parents to a toddler, you must act at the right time to help develop these skills in him. In order to encourage your child to work on these skills, you need to engage him in games and activities that help in the development of locomotor skills.
Simple games like ‘Simon says’, a game in which everybody is supposed to follow the actions of their leader is a great way to encourage physical play that can help build these skills. While you are taking a stroll with your child in a park, you can show him different movements like walking on the tiptoe, swinging your arms, slowing down, speeding up or walking sideways, etc. You can play interesting games like relay race and hopscotch with your kids as these games require more locomotion skills. While going for brisk walks, you can teach them more challenging skills like galloping.
While at home, you can play various games that focus on developing locomotor skills. For instance, a game that requires your child to draw different blocks and hop on each of them until he reaches his destination can help him work on his locomotor skills. You can also encourage him to perform high knee skipping, marching, or rope skipping while at home. You can also tell your child to count how many hops he can do on one foot and then switching to the other. Another great game is to jump from one spot to another.
What Should Parents Do If They See Their Child Struggling With These Skills?
If you notice any concerns in the child’s physical development then you must consult a doctor, no doubt. But there are some other activities that you can try at home to develop your child’s locomotor skills:
1. Help Your Child Walk Skillfully and With Steadiness
Simple and easy techniques like placing a beanbag or some other small objects on the floor while walking will help him step over and walk away. You may also draw wavy lines with a piece of chalk on the floor and challenge your kids to follow them. Alternatively, you may also make paper footprints and ask him to follow it while inside or outside.
2. Work on Your Child’s Running Skills
Encourage games like racing, soccer, and other sports that involve running. Getting the kids with a goal in their mind like the winner gets their favourite toy or ice-cream can push him to work harder. However, make sure you don’t offer rewards always or else your child may start doing things only for rewards!
3. Help Your Child to Practise Skipping
You can encourage your little one to practise skipping by playing their favourite songs or music, the music and rhythm help children in following the step or hop pattern. For improving the balance, you may also have your child skip while touching a wall.
4. Teach Galloping Techniques
Using hula hoops around the waist is an interesting way to begin with. Get inside the hoop and ask your child to hold the hoop from behind. The child can hold the hoop and follow you as you gallop forward. This practice will help your child see how your feet are moving. Next, you can exchange the position and let him be the galloping horse.
5. Encourage Jumping at Home
Jumping is an excellent exercise that kids can indulge in. You can encourage your child to jump off the bed and in your arms. You may also make use of a small trampoline to show him how he can jump safely. Slowly you can move on to higher surfaces once he becomes accustomed to jumping. You may also use interesting pictures or portraits on the wall at a targeted spot and ask him to jump up and tag them.
Now you know everything there is to know about locomotor skills. If you’re parents to a toddler, make sure you encourage him to explore and work on his locomotor skills. In case he struggles with any locomotor skill, try the above techniques to help him master it. But always look after the safety of your child while he tries out different activities to master locomotor skills. You can make him wear a knee and elbow guard. And ensure that he plays in an area that is clear of any dangerous objects that has the potential of causing injuries.