Babies have a lot of developing to do in the first year of life, and they start to develop gross motor skills that will help them as they learn how to sit up, stand up, and walk – eventually run. Parents support this development by offering large motor activities for infants that are fun and help work on those skills needed.
When you think about how much a baby has to learn in their first year of life, it’s quite impressive.
Your baby goes from a little newborn who cannot hold his head up by himself into a walking toddler. All of those changes and development take work and strength that come from working his large muscle groups and practicing skills.
A lot of practicing.
Babies are always learning, so we should take advantage of this and offer as many large motor activities for infants.
Related: 7 Simple Tips to Teach Your Baby a New Motor Skill
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Gross Motor Skills for Infants
The first thought that comes to your head for large motor activities for infants may be that your child doesn’t move too much before six months. What sort of activities are they doing?
Large motor activities help your baby develop all the gross motor skills needed to develop their larger muscle groups. These activities focus on your baby’s arms, legs, core, and head.
Here are some of the gross motor skills your infant works on between the ages of 0 to 6 months.
- Holding Up His Head
- Rolling Over
- Tummy Time
- Pushing Up
- Sitting Up
Infants develop these necessary skills through practice, and large motor activities are a big part of them. Stimulating activities encourages your baby to strengthen their body while keeping them entertained.
9 Large Motor Activities for Infants
1. Tummy Time
One of the most important large motor activities for infants is tummy time. This is when you place your baby face down while awake with the goal of strengthening his head, neck, and shoulder muscles.
Tummy time only happens when a baby is awake; it’s not safe to put your baby to sleep on his belly.
It’s important for baby to spend as much time as possible on their tummy to develop core muscles, and parents can start this gross motor activity as soon as their baby comes home from the hospital.
Most babies dislike being placed on their bellies, but gradually, you can work up to longer time stretches. By the time your baby is three months old, they should be able to spend around 20 minutes at a time on their tummy.
Another way to practice tummy time is laying down and placing your baby on your chest. Your baby will try to lift his head to look at you! It’s a fun variation to try.
Related: 20 Ways to Play with a Newborn 0-3 Months Old
2. Pushing and Pulling
Pushing and pulling toys is an important gross motor skill for babies. You can buy pulling toys for infants, but you also can attach strings to toys and have your child pull them. Model this beforehand!
My babies all loved the VTech Pull and Sing Puppy. It’s a classic toy; your baby pulls the string, and the puppy comes along with it. There are plenty of other ideas and toys to go along with this!
3. Sensory Bags for Tummy Time
Here is something you can do when your baby is working on tummy time – make sensory bags. These are like sensory bins but perfect for infants without any choking hazards.
You can fill plastic bags with paint, pom poms, cut up straws, rice, or other small objects. Since all of the items are inside of the plastic bags, you don’t have to worry about any choking hazards. Tape the bag shut for an added layer of protection.
Here are some other ideas to place inside of sensory bags.
- Wooden Beads
- Google Eyes
- Oil and Water
- Foam Shapes
- Glitter and Water
If you don’t want to make sensory bags, you can buy water mats for tummy time as well. These help keep your baby entertained; it’s always a hit!
4. Roll The Ball
Put your baby in front of you and roll him a ball. Show your baby how you roll the ball, and encourage him to do so back to you. We love sensory balls too since they add an extra layer of interest for infants.
This is one of the large motor activities that are better for older infants, around six to eight months old, who are able to sit up independently. However, once your baby gets the hang of it, they’ll want to always roll the ball with you.
It’s such a fun game!
5. Balloon Kicking
This activity is so easy, and your infant will think it’s hilarious. My son laughs hysterically at this.
All you have to do is loosely tie a balloon around your baby’s leg and lay him on his back, looking up at the balloon. It needs to be a helium inflated balloon to make this activity work.
My son quickly realized that his kicking behavior moved the balloon, teaching cause and effect. It also leads to eye tracking and increased concentration time. Plus, it’s so easy to put together, and your baby will be so interested – the perfect time to fill the dishwasher!
6. Play with Sensory Bottles
Another item that is perfect for tummy time play or quiet time play is sensory bottles. You can make these at home with things you already have laying around.
Not only are sensory bottles a calming activity for infants, but it helps with eye tracking and concentration. It will extend the time your baby wants to spend on his tummy because he will be more focused on the sensory bottles.
Related: How to Make Simple DIY Glitter Sensory Bottles
7. Basket of Textures
Discovery baskets are a great way for babies to use all of their senses and work on grabbing, even throwing. It’s important to add items to the basket that has different textures.
Wooden toys work well for this or play kitchen tools like a mini rolling pin, metal pots and pans, and felt food. The idea is that they should fit into your child’s hands and have textures for them to explore and enjoy.
8. Water Play for Infants
Whether you want to encourage your baby to spend more time on his tummy or want him to simply have fun, water play is always a hit for infants. There are many ways to do this like putting a thin layer of water in a baking sheet pan and placing it in front of your baby.
You could put your infant in front of a small bowl of water and let him splash.
No matter how you introduce water play, your baby is sure to love it. However, make sure you never leave your baby during water play. An infant can drown in an inch of water!
Related: Easter Egg Water Scoop: A Baby & Toddler Sensory Activity
9. Pom Pom Play
Pom poms offer plenty of ways to play with your child. Put a bunch in a gallon-sized water bottle and add some buttons for noises. Let your child roll it around.
The colors of the pom-poms attract him and he will love the sounds that it makes when he rolls it across the floor.
You also can use a whisk and pom-poms for another activity.
Related: PomPom Whisk: A Baby Fine Motor Activity
Working on large motor activities for infants helps him reach milestones and develop throughout the first year of his life. You’ll watch your child gain gross motor skills often, and it’s an exciting time for parents!