From Crawling to Cruising: 7 Ways to Support Your Toddler's Gross Motor Development

Witnessing your child's journey from a curious crawler to a confident cruiser is pure magic. Every wobbly step and triumphant climb will fill you with pride and amazement. But beneath this adorable evolution lies a crucial developmental phase: gross motor skills development.

Gross motor skills encompass the big movements our bodies make, like crawling, walking, running, climbing, jumping and stationery skills. These skills are essential for exploring the world, interacting with others, developing neurological pathways and ultimately becoming independent individuals.

So, how can you, the ever-supportive parent, nurture your toddler's gross motor development as they transition from crawling to cruising? Read on, because we're about to share some of our top tips and practical advice!

Understanding the Crawling-Cruising Continuum

Before we dive into specific activities, let's understand the natural progression from crawling to cruising:

  • Crawling (6-12 months): This foundational skill strengthens muscles, improves coordination, and develops spatial awareness. Encourage periods of tummy time, place toys just out of reach, and create safe crawling zones.
  • Cruising (8-18 months): This transitional phase sees your little one pulling themselves up on furniture, taking tentative steps while holding on, and mastering balance. Provide sturdy furniture or hands for support, create low obstacle courses, and offer push/pull toys.

7 Top Tips for Supporting Gross Motor Development

  1. Embrace Playtime: At Bright Horizons, we wholeheartedly believe that essential learning happens during play. It’s important to engage your toddler in active games like peek-a-boo, dancing or swaying to music, chasing bubbles, or experimenting with blocks. These activities are essential for developing coordination, agility, and muscle strength.
  2. Turn Your Home into a Movement Playground: To do this, create an obstacle course using pillows, blankets, and boxes. Let your toddler climb over (or under) furniture, crawl through tunnels, and balance on low beams (supervised, of course!).
  3. Get Outdoors: Nature is a treasure trove of gross motor opportunities. Let your toddler explore parks, climb hills to negotiate different gradients, splash in puddles, and kick leaves to practice their balancing. Fresh air and sunshine are important for their physical and mental wellbeing, no matter the weather. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, it’s unsuitable clothing!
  4. Sing, Dance, and Move Together: Music is a powerful motivator, which is why incorporate lots of it in our nurseries with the help of Boogie Mites! At home, put on some upbeat tunes and dance like nobody's watching! This not only strengthens muscles but also fosters bonding and supports early phonic development..
  5. Ditch the Baby Walker: While tempting, baby walkers can hinder natural development and coordination. Instead, focus on activities that encourage independent movement and exploration.
  6. Be Patient and Positive: Every child develops at their own pace. Celebrate small victories, offer encouragement, and avoid comparisons. Your positive reinforcement will fuel their confidence and motivation to keep moving. Be mindful that not all children will become mobile, so if you have any concerns about your child’s physical development, seek advice from your Health Visitor or GP.
  7. Consult Your Paediatrician: If you have any questions or concerns about your toddler's gross motor development, you can always chat to your paediatrician. They can assess your child's progress and provide personalised advice.

Bonus tip: Invest in non-restrictive clothing that allows free movement and exploration. Wherever possible, encourage bare foot walking which strengthens the muscles in babies’ and toddlers' feet and ankles, improving balance and posture.

Remember, the most important thing is to create a fun and supportive environment where your little adventurer can explore their amazing body and discover the joy of movement. So, put on your dancing shoes, grab a ball, and get ready to cheer on your toddler's journey from crawling to cruising!

Additional Resource

By incorporating these tips into your parenting journey, you can be sure you're providing your little one with the best possible foundation for a healthy and active future. So, get ready to witness the magic of movement unfold!

For more fun toddler activities, check out our Family Resource Zone.
…And, if you’re not yet a Bright Horizons parent, and are interested in what our nurseries can offer you and your child, why not book a personal tour?