by Christie Archuleta, Nido 2 Lead
What are gross motor skills? Gross motor refers to the use of our larger muscles, such as our arms, legs, feet or the entire body. During the time children are in the Nido community (ages 8 weeks to 18 months), children go from mastering gross motor skills such as holding their heads up, to walking, climbing, and sometimes even running by the time they move on to the Toddler community.
In each classroom and in the community room, one of the first things people notice are the walking bridges. This is an excellent example of fostering the child's natural need for movement for curious little minds and bodies. There are also climbing mats, a small indoor slide in the community room and a mesh tunnel that they love to crawl through. Each classroom also has a variety of balls and other works that the babies love to explore while using their gross motor skills. All of these items are used to hone these newly found skills, which are fundamental to a baby’s development.
While the older children are really working on their skills during outside time by investigating all the climbing hills and structures, the little ones are working inside (and sometimes outside) by having tummy time, pulling on the baby gyms, grasping objects inside the classrooms or even kicking balls. Outside time and community time is a big part of the babies really being able to exert much of their gross motor energy. They get to climb, explore, throw balls and crawl around, all while learning.
Some of the huge benefits of these ever-developing skills are balance and coordination, strength and endurance, attention and alertness (sensory processing), body awareness, and movement planning. These movements and activities are the all the beginnings of a healthy lifestyle and great for brain development, and lead to the ability to do more complex activities in the future.
“Till now, almost all educators have thought of movement and the muscular system as aids to respiration, or to circulation, or as a means for building up physical strength. But in our new conception the view is taken that movement has great importance in mental development itself, provided that the action which occurs is connected with the mental activity going on.” -Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind