From UBC Wiki
Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion


Skipping is a fundamental movement skill that should be learned in early childhood. It is a locomotor skill that involves the use of other more basic skills to perform such as running and hopping.[1][2] As a result, skipping is generally the last fundamental locomotor skill to develop.[3] Skipping is characterized by a step-hop on one side of the body followed by a step-hop on the other.[1]


Fundamental movement skills

The movement patterns that are the major stepping-stones for more advanced movements and sport-specific skills.[2] These skills are considered to be of great importance to a child’s development.[4] Each fundamental movement skill that a child masters opens the doors to new activities that they can engage in.[5]

Locomotor skill

The movement pattern that will transport an individual from one location to another.[2] Examples include walking, running, galloping and skipping.


A locomotor skill that involves a step-hop pattern in an uneven rhythm. This uneven rhythm is part of what makes the initial stages of learning to skip so difficult for many children.[2]


Skipping is a gait that is used most often in specific situations, such as when playing games or dancing. It differs from walking because it contains a flight phase and it differs from running because both feet are in contact with the ground for a short period of time while switching legs.[6] Skipping is not a gait that is exclusive to humans; other bipeds such as certain species of bird and lemurs also use this gait.[6]

Gait description

Skipping can be described as a bouncing gait and is best represented by the concept of a bouncing ball in ideal conditions.[6] At a given speed, the amount of external work, internal work and stride frequency is similar to other bouncing gaits such as running.[6] When energy recovery and apparent efficiency is considered, skipping is more similar to walking than it is to running.[6] This apparent efficiency is due to two main energy saving mechanisms.[6] The first is the same as the potential-kinetic energy interchange that is present in walking while both feet are in contact with the ground.[6] The second is the elastic energy-storage-release seen in running during the flight phase.[6]

Gait differences

There are a few variables that can be considered that separate skipping from other gaits. The stride frequency an individual carries out remains fairly constant despite changes in skipping speed.[6] The energy expended to perform this movement pattern is higher than for the performance of other gaits.[6] It also shows a higher vertical displacement during the flight phase than in running.[6] In the running gait horizontal kinetic energy and potential energy are in-phase with each other, but in skipping they are not.[6] When the potential and kinetic energy are measured, it appears that skipping is a pattern between walking and running.[6] Minetti (1998) states that skipping originates from going beyond a particular speed while performing the walking movement pattern.[6]

Skills needed

In order to skip, children need other, more basic functional movement skills mastered. For example a child must be able to sit and stand before they can walk, and the same is true for skipping. Failure to do so may lead to diverse problems including the inadequate development of more advanced skills expected at older ages.[7][8]

Children must first learn the skills that allow them to walk such as sitting and standing.[2] The ability to step forward allows children to complete one part of the movement pattern. Children must also learn the skills that allow them to hop on one foot before they are able to skip.[2] This means having sufficient leg strength to perform the movement.[2]

Balance is also critical as the performance of dual tasks, such as a step followed by a hop on the same leg, presents unique problems in keeping balance for those first learning to skip.[1] One of the most difficult aspects of the skipping movement pattern for many children is the uneven rhythm of the gait.[2] Children must have developed adequate timing and coordination skills to execute this rhythm correctly.

Developmental stages

The observable movements of a child that is just beginning to learn to skip are different than those of a child that has mastered the skill.


Most children exhibit the ability to “gallop” before they can skip.[9] Galloping involves taking a step forward with the arms bent and lifted to waist level. The trailing foot follows the lead foot, and ends up adjacent or behind the lead foot. During the motion there is a brief period in which both feet are off the ground, and a rhythmic pattern must be maintained for at least four consecutive gallops.[9]

The Halverson Developmental Sequence

The sequence is an evidence-based classification, and a well-known description of a child’s progression in skipping.[3] Step 1 to 2 can be describing galloping.

Step 1

When a child is first learning the skill, their skips are usually disjointed and the child only manages to perform the step-hop motion with one leg at a time.[3] The arms work bilaterally, with both arms coming forward and up when changing feet and down and back with the hop.[3]This phase generally does not look well-coordinated and a double-hop of double-step may be observed.[10]

Step 2

The child is able to alternate legs while skipping, but is either landing flat-footed or drops their heel on landing.[3] At this point the arms are in semi-opposition with the legs.[3] Both hands are still observed to be in front of the body at some point during the movement, but the ipsilateral arm can be seen swinging back and down slightly with each hop.[3]

Step 3

The child has mastered or reached the mature development pattern of the skill.[3] This stage is characterized by continuous skipping while alternating the lead foot.[3] The child lands on the ball of their foot and has a narrow base of support.[3][10] The arms are in opposition with the legs and are used to help propel the movement.[10] The trunk is in an upright position with a slight forward lean and the child is looking forward.[2][3] The movement appears well coordinated and relaxed at this final stage.[2]

Other considerations

As with any motor skill, it is important to wait until the child’s body has developed enough for them to be able to learn to skip.[11] It is important to consider both muscular and neurological development of the child.[11] When a child demonstrates difficulties in learning to skip, it is important to try to overcome the issue quickly as this gives the child the opportunity to catch up to their peers.[11] It is also important that the child learns to skip during the window of opportunity in early childhood because if they do not it is unlikely that they will learn the skill later on in life.[2][11]


The first attempts at skipping usually occur when a child is approximately 4 or 5 years of age.[6] Mastery of this skill generally occurs later in life than other fundamental movement skills, typically around the age of 6 or 7.[1][2] Despite this expectation, a study by Roberton (2013) states that many children are not reaching the mature pattern even by 11 to 12 years of age.[3]

Females are generally better at skipping than males though males are often found to be better at other fundamental motor.[8] This phenomenon can be linked to several factors including stereotypically superior hopping skills, a higher level of interest in the skill and being more biologically mature for their chronological age when compared to males of the same chronological age.[2] Males are typically 6 months to 1 year behind when compared to their female counterparts.[2]

During adulthood this gait is generally dismissed.[6] It likely falls out of use because of a lack of situational opportunities to use the skill. Although an adult rarely skips they have not lost the physical ability to do so.[6] They generally require a small amount of practice before the gait appears smooth once again.[6]


The benefits of skipping are similar to those of other fundamental movement skills.

Physical activity

Children with mature motor skills are less likely to spend a great deal of time being sedentary.[5] This is because children feel more comfortable engaging in a variety of other physical activities when they have mastered these skills.[12] When children feel awkward and uncomfortable when being physically active they are much less likely to continue with it.[12]

The mastery of fundamental movement skills in early childhood is a great predictor for physical activity level in adulthood as well.[4] If children enjoy physical activity and are physically active, they are likely to continue into their adult years. Many studies show that developing fundamental motor skills in childhood benefits an individual psychologically, physiologically and behaviourally.[4]

Physical ability

Learning to skip also allows participation in other activities. Skipping is the basic step in many folk dances, and is often used in other styles of dance as well.[3] It helps individuals develop the leg strength, balance, and coordination that will allow them to master more advanced motor skills and sport specific skills.[3] Adults are often seen performing a skip on one leg to quickly descend stairs or turn a corner.[6] This suggests that skipping can be a useful skill to improve agility as well.[6]

Common problems

Often children have difficulty executing the movement pattern properly when they are first learning. While attempting to skip they may fall back into more comfortable patterns such as galloping.[3]

If their balance abilities are not sufficiently developed children may use their arms for balance while skipping, holding them out to the sides to help maintain their balance.[3] The phenomena of Wickstrom arms, when arms are held close by the sides, is another common problem but it appears to be situational.[3]

If children do not have sufficient leg strength they may have difficulty performing the hop section of the pattern or they may be unable to keep their heels up.[3]

Child obesity can also lead to poor mastery of fundamental movement skills, especially skipping. This may be because skipping requires high neuromuscular coordination, and which those with obesity do not usually have.[7] They also tend to have poorer motor-perceptual coordination.[7] However obesity appears to have little significant relationships in the growth of skipping movement itself, but appears instead detrimental to the enrichment of skipping movement pattern.[7]

Practical applications

Games and play

Skipping can be introduced to children through many games they are already familiar with and enjoy. For example, children could play various versions of tag with skipping as the gait used instead of running.[10] Alternatively, children could play ring-around-the-rosy, which combines the skipping skill with following a musical rhythm.[10] These types of game are most appropriate when the children are familiar with the gait pattern already. When the children are first exposed to skipping it is helpful to show them the skill and then have them practice it with their friends in a controlled setting.[10] While the children skip around the adult present could suggest that they try skipping in different ways such as big or small, fast or slow, forwards or backwards, with a partner, and so on.[10] To help children progress from step 2 to step 3 of the skipping progression, cues such as skip high or skip long, may be used.[3] Goals such as these help the child to further their development. Keeping games and activities simple and giving children ample time to practice improves the learning experience.[11] It is important to consider that every child will progress at his or her own rate and to allow for that in the learning process.[4] The most important part of helping children learn to skip is to ensure that it is fun.[11]

Intervention movement programs

Implementing movement programs has shown significant improvements in fundamental motor skill amongst children.[13] A study by Deli et al. (2006) has found that in three groups of children, where one followed a movement program, another followed music and movement program, and the final group engaged in free play, those that followed the programs showed better performance in running, hopping, and skipping over the course of 10 weeks.[13]

Mastery climate

Creating a mastery climate is one of the best and most simple ways to help a child develop any skill, including skipping.[4] In a mastery climate the focus is placed on improving in comparison to yourself and mastering the skill at hand.[4] The idea of comparing your abilities with another individual is avoided.[4] A mastery climate is designed as a high autonomy climate.[2] Children are given choices of which activity they want to do, whether they want to work with others, and how long they want to do each activity.[4] Each child is recognized and receives feedback on an individual basis and is given the option to adjust the rules of an activity.[4] It is important that there are a variety of activities for the children to choose from in each session.[4] This type of learning environment has many positive outcomes including increased physical activity participation, development of more adaptive motivational strategies, increased enjoyment of the activity, greater desire to take on new challenges, and positive thinking.[4] It helps children to want to try and master new skills.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Loovis, E. M. & Buttekfield, S. A. (2000). Influence of age, sex and balance on mature skipping by children in grades K-8. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 90(3), 974-978. Retrieved from:
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 Gabbard, C. P. (2012). Lifelong motor development (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 Roberton, M. A. (2013). Testing the validity of the Halverson developmental sequences for skipping. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 84, 198-205. doi:10.1080/02701367.2013.784726
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Robinson, L. E., Webster, E. K., Logan, S. W., Lucas, W. A., & Barber, L. T. (2012). Teaching practices that promote motor skills in early childhood settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40, 79-86. doi:10.1007/s10643-011-0496-3
  5. 5.0 5.1 Robinson, L. E. (2010). The relationship between perceived physical competence and fundamental motor skills in preschool children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 37, 589-596. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01187.x
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 Minetti, A. E. (1998). The biomechanics of skipping gaits: A third locomotion paradigm? Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 265, 1227-1235. doi:10.1098/rspb.1998.0424
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Khangholi, M., Foroghipour, H., & Roozbahani, M. (2014). The Relationship between body mass index and skipping and hopping skills of fundamental movement, in children aged 10-12 years. European Academic Research, 1(11), 4394-4403. Retrieved from:
  8. 8.0 8.1 Vameghi R., Shams A., & Dehkordi P. S. (2013). Relationship between age, sex and body mass index with fundamental motor skills among 3 to 6 years-old children. Medicinski Glasnik/Medical Gazette, 47(2013), 1452-0923. Retrieved from:
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ghaly, W. E. E. (2010). The Effect of Movement Education Program by Using Movement Pattern to Develop Fundamental Motor Skills for Children Pre-school. World Journal of Sport Sciences, 3, 461-491. Retrieved from:
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 New Zealand Government. (2014). Developing fundamental movement skills. Retrieved from
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Canadian Sport Centers. (2014). Timing: There are “right” times to learn the fundamentals. Retrieved from
  12. 12.0 12.1 Pica, R. (2008). Learning by leaps and bounds: Why motor skills matter. Young Children, 63, 48-50.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Deli, E., Bakle, I., & Zachopoulou, E. (2006). Implementing intervention movement programs for kindergarten children. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 4(1), 5-18. Retrieved from: