Is your toddler reaching his developmental milestones? Here are some gross motor activities for toddlers to help them build strong muscles and coordination!
Do you take it for granted that your babies will grow up to be big and strong?
It not only takes a healthy diet but lots of practice to get those important gross motor skills that allow kids to run, jump, and move as well as any adult.
So what are gross motor skills and what kind of activities can you do to help your child develop them?
What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills are the skills that use whole body movement. They involve the large muscles of the body, such as the core (abs and back), legs, and arms.
These large muscles are responsible for your child’s ability to do everyday things like stand, walk, run, crawl, and jump.
Besides these basic skills, gross motor skills give your child the ability to balance, stand on one foot, touch their toes, and jump on and off of things without falling.
The gross motor skills also play an important role in developing hand-eye coordination and skill like throwing and catching, riding a bike, kicking a ball.
Gross Motor Skill Milestones for Toddlers
Kids start developing gross motor skills as soon as they are born. These skills are responsible for your baby learning to hold his head up and roll over.
But what about toddlers? What gross motor skill milestones should they be hitting?
By the time your toddler is 3 they should be able to:
- Stand on one foot
- Walk up stair correctly
- Start to pedal a tricycle
- Kick a ball
- Catch a large ball
- Jump with feet together
- Jump up and down off of low steps
- Walk on their tiptoes
These are of course not the only milestones, and some toddlers are on their own schedule and meet these milestones early or later. But they are good milestones to keep in mind.
11 Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers That Build Muscles and Coordination
Luckily there are tons of fun (and simple!) gross motor activities to do with your toddler. They will think it’s all just for play- but they will be gaining very important skills!
Here are 11 easy ways to incorporate gross motor activities into your toddler’s day.
Simon Says has been around forever. We all played it as a kid and we continue the tradition with our own kids.
Simon Says is great for all sorts of development. It helps toddlers learn to listen better and to pay close attention to what is being said.
It’s also a great gross motor activity. For example, Simon Says:
- Hop on one foot
- Jump as high as you can
- Do jumping jacks
- Touch your toes
You can add tons of gross motor skills into just one game!
Play Mother May I
Mother May I is a fun game that has been around for generations.
Your toddler may think it’s all fun and games, but you can add a lot of gross motor skills practice into a game of Mother May I.
It’s similar to Simon Says, but a bit different. For example….the mother could call out…
- Take 5 frog hops forward
- Take 10 tip-toe steps forward
- 3 somersaults forward
- 4 cartwheels forward
And so on. You can choose to target a specific movement with each direction. Your toddler thinks it funny and they get a good gross motor activity out of it!
Build an Obstacle Course
My kids take taekwondo, and on of their warm up activities is an obstacle course. They have to jump through ladder drills, do kicks on pads, duck and block a “strike”. It’s great fun and a good work out for your muscles.
Obstacle courses are a great gross motor activities for toddlers too!
Here are some ideas you can use:
- Use sidewalk chalk to create twisty lines that your toddler has to follow (on 2 feet, balance on the line, or even crawl!)
- Setup tunnels to go through
- Set up obstacles they have to climb
- Make them jump over items
- Have them balance on a pool noodle or other narrow surface
Kids love these kinds of games. It brings back memories of playing “keep off the floor” when I was a kid.
Either way- it’s great for developing gross motor skills!
Be an Animal Game
Crawl like a bear!
Hop like a frog! (with legs wide and low)
Hop like a bunny! (with leg and feet together)
Slither like a snake!
Having your toddler act like an animal is a super fun gross motor activity. You can even combine it with a game like Mother May I or Simon Says!
The Clean Up Game
Okay, so getting a toddler to pick up his stuff can be tough. BUT if you make it a game you get 2 things in one- a clean room and a gross motor activity!
Think about it. When you clean up you have to:
- Stoop and stand
- Put stuff in baskets ( or toss….)
There’s lots of movement and things that require balance, especially for very young toddlers.
Playground are the king of gross motor activities!
Think about it, a playground is like a mega-obstacle course already made for you.
With rock walls to maneuver. Monkey bars to cross.
And all sorts of other fun ways to build big muscles.
Play BASKET Ball
Whether you have a little basket ball goal, or you use an actual basket, BASKET ball is a great gross motor activity.
Toddlers learn to throw a ball (both big and small) and gain the coordination to make into a smaller space.
You can play basket ball with different sized balls or objects and use a variety of sizes for baskets as well.
You can even use it during clean up- ball up clothes to toss into the laundry basket, anyone?
Toss and Catch
Playing catch in the yard isn’t just for big kids, toddlers need the practice too.
This gross motor activity helps them learn to throw and learn to catch. You can toss and catch:
- Large balls
- Small balls
- Frisbees (we love the Aerobies since they have the hold in the center for easy catching)
- Bean bags
- Water balloons (fun for a hot summer day!)
Use an Exercise Ball
Toddlers love to play with anything that is out of the ordinary- and a giant exercise ball fits that description!
Toddlers can try balancing while sitting on the ball.
They can bounce it (gently!) inside.
They can roll it through a maze of rooms.
They can roll it up the stairs (and bounce it back down!)
You may need to hold the ball steady for some activities, but even then toddlers can still strengthen their large muscles.
Getting out the yoga mat can be another fun gross motor activity. If you are into yoga you can teach your child actual poses or you can just have some gross motor fun!
Or you can have your toddler help make up their own poses based on their favorite items and creatures.
Hopscotch is a great gross motor activity, but you can make it even bigger to get even more from it.
Extend your average, small hopscotch board to include instructions that must be completed when they land on that square.
You toddler still need to hop on one foot or 2 to get to the squares, but you can additional tasks such as hop on one foot 5 times, spin in a circle, touch your toes, or any other number of motions before they move on from that square.
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