In no time at all, a baby’s first wobbly steps turn into running and jumping. A productive way to direct toddlers’ boundless energy is to participate in activities that develop their gross motor skills. Improving gross motor skills will help prepare them for school, whether it’s sitting properly in a chair or interacting with other kids on the playground.
These skills involve engaging large muscle groups, such as the arms, legs and core. Besides muscle tone and strength, balance and coordination are also part of this skill category. The good news is that there is no shortage of play to improve these skills, activities can be done both indoors and outdoors. The following five gross motor activities for toddlers are fun and easy ways to get them moving in the right direction.
1. Have a Ball
One way you can improve bilateral integration (a gross motor skill that involves coordinating both sides of the body at the same time) is through kicking a ball. Try a toddler-appropriate size like Excellerations® Whimsical Playground Balls. Start with rolling the ball toward the toddler to kick back to you. When they are able to do this with ease, have them run toward the ball as you roll it. For younger tykes, roll a ball back and forth to enhance their balance while they are in a seated position.
2. Buckets of Fun
Grab some pails and practice scooping sand at the beach or sandbox; then have the toddler try lifting the bucket and pour it out. You could also do this activity in the kitchen with cups of flour using these cute and easy-to-handle Caterpillar Stacking Cups. This repeated action develops arm and shoulder coordination, while it also builds strength in those areas.
3. Go Wild
Another way to work on improving gross motor skills is to make a game with Shapes Spots and use animals as the inspiration. Distribute the shapes on the ground. Pick an animal for toddlers to mimic, and have them move from spot to spot pretending to be the creature. Some make-believe ideas include soaring like an eagle, hopping like a frog, galloping like a horse, or prancing like a cat. Toddlers can also practice their balance acting out a flamingo stance.
4. Active Coloring
For this activity, your little Picasso can get creative while also increasing muscle tone. Start with a set of chunky crayons or chalk. Lay out a large paper sheet on the ground. Have your toddler scribble on the paper while they are on their hands and knees. This will engage their muscles rather than drawing while reclining/sitting. You could also set the paper on a table just high enough so that the toddler will have to lift up from his knees to reach the paper in a kneeling position. Active coloring will utilize a toddler’s shoulders, hips and legs.
5. Walk the Line
Balance is an important gross motor skill, and toddlers can develop this by walking on a balance beam. There are sturdy vinyl beams available (like these ones from WeeKidz™) that can be placed down along the floor. Walking up and down these beams enable toddlers to practice their gym skills in a safe and fun way.
As you can see, developing gross motor skills isn’t hard or complicated. A lot of the time, toddlers are growing and improving muscle development during common play activities already. A little creativity goes a long way to further challenge them. Encouraging active play now will help them set productive habits for the future.