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The 35 Best Gross Motor Activities for Kids

Are you looking for some simple ideas for gross motor activities for your little ones?

This is a comprehensive list of the best types of activities that will develop kids’ gross motor skills

They are all simple, easy-to-prep, everyday activities that are suitable to do at home or at school.

The large muscles of the body are developed in early childhood – mostly through play – and are an essential part of a child’s holistic development. Children develop control of these muscles before they refine their fine motor skills.

Examples of gross motor skills are riding a tricycle, swinging across monkey bars, catching a ball or balancing on one leg. 

Here are 35 gross motor skills activities for toddlers, preschoolers and older children. Most can be adapted to the age of the kids to teach various skills. 

For example, toddlers can jump around the blocks of a hopscotch court without rules, preschoolers can learn to coordinate their feet and try not to land outside the lines (together or apart when jumping) and children in primary/elementary can play the game properly with rules.

Child on a climbing rope frame. Text reads "35 activities for kids to develop gross motor skills".

1. Free Play

Free play is at the top of the list because it’s crucial.

Kids need tons of time, daily, to play freely both indoors and outdoors. This is where most of their skills are built.  

2. Balls

Ball activities are great practice for movements such as throwing, catching, rolling, dribbling, kicking, hitting and bouncing.

They are also a simple way to develop eye-hand coordination.

Children running after a ball in a park

3. Bats and Rackets

Play with all kinds of bats and rackets in different sizes. Kids learn to control the racket with their arms and wrists as they hit, bounce, push or dribble the ball.

4. Bikes and Scooters

One of the best outdoor gross motor activities is riding various types of vehicles – tricycles, push bikes, scooters, bicycles and all the rest.

It builds strength, coordination, balance and more.

5. Hula Hoops

This simple item can be used in so many ways to play various games.

Toss beanbags into them, hop with feet together from hoop to hoop or crawl through them in an obstacle course. Here are some fun hula hoop games for kids.

These are a few gross motor toys that are actually worth buying – hula hoops included.

6. Dancing 

Dance freely to the music or learn some basic steps. Kids will develop body awareness and learn about rhythm with this creative movement activity.

7. Chasing Games

Chasing games like Tag or Duck, Duck, Goose build spatial awareness and teach kids how to navigate while moving.

8. Jumping on Trampolines

Getting kids to jump on a trampoline is so good for stimulating the vestibular system – which controls their sense of balance and body movement through space.

Please note: Trampolines account for many serious accidents and injuries. If you’re going to use them, only one child should jump at a time, under strict adult supervision, and no somersaults or other similar movements should be allowed.

Children jumping on trampoline

9. Skipping

Learning to coordinate the legs while skipping takes a lot of control and practice. Learning to skip using a rope is also a complex gross motor milestone to reach.

Here are some jump rope games for different ages.

10. Hopscotch

Teach kids to play the classic game of Hopscotch and improve their balance, coordination and early maths skills.

11. Red Light, Green Light

In Red Light, Green Light kids must all run towards you when you shout “green light,” but they must stop and freeze when you shout “red light.”

12. Action Songs

Get moving with fun traditional action songs and rhymes like the Hokey Pokey and The Wheels on the Bus.

Here are some newer movement songs to try too.

13. Bowling

Set up some bowling pins (skittles) and knock them over with balls. You can buy a set or use plastic bottles filled with a little sand or water so they are sturdy but can be knocked over.

Toddler rolling a ball to knock over pins

14. Obstacle Courses

Obstacle courses are fun to do and they can be easy to set up. Work on multiple motor skills as well as following instructions with these obstacle course ideas for kids.

15. Tight-Rope Walkers

Pretend to be tight-rope walkers as you walk heel-to-toe along a length of rope, a low wall, a balancing beam or some tape placed on the floor. You could also pretend to be crossing a river that you mustn’t fall into.

Bucket stilts are so good for teaching balance too. Try these other balancing activities.

16. Musical Chairs

Play the music as kids dance, then pause the music and they must quickly find a chair to sit on. Remove a chair for each round when playing with older children. 

Here are some variations for playing the musical chairs game.

17. Freeze Dance

Also called Musical Statues, Freeze Dance is another variation of the previous game but kids must freeze in place when the music stops.

Here are more fun music games for kids.

18. Pass the Parcel

This old party game can be fun to try in class too and it builds listening skills. 

Wrap up something fun and get kids to pass the parcel around the circle, removing a layer only if the parcel lands up in your hands as the music stops.

19. Swinging

Swinging is also great for the vestibular system and kids can learn to swing themselves as they get older and develop the skill.

A fun activity is to swing a child back and forth while wrapped in a blanket held on both ends.

Little girl swinging at the park

20. Messy Play

Children are engaging many of the larger muscles during sand play or water play as they forcefully dig with spades, carry watering cans and lift their arms to pour water from containers.

21. Art Activities

Many art activities can work both gross as well as fine motor skills, like painting with brushes at an easel or drawing with large sidewalk chalk outside.

22. Egg and Spoon Race

Remember this game from your childhood? Have an egg and spoon race, but for toddlers – make it a small ball or beanbag and spoon race.

23. Rolling

On a carpet or the lawn, kids lie down like a log of wood with arms above their heads, rolling from side to side. Then, place arms by their sides and roll from side to side. 

It’s also great to let them roll down hills. Or lay a blanket on the ground and get a child to lay on one end while you hold it. Roll the child up in the blanket then unroll.

This coordinates the back, shoulder, neck and hip muscles.

24. Pretend to be Animals

Walk on all fours like a monkey, hop like a rabbit or frog, waddle like a duck or do crab walks. 

25. Climbing Equipment

Kids should get lots of time to climb freely on jungle gyms at school, at home or in parks and kids’ play areas.

Little boy climbing on jungle gym

26. Hide and Seek

Kids of all ages – from toddlers to older children in the grades – love playing hide and seek. It’s often a favourite on the playground.

Try these fun Hide and Seek game variations.

27. Simon Says

Develop listening skills and gross motor skills at the same time by playing a game of Simon Says

Here’s a list of 200 Simon Says commands.

28. Bean Bags

Throw bean bags into a cornhole board or improvise with a laundry basket or hula hoops. Kids learn to aim and throw with the correct amount of force. 

Kids can practise walking with bean bags balancing on their heads or other body parts and try not to let them fall.

Here are lots of ideas for activities to do with bean bags.

29. Tape Jumping

Stick pieces of tape at regular intervals on the ground and challenge kids to jump with feet together from one piece to the next. Space them further apart when they master a distance.

30. Tunnels

Crawling through tunnels is good for developing a sense of the body and its position. Use regular play tunnels or build them with furniture.

31. Balloon Toss

This is the most fun when the balloons are filled with some water. Toss them at each other on a warm day or toss them at a target and pop them.

Or blow up a balloon and keep it in the air to develop eye-hand coordination.

Child aiming a water balloon at another

32. Run on the Spot

Practise movements such as running on the spot, hopping, jumping and galloping during movement rings.

33. Cones

Cones are a simple tool to use in many activities. Get kids to weave in and out of a row of cones, dribble a ball around them or use them as markers and starting points.

34. Nature Walks

Go on regular nature walks with kids. It’s good for them to connect with nature and they’ll be moving their bodies at the same time.

35. Multi-Step Instructions

Get kids to perform different movements by giving them instructions with multiple parts – it trains listening and memory skills too.

Here are some 2-step directions to start with.

As you can see, gross motor activities do not need to be complicated to do or to set up. Keep it simple and focus on the basic movements.

Are you a preschool teacher or working in Early Childhood Education? Would you like to receive regular emails with useful tips and play-based activity ideas to try with your children? Sign up for the newsletter!

Read more about gross motor skills for preschoolers.


Language and School Readiness”, written by Martie Pieterse.

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