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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
20. Messy Play
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.
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.
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.
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.
32. Run on the Spot
Practise movements such as running on the spot, hopping, jumping and galloping during movement rings.
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.
Read more about gross motor skills for preschoolers.
“Language and School Readiness”, written by Martie Pieterse.
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