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The 9 Best Gross Motor Toys for Children

Developing young children’s gross motor skills can be achieved through play and exploration.

A few examples of gross motor skills include:

  • Walking and running
  • Climbing 
  • Playing a sport
  • Carrying objects

While there are countless toys available on the market claiming to be essential for promoting gross motor development, the truth is that apart from using the environment and a child’s own body, there are only a few toys and pieces of equipment I would consider worth purchasing.

Children are exposed to so much equipment and space to build those large muscles – at school, in parks and gardens, in the home and in open outdoor spaces.

If you’d like to buy some gross motor equipment, here is a list of my top 9 recommended items that will make the most impact, be suitable for different ages and be played with for years.

Many of these can be improvised or handmade as well and many are simple, inexpensive items.

This post contains affiliate links for educational products that I personally recommend. If you purchase through one of them, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the terms and conditions for more details.

1. Balls

At the top of the list is the simple ball. Children should be playing with playground balls of all types and sizes.

Here are a few types of balls to encourage kids to play with:

Toddler sitting on a soccer ball in a park

There are a variety of ball activities and games that can be played indoors and outdoors that are great for developing the muscles and skills such as eye-foot and eye-hand coordination.

2. Bats and Rackets

Any kind of bat or racket is a superb gross motor aid as kids learn to handle them and hit balls with them.

Younger children can play with soft baseball bats or small tennis/badminton rackets.

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For tons of fun, try this toss-and-catch paddle set with sticky balls and a sticky bean bag ball.

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With bats and rackets, they can learn to hit, dribble, bounce and roll balls.

You can improvise and play movement games with whatever rackets and bats you already have at home – even if they are for adults – such as dribbling a bean bag with a hockey stick.

3. Bikes and Scooters

This one is a must for all kids. No childhood can be complete without a child eventually learning to ride a bicycle on their own!

There is a lot of coordination and strength required in pushing and pedalling a bike or scooter and children need to learn the skills as they progress through the gross motor milestones.

All of these rides that have wheels are a great buy – from buggies/ride-ons and small motorbikes for littlies, to tricycles, scooters and eventually bicycles. 

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Little girl riding a bicycle with training wheels

Kids love pulling wagons too which is also a great workout.

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Skip the motorized vehicle and instead buy the classics that will have your child whizzing around looking for adventure as they develop their motor skills.

4. Hula Hoops

Hula hoops can be used in so many gross motor skills activities

Use them as a hoop to throw balls through, to make a hopscotch court with or to crawl through in an obstacle course

Hula hoops are inexpensive and can be used in multiple ways. Here are 12 fun hula hoop games to try.

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5. Bean Bags

A simple item like a bean bag can spark a fun game that builds multiple skills.

Bean bags can be bought or made. There are also many online tutorials on how to make them.

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Balance them on your head as you walk in a straight line, throw and catch them, toss them into a basket or cornhole board, or hide them for a fun game of bean bag hide and seek.

Here are 20 bean bag activity ideas.

6. Skittles and Cones

Skittles, also known as bowling pins, are fun to line up and knock over. Buy a set or make your own with some plastic bottles.

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Child knocking over bowling pins

Turn it into an art activity by painting the bottles in different colours. Fill them with a little sand or water so they stand but are easily knocked over.

Another simple but useful item is a set of cones.

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These can be used to mark out an area for a movement activity. This set includes cones, rings for tossing over them, beanbags, hula hoops and more:

Dribble the ball around the cones, place them as the start and finish of a race, or weave in and out of them while hopping with feet together. 

Bowling pins can also double up as cones or markers.

7. Balancing Equipment

Having some kind of balancing toy or piece of equipment available is so helpful for teaching kids to balance.

There are various options you could purchase, such as:

These can be expensive though so while it may be worthwhile getting some to keep in a school for long-term use, for home use there are so many ways to improvise:

  • Walk along low walls at a park or outdoor area.
  • Use wooden planks as balancing beams.
  • Turn over sturdy plastic tubs to use as stepping stones.
  • Make your own walking stilts out of sandpit buckets – this idea is genius!

Simply by using your imagination, you can think of some creative ways to encourage kids to balance.

Here are 20 simple balancing activities for preschoolers.

8. Skipping Rope

A skipping rope is a really simple yet versatile item that kids will get hours of fun from.

Not only does it teach kids to skip with a rope, but it can be used in multiple jump rope games.

Little girl jumping with a skipping rope

There is so much coordination involved in learning to skip. While this is a difficult skill to master and usually takes kids a few years, start toddlers off simply learning how to jump with feet together over a rope held low down.

Skipping gives kids a good workout and develops their balance, coordination, and rhythm, and is good for stimulating the vestibular system.

Here’s a good jump rope, or purchase the set mentioned above that includes jump ropes, hula hoops, cones, bean bags, rings for tossing and more:

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9. Tunnel

Climbing through tunnels is a wonderful way for children to develop their spatial perception and an understanding of their position in space. It also strengthens the muscles.

Simple tunnels can be used in general play or added to an obstacle course for extra fun: 

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Tunnels – or any shaped space to crawl through – can also be created out of furniture, pillows and blankets.

As you can see, none of these top 9 items are fancy or novel toys, but rather old favourites.

Developing gross motor skills in preschoolers and toddlers does not have to be complicated and you can get away with buying a few items and improvising some.

Child knocking over skittles. Text reads "9 gross motor skills toys your kids will love".

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