Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Large Motor/Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers

Is your toddler showing signs of boredom? Does your toddler consistently get into the “no-no” areas of the house? Toddlers are naturally curious about their world while absorbing new cause and effect knowledge from play. Here is a list of fun activities to help strengthen your toddler’s large/gross motor development and inspire his natural curiosity.

Why are these types of activities important for toddlers? Large motor or gross motor activities are intended to help develop the abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities.

Sock Throw or Sock Toss

  • Age: one year- preschoolers   
  •  Materials: about 5 or 6 pairs of adult size socks & a plastic low to the floor laundry basket

Take each pair of socks and roll them up with the openings on the outside. Take the opening of the outer sock and pull opening over the pair while tucking the pair inside.

There are various ways you can play “Sock Throw”. One way is to place the laundry basket in a corner and line up the toddlers a few feet back. Everyone can randomly try to toss the socks into the basket. Another way is to have one push the laundry basket around the floor while the others try to make the basket by tossing the socks as the basket is moving. Each can take turns pushing the basket while the others try to make the basket.

Ball Chase

  • Age: one year - preschoolers 
  • Materials: multiple balls all different sizes (the more the better)

This can be setup indoors or outdoors. I move or put away all other toys to have plenty of space. Line up the balls all in a row. Have the toddlers stand on one side of the row of balls (sometimes we hold hands). Count to three out loud, charge after the balls and kick them around. Make it a game to keep the balls on the floor. Remind the toddlers not to pick up the balls. Say something like, “Try to get my ball.” And they will chase you around. Generally, they will follow what you are doing. Show them how you can kick backwards or kicking a ball into another ball. If they start to slow down or lose interest, start over again. Set up the balls in a row and count to three. They love to help set up.

Pillow Mountain

  •  Age: one year – three year 
  • Materials: big cushion like bean bag chair, extra pillows about 3 or 4 and a large blanket or comforter 
  • I suggest to play this game on carpet or a large rug for cushion

Clear the floor of toys for a wide open space. Set the big cushion or bean bag chair in the center of the room. Take the extra pillows and lean them around the sides of the big cushion. Take the large blanket and spread it across the pillow formation. Tuck the ends and sides of the blanket underneath the pillows. You now have a “Pillow Mountain”.

Let them climb up on the mountain and roll down. For safety purposes, it’s my suggestion to set some boundaries for this age group. For instance, discouraging them from standing on the top of the mountain as this can be dangerous when others are jumping on. I remind them to sit or lay down and roll off so the others can play too. If they want to run and jump, remind them to take turns to prevent crashing into someone coming from another direction.

Flashlight Chase

  •  Age: one year – two year   
  •  Materials: one flashlight medium size and clear space to run around

Close blinds and/or curtains. Turn lights out. If too dark let a little light in from the window.

With the flashlight shining on the floor say “Get the light.” The second they reach for the light, quickly move the light to a different direction. I usually add sound effects like, “doop” or “beep” when I move the light. Ask them “Where did it go?” They’ll get the idea and find it fun to chase the light around the room. If they get bored, shine the light on their feet and move the light as they move their feet. This always gets them laughing.

Another idea is act like the shining light is a ball. Kick the shining light with your feet, move the light through the room, and up the wall. I add the sound effect of a bouncing ball like, “boing . . boing.” Usually the toddlers will try to reach for it. I bring the light back down and make it bounce until it lands in front of someone else’s feet. I ask if they want to kick the light. Name objects the light is shining on to strengthen their language skills. Use your imagination with this game.

Firefly Tag

  • A chase game with a new twist. This is fun for Preschool age      
  • Materials: flashlight, paper cup, and pushpin

Using a pushpin, poke holes in the bottom of a paper cup to create a simple insect shape, then set the cup over the lens of a flashlight. Shine the light on the wall or floor of a dim room; moving the beam so that the insect looks like it's flying. Now encourage the children to "catch it". Once they get the hang of it and you're comfortable giving them the flashlight, switch roles and encourage the children to take turns.

Rope Game

  •  Age: one year – three year 
  • Materials: long rope or jump rope around 15’ to 20’
If you have a couple of teens or adults to help, get each person to grab each end of the rope. Pull the rope tight and flat on the floor. If you don’t have help, tie or tuck the ends under heavy furniture to keep it tight. Make sure there is plenty of room on each side of the rope for the little ones to run around.

The object of this game is to understand the concept of balance, over, under, across, sideways, and backwards. I make it fun by encouraging them to use their imagination.

I like to start off with the concept of balance by walking along the rope as if I’m walking a tight rope while I’m holding my arms out like an airplane. The little ones naturally follow me as I say, “I’m an airplane.” I do it several times as they learn how to place their feet and balance with their arms out simply by following me. Some fall over but I show them how my arms keep me from falling. I’ll go slow the first few times and then go faster a couple more times.

For the concept of over, I start jumping over the rope as I say, “I’m a bunny rabbit.” They usually follow me or go ahead of me. They usually start giggling at this point. You could ask them what animal they are; monkey, kangaroo, frog or anything they come up with? Any animal that hops would work great. We hop over the rope and go back over the other way several times. Then I start jumping over the rope backwards. This is challenging for the little ones, but usually the three year olds or older figure it out. Then I start jumping sideways as if I’m playing jump rope but in slow motion. This too can be challenging, but it’s good for them to try.

For the concept of across, I ask them what animal they want to be; cat, dog, lion, bear or anything they imagine to be? Any four legged animal would work great. We get down on our hands and knees and crawl across the rope making our animal sounds. We continue to go back over the other way several times. I end the idea of across by rolling across the floor and rope. Yes, I roll along with them. It wouldn’t be as fun if the adult isn’t being silly with them.

Next, to expand their imagination, I make it more fun by taking one end of the rope as I wiggle the rope to make waves. They can be small waves or large waves. I usually start off with small waves. I tell them we are at the beach. One side of the rope is sand and the other side of the rope is the ocean water. The rope turned into waves. Encourage them to jump over the waves. When they jump over they could pretend they are swimming in the water. Then they could jump into the sand side. While they are doing this, I’m making the sound of waves. When they start to lose interest, the rope could turn into a snake. (I’m still wiggling the rope but in a slower motion). Tell the little ones to try to step over or jump over without touching the snake. While they are doing this, I’m making the sound of a snake. Another idea for the concept of under is to turn the rope into an imaginary cave. Lift the one end of the rope up, and encourage them to see what is inside the cave. There could be a bear. Oh my! Once they crawl under or inside, I make a bear sound. Usually, they quickly crawl back out.

It’s all just fun and doesn’t have to be perfect. The main thing is they are learning something new while getting the physical exercise.

Tunnel Play

  •  Age: 1 ½ - preschoolers 
  • Materials: I purchased a collapsible tunnel online 
  • Note: The sides are see-through with a mesh type of material. You can find tunnels for toddler age in toy stores or by looking up online through various educational stores. Use search words like: educational materials or catalog for educational toys.
Tunnel play is very simple. I let the little ones take a lead in whatever they want to do with the tunnel. I set a few safety boundaries like: no shoes, no toys inside tunnel except balls or stuffed animals, no jumping on top of the tunnel, and the tunnel must stay on the floor. All other toys are put away and the tunnel stays in an open area that gives a distance away from walls, stairs, and any furniture that have sharp corners or edges. It’s also a good idea to place the tunnel on carpet or soft flooring. These rules are suggested for safety reasons.

The little ones like to sit inside and roll. They like to roll balls back and forth from one end to the other. They like to chase each other and pretend they are animals in a cave. Tunnel play is excellent for developing cooperative play and great for muscle development. It can be useful to stimulate the imagination for creative playtime.

Bean Bag Toss

  •   Age: 1 ½ - preschoolers 
  • Materials: small bean bags. Have enough bags for each child and you as well

Bean Bag Toss is another simple game to help the little ones with their large motor skills. I encourage imagination in this game. The bean bags can suddenly turn into a hot potato by tossing it up as if it was too hot to hold. I shout out, “Hot potato”. The little ones typically mimic what I do. The older ones might try to catch it after tossing.

The bean bag could be used for naming parts of their body. Place the bean bag on your head as you say, “Put it on your head”. Again they naturally try to mimic me. The little ones will struggle with keeping it on their heads. So I will help them. Then I do the same by placing my bean bag on other parts of my body like my shoulder, elbow, arm, hand and feet. I name parts of the body as I go. I encourage the older toddlers to try to walk with the bean bag on their head or by placing a bean bag on top of their feet.

Then I encourage using their imagination even further by pretending they are an animal of their choice. I place the bean bag on their back while crawling on their hands and knees. They always like it when I get down on my hands and knees. I always end up with all the bean bags on my back as I try to crawl away from them. This game always turns into lots of giggles.

Bowling for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  •     Age: 1 ½  - preschoolers 
  • Materials: a miniature set of bowling pins (numbered 1 to 10 if preferred) and any size ball. Or homemade “puffs” container pins

I set up the pins from 1 to 10 the same way a bowling alley would. I show the little ones different ways they can roll, throw, kick or drop the ball into the pins. From just a couple of feet away, they could roll the ball on the floor from between their legs, roll the ball like normal with one hand, throw the ball at the pins, kick the ball towards the pins or simply walk up to the pins and drop the ball. They learn to take turns and step out of the way while their playmate is taking a turn. This is a good game to practice coordination. I don’t keep score, as it’s all just fun. After a few tries, I let them set up the pins anyway they want and try again.

Parachute Play

  • Age: 1 ½  - preschoolers 
  • Materials: a small (approximately 5 to 6 feet) parachute with primary colors and handles sold online under educational supplies or materials
For safety reasons, I try to discourage the little ones from stepping on the parachute or slipping the handle on one’s foot or leg.

I spread the parachute out flat on the floor (or grass for outdoors). I encourage the little ones to grab hold of a handle. When all have found a handle, I start shaking the parachute up and down and side to side as the little ones follow. Then I lift the parachute up while encouraging the others to do the same and down as they follow my direction. I repeat this several times. This is a fun way for the little ones to learn “up” and “down”. Usually by this time one of them starts to crawl under the parachute then the others usually follow. While they are under the parachute I continue to lift the parachute up and down. Sometimes, I’ll challenge the older ones by asking them to touch a certain color and then while I am lifting the parachute up and down we shout out the color. Then I’ll ask to touch another color and repeat the same. Sometimes, one will crawl out and want to reach for a handle again. If they are all out from under the parachute, I will lay the parachute out flat again. I encourage the little ones to grab hold of a handle, again. This time I encourage them to follow me as we go around in a circle while still holding on to the handles (this works best with the older ones). Another fun way to play with the parachute is to get the little ones to line up outside of the parachute while an older one or an adult holds onto the opposite sides of the parachute. When we lift up the parachute we encourage the little ones to run under and through the parachute to the other side before we lower the parachute to the floor or grass. Then we do it again as we lift the parachute up.

Hide and Go Seek
  •  Age: two year – preschoolers 
  • Material: places to hide and a group of two or more
A toddler/preschool version of “Hide and Go Seek” goes like this. If they haven’t played before or if it’s been awhile, then I first get them to hide with help and encourage them to stay there. At this time, I count in a corner hiding my eyes (I usually only count up to five, slowly). They either climb out of their hiding place before I find them or stay there giggling. When I turn around after counting and see them, I say, “Found you!” After a couple of times, they get the idea. This is a fun way to practice counting. I ask, “Who wants to count?” I bring the counter to a corner and show how to cover his eyes. While the counter is hiding eyes, I help the other little ones find a place to hide. While they are hiding, I quickly get back to the counter to make sure there is no peeking and help him count to five out loud. Again the others will more than likely climb out before we are done. But, that’s ok because it’s just for fun. When we are done counting, we look for the others and say, “Found you!” Then it’s someone else’s turn to count and I repeat what I suggested above. If one of the older ones is counting without my help, I help the others hide and then I find a place for me to hide. They always think it’s funny that Miss Iva is hiding and usually the whole group finds me all at once. When they find me, I stand up and say, “Found you” along with them.

Twister® Game for Toddlers
  • Age: two year – preschooler 
  •  Materials: The Twister® game. You can find this game through any toy store that sells board games
A toddler/preschool version of the Twister® game is simple. This game focuses on colors. I spread out the mat on the floor and clear toys and obstacles away for the area to prevent tripping. The little ones take turns with the spinner. I help the one spinning the spinner and when the hand on the spinner stops on a color, I ask the little ones what color it is pointing to. For example if it lands on blue, we shout out “blue.” I ask them to point out blue on the mat. Then we run through the blue row of circles on the mat. I continue that routine letting everyone have a turn spinning the spinner. Then I change it to make it more fun. We spin, call the color, and then see if it lands on a hand or a foot. If it lands on a yellow circle next to the corner of the hand, I ask them to find a yellow circle and place their hand on them. At times I need to help them with this. It doesn’t matter if it’s their left of right hand. It’s not necessary for them to stay on the mat, either. We continue to spin, shouting the colors, and placing our hands or feet on the colors. They have even more fun when I join in with them.

Yoga for Toddlers

  • Age: one year – preschoolers 
  • Materials: Yoga activity cards for children or preschool yoga cards 
  •  Note: You can find yoga activities focused on toddler/preschool age in toy stores or by looking up online through various educational stores. Use search words like: educational materials or catalog for educational toys
This activity focuses on stretching the large muscles while having fun imitating the child and image on the cards. Find a place to display one card at a time or hold the card up yourself. I personally like to display it on a wall so I can join in with the little ones. For instance, let’s say I display the card with the turtle showing the child crawling like a turtle, I would say, “Look, a turtle, let’s follow what the little boy is doing.” I would get down on the floor and the little ones usually follow. I usually go through all the cards and focus on each animal imitation for a couple of minutes. This activity has proven to be a healthy exercise for the little ones as well as the adult in charge.

Here are some additional large motor activities with blog links to check out:

Physical Activity Cube
  • Found on site “Little Family Fun” @ www.littlefamilyfun.com 
  •   Age: one year – preschoolers + 
  •  Materials: a cube size box, white card stock = 6 squares, Sharpie marker, clear packing tape and newspaper
“To get a little more physical activity into our days, I made this exercise cube for my kids!”

Collect Letter Maze
  •  Found on site “PBS Parents” @ www.pbs.org
  •  Age: two years – preschoolers + 
     Materials: painters tape, Sharpie marker and toy cars

A Maze of Numbers

  • Found this site “Hands On As We Grow” @ http://handsonaswegrow.com Age: two years – preschoolers + 
    Materials: Painter’s tape, Sharpie markers and toy cars

A number maze for kids learning how to count

It's my hope that you find these games just as enjoyable and educational as I have with the little ones I care for,


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