Gross Motor Skills are an important part of physical development. They are how we use our large muscles and facilitate our balance and overall movement. Practical ways to practice gross motor skills for toddlers can seem difficult since developmentally the cannot jump or do some of the fun things like big kids. But that’s all the more reason to work on them and hone them to ensure a healthy, active child as well as one that is working towards a bit more independence.
So what are ten easy ways to implement gross motor skills for toddlers? Our top ten are pushing, climbing, bending, throwing, scooping, crawling, kicking, bouncing, dancing, and scooting. They are ways that sometimes we burn off energy and other times we use to stay engaged and entertained.
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Ideas for Incorporating Gross Motor Skills for Toddlers
First of all, any books that go over body parts and involve movement are going to be be great resources to both encourage literacy and work on gross motor concepts. Our favorite book that has a lot of gross motor skills is From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. It’s a cute story about different animals and moving our bodies like theirs.
- Climbing –While I have almost had a heart attack from the climbing endeavors my daughter came up with on her own, controlled activities like a pillow climb are great for working those muscles! Small step ladders can make for a practical life application of climbing and a ladder climb, with the ladder on the floor, is a fun and imaginative way to work on those motor skills of alternating feet and weight distribution.
- Throwing – This one is pretty simple. You can obviously toss a ball back and forth, but you can also work on throwing with much lighter objects like feathers and scarves for a different effect while still working on gross motor development in your toddler.
- Crawling – Crawling is an important activity beyond the initial movement. It works on cross brain and body communication. We have crawling races and have made tunnels to explore to make crawling the desired mode of transport and something fun.
- Kicking – We work on aiming towards a goal – the goal can be a literal goal or even trying to kick the ball into the center of a hoop on the ground. We kick the ball back and forth and as parents we show her how we kick it with different parts of our foot.
- Scooping – Whether it’s just with a spoon and your toddler is transferring rice from one bowl to another or helping you feed a pet, there are lots of options. One of our favorite is scooping for treasure. It involves a simple scooping game in a BIG tub of your choice of filler. Hide a fun new toy or item that your young toddler would get really excited about. Then they have to scoop and dig to find it!
- Bouncing – Young toddlers can’t jump, but it’s still easy to work those muscles. they can bounces on anything from a pillow to a bed, to a floor mattress. We prefer the floor mattress as she does fall a lot, but she loves it and always gets back up for more.
- Pushing – Push a laundry basket around the house; even if you add weight to it, it should slide pretty easily. The classic purchases of a wooden push cart is also a great option. I personally prefer wood because it doesn’t go as fast and is a heavier object to push. We have one by FAO Schwarz that my daughter adores. She can haul things around in it and terrorize the dogs at the same time.
- Dancing – A little bit of upbeat music can go a long way. Dancing incorporates several gross motor actions in one activity. It incorporates twirling, spinning, bending, twisting, and swinging. When we dance, we not only let her dance out her own movements, but we also swing her around with a firm grip on her upper arm and forearm. We spin her around and do all sorts of fun movements that she can get used to and try herself at some point.
- Scooting – Our favorite means of scooting is on our Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug Bee. While it was a fun way to encourage running when she was younger (another gross motor skill), she now works her legs to scoot while sitting on it. Scooting can also be a fun race and relay game just by sitting on the floor and using the heels and thighs to propel forward.
- Bending – Baby and toddler yoga is so much fun. Before becoming a mother I thought it was silly and that no child would really do those stretches, but they do! My daughter really love downward dog. Since about 15 months old, she has mimicked the stretches and bending that I do. She will also do pelvic rocks (cat/cow in yoga) with me and she loves t and it gets her muscles moving!
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!