10 Toddler Gross Motor Activities and Why Obstacle Courses are the Best!
Developing gross motor skills is an essential foundation that all children need!
Gross motor skills are any movements that engage the large muscles in your body. They are the significant movements that kids begin to use regularly. We often hear a lot about fine motor skills and their importance in learning and academia. However, without strong gross motor skills, a child’s fine motor development could suffer greatly. Gross motor skills include rolling, walking, running, jumping, climbing, hopping, skipping, bending, kicking, throwing, catching, balancing, and more.
Think about not being able to control your arm or shoulder actively and how hard it would make it to hone your fine motor skills to write a word or letter. Gross motor skills provide foundational skills for learning and developing. Kids use gross motor skills to eat, play, dress themselves, or even sit in a chair to participate in school-based activities. Needless to say, gross motor skills are grossly important (pun intended!)
Here are ten gross motor activities for children ages 1-3 and why obstacle courses are the best gross motor activity of them all!
(Above picture: A child doing Obstacle course activity using OT park worksheets in her Backyard.)
- Cleaning up
Cleaning up requires walking, reaching, bending, and squatting. All of these movements are great gross motor practice.
- Catch and toss
Catch and toss is such a simple and classic game. Get the whole family involved and allow the kids to run and retrieve the ball for optimal skill building!
- Water play/swimming
This activity requires adult assistance and supervision at all times to prevent drowning. However, water play is such an excellent gross motor activity and even allows your child to build strength safely by moving, playing, kicking, and splashing against the water’s resistance.
- Jungle gyms
Most kids enjoy parks and outside play. Constant movement is created to run and climb, swing their legs back and forth, or even squat and bend to squeeze into tight and low spaces. The most fun part is they don’t even realize they are building foundational skills!
- Animal Walks
Pretend to be your child’s favorite animal, or allow them to show you how that animal moves (even if it’s wacky!) Pretend play with them and show them how to walk like a crab or hop like a frog! Have them mimic you and see which animal was their favorite!
- Pretend play
Layout various clothes or costumes that you have around the house, and let your child dress up and pretend to be a football player, a teacher, or even mommy or daddy!
Put on your favorite tunes and dance it out! Dancing also builds endurance and relieves tension, stress, or anxiety.
The most important part of this game for kids ages 1-3 is hopping and jumping around! We aren’t looking for perfection. Allow your kid to hop and attempt to hold their balance while picking up the rock they threw. Hopscotch is such a great gross motor activity! Hop, hop, hop!
- Playing with bubbles
When toddlers play with bubbles, it encourages them to reach up high or squat down low. They jump and run after the bubbles to catch or pop them.
- Obstacle course
Finally, we saved the best for last! Obstacle courses are such a fun and versatile way to engage your child’s gross motor skills. Obstacle courses can be made indoors or outdoors and can be super complex or straightforward. You can use household objects or purchase different items from the store! Whatever you choose, make it fun!
For example, let’s say you wanted to make a four-step obstacle course indoors. You and your child could:
- Roll or catch a ball while sitting
- Do crab walks
- Dance for 3 minutes
- Walk over four pillows that are lined up!
It’s just that simple! Get your kid’s body moving and allow them to explore! With this four-step obstacle course example, your kid just practiced reaching, sitting, standing, stomping, bending, twisting, squatting, balancing, jumping, and so much more! This is why I believe obstacle courses are the best gross motor activity!
They allow your child to build multiple gross motor skills simultaneously. There is no limit to how much your child can grow, learn, and develop.
All it takes is a little time and creativity!