gross motor activities With summer vacation on the horizon, I have been starting to think of ways to not only keep my preschooler entertained but to exercise skills (mental and physical) that they are developing during preschool. It is important for parents to work with their children and allow them to exercise their gross motor skills. Unlike fine motor skills, (which are used for tying shoes and writing) gross motor skills involve large muscle groups and are used to complete tasks and movements such as jumping, climbing and running. Outdoor play naturally lends itself to gross motor development for preschoolers as many outdoor games and sports include running, jumping, throwing, and kicking. However, there are many other ways that gross motor skills can be used outside of engaging in a traditional sport. For more information on developing motor skills and coordination, check out this course offered by Udemy.

When performing an activity that requires gross motor skills, your child should be able to form judgments regarding muscle movements. The child must also use ongoing sensory feedback throughout the activity. Gross motor memory allows a child to recall the muscular steps previously used for the task at hand. This comes easily to some children, while others require more practice as it is less instinctive and must be learned through training.

As parents, we want our children to be well-adjusted and have the skillsets to function in a productive way. We want to raise happy children who enjoy play and socialization. The Art of Parenting details how to raise children who are empathetic, loving, intelligent, and happy. The following activities will not only encourage parent-child bonding, but will create confidence within your child. Confidence will build as he or she becomes more comfortable moving his or her body, improves specific skills like running or kicking, and experiences joy through playing with others. Physical play enables children to strengthen these large muscle groups and improve coordination. Another advantage of physical play is the social aspect – children are learning to get along with and work with others. They are also learning about new concepts, memorizing rules, and practicing teamwork as well as sportsmanship.  Below are ten activities that your preschooler can enjoy while developing his or her gross motor skills.

1. Play a Listening Game

A number of classic childhood games are beneficial when it comes to the development of gross motor skills. For example, “Duck Duck Goose” not only practices running, but requires children to control changes in speed and direction. In addition, children must exhibit powerful muscle movements by quickly jumping to their feet and dropping to the ground. The game, “Simon Says” allows for children to follow directions and complete various physical tasks. Children engage in a variety of physical actions using various parts of the body.  In “Follow the Leader,” the leader demonstrates a movement which the players then imitate. All of these games require children to move in various ways while working on listening skills.

2. Have Fun with Hoops and Ropes

Hula hoops are a great prop to use when exercising gross motor skills, for the mere fact that there are many ways that they can be used. Children can use them in the traditional way by twisting and moving their hips. Children can also crawl through the hoops, or jump in and out of them. My daughter also  likes to use hers much like a jump rope – raising the hoop above her head and to the ground and then jumping over it and extending it behind her back and over her head once again. Speaking of jump ropes, jumping rope is another great activity. If jumping rope in the traditional sense is too advanced for your preschooler, leaping over the jump rope while on the ground is another fun way to play.

3. Catch Butterflies

Grab a net and venture outdoors. Visit an area that houses an abundance of flowers such as your own backyard or a community park. Butterfly catching causes children to jump, run, and stretch – all while making adjustments physically and mentally. If there seems to be a shortage of butterflies your way, you can always create your own. Use tissue paper to trace and cut out your own “butterflies.” A parent could stand up on a chair or another higher area such as a deck or upstairs window and release the tissue paper butterflies.  They should slowly flutter to the ground as the children scramble to catch them in the air. Not feeling crafty and want to keep things simple? Chasing and catching bubbles is another activity that many children enjoy. You can never go wrong when it comes to bubbles.

4.  Visit a Playground

Visiting a playground or park is another way to exercise those muscles. If your local playground has a jungle gym or large play structure. take advantage of it. Tubes, slides, monkey bars, and other playground features are great ways to use gross motor skills. If your playground does not have much equipment, look no further than the swings. Swings allow children to work their legs, arms, and core muscles as well. Also, open space is a great place to play soccer, run, or engage in direction games like red light/green light. Indoor playgrounds allow for similar types of play. These are great for a rainy weekend or for the colder months of the year where there are seemingly less opportunities for active play.

5. Create an Obstacle Course

Create an obstacle course that will encourage children to run, crawl, balance, skip, and jump. Actions such as weaving in and out of cones or  jumping through hula hoops or stepping over boxes can be part of your course. Some other activities that can be incorporated are walking on a string, spinning, and throwing a bean bag or ball into a bucket or other type of target. Be creative and allow your child to help you come up with the activities that are part of the obstacle course. Obstacle courses can be presented as an individual competition or a team endeavor.

6. Show Off Your Animal Instincts

I know that my daughter loves to get down on all fours and imitate her favorite animals. Children will use gross motor skills through simple play. However, this activity could be turned into a guessing game as well. Children could choose to imitate their favorite animal through movement and sound and the rest of the players could guess the type of animal. Children can create cards that have drawings of animals on them.  Children would randomly pick a card that encourages them to do things lie jump like a kangaroo, gallop like a horse, or slither like a snake. Creating the cards would be a great way to exercise fine motor skills.   For a list of activities that utilize fine motor skills, read this article.

7. Turn up the Music

Dancing is a fun activity for children and adults of all ages. You can start and stop the music as they dance encouraging them to “freeze” when the music stops. This same game of start and stop can be applied to running, skipping, and jumping. In addition, a fun game of musical chair also never goes out of style. Encourage children to create their own moves or choreograph a story to set to the music. Children can develop a routine and perform a show for parents and friends. Gymnastics and tumbling exercises are other fun activities in which children can engage.

8. Take a Class

Enroll your child in appropriate activities like children’s yoga, swimming, or soccer. See what programs are offered at your local Y or sports center. Sometimes, local libraries will offer free yoga classes for children as well. Do your research. There are probably more opportunities within your community than you realize when it comes to keeping kids active. This course provides instruction on children’s yoga to help get your kids moving and stretching. Another option to consider is the course, Martial Arts for Kids, which teaches the fundamentals of martial arts while focusing on philosophy, protocols, self-defense, and anti-bullying.

9. Host a Treasure Hunt

A treasure hunt is a great way to get kids excited and allow them to exercise their problem solving skills as well as gross motor development. This can also be done outside or indoors on a rainy day. A parent should organize clues that require children to climb up or under pieces of furniture and maneuver around various obstacles.  A treasure hunt can also require children to complete certain tasks to receive the next clue such as balancing on one foot or walking backwards. Simply moving from one location to the next will keep kids interested and in turn keep their bodies moving.

10. Walk the Line

A roll of painter’s tape can go a long way when it comes to creating a new activity. Working on balance and coordination is effortless when engaging in a fun activity. Place the tape on the floor to create straight lines or a variety of shapes for children to work with. Children can walk on top of the line like a balance beam or trace shapes with their hands or feet. Children could also be encouraged to hop inside or run to a particular symbol when commanded or when handed a corresponding card. This same concept can also be created using sidewalk chalk. Hopscotch is another great activity that can be set up with chalk or tape (indoors).

Basically, any activity that gets children’s bodies moving will benefit their gross motor development. Using creativity and your imagination to put a new spin on a physical activity will make things more enjoyable for the child. Allowing children to learn new concepts, engage in a physical task, and ultimately master that task will instill confidence within your child and help to shape their self-image. As parents, often we want nothing more than our children to exhibit healthy, positive attitudes when it comes to themselves and the world around them. To learn how to foster optimism and resilience in your child, explore this course.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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