We all know how it goes – our child just can’t stop moving, jumping, and climbing all over the place. (I have three boys in a DIY obstacle course in my living room as I type) You might’ve also heard that we should be encouraging them to keep moving around, but why is that so? Gross motor activities for preschoolers are essential for your kids to develop better body movements and balance coordination. Developing gross motor skills also helps children learn more about themselves and become more confident. So how do we help our child at home? I removed the guesswork and created a list of 25 low-prep gross motor activities.
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What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills involve full-body movements, mainly involving larger muscle groups, like the torso, arms, and legs. Strengthening these areas of the body also helps improve balance and coordination. Remember catching a ball in the backyard with your friends? You were actually improving your hand-eye coordination and developing arm strength. All while you were having fun!
Physical activities such as tossing a ball, chasing a friend, and climbing the monkey bars typically take practice. You will notice your child’s body movements improve over time. Our bodies grow independently, but actively developing gross motor skills will also help normal day-to-day activities like walking and dressing up. Children become more self-aware and confident as they explore their large muscle groups. You can read this article about why gross motor skills matter.
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Gross motor skills vs. fine motor skills
An easy way to remember the two motor skills is that gross motor skills are large body muscles and fine motor skills involve smaller movements using the wrists, hands, and fingers. They are equally important to develop and can often be developed together! (Think about how catching a ball requires you to wrap your fingers around it) We have another post dedicated to fine motor activities. I created this list for busy teachers and parents that need simple ideas.
Ages and stages of physical development
Here are some general guidelines for working with your child on gross motor skills. Use this article from the AAP for a deeper understanding of motor development milestones.
Age three: Children should begin to be able to demonstrate coordination by running, swinging, throwing, dancing, catching, pedaling a tricycle, and even hopping.
Age four: You will begin to recognize a more confident use of large muscles. Children will start to run more efficiently and put one foot on a stair at a time when climbing down.
Age five: Children should be able to master all of the above, plus have more robust balance, agility, and coordination. Some five-year-olds will begin to learn how to ride and pedal a bike. (Having practiced on a balance bike in the earlier years helps with this)
22 Gross Motor Activities for Your Child
Filling your child’s day with physical activity can seem complicated, but I’m here to help you out. This list of gross motor activities for preschoolers is full of easy ideas for your kids to do to get active inside and out. Because let’s be real. When younger siblings are napping and everyone stays home, it isn’t possible to sit still. Let’s help our toddlers and preschoolers move arms and legs inside and out.
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Indoor physical activities
Obstacle courses are great fun, but sometimes we just don’t want to clean up the mess it brings on. From a parent that had an indoor fort filled with painter’s tape and bed sheets in her living room for three weeks, I am no stranger to clutter. Instead of grabbing all the gear, I created 11 indoor play activities that are a little more contained. (and still loads of fun!)
Apple Scoop and Sort: Grab some apples, water, and a scooper. Sorting apples by color is a great gross motor activity for preschoolers that strengthens their arm muscles and lets them learn to hold a steady hand.
Toy Transport: I know that writing and moving your body are not typically grouped, but pre-writing with colors is like a little secret mission. Here, your child moves left to right and sees lines like straights, zigzags, and curves in the same way that we form lines and letters. Pretty sneaky, right?
Gross Motor Movement Cube: I can assure you that one thing preschoolers need to do is MOVE. Toss this movement cube from the couch as your child runs to grab what they need.
Gross Motor Wooden Tracks Mini Golf: Creative activities come from taking an idea and designing an activity on your own terms. This indoor mini-golf course (made with train tracks) is right the play activity you need for innovative thinking and learning through play.
Magnetic Tiles Bowling: Some days call for extra snacks, while others call for magnetic tiles bowling. Spoiler alert: this case calls for both! Because you know kids are hungry. All. The. Time. Gather that collection of magnetic tiles and get playing today!
Pour to the Lines: This gross motor activity has children practice their pouring skills without making a mess! (or at least the mess goes in the large sensory bin) Water play activities are a hit and also introduce measurement.
Primary Color Hunt: I don’t mean to play favorites, but this primary color indoor hunt is just the best. Once my preschoolers could identify the colors red, blue, and yellow, this primary color activity was ON. Move throughout the house and collect toys to sort.
Sticky Pumpkin: Watching your child’s expression as their hand sticks and slowly peels off the paper is wonderful. Sticky pumpkin is a fun fall activity to explore as you hopefully enjoy it from the sidelines.
The Claw Gross Motor Grab: We all know children learn and play in various ways, and this indoor game for preschoolers is a hoot! When planning simple games, I like to include items we already have. Find the kitchen tongs, and gather the stuffies. This idea is sure to help hand-eye coordination and strengthen arms.
Wooden Tracks Gross Motor Tree Farm: The boys played with the wooden train tracks for days. We only cleaned them up because I needed to walk without tripping over a track. Sounds reasonable in my books, but they begged for more! A great way to catch an afternoon cup of coffee at home with kids.
Outdoor Physical Activities
Ball Bounce Reading Activity: Let’s retell one of our favorite Thanksgiving stories with this ball-bouncing activity to strengthen large muscles.
Chalk Game for Outdoor Play: This outdoor game takes chalk, a recycled box, and a driveway. The result is a simple game with a lot of laughter.
Gross Motor Musical Color Scavenger Hunt: Not only did my two-year-old love this game but my four and six-year-old did as well. Grab some chalk and head outside. This is one of the outdoor gross motor activities for preschoolers that you HAVE to play!
Hop the Lines, a Preschool Jumping Game: We were trying to teach our three-year-old how to hop, and he could use a little practice – I needed a toddler jumping activity. So we grabbed painter’s tape (a personal favorite) and whipped up a fun game to improve gross motor strength!
Outdoor Dice Movement Game: We have ample time to build math skills. Preschool is the time to let your child play and discover new math concepts. A little practice with this game will give them some experience to take math to a higher level when they enter kindergarten.
Outdoor Gross Motor Color Hunt: The outdoor color hunt is also one of the first activities we have ever played in this little corner of the web.
Outdoor Water Tracks: Sometimes indoor toys need a change of scenery, which can also give kids a new way to play outdoors. This new configuration was exactly what we all needed – I got to catch my breath alongside my kids as they explored some physical sciences and engaged in a bit of problem-solving.
Prewriting with Movement: Lately, I’ve had a couple of requests for writing activities. This gross motor activity for preschoolers is fantastic because it gets your child writing and moving. It’s a combination of prewriting movement magic and gross motor skills!
Pumpkin Balance: We love a fun pumpkin activity! Even better? Outdoor pumpkin fun with sharing laughs to make this one a true winner! This fall activity for kids is an absolute blast.
Run and Sort: Learn math outdoors with this color-sorting activity for toddlers! This outdoor math activity will allow your toddler to color, sort, get fresh air, and move around! A winning combination for all!
Helping Your Child Learn and Grow
Gross motor skills are essential for our kids to function and better understand how their bodies work. These preschool activities will help them learn to control their muscles and give them the strength they’ll need to go about their day-to-day routines. As children master simple tasks, they can move on to more complicated ones, improving self-awareness and confidence.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Gross motor activities include movements with large body muscles. They include running, skipping, crossing the mid-line, jumping, hopping, throwing, bouncing, balancing, kicking, and catching.
Examples of gross motor activities are balancing on a curb, jumping or hopping to different circles, hula hooping, or kicking a ball. Toddlers and preschoolers have plenty of time to develop the large muscles in their bodies as long as we give them opportunities to do so.
Absolutely! Water tables are absolutely worth it; you don’t need to get the most expensive. They not only interest many age groups (toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids) but also hold high value in learning. Scooping and splashing water help little children hold a steady hand and develop hand-eye coordination.