Written by Smita Srivastava
As your baby grows into a toddler, you start worrying about the milestones. You make sure you do everything possible to help them attain those milestones on time. Important milestones like sitting up, crawling, taking their first steps, or throwing a ball are all gross motor skills. Introducing gross motor related activities for toddlers will help in their gross motor skill development.
Gross motor skills involve the use of the larger muscles in the body. These muscles help balance and stabilize the body as one starts moving. Toddlers running, jumping, or even bending down are all gross motor skills. While every toddler needs their own time to achieve milestones, giving them appropriate activities can help them improve and meet those milestones with ease.
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Toddlers love to play using different muscles. Predominantly they will use their large group of muscles and strengthen their gross motor skills over time. You cannot ask a toddler to exercise and develop their gross motor skills. You need to engage them in interesting activities that will make them use their muscles unintentionally.
Gross motor activities and games are a great option to improve gross motor skills, without forcing your toddler in any manner. Toddlers are in a power struggle phase, where they want to defy instructions and test boundaries. So, if you tell them to do a physical activity a certain way, they may not follow instructions many times. This will lead to frustration and unnecessary bitterness.
When you give your toddler fun activities and play games with them that make them move around and use their larger muscles, it will aid in the healthy development of their gross motor skills without any resistance.
Gross motor activities are important for the following reasons-
When you observe your toddler, they are constantly using their gross motor skills to play and get things done. If you watch closely, they will be favoring movements and limbs that are stronger. If sitting down and getting back up is still difficult, your toddler will mostly squat and play. So, giving them gross motor activities that will make them move in different ways is very important.
If you are wondering what activities to introduce, here is a list of top exciting gross motor activities options to engage toddlers:
A very simple activity that requires very little space. It can keep even multiple toddlers occupied for a good amount of time. Draw a line with chalk or stick tape in a straight line. Now ask your toddler to walk on the line without stepping out of it. They are bound to sway and fall or step off the line multiple times, but don’t let them give up.
Once they learn to walk the line, you can start adding some weight. Ask them to carry a big empty box and walk the line. Now, their view may partially be obstructed, but they will still walk the line without stepping off too many times. Similarly, you can ask them to walk with a small book on their heads. Walking with a book on their head that can slide off if they move their heads too fast, will improve their coordination and sense of balance.
Walking the line will improve your toddler’s walk, balance, and also strengthen their backs. The easier they walk, the better they can run and play around with other children or participate in sporting activities.
A simple activity like cleaning their own room has a large scope for motor skills development – both gross and fine. Asking your toddler to clean up after themselves can be a big ask but if you get down to clean up with them, they will happily oblige.
You can start with one activity. Ask your toddler to pick one set of items and drop them into the appropriate box or basket. Move on to the next set of toys this way. Once the toys are all sorted out, you can ask them to stack or arrange the boxes. To move more weight, they will use their bigger muscles and torso too.
Bending down and picking things off the floor will improve their hand-eye coordination, and develop strength in their torso and backs. They will also be on the move, crouch down to get things from tough spots, etc. If you join in or turn it into a game, it can get competitive and fun. Bonus – you will have a clean house!
Standing, jumping, and hopping all help develop gross motor skills as they use the big muscles in the body. Toddlers are full of energy and hopscotch can be just the right game to entertain and use up all that energy.
If you have an open space, you can draw the boxes on the floor. Alternatively, you can use some tape and create the box on the floor indoors. You can use different colors for numbering the boxes. Show your toddler how to jump or hop from one box to the other in an order. Let them jump or hop according to their convenience.
Toddlers can start hopping only around 4 years of age. Some toddlers can start hopping before that but hopping from one box to another in hopscotch can be tough for them. So, you can ask your toddler to just jump from one box to the other.
Hopscotch can improve your toddler’s balance, jumps, and build leg muscles. It is a perfect game to entertain both children and adults alike. If your toddler likes the game, you can create these boxes anywhere even when traveling.
You don’t need a beach to play frisbee, Just an open space will do. Ensure your toddler has enough space to move around in and there are no breakables the frisbee can hit.
Throw a frisbee to your toddler to show them how it’s done. Guide your toddler to do the same. Let them throw it high or low. Don’t rush to correct them. They can change the angle only after they learn to throw. Throwing and catching are important milestones in the physical development of a toddler. Frisbees can be slower and more visible than a ball, thus making it an easier toy to play catch with.
Throwing or catching a frisbee is very different from playing with a ball. It requires your toddler to move their arm in a certain way at a certain angle. Throwing and catching frisbees can improve the arm muscles, hand-eye coordination, and balance. Catching a flying frisbee requires your toddler to move while keeping their eye on the frisbee. This activity can help in spatial awareness as well.
[Read : Spatial Awareness in Toddlers]
An age-old party favorite game that many kids still play at birthday parties. Toddlers love to run around in circles and move to music. A few rounds of musical chairs as and when you have company can be a lot of fun and exercise for those growing muscles too.
Arrange a few chairs (one lesser than the total number of players) in a circle, with the seats facing outwards. Now ask your toddler and their friends to start running around the chairs in circles. Ask them to sit when the music stops.
Playing musical chairs can teach your toddler to run and walk in circles, thus improving their balance. It also improves their listening skills as they need to pay close attention to the music. Watching others move and look for an empty chair improves reaction time, and teaches them to socialize.
Toddlers love music and dance. Just play some tunes and watch your toddler dance without any hesitation. They don’t know any steps or any particular style of dancing, but they are confident enough to just move their bodies wherever they are.
Make a list of five or six tracks you can dance to. The rule of the game is to dance while the music plays and stop wherever you are when the music stops. You cannot adjust or move to strike a pose. Keep pausing the music every few seconds. Ensure you keep changing the intervals between the music.
Dancing involves the use of all the big muscle groups in the body. Stopping and holding the pose for a few seconds requires good balance. It also makes them twist and turn. This activity can help improve your toddler’s sense of balance, strengthen limbs, and get better control over their body and movement.
Toddlers love to throw and play with pillows. Just give them pillows in different sizes and let them throw them around. Throwing is an important gross motor skill, which lays the foundation for various ball games and sporting activities.
You can mark spots for them to throw the pillows in. If you want to turn this into a fun game, you can ask them to throw it at you or at some object at a distance. You can have multiple targets at various distances and angles to make this game a little more challenging. Just ensure their target is not too far off as they are still too small and can’t throw much yet.
Holding a pillow requires your toddler to use their fingers and wrist. Throwing a pillow requires a lot of force, mobility, and aim. It helps improve your toddler’s focus and coordination. Since they are pillows, the chances of injury are minimal too.
The development of gross motor skills is very important for the timely and healthy development of your toddler. It is important for a growing toddler to engage all their muscles in various physical activities that can not only strengthen them but also improve them. By engaging your toddler in various gross motor activities, you can help their limbs and muscles get stronger to cross various milestones in time.
Yes, bringing the hands together to clap and make some sound is a gross motor skill. It involves a bigger group of muscles and requires hand-eye coordination. Your toddler has to bring the hands together at the same time, using some force to produce the clap sound.
Anything that requires your toddler to use the larger muscles is gross motor skills. This includes lifting and holding their heads up when they are less than 6 months old, crawling, sitting up, standing, walking, etc. as they grow up.
With a background in Mass media and journalism, Smita comes with rich and vast experience in content creation, curation, and editing. As a mom of a baby girl, she is an excellent candidate for writing and editing parenting and pregnancy content. The content she writes and edits is influenced by her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood. When not writing- She can be found curled up with a book. Or, bingeing on Netflix.Read more.