How to Play Follow the Leader With Toddlers

Woman and toddler doing yoga.
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Toddlers love to imitate adults. If you need something to help get your toddler off the couch and physically active, try a game of follow the leader. Not only will you be helping your toddler develop their large motor skills, but you'll be acting as a positive role model.

Getting Started

Begin by explaining to your child that you want them to imitate or copy the things that you do. Use language that your child understands. Start with movements that you know your child is capable of performing, like clapping their hands.

If your toddler doesn't seem to know what to do, ask, "Can you do it?" Then help them do the movement. Keep doing this until your child seems to follow your lead.

A nice board book to read to get things going is Eric Carle's From Head to Toe which encourages children to act out animal movements.

Choosing Moves

Reinforce old skills by choosing things your toddler already knows how to do. This will give your child a feeling of confidence and success as well.

Sprinkle the old movements in with new ones your toddler hasn't mastered yet. Here are some ideas to help keep the game interesting and gradually more challenging:

  • Clap
  • Crawl
  • Walk
  • Run
  • Climb a hill
  • Blow in the breeze like a tree
  • Flap your arms like a chicken
  • Hop
  • Skip
  • Jump
  • Gallop
  • March
  • Spin
  • Twist
  • Walk on tiptoe
  • Stomp
  • Roll
  • Fall like a leaf
  • Wiggle
  • Fly like an airplane
  • Twirl like a helicopter blade
  • Shake your hips from side-to-side
  • Crawl sideways like a crab
  • Kick
  • Step-kick like a chorus line dancer
  • Swim like a fish
  • Swim like a person

Ending the Game

Keep the action going until you or your toddler tire of the game. It's fun to end with a quiet movement so that your toddler knows it's time to wind down (try "sleep like a baby" or "be as still as a statue").

Once they've mastered the game, give your toddler a chance to be the leader, too. You'll know what their favorite moves are (and those they can perform best) by what they ask you to do. Pay attention to their choices and use those moves to get the game started in the future.

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