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, why not try a game of follow the leader? Not only will you be helping your toddler develop his large motor skills, but you'll be acting as a positive role model.

Begin by explaining to your child that you want him to imitate or copy the things that you do. Be sure to use language your child understands. Perform a movement that you know your child is capable of like clapping his hands. If your toddler doesn't seem to know what to do, ask, "Can you do it?" and then help your child make the movements. 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.)

Keep the action going until you or your toddler tire of the game. Be sure to 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. Then sprinkle those movements with those your toddler hasn't mastered yet.

Some Ideas to Get You Started

  • 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

It's fun to end the game with a quiet movement so that your toddler knows it's time to wind down (sleep like a baby or be as still as a statue). Once he's mastered the game, give your toddler a chance to be the leader, too. You'll know what his favorite moves are (and those he can perform best) by what he asks you to do. Pay attention to his choices and use those to get the game started in the future.

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