Activities to Help Preschoolers Develop Gross Motor Skills

Kid running through playground.

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As your preschooler grows and develops physically, so do his gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are the reason why we can walk, jump, even hold our heads upright. While simply getting up out of bed can help keep these muscles working, it's important to encourage your preschooler to hone these skills in other ways.

By encouraging your little one to try some of these gross motor activities, they aren't just being active and burning off steam, they're working these muscles, and honing them for current and future use.

Try some of the activities below:

  1. Ride a tricycle, scooter, or bicycle through a course of cones, weaving through without knocking any of them over. Alternatively, you can draw a track with sidewalk chalk.
  2. If you are outside, find a curb or place a wide piece of wood on the ground and ask your preschooler to see if she can balance while walking across it. Be sure to stand nearby to make sure she doesn't fall off.
  3. Cut long strips of different color ribbon (at least a foot long) and put on some kid-friendly tunes. Encourage your preschooler to dance or run, anything to make the ribbons move.
  4. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Halfway through, challenge your little one to try different methods of getting home – skipping, jumping, or hopping on one foot for example.
  5. If you are stuck inside on a rainy day, let your kids build a fort with what they can find in the house – couch cushions, chairs, blankets, and more.
  6. Visit a playground. Encourage your preschooler to utilize all of the equipment. ​Pump a swing, go down the slide, climb ladders, scale the rock wall, etc.
  7. Take out a ball (or two or three) and play with it with your little one as many ways as you can imagine. Throw it, roll it, chase it down a hill. 
  8. It's amazing how much fun a little kid can have with a single, blown-up balloon (with your own air, not helium). Play Keep it Up or simply bop it back and forth between each other.
  9. Go fly a kite!
  10. If you have a group of preschoolers, a small parachute offers a lot of opportunities to work gross motor skills. From trying to keep a ball (or balls) on it while everyone lifts it up and down, to simply taking turns going underneath, parachutes are a lot of fun and educational too. 
  11. Clear a large space and teach your preschooler how to lie flat and roll. This is also a fun activity done outside, down a hill!
  12. While your preschooler is likely too young to be able to hula hoop, they can still have a lot of fun with one. Have her jump in and out of one, hold a couple together as a tunnel, or even teach your preschooler how to "drive" with one.
  13. After a rainy day, put some rain boots on your child (yourself too!) and head outside and jump in the puddles.
  14. Play popular games from your own childhood – Red Light, Green Light, Hide-and-Seek – anything that will get your preschooler moving and running. As a bonus, by playing organized games like this, your little one will learn important social skills like taking turns.
  15. Play a game of "Charades: Animal Edition." Take turns with your preschooler, acting out different animals. See how many you can guess. Encourage your little one to not only make the sound that the animal makes but to walk and move like the animal, too.
  16. It may go against all of your parenting instincts, but let your little one jump on the bed (supervised, of course!)
  17. Grab some sidewalk chalk and draw a hopscotch board. Great for working on counting too!
  18. If you aren't bothered by loud noises, buy a roll of bubble wrap. Lay it out on the floor and let your preschooler stomp, march, and jump to his heart's content.
  19. Play a rousing game of "Freeze Dance." Load a variety of kid-friendly tunes on your MP3 player and then press play. At random intervals, hit pause, challenging your preschooler to "freeze" when the music stops.
  20. Create an obstacle course with a little one. Use what you have in your yard or home to make it fun. Ideas include going down the slide, doing five jumping jacks, riding her tricycle in two circles and running across the yard. Just make tasks fun and age-appropriate.
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