27 Gross Motor Skills Activities for Little Kids

Gross motor activities for preschoolers - little girl dancing
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Little kids can develop their gross motor skills through a variety of fun activities. Active play that uses the large muscles of the legs, arms, and trunk is important for your preschooler's health and physical development. Learning to harness the power of their muscles to run, jump, throw, catch, and kick is vital to the growth of their bodies and brains. Plus, it's a lot of fun.

Types of Gross Motor Skills Activities For Kids

  • Indoor: Building, dancing, hopping, arts and crafts, pretend play, pulling, pushing
  • Outdoor: Balancing, climbing, reaching, riding, swimming, playground play, walking, throwing, catching
  • Games: Hit the target, jump the brook, paper plate skates, soccer, tag
  • Fine Motor Skills: Coloring, cooking, cutting, fingerplay, stringing beads, puzzles, pupped shows, sand play, sidewalk chalk

Indoor Gross Motor Activities

Muscle-moving play doesn't have to take up a ton of room. Given just a little floor space, your child can enjoy these skill-building activities inside.

  • Building and navigating: Create obstacle courses with furniture, pillows, boxes, and blankets.
  • Dancing: Kids go can freestyle or follow songs with movements, such as "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," "I'm a Little Teapot," "The Wheels on the Bus," or "Popcorn."
  • Hopping: Set up targets with masking tape or cardboard to make jumping from place to place on the floor more fun.
  • Large-scale arts and crafts activities: These stimulate both large motor skills and creativity.
  • Playing pretend: Kids boost motor skills when they use their bodies to become waddling ducks, stiff-legged robots, galloping horses, soaring planes, or whatever they can imagine.
  • Pulling and pushing: Playing with wagons, large trucks, doll strollers, or shopping carts helps develop upper-body strength and coordination.

Formal Classes for Preschoolers

Dance and movement classes, like pre-ballet or tumbling, can be fun and provide motor-development skills, but they can be expensive. These organized activities are by no means essential to a child's development; it's more important that kids have time and opportunity to move their bodies.

Outdoor Gross Motor Activities

Kids have plenty of room outside to play hard and challenge their muscles. Help them by suggesting activities such as:

  • Balancing: Have your child walk on a low beam or plank at the playground or a homemade balance beam.
  • Climbing, stretching, and reaching: Set up obstacle courses with rocks, logs, or playground equipment.
  • Riding: Encouage kids to play with tricycles, scooters, and other ride-on toys.
  • Swimming: Most kids love water play of all kinds, from swimming to playing with water squirters or sprinklers.
  • Playground play: Playgrounds offer opportunities to pump their legs on a swing, shoot down a slide, climb ladders, and run freely, often with friends.
  • Walking: Take a walk around the neighborhood or a park. For variety, add in marching, jogging, skipping, hopping, or even musical instruments to form a parade. As you walk, tell stories, look for colors, count, or play games.
  • Throwing and catching: Provide large, lightweight, soft balls for throwing, catching, kicking, and rolling.

Gross Motor Skills Games

Some activities for developing gross motor skills work best outside, but others can be done indoors. Motivate major movement with games such as:

  • Hit the target: Use hula hoops or sidewalk chalk to designate targets on the ground, then have kids aim bean bags or balls (even snowballs). 
  • Jump the brook: Set out two jump ropes, or draw two chalk lines to represent the brook, and have kids try to jump over it. Try making it wider in some spots and narrower in others for a few levels of challenge.
  • Paper plate skates: Use paper plates to glide along on a carpet. Try to imitate speed skaters, hockey players, or figure skaters.
  • Soccer: Instead of playing a real game, just let kids enjoy kicking the ball and aiming it toward a goal or a large cardboard box or laundry basket turned on its side. For indoor play, you can use crumpled paper instead of balls.
  • Tag: Teach little ones simple ways to play tag or other classic games such as Follow the Leader, Mother May I, and Simon Says.

Avoid or modify games that force kids to sit still or to be eliminated from play, such as Duck Duck Goose or Musical Chairs.

Fine Motor Skills for Preschoolers

Kids this age are also working on fine motor skills, which are crucial to their ability to perform tasks like holding a pencil, cut with scissors, use silverware to eat, and more. These activities can help children strengthen and learn to use the small muscles in their fingers and hands.

  • Coloring and tracing with crayons, pencils, or markers
  • Cooking (pouring, shaking, sprinkling, kneading, tearing, cutting with a butter knife)
  • Cutting with safety scissors
  • Fingerplays (songs such as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" that have accompanying hand movements)
  • Lacing cards or stringing beads
  • Manipulative toys such as blocks, puzzles, or dolls with clothes to take on and off
  • Puppet shows
  • Sand play (pouring, scooping, sifting, building)
  • Sidewalk chalk or any art project, like finger painting or playing with clay

A Word From Verywell

Your preschooler needs plenty of time to play and explore different activities that will help them develop their motor skills. Look for activities that will help them build strength in all their muscles, big and small.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Iacobucci G. Children should have at least three hours of daily physical activity from age 1, WHO advises. BMJ. 2019;365:I1884. doi:10.1136/bmj.l1884 

  2. Figueroa R, An R. Motor skill competence and physical activity in preschoolers: A reviewMatern Child Health J. 2017;21(1):136–146. doi:10.1007/s10995-016-2102-1

  3. McGlashan HL, Blanchard CCV, Sycamore NJ, Lee R, French B, Holmes NP. Improvement in children's fine motor skills following a computerized typing interventionHum Mov Sci. 2017;56(Pt B):29–36. doi:10.1016/j.humov.2017.10.013

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By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.