Large Motor Skills Activities Inspired by Art

Young boy using sidewalk chalk
Clark Griffiths / Getty Images

Got an arts-and-crafts lover in your family—maybe a child who'd rather draw pictures or string beads than play sports any day? Those fine motor activities are good for his brain and body, but he also needs large motor skills activities: projects that really get his arms, legs, and trunk moving. The good news is that you can use his creative passion to inspire active, muscle-building play.

The first rule of thumb is to think big. Look for projects that require your artists to stretch and move while creating.

Projects That Build Creative and Large Motor Skills

Try one of these crafty projects that stretch both creative and large motor skills.

Make a Mural

Use a roll of paper, an oversized cardboard box, or an old bedsheet as the canvas for a large mural. Spread it out on the floor or hang it on a wall (with newspapers or dropcloth underneath to protect your flooring), or an outdoor fence. Give kids some washable paint and let them go wild (this is fun either as a group project or as a solo activity). Brainstorm different painting techniques to try. What happens if they paint with their feet, their elbows, an old shoe, a paint roller, a large sponge, a corn cob? You can also try using different "paints," like chocolate pudding or shaving cream.

Or sidewalk chalk: What's a bigger canvas than an entire sidewalk or driveway? Kids naturally stretch and reach with their arms and legs, boosting motor skills, when they draw with sidewalk chalk. Have them experiment with drawing long lines, tracing around objects (or each other), dipping the chalk in water or painting in a puddle.

Go for 3-D

Offer your child a large block of modeling clay and let her pound and shape it with wooden tools or with her hands. Or for a cheaper alternative, make your own play-dough. Your child can help, and she'll even build motor skills by helping you pour, stir, and knead.

For a painting, clay, or collage project, challenge your child to search your home and backyard for items to use in his artwork. What can he find that will look cool pressed into clay, dipped in paint to make a print, or arranged on sticky paper for a collage? Remind him that he needs to get your permission before using the items, so your best kitchen tools or favorite earrings don't end up encrusted with paint and clay! Kids can even create cool sculptures with wood scraps and miscellaneous pieces of hardware (screws, bolts, old keys, wire). Supervise them closely, but let them use hammers and glue to assemble their artwork.

Another cool 3-D project is a building. Kids can use cardboard boxes of various sizes and shapes to create a castle, fort, or other structure, then decorate it with art supplies.

Feel the Music

While your child is drawing or painting, preferably while standing at an easel, play some music and let it inspire her artwork.

"With slow, classical music, the strokes tend to be long and leisurely. With fast-tempo music, the strokes turn into jabs of paint. It's a good way to get some upper torso exercise," says Rae Pica, a specialist in children's physical activity and the author of ​A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child (Marlowe & Company).


Raid the recycling bin! Maybe your kids will be more interested in active play if they create the equipment themselves. They can make everything from a baseball bat to a balance beam to a set of Ping-pong paddles. Of course, decorating the finished product is always encouraged!

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