In this post, I’m going to cover my favorite gross motor activities for toddlers.
Our daughter K (who just turned 18 months) loves to move and play, so I’ve had to be creative to think of different activities we can do to keep her happy and help develop her gross motor skills.
Let’s go over the best gross motor activities we’ve been doing with K:
#1 – Couch Climbing
I wanted to include this one first, as we started this one well before K could walk, and it’s an activity that pretty much all toddlers can do at home.
You can stack pillows at the base of the couch to make a little step for your toddler to use to climb up onto the couch on their own.
And you can even make it the perfect height so that they need to do a little work pulling themselves up to get up on the couch.
When K was crawling, we would let her crawl all over our couch and leave some pillows or pilled up blankets on it so she could work on crawling over them.
Crawling or walking on the cushions adds an extra stability factor to help them develop coordination and balance.
When they are young, make sure you’re always there to ensure they don’t fall off the couch!
#2 – Obstacle Course
Here’s another activity you can do to work on gross motor skills with a toddler regardless if they can walk yet or not.
When K first started crawling, we set up the cushions from her Nugget Comfort kids couch in various obstacle course style setups.
We had little ramps that she could crawl up and slide down and set the cushions up in a teepee shape for her to crawl under.
If you are looking for something great for gross motor skills development in babies, I highly recommend the Nugget Comfort, as you can set up the cushions in a variety of different ways to encourage movement.
As her physical skills developed, we’ve continued to make the obstacle course play areas more advanced.
We now have stepping stones that she is stepping on and off of, a little toy box she climbs up and over, and then a bigger ramp that she crawls up to make it to the top.
I love the obstacle course idea for promoting gross motor skills in toddlers, as you can be creative with how you set them up, and you can use items around your house.
Changing up the obstacle course you set up frequently will also keep your little one engaged and challenge them in different ways.
#3 – Yoga
Yoga is a fun one that our daughter and many kids will naturally do on their own when they are exploring with movements.
K started to naturally do the “downward dog” yoga pose when she was exploring movements after she learned how to crawl.
Anytime she went into the downward dog pose, we would say something like “Are you doing the downward dog?”
Eventually, she learned the name of what she was doing and will often do it during play.
Without instruction, she’s turned it into different yoga-type poses by lifting one leg up in the air as she explores various movements with her body.
At 18 months, we’ve started to model a few more yoga poses to her to see if she’s interested in learning more.
We’ve introduced plank, and upward facing dog and, although she hasn’t fully caught on to either, her attempts are the cutest thing I’ve seen.
Yoga is excellent for strength, stability, coordination, and more. And it’s never too young to introduce yoga in a fun way for kids!
#4 – Dancing
Did you know dancing is a great way to develop gross motor skills?
You might already be doing this with your toddler and not have realized that it’s great for their physical development.
Dancing will help improve balance, coordination, and stability.
And it also has a positive cognitive benefit as they develop a memory of dances and pattern recognition.
The great thing about dancing is that it can be done anywhere and all you need is some music.
I might be the worst dancer in the world, but my little one seems to think I’m great (or she’s laughing at me and not with me) and she loves to dance with me 🙂
Get up and get moving with your little one!
#5 – Practical Life
Although you might think of practical life skill activities more for fine motor development, many of them are great for gross motor development as well.
Practical Life skills that require a lot of movement and coordination include loading and unloading laundry, sweeping or mopping, watering plants with a heavy (not too heavy!) watering can, or helping with yard work.
I recently was out back raking leaves and putting broken branches in our wheelbarrow and K was showing interest in helping me, so we purchased her a toddler-sized rake to help.
She now attempts to rake up leaves with me and will help carry things over to the wheelbarrow getting in some great gross motor development.
#6 – Playgrounds
Playgrounds were designed to promote gross motor skill development, and are great for toddlers to explore.
There will be something for toddlers at every playground (even if they aren’t walking or climbing much yet), but you may also be able to find smaller playgrounds specifically designed for toddlers in your local area.
Our neighborhood has a smaller playground for younger kids and a bigger playground for older kids. K enjoys playing at both playgrounds and it’s nice to switch things up. Don’t be afraid to explore the bigger playgrounds with supervision!
Toddlers won’t be able to take advantage of all the benefits that older kids will get from playgrounds (jumping, swinging on monkey bars, etc.), but they will get a unique gross motor challenge from playing on playgrounds that you wouldn’t get in your home.
#7 – Walking Up And Down Hills
Here’s an activity that many parents might not think of, but is excellent for toddler gross motor skill development – simply having them walk up and down small hills with you.
When they are first learning how to walk, you would want just a very slight incline, but as they develop their strength and coordination, you can start moving up to bigger and steeper hills.
Walking up hills is great to promote leg strength while walking down a hill provides a unique gross motor development opportunity of deceleration strength, on top of coordination and balance.
Hills offer a unique challenge to a child that they don’t get in everyday life walking on flat surfaces.
I bring my daughter to a local park, and we walk up and down the hill picking flowers. She loves it and she gets a great gross motor skill “workout” out of it.
#8 – Games
Games can include a wide variety of activities that range from your common sports to being creative and creating your own little games in your home.
One idea is just a simple game of “Chase.”
I think pretty much all kids loved to be chased around, and it makes for a great gross motor activity.
Our daughter will run away when we say we are going to chase her, and then she is just anticipating when we will catch up to her and tickle her with a big smile on her face.
This is an easy and fun way to get your toddler to practice running (or walking fast) to improve coordination and balance.
Playing catch is another great activity to work on with your toddler (I actually wrote a guide to teach your toddler how to learn catch). It can promote hand-eye coordination, balance, and arm strength.
Our daughter also loves kicking small balls around the house and backyard (which we call soccer). She even attempts to play hockey with a small stick and net we bought her.
Any sport you can think of to introduce to your toddler will be great for promoting gross motor skills. But don’t expect them to master sports this early – just have fun with it!
Besides traditional sports, you can make up simple games to play in your home or outside that involve movement.
This can be as simple as teaching your toddler to try and stand on one leg (they probably won’t be able to yet, but our daughter has fun trying).
Or as they get older, you can try and teach them more complex games like “red light, green light”.
The type of games you teach your toddler will depend on their age and gross motor abilities, but with a little creativity, you can create many different games to play with your little one.
#9 – Pikler Triangle or Indoor Climbing Toys
A popular purchase in the Montessori circles is Pikler Triangles.
These wooden toys, first made over 100 years ago, make for great climbing frames for kids to explore movement on.
Indoor climbing toys don’t have to be limited to Pikler Triangles, there are many other great activities out there such as climbing arches, wooden ramps, and balance boards.
We are in the middle of putting together a mini gross motor skill development playroom area in our basement that will feature a Pikler triangle, climbing arch, wooden ramp/slide, and a wooden balance board.
While it isn’t a cheap investment to buy quality climbing toys, I think it will be great for our daughter’s development (especially in the cold winter months here in Canada).
She is an active little girl and loves climbing, so we wanted somewhere for her to express that.
Gross Motor Activities Recap
Personally, I think gross motor skill development is important at a young age as a kid’s nervous system and body are being developed so much in their toddler years.
Movement and hands-on learning are talked about a lot in the Montessori Method, and I think these gross motor activities listed above are a great way to help your child not only develop their gross motor skills but also have fun and learn.
The activities listed above are my current favorite gross motor activities for toddlers, but I’m always looking to expand our play…
Do you have any favorites not mentioned here? Let me know in the comments as I’d love to find more ways to play with my daughter 🙂