Practice that Feels Like Play: 20 Gross Motor Activities for Kids

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20 Gross Motor Activities for Kids | Whether you’re looking for fun games, exercises, or an obstacle course to help develop your child’s large muscles, or need more specific ideas for kids with autism and other special needs as part of their occupational therapy program, these indoor and outdoor ideas can be re-created with simple things like painters tape, chalk, pillows, balloons, and an exercise ball.

If you’re looking for gross motor activities for kids, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve shared 20 of our favorites below, but first, let’s take a deeper dive into what gross motor skills are, why they’re important, and how you can help your child develop these skills at home.

It’s important to keep in mind that every child develops at a different pace. While some learn to walk before their first birthday and naturally take to activities and sports that require a multitude of different gross motor skills very easily, others are slower to catch up and may never develop an interest in physically challenging activities whatsoever.

And that’s okay!

As tempting as it is to make comparisons, the range within which kids develop certain skills can be pretty wide, and not all children have the same interests, so try not to get too hung up on what other children are doing and instead focus on whether your child is meeting important milestones for his age range.

And if your child’s doctor does express concern that your little one may have a delay in his gross motor skills as a standalone struggle or part of a bigger developmental disorder like autism spectrum disorder, don’t assume the worst! There are so many fun and engaging gross motor activities for kids you can do at home to help your child with his development, and occupational therapy can do wonders in helping your child overcome his gross motor challenges.

What are gross motor skills?

Unlike fine motor skills, which refer to our ability to control the small movements in our hands and fingers, as well as make small movements with the other parts of our bodies, like our feet, toes, lips, and tongue, gross motor skills refer to our ability to control the larger muscles of our body needed to perform everyday skills like standing, walking, running, and sitting upright. Gross motor skills are also required for some hand-eye coordination skills, like throwing, catching, and kicking a ball.

Gross motor skills examples

  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Sitting upright
  • Balancing
  • Climbing
  • Jumping
  • Swimming
  • Catching a ball
  • Kicking a ball

Why are gross motor skills important?

When a child has difficulty controlling the large muscles in his body, he will not only have trouble meeting age-appropriate physical milestones, but will also struggle with self-confidence and the ability to participate in complex activities. A child who is uncoordinated and struggles to navigate playground equipment, for example, may feel embarrassed and frustrated, causing him to avoid socializing with his peers during recess at school. This will undoubtedly have an impact on social development and self-esteem, and without the opportunity to properly develop individual gross motor skills, he will find it harder to master complex movements that require a combination of different gross motor skills in the future.

How can I tell if my child has delayed gross motor skills?

Generally speaking, a child with delayed gross motor skills isn’t reaching age-specific milestones, like rolling over, sitting upright, crawling, pulling himself to a standing position, walking, walking up and down stairs, etc. Your child’s pediatrician will ask specific questions at each of his check-ups, and will refer you to a specialist if there are indications of a gross motor delay. Having said that, always be sure to seek help if you notice your child struggling to do something he could do before, or you suspect a regression in your child’s development.

20 gross motor activities for kids

If you suspect your child has delayed gross motor skills, it’s important to seek the help of a professional to identify the issues and ensure a proper plan is put into place to help develop the skills he needs to excel, but there are also tons of ways you can support your child at home. Finding fun and engaging gross motor activities for kids is a great option as they offer a sneaky way to help your child work through their challenges without them even realizing it! Here are 20 of our favorite gross motor activities for kids.

1. Balance Boarding. Perfect for little feet and ideal for both indoor and outdoor play, this adorable monkey balance board by ALEX Toys is a fun way to help improve your child’s balance and coordination while also getting the wiggles out.

2. Balloon Tennis. Grab a couple of fly swatters and blow up some balloons and then check out this fun balloon tennis activity over on Little Bins for Little Hands!

3. Tightrope Walking. All you need is a bit of masking tape and a little imagination, and you can make all kinds of tightrope obstacle courses using your child’s favorite toys. A simple example is to have him walk from one end of the room to another with an object in each of his hands, and then have him stand on a step stool at the end of the ‘tightrope’ and bend over to place each object into a bucket. Simple, easy, and effective!

4. Stair Scavenger Hunt. Using 2 puzzle sets (for example, you can use this wooden number set by Hape as well as this wooden number puzzle by Lanka Kade), create a scavenger hunt on your staircase (in this example, your child would be matching numbers). Have your child choose 1 puzzle piece from a bucket and then walk up the stairs to find the matching piece. Ensure he doesn’t use the hand rails while walking up and down the stairs, and that he crouches down into a squat position when picking up each puzzle piece. As an added twist, have him assemble both puzzles on the floor while standing on a stepping stool at the end of the hunt.

5. Egg Races. You can make this as easy or as hard as you want to. Start with a simple race across your living room, and then make the game more difficult by putting blankets and pillows on the floor. You can also have your child switch between his right and left hands to add an even bigger twist!

6. Animal Walking. Write a bunch of different animals on different pieces of paper, throw them into a hat, have your child randomly choose a few, and then have him walk across the living room while pretending to walk like the animal he chose, and see how long it takes the rest of the family to figure out what the animal is.

7. Leg lifts. Leg lifts are a great exercise for restless kids! Have your child stand sideways behind a chair and, using the chair for support, ask him to lift his legs up with his knees at a 90-degree angle. Try varying the length of time it takes your child to raise and lower his legs (5 counts up, 5 counts down), and then see if he can balance for a count of 10 without holding onto the chair.

8. Simon Says. Kids love this game, and if you have multiple kids or teach in a classroom, you can make it extra motivating by choosing different children/students to be ‘Simon’ each day as a reward for good behavior, helping around the house/classroom, completing homework, etc.

9. Chi Flow & Phreeze Yoga Game Card Deck. It’s a combination of yoga and Twister, and your kids will love it!

10. Hopscotch. There are so many ways you can switch up a good old game of hopscotch. Have your child only jump on odd or even numbers, ask him to switch from jumping with 2 legs to one leg, instruct him to jump backwards and then forwards at different intervals, and yell out random numbers to keep him guessing and engaged.

11. Waddle Like a Penguin. This gross motor activity on Brilliant Beginnings Preschool doubles as a great boredom buster for bad weather days!

12. TwisterIf your child has weak core muscles, this classic party game offers a brilliant way to engage his core while still having fun!

13. Fun with Pillows. You can do a lot of core exercises for kids with pillows! If you have a couch with big pillows, set them up on the floor and ask your child to turn them over as many times in a row as he can. You can also have him drag them from one end of your living room to the next and place a couple of toys on top along the way to see how long he can go without dropping them! Don’t have large couch pillows? No problem! Grab a couple from your bed and have your child walk up and down the stairs while holding the pillows in his arms and remind him NOT to use the handrail for better core engagement.

14. Leg Kicks with An Exercise Ball. Have your child lie on his back with his hands at his side and his knees tucked into his chest. On the count of three, gently throw an exercise ball toward him, and have him straighten his legs in front of him so he can kick the ball back to you with his feet. It’s challenging to get the hang of, but it can be lots of fun!

15. Therapy Ball Exercises for Kids. If you’re looking for simple core exercises for kids you can do at home, an exercise ball is a fabulous tool as you can do so many different things with it. Ask your child to lie on his tummy on the ball and sort objects from one container to another, have him sit on the ball and then lie backwards and reach his arms above his head so he can retrieve objects off of the floor, see how many times he can crawl over the ball, ask him to give you a ‘massage’ by lying on the floor while he rolls the ball up and down your back, get him to push the ball up a flight of stairs…the possibilities really are endless!

16. Square Scooter. Square scooters aren’t just fun – they also help create a ton of different gross motor activities for kids. For example, you can have your child lay with his tummy on the scooter, and then ask him to navigate around your living room using only his feet while he picks up various objects off the ground with his hands. Another idea is to have him sit cross-legged on the scooter and then move himself around the room using a broom while singing, ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’!

17. Bike Riding. Riding a bike is one of many fabulous gross motor activities for kids, but if your child struggles with balance and coordination, teaching him how to ride a bike can be challenging. Talk to his OT about different strategies, and consider investing in a balance bike, which teaches kids proper balancing techniques rather than focusing on solely on peddling.

18. Jump Rope. Another simple yet effective way to help develop your child’s balance and coordination is to engage him in some good ole’ jump rope fun. Get your child even more excited with this collection of jump rope songs by Five Little Chefs as well as these light up jump ropes by Discovery Kids!

19. Trampoline Fun. If your backyard is big enough for a enclosed trampoline, there are HEAPS of ways the whole family can have fun together while simultaneously helping to develop your child’s gross motor skills. Family Days Tried and Tested has a ton of trampoline fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

20. Obstacle Courses. Setting up several of these gross motor activities for kids into an obstacle course can be a lot of fun for little ones! You can do this outside in the backyard, or split it up over 2 or 3 floors of your house, requiring your child to walk up and down the stairs in between sections. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – as you’ve seen in this list, there are heaps of things you can do with pillows, blankets, a step stool, and an exercise ball! – and the more exciting you make it for your child, the more he’ll want to participate.

Whether your child is slightly delayed with his gross motor development, or has more significant challenges as a result of autism spectrum disorder or another developmental delay, this collection of fun gross motor activities for will be a fabulous compliment to whatever other treatment plan you choose to pursue to help your child overcome his struggles. And since these activities feel more like play than work, they offer a stress-free way to support your child at home – or in the classroom – while simultaneously setting him up for long-term success.

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20 Gross Motor Activities for Kids | Whether you’re looking for fun games, exercises, or an obstacle course to help develop your child’s large muscles, or need more specific ideas for kids with autism and other special needs as part of their occupational therapy program, these indoor and outdoor ideas can be re-created with simple things like painters tape, chalk, pillows, balloons, and an exercise ball.

And if you’re looking for more ways to have fun at home with your child, please follow our Kids board where we share all kinds of fun ideas!



Gwen
Gwen
Gwen is a 40-something freelance writer and social media consultant who has an unhealthy love for makeup, hair, and fashion. She lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Toronto, Canada and hopes to move to a warmer climate someday. Preferably tomorrow.