Preschool-age kiddos are hard at work developing their cognitive skills and physical skills all the time. Much of this growth occurs during play, when children get a chance to discover newfound abilities and practice them.
In terms of physical development, gross motor skills build the foundation for movement because they allow kids to utilize their arms, legs and trunks. All that running, jumping, crawling, climbing, spinning and lifting is helping kids expand their ranges of motion and improve coordination — laying the groundwork for future movement and fitness.
Around ages four to five in particular, kiddos are rapidly gaining coordination that allows them to kick, hop, skip and more. The good news is helping children improve their gross motor skills goes hand in hand with having fun.
Here are some ideas for games that help build large motor skills for preschoolers.
Move Like an Animal
Many kids are naturally fascinated with animals, especially learning about their attributes such as the sounds they make and how they move. Thus, it’s only natural for young learners to want to imitate their favorite beasts. Encouraging kids to move like various animals is a great way to help them learn about our natural world and work different muscle groups.
The Child Development Centre suggests “bear walks” and “crab walks” on hands and feet to strengthen the core, but there are many other types of animals you can ask kiddos to imitate. The more variety, the more fun — and the more useful muscle movement and critical thinking.
Create an Outdoor Obstacle Course
Going over, under and around objects outdoors is a great way to encourage movement in different muscle groups. As VeryWell Family writes, rocks, logs and playground equipment all make fantastic additions to an outdoor obstacle course. Try to combine elements of climbing, crawling/tunneling and balancing to maximize the physical benefits of this activity.
If the weather outside is making it difficult to enjoy time out-of-doors, set up an obstacle course throughout your house using furniture, pillows and any other child-safe objects you have on hand.
Play with Balloons/Bubbles
Many kiddos enjoy chasing things, which can be an excellent physical activity involving the muscle groups of the entire body. As Understood writes, bubbles and balloons in particular work particularly well because they tend to float in unpredictable patterns depending on the breeze and the direction of the force exerted on them. This paves the way for hours of play during which kids are running, jumping, moving side to side and moving their arms in an attempt to catch up with the floating objects.
Get Creative with Hopscotch
Hopscotch has been a mainstay on school playgrounds and neighborhood sidewalks in part because all you need is some chalk, tape or paint. Turns out this simple game is also a very entertaining way to practice gross motor skills like hopping on one foot or both feet, balancing and throwing/picking up spot markers.
There are a lot of fun variations to try, depending on the age and skill level of participants. You can play around with the look and shape of the hopscotch course itself, make the rules easier or harder and even add an extra marker. The physical goal is simply to move around as much as possible — while improving sometimes difficult skills like hopping and balancing on just one foot.
Using games to improve large motor skills in preschool-aged kids is wildly fun for everyone involved, but it’s also a way to help your kiddo build lifelong skills like coordination and core strength. These four ideas are a great start, but the most important thing is finding something your little ones love doing inside or outside the house.