gross motor skills activities for preschoolers and toddlers

Gross Motor Skills Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers

During the early years, children need to be exposed to many activities that strengthen their large motor muscles. As babies, it begins with their trunk, neck, and head control, and then they strengthen their legs and feet. As preschoolers, once body control is achieved, it’s great to work on throwing, running, climbing, etc.

The best thing to do is to be intentional with providing activities that kids can do to strengthen these muscles and integrate them into the curriculum. Since most gross motor activities center around physical fun, it won’t be hard to get the students excited about them.

Here are some great examples of ways to include gross motor activities in your lesson plans!

kick the cup preschool toddler gross motor skills activity

Kick The Cup

This can be done both indoors and outdoors. Draw a letter on each paper/plastic cup. Spread them out a foot apart, and encourage kids to use the soccer ball to kick the cups over. Have the students pick up the cups that were kicked over and do their best to name the letter and the letter sound. You can also do this with sight words, and then to extend it further, encourage students to try to make simple sentences using the cups they kicked over. There are so many variations of this game that will really help students with their kicking skills as well as letter recognition.

beach ball letter slam preschool toddler gross motor skills activity

Beach Ball Letter Slam

Using a magnetic surface, spread letters around out of order and scatter. Using a blown-up beach ball, encourage students to say a letter and then throw the ball at that letter. This will help with hand/eye coordination as well as help with letter recognition. When a letter is hit correctly, it can be removed until all letters are completed. Kids can take turns and try overhand, one-handed throws, etc. to vary the way they play.

flying fish catch preschool toddler gross motor skills activity

Flying Fish Catch

After cutting kitchen sponges into different sizes of fish shapes, have students partner up and have one person holding a basket or bucket, while the other throws a wet sponge into their bucket. Students can take turns tossing the fish into the bucket and then switch. Making the sponges different sizes will vary the difficulty. Make sure they are wrung out and still wet so that it can go further. 

moon rock count and throw gross motor skills activity for preschoolers and toddlers

Moon Rock Count And Throw

This is such a fun activity to do when kids are learning about the solar system.  Using tin foil, create six moon rocks. Have a basket a few feet away.  Using a pair of dice, have students roll the dice, count the dots, and throw that many moon rocks into the basket. This integrates math into a throwing game!

To increase difficulty, add more dice! Just make sure you make enough tin foil moon rocks to match the most that you can roll. Make it competitive by having kids see who can get the most in first. 

outer space hop gross motor skills activity for preschoolers and toddlers

Outer Space Hop

This is a fun way to incorporate outer space terms while practicing balancing and jumping! Have kids draw on each card something they find in outer space (you can have these done for them ahead of time instead). Tape images to the floor inside a grid made with painter’s tape. Have one child play at a time, and call out an image like “star.” The student must hop to that image without falling or touching the grid lines.

Vary difficulty by having them hop on one foot or balancing on one leg the whole time, etc. Once all images have been called and hopped on, it can be the next child’s turn.

Catch A Cloud

Using a box fan or oscillating fan and some white balloons that are blown up, have students try to catch the cloud. The fan will help keep it up in the air and a little more unpredictable. You can either have kids try to catch them or make it last longer by keeping it up in the air. You can certainly play this game outside and instead of a fan, just allow the wind to help! Kids can work together to try not to let the cloud hit the ground. This activity is sure to keep kids engaged!

Catch A Star 

Using card stock or construction paper, make star shapes and put a letter on each star, both uppercase and lowercase. Try to make 10 stars per child. Using string or streamers, hang the stars at varying heights from the ceiling, low enough for students to be able to jump up and catch. Once a star is caught, the student can call out the letter that is on it.  Bonus points can be given if students can match the uppercase letter with the lowercase letter.

Pool Noodle Obstacle Course

Using pool noodles, yard stakes, and duct tape, there’s so much you can do with kids to create the most fun obstacle course. You can bend them to create arches to climb through or jump over. You can create circles using duct tape and have kids practice agility by bouncing from ring to ring without touching them, and you can even stick pool noodles straight up into the air using a stake and ask kids to try to dribble a soccer ball around them like drills. There’s so much you can do to make this fun and exciting for kids all with just pool noodles!

Water Balloon Scavenger Hunt

Kids of all ages would LOVE this activity in the summer. After filling up water balloons and drawing either shapes, letters, numbers, etc. (depending on learning level), hide the balloons all over the outside area.  Make sure some are obvious and some are hard to find.  Then have corresponding buckets that match the symbols on the balloons. When a balloon is found, students can safely place them in the matching bucket. When all balloons are found, each student gets a bucket and throws their balloons up in the air and lets them crash to the ground.

Gross motor skills are important for everyday life. They help us walk, climb, run, throw, and more. If students do not spend time focusing on these skills, their bodies may not develop as well as they could. This is the one domain that tends to be overlooked since you do have to be creative with the space you have. We cannot just rely on gym and recess to fit this into the curriculum. We must integrate and incorporate in all areas of our curriculum.

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Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 18 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 8, 9, 12 and 13 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.

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