Indoor gross motor activities for cold weather

Winter can be a wondrous time filled with lots of joy and many natural learning opportunities. Toddlers and young children have endless energy that still needs to be expelled, even when it is too cold, snowy, or rainy to play outside. This can be challenging at times for educators to build this need into their preschool curriculum. Having some indoor motor activities to add to your child care curriculum during the winter months when it’s too cold for outside play can be incredibly helpful.

Despite the challenges posed by weather that restricts outdoor play, the season still presents a prime opportunity to purposeful indoor motor activities into your lesson plans. When it comes to building a toddler and preschool curriculum, educators play a pivotal role in ensuring that the learning objectives within the lesson plans align with the developmental continuum of individual children. These carefully curated activities not only engage children in gross motor skill development but also contribute to the holistic growth encompassing cognitive, social-emotional, and fine motor skills. By integrating these indoor motor activities into lesson plans, educators create meaningful learning experiences that not only meet the needs of the younger children but also foster a resilient and engaging classroom community. Winter, therefore, becomes a season not only of weather-related challenges but also an opportunity to encourage and enhance the learning potential within the preschool program and create a high quality curriculum.

Before we dive into gross motor activities, it is important to understand why gross motor development is so important during the ages of 0-5.

Why is gross motor development important in early childhood education?


Gross motor development plays a crucial role in early childhood education, particularly within the context of toddler and preschool programs. Teachers recognize that gross motor skills, involving the use of large muscle groups, are fundamental components of child development. These skills lay the foundation for a child’s overall physical abilities and are vital for achieving optimal health, and ultimately kindergarten readiness.

When a childcare curriculum is designed to foster gross motor development, it not only contributes to physical well-being but also supports cognitive development and social-emotional skills, as well as self care skills as they learn the bounds of their body. One of the most essential elements of creating a developmentally appropriate gross motor preschool curriculum, is flexibility and adaptability to the learning environment. When teachers build learning objectives that align with the unique needs of individual children, it recognizes that children learn and progress developmentally at their own pace. These experiences not only promote a healthy classroom community but also contribute to the overall success of the childcare curriculum.

Incorporating gross motor learning experiences into a preschool curriculum helps to create a balanced approach to learning. It is through intentional lesson plans that educators can ensure that children are prepared for the transition to kindergarten while simultaneously fostering a love for learning in a supportive and enriching environment.

Here are several indoor gross motor activities to add to your curriculum.

Move Like Polar Animals

Print out pictures of different polar animals and have the children move like each animal. Children could crawl like a polar bear, waddle like a penguin, hop like an arctic hare, and fly (flap arms) like a snow owl. Use animals you know the children are interested in to increase engagement.

Reading and movements

Incorporate literacy skills into your indoor movement activities by integrating books that encourage movement. Selecting books such as “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle, “Move!” by Robin Page, and “Stomp” by Uncle Ian Aurora can enhance the engagement of children. As you read aloud, encourage the children to actively participate in the story by performing each movement described in the book. Model each movement and offer variations as needed to accommodate different abilities and preferences.

Obstacle course

Obstacle courses are a great way for young children to move their bodies in a variety of ways while also following simple directions about how to move through the course. Gather a few simple materials such as a tunnel, cones, hula hoops, and a balance beam or painter’s tape. Set up the tunnel, stagger the cones, place the hula hoops in a straight line with the edges touching, and set out a balance beam. Use painter’s tape to create a straight line if you do not have a balance beam. Children can crawl through the tunnel, walk or run through the cones, hop into each hula hoop, and walk across the balance beam. Be hands on and model each part of the obstacle course. Encourage variations so every child feels included and capable.

Parachute Play

In a large space within the school, spread out a parachute and have the children grab a handle/edge and pull it taut. Have the children move the parachute up and down. Add to the fun of the season by crumpling up white paper to represent snowflakes. Place into the center of the parachute. The children can twirl the snowflakes around as they raise and lower the parachute. Once all the snowflakes have landed on the ground, the children can pick up the snowflakes and place them back into the parachute to play again.

Simon Says

Play a version of Simon Says that encourages movement and listening. Start each movement out by saying Simon Says. Once children start to learn the movement game, encourage them to share movements they would like to try. Below are some movements to try. Use movements that fit the age and developmental levels of the children in your group.

  1. Simon Says touch your toes two times.

  2. Simon Says hop. 

  3. Simon Says take big steps.

  4. Simon Says take tiny steps.

Movement Songs

Play songs that encourage movements, actions, and shaking those wiggles out! Songs that have the children move in specific ways can also be very regulating to children’s bodies. Some fun songs to try are “The Parachute Dance Song” by Maple Leaf Learning, “Jump Up, Turn Around” by Jim Gill, and “Action Song” by The Singing Walrus. Or, sing some of the classic action songs like, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around.”

Yoga Poses

Yoga is a great way for children to move their bodies indoors and can help children to feel more regulated and relaxed afterwards. To enhance the experience and achieve specific learning objectives, below are several yoga poses to try with the children in your group. The book “You Are a Lion!” by Taeeun Yoo serves as a great tool for early childhood educators to guide children through a series of yoga poses in a fun and inviting way.

  • Cat and Cow Poses: Have the children warm up by doing cat and cow poses. Come to all fours on your hands and knees. As you inhale, lift your chest and tailbone toward the ceiling with belly pulling towards the floor. Hold the pose and say “moo” together. Now, have the children round their back, tuck chin to chest, and exhale. Hold the pose and say “meow” together. Move between the two poses for several breaths.

  • Cobra Pose: Lay on your tummy with legs stretched out. Place palms down on the ground, beside your shoulders. Bring legs together so they are touching. Inhale and lift head, chest, and shoulders off the ground while looking straight ahead. Hiss like a snake together.

  • Mountain Pose: Stand up straight with feet about hip width apart. Stand tall with arms at your sides with palms forward. Breathe in and out while standing tall and strong.

  • Donkey Kicks: Come to hands and knees. Kick right leg up and behind you towards the sky with a bend in the knee. Bring right leg back down to floor. Repeat with left leg. Repeat several times on each side as you breathe in and out.

  • Snow Angel Pose: End your yoga session by doing a restful pose. Snow Angel Pose is a great one to try and resembles a traditional savasana. Lay on your back with legs out. Have palms up and let your arms move farther away from your side as it is comfortable. Completely relax the body. Close eyes. Breathe in and out. Young children can only rest for a few minutes at a time before they will be ready to awaken their bodies and be active. Try two minutes of this restful pose for two-year-olds and three minutes for three- year-olds. Adjust time as necessary and encourage children to listen to their bodies and rest for what feels comfortable to them. 

Movement Jar

Create a movement jar by writing some of your favorite indoor activities on a piece of paper and placing into a jar. Anytime the children are showing signs of needing movement, feeling dysregulated, or need to get some wiggles out during the cold months, use the jar as a tool. Have the children select a movement activity to do together.


Investing time in integrating indoor gross motor activities into the curriculum during colder months is a valuable endeavor for early childhood educators. These intentional learning experiences in early childhood lay a solid foundation for children’s physical development, aligning with research-based practices to guide teachers in delivering the right toddler and preschool curriculum within the child care setting. The participatory nature of these activities transforms them from mere exercises into a vibrant and inclusive part of the preschool program and early childhood education experience, contributing to the holistic growth of every child involved.

Interested in brining more developmentally appropriate indoor gross learning opportunities into your classroom? Learn more about Lillio Curriculum [Powered by FunShine Express] by clicking here!

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