Looking for a list of gross motor skills for preschoolers or toddlers? Here are the top ten gross motor skills activities your child should be working on.
We know how important it is for kids to run, play, and keep active. We spend hours outside with our kids, encouraging them to move their bodies and, if we’re being honest, wear themselves out in preparation for an early bedtime.
But what most parents don’t know is that there are crucial gross motor skills that kids should be working hard to master, even in the toddler and preschool years. Your kids have probably learned to crawl, stand, and walk already, but what comes next?
We’ve got to keep on teaching these littles how to move their bodies. And while it may be scary to see them climb, jump, and go fast in all new ways, kids who take little risks like these actually are LESS likely to be hurt than kids who miss out on these early lessons.
So while you’re working on tiring out those kids (trust us, we get it) try to slip in a few activities from our gross motor skills list. Here are ten gross motor skills for preschoolers and toddlers to master as they grow.
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Personally, I just adore watching little kids learn to run. It starts out with a weird swinging out of the legs, accompanied by awkward hand movements. But over time, you’ll see those labored gaits turn into smooth, rhythmic movements.
Just give them lots of space to run and plenty of time to practice, and this is likely one that they’ll pick up all on their own.
After learning to run, galloping is the next locomotor movement that kids will be ready to take on. Galloping is a precursor to skipping, but otherwise is very similar.
Instead of alternating your “step-hop” movements, your child will take a small step with one foot and then bring the other foot up to the first.
Another skill on the way to skipping is the shuffle. It’s a side to side movement, where the child take a step with one foot and then slides the other foot over to meet it.
Make sure your child practices shuffling with both their dominant (preferred) and non-dominant feet. They might find one side to be more challenging than the other, but it’s a great way to get them to practice that left-right brain connection.
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Believe it or not, skipping is HUGELY challenging for little people. In fact, most kids are unlikely to master skipping before age six– but that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
When you break it down, skipping amounts to stepping forward with one foot and then taking a small hop with the same foot. For the next step, the second foot will take the lead.
I find that repeating “step, hop! step, hop!” while kids are practicing is a fantastic way to remind them how skipping works.
Over time, those prompts will fall away and skipping will just become an innate skill. Until then, we’ve gotta say- it’s pretty dang adorable watching them try to master it.
Jumping with Two Feet
It may be hard to believe, but coordinating those two little feet to take a jump together is no mean feat. Kids typically master jumping sometime between 18 and 24 months. You can help them learn to jump by holding their hands and lifting them a bit as they jump.
Once kids have mastered leaving the ground with two feet, they can also practice taking small hops off a taller surface onto a shorter one. Hopping off of curbs, the bottom step, or off of a small box at home are all great ways for kids to practice jumping off of something with two feet.
For extra fun, snag a toddler trampoline to practice jumping with two feet.
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Jump on One Foot
It takes time for kids to figure out how to jump on one foot. While it seems simple to us (I mean, it’s not EASY. I’m short of breath just thinking about it), coordinating your movements, balance, and having the leg strength to pull this off is actually a lot of work for little people.
You can start working with your child on this by holding their hand for extra stability. Over time, you can start to let go for small amounts of time. We love these movable spot markers to help make jumping on one foot a little more exciting (and a lot less repetitive) for our preschoolers.
Walk on a Balance Beam
Kids just love the idea of balancing, and walking a balance beam gives them such a huge sense of accomplishment. But how do you get them the practice they need to succeed?
You can start by having kids practice a low-stakes version of the balance beam, a chalk-drawn line. From there, they can practice walking on a low balance beam (you can find a balance beam here, or even use the curb in front of your house).
If they’re struggling to balance, have them move side to side on the balance beam first in a slow version of the Shuffle (see above). It’ll help them to get some early sucess, thus paving the way for a more confident walk on the balance beam later.
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Balance on One Foot
Balancing on one foot is actually a lot harder than hopping on one foot. While hopping allows you to use your momentum, balancing requires more focus and more bodily control.
Start small, by asking your child to balance on one foot for just a few seconds. If needed, you can hold their hand or let them touch a wall while they get the hang of it.
As they improve, encourage them to beat their own balance record, or challenge them to a “Balance Off” to see how long they can stay on one foot without touching the ground.
This is perhaps the most fun of all the gross motor skills your child should master before kindergarten. So when do kids learn to somersault? Some kids master it as early as 1 and a half years old, with most mastering it by age three.
When they first attempt somersaults, it helps to have an adult spotting them. Make sure that you’re on a soft surface (or a foam wedge, like Abram is using here) and then have them bend over with their head near the ground.
Have them tuck their chin to their chest, and then push off the ground with their legs to send them somersaulting.
Kids just love the wild feeling of tumbling upside down- and as a bonus, it’s incredibly good for sensory and vesitbular input as well. But we don’t have to tell THEM that- we can just let them have fun.
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The log roll is often overlooked in kids’ gross motor skills lists. But since it requires the coordination of lots of different parts of the body, it has tons of important developmental benefits.
In a log roll, kids lay down on a soft surface, with their arms at their sides. They then roll to the side, then onto their back, the other side, finally ending up on their tummy again.
This is actually easiest to practice on a foam wedge or even a small hill (remember your own “rolling down a hill” days?) The momentum the slope provides will help your kids learn to roll with less effort.
Eventually, you want them to be able to log-roll on a flat surface. But we all know how fun it is to roll down a hill, so let them practice that way for just as long as they want to.
Of all the things we have to teach our toddlers and preschoolers, gross motor skills is one of the most fun. With a little outdoor play (and a LOT of giggles), your child will be mastering the top ten gross motor skills for toddlers in no time.