Winter is upon us, which means less time for us to go outside and play. Quite frankly, we haven’t played outside in a few weeks. That’s partly my fault and partly the cold weather’s fault. One days we can’t get outside, we clear a space in our play area and do some gross motor activities. Here’s our top 10 favorite gross motor activities.
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Sicily LOVES to dance. She has an obsession with the song Click Click Boom lately, so any chance she gets to hear it she dances. During family time, Buddy (her step-dad) will turn on YouTube and play a bunch of songs for her to dance to.
We also dance to kid friendly songs during our school day. Some examples are The Hokey Pokey and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. During Christmas we danced to Reindeer Pokey.
I am in LOVE with the Choosy CD’s. They are a mix of songs to dance to, and songs that teach specific gross motor skills like galloping, skipping, and sliding. I love how the songs help even young children learn how to move their bodies in a complicated way like skipping.
I love playing Simon Says with kids and getting them to do some funny moves. For toddlers, I modify the game to Simon Says…Toddler Style. The only difference is you don’t saying Simon Says. You just give the toddler a move to do.
We played this for the first time a few weeks ago, and Sicily loved it. She especially loved it when I told her to sit down and stand up about 15 times in a row. Simon Says is also a great game to practice listening skills. I also use it when Sicily isn’t listening to me. She is a pro at ignoring already, but once I start playing this games she will turn on her listening ears right away.
Scavenger Hunts are by far one of my favorite activities to do with toddlers and preschoolers. They build problem solving skills, gross motor skills, and any other skill you want to work on. You can make it a simple exploration scavenger hunt like looking for signs of winter. Or you could make it more specific to a skill you are learning like colors or shapes. Scavenger hunts fit in perfectly with any theme.
I haven’t done an obstacle course with Sicily yet, but I use to do them all the time when I taught preschool. I would use pillows, cushions, tables, chairs, bubble wrap, and tunnels to create a course for the children to go through. They would have to crawl through, climb over, lay on their belly and scoot under a chair. You could even place tape on the wall to make “laser beams” that they can’t touch as they climb through the hallway.
Bowling is another game that can be tailored to different themes or done in a generic way. You could turn plastic cups into snowmen pins or just use soda bottles. Set them up, hand your child a ball, and have fun knocking the pins over. A long hallway is perfect for bowling games because it makes a type of lane just like in real bowling.
Pass the Ball
I love playing pass the ball with Sicily to help teach her how to take turns. As we pass the ball to each other I say “Now it’s your turn.” or “It’s my turn.” For older kids, you can make it more challenging by passing the ball in different ways like kicking, using a paddle, or only using your head.
This is similar to musical chairs, but instead of chairs you place shapes or colors on the ground. You could also do letters or numbers. Have your child hop around the objects they need to identify while the music plays. Once it stops, have your child identify the object they landed on.
This is something I have been doing a lot of reading about, but haven’t tried with Sicily yet. Yoga is recommended for all ages to help bring awareness to their minds and bodies. It’s great for when your child is super active or just having a bad day and needs to restart. You can find a lot of ideas for Yoga with all ages on my Pinterest board.
Purchasing a tunnel was one of the best investments I’ve made. Sicily uses it more than just a climbing toy too. She will bring her books inside to make a tunnel fort. She will prop it up on the couch to make climbing out of it more challenging. The tunnel makes a great addition to obstacle courses too!
Turn Tot Trays into Gross Motor Activities
We do tot trays often, but Sicily isn’t really a fan of them. Being child-led, I let Sicily lead all of our activities even if they take a completely different path than I was expecting. That’s what happened with a recent color matching tot tray.
I had laid out several colors with the matches in a basket in hopes that Sicily would match them. I was beginning to show her how to do the activity when she grabbed a color and ran with it, so I followed her lead. As she ran around the chairs, I cheered her on. Once she got back to me, I told her the color was tired and needed to take a nap with his buddy. She found the match and placed both in the basket.
Much to my surprise, her rendition of the activity has been one of her favorite activities. I’ve kept it out for the past 4 weeks, and usually I only keep tot trays out for 2 weeks. She keeps asking to play her color game every day. Even though this didn’t end up being a sit down tot tray like I planned, I’m okay with her running the colors around the room and then matching. She’s still learning the initial skill I wanted to practice. She’s just doing it in her own way, and it works!
So my last gross motor activity idea is to turn ordinary school activities into gross motor activities. Just a simple run around the chairs can get a lot of energy out while they are learning important skills at the same time.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite gross motor activities for the winter weather?
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Enjoy the quality time with your kids while learning and having fun!