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Ten Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers

I mentioned recently, I’ve been looking for more indoor gross motor options for James.  I am a big believer that giving toddlers enough opportunities for big movement helps immeasurably with their behavior.

A toddler climbing on all of the furniture isn’t being “bad,” he just has a strong need to develop his muscles and gross motor capabilities and will use whatever is available to that end.  So if we want to be able to redirect them away from unsafe / undesired climbing / running / throwing, it’s only fair to provide an appropriate outlet.

Here are some options I love!

  1. Beanbag toss – set up a basket and show your toddler how to toss beanbags into it.  As he gets better at it, make the basket smaller or move it further away.
  2. Appropriate climbing – For a young toddler, this could simply be placing large couch cushions on the floor to climb on.  For an older toddler, establish clear guidelines for what they’re allowed to climb on.  For us, climbing on tables is strictly off limits, but he’s allowed to climb on the couch (and has learned how to get down safely by himself).  I also still really want one of these, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet….
  3. Carrying something heavy – Young children seek out “maximum effort” activities.  They like to run as fast as they can and they like to carry objects as heavy as possible.  They’re like little cross fitters 🙂  Try providing something heavy, such as a weighted ball, for your child to carry around the room when he needs to use his big muscles.
  4. Distance Games – Place a puzzle frame on one side of the room and a basket with the pieces on the other side of the room.  Your toddler can walk back and forth across the room each time he needs a piece.  This works better for older toddlers, as it requires greater concentration and memory than most younger toddlers would possess.
  5. Balance Beam –   This would be simple to make yourself and I definitely plan on doing it soon.  Walking on a beam helps children with concentration and coordination, in addition to being  a great gross motor option.
  6. Large Blocks – Building with really large blocks encourages children to move around and reach up high, and also allows them to build paths or obstacle courses if they want to. (A more expensive, but really nice option)
  7. Obstacle Course – You can get a tunnel or just use things around the house to make an obstacle course.  Set one up for your child the first time, and then encourage him to make his own next time.
  8. Walking the Line – Walking the line is a traditional control of movement game used in Montessori 3-6 classrooms.  There is a line on the floor (often made with electrical tape, often in an ellipse shape) and children practice carefully walking on it, either as a group or individually.  This is often done to music.  This can be fun with older toddlers too, if they’re interested.
  9. Jump Boxes – Another fun one that requires nothing other than electrical tape and encourages coordination and controlled movement
  10. Climbing Stairs – We have a one story house, but my son loves climbing stairs whenever we encounter them.  If you have stairs at home, climbing up and down can be a great way for young toddlers to practice their new skills.

All of these activities can be done independently once you show your toddler how.  This is key so that he’ll have an appropriate outlet he can choose himself when he needs to move big.

If you’re interested in more ways to encourage movement in young children, I highly recommend the book Movement Matters.  I saw the author speak at a national Montessori conference and bought it immediately.  It’s written for teachers, but has many activities that would be great at home too.

How do you encourage appropriate gross motor in your home?  I would love any tips!

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4 thoughts on “Ten Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers”

  1. Lol, toddlers are totally little cross fitters! I love the jump boxes idea and am going to try that. We have stairs and that has definitely been something both kids were focused on mastering. It was interesting to watch them approach it and figure out how to climb up and down,

    1. We don’t have any stairs, but James LOVED climbing off and on the stage at Barnes and Noble when he was smaller and now loves stair climbing any chance he gets while we’re out.

  2. So many great ideas! There are some great suggestions here I will definitely have to try in the next months while we are cooped up in the house because of the weather. Thank you for the compilation!

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