As young children progress through the preschool years, jumping games give them an active way to develop large motor skills and learn healthful lifetime fitness habits. Jumping games promote coordination, balance, cardiovascular health and muscular endurance. Mastering locomotor skills builds on a preschooler's natural energy and desire to be in motion, and promotes self-esteem. Rain or sun, jumping is an indoor/outdoor exercise to keep preschoolers active, fit and healthy regardless of the weather.
The American Heart Association has developed a Jump Rope for Heart preschool program that helps young children develop the coordination and endurance necessary for jumping rope. Modified jump rope activities include jumping over a jump rope swinging gently at floor level, swinging the jump rope in the traditional way but letting it stop as the child jumps over, standing on a tape X and jumping in place either trying to stay on the X or jumping on and off the X for better coordination and control or jumping jacks. Set up stations for a fun round of jumping exercises or establish a routine where oft-repeated lines in your preschooler's favorite TV show or video spark a particular jumping activity. Other jumping ideas include frog or kangaroo imitations, long jump, high jump, jumping over low-lying objects, jumping through hula hoops or jumping to touch objects hanging from the ceiling.
If you are looking for something fun to entertain a group of your child's preschool friends on a play date or at a party, a jumping relay keeps them busy for a while and releases some of that ever present supply of preschooler energy. A sack race is a classic. Another jumping relay involves having the preschoolers try to hold a soft, small ball between their legs as they hop to the other end and pass off the ball to the next team member.
Hula Hoop Tag
Hula hoop tag works well on a sunny, summer day when you can lay out several hula hoops next to one another in the yard. But if you have a large playroom with open space, your preschoolers can play indoors as well. The children jump from hoop to hoop. Inside a hoop they are "safe" but if they land outside the hoop they can be tagged by "it." Parents can modify the consequence of being tagged according to the maturity and interest level of the children to ensure that the fun continues for everyone. One idea is that everyone who is tagged becomes an additional "it" until everyone has been tagged. Other options would be to pass the "it" job to the person tagged to keep the game moving or to have the tagged person run to a safe zone and do 10 jumping jacks before re-entering the game.
River crossing is an opportunity for preschoolers to practice jumping and balanced landing skills. Design a maze or obstacle course with ropes or tape lines to represent rivers. Explain that they are pretending to take a walk in the woods and they will encounter rivers they need to cross. The only way to get across is to jump but you don't want to fall. Have your child practice swinging his arms as he jumps and landing balanced so he doesn't fall. Celebrate with high fives and generous compliments when she completes the course to build her confidence and strengthen the parent-child bond.