Running, hopping, throwing and catching are some of the many skills your child will develop during her toddler years.

Lesson Plans for Toddlers Featuring Gross Motor Skills

by Ashley K. Alaimo

Your spunky toddler is at the age where she is full of energy and spirit. Walking, running, jumping, kicking and hopping are just some of the exciting movements that her body is getting accustomed to doing. Help your child develop essential gross motor skills by engaging in fun activities that will build muscle and, at the same time, get her wiggles out.

1. Follow the Leader

Your toddler wants to be just like you, so this activity will be as easy as, "one, two, three"! Choose a place to start your game. Make sure it is clear from anything that you or your child would bump into while moving around. Begin by clearly saying a movement, such as, "Walk!" then demonstrate walking in exaggerated motions and encourage her to follow in your footsteps. Do the same thing with various age-appropriate moves, such as hopping, running and tip-toeing. Try this while taking a walk in the park. The fresh air will just add to the fun.

2. Dance Party

Toddlers love to dance, so use music for practicing gross motor skills. A simple game of "freeze dance" will not only introduce movements, but also rhythm, balance and music appreciation. Turn on a tune with a strong beat and begin to dance with your child. Include touching the floor, reaching up, turning around, kicking your feet and bouncing. Pause the song and "freeze" your body, encouraging your little one to do the same. Count to 10 together and then continue the song, switching up your movements as you boogie along.

3. Throwing and Catching

Beach balls, rubber balls, soft balls, squishy balls -- these spheres are attractive to toddlers because they are round and easy to hold. Stand close to your child and position her hands at chest level so they are in a catching position. Face her and say, "one, two, three, toss!" and transfer a medium-sized ball gently into her open hands. Congratulate her for her efforts, then ask her to send it back to you. Continue this game until your toddler can catch the ball without it bouncing off her chest. When she becomes proficient at this activity, move back a little farther to make it more challenging.

4. Obstacle Course

After your child has mastered a handful of gross motor skills, create an obstacle course in a large play area that will require her to use her body in a variety of ways. Set out large plastic hoops to hop in, tunnels to crawl through, balls to throw and catch, long jump ropes to walk along and blocks to step over. Stay by her side as she maneuvers her way through each challenge. Clap and cheer after each accomplishment, providing encouragement as she toddles along. If you notice she is becoming frustrated, stop the game and engage in another activity.

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