Energy to Burn
Preschoolers have a lot of energy to burn, and with a wide open gym to run around in, the potential for accidents is quite high. However, it is important that preschoolers have a chance to exercise their gross motor skills daily. Gym games for preschoolers should be kept simple, with a few very clear rules.
The right games can be a great alternative to playing outdoors when the weather is uncooperative. Playing games in the gym is also a good way to introduce concepts such as cooperation, following rules, and fair play. Preschoolers may need several rule and safety reminders while playing in the gym, as being in a such a wide open space can be a bit overwhelming for some.
If possible, set up the gym ahead of time with a simple obstacle course. Be sure to include places to jump, skip, run, and balance. Use masking tape lines to move along through your obstacle course. Some ideas to include in your obstacle course would be tunnels to crawl through, mats or pillows to roll over, hoops to jump through, boxes or milk crates to jump over, smooth boards used at ramps, and long boards used as low balance beams. Be sure to leave enough space between activities so the children are not running into each other. Scatter the children when beginning the course to avoid a bottle-neck effect. Recruit other adults to help, positioning one adult at each obstacle to help if necessary.
Have all of the children line up on one side of the gym space. Call to them from the other side, saying, "Red Rover, Red Rover, everybody run over!" Have the children follow your direction and run across the gym. Try some of these other movements to bring children from one side to the other: jump, walk backward, hop on one foot, twirl, and walk on tiptoes. If time allows, let one child at a time be the caller, thinking of their own way for the group to move from one end of the space to the other.
Using masking tape, mark several different movement paths on the floor. The paths can be straight, zigzagged, full of loops, or any other shape you can think of. When the path is finished, give directions to the children for moving along it. For example, one path may be for hopping on one foot, one may be for skipping, one for walking backward. Ask the children for suggestions to move from one end of the path to the other.
Kicking a rolled ball is a challenging skill for a preschooler. Rather than playing kickball in the traditional way, have each child take a turn kicking the ball and running the bases all the way around. Emphasize the skills of taking turns, cooperating, cheering on a teammate, and running safely. Use a very large, lightweight ball, such as a beach ball, for your kickball.
These types of gym games can be fun and challenging, and they're important to reinforce gross motor skills.