What is Gross Motor?
Toddlers are very active children who use motor skills to make their muscles strong. Once toddlers are walking, there is no end to their movement. Soon they will be learning to run, climb and hop. Caregivers should encourage large muscle movement by playing active games. It is necessary to have a large area of open space for gross motor play, so set up a place in the room or outdoors where toddlers can actively move in and around. Supervision is required to help toddlers with balance and attaining new skills. Remember that children reach developmental milestones at different rates, so it is not wise to push a child into a skill until they are ready thus avoiding frustration and disappointment.
There are many ways to play ball and have fun with toddlers. Roll the ball to the toddler while he is standing across the room and see if he can bend over, pick up the ball and bring it back to you. Next try rolling the ball on the floor between you and the child. Toddlers love to chase after things, so toss the ball in the room or outdoors and invite the toddler to retrieve it. As the child matures both physically and mentally, encourage the toddler to throw the ball into your hands, which you have cupped together.
An older toddler may like to play a more organized ball game such as bowling. Set up 3-4 paper cups upside down on the floor. As you sit together on the floor, invite the child to roll the ball to knock over the cups. As each cup is knocked over, show your excitement by clapping or saying, "yeah" to spark excitement. Continue playing as long as the child has interest.
Games with Socks
Toddlers love to imitate adults, so show them how an ice skater would glide around the rink. If possible show them pictures from a book or a video of skaters. Invite toddlers to take off their shoes and "skate" on the floor with their socks on. Play some music and let them slowly slide across the floor, holding their hands for balance if necessary.
Rolled up socks can become soft balls for toddlers. Make these balls by rolling and folding the socks inside out. Show toddlers how to take this sock ball into their two hands and throw it. The act of throwing is a new skill for this age group and develops their arm muscles. Make this game fun by providing a laundry basket where the children can toss the balls inside.
Fun with Feet
Toddlers will find that their feet will bring them joy by jumping and dancing. To make these simple movements loads of fun, cut a piece of clear contact paper about three feet long. Remove the backing and tape this sheet securely on the floor, sticky side up. Invite the children to walk barefoot on this sticky paper holding hands for balance if necessary. This activity will activate the child's sense of touch when toddlers feel the sticky paper on their bare feet and hear the sound it makes. Let them walk, jump and dance as they play and experience this new material. As a variation, try adhering bubble wrap plastic down to the floor so toddlers can hear the popping sound as they walk across this material.
Creative Activities for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos by Mary E. Mayesky, Ph. D., Duke University [Fearon Teacher Aids, 1990]
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kingary/2547308572