Gross Motor Games and Activities

All kids need some time to get the wiggles out.  Maybe they have been working on homework for awhile and their attention is wandering.  Or maybe everyone is cranky and could use some fresh air.  Doing a quick 5 or 10 minute physical activity will put everyone in a good mood.  Especially if you join in the fun.  Here are some gross motor activities to do in your back yard, in the park, or indoors if you have enough space.

  • Color Tag  Shout out a color and have the kids run and touch something that color.  Touching the color means you are safe on base, but if you tag them before they get there then they are “it.”
  • Follow the Leader  The kids get in a line behind you.  You start walking around (or skipping, or hopping, or flapping your arms, etc.), and the kids have to imitate your actions exactly.  Once they get the hang of it, take turns being the leader.
  • Red Light, Green Light  You stand on one side of the yard and they line up on the other side.  Every time you say green light they can run towards you, but when you say red light they have to stop.  If they don’t stop, they go back to the starting line.  This is a great activity to practice listening and bodily control.  Try crawling, skipping, or hopping on green lights.
  • Simon Says  This is another great way to practice listening skills.  For younger kids, say “Simon Says” for everything.  It takes enough concentration to listen and make their body do the actions, without trying to figure out if Simon said it or not.  For older kids, try “Simon says wash the dishes.” and see if you can get some chores done! 🙂
  • Activity Challenge  Older kids love a challenge.  Get a timer and see how long they can stand on one leg.  Or how many jumping jacks they can do in 30 seconds.  Or how fast they can run across the yard.  Write down their time to see if they can improve it next time.
  • Animal Charades  Preschoolers will love acting like their favorite animals and having you guess.  And it’s hilarious to watch mom or dad act like an elephant!
  • On, Under, Beside, Through  Call out directions like “Get UNDER the slide.”  “Sit ON the rock.”  For older kids, give them a sequence of three or four things to do.
  • Jump the Creek  Lay two sticks on the ground a few inches apart.  Ask your child to jump, hop, or leap over them.  Move the stickers farther apart to widen the creek after each jump.

Learning in the Car

Driving in the car is a chore we do every day.  It’s a great time to interact with your kiddo since they are a captive audience. 🙂  Of course, there is a lot to be said for a few minutes of silence.  But if you get bored of the quiet (or it is not quiet at all because the natives are getting restless), here are a few ideas…

Babies

  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Sing familiar songs: Mary Had a Little Lamb, ABCs, etc.
  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Call attention to when the car stops and when it moves.  Talk about red and green lights.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Talk about….anything!  Ask them questions about their day or where you are going.  Try to ask them questions that will start a conversation and not just a “no” or “yes.”
  • Sing familiar songs, but change some words and see if they notice.  Mary Had a Little Lion.  Kids think this is hilarious!
  • Talk about driving rules and signs.  What does a yellow light mean?  Why are their lines on the road?  What does a red sign mean?
  • Play “I Spy a Color.”  See if they can find something red out the window or in the car.  Once they find something, change the color.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal.”  Traditionally you ask yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  (Does the animal live on a farm?  Does the animal fly?)  For this age, giving those clues first and then allowing guessing works best. (I’m thinking of an animal that has wings and lives on a farm.  Can you guess what it is?)
  • Ask some simple addition and subtraction math problems related to driving.  (There are 3 people in the car now.  After we pick up brother from school, how many will be in the car then?)
  • Count something together for the length of the (short) trip: the number of trucks you see, how many times you have to stop at a red light, the number of bicyclists on the road
  • Come up with as many rhymes as you can for a given word.  Teach them how to go through the alphabet and rhyme: at, bat, cat, dat (no, that’s not a word)

Elementary

  • Talk about…anything!  Driving is a great time to catch up and ask them about school, friends, sports, or hobbies.
  • Talk about driving.  Why are steering wheels on the left side of the car?  What does “miles per hour” mean?  Why are speed limits important?
  • Ask “If you could be a _____________ what would you be and why?”  Fill in the blank with animal, item in your classroom, food, plant, etc.  Make sure you play, too!
  • Create an addition and subtraction game related to driving.  Let the kids come up with rules.  Maybe for every truck you get 2 points for every green light you pass and subtract a point for every red light.  This is great mental math practice!  You can always make the game easier or more difficult by changing the objects or point values.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal” the traditional way by asking yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  Vary the game by playing “I’m Thinking of a Sport” or “I’m Thinking of a Number between 1 and 100” or “I’m Thinking of a Book.”
  • Play “I Spy something that starts with the letter _____”
  • Practice spelling words by taking turns saying the letters.
  • Take turns thinking of as many things that starts with a certain letter.
  • Choose a category of things (for example: food).  Name something in that category (pizza).  Then the next person has to name something that starts with the last letter of the item (a- apple…and then e- enchilada)

Learning Letters

When do you start teaching your child letters?   Ideally, whenever they show an interest.  Our oldest daughter would hold up magnetic letters and ask “Wat dis?”  But even if you don’t get a clear sign that your child is ready, go ahead and expose them to the alphabet.  Most children will start recognizing a few letters around the age 2-3.

“Expose” sounds dirty.  What do you mean?  Surround them with letters.  We have magnetic letters on the fridge, foam letters in the bathtub, letter puzzles on the toy shelf, letter stickers in the art cabinet, and a letter mat on the floor.  And of course the best way to see lots of letters is by reading!  There are lots of good alphabet books out there.  One of our family favorites is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Okay, we have some letter toys.  Now what?  Just play with the stuff and casually point out letters.  I’d start with the first letter of your child’s name.  Then “M” for Mom, “D” for Dad, and the first letter of sibling names.  Once they are comfortable with those letters, then go back and introduce the other letters in your child’s name.  Use all capital letters at first for consistency.

What about alphabet flashcards?  Keep it fun and leave the letter flashcards in the box.  Unless you want to play a game with them (see below).

I’m bored pointing out letters.  What else can I do?  So glad you asked….

  • Sort letters into groups and see if your child can guess the groupings. Or have them do their own groupings.  Some ideas: capital/lower case, letters with curves/straight letters, letters in their name/not in their name, etc.
  • Go on a letter hunt at a store.  Count all the letter “T”s you can find on signs or products.
  • Trace around one of the letters and let your child decorate it.
  • Take alphabet flashcards and place them on things around the house that begin with that letter.
  • Play Go Fish with alphabet flashcards.  Match up a capital and a lower case letter to form a pair. (hint: If you want a shorter game, only play with half of the alphabet at a time)
  • Write the letters really big with chalk and let your child walk the lines.
  • Arrange objects into letter shapes.  Blocks work great for this.
  • Write out the alphabet and sing the ABC song as you point to them.  Or write them with chalk outside and hop on them.
  • Help your child make his body into a letter shape.  Take his picture so he can see it!
  • Play a find-it game while looking at your letter toys.  “I see a letter that looks like a circle.  Can you find it?”  “Can you find all the letters have lines across the top?”
  • “Write” letters on their back with your finger and see if they can guess the letter.
  • Stash letter toys or flashcards around the house and have your kiddos go on a letter hunt instead of an Easter egg hunt.
  • Put a letter toy in a container.  Have your child reach in and feel the letter without seeing it.  See if she can guess what she is holding.
  • If they are good with scissors, they can cut (big) letters out of magazines.

Remember recognizing and WRITING letters are two different skills.  Identifying letters comes months or years before being able to write the letters.

Common Core Standard:  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet)

Puzzles

Puzzles are fun toys that help kids with spatial development and motor development.  Some studies have shown playing with puzzles at an early age helps kids mentally transform objects (a skill needed in science and math careers) when they are older.

  1. Get calendar or magazine pictures.  It is best to use large pictures of familiar objects.  I used animals.
  2. Glue pictures onto colored card stock.  This is for durability and sort-ability (that’s a word, I swear).
  3. Draw puzzles pieces with a ruler on the card stock and cut out.  That’s it!

Note:  I’d say a two-piece puzzle is good for a one-year old, 4 pieces for a two-year-old, 6 pieces for a three-year-old, and so on.  Of course it depends on the kid and the picture.

IMG_5913

If you use different colors of paper for the back, it doesn’t matter if the puzzles get mixed up.  They can be easily sorted by color….which is another great activity for little ones!

make your own puzzles

My favorite part is all six puzzles fit into a ziploc bag!  Now it is super easy to store at your house, or toss in your purse for a waiting-at-a-restaurant activity.IMG_5915

Materials:

  • calendar or magazine
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • ruler (or freehand if you are really wild and crazy)
  • baggie

Time investment:  about 30 minutes

Difficulty:  Easier than baking cookies…and less calories, too!