15 Best Physical Development Activities For Toddlers in Childcare

From birth, children develop their gross and fine motor skills that lead to better physical development and emotional health as teenagers and eventually adults. 

Although exercise is beneficial for everyone, the activities done during early childhood are vital for the child’s overall development. The best way to do this is through physical activities via play.

What are the benefits of physical play?

Play is an important part when it comes to developing children’s gross and fine motor skills. As kids, particularly preschoolers, have a lot of energy, expending this energy comes with a host of benefits that will last a lifetime. 

Besides having longer attention spans, children who get more physical activity also: 

  • Develop gross and fine motor skills
  • Develop stronger bones 
  • Build strength, confidence, endurance and flexibility
  • Develop better coordination and balance 
  • Do better in school
  • Have fewer behavioral problems 
  • Have better social skills 
  • Sleep better 

If children do not get enough physical activity, several health issues are likely to develop. 

Instead of forcing children to exercise vigorously, integrating movement and play into their routine is crucial. Take a look at the ideas for physical activities that children can take part in, whether in the classroom or in a childcare setting. 

What are gross and fine motor skills? 

To support the physical development of toddlers, you first have to have an understanding of what are fine and gross motor skills. Essentially, gross and fine motor skill development involves the body and how kids can eventually control each muscle like a pro. 

What are gross motor skills in child development?

Development of gross motor skills means that children have better control and coordination of their arms, legs, head and trunk (core). Activities such as running, jumping, tossing and catching, pedaling, pushing, skipping, swinging and so on involve gross motor skills. Basically, any activity that involves movement of the major body parts requires the development of gross motor skills. 

What does fine motor skills mean in child development? 

Fine motor skills, on the other hand, involve the control of small muscles in the hands, feet, fingers and toes. Activities such as turning a page in a book, singing and speaking as well as writing involves fine motor skills. 

Best physical development activities for kids 

In order to target specific areas of development in toddlers, you first need to determine which area you want to develop – gross or fine motor skills. Then, take a look at your surroundings and the available resources you have at hand. Some sample questions you can ask yourself are: 

  • Are you indoors or outdoors? 
  • Do you have the required materials? 
  • How many children are under your care? 

Once you have this information, it will be easier to carry out the activities we suggest listed below. 

For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on gross motor skills and physical development, though some of the activities help develop a few fine motor skills as well. 

  1. Duck, duck, goose

There is no need for additional equipment when it comes to playing duck, duck, goose. And you can do it indoors or outdoors. If you have a large group of children under your care, this is the perfect activity to do outside. 

Children will sit in a circle facing one another. One person is the It first and he or she will walk around the circle tapping the heads of other children while saying ‘duck’ until they reach a player called ‘goose’. The goose will then stand and chase the It child around the circle. It has to reach the spot where the goose was sitting before they get caught. 

Perfect for developing gross motor skills as they run about.

Physical development targets: reaction time, leg muscles through running

  1. Musical chairs

You can play this indoors or outdoors but in a group. 

Place chairs in a circle, facing outward. Play a song or a rhyme while the kids circle the chairs. When the song or rhyme stops, the children have to sit in the chair closest to them. 

Change up the movement with each song. Instead of walking, kids can skip, hop, waddle or crawl.

Physical development targets: entire body movement

  1. Traffic safety

To do this activity, a few craft materials will be needed but with minimal effort. Just cut three circles of red, yellow and green and label them as STOP (red), SLOW (yellow) and GO (green). 

Choose a kid to be the traffic light. As the kid holds up the green coloured GO sign, the other children are allowed to move forward. When the traffic light kid holds up SLOW, other children slow down and when STOP is held up, the kids freeze. 

Besides developing their gross motor skills, you can take advantage of the activity to teach the kids about traffic safety. 

Physical development targets: body control

  1. Imitate animals

Choose a variety of animals to imitate. You can do this in a group, individually, indoors or outdoors. Toddlers can waddle like a duck, walk on all fours, jump around like a monkey or hop like a frog. As they use their whole bodies to imitate animals, their gross motor skills are being developed. 

Physical development targets: entire body movement

  1. Scavenger hunt

Get creative and use a number of different items. Hide the items around the room. After that, create a list with drawings or pictures of the items for toddlers to find. Try not to hide the items in difficult spots. This is an activity that is best carried out indoors. 

As the kids get moving to find items, they will find it quite fun to uncover them one by one. 

Physical development targets: entire body movement

  1. Tossing balls in baskets

Give your toddlers rubber balls to throw or roll back and forth to each other. You can give them baskets to throw their balls in too. It builds their gross motor skills and is super simple to set up. 

Physical development targets: forearms, shoulder rotations, upper back, throwing skills

  1. Catching feathers

Take a few feathers and toss them in the air. As the feathers fall, get the children to catch the feathers in either their hands or containers before they reach the ground. This will get them moving while having lots of fun, developing their gross motor skills. 

If you are with older children, you can even try encouraging them to keep the feathers in the air by blowing on it. 

Physical development targets: entire body, hand-eye coordination

  1. Hitting balloons

Get a few balloons and encourage toddlers to hit the balloons and not let it touch the ground. As they move around the room, their gross motor skills are developed. 

To keep things interesting, you can put up a small barrier between the kids then get to to hit the balloon over the barrier to another child. 

Physical development targets: entire body, hand-eye coordination

  1. Balance beam

This, as you can imagine, develops balance in a toddler, also a gross motor skill. Instead of using a literal balance beam that is lifted off the ground, draw a line on the floor instead so that it’s safe for children. You can use masking or painters tape or draw a line with chalk. 

Once the kids master walking in a straight line, up the game with zigzags or semicircles. Kids can also try to walk backwards and sideways. 

Physical development targets: body balance, leg muscles like glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves

  1. Freeze dance

Play a song for preschoolers to dance to. When the song is paused, kids have to freeze in place. As they dance and have fun, they will be developing their gross motor skills by moving their hands and feet. Not to mention, may learn a few sick dance moves in the process.

Physical development targets: entire body movement, body control 

  1. Play with sponges

If it’s a sunny day, take the toddlers outside. Soak a few sponges in water and allow them to throw it at a wall or cemented surface so that the water splashed on the surfaces will make a design. This throwing skill is part of their gross motor skills development. It’s also very easy to clean so you get messy play and fun activity in it. 

Alternatively, if you are doing activities indoors, allow preschoolers to dip the sponges in washable paint so that they can press it onto pieces of drawing paper. This develops their fine motor skills as they learn to control the sponges. 

Another option could be giving the kids two bowls. One filled with water and the other empty. Toddlers can use the sponge to soak up water and squeeze it into the empty bowl. This simple activity develops their fine motor skills, as well as strengthens their forearms and hands. 

Physical development targets: throwing, upper back, shoulder rotations, arms, sensory enrichment

  1. Obstacle Course

Use any toddler safe materials in the house and set up an obstacle course for toddlers to climb over, walk around, run through or crawl underneath. For example, you can use a big pillow for the kids to climb over or a footstool for them to circle. 

Turn it into a mini race course for toddlers and blow a whistle to start. 

Physical development targets: body balance, back muscles, arms, legs, overall body coordination

  1. Find the timer

Set a timer and hide in. Toddlers have to find it before the timer goes off. This will get children moving in a fun way. You even get a short chance to ‘relax’ while waiting for the timer to ring. 

Physical development targets: fast movement, core development, 

  1. Clothespins and cup

For this activity, you will need a cup and a few old fashioned ball-top clothespins that don’t have a spring. Clip the clothespin to a cup or any other container then get the toddlers to shake it until the clothespin all fall off. 

Physical development targets: back muscles, arm movements

  1. Up and down game

Let toddlers hold a light object. Shout a few words that indicate it is high or low. For example, if you shout the word ‘roof’, your toddler should hold their item high and if you shout the word ‘floor’ they should hold their item low. Get a variety of words before you start so that you don’t have to think on the go. 

Physical development targets: back muscles, entire arm muscles.

Wrap Up

Children learn to play and the list of simple activities provided above will go a long way in helping toddlers develop physically by focusing on their gross and fine motor skills. 

If you want to further increase your toddler’s socialization, joining a playgroup at Cherie Hearts that is specially catered to toddlers will be very beneficial in the long run, especially in the area of child physical development as they learn through play.

Write a comment