Outdoor Play for Preschoolers

Updated: Oct 19, 2018


originally published on Wolf+Friends


Gross motor skills are those activities that use large muscle groups: from walking, to running, to jumping and skipping, and much more! All children are developing the control, strength, and endurance needed to coordinate these movements. As your child gets older, they develop more complex gross motor skills with objects so eventually they can participate in sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, or gymnastics. Kids who are moving and playing are also engaging with their peers in games like chase, tag, and hide-and-seek, so gross motor play and social-emotional development go hand-in-hand throughout childhood. If your child is struggling to keep up physically, chances are that they are also having trouble staying within those play schemes with friends on the move. Keeping in mind that not all children develop these skills along the same timeline, you can find skill-minded fun to involve large muscle groups, no matter where your child is on this path to development.

Preschoolers are proud of their newfound skills and increasing independence! Choose activities that work on multi-tasking: gross motor and cognitive or social challenges. Involve a peer to challenge your child’s problem solving and social skills too.

  • Catch, gentle throw, or pass a ball or beanbag to a friend - see how far apart you can get and still catch it! If your child isn't ready for a fast-moving ball, try batting a balloon between friends. Add a racquet for an extra challenge to see if your child can bounce the balloon multiple times without it hitting the ground!

  • Use your jump rope for some jumping games - can you jump side to side? Zig zag? Bunny hop across? Up and back? Your preschooler is learning to take more risks in her gross motor play, so challenge her endurance with some new jumping ideas. For more jump rope games, check out this list from the Inspired Treehouse. If your child isn't ready for a jump rope, try the same games with a hula hoop!


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  • Preschoolers love to be independent so find a trike, scooter or balance bike that gives them mobility and independence while developing core strength, coordination, and endurance. Set up road race tracks, obstacle courses, scavenger hunts on wheels, or pretend-play stations to encourage social exploration too!

#motorskills #grossmotorplay #occupationaltherapy