25 Simple Gross Motor Activities for Infants 0-12 Months - Mrs. to Mom. (2024)

June 12, 2023June 14, 2023 / Leave a comment

25 simple, low prep gross motor activities for infants 0-12 months, toddlers, and older kids. Have fun and build essential skills at the same time!

It’s playtime again and you need a new activity to entertain your little one. Why not make play purposeful and work on gross motor activities? In this post, I’ll go over 25 simple gross motor activities for infants 0-12 months plus some activities for toddlers and older kids, so you can have fun with your kiddos and build essential skills at the same time!

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The 411 on Gross Motor Development in Infants

Gross Motor Development vs Fine Motor Development?

Gross Motor Development is the strengthening and coordination of large muscles like the legs, arms, and core. Gross motor skill activities involve large movements that teach young children how to control these muscle groups to eventually sit, crawl, walk, run, and play. On the other hand, fine motor development is the strengthening and coordination or small muscles that help with little movements like grabbing finger foods or writing with a pencil. While both gross motor and fine motor skills can be developed at the same time, most fine motor skills require gross motor control. It’s important to work on both on a daily basis!

Why is Gross Motor Development Important?

From little kids to older children, large motor activities are vital to every child’s development. These activities are important for physical, cognitive, and social development as well as your child’s overall wellbeing. We use our gross motor skills every day to engage with the world around us, but our babies need to work to develop these skills before they become second nature. Gross motor activities for infants promote the growth of muscle strength, coordination, and control, laying the foundation for future physical abilities. Fortunately, you can incorporate gross motor development into daily playtime in a fun way! (And you probably already are)

Examples of Gross Motor Skills

Pretty much any activity requires gross motor control. These skills are second nature to us as adults, but they’re hard work for our babies, toddlers, and little kids. Imagine the fun you can have working on these skills every day:

– Head Control

– Rolling

– Sitting

– Crawling

– Walking

– Running

– Jumping, Skipping, Hopping & Galloping

– Balancing

– Dancing

– Climbing

– Kicking, Catching, & Throwing

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Gross Motor Development Activities by Age

Gross Motor Activities for Infants 6-12 Months

Newborn babies need to develop the gross motor skills of head control, rolling, and sitting. They’ll also strengthen their core, arms, and legs in preparation for crawling. Here are some simple activities to help young infants 0-6 months develop large motor skills on a daily basis:

  • Tummy Time Activities
    • Develop head control and core muscles with some good old fashioned tummy time! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tummy time can start as soon as your little one is born. You can start slow with a couple of minutes of tummy time per day and work up to an hour or more. Spice up tummy time by adding sensory bags, new textures to explore, and different toys to play with. Spending time in a baby wrap or skin to skin while on your chest counts as tummy time too! You’ll be amazed at how quickly your little babe develops stronger neck, back, and core muscles. For more ideas on making tummy time fun and a detailed tutorial on making sensory bags, check out this post!
  • Sensory Bottles and Bags
    • Stimulate your baby’s nervous system and work on arm coordination and muscle strength with sensory bottles and bags. These are a great way to incorporate gross motor development during play time or on the go. Make these more fun by changing them seasonally, which can help promote language skills too and will always keep your little on engaged. You can use these during tummy time, unrestricted floor time, or while assisted sitting. This is also a great activity for little hands – especially smaller sensory bottles. Check out this post by The Homes I Have Made a detailed tutorial on making sensory bottles.
  • Play Mat with Different Textures
    • Babies are very tactile – they LOVE exploring different textures. While it’s always nice to play on a silky soft blanket, try mixing up floor time by adding some different textures to your baby’s play mat. Tissue paper, newspaper, bubble wrap, or even stepping outside and laying on the grass are great options to encourage arm and leg movements. This will also help baby develop their fine motor, or small motor, skills by grabbing at the different textured items. Amazon actually has tons of sensory playmats that your little one would love. Check them out here!
  • Action songs
    • Assisted movements are a good way to develop large muscle group coordination as well. Try singing songs and gently moving your baby’s legs and arms to match the words or beat. Some of our favorite areWheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy & You Know It,andHead, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.For more action songs for young infants, check out this post by The Educator’s Spin on It.
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Gross Motor Activities for Infants 6-12 Months

Once your little one is rolling and sitting on their own, it’s time to move on to activities that strengthen the large muscle groups needed to crawl and stand. Here are some different ways to promote development of these skills on a daily basis for older infants:

  • Kneeling Play
    • For a simple way to strengthen the muscles needed for crawling, try placing a toy on top of a diaper box for some assisted kneeling play. Place your child on their knees with their hands on top of the box for balance and support, assist them as much as necessary. This activity will help develop balance and strengthen their core – two important aspects in the ability to crawl and stand!
  • Baby Pull Up Bar
    • Have you seen these Montessori inspired pull-up bars? They’re all over Instagram! These are such a fun way for babies to strengthen their arm muscles and leg muscles and practice standing. Add a baby-safe mirror for extra entertainment and watch your little one have so much fun working on this challenging new skill. The Kavanaugh Report Montessori Parenting blog has a great tutorial for a DIY baby pull up bar!
  • Push Toy
    • Once your baby can pull themselves up to stand, try challenging their balance and leg coordination with a push toy. You can use these as a different way to engage in kneeling play or as a fun way to strengthen the entire body for walking. Start off slowly by allowing your baby to explore the different sights, sounds, and textures on the push toy in a sitting or kneeling position. They’ll probably start pulling themselves up to stand and pushing the toy on their own. Place the toy on a fall-proof surface and make sure to stay close by at first in case they need a little extra help. Once they’ve got the hang of it, let them explore, challenge themselves, and get closer to those first steps! Amazon has tons of options for push toys that fit every style. We got our little guy this Ford F-150 push toy that doubles as a walker from Walmart!
  • Water Tables
    • As a Las Vegas native, this is one of our go- to Spring & Summer activities. Water tables are a great way to get some Vitamin D and promote whole body movement at the same time! If your little one can stand with assistance, they can enjoy some water play. Their large muscle groups will get some work with standing and reaching, but so will those little muscles as they grab, scoop, pour, and engage with the different elements of the table. I love Toss Across game, but toddlers will LOVE this animal bean bag toss!
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Movement Activities for Young Toddlers

  • Dance Parties
    • Did you know that dance parties promote gross motor development? Dancing is one of the best ways to work on balance and coordination of larger muscles, while also being SO MUCH FUN! Younger toddlers love to show off their moves and have no idea that they’re developing gross motor skills in such a fun way. You can find plenty of guided dance parties on YouTube like Freeze Dance (a fan favorite with young kids) or you can throw on some of your favorite tunes and have a good old fashioned dance party anytime, anywhere! Try turning off the lights and adding some glow sticks for an extra fun way to get in some physical activity. Check out this kid friendly playlist for some song ideas!
  • Obstacle Courses
    • Who doesn’t love the fun and challenge of an obstacle course? Movements like crawling through tunnels, climbing, and jumping over obstacles are all great ways to develop gross motor control. I especially love this idea because you can tailor it to fit any age group. Use painters tape to create a path to follow for one year olds, or build more challenging obstacles out of everyday household items like cushions, cardboard boxes, or pool noodles for old toddlers. The creative ways to build an obstacle course are endless! You can even use chalk to draw an obstacle course using this tutorial.
  • Simon Says
    • Simon Says is a simple game packed with a TON of purpose. With simple commands like “Simon Says Jump” or “Simon Says Hop on One Foot” you can balance, coordination, listening, and language skills. Plus, its easy enough for young children to play and requires no equipment so its a great activity to play anytime, anywhere!
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Outdoor Gross Motor Activities for Older Children

  • Playground Equipment
    • Basically every aspect of using playground equipment helps with gross motor skill development. From walking up the stairs to sliding down the slide, little kids are using their whole body when they play on the playground. This is why most playgrounds have age restrictions, because young toddlers haven’t developed the large motor skills necessary to use the equipment safely. Toddlers can still use playground equipment for gross motor development with the help of an adult. It’s a good idea to regularly discuss safe ways to use playground equipment for gross motor skill development for both younger and older children.
  • Structured Play Activities Like Hula Hoops or Hop Scotch
    • Is hop scotch even still a thing anymore? If not, it should be! Tossing, hopping, balancing on one leg – hop scotch is a fun game that strengthens large muscles. Hula hoop contests are another fun activity to work on core strength and balance. While these outdoor gross motor activities are better suited for little kids age 5+, older toddlers can also have fun trying them out as they learn and grow.
  • Trampoline Time
    • Bouncing on a trampoline is a fun way to practice balance, coordination, and leg strength. (With adult supervision of course) If you don’t have access to a trampoline, why not try out a trampoline park or bounce house business? Most places have open bounces that are fairly cheap and will have options that are good for older kids and younger toddlers. If you have the space, consider getting an farm animal yoga for toddlers by Cosmic Kids Yoga . Do this with your little one for a fun bonding activity or as a calming bedtime routine!
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Everyday Activities that Encourage Gross Motor Skills

Worried that you haven’t been practicing gross motor skills enough? Don’t be! If you’ve noticed, most daily activities besides nap time and screen time encourage gross motor skill development. If you’re interacting and playing with your baby on a daily basis, you’re helping them strengthen those large muscle groups. Even though you’re doing most of these activities already, now you can be a little more purposeful about which gross motor skills you practice each day with different activities such as:

– Reaching for toys

– Cleaning up a play area

– Clapping to a song/beat

– Going for a walk

– Playing in the backyard

– Running/hopping/skipping to complete a task

– Helping cook a meal

– Playing “Hide and Seek” or “Simon Says”

– Independent play time

Mrs. to Mom Teacher Tips

It goes without saying that practicing gross motor skills is important for every child’s development, from physical development to cognitive and social development. As a former early childhood educator, I’m always thinking of creative ways to incorporate gross motor skill development into everyday activities.

Keep It Simple

The good news is, working on large motor activities doesn’t have to be complicated! A simple way to encourage your child’s development of large muscles is to let them do things you’d usually do for them. Depending on their age and readiness, have them reach for the toy, clean up the play area, or carry their plate to the kitchen. Make gross motor skill activities fun by making a tummy time sensory bag, building an obstacle course, or having a dance party. You’ll make memories with your little one and they’ll have no idea they’re practicing important skills! Remember, every kiddo develops at their own pace and not all physical activities are suitable for every child. If you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skill development, consider consulting with a pediatric physical therapist.

You’ve Got This, Mama!

Next time you have one of those days where you feel like nothing got done, think about all of the ways you encouraged gross motor skill development and give yourself a pat on the back (or maybe a glass of wine) because you deserve it, Mama!

25 Simple Gross Motor Activities for Infants 0-12 Months - Mrs. to Mom. (2024)
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