Active Play Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Young children are naturally active. They enjoy moving their bodies in new and creative ways. As coordination and muscle strength improve, young children will explore climbing, rolling, and throwing. In the classroom, these activities don’t always align with adult plans or safety standards. Rather than attempting to change the nature of child development, educators should find safe and fun ways for children to practice their emerging skills with guidance and encouragement.
Generally speaking, toddlers and preschoolers are too young for organized sports. They are still developing the cognitive and self-regulation skills that will help them succeed in these activities in the future. Here are activities that will instill a love of physical activity that meet children where they are developmentally:
- Follow the leader games – be sure to incorporate bone-, balance- and flexibility-building movements.
- Obstacle courses – include jumping jacks, dancing, crawling, and kicking stations. Older children can help design these activities by making up stations or picking from a stack of activity cards.
- Bikes and trikes – riding toys help children build muscle strength and coordination. Set up different routes for children to follow from time to time.
- Throwing games – beanbags, snowballs, and traditional sports balls can all be used to build tossing and catching skills.
- Climbing – opportunities to climb should be encouraged indoors and on the playground. Indoor climbing areas are especially important during periods of time when children do not have access to outdoor play spaces.
- Movement transitions – as children move through the daily routine, ask them to march, move like butterflies, or tiptoe.
- Tag and relay races – introduce different types of tag and relay races that promote gross-motor and cooperation skills.
- Yoga and stretching games – add a few simple yoga or stretching poses into morning meetings, nap preparation, and transitioning from outdoors to indoors.
- Big body play – explore resources related to big body play (sometimes called rough and tumble play) and determine how it might fit into your program.
*When working with children with disabilities, consult with the child’s family and physical therapist to determine the best types of activity for the child and ways to adapt certain activities to meet the child’s active play needs.
For the main article Opportunities for Active Play, CLICK HERE
For the article Types of Active Play, CLICK HERE
For the article Active Play Ideas for School-Age Children, CLICK HERE
For the article Active Play with Staff Members, CLICK HERE