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Games for Promoting Your Child’s Motor Development

by Rae Pica

If a child is having fun while moving, that child is far more likely to want to keep moving. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s also practicing his movement skills!

Following are activities that help promote the development of locomotor (traveling) skills:

  • In and Around. There’s nothing like an obstacle course to provide practice with any number of skills, including crawling, creeping, walking, and jumping. Additionally, an obstacle course will offer your child valuable experience with prepositions such as over, under, around, and through. Depending on your child’s level of development (you can even use obstacle courses with babies who are only creeping), set up a course using large empty boxes to move through, chairs or other pieces of furniture big enough to move under, jump ropes to move over, or small items to move around. Then lead your child through the maze. Every time you play this game, you can arrange the objects differently and even give them different purposes. For instance, if the jump rope was originally lying on the floor for leaping or jumping over, you can later suspend it between two pieces of furniture for creeping under.
  • Chasing Bubbles. Want to give children a reason to run and jump? Take them outside and invite them to catch the bubbles you blow! They’ll let you know when they’re tired – but until then, keep on blowing.
  • Jump! Place your child on the bottom of a set of steps – or on the edge of a low sandbox or a curb, for instance – and stand facing her. Hold out your arms and encourage her to jump. Repeat the process as long as she stays interested. When she’s ready for something a bit higher, use sturdy plastic crate or something similar.
  • Ring-around-the-Rosy. If there are at least three people available (two children and an adult), play this traditional game for practice with sliding – and sitting. It also offers experience with the spatial concepts of around and down.
  • Follow the Leader. This game offers a great opportunity for practice of various motor skills. Even if it’s just you and your child, the game is plenty of fun. Just lead the way around the living room or backyard, performing as many different locomotor skills as you know your child can replicate. Don’t’ forget to vary your movements with the elements of movement, changing direction, level, pathway, speed, force, and body shape. And you can incorporate both bound flow and nonlocomotor skills into the game by occasionally stopping and performing, say, a stretch, bend, twist, or shake.
  • Traffic Lights. For this game you’ll need three large pieces of paper or cardboard – one red, one green, and one yellow. When you hold up the green paper, the children walk. (You can play this game with one or several children.) When you hold up the yellow, they walk in place. At the sight of the red, they stop and wait. Start with walking until they get the hang of it. Then play it with any other locomotor skills they can perform.
  • In and Out. Place one plastic hoop per child on the floor or ground. Then invite the children to jump in and out of the hoop, all the way around. When the children are able to hop, invite them to hop in and out. (The best way to help your child learn to hop is to hold her hand and hop right alongside her.)
  • Tag with a Twist. A game of tag is a great way to get children to practice both running and dodging. To be sure the latter is involved, gradually reduce the available area in which the children can play!

About the Author
Rae Pica is a children’s movement specialist and author of Your Active Child: How to Promote Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Rae speaks to parent and education groups throughout North America. You can visit her and read more articles at

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