Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Preschool

indoor gross motor activities for preschool

Today, we wanted to get you loaded up on the best indoor gross motor activities for preschoolers. This time of year, the weather starts to turn in some areas and colder days and mornings can mean a preschool classroom isn’t always able to get outdoors during the preschool day. That’s not always the case however, especially in nature-based preschool settings, but in many preschool classrooms, the students need to adjust to the weather and turn to indoor activities.

indoor gross motor activities for preschool

Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Preschool

Developing gross motor skills in early childhood is known to be one of the most foundational skills that support all other areas of learning. As children grow, if they can’t sit in a chair, they are unable to attend for school.

We do have recommendations for gross motor toys that are great for the preschool-aged child as they build skills through their primary occupation: play. These toys and suggestions can improve strength and offer input in the contributing factors, or underlying skills impacting gross motor progression and functional performance of tasks requiring gross motor work.

In this blog, I’ll share with you the best indoor gross motor activities that you can do at home or in the classroom that supports all area of gross motor development. 

Indoor Gross Motor Activities Foster Development

During the preschool years, any components of gross motor skills develop through play and learning exploration. This includes the development of balance and coordination. This progression supports the skills and abilities that foster learning and functional participation in every aspect of daily activities as the child grows.

Depending on where you live, there many be lots of activities to do outdoors, but with every season, (whether it be extreme heat, humidity or extreme cold) the ability to complete those activities change.

There are many components to gross motor development. These include:

As soon as an infant opens their eyes, they see the wonderful world around them. Their drive to get to everything they see takes over their purpose. Infants develop quickly, developing skills such as rolling over, transitioning from laying down to sitting, crawling, pulling to stand, and eventually to walking independently. As they gain new skills, their coordination and muscle development changes.

But walking isn’t the “final step” in gross motor development.

Toddlers are known for the  “toddler waddle” as they gain more balance in their walking. As children grow, each new age provides them new gross motor milestones to master. This blog explains all the gross motor milestones that children work on from ages birth through five, which a great for an overall picture of development.

Let’s break down when gross motor skills typically develop for the two to five year age range.

They include:

gross motor skills for 2 year olds

Some preschool classrooms begin at the two year age range. Because of this, we’re including two year gross motor milestones.

  • Walks with coordination
  • Runs
  • Can run with quick stopping and direction changes, may struggle with direction changes
  • Kicks a ball
  • Throws a ball overhand
  • Jumps in place with both feet off the ground
  • Walks up and down stairs alone or with assistance

For the 2 year old preschool class, gross motor activities might include walking on a line, simple obstacle courses, rolling and kicking a ball, crawling tunnels, simple climbing structures, throwing a ball at a large target or to a teacher, and position changes such as getting down on the floor.

All of these activities should be rooted in play.

Gross motor skills for 3 year olds

Preschool for three year-olds includes more gross motor coordination and balance skills as the child gains more strength and coordination of the large muscles of the body.

  • Balance on one foot  
  • Jump forward   
  • Walks on tiptoe
  • Catches a large ball   
  • Rides a tricycle

For the three year old preschool classroom, gross motor activities may include standing on target spots, balancing on balance beams, climbing structures or playground equipment, riding toys, throwing and catching balls of different sizes, hopping, playing Simon Says with gross motor commands, and play that fosters gross motor movement.

gross motor skills for 4 year olds

Preschool gross motor tasks for the 4 year old classroom start to offer more refined and coordinated work. You might see kids at a variety of levels at this age, especially determined by the child’s home and life experiences, outdoor time, and interests.

  • Can run, jump and climb well, is beginning to skip  
  • Hops proficiently on one foot  
  • Can do hopscotch  
  • Catches a ball reliably  
  • Begins somersaults

For the 4 year old preschool classroom, gross motor activities might include more riding toys, running games, tag games, more refined and coordinated balance activities, playground equipment with more climbing and movements, lawn games, etc.

gross motor skills for 5 year olds

Preschool for five year olds, or even Pre-K classes will see more refined gross motor skills, coordination, and skill development. Many preschoolers at this age will begin to play sports like T-ball or soccer (among other sports and gross motor activities). Some things to consider about gross motor skills for five year preschool:

  • Skips on alternate feet and jump rope  
  • Begins to skate and swim  
  • Rides bicycle with/without training wheels    
  • Climbing playground equipment

For the 5 year old in preschool, or Pre-K classes, gross motor activities might include more climbing equipment, ride on toys with more balance requirements such as bikes and scooters, ball and bat games, target games like basketball, and more complex gross motor games.

Gross Motor Indoor Activities

Providing children with the opportunity to move when stuck indoors is critical. Little ones are built to move. According to two pediatricians in this article, “Keeping your toddler moving daily is key to a healthy development.”

Daily play activities and movement experiences foster development.

Although it’s important for children to have gross motor activities always available for them, it’s not always easy to provide, especially when you are indoors.  

Here are my 5 favorite playful activities to foster development of gross motor skills to preschoolers:

  1. Games with painters tape.

I love painters tape, not only because it is cheap but it can easily be placed on any flooring or wall and removed with ease! Painters tape is perfect for indoor gross motor games, as it encourages balance, coordination, and more. You can even form circles and numbers to complete this snowman bowling and jumping game. Here’s a visual for that activity.  

  1. Games with cardboard squares.

Do you have any Amazon boxes lying around? Cut those boxes up into squares of all sizes to play some amazing games. Place them on the floor in a line and have children “jump” over them. Write numbers on them and place them in a circle for a freeze dance! When you stop the music, have your child find a square and say the number they found. You can even create an indoor hopscotch game for hours of hopping and jumping fun!

  1. Children’s Yoga Games

If you have a small space, you can still encourage gross motor games with some children’s yoga! Yoga is an amazing activity for people of all ages, but is exceptional for young children. Yoga has many benefits that include increasing attention span, encouraging connection between body and mind, boots immunity, increases flexibility and strength and other benefits.

Try this unicorn yoga, penguin yoga, or even partner yoga for working on balance and strength with a friend or in small groups.

  1. Empty Plastic Bottle Games

Recycling doesn’t always mean that we need to put our used containers in a recycle bin. As a preschool teacher, I know that all objects can be used for some type of learning activity. Empty plastic bottles are one of my favorite things to collect. Do you have any empty plastic bottles laying around? These can be any size that held any type of drink. There are so many movement games that we can do with empty bottles, including bowling or a water bottle ring toss game.

  1. Activity Jars

If you have some popsicle sticks, a die and an empty cup, you have everything you need to make an activity jar! Write one action word on each popsicle stick and place them in the jar…or use our free list of Simon Says commands that fit on craft sticks. Roll one or two die and count the total number that was rolled. Pick out a stick from the cup and now your child knows how many times to do that movement activity! Here are some examples of movement activities to add to the popsicle sticks:

  • Spin
  • Jump
  • Hop on Right Foot
  • Hop on Left Food
  • Tap your nose
  • Walk on Tip Toes
  • Touch your Right elbow to your Left knee 

6. Make an indoor balance activities

There are many way to make an indoor balance beam and you don’t need special equipment. Use a blanket roll balance beam or use pillows, string, or other items.

Providing young children with safe movement games is crucial to their development, not only to support their gross motor development, but also to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Kids can learn all sorts of new skills while they move.

Even if you are stuck indoors for a while, using these simple movement games will keep your kids engaged and give you some piece of mind.

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.