Ten Fun Toddler Games That Help Develop Motor Skills

Updated on December 14, 2019
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Angela is a mommy with a early childhood background. She loves teaching and having fun with her children and others.


Toddlers are little, loving bundles of energy. They need to be able to get their wiggles out, all while exploring the world around them. They are continually learning, whether they are sitting watching their favorite show or opening up cupboards as they explore the contents. They need lots of attention and affirmation. By introducing new experiences, environments, and words, we are continually broadening their knowledge base. Here are ten ways we can educate our toddlers while letting them be silly as they naturally want to be.

#1 Hands Upon My Head I Place: a Movement Rhyme

Children love songs that rhyme, especially ones that allow them to get their wiggles out. Here is a simple verse that you can say to your child, while they enjoy copying your movements. This rhyme helps them learn their body parts, and their confidence will grow as they learn to do the actions correctly.

Hands upon my head I place,
On my shoulders,
On my face,
On my knees,
And at my side,
Then behind me they will slide,
Then I reach them up so high,
I nearly reached the sky,
Then I clap them one, two, three,
Then I fold them silently.

#2 Play Move Like A...

There are reasons Noah's Ark is a common theme in nurseries. Children love animals. What better way to get their wiggles out than pretending they are those animals? Moving like animals helps them improve their balance, their strength, all while teaching them about the ways animals move and sound. Some excellent animals to act out are:

  • stand like a flamingo—standing on one foot
  • crawl like a bear—crawling on all fours (not knees, but feet)
  • waddle like a penguin—walk with legs together
  • scoot like a crab—walking on all fours with tummy up and backside down
  • gallop like a horse—keeping one foot in front of the other
  • flap your wings like a bird/bat—stretch out arms wide as you flap
  • swing your elephant's trunk—swing arms together in front of you like a trunk
  • slither like a snake—scoot on your tummy without using legs
  • chomp like an alligator—put arms in front and open and close them
  • hop like a frog—hop while crouched down
  • cluck like a chicken—put arms under armpits and cluck
  • run like a cheetah—run as fast as you can
  • play like a monkey—one arm under the armpit, the other scratching your head and jump around
  • jump like a kangaroo—jump with arms in front of you

Then come up with some of your own. The sillier, the better. Don't forget, camels spit, dogs run around barking, and cats are just plain weird. They will love to pretend to be any animal the imagination can come up with.

#3 Bowling!

Bowling is an excellent game for hand-eye coordination. Not only do they learn how to roll a ball while aiming, but they can also help set the pins back up. Setting the pins back up will be a challenging but fun activity for toddlers to do as they try to balance the pins on end, which can also double as a counting lesson, as they count how many pins they have knocked down. There are many great bowling games you can buy from the store, but your child will enjoy a kickball and pop bottles for pins just as much!

#4 Open Shut Them: Another Great Rhyme With Hands

This great rhyming song is great to teach kids language and how it corresponds to movement. They will love to sit on your lap as you do this with them. Their favorite part will be the end, as you "creep them" up their little bellies to their mouths, tickling them along the way.

Open shut them,
Open shut them,
Give a little clap, clap, clap,
Open shut them,
Open shut them,
Put them in your lap, lap, lap.
Creep them right up to your little chin,
Open up your mouth and do not let them in.

#5 Balance Beam: Walk On a Line

Balance is challenging at this stage, and following orders is even harder, which allows them to practice both. You can do this with a crack in your driveway or tape on the floor in your house. Practice walking along the "balance beam." Talk about trapeze artists at the circus or gymnasts in the Olympics.

Other great games to play with the balance beam is jumping from one side to the other. As kids get more coordinated, you can add jumping along the line or even hopping on one foot.

#6 Play Follow the Leader

This game will be sure to add giggles, especially if the leader does silly things. Have your child follow you as you do everything from pretending to be a bird to running backward. Other great movements to have them mimic may include:

  • zigzag around toys
  • run in circles
  • crawl under tables
  • pretend to be various animals
  • hop on one foot
  • do jumping jacks
  • roll on the ground
  • twirl like a ballerina

#7 Tossing a Balloon

Balloons are a ton of fun at all ages. When they are younger, you will find they are entertained as they learn to grasp it. They will be surprised at how easy it will bounce away with the slightest touch. Be sure to keep an eye on them in case it pops since the balloon can become a choking hazard.

You can show them how to blow it away as well, which will help strengthen facial muscles, which is great for speech development. As they get older, you can play, "don't let the balloon touch the ground."

#8 Play Instruments

Playing instruments is a great way to get rid of extra energy. Children and adults who play musical instruments tend to do better at math as it exercises that part of the brain. Instruments do not need to be the store-bought kind. A wooden spoon and pot will do just fine. If the noise is too much for you, tell them they are in a marching band and take the musical instruments outside! For calmer children, fill up glasses to varying heights and let them hit them each lightly with a spoon.


#9 Yoga With Mommy

Why not get some exercise yourself? Buy a video, or do some yoga on your own. Your tot will love that they get to do what mommy does. Some yoga facilities will have "mommy and me" yoga for the youngest of ages, where you can learn moves that incorporate both of you together. Learning to follow directions will help them greatly, especially when they start school. By doing something active like this, it will give them practice for when they need to listen to a teacher at a school. Also, it will strengthen their bodies and make them more coordinated.

#10 Turn on Some Music and Dance!

Who needs organized play events? Just turn on some music and dance. Play kid songs that your child loves, or put on your favorite music and dance along with them. Dancing is an excellent exercise and teaches them rhythm as well.

Movement is so crucial at the early ages. They are continually learning, but do not learn the same way older children do. They need to move in order to best understand the world around them. The stronger their bodies are, the more prepared they will be when they go off to school and have to sit behind a desk. They have found kids who have stronger cores, can sit longer, stay focused longer, and do better in school.

© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz


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