Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

By Lynn •  Updated: 11/29/23 •  14 min read
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If you’re stuck inside with a preschooler and need ideas to help your little one burn off some steam, we’re here to help! There are plenty of gross motor activities for preschoolers out there that can get your child up and moving so that he or she can stay healthy, fit, and active. 

Check out a few of the many ways you can keep your little one active in today’s post.

What Are Gross Motor Activities and Why are They Important?

Gross motor skills can be defined as activities that involve large muscle groups such as your torso, arms, and legs. Just like sensory activities for 1 year olds and other ages, gross motor activities are activities designed to get your child engaged and moving. 

A few general activities that count as gross motor activities include:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Skipping
  • Swimming

According to the CDC, physical activity helps build strong bones and muscles in children. Moreover, a child that is regularly involved in physical activity is likely to experience lesser symptoms of anxiety and depression and will likely have better control over weight. Thus, gross motor activity is for children what exercise is for adults, and as such, should be engaged in at regular intervals throughout the day. 

toddler riding on harness

What Are Some Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Now that you know why gross motor activities are so important for preschoolers, it is time to delve into some of our favorite gross motor activities for little ones. Feel free to utilize any of the below ideas and change them to your liking. The point of each gross motor activity is to provide a fun and safe way for your child to become physically active. 

Outdoor Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

To start, it can be helpful to know a few outdoor gross motor activities for kids. After all, if your preschoolers are going to be running and jumping, you’ll probably need to provide them some extra space right?

Check out the following gross motor activities that can take “going outside” to the next level!

  • Fly a Kite: Taking your preschooler out to fly a kite can be exciting. The combination of running and getting the angle just right to cause the kite to fly can be a great challenge and learning experience for kiddos this age. 
  • Race: On your mark, get set, go! Allow your children to race each other, or if no one else is around, hop in the race yourself! Just be sure to make it fair, of course. Your preschooler will likely love racing against others and everyone involved will have gotten in a good workout, to boot! 
  • Chase: Similar to racing, chasing involves high-speed running with few stops in between. Play classic games such as “tag” and maybe consider adding a few colorful flags to the mix to make things even more fun. 
  • Hopscotch: If you’ve got open space and sidewalk chalk, why not take your kiddos out to do hopscotch? At this point, your child may or may not be able to hop on one foot, but you can also make variations to the rules to match your child’s age and development. 
  • Outdoor Scavenger Hunt: Setting up an outdoor scavenger hunt can be just as educational as it is fun. Make cards with pictures on them and have your child find these things in nature. As they find each one, give your child a few facts about the part of nature they’ve just discovered. Scavenger hunts can also be done indoors.
  • Nature Walk: This is another great way to take advantage of all that the great outdoors has to offer. By simply walking through nature and observing what you see, you can get your kiddos up, moving, and enjoying the world around them.
  • DIY Parachute: Parachutes can be great fun when outdoors. You can place stuffed animals on them and bounce them around on the parachute by pumping your arms up and down. Don’t have a parachute? Try using a big bedsheet instead! 
  • Roll Down Hills: If you live near a small hill or two, try rolling down hills with your preschooler! Just be sure that the hill isn’t too steep and that there aren’t any dangerous objects on the surface on your rolling on. 
  • Run Up and Down Hills: Not into rolling? You can run up and down hills too! The incline on hills makes it harder to run up and very easy to run down. Your preschooler will likely love the experience and should get a very good workout while doing it! 
  • Blow Bubbles: It’s amazing what some bubble solution and a few wands can do. Feel like getting creative? Try experimenting with different shaped wands and various bubble machines to see how bubbles can differ. 
selective photo of a girl holding bubbles
  • Ribbon Wand: ribbon wand can be easily made using a few long colorful ribbons and a stick of sorts. Run through the wind, twirl, and spin with your ribbon wand, and watch the ribbons dance in the air! 
  • Free Play: Yep, we said it. Sometimes, kids can be even more inventive than adults; we just have to give them the space and resources to be creative on their own! Take your preschooler/s outside and them a few hula hoops, balls, pieces of chalk, bottles, and bubbles, and let them have at it. You may be surprised at what ideas your little one comes up with, especially if he or she is playing with other children his or her age. Just be sure to monitor your kiddos closely to keep them safe and engaged!
I’ll Catch You!

Indoor Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Now that you’ve got a few options up your sleeve for outdoor gross motor activities, let’s turn our attention to a few indoor activities you can try. Note: Many of the above outdoor activities can be easily done inside with a few tweaks. Feel free to experiment to see what works best for you and your kiddos! 

  • Freeze Dance: When you’re stuck in the house all day, things can get boring pretty quickly. Why not throw on some upbeat music and freeze dance? Simply play the music as you normally would and then stop – or “freeze” – the song at intervals. Anyone who was dancing must also freeze until the song resumes. Anyone who moves while the song is paused is “out”!
  • Walking (At Different Speeds): Instead of having your children run at full speed around the house, try having them walk at varying speeds. Call out a directive such as “go slow” or “go fast” and watch as your children walk about the house at this pace. This is great for developing better listening skills. 
  • Cardboard Boxes: There are so many things you can do with cardboard boxes. Use them to build towers, knock the towers back down, cut flaps in them to make houses, convert them into cars, load them up with toys and drag them around the house. Cardboard boxes lend themselves to tons of impromptu gross motor fun!
  • Pile of Blankets and Pillows: Throw a bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor and let your kids have at it. Allow your children to dive into the blankets and pillows, make forts, have pillow fights, and whatever else. This is an open-ended activity that can turn into quite an exercise when all is said and done! 
  • Jumping on the Bed: While we wouldn’t recommend you allow your preschooler to jump on the bed without supervision, you may consider allowing this every so often with you closely supervising. You may even hold their hands as they do it to ensure they don’t injure themselves. There are also indoor trampolines available that can serve as a great way to blow off some steam indoors. 
BCAN 36'' Mini Folding Ages 3 to 6 Toddler Trampoline with Handle for Kids to Burn Off Energy, Super Safety Toddlers Trampoline with Safety Padded Cover for Toddlers Indoor/Garden Jump Safely
  • Balloon Volleyball: Blow up a balloon and pass the balloon back and forth with your preschooler without letting it touch the floor! This will take practice and dexterity but can be loads of fun! 
  • Exercise Moves: Got a workout routine that you do on the regular? Pick a few of those movements, pop on some music, and have a workout session with your kiddo! Great exercises for preschoolers include jumping jacks, squats, crab walks, running in place and so much more
  • Laundry Librarian: Moving heavy books or toys around the room in a laundry basket can be hard work! If your preschooler has a lot of energy to burn, this might be a great activity and serves as a great outlet.
  • Hit the Balloon: Hang a balloon from the ceiling on a piece of string and give your preschooler a toilet paper tube to whack the balloon with. They’ll love this energy-burning activity and it can help with their hand-eye coordination!
awsome smile

Winter Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

  • Sledding: Stuck inside and not sure what to do? Why not grab a few sleds and find a good hill to slide down. Sledding involves climbing up and riding down snow-covered hills which makes it a perfect gross motor activity for preschoolers. 
  • Snow Angels: To make snow angels, simply go out in the snow, lay on your back, stretch your arms and legs wide, and have at it! Making snow angels can be a fun and satisfying activity for preschoolers as long as you don’t mind them getting a little wet. 
  • Toys Outside: Want to break up the rut of your daily indoor winter routine? Try taking your preschooler’s toys outside! Choose toys that are easily wiped down that aren’t electronics for fun times in the snow. For even more fun, consider taking a wagon out. Allow your preschooler to take their favorite robot or dolly out for a winter wagon ride! 
  • Snowball Paper Toss: Sometimes winter weather can be a little too cold to step out and enjoy. Why not bring the outdoors inside by creating an indoor snowball toss? Simply crumple pieces of white paper up into balls and take turns tossing them into a basket. 
  • Walk Like an Arctic Seal: If you really want to challenge your kiddo physically, try showing them how to walk like an arctic seal. To do so, have your preschooler lie flat on their stomach. Then, have them push up onto their arms, with their elbows locked straight. With their legs dragging behind them, have your child pull themselves along in this position using only their arms. They’ll get a kick out of this, and get a great upper body workout, too! 
kids having fun

Fall Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Fall is such a fun season that lends itself to all sorts of activities. While there are many excellent gross motor activities that you could try with your kiddo in the fall, one of the best is to try telling a fall-themed story and acting out the movements as you go.

When you do this, try to make up the story yourself. This way, you can make a relatable story for your child. You can also ensure that there are enough verbs that participants can act out within the story.

As you read the story to your preschooler, pause at each verb and act out that verb or verb phrase together as you go. This is a great way to get up and active throughout the day while infusing a bit of fall fun along the way!

Leaves in the air

Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day gross motor activities, why not try a fun twist on a familiar classic? Rather than playing “Simon Says” for Valentine’s Day, try playing “Cupid Says” instead. Simply play the game as you normally would. But come up with a variety of actions that have Valentine’s Day themes. Examples are “blow a kiss”, “hug a friend”, “shoot an arrow”, “pretend you’ve been shot by an arrow”, and much more. 

Beach Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

The beach lends itself to countless gross motor activities. After all, swimming and playing in the sand comes with the territory, right? Still, it can be fun to have a few unconventional activities planned for your day out at the beach just to spice things up a little.

A fun gross motor activity you may wish to try the next time you find yourself at the beach is to have a stationary surfboard competition. To do it, simply put surfboards at the shoreline and allow your kiddos to stand on the surfboard once the surf comes in. The one who can stay on the surfboard the longest wins! 

Note: This may or may not be appropriate for very small children, especially if the tide is large. Use common sense, ensure that your child has a life jacket, and always be close by.

Another idea for the beach for littles is to have a sandman competition. Set a timer and see who can build the tallest sandman in 30 minutes!

Happy child playing on the beach

Christmas Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Christmas can lend itself to all sorts of fun. Try spicing up everyday kid-friendly exercises by making them holiday-themed. Try “Tall Tree” jumping jacks, “Reindeer Kicks”, “Candy Cane Hops” and more for a fun way to get your kids up and moving during the holiday season.

Oh, and don’t forget the upbeat Christmas music! 

Animal Themed Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

One of the best ways to incorporate movement into an animal theme is to have your preschooler pretend to be an animal! Pick an animal of your choosing (or their choosing) and have your preschooler “walk” the way they do. 

Whether they waddle like a penguin, hop like a kangaroo, or prowl like a lion, your preschooler is sure to love pretending to be their favorite animal! 

Gross Motor Ball Activities For Preschoolers

Playing with a ball -or balls- is a great way to help your little one develop his or her hand-eye coordination. To do this, have your child roll, dribble, bounce, balance, bat, and even sort balls by category. There are so many activities you can do with a ball that will give preschoolers plenty of time to stay active and engaged. 

Happy Kids

Fun Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Though we’ve done our best to detail some of the best gross motor activities for preschoolers, there are still many other ways to make getting up and being active fun. 

Check out a few of these other ideas:

  • Visit the Park
  • Set Up an Obstacle Course
  • Walk on a Balance Beam
  • Play on a Tire Swing
  • Purchase an Indoor Ball Pit
  • Set Up a Relay Race
  • Play Soccer
  • Chase Butterflies
  • Catch (and Release) Insects in a Jar
  • Play Hide ‘n Seek

Gross Motor Activities For Preschoolers Can Be Easy and Fun!

When all is said and done, gross motor activities can be just as easy to set up as they are fun. Remember that you can tailor any activity to make it fit a theme, whether holiday, ocean, or animal. We hope this has helped give you a few ideas for how to get your child up and moving!

Here are more posts for your child’s development:


Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.

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