Large motor skills, also known as gross motor skills, are those that use the large muscles of the body to move around. Preschoolers move from the awkward toddling of the toddler years to the coordination of the elementary school years; they need many opportunities to run, climb, jump, kick, twist and stretch. Plus, of course, it helps to wear them out if you want them to go to bed easily at night.
Games can not only make preschoolers use large motor skills, they can also help them learn to follow directions. Traditional games like Simon Says, Musical Chairs, the Hokey Pokey and Duck, Duck Goose encourage kids to use gross motor skills and are simple enough for preschoolers to follow. Sharks and Minnows, a modern take on Tag where when the "shark" tags you, you become a shark as well, is another good one for preschoolers. Children this age love to pretend and to be in charge, so making up a new game together is a possibility as well.
It's no coincidence that many dance and sports class begin when children are 3 years old. This is the age when kids get more coordinated and when they can handle following directions without mom or dad right there. Bring your preschooler to visit dance, martial arts, gymnastics and sports classes to see what he is the most interested in. Many places will let you try an introductory class for free. While these classes are in various disciplines, they will all improve large motor skills like balancing, jumping, hopping and kicking. And you get a half hour or 45 minute break while you watch your kid in class. Everyone wins.
Nothing beats the playground for improving large motor skills in preschoolers. It is specifically designed to encourage children to climb, swing, slide, jump and hang. If your preschooler needs encouragement to get moving, try playing Tag on the equipment with her. Another option, which can be good for mom and dad too, is going for walks and hikes. On walks around the neighborhood, you can add skills by suggesting that all family members hop or run for a block. Or until the next driveway, if running isn't your thing. When hiking on a nature trail, look for rocks to climb on, rocks to throw into streams and trees to climb.
Just because you're stuck inside for the tenth day in a row doesn't mean your preschooler can't improve his motor skills. Freeze Dance, where children dance to music and then "freeze" in funny positions when the music is paused, works well for small spaces. You can also create an obstacle course using chairs, couch cushions, play tents or tunnels and anything else you have at home. Show them how to follow the course so that you don't have any kids trying to leap over chairs.
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