According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, toddlers should participate in 30 minutes of structured and at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity every day. Most toddlers are always on the go and have no problem getting in their unstructured activity. Structured activities are intentionally planned by an adult and help a toddler develop age-appropriate motor and listening skills. Fortunately, it’s easy to plan simple, moderate physical activities with minimal materials.
Have a musical parade with homemade materials. Pull out old scarves with different textures, fill containers with rice or little bells and bring out old pots and wooden spoons. Put on music and have a parade. March to the beat of the music, and then choose different motor skills such as walking, jumping, twisting and galloping. If the instruments get boring, put them aside and dance along to the music.
Set up an obstacle course inside or outside. Use pillows, cardboard boxes, cushions, hula hoops, rope or whatever else you have lying around the house. Make a path that encourages climbing over, under, through, around and out. For instance, lay pool noodles across a chair to make a tunnel and set up hoops for children to jump through. An obstacle course will encourage your child to explore movement, space and materials while also developing gross motor skills and body awareness.
The Sock Game
Scatter rolled-up socks around the room. Have your child run around the room collecting them and putting them into a basket. When she’s finished, take the socks and throw them into the air again so they fall on her. Repeat until she’s bored with the game. To extend the game, when your toddler picks up a pair of socks, set the basket a couple of feet away and have her try to toss the socks into the basket. Once she masters this task, move the basket farther away. This activity will provide her with moderate physical activity and promote development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Playing an animal actions game only requires an open space and a little imagination. Think of the different ways in which animals move. Snakes slither, rabbits hop, birds fly and penguins strut. Call out an animal and have your child move like that animal. Show pictures of the animals so your child can connect the visual image with the movement. Take the game a step further and take your child to a park where you might see the animals he is imitating, such as frogs, ducks and birds.