Learning during the first years of life is a full body pursuit that involves mastering gross motor skills and coordination. To help enhance your child’s learning, turn everyday lessons into engaging games and activities. Not only are the gross motor activities entertaining, your child is more likely to develop his skills, understand the lesson and retain the information if he’s using his whole body to help him learn.
Draw a hopscotch course with the numbers clearly written with sidewalk chalk. As your child hops from one area to the next, count the numbers out loud. You can also grab a jump rope and count or recite the alphabet with each jump. The repetition and body movements will help your child remember the correct number and alphabet sequences.
Use music, movement and dance for a full body shape lesson. Throw on some kid-friendly music, and encourage your child to shake his booty. After a while, turn it into a freeze dance activity. When you turn the music off, your child has to freeze where he is or make a shape with his body. Ask him what shape he’s in, and then turn the music back on for another round.
Plan and build a fort with your child using cardboard boxes. Ask your child for suggestions on how he thinks the fort should be built and let him put the boxes in position, assisting only when necessary. The fort can have walls stacked on both sides and your child can walk between the walls, or large boxes can be decorated and taped together so your child can crawl through them like a tunnel. This activity not only implements his critical thinking, spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination, but it's also very entertaining for the young crowd.
Create an obstacle course for your child. First 5 California suggests using pillow stacks, cushions and blankets to make a course for a toddler or hula hoops, ball toss areas and marked off areas for a preschool-aged child. For a preschooler, you can also set up a simple obstacle course that he must navigate with a tricycle, using plastic cones and sidewalk chalk. These are whole body activities.
Play games with your child that involves a large rubber ball. Kick the ball around the yard. Sit on the ground facing each other and roll the ball back and forth. Set up a goal and encourage your child to try to kick the ball between two cones. These activities help work those large muscle groups while working on coordination and aiming.
Offer a bin of dress-up clothes and puppets for dramatic play. Your child must use his large muscles to dress himself in different outfits and getting up from the floor. Puppets require the larger muscles in his arms and core, as well as the small muscles in his fingers and hands.