Muscle Tone Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers

By Jaime Vargas-Benitez
Monkey bars help children tone many muscles in their arms, shoulders and abdomens.
Monkey bars help children tone many muscles in their arms, shoulders and abdomens.

There are a wealth of activities that tone toddler muscles. Toddlers can have fun while doing moves like the slide pull, where they use their arms to pull themselves up a slide -- and tone while they do it. They can also work on exercises like bear walking, using a stability ball and bicycle motion. These fun muscle-toning moves can be worked into play time with parents or caregivers and can make exercise fun. Children who exercise regularly not only build their muscles, they build good exercise habits for life.

Slide Pull

An article from North Shore Pediatric Therapy recommends slide pulling as a muscle tone building exercise. This exercise requires the use of a slide, but a park slide or backyard playground slide is fine. The child lies belly down at the bottom of the slide, and pulls themselves up the slide using only their arms. This works upper body muscles like biceps and triceps. It also aids in the toning of back and shoulder muscles. Children can pull themselves up the slide, and have fun sliding back down.

Bear Walking

Practicing their bear walk is a great way to build muscle tone in toddlers, according to Toronto Occupational Therapy Services. In order to bear walk, toddlers must walk using their hands and feet, with their bottoms in the air. This exercise builds muscle tone in the arms, shoulders, legs and abdomen. In order to encourage children to practice this exercise, parents can play a game of bear hunt with their child. Parents pretend to be looking for a bear while the toddler "bear" walks around, hiding from the parent "hunter." The child will build muscle tone while having fun at the same time.

Stability Ball

Using a stability ball is a great way to build trunk strength, according to The Motor Story is a website that lists activities designed to aid in children's motor skill and muscle tone development. The site is run by Jill Hays, an occupational therapist. Hays recommends child-size stability balls and inflatable rolls shaped like cylinders to strengthen core muscles. The core muscles support the back, and balancing on stability balls or rolls efficiently builds those muscles. Children may either lie across the ball, or roll, moving back and forth. They can also sit on the ball and work on balance by maintaining their position.

Bicycle Movement

Recommended by East Rand Occupational Therapy, the bicycle move is an effective way of toning muscle in toddlers. Have the child lie on the floor with their feet in the air while making the motion of riding a bicycle. Parents may have to help little ones at first until they get the hang of this movement. The pedaling motion helps tone muscles in the legs. The placement of the legs in the air also engages the abdominal muscles. This exercise works key muscle groups and is fun for toddlers. Once they get the hang of it, they may be ready to try a bicycle outside.

About the Author

Jaime Vargas-Benitez has been a parenting writer since 2010. She has worked in the child wellness field in various roles for over 20 years. Along with the experiences of raising her own kids, she has been privileged enough to participate in the raising of hundreds of other children as well.