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12 Infant and Toddler Large Motor Activities

Babies go through a lot of development over the first year of their lives. Among these is the development of gross motor skills that will eventually help them to sit up, crawl, stand, walk, and eventually, run.

As parents, we can support our little ones in this by encouraging them to do large motor activities that are not only fun but also designed to help them exercise these skills. 

This guide is going to cover everything you need to know about large motor activities for infants and toddlers.

It will highlight what these activities are, what skills infants and toddlers need to develop, and examples of large motor activities that you can incorporate into your kiddo’s routine. 

Let’s dive right in, shall we? 

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What are large motor activities?

Large motor activities that encourage large motor skills are simple activities that help babies develop their gross motor skills.

Gross motor skills are needed for the optimum development of large muscle groups in your baby’s body.

As such, these activities focus on your little one’s head, core, arms, and legs. 

What are fine motor activities?

Fine motor activities are activities that encourage the development of fine motor skills.

The main difference between these and large motor activities is that fine motor activities focus on the coordination of small muscles.

This includes the muscles in the eyes, hands, and fingers.

What skills do infants typically develop between 0 and 6 months?

Here is a list of some of the gross motor skills that your infant will develop between the ages of 0 to 6 months: 

  • Holding her head up
  • Tummy time
  • Rolling over
  • Reaching
  • Grabbing
  • Kicking
  • Pushing up
  • Sitting up

These skills may sound simple, but it takes a lot of practice for infants to develop them.

It is this continued practice that leads to the development of their large muscle groups.

Large motor activities are a big part of this because they encourage your baby to strengthen her body while keeping her entertained. 

young toddler playing a play tunnel to work on his large motor skills

12 Infant and Toddler Large Motor Activities

1. Tummy Time

Tummy time is one of the most important large motor activities for infants.

All you have to do is place your little one face down on a soft surface while she is awake.

Doing this strengthens her head, neck, and shoulder muscles. 

Encourage your infant to spend as much time as possible on her tummy starting from the first week of birth. This will accelerate the development of her core muscles.

Expect some resistance from your little one especially when you start because babies do not like being placed on their bellies.

However, if you are consistent with it, by the time she is 3 months old, she should be able to spend as much as 20 minutes at a time on her tummy. 

Note: Never attempt tummy time when your baby is asleep. Babies should not sleep on their bellies as it increases the risk of SIDS.

When your baby is a little older (closer to 18+ months), you can make them an obstacle course for their gross motor development. This is a great way (and a fun way!) for them to continue to strengthen their stomach and back muscles.

What you’ll need:

What we love for an obstacle course:

We use a balance beam, stepping stones, and a tunnel for obstacle courses. Things like hula hoops and bean bags also make great accessories for an obstacle course that encourage throwing skills.

2. Sensory Bags

Sensory bags follow the same concept as sensory bins: a collection of random items with different shapes, sizes, and textures that your baby can touch and interact with to learn about her senses.

However, sensory bags are more secure and you do not have to worry about any choking hazards. 

To make one, all you have to do is take a plastic bag and fill it with random small objects like beads, pom poms, paint, rice, cut-up straws, googly eyes, cereal, foam shapes, and so on.

Tape the bag shut and let your baby have the time of her life with it. 

Alternatively, you can simply buy an already-made sensory bag toy, such as a water mat that can also be used for tummy time. A water table is also a fun gift for older children.

What you’ll need:

3. Pushing/Pulling

Pushing and pulling are other important gross motor skills that babies need to practice.

It is also super simple to accomplish; all you have to do is get your little one a push/pull toy or attach a piece of string to a toy that she already owns. 

It is important to point out that at this age babies have no idea what to do with the string once it is in their hands. This means you have to model the pushing and pulling for them so they can copy you. 

What you’ll need:

4. Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are simple containers that contain visually stimulating and moving materials inside them.

They are a great way for babies and toddlers to enjoy non-messy sensory stimulation. Your little one will enjoy shaking them up and watching the objects in them float around before setting. 

You can make your own sensory bottles at home by filling a small bottle with water, clear glue, glitter, and other fun materials such as sand, confetti, beads, beans, sequins, and so on.

If you are not feeling crafty, you can also buy already-made ones. 

What you’ll need:

5. Kicking Activities

There are lots of kicking activities that you can try out with your little one to exercise her leg muscles.

One of the best ones is also super simple: tie a helium-inflated balloon around her leg and lay her on her bag so she’s looking up at the balloon floating above her.

Before too long, she will realize that kicking her leg causes the balloon to move. This teaches her about cause and effect, and as she tracks the movement of the balloon, it also improves her eye-tracking skills and concentration. Plus, it’s just so entertaining for her! This should always be done with parental supervision and your baby should never be left around a balloon unattended.

What you’ll need:

6. Water play

Water play is a great way to help your little one learn to enjoy spending time on her tummy. It is very simple to do: put a small amount of water in a shallow baking pan and place it in front of your little one. Let her splash to her heart’s content! 

Alternatively, you can fill up a small bowl with water and present this to your kiddo. She’ll love it! Just be sure not to take your eyes off your baby as she engages in water play because young babies can drown in as little as an inch of water. 

What you’ll need:

7. Free movement

This activity is as simple as it sounds: place your baby in a flat open area and allow her to move her body freely.

Babies love this and as they move their hands at legs, it helps them learn more about their bodies and be aware of their surroundings. It also allows them to figure out how to entertain themselves. Just make sure you supervise your little one throughout the duration of free play. 

What you’ll need:

8. Rolling a ball

This is yet another simple activity that is great for your baby’s motor skills. All you have to do is put her in front of you and show her how to roll the ball. Roll it towards her and encourage her to do the same back to you. 

This activity works better with older babies from around 6 months old who can sit up independently. You can also take things to the next level by using a sensory ball to make things more interesting for your little one. 

What you’ll need:

9. Grabbing Their Feet

Have you noticed your little one reaching for her feet when she lies on her back? This is an important milestone that’s called “finding the feet.”

It allows babies to get familiar with their bodies and movements and usually happens between 4-6 months of age.

That said, remember that every baby develops at her own pace, and yours might hit this milestone slightly earlier or later than this.  

You can encourage your little angel to grab her feet by tilting her hips upward, bringing her feet into view, or playing with a toy just above her tummy so she gets curious and tries to reach for it.

Alternatively, you can invest in a set of rattle socks that your kiddo will absolutely love! They’ll make her want to reach for her feet whenever she hears them. 

Introduce her feet to her as part of her everyday activities, like during diaper changes, and she’ll catch on quick.

What you’ll need:

10. Taste safe painting

Babies love colors. Once they are old enough to hold things and move them from hand to hand, they are ready to start exploring colors through painting.

You can help them do this by taking a medium-sized piece of paper and some taste-safe paints. Place these in front of your little one and watch her create a masterpiece! 

You can make taste-safe paint by mixing food coloring into yogurt. This is perfect for babies 6m+ as it’s totally okay for them to taste the paint.

The best part about this activity is that children in a wider age range can enjoy it. Art projects are great for both babies and toddlers because they help them move their hand muscles, developing their gross motor skills in the process. Just remember to supervise younger babies as they paint! 

What you’ll need:

11. Baby Yoga

There are baby yoga classes for infants from 3 months old onwards that you can attend with your little one.

Designed to offer a mix of movement and relaxation, a typical class will open up with a warm-up session with familiar songs and simple motions.

You will be fully involved in the class as you will need to help her perform postures and stretches.

These are what will help her build her strength and coordination and fast-track her physical development for other major milestones like sitting and crawling. 

Nice to have:

12. Reaching For Objects 

Your baby will start reaching for objects at around four months.

This is great for her hand-eye coordination, eye tracking, and the physical activity allows her to move the major muscles in her arms.

You will also notice that she switches her technique for reaching objects depending on her position. 

You can encourage this activity by placing her favorite toys within your baby’s reach. Encourage her to reach out for them with a song she likes, such as pat-a-cake.

As she uses her arm and back, it accelerates the development of her large muscles. Simple games are great activity to help them practice reacing.

What you’ll need:

Final Thoughts

Watching your baby gradually improve in her physical development and start doing increasingly complex things is one of the most exciting parts of being a parent.

A major reason for these actions is the development of her gross motor skills. They are responsible for all the major movements a baby makes. 

When you encourage your baby to engage in activities that help refine her gross motor control, she will be able to reach her milestones on time as she grows.

With the suggestions outlined above, you should be able to start doing this right from infancy to her toddler years. 

At the end of the day, though, the most important thing is to have fun with your baby and enjoy making special memories with her.

This part of her life is short and fleeting after all, and before you know it, she won’t be a baby anymore! So enjoy it while it lasts! 

A Note to Parents:

Remember, when it comes to child development, young children and little kids are all developing at their own pace. You are doing a great job as their parent to help them grown and learn.

Exposing your baby and toddler to different activities while making sure to repeat them often can really help them with their gross motor skill development.

Also remember that while they are picking up other skills, like language development and language skills, they might regress a little bit in other areas. This is normal! If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, absolutely reach out to your pediatrician. You can also get an evaluation with early intervention if you feel your child is behind on their developmental milestones.

There is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to your baby.

This blog post is not medical advice and is educational in nature.

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