Activities that boost physical development

Find ideas for fun activities that take advantage of that intense preschooler energy and encourage motor skills at the same time. Read on for several ways to help boost your preschooler's physical development.
boy in blue hat holding a truck, sitting in sand
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Physical development

Young preschoolers are brimming with energy. That's a good thing in terms of physical development, because it's the repeated movement of large and small muscle groups that builds and refines how well these parts of the body work.

Large motor skills (or gross motor skills) develop first. That's why 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds tend to do more running, jumping, reaching, and wiggling than sitting still when using their hand muscles for, say, drawing or for manipulating small toys. But it's a good idea to spend time at both kinds of activities.

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Activities to boost physical development in preschooler's

Here are some ways to boost your young preschooler's physical development:

  • Take family walks. Alternate walking, running, jogging, and marching. Play "I Spy" or start a collection of feathers or leaves as a diversion while you walk. Indoors, lead a parade with musical instruments or flags.
  • Encourage sandbox time. Fill the box with sand toys that encourage manipulation.
  • Water play in the backyard. A paddle pool, sprinkler, or running hose all encourage splashing, running, and touching. (Always supervise your child around water.)
  • Make an obstacle course in your living room or backyard, consisting of cushions, cardboard boxes, toys, or other found objects that your child can run around and climb over.
  • Play pretend games. Animals are a young child's favorite: "Can you walk like a chicken? Gallop like a horse? What does a puppy do?" Or encourage your child to "fly" through the yard like an airplane or row a boat across the room.
  • Introduce different kinds of tag at playdates: Play freeze tag, for example.
  • Play ball. Games that involve kicking, throwing, and catching are great practice. Try not to get overly elaborate about rules in the preschool years.
  • Dance to the music. Expose your child to different styles of music. Playing musical instruments boosts physical development, too. Or share tunes with physical movements, like "I'm a Little Teapot." Many familiar songs emphasize fine-motor skills through finger play, such as "Patty Cake" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
  • Place a string on the ground and pretend it's a tightrope or a pirate ship's plank to develop balance.
  • Wash the car, bikes, dog – anything involving suds and water is energizing fun. Blow bubbles and let your child try to catch them.
  • Introduce games from your childhood. Everything's new to your child: "Ring around the rosy," "Red light, green light," "What time is it, Mr. Fox?"
  • Put on a puppet show. Make sock or finger puppets or use toys, crouching behind a table with your child.
  • Build fine motor skills in ways that go beyond the art table. Help your child draw a village with sidewalk chalk. Use sticks to trace letters in the dirt outside, or indoors in flour or cornmeal.
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