Are you lacking inspiration for indoor gross motor activities for toddlers? Or ways to burn off that excess energy when you are stuck indoors?
Outdoor gross motor activities come easily to us, running, going for a walk, riding a bike, or kicking a ball, but it can be harder to come up with ideas for indoor play. With another rainy day looming, the thought of keeping your toddler active and entertained all day can be daunting.
There are always times when we need to be inside. So with little ones aged 1,2 and 3, it is always handy to have a few indoor gross motor activities for toddlers up your sleeve. These activities are designed to keep your kids active, help develop their gross motor skills and of course, most importantly, are good fun.
What are gross motor skills?
Gross motor skills essentially are skills that require entire body movement and involve using the large muscles in the body. The early key developmental milestones that we see, such as your baby lifting their head, sitting unaided, and pulling themself up are all early examples of your child’s gross motor development.
Gross motor control also has an effect on the ability to accomplish fine motor skills, which is anything using the small muscles in the body, such as writing, picking up and putting down objects, and even cleaning teeth.
Some examples of gross motor skills
Gross motor skills are things like crawling, walking, running, jumping, hopping, and even sitting and standing still. ‘Tummy time’, vital for developing muscles for sitting and crawling, is one of the earliest examples of ways to develop gross motor skills.
Hand-eye coordination is another gross motor skill developed through ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking etc), as well as riding a scooter or a bike.
Why are gross motor skills important for toddlers and preschoolers?
Developing key building blocks such as muscle strength, balance and coordination are absolutely necessary to enhance the body’s planning and sequencing. What this essentially means is the planning and ordering of new muscle actions, from generating an idea, figuring out how to do it, and then execution (source).
Planning and sequencing is therefore hugely important in your child’s development and is vital to enable them to perform many everyday functions such as getting themselves dressed, eating, climbing in and out of a chair, and using the potty or toilet.
50+ indoor gross motor activities for toddlers and preschoolers
Here you will find over 50 fun indoor gross motor activities for toddlers and preschoolers at home, split into activities for 1, 2, and 3-year-olds to help you find age-appropriate activities. I’m sure you will find however that many will appeal to all age groups, they may just need to be adapted accordingly. I have tried a lot of these activities with my 1-year-old and 3-year-old and although the youngest hasn’t yet mastered a lot of it, he gives it a good go.
The idea of these indoor gross motor activities for toddlers is that they are quick to set up, they do not require any supplies that you are not likely to have around the house, and there should be minimal mess.
With most toddlers and preschoolers, you are unlikely to get more than 20 minutes of focus at a time so be realistic. To keep them engaged try a variety of indoor gross motor games, and let your child lead the way. If they come up with a variation, and it is safe and engaging, then go with it.
Indoor Gross Motor Activities for 1-Year-Olds
#1 Jumping over lines
There’s no end to the number of gross motor activities you can create with a roll of masking/painter’s tape. This one is really simple but as they get older you can add to it and adapt it for a greater challenge.
Simply tape some lines to the floor, a bit like a ladder, and encourage your child to jump over them from one to the next. My one-year-old has not quite got to grips yet with jumping but he gives it a good go. For my 3-year old, I added some shapes to the end so he had to jump over the lines and then into whichever shape box I said.
Children love the parachute when it comes out at toddler groups and there is no reason you can’t recreate it at home. A bed sheet or blanket makes the perfect alternative. Put some of your child’s stuffed animals on top, take one side and give the other side to your child, and see how high you can make them jump. If you have a few people around to keep hold of the parachute, the children can take turns to go under it too.
#3 Bubble Catching
What 1 year old doesn’t love bubbles? If you have one, those automatic bubble machines are brilliant for this, otherwise, the old-fashioned way is fine and will have your child jumping around the room in delight. Encouraging them to try and catch the bubbles and pop them will get their whole body moving.
#4 Making a road
Grab your masking/painter’s tape again and make a road system on the floor for your child’s toy cars. Make it big and think outside the box, perhaps your road could scale furniture or other obstacles. The larger scale the road is, the more your child is having to crawl around and engage their core body muscles.
Getting your child involved in building the road will also help develop their fine motor skills. Your toddler will also love peeling the tape off when it’s time to tidy up and encourage this too; it’s a good pre-writing exercise as it’ll help develop their pincer grip.
#5 Green, Orange, Red Light
This is such a simple gross motor activity that always goes down well with toddlers. Get your child driving around in a pretend car. When you say green light, they must move around really quickly, orange light, they go slowly and red light they have to stop and standstill. Getting involved yourself will help encourage them and they will soon get the hang of it.
#6 Keeping a balloon in the air
I always ensure I have a packet of balloons stashed away at home, they’re a fail-safe way to keep my 1 and 3 year old entertained and I can’t see this changing any time soon. Have you seen how kids gravitate towards them at birthday parties? They can’t get enough of them, so why only save them for special occasions?
For younger toddlers, an easy game to play with them is keeping the balloon in the air. It’s as simple as it sounds.
Encourage them to hit the balloon up into the air, and see how many times they can do it without it touching the ground. The likelihood is they’ll be shrieking with laughter as they chase it around the room. A great indoor gross motor activity to build up strength in your toddler’s arm muscles and work on hand-eye coordination.
#7 Catch with a balloon
Playing a game of catch is a fun way to develop hand-eye coordination. Stand about a meter away from your toddler and throw the balloon for them to catch. As they get better at it, step further away to keep them challenged.
#8 Balloon Blow
Another good balloon activity. Place a balloon on the floor with your toddler crouching down behind. See if they can blow the balloon across the room, or along a set course. There will be plenty of crawling and sideways movements with this one, working their upper body and core strength.
#9 Songs with actions
There are so many classic children’s songs that kids love to hear and are great for getting them moving. ‘Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes’ is an obvious one, and ‘Sleeping Bunnies’ is a firm favorite in our house. And there are plenty of others such as ‘Ring a Ring a Roses’, ‘The Hokey Cokey’ and ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’.
#10 Have a Dance Party
A classic way to get a child moving and burning off that excess energy is to put on some tunes and have a good old dance. Great fun for everyone. I love watching my 1 year old trying to dance!
#11 Row, Row, Row your boat
‘Row Row’ as my 1-year old likes to call it, is a fun way to engage those core muscles. Sit your toddler opposite you with your legs out in front of you and hold both of their hands. Row back and forth as you sing ‘Row, row, row your boat’ keeping it going with all the different verses, you could even make up your own!
#12 Hide and Seek with toys
Collect up some of your child’s favorite toys or stuffed animals and hide them around the room for them to find. For younger toddlers, make them quite obvious and easy to spot. As they get older you can make it more difficult.
EASY VARIATION: This is a great one to do in the winter months when it’s dark and everyone is getting impatient waiting for dinner to finish cooking. Hide your toddler’s toys in a room or two and then switch the lights off in those rooms. They must go and find their teddies with a torch; those rumbly tummies will be forgotten in no time. This fun gross motor game has become quite a regular one in our house.
#13 Beanbag balance
A bean bag is a really useful item to have around. Kids love playing with them and they are soft so great for indoor play. They are inexpensive to buy or can easily be made with some cotton fabric and rice. Alternatively, any small soft item can be used as a substitute.
Challenge your child to balance a bean bag on their head. Once they’ve mastered it standing still, get them to try and move around with it on their head and try other body parts too. You may not have a huge amount of success but they will enjoy it and bending down to pick it up and put it back on is good exercise too!
#14 Playing with a cardboard box
Large cardboard boxes are great to save and can provide endless entertainment opportunities for toddlers. Encourage them to climb in and out of it, make it into a house and you can also turn it into a tunnel for them to crawl through.
Decorating with sharpies extends this indoor gross motor activity into a fine motor one too – if it’s a house, they can draw on windows or flowers growing up the side. They’ll probably just scribble – whatever keeps them entertained.
Indoor Gross Motor Activities for 2-Year-Olds
These gross motor activities and games are slightly trickier than the ones for 1-year-olds, but not much. Older 1-year-olds may be able to give many of these a go. Likewise, older toddlers and preschoolers will be happily entertained.
#15 Walking on a Balance Beam
Using that handy roll of masking/painter’s tape, create a tape balance beam on the floor for your child to walk along. This is great for core strength and practicing balance. Once they have mastered walking along it at a regular pace, up the ante and get them to pause whilst balancing.
#16 Bean Bag Catch
Playing a game of catch with a bean bag is a level up from playing with a balloon. Children can play together, with you or on their own by tossing it in the air and catching it. As they get better at catching, make it more challenging by stepping further away from each other.
#17 Bean Bag Toss
This is a great target practice activity to work on aim and hand-eye coordination. Set out a laundry basket or a hula hoop for your child to toss the bean bag into. Start close to the target and every time they get one in, move them further away. You could vary the challenge by standing the laundry basket or hoop on its side to throw through a vertical target, and to extend it further, add multiple targets and assign points to each one.
#18 The Balloon Waddle
Place a balloon between your child’s knees and get them to waddle across the room without dropping it. If you have more than one child, you can turn it into a race, and add obstacles to make it more challenging. Or get them working together by placing a balloon between the children’s hips and challenging them to cross the room together without dropping it.
TOP TIP: For younger or smaller toddlers keep the balloon on the small side with less air. It makes it much easier to fit between their knees.
#19 Color Scavenger Hunt
Hide items of different colors around the room, for example, 5 red objects, 5 yellow, 5 blue, etc, and place a piece of paper of each color on the table. The aim is to find all the objects and place them on the correct color paper. As well as getting kids moving, this indoor gross motor game is great for color recognition and gets them counting too. This works well with any kind of colored building blocks if you have them.
#20 Shape Tag Challenge
Challenge your toddler to find items around the house of different shapes. For example, ask them to find something square and let them run off and tag it.
#21 Relay Races
A good old relay race is a fun activity whatever the age and makes a great gross motor activity to do with your toddler at home. Mark out your race track with a container at one end and something to collect, soft toys work well, at the other end. Your toddler starts at the container end, runs to the soft toys, collects one, and brings it back to the container, repeating until they are all gone. If you have more than one child they can race each other, or with one child, time them and then challenge them to beat their time.
#22 Obstacle Course
The obstacle course is the classic tried and tested, never gets old indoor gross motor activity for toddlers and preschoolers. Suitable for all ages, it can be adapted for all toddlers and children, and you can keep it fun and exciting by making it different every time. Ideally, a large space is best but of course, we can only use what we’ve got, so adapt it to your space. The key is to include a variety of movements, such as crawling, hopping, and balancing. Get the kids involved in making the course, it is half the fun.
Here are a few ideas of things to include:
- A balance beam using tape
- Sofa cushions or pillows to hop between
- Make a tunnel using two chairs and a blanket, or a big empty cardboard box
- Any item like a bottle to run around
- Hula hoops to jump into or through
- Hurdles using tape or boxes
- Bean bags or stuffed animals for balancing
#23 Move like an animal
Challenge your child to move like different animals. Some good ones to get your started are kangaroo, snake, frog, crab and bird. This gets young ones thinking and moving their entire body and is great fun. To give them a laugh, ask them to challenge you too.
#24 Musical Statues
Put on some music and have a good dance. Turn off the music at random intervals and your child must stand as still as possible whilst the music is off. They can start dancing again when the music comes back on.
#25 Indoor Snowball Fight
Encourage your child to use their imagination with this one! Balled-up socks or scrunched-up bits of newspaper make perfect snowballs. Pull out furniture so that they have some things to hide behind or make a fort to take cover in. This gross motor activity is not only fun for toddlers and preschoolers but is a great energy buster; they’ll burn loads of energy running around and ducking in and out.
#26 Ball Wall
This one takes a little bit of setting up but it is one hundred percent worth the effort. Stick some plastic balls, or ping pong balls, to the wall using painters/masking tape, about your child’s head height and put a laundry basket, or similar container on the other side of the room. The game is to run to the ball wall, grab a ball, and put it in the basket, continuing until they are all in the basket. If playing with more than one child, give them their own ball wall and make it into a race, or with one child, time them and then challenge them to beat their time.
#27 Mirror Mirror
Stand your child opposite you and have them mirror your movements, then swap and you copy them. The bigger the movements the better. Expect lots of giggles!
#28 Hop, Skip, Jump
Stick some paper plates or pieces of scrap paper on the floor and get your child hopping, skipping, and jumping from one to the next. You could make it more challenging by moving them further apart or by introducing different colored plates and making each color a different action.
Indoor Gross Motor Activities for 3-Year-Olds
Finally, here are some indoor gross motor activities specifically aimed at older toddlers and preschoolers.
#31 Long Jump Challenge
This is an extension of the jumping over the lines activity for 1-year-olds and can be done using the same masking/painter’s tape lines on the floor. Simply tape some lines on the floor and starting on the first line, see how many lines your toddler can jump over. They’ll want to do it over and over to try and beat their last jump.
Kids love hopscotch. It is a great outdoor gross motor activity so why not bring it indoors? Using your very handy masking/painter’s tape, make a simple hopscotch board on the floor and leave your child to enjoy. Younger toddlers may struggle with the concept of hopscotch but encouraging them to jump from square to square is perfect for gross motor development, and counting along with them, will help with number recognition.
#31 Balancing a balloon on body parts
This indoor gross motor activity my 3-year-old finds hilarious. Get your child to balance a balloon on different body parts and see how long they can keep it there before it falls to the ground. The back of the hand, head, crook of the elbow, and legs are all good ones to try. Great for their balance and you’ll be amazed how much movement is required.
#32 ‘Egg’ and Spoon Race
Using a bean bag or some balled-up socks as your egg, place it on a spoon and challenge your toddler to race along a set course without dropping it. If they drop it, send them back to the start to try again. You can experiment here with different spoon and egg sizes to make it easier or more difficult. A fun simple indoor gross motor game for toddlers and preschoolers alike.
#33 Balloon Taps
Hang a balloon from a doorway just out of reach, a few inches higher than arm reach is perfect. Challenge your toddler to tap it with their hands and see how many times they can do it in a row without missing it. Once the arms get tired, see how they get on with their head – a quick and easy way to exhaust young children!
#34 Paper Plate Skating
Can’t get to the ice rink? No problem, grab a couple of paper plates and let your kids slide around like they’re on ice. Best done in bare feet making it less likely that they’ll slide off the plates, or you could tape the plates to their feet. It works well on hard floors and on carpet and always guarantees a good time.
#35 Paper Plate Ring Toss
We love this simple indoor motor activity for preschoolers. It requires a small amount of prep but it is worth it and is great for testing your child’s hand-eye coordination as well as promoting physical development.
Cut the center of your paper plates to make rings. Next line up some paper cups, plastic bottles, or similar and get tossing. My 3-year-old still finds this quite difficult, and it is more of a ring drop than a ring toss right now. Once they get the hang of it, make it harder by standing further away.
#36 Hide and Seek
Hide a Seek is a regular go-to in our house on a rainy day, or when there’s a bit of excess energy needing to be burnt. Great for all ages although younger children may need a bit of help, they’ll soon get the hang of it and love hiding behind curtains or under beds. Don’t expect them to keep quiet though so a bit of imaginative play may be required by Mum and Dad!
#37 Den Building
Den building is a great physical activity that can be done indoors just as well as outdoors and is a perfect screen-free indoor activity for a rainy day. Think sofa cushions, chairs, blankets, and sheets. Let your child do as much of the building as they can and help where needed. Once the den is built encourage your child to use their imagination, perhaps the den could be a fort or a pirate ship? Alternatively make it cozy inside using pillows and cushions, some books, and a torch, and you might be lucky enough to get a bit of quiet time.
There are two ways of doing this. You can either set up your skittles as a tower or as a triangle on the floor. Use paper cups, plastic bottles, yogurt pots, toilet rolls, whatever you can find around the house. Mark out a line to stand behind, this may need to be closer for younger children. The aim is to knock as many skittles over as possible by rolling a ball at the skittles along the floor. This is a good one to get the whole family involved in and can be great fun.
#39 Straw Javelin Throw
This simple activity is great fun and gets those arms moving. Mark out some lines on the floor using masking/painter’s tape as an easy guide to measure how far the javelin has gone. Encourage your child to keep going and try to beat their last distance.
#40 Bean Bag Race
With a bean bag or similar item on your child’s head, challenge them to race across the room as quickly as possible, without dropping it. If they do drop it, back to the beginning they go. With more than one child, this could be a race, alternatively, time them and see if they can get quicker.
#41 Ball Toss
Set up a group of plastic containers or cardboard boxes, a bigger target is better for young toddlers, for your child to throw a soft ball into. They’ll soon get tired running back and forth retrieving balls.
#42 Tape Spider Web
Using your masking/painter’s tape again, or string would also work, make a spider’s web, with some bits to crawl under and some to climb over. This works well in a hallway or doorway and the aim is to get through without touching the web. You could also stick pompoms onto the web to collect along the way. It’s a fun gross motor activity that is surprisingly tiring for little ones.
#43 Scavenger Hunt
Make a fun list of things your child needs to find from around the house. Things like a ‘blue sock’, a ‘bath toy’ or ‘your favorite car’ work well. Make them bring each one back to you before they set off for the next item.
#44 Visual Scavenger Hunt
Take some photos of different places around your house and place something to collect at each spot. A pompom or small toy works well. Show your child one photo at a time, ask them where it is, and tell them to run and find it and bring back whatever you have left there. This can be adapted depending on age, making the photos more cryptic for old children. For younger children, keep it all on one floor of the house, that’s learned from experience! An added bonus, you may even have time to sit down and have a cup of tea whilst this is being played. Fingers crossed!
#45 The floor is lava
Great fun and uses the imagination too. The premise is that the floor is made of lava so cannot be touched. They must get around the room using furniture, cushions on the floor, bits of paper, paper plates, or anything else they can get their hands on.
#46 Simon Says with actions
This is another classic gross motor activity and game that your toddler is sure to love. Playing ‘Simon Says’ using actions not only encourages large muscle movement but also makes your child think and be creative. Simon says, ‘do a star jump’, Simon says ‘do 3 hops’, Simon says ‘turn around in a circle’, and so on.
#47 Do a workout together
Craving some exercise but stuck inside with the children? Why not kill two birds with one stone and create a fun workout that you and your child can do together? Getting them doing star jumps, burpees, running on the spot, etc will have them exhausted in no time and is great for strengthening their muscles. Keeping it fun will keep them engaged for longer so add exercises such as bear crawls and crab or bridge crawls, which if nothing else will get them laughing!
#48 Paper Airplanes
Making a paper airplane is a fun way to develop a child’s fine motor skills as well as their gross motor skills. Once the plane is made, the physical element comes in as they see how far they can throw it and run to collect it for another go. Note how far their plane has gone so that they can try and beat it next time.
#49 Make your body into letter shapes
This one is hilarious, gets their whole body moving and has them wriggling around on the floor trying to get into shape. Challenge your child to work their way through the alphabet making the shape of every letter with their body. This is a great way to add a bit of fun to learning too.
Similar to the workout idea, get your child involved in some yoga practice. Simple poses they will be able to have a good go at, such as chair pose, downward-facing dog, and forward fold.
#51 Cleaning up the room
Good exercise and a winner for Mum and Dad too! Simply tidying the room, picking toys up off the floor, and putting them away or giving them a cloth to wipe the table with is great for gross motor development. Mine also love sweeping the floor and doing the vacuuming, it’s not particularly effective but it keeps them entertained!
Which indoor gross motor activity will you try with your toddler first?
We love active play and knowing how important it is for our children’s development makes it all the more worthwhile. I hope this post has shown the variety of indoor gross motor activities for toddlers and preschoolers that can be done at home without too much preparation or spending on expensive props. There should be something enjoyable for everyone here, some toddlers are massively into balls and others into jumping, for example, so all bases are covered.
Remember that having fun is the main goal and will keep your toddler engaged for longer. So let them lead, explore and create their own way whilst developing those all-important gross motor skills.
Need more inspiration to keep your toddler or preschooler busy? Check out the following posts:
- 39 simple & sanity-saving activities for toddlers to do at home (minimal prep, minimal mess)
- 49 Simple & fun outdoor activities for preschoolers
- 10+ Fun & simple dry messy play ideas for 1 and 2-year-olds
- Marble rolling: easy art activity for toddlers & preschoolers
- DIY twist-top boards: fine motor & fun learning for little ones
- 21 Easy Finger Painting Ideas For Babies 1-2 Years Old
- 39 Fun & easy arts projects & crafts for 1 & 2 year olds
- 50 Best activities for 18 month old toddlers at home
For Fall & Halloween:
- 50 CUTE and SUPER SIMPLE Fall crafts for toddlers
- 37 Not-so-spooky Halloween crafts & activities for your toddler
- STUPIDLY EASY pipe cleaner spider craft for toddlers (no prep & no mess!)
- Puffy paint spider web craft – fine motor control for kids
- Leaf monster craft for toddlers: super-friendly, sorry scary (!), and perfect for Fall
- Super simple cutting activity for toddlers: 3D apple or pumpkin craft
- 25 Fall activities for toddlers & simple, low prep & educational (and for you, sanity-saving!)
- 35 Mortifyingly fun mummy Crafts for Halloween
- 29 Scarily Easy Skeleton Crafts for Kids
- 55 cute Christmas crafts for toddlers & preschoolers (stress-free, minimal mess)
- Stupidly easy paint chip Christmas tree card (easy enough for little toddlers)
- Homemade snowman Christmas card to make with your toddlers (cute, simple, fun!)
- Silver pasta Christmas tree ornaments – a cute and simple toddler craft and keepsake
- Salt dough Christmas tree ornaments to make with toddlers – simple and stunning!
- 29+ adorable Christmas ornaments to make with your toddlers
- 43 easy-peasy Christmas activities for toddlers & preschoolers
- 50 Christmas crafts for preschoolers & fun, cute and mostly VERY simple
Other seasonal activity posts:
- 41 Easy Father Day crafts for toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)
- 45 Cute & Easy Mothers Day Crafts for toddlers & preschoolers to make
- 75 easy fun Easter crafts and activities for 3 years olds (toddlers, preschoolers+ all little kids!)