Check out these gross motor activities for 1 year olds! Using simple toys and household items, these activities are perfect for toddlers.
After having three kids (including twins), I can tell you that they do develop at their own pace.
One of them walked at 10 months, while another wasn’t even interested in crawling until after turning a year old. I worried (unnecessarily) when one couldn’t jump for the longest time. Meanwhile, another was dribbling a soccer ball across the living room early on.
Still, if you’re a first-time mom with no other kids to compare to, missed milestones can feel overwhelming. Or you do have other kids, and notice a stark difference with gross motor skills with one of them. Or maybe you want to nurture these skills in your child, even if she is hitting all her milestones.
Gross motor activities for 1 year olds
If you’re truly concerned, the resource I always point parents to is their pediatrician. While most issues work out on their own, sometimes early intervention is needed—and the earlier, the better.
In the meantime, rest assured that kids do develop differently, and the window of “normal” can be quite wide. Sometimes a delay in gross motor skills can be due to temperament—after all, some kids like to sit, observe, or do crafts.
That said, having a list of gross motor activities for 1 year olds can be a fun way to encourage your toddler’s skills. Below are several activities you can do with her, often with items you already have at home. Nearly all of these can be done indoors, and a few also offer sensory experiences.
These activities also cater to different stages. Some 1 year olds might already be walking, while others still need help making that first crawl. Do the activities that best apply to your child’s stage.
So, take a look at some of our favorite activities to get your little one moving:
1. Push a wheeled toy
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Right about the time my son started taking his first steps, I bought him a wheeled toy. This allowed him to continue taking those precarious steps and keep moving forward. He was also able to lean on the toy for balance, making him less likely to fall.
That said, kids might still fall, so I suggest pushing the toy either on carpet or outdoors on the grass. That way, she’s always cushioned if she happens to fall.
Pushing a wheeled toy will encourage her to move on her own. In fact, lessen the time she’s in a car seat, swing, stroller, or exersaucer. The more she’s able to move freely, the faster she’ll develop her gross motor skills.
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2. Pull a wheeled toy
Similarly, pulling a wheeled toy can also encourage your child to keep moving. Whether she’s crawling or walking, tugging a toy behind her can motivate her to keep taking those steps.
A friend of mine gifted my kids this alligator pulled toy, which would also make clacking sounds as they tugged it behind them.
3. Use “ride on” toys
Want to encourage your toddler to use her legs? Put her on a “ride on” toy that allows her to scoot herself around:
Make sure that her feet can still touch the ground and that she’s the one moving herself. (Instead of relying on you to push her.) Think of it as an early introduction to tykes, scooters, and bicycles.
4. Play with a ball
Encourage gross motor skills by playing with a large rubber ball! You won’t run out of ideas to play with a ball, especially with toddlers. For instance, you can:
- Roll the ball back and forth to each other. Sit a few feet apart and have your child practice rolling it your way and catching it when it comes to her.
- Kick the ball. Show her how to use her feet to kick the ball away.
- Throw the ball. Encourage her to throw the ball.
- Catch the ball. Once she has a grasp of throwing and kicking, see if she can also catch the ball. Larger and lighter balls work best.
- Shoot a basketball into a hoop. Get her moving by encouraging her to toss a ball into a basketball hoop. Don’t have one handy? Practice tossing a ball into an empty hamper.
5. Play with a balloon
One of my twins loved batting at balloons. I would weigh it down to the floor so that it stood at about his height. Then, he would bat at the balloon, which of course, would spring right back up.
Another way to play with a balloon is to wait for one to lose its helium (or you can blow air into a balloon). That way, the balloon doesn’t float to the ceiling. Then, show your child how to toss it in the air. The best part is that the balloon will take longer to float back down, giving her plenty of time to catch it.
6. Play with a cardboard box
Save empty cardboard boxes—large ones that your child can sit in—for her to play with. Encourage her to climb in and out of the box and play with the flaps. You can even turn it into a tunnel to crawl through, transform it into a “house,” or use it as a basket for her to throw items into.
Later, you might flatten the box and encourage her to crawl or dance on it. I still remember when my twins first discovered the pleasure of “tap dancing” barefoot on a flattened cardboard box. They loved the sensory experience and kept moving and taking steps. (Playing music to dance to will also help!)
Another option besides cardboard boxes are laundry hampers. She can climb in and out of it and use it as a basket, just as she would a cardboard box.
7. Place toys out of reach
One of the simplest gross motor activities is to place a toy out of your child’s reach.
If you want to encourage her to crawl, place a favorite toy a few inches away and allow her to struggle a bit to reach it. Do the same if she’s cruising or learning to walk.
Want to encourage her to pull herself up? One trick is to hang curious items on the fridge with magnets. Place them above crawl-level so that she can try to pull herself up and reach the item.
Give her a few moments before “saving the day.” Slight discomfort, even annoyance, is okay for her to experience.
8. Crawl on different surfaces
Does your 1 year old refuse to crawl? See if she’ll be motivated to crawl when you place her on different surfaces she’s not used to. Sometimes, the novelty of the surface is enough to get her curious. Other times, she won’t like being on that surface and will be motivated to get moving.
A few surfaces to try include:
- Bubble wrap
You can also make crawling fun by getting a mesh tunnel like this one to crawl through. Or do more outdoor activities at a park or playground—you’ll find plenty of opportunities to encourage movement.
And lastly, it might also help if you model how to crawl as well. As silly as it might seem, she might take to crawling if she sees you doing the same.
Help your 1 year old develop her gross motor skills, all while having fun, too. Encourage her with wheeled toys, whether the ones she pushes, pulls, or rides on. Play with a ball in a variety of ways, from rolling to throwing. Toss a balloon in the air, or have her punch one weighed to the ground.
Use cardboard boxes to encourage her to climb in and out of them, or even to dance on a flattened one. Place toys a little out of reach to motivate her to reach for them. And finally, place her on different surfaces to crawl on—the novelty (or the discomfort) could push her to move.
Kids do develop at different paces—from the baby who isn’t interested in crawling to the one already dribbling a soccer ball across the room.
Get more tips:
- Montessori Activities for 1-2 Year Olds
- Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds: 18 Ideas to Engage the Senses
- 31 Activities for 1 Year Olds
- Fun Places to Take a 1 Year Old
- Rainy Day Activities for 1 Year Olds
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