Verb Race

Get in your sunshine, gross motor skills, and grammar reviewwith this fun game, which aims to mitigate the “summer slide”.

It started with a quick review for Travis: what kind of word is a verb? Once he remembered that a verb is an action word, we used chalk to draw a Start and Finish line on our driveway. Line your kids up at the start, select a verb, and then do that motion all the way to the finish. First up: Jump!

Note: It doesn’t have to be a true competition, especially if your kids have a wide age gap like mine. The fun is just to move and Veronika eagerly “jumped” after little brother as best she could, while he cheered her on from the finish.

From here, we had rounds with tip-toeing…

…running…

…and flying!

Encourage your kids to be as creative as possible with their verbs and as big as possible with their motions, and everyone’s a winner in this race!

Box Bowling

If heavy bowling balls at the alley or giant pins at home are too big for your toddler, try out this cute suggestion from High Five magazine. Upcycled tissue boxes are just the right size for tot-sized bowling fun.

To start, I saved up old tissue boxes until we had three. You’ll need at least three, but continue saving boxes until you have five, seven, or even more for extra fun!

I initially thought we might stick with a red-white-and-blue patriotic palate for our box bowling, first wrapping the boxes in blue paper and intending to add red dot stickers. Veronika had other plans, though! I loved the multi-colored crazy dot stickers that she ended up plastering all over the boxes.

We then set the boxes up in a pyramid, and I handed her a large ball. Take aim and bowl!

Veronika squealed with delight every time she knocked the boxes over.

And of course immediately wanted to stack them up again.

In sum, this is the perfect toddler-sized bowling game, no heavy balls required.

Gross Motor Color Game

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When it rains outside, I love to have props on hand so the kids can squeeze in their gross motor play indoors, no playground equipment required. One of the easiest items are plastic cones, and we have a set that comes in all the colors of the rainbow. That means not just gross motor skills, but color review for Veronika, too!

To start, I set up the cones in rainbow order, bringing an instant smile to her face and a pop of color to a gray morning. I encouraged her to run along the line of cones, but she had her own idea. She wanted to straddle over them! This was such fantastic gross motor work, and she repeated up and down the line several times.

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Then we spaced them further apart so she could jump or hop from cone to cone. Then we lined them up in a tight line for more straddle practice.

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I encouraged her to try other moves, too, like balancing with a foot atop one cone.

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If you have older kids, consider placing the cones all over your house. Then call out directions and a color (run to red, hop to orange, tiptoe to yellow, etc.) and see who gets there fastest.

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Meanwhile, Veronika was soon involved with the cones in an imaginative game of her own creation, which means they helped fill the whole rainy morning indoors.

Lines of Tape

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Sometimes, facilitating a full morning of play is as simple as laying down a few lines of tape on the floor. To wit, here are several different ways we played with tape on this lazy Sunday!

The first idea came from Hands on as We Grow, using a few strips of tape to build gross motor skills. Lay down six lines of tape so they are almost like the rungs of a ladder. First, the kids hopped forward on them.

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But a bigger challenge was next: Hop backwards!

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Big brother Travis then tackled the course on one foot; hopping like this is still too advanced for Veronika, but she loved watching.

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Next, I challenged them to see how far their legs could stretch. Travis proudly got across 5 lines! Veronika loved imitating his pose.

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Next up was reaching with the arms…

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…and then with whole bodies! Travis was a full 6 lines tall, and Veronika stretched across 5. She wanted to measure up her stuffed puppy, too!

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From here, we moved on to a different activity using colored lines of tape. This time I taped down three different colors of duct tape, each one taking a few twists and turns.

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The first challenge was to move the building blocks in the same color as the line from one end of it to the other.

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Veronika diligently followed the lines with dainty footsteps…

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… and then loved building up structures at the other end! When I gave her red blocks and asked her to follow the red line, she looked so confused for moment until I amended, “The pink line!” This girl knows her colors.

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We ended the day with a relay race!

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This final activity was great for balance; I handed each kid a spoon with a ping pong ball balanced in the center and they each picked a colored line to walk along.

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They loved racing to the finish, Travis on green and Veronika on blue. Travis was so proud to win, and loved cheering on his little sister, too!

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Outdoor Obstacle Course

A gorgeous spring day was the perfect chance to test all those gross motor skills in the backyard. For this game, we pulled out just about everything we could think of, including the following:

First up was a slide to climb up and go down.

Next, I stretched a jump rope between two cones for the kids to hop over.

Next, we arranged stepping stones (we have a great set made to look like turtle shells!) in a wavy line.

This area was by far the biggest hit of the whole set-up, and the kids often just played back and forth along the “turtles” for a while!

Next they had to land in hula hoops…

…before crawling through our play tunnel. At the end were a few pool noodles to jump over.

The kids loved completing the course, then racing back to start it again!

We ended the day’s “competition” with an Animal Run relay game! Place stuffed animals in a pile in one hula hoop (or similar target area).

Each kid picked a stuffed animal and placed it between their knees, then made their way to a second hula hoop to drop it down.

First one to clear all the animals in his or her pile wins!

Red, Red, Red

Do you ever have to coax your little ones into getting started on a nature walk? My kids love the woods once we’re in them, but sometimes getting going can feel like a slog. Here’s a fun game (based on an idea from the Toddler’s Busy Book) that gets those feet moving!

The concept is a bit like Simon Says, in that children get to move only if you give them the correct cue. If you say a word three times (“red, red, red”), players advance. If you trick them (“red, red, blue” or “mouse, mouse, cat”), everyone stays frozen. Ready, set… “Red, red, red!” I called out.

And they were off!

Instead of regular words, we also like to play this game with silly ones. “Kablooie kablooie… ice cream!” I said next. They stayed frozen and cracked up.

“Kablooie, kablooie, kablooie!” Three times was the charm, and they were off and running!

Shout out freeze and then repeat as many times as your kids want to play. By the time they tire of the game, we’re usually deep in the woods for exploration. Note: If you’re playing the game in a backyard instead, have kids race to a specific point (like a fence or tree) and then back again every time you say the three words correctly.

Toddler Ball

Spring weather and spring sports are calling us outside! It seemed like the perfect time to finally invest in a wiffle ball bat and tee set for Veronika. These sets are great because they work so many gross motor skills for kids. Batting, of course, was the first step. But then we mimicked a full game of baseball!

Whenever one of us whacked a ball off the tee, we ran to the nearest tree as a “base”. She might not have understood, but my excited modeling of the behavior and cheering of “Go go go!” had her running and grinning.

Pretend to try and tag each other “out” on the way back to home base.

Of course enext you can work on tossing skills (i.e. fielding the ball). She loved passing a ball back and forth.

For fun, I also had her kick the balls a few times, which is always good practice even if these balls were not meant for soccer. That meant we tackled three sports skills with one set: batting, throwing, and kicking.

It all looked like so much fun that big brother Travis ran out to play!

He even hit a few home runs out of the park!

Indoor Newspaper Throwing

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Before you recycle this week’s newspaper, stop right there and turn that newspaper into the perfect balls for your toddler! The light weight and soft texture means this activity is not only great for honing little ones’ throwing skills, but also that it won’t result in injuries or broken items around the house.

To start, I simply crumpled up a few pieces of newspaper for Veronika and set out the laundry bin as her goal. She trotted over and tossed them in, easy as pie!

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Clearly we needed to up the ante. I made a line of masking tape a few steps from the basket and she had to make her shots from here. She was so good about lining her feet up on the blue!

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And wouldn’t you know, this toddler can throw! Every ball went into the goal.

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Big brother Travis had another idea to make the game even harder; he climbed right in the basket as a goalie!

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Needless to say this soon had brother and sister alike in fits of giggles, tossing the balls back and forth, and much hilarity and fun ensued.

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If you want the newspaper to stay in tighter balls, you can secure around each wad with a little bit of masking tape. That said, we liked the balls best when we simply smooshed the paper pieces as tight as we could in our hands, since the tape made them a little more dangerous for tossing at each other.

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In sum, this is a a great way to get in throwing practice even when you can’t make it outside to the park.

Toddler Mini Olympics

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If it’s too cold to get outside but you need to get your toddler busy and moving, here’s a fun idea that combines gross motor skills with brain play: Set up a “toddler Olympics” with stations all around your home where your child can stop and tackle a challenge. Choose from just a few of the “events” below or do them all; either way, your toddler is sure to win a gold medal. Thanks must go to The Toddler’s Busy Book as inspiration for this game!

In random order, Veronika tackled the following:

Station 1: First she jumped over a jump rope. Picking it up was more fun though, and she’s practically ready to do a classic jump rope move.

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Station 2: Next she walked along a tape balance beam. She loved doing this at a run, too!

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Station 3: Now she had to crouch down to build a tower with blocks. Encourage your toddler to make his or her tallest creation yet!

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Station 4: I set up two cones as a goal post, and Veronika’s job was to get the ball through. Toddlers can roll or kick, and Veronika chose the latter!

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Station 5: Now we were moving into some fine motor skills. First, she clipped clothespins around an empty oatmeal canister.

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Station 6: Next, I set out cut pieces of straw for her to thread onto a lacing cord.

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Station 7: Time to scribble and draw!

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Station 8: Back to those gross motor skills: she used an empty paper towel tube as a “golf club” to putt around a ping pong ball. I didn’t have a goal for her to get this into, but an empty shoebox on its side would be perfect.

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Station 9: Shape sorter time! This was arguably her favorite station, taking the time to make sure she got every shape in its proper hole.

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Station 10: Sock match! Lay out a few pairs and see if your toddler can help each sock find its mate.

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Station 11: You can’t go wrong with classic toddler bowling. Veronika rolled a small ball toward empty paper towel tubes for a toddler strike. Empty water bottles work well, too.

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Station 12: An old favorite, threading canning rings onto a spoon. Tip: Hold the spoon steady in a blob of play dough.

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Station 13: Hula hoop time! Veronika’s first challenge was to jump into it, but then she rolled it along the floor, pretended she was driving a car with it as her wheel, and more.

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Station 14: Discus and Javelin throw. This was the closest event to the real Olympics. I drew a bullseye on a large piece of butcher paper (newspaper would work, too), and showed her how to toss a paper plate towards it like a discus.

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Use drinking straws instead as a javelin!

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Station 15: Her final stop was a chair maze! Make a big maze out of any chairs or cushions around the house, and encourage your toddler to make it through. The twist was that she had to crawl, no walking allowed!

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Overall, this was an ambitious course for Veronika that challenged her body and brain, and it turned into a full morning of delight. Needless to say, she could revisit the stations at her leisure and keep busy with the various toys and items for hours.

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Rope Games

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Over the summer, we used a long rope simply as a boredom buster, and games with it filled almost an entire morning. Today I tailored rope play specifically to my toddler while big brother was in school. Any jump rope will work for this activity, or even just a long piece of regular rope.

First, I wanted to see if it she could walk across it like a balance beam. Easy-peasy!

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But could she follow the rope if we made it zigzag? This was definitely more of a challenge, but Veronika worked hard to get one foot in front of the other along the twists.

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Next, I challenged her to cross the rope using her body in different ways. She could hop over it, step across it, or even crawl on it.

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From here, she found her own ways to play with the rope. She thought the handles looked like microphones and wanted to sing into them.

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Then she began dragging the rope around like a snake or a puppy leash. When it tangled at her feet, she gave a jump over it, almost a precursor to jumping rope!

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She also loved holding both ends and pretending she was a butterfly, fluttering the strands in each hand.

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I loved that she came up with her own gross motor ways to use a rope, including some I never imagined!