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!

Toddler Trampoline

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It can feel like a chore to lift down Veronika’s heavy crib mattress on sheet day, but here’s a way to make lemonade out of lemons if you find yourself feeling the same. While that mattress is on the floor, it becomes the perfect toddler trampoline!

Veronika is learning how to jump (right now she goes up to her toes but hasn’t gotten any lift yet), and is so proud of her efforts. So I when I set down the mattress today, I encouraged her to step up on it and jump! Of course there’s the thrill of jumping on the bed, since normally that’s taboo. She was quite impish as she started prancing around.

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Pretty soon, stuffed animals wanted to jump, too!

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Of course she needed a pause for a puppy hug.

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She loved “jumping” and then flopping down with a flourish.

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If you’re at all worried about your toddler falling off the sides of the mattress, just surround it with a few pillows. When the sheets are clean, the mattress goes back in the crib and the fun ends until next time!

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Balls, Balls, Balls

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Veronika attends a toddler gym class once a week, and her favorite part is always when they bring out a big bin of balls and a hoop and she practices her “slam dunks”. The only problem is that she’s sad every day that isn’t “slam dunk” day! So today, we brought the ball fun home.

I wanted to try working on several different ball skills with her, so first we sat with our legs together to form a little enclosure and rolled a bouncy ball back and forth.

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Then we upped the ante. Turn a laundry basket on its side and roll the ball into this “goal”. She initially wanted to bounce the ball in, but soon switched her focus to rolling.

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Next, we turned the basket upright. Now she could toss or bounce it in!

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Time for slam dunks! Place the basket on top of any slightly higher surface, like a coffee table or stool, and let your toddler reach up high.

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Slam dunk!

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For a final challenge, we angled a couch cushion down like a ramp (you could also use cardboard or a wooden plank for this step). First we rolled the ball down into a waiting basket.

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And then she rolled it up to the tip top of the ramp so we could roll it back down again. This took great concentration, as well as dexterity, on her part.

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In sum, there are so many ways to play with a simple ball at home. What’s your toddler’s favorite ball game? Please share in the comments!

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Move & Learn Shapes with a Ball + Tape

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I’ve combined shape learning with gross motor skills before, but this was a great twist on the activity. Veronika has added a few new shapes to her repertoire, and she’s also been interested in learning all the various ways that she can move a ball lately (kicking, bouncing, rolling). This activity combined both beautifully!

On the floor, I first made giant shapes with masking tape, adding one of each she knows so far (minus the circle, which is tricky to make out of tape!). We ended up with: square, rectangle, triangle, star, pentagon, and hexagon.

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I handed her a bouncy ball and let the game begin! From here, simply give your toddler instructions for both how to move the ball and which shape to move it to.

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“Bounce the ball to the triangle!” I told her. Or, “Kick the ball to the star.”

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Sometimes I let her pick a shape, and simply let her get the ball there anyway she wanted. But she had to tell me the shape each time!

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This was great for shape review, and I loved that it got her thinking more about kicking and tossing the ball, since her fall-back has usually been bouncing.

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Jump and Match Snowflakes

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Here’s the perfect way to get some indoor exercise on a cold morning, plus sneak in a learning game, too!

I tailored the game so it would be a challenge for both my 6-year-old and my 2 year-old. First, I printed a snowflake template on cardstock showing 6 pairs of snowflakes, each with a match. Attach these to a door frame in your home so they are just high enough for kids to jump and touch the pairs.

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Because I knew matching up snowflake pairs with subtle differences would be beyond Veronika’s ability, I also color-coded the game; each pair of snowflakes dangled from the same color string.

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Travis proved to be an expert at spotting twin snowflakes (quicker than I would have guessed!) and loved jumping up to grab them.

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Veronika was able to jump by color when I asked her to find both yellow strings, for example.

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She’s just learning to get her feet off the ground in a jump, so this was great practice!

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We also later played a quick game down on the floor where I showed her mismatched snowflakes followed by an identical pair, so she could be exposed to this more subtle version of a match.

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Beyond the matching and jumping, simply having all those snowflakes dangling turned out to be lots of fun. Veronika thought it was a hoot to run under the strings so the snowflakes just brushed her head.

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She also loved jumping her dolls up toward the dangling strings! This was a great way to burn some energy on a cold morning.

Paper Plate Skating

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All the ice in town melted after an unusually warm day. So today we decided to pretend ice skate indoors, instead!

This gross motor activity couldn’t be easier or more fun. To start, Veronika and I decorated paper plates with crayons. You don’t actually even have to do this part, but it was fun to add an arts & crafts component to the game. Veronika scribbled in her favorite colors while I drew something that sort of resembled ice skates on a few other plates.

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Time to lace up! By which I mean, simple help your child place one foot on each plate and start to glide.

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Veronika got the hang of it immediately; I was impressed with how sturdy she was, and how quickly she mastered the motion.

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She loved holding hands for a few loops around the house but soon was brave enough to strike out on her own.

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The only frustration was that her feet popping off the plates. I asked her if she wanted to wear socks and have me fasten her in with a strap of tape, but she preferred bare feet. So we just dealt with this minor inconvenience.

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Here she is carefully putting her “skates” back on after coming off the plates. She was one determined skater!

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Pretend Islands

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Here’s a great spin on using cushions to practice gross motor skills in the house. Simply up the ante by telling your kids the floor is hot lava!

Okay, so a two-year-old might not entirely understand the concept, but certainly your child will pick up on your enthusiasm. The more excited you act, the more quickly he or she will play along!

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I tossed our couch pillows on the floor and said, “Quick Veronika, the floor is lava! Jump onto a pillow,” and encouraged her to hop from one pillow to the next. She eagerly dove into the game.

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To switch it up after a few rounds, we made Pillow Island instead (a giant batch of pillows in the center of the rug), as a safe zone from the lava.

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This was so fun for her to clamber around on, and we connected it to the nearby volcano (couch) with a bridge (little pillows).

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Big brother Travis loved the imaginative element of the game, and he helped play up the lava scenario. He was also so proud he could run across the pillow bridge without falling.

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What a great way to squeeze in some exercise right after breakfast!

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Toddler Gymnastics

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One of the things I lament most about restrictions during coronavirus is that Veronika can no longer attend toddler gym classes in person. But that doesn’t stop us from practicing toddler-style gymnastics at home!

We don’t have giant mats for rolling and climbing, but there are plenty of ways to do gross motor movements without all that. So today we staged a mini gym class right in the living room – starting with just running circles around the room!

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Next, I encouraged Veronika to gallop (moving sideways with legs open and then shut). She loved to say the word “gallop” as she did so.

Next up were somersaults! Veronika loves to do these other over a big soft chair…

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…or right on the floor!

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You can also put down a line of masking tape for an instant balance beam. Veronika loved to take careful steps across this.

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The one investment I did make for our home gym was a plastic toddler slide. Within five minutes, Veronika had mastered the art of climbing the steps…

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…getting both feet facing forward at the top…

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…and zipping down.

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Then she would run around to do it again! What toddler gymnastics moves do you work on at home? Please share in the comments!

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The Floor is Lava!

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Veronika is learning how to hop, and this silly game is the perfect way to add a little imagination into the mix.

I taped down sheets of construction paper in all the colors of the rainbow; technically you can use only one color, but this meant I could throw in a little color learning with the jumping.

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In retrospect, I should have done the set-up while Veronika was napping. She was eager to “help”, asking for pieces of tape, and I had to work quickly before she pulled pieces of paper off the carpet in curiosity!

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But phew, we laid out all the paper pieces, and then I announced, “Oh no! The floor is hot lava. Quick jump onto the islands!”

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Well of course she doesn’t know what hot lava is, but she sure felt my excitement and saw my speed and watched me jump on a piece of paper. “Jump!” she said, and hopped onto purple.

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Can you jump to blue?” I asked her, and she happily jumped over (“jumped” being a relative term, still more of a quick walk/hop). She loved going from piece to piece, and naming the color. If her feet were on the rug I reminded her, “Oh no the carpet is hot lava!” This had her giggling and playing along.

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This is the kind of game that’s great to pull out periodically, and I have no doubts we’ll play again. Older toddlers will be even more into the role play portion (eek, lava!) and will hone their jumping skills each time.

It’s a perfect way to get out some energy when kids feel cooped up, too!

Summer Gross Motor Skills

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In these last few days before Travis starts summer camp, we’ve been doing lots of gross motor skills here at “Camp Mom“. Here are a few great ways to get moving in the heat!

Hula-Hoop Workshop:

Forgot traditional twirls around the waist; hula hoops are a fantastic summer boredom buster even if your kids haven’t mastered the hip swirling yet.

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To wit, today the kids decided to pretend they were the rings of Saturn with hula hoops!

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Simply put a hula hoop around your waist and spin!

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You can also practice rolling a hula hoop along the ground. Or jumping from one to the other. Hula hoops are fun any way you spin it!

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Jumping Bee:

Even if your child doesn’t know how to skip rope yet, you can turn it into a prop for a spelling bee. We laid the rope down on the ground and I had Travis think back to some of his kindergarten sight words. For each letter in a word, he jumped back and forth across the rope.

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He was so proud recalling sight words. “There is a sight word of the day and the sight word is ‘the’,” he sang to the tune of BINGO. T!

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H!

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E!

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After we’d gone through sight words, little sister Veronika started shouting out silly words for him to spell. Bigger kids, of course, can do this activity with longer words and while truly honing their jump rope skills. Last person still spelling without getting tangled in his or her rope wins!

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Dribbling King:

Some cheap bouncy balls from the grocery store were the perfect prompt to work on Travis’s dribbling skills. Take this activity to your nearest park and hop on the basketball court (or just outline a large area with chalk) and show your kids how to dribble.

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If you want to make it a competition, have the kids dribble with one hand while trying to knock away an opponent’s ball with the other.

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Travis got very protective of his ball when we played this wat though, and preferred to hone his new skills solo.

Play “Spud”:

If you need a reminder on this classic, here are the rules: The player who is IT tosses a ball in the air and shouts out a number. Other players can take that many steps away.

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Now, IT tries to hit another player with the ball (choose a relatively soft one). If IT misses, he or she gets an S.

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If IT makes the shot, the other player gets the S and is now IT. Play continues until someone spells out S-P-U-D.

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I hope these ideas get you moving!