Holiday Gifts to Encourage Improvements in Gross Motor Skills

by Danielle Burke, DPT
Kids Place West Pediatric Physical Therapist

Infants

  • Pop Up Toys: Encourage reaching in multiple developmental positions such as quadruped (hands and knees), tall kneeling, and standing. (pictured toy $25 on Amazon)

  • Floor Activity Mirror: Encourages child to look up while on their tummy improving their head control and strength. You can also use a floor length mirror, placed horizontally and attached to a nearby wall along the floor. (pictured toy $13 on Amazon)

  • Rattles: These toys can be used for a variety of strengthening, encouraging play in midline and reaching in all developmental positions. Rattles can also be used to encourage your child to roll or find their feet, as they attempt to find the sound. (pictured sock rattles $13 on Amazon, ball rattle $5 on Amazon, Manhattan rattle $13 on Amazon)
  • Foam Stair and Ramp Climbing Set: These foam steps and ramp encourage crawling and safe navigation of obstacles for infants around the ages of 8-10 months. It can also be used when your child walks to assist with navigation of stairs and obstacles. (pictured item $75 on Amazon)

  • Black and White Cloth Books: In addition to helping with your child’s visual development, these books are great for working on skills such as sitting and tummy time. (pictured books $17 on Amazon)

Toddlers

  • Squigz: These toys are great motivators for standing and squatting. Whether stuck on a mirror, window, or floor, your child will have a great time pulling them off, remaining motivated to play. (pictured toy $25 on Amazon)

  • Shape Sorters, Building Blocks, and Coin Banks: In addition to encouraging development of fine motor skills, these toys are also great motivators to work on a multitude of gross motor skills such as squatting, walking, reaching across midline, and playing in half kneel. (shape sorters $12-20 on Amazon, coin bank $15 on Amazon)

  • Pull Along Toys: These toys are great to assist your child in learning how to walk forwards and backwards. (pictured $28 on Amazon)

Children 3+ years old

  • Balance Buckets: These toys are great to improve strength and balance required for obstacle negotiation. Use them right side up to step across or turn them upside down to step through, similar to hurdles.
  • Cones, Bean Bags, and Ring Toss: These popular outdoor toys can be used for a variety of gross motor skills. Cone taps with your toes are a great way to work on balance and hip strength. Your child can also work on single leg balance while playing ring toss to make it more challenging. Bean bags can be thrown with their hands to work on coordination or with their feet to encourage strong core and foot strength. Furthermore, these throwing skills can be completed on their tummy or in sitting to improve strength required for good posture.
  • Tricycle: Children begin learning how to ride a tricycle independently around the age of 3 years old. Tricycles are a great way to work on strength and coordination.
  • Balance Beam: These floor balance beams are great to work on not only balance, but can also be used as a hurdle to jump or step over.
  • Indoor Trampoline: This indoor trampoline, with handlebar, is a great way to work on jumping and balance with an added measure for stability.