23 Gross Motor Games and Activities for Preschoolers You Can Play with Two or More People
In our quest to spend more time outside, Kieran and I have been searching for fun games that we can play with two or more people. Many games aimed at young children are great for groups (tag, London Bridge, parachute play, etc.), but we have trouble finding a way to play them when it’s only me and Kieran. I’m guessing that many stay/work at home parents have the same problem, so I wanted to share these games with you.
Gross motor skills involve movements using the large muscles of the body. They include things like running, jumping, catching and throwing balls, and other large muscle activities. “Good gross motor skills are essential, because the body develops from large moments such as control of the arms and the legs, to small, isolated movements that include the hands and fingers. Without reasonable gross motor control, it can be difficult for children to move onto developing the fine motor skills . . . .”1
Here are 23 games and activities that young children can do to have fun while improving their gross motor skills. All are designed for two or more people to play together.2 All of these games can be played outside, many of them can also be played inside with enough space to run.
One person3 gives directions such as “run to the big tree, touch the bark, and come back,” or “run over to the slide, go down one time, and come back” or “run around the tree three times.” Great not only for gross motor skills, but for listening and following directions.
Blow up several balloons and toss them back and forth. Try moving closer to each other and farther away from each other. Try using different body parts (hands, elbows, heads) or blowing the balloon up in the air. See how many times your preschooler can bounce the balloon up before it falls to the ground.
Hula Hoop Fun
Invest in several different colored hula hoops; lay them on the ground. Give instructions such as “run to the red hula hoop and pretend to be a car,” or “hop over to the green hula hoop like a bunny.”
Using plastic eggs, race from one end of the yard to the next holding the egg on a serving spoon (or a measuring cup or smaller spoon, depending on the dexterity of your child). See how far your child can get without dropping/breaking an egg. Try not to focus on “winning,” but on having fun while walking with the egg.
A hilarious alternative to this game is to have the children get on their hands and knees and push the plastic eggs from one place to another using only their noses.
Sidewalk Chalk Simon Says
Draw large shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, etc. using sidewalk chalk. Say “Simon says stand on the yellow square,” or “Simon says sit on the number 5.” For more advanced kids, try multiple step instructions like “Simon says run to number 14, then hop over to number 20.” This is a fun way to work on recognition of higher numbers, lowercase letters, etc.
Jump the Brook
Draw two lines on the ground with sidewalk chalk (or use ropes in the grass). Let your child try to “jump over the brook.” You can move the lines together or farther apart, depending on your child’s abilities.4
Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone
In the group version of this game, children in a circle take turns hiding the “bone” from the doggy, who tries to find it. That’s impossible in a two person version. Instead, we enjoy taking turns hiding the bone in various places around the room or in the yard. It helps to have a defined hiding area, and be sure to offer hints if the child gets frustrated finding it.
Feel free to use the chant – have the child close his eyes while you hide the object and open them at the end of the chant (and if you’re skeptical of the value of chants and rhymes, read “The Importance of Rhyme“):
Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who! Maybe you . . .
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.
We All Play Ball
Roll or pass a ball back and forth. Pair each roll with a verbal cue. For example, take turns saying the ABCs (each person says a letter on her turn), count forward or backward, think of different colors, shapes, foods, etc.
Take off your socks and shoes and pick up small toys with your toes and put them in a bucket. For more skilled preschoolers, try picking up all of the yellow objects, then the blue, the red, etc.
Mother May I?
In this simple game, the direction giver stands on one side of the room/yard, and the child(ren) stand on the other. The children take turns asking the direction giver, “Mother, may I _____?” (i.e., take 3 giant steps; hop 4 times; take 2 baby steps) The direction giver can answer “Yes you may” or “No you may not” at her whim. There are other variations of this game, use the one that is the most fun for your child. Mother May I is great for exploring limits and accepting compromise.
Pop Goes the Weasel
Red Light Green Light
The stop light stands at one end of the room/yard, the player(s) stand at the other. The stop light calls “green light,” and the players move toward the stop light. The players must stop when the stop light calls “red light.”
Add variations to keep things fun: “yellow light” can mean walk slowly; “blue light” can mean hop; “purple light” can mean walk backwards, etc. Take turns being the stop light.
For younger children, make the clues they are to act out very easy: reading a book, sleeping, happy, sad, dog, cat. Use picture cards instead of written words (you can cut them out of a magazine), so that you don’t know what the child is acting out.
Using any ball and “hoop” (a trash can, and bucket, a wagon, etc.), take turns shooting the ball toward the hoop. Let your preschooler start at whatever distance is comfortable for him. Concentrate on having fun – not making it a contest!
Get down into a crab walk position, then kick a bouncy ball back and forth or try kicking it into a goal. This is a fun (and funny!) way to exercise different muscle groups.
Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
Start out by singing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes at a normal pace. Once your child gets the concept, try it slower, faster, super fast, and “warp speed,” or substitute other body parts in for a change of pace.
There are many different ways to play hopscotch. One way is to draw your basic hopscotch grid, then the first player throws a marker (we use a rock) into box #1. The player hops on one foot (or alternating feet, or both feet for some kids!) all the way to the last box and back, stopping to pick up the marker on her way. Players take turns trying to throw in each box in order (1, 2, 3, etc.).
A simpler way to play is to follow the instructions above, but only to hop to the first square, pick up the marker, and return.
One person gives directions, saying: “touch a tree,” “touch something blue,” “touch something high,” etc. The other person runs as fast as she can to find and touch whatever it is.
Follow the Leader
The leader walks, runs, jumps, etc. around, the other people follow and repeat the movements. Take turns being the leader.
Ring Around the Rosie
Hold hands and sing the traditional ring around the rosie song.
What Time Is It Mr. Fox
Mr. Fox stands with his back to the other player(s). The players ask “what time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox answers with a time. If he says two o’clock, the other players must take two steps toward Mr. Fox. Once one player gets close enough to touch Mr. Fox, the fox turns around and tries to catch one of the players. The players attempt to run back to the starting line.
You can play this with any variation of animal that your child is interested in; I’ve also heard “Mr. Shark” played at the pool.
A Tooty Ta Ta
This hilarious song and action game will get both adults and kids giggling. Watch the video to learn how!
Preschool Four Square
In traditional four square, you try to get other players “out.” In this version, we’ll concentrate more on controlling the ball. In each of the four squares, draw a picture or write a letter or number (or word, or whatever else you are learning about). Take turns trying to bounce the ball into each square. Players can also rotate around and try to bounce the ball back to each other.5
Do you have a fun gross motor game/activity that is missing from this list and that can be played with only two people? Please share it in the comments!
- What Are Gross Motor Skills? ↩
- The first five activities on this list have been edited from games found in the “Outdoor Games” resource from childcareland.com. ↩
- If you’re pregnant like I am, then the direction-giver will be you; but I do let Kieran have a turn. Once in awhile. ↩
- Idea from Playing to Learn by Carol Seefeldt ↩
- Traditional Four Square rules can be found in The Ultimate Playground and Recess Game Book by Guy Bailey ↩
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"23 Gross Motor Games and Activities for Preschoolers You Can Play with Two or More People"
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