Educators and parents are always looking for physical games for kids to engage their little learners! Sports games for kids are a great way to encourage both mental and physical development in early childhood. Dr. Steve Sanders’ Moving Matters series provides several fun physical activities for kids of all ages, whether they are infants, toddlers, or preschoolers!
Physical activity is crucial to children at all stages of development. For babies, physical activities help establish the foundation for their physical abilities in years to come, allowing them to grow and develop their early motor skills and strength. Sports games also help toddlers establish a foundation for movement they’ll use throughout the rest of their lives. Physical activity helps toddlers learn basic skills such as throwing and jumping, while developing independence within the bounds of structured and unstructured play. Lastly, physical games for preschoolers help establish a routine of active play to avoid problems such as childhood obesity. Preschoolers are able to use physical activities and play as a way to express themselves and learn in other areas.
Below are a few fun physical activities guaranteed to get your infants, toddlers, and preschoolers learning and moving!
For Infants (note: safety is first and foremost. Use caution with these activities, which are best for babies that can sit up on their own):
Weight on Hands
Place the baby facedown on her tummy. Grasp her from behind with your hands secured around her hips. Lift her hips in the air about 8 to 10 inches, she will extend her arms forward to hold herself up on her hands. Don’t lift too high, as the infant needs to be able to put some of her weight on her hands. At first the child may only want to balance on her elbows, but she will soon extend her hands to take weight on her arms. Allow the baby to hold herself up for six to ten seconds before you lower her back to the floor.
Time to Chase
As soon as an infant begins to crawl, he will be delighted to play chase with you. Get down on your hands and knees on the floor. As he starts to crawl away, grab his legs and gently pull him back to you. When he crawls away again, catch him and pull him back again. What a fun way to end an activity session and get ready for a well-deserved nap!
Ribbons and Streamers
Purchase a ribbon that is 1 ½ to 2 inches wide, and cut the length to about 4 feet. You can cut longer lengths for older children, but a ribbon or streamer that is too long is likely to get tangled around a toddler’s body. In fact, a shorter length may be needed for a toddler’s initial play. Streamers made of crepe paper work well too. Purchase a roll of 2-inch-wide crepe paper at a local party store, and cut it into lengths. (You might want to get a big roll, as toddlers enjoy doing this activity with friends!) As the child gets older and can better control the streamer, you can increase the length.
To begin, turn on some music, ask the toddler to hold the end of the ribbon, and let the fun begin! Encourage him to dance ad move the ribbon freely, watching the pathways in which the ribbon moves.
Suggest that he move the streamer fast, slowly, low, high, side to side, and in curved, zigzag, and circular pathways. Ask the toddler to move the ribbon like the wipers on the car, circle the streamer in front of his body, sweep the floor with the streamer, and place the ribbon on the floor and move it like a snake. At this initial stage of rhythm development, most toddlers will not be able to move the ribbon to the beat of any music. The idea is to explore how to move the ribbons in space and have fun moving to music.
To continue your balancing adventures, challenge the toddler to balance on many body parts with a wide base of support and then progress to a few body parts and a narrow base of support. Challenge him to hold his balance as still as possible for three to five seconds. A large hoop placed on the ground provides the toddler with a space all his own where he can balance, so have several hoops available for when friends come over. Ask the toddler to lay the hoop flat on the floor away from any obstacles. He will find it easier to concentrate on the balance activity when the task is confined to the space inside the hoop.
A launch board propels a ball or beanbag into the air directly in front of the child, and thus she does not need to be skilled at tossing the ball into the air. Launch boards are easy to make. Use ¼-inch-thick birch plywood, 30 inches long and 5 inches wide. Seven inches from one end, attach a 5-inch-log, 1 ½ -inch-diameter dowel stick with glue and screws. If you are using a ball, cut a 2-inch-diameter hole in the end of the board to place the ball. A cubed beanbag works well because it easily fits into a child’s small hands.
Paddles and Rackets
Paddles are made of foam, plastic, or wood and have a handle. If children will be striking punch-ball balloons, a Ping-Pong paddle works will. There are different lengths of handles on paddles. Have children start out using shorter handles, and save the longer handles for then they have developed higher skill levels. Try to find rackets that are lightweight, as a heavier paddle will hinder the child’s swing.
Overall, providing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with physical games is a wonderful way to establish helpful physical skills and healthy habits for the rest of their lives. The Moving Matters series is a great resource for parents and educators looking for ways to make moving fun!