Movement is essential in the first five years of our lives as it builds critical pathways in the brain. To help your child’s development, as well as support their mental and physical wellbeing, we’ve created a list of fun activities you can do at home.
Practice two footed jumping with hands up as bunny ears. Bend the knees to help take off and bend them on landing to cushion the impact. Jumping with feet together is a good progression to developing other skills such as hopping on one foot or leaping forward.
If gravity still has your little one grounded, doing little bounces or squats up and down helps build their muscles to get enough strength to become airborne. You may often see this when they are dancing, so put on some music they like and get bopping.
Develops strength, control, imagination and agility.
Ask your child to position themselves on all fours. Ask them to walk their hands forward while leaving their knees still. Then ask them to walk their knees forward towards their hands.
Repeat this caterpillar crawl to get the hang of it. This requires some focus so plenty of practice may be required. Finish off by turning into cocoons and butterflies.
Develops body awareness, control, co-ordination, midlines, imagination and agility.
Lie on tummies and wriggle around first with, and then without, using their hands and feet. This helps to develop core muscle strength. It’s always more fun with sound effects and when you join in!
Develops body awareness, control, strength, midlines, imagination and agility.
Sitting on the floor, ask your child to put their hands behind them, lean back on their hands and lift them bottoms up. Can they move forwards? Backwards? Sideways? In a circle?
If this position is too challenging do a similar challenge in a crawl.
Develops body awareness, strength, midlines, co-ordination, imagination, agility and flexibility.
Explain you are going to play a game in which the farmer needs some help today opening and closing the gates for their sheep and cows.
To open the gates for the sheep you need to open arms out wide. To shut the gates for the sheep you need to bring the arms in. To open the gates for the cows you need to open legs wide, and shut them when the gate needs to be closed. Start slowly with one of these actions and build from there.
Develops body awareness, language, co-ordination and midlines.
To the tune of Here we go round the mulberry bush you can use this song to practice gentle movements with your baby. These could be things like This is the way we clap our hands, touch our nose, tickle our toes, find our knees, etc.
Using movement that go across the body helps build the midlines, e.g. opposite hand to opposite leg.
Develops body awareness, midlines, language, listening and touch.
Similar to the previous activity, this is also great to do in the bath. To the same tune of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ you can use this song to gently pour water on relevant parts of the body. It could go something like this “This is the way we wash our feet, our back, our tummy, our arms etc. in the bathtub”.
Develops body awareness, midlines, language, listening and touch.
Tummy time is widely encouraged for developing the core strength needed to roll and crawl.
Not all babies enjoy this straight away so try to create a positive experience on the tummy by using visual distractions for them. This could be a mirror with safe edges, colourful material, their favourite face at their level (that’s your face), a soft book or use some zip-lock bags with water coloured with food dye. You can add small objects in the water that they can push around or touch e.g. glitter. Start with short bursts of tummy time and then build up.
Develops strength, control and balance.
This well-known action song is great to sing to your baby and gently touch the related body parts as you go.
Why not also try it in te Reo Māori? There are lots of videos on YouTube you can use to help get the slightly different tune. Māhunga-head, pakihiwi-shoulders, puku-tummy, hope-hips, waewae-feet, taringa-ears, whatu-eyes, ihu-nose and waha-mouth.
Develops midlines, body awareness, language, touch and listening.
Providing sensory experience helps build your little one’s knowledge of the world around them. Have a range of objects that provide different sensations and gently touch them to your baby’s hands, feet, head etc.
For variety, try things that are opposite e.g. warm, cold, rough, smooth, hard, soft, squishy, firm, rounded, edged, light and heavy. If you alternate the sides of the body, and then go again alternating from the top of the body to the bottom of the body, you will also be developing awareness of midlines.
Develops touch, body awareness and midlines.
After warming up, practise a variety of jumps with your child: two legs together, star jumps, tuck jumps with knees up to chest or straddle jumps (legs out either side).
Mix it up by taking turns to call out a jump for each other to do or use a pack of cards and assign a jump to each suit - as you turn over the cards you have to do the assigned jump.
Jumping on a soft surface, such as a trampoline or mat, will help support your joints.
Develops midlines, force and power.
Build a low beam by setting up a sturdy plank on two brick foundations or simply roll up a mat, carpet or even towels, to make a homemade beam on the floor.
Ask your child to practise walking forward, backward, sidestep, bending on one knee and scooping with the other foot and turning around.
Develops balance, concentration, body and spatial awareness.
Ask your child to place both hands shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of them and then buck their feet like a mad donkey.
This can also be done on the trampoline and is a good progression for moving on towards handstands.
Develops strength, power, positioning and body awareness.
Place a toy on your child’s palm and ask them to walk with it balanced on their hand.
Too easy? Try their head, shoulder or their overturned hand. Make it harder by introducing obstacles to step over or manoeuvre around.
Develops balance, power and body awareness.
Place some blankets or a mattress on the floor.
Start by asking your child to stand with their feet apart, then reach down to put their hands on the ground near their toes.
Ask them to tuck their chin to their chest and look at their stomach. Then roll gently forward. You can help support their heads and neck as they roll.
An easier alternative is practising lying on the floor arms outstretched and rolling around.
Develops balance, positioning and coordination.
Clear an area and set out your pots and pans, or other noise makers such as rattles or bells, with enough space for your child to move around. Challenge them to get from one end to the other without making a sound. As they get more confident move the noise makers closer together to increase the challenge.
Develops control, balance, spatial and body awareness.
Identify sets of two different body parts and ask your child to touch them to the ground at the same time, for example their elbow and foot, or shoulder and knee.
Develops coordination, balance, flexibility and body awareness.
There are some key gymnastics shapes that can be practised at home.
How many can your child do? You can practise these in a game of “Simon Says”.
Develops body awareness, strength and balance.
Put on some fun tunes and dance like no one is watching. Every now and again press pause and everyone has to freeze. This is a great way to warm up for some activity!
Develops body rhythm, body awareness, control and listening.
Set up a small oval track and race around like horses. Ask the children to listen to the noise your feet make when you gallop to help develop their listening skills. Give your 'horse' a set of instructions to follow such as:
You can also set up a jumping course where your 'horse' gallops around and jumps over the obstacles.
Develops body rhythm, listening, movement, control, body awareness and imagination.
Use your imagination to demonstrate some ways of moving like animals and ask your child to copy you. After a few rounds, ask your child to call out the animal. Race each other down the hall as these animals. For example a bear, snake, crab, horse, rabbit or dinosaur.
Develops body awareness, midlines, imagination and movement.
Pour some imaginary glue on your child’s hands and then get them to touch a part of their body and pretend their hands are now stuck there. Ask them how their body moves differently with their hands stuck there? How can they move around? Sprinkle some imaginary glue disabler on so they can move their hands and then try again with a different body part.
Develops body awareness and control.
Create a tunnel with a mat or with furniture and blankets. Can your child crawl through the tunnel to you at the other end? You can roll a ball through the tunnel for them to follow or give the tunnel a gentle shake as they move through.
Have some more fun by playing peek-a-boo or, with your child inside the tunnel, put on a silhouette puppet show at one end with some toys.
Develops body and spatial awareness.
Ask your child questions about large and small objects, getting them to act out the objects. Some examples include:
Develops posture, spatial and body awareness.
For a timeframe of your choice whenever you say ‘the floor is lava’ everyone has five seconds to get themselves off the floor. You can set up safe objects to jump on prior to starting the game.
Develops language, balance and spatial awareness.
Here are some ways you can develop your child's understanding of time.
Explain to your child that you want to see how much they can do in a minute. Time a minute so they get an understanding of how long the time is, then ask them to do tasks when you time for another minute to see how much they can do.
How high can they build a tower in a minute? How much sand can they put in a bucket? How far can they get round the park? How many swings, hops or jumps can they do? Can they stay still for a minute?
Develops temporal awareness, language and comprehension.
Have one balloon blown up and held by your child. Have your second balloon blown up but not tied off. Explain there is a balloon on the loose and you want to know where it lands. Release your second balloon and see if they can track the balloon without letting go of the one in their hands.
Develops eye-tracking, control and spatial awareness.
Create a list of things your child might find in your garden or out on a walk. Explore your garden with your child to see if they can collect everything on the list.
Suggestions for items could be objects such as a leaf, stone or acorn.
Develops sight, movement and language.
Similar to the scavenger hunt, create a list of things to spot on a walk or out in your garden.
Ask your child if they can spot something blue, something round, something smaller then a cat etc.
You can also take photos as they find each item.
Develops sight, movement and language.
Act out an adventure story that engages your child with the environment they are in.
For example, play ‘We’re all going on a bear hunt’ to explore different areas of your garden, or on a walk around your local neighbourhood, acting out the story - walking through short grass, hiding behind trees and safely crossing the road.
Develops language and movement.
Next time you are out and about in your local neighbourhood, why not try spelling out the alphabet using the letters you come across in street signs, license plate numbers and shops signs?
You can make it harder by claiming only one letter from a sign or limiting the types of things you gather letters from. Older children might like to compete to see who can spell the alphabet the quickest.
Develops sight, movement, language and concentration.
It’s autumn and the leaves are turning beautiful shades of orange and yellow. On your next walk, why not take some colourful items with you to match to things you see in nature. Duplo or lego are good for this.
It’s a great way to appreciate the season change and you’ll be surprised at how many matches you find.
Develops movement, sight and concentration.
Get down on the floor in a plank position with your child, face each other. Your arms should be straight, with hands under shoulders, your back straight, balanced on your toes.
Give each other high fives alternating between left and right hands.
If the plank is too challenging, lie on your tummies with your chests raised and elbows underneath shoulders.
Develops midlines, strength, control and balance.
Lie on your back with your child on your chest. Cradling their head and neck roll slowly from side to side.
Develops balance and the vestibular system.
With your child, stand at one end of a large room or hallway. Make your way across the room by taking turns at jumping over and under each other.
Develops balance, agility, coordination and body awareness.
Plan a route around your house that includes going over, under and through different objects. Ask your child to follow along.
After each obstacle, do a funny dance for them to copy.
When you have finished your route, your child can lead you through a route of their choice.
Develops sight, listening, balance, agility, coordination and spatial awareness.
One person starts off doing two moves, such as a jump then a clap. The other person needs to remember those moves and then do it themselves.
Start off with two moves, each time the moves are repeated, add an extra move into the sequence.
The aim is to remember all the moves in the sequence as it grows. You could use jumps, waves and silly faces – the options are endless.
Develops memory, imagination, coordination and spatial awareness.
Using a spare long sleeve shirt or rag, blindfold your child and stand them on a marked spot. Ask them to complete a list of instructions such as clapping their hands, touching their nose, spinning, jumping or hopping - anything which keeps them in exactly the same spot.
At the end of the list, ask them to take the blindfold off so that they can see how far they have moved from the original spot.
This could be a fun competition for the whole family.
Develops balance, coordination, body and spatial awareness.
Using a small bean bag, soft toy or cuddly, ask your child to practice passing it back and forward to you. Can they pass it with their left hand? Right hand? From their left hand across their body to your left hand? Vice versa with their right? With their feet? Through their legs? Behind their head? Under their arms? Behind their back?
Develops body awareness, co-ordination and midlines.
With one finger draw lines down your child’s back or tummy one line at a time.
Describe the type of lines you are drawing. Wriggly, straight or curved?
Develops the senses of touch and hearing as well as body awareness.
Unfold a survival blanket or some tin foil.
Show your child how it reflects in the light, how it makes noise when it moves, how it feels.
Let them lie or sit on it or hold it above them – they can gently wiggle it to see the light reflecting and hear the sound of it crunching.
Develops the senses of sight, hearing and touch.
Mix two parts of cornflour to one part water in a container.
Add a couple of drops of food colouring and let your child mix it together. Get them to explore the different textures: powdery, wet, slimy, sticky and cold.
It does make a mess but is easily cleaned up.
Develops the senses of touch and sight.
If child is eating solids, provide a range of edible options that have different temperatures, textures, colours and sounds.
Options could include ice cubes, crunchy crackers, yellow capsicum, avocado, lemon, garlic and anything else that they are safe to taste.
Let your child explore each item however they choose.
For older children, you could blindfold them and see if they can guess what they are eating.
Develops the senses of taste and smell.
Put some water mixed with food colouring in a large zip-lock bag, and place some small smooth-edged objects in it.
Place the filled bag in front of your baby while they are on their tummy. With their hands, they can explore and move the liquid and objects around within the bag.
Develops the senses of touch and sight.
Bubbles are great at any age! Blow some bubbles and ask your child if they can catch them? Can they can catch them with their little finger? With their knees? With their head? With their elbow? Can they clap the bubbles? Can they blow the bubbles back up?
Get them moving their bodies to try different ways of interacting with the bubbles.
Develops body awareness, spatial awareness, co-ordination, eye tracking and hand-eye coordination.
Messy play is good for many things including building up fine motor skills.
Using sand, water, cornflour, Play-Doh etc., anything that encourages children to play with their hands, grasping, pinching touching and manipulating objects. These help build up muscles required for fine motor skills which leads to skills such as hand writing.
Develops body awareness, strength, co-ordination and touch.
Mark out a line on the ground and get your child to walk along it. The narrower the line the harder this will be. Add challenges to see if they can walk along it backwards? Heel to toe? Sideways? Hop? Hop, skip and jump?
Develops body awareness, control, midlines and balance.
To help your child learn how to adapt to different physical limits, change the weights of items in activities that include pushing or pulling an item.
For example you can add weights to a pram, trolley or toy truck to adjust the variety of strength required. Vary the terrain by adding bumps, sand or grass to cross requiring different responses to the surface.
Develops strength management, body awareness, spatial awareness and pressure/force.
Spinning around helps develop the vestibular/balance system. With little ones you can hold them supporting their heads and necks and slowly spin them around. Be gentle with the speed and check that they are enjoying the motion while you do it. Older children can spin at their own speed.
Spin with arms out, arms in, arms up? Does it feel different? Spin on a merry-go-round or swing. Does it speed up or slow down if your legs or arms are out?
Develops balance, vestibular system, posture and balance positioning.
Ask your child to test out a hula hoop and see how many ways they can get it to move. Give them some time to explore it themselves before stepping in. Can they roll it forward? Backwards? Can they spin it? Skip through it? Does it bounce? Can they hula hoop it around their hips or arms or legs?
Develops imagination, co-ordination, strength management and pressure/force.
Set up a bucket and a throwing line close enough to start for easy success. Ask your child to throw a ball into the bucket.
When they can do it a few times, move the bucket further away to increase the challenge.
To help with throwing, ask them to point with their opposite hands, toes and follow the ball with their eyes.
Develops throwing, force, midlines and visual tracking.
Take a blanket or towel and lie it flat on the floor. Put a teddy bear in the middle and get your child to hold the blanket with you to create your home parachute.
Move the blanket up and down to get the teddy bear airborne.
Take turns to throw and catch the teddy in the blanket.
Develops throwing, catching and visual tracking.
Sit on the ground with your child, start by rolling a ball back and forwards to each other.
To make it more challenging, place a hoop or create a circle on the ground with a towel between you. Try to roll the ball into the circle.
Make it more difficult by moving away from the hoop or making the circle smaller.
Develops visual tracking, hand/eye coordination, force and power.
Practise dropping and catching a ball. You can use a point on the ground for your child to aim for.
If your child can do this confidently, ask them to add a clap before catching the ball, or to pat the ball back down and see how many pats they can do.
Develops sight, visual tracking, coordination, force, midlines and body rhythms.
Ask your child to throw a light piece of silk or mesh material up into the air and then catch it on its way down.
Too easy? Add another scarf.
You can throw the scarves to each other or throw a scarf one hand to the other to make it more difficult.
Develops sight, visual tracking, coordination, force and midlines.