If you have a toddler it is not news to you that they are BUSY and need pretty much constant entertainment! Now that spring is finally here and summer is right around the corner, the outside world offers plenty of exploration and entertainment for those little busybodies. But, what about those rainy, dreary spring days when going outside isn’t feasible? Here are a few fun rainy day activities that will keep your toddler busy AND promote some awesome gross motor skills!
Easter Egg Hunt
Since Easter is coming up, I couldn’t leave this one out! Believe it or not, an Easter egg hunt is packed full of gross motor skills. Advanced walking skills, squatting/balance, bilateral coordination and motor planning are just a few of the skills your little one will be practicing during her indoor egg hunt. If you are reading this after Easter or aren’t feeling the egg hunt idea, you could really “hunt” anything. Try an alphabet block hunt, a pretend food hunt or a snack hunt (use goldfish, cheerios, etc).
This activity is so fun because you can be as creative as you want! Gather a few items like a crawling tunnel, couch cushions, hula hoops, pool noodles, colored floor circles, cones, river stones, or WHATEVER you have lying around and create an obstacle course that is as simple or complex as you desire! You can help your toddler complete a puzzle, build a block tower, or do a shape sorter while they go through the course for an added fine motor/educational component! As for gross motor skills, you can probably imagine all of the benefits of an obstacle course: balance, coordination, motor planning, leg and core strengthening, etc. Be mindful of your babe’s skill level when creating your obstacle course. It’s great to challenge them a little bit, but if you make it too hard, they will lose interest much more quickly!
I love, love, love sensory play! Many people don’t think that sensory play and gross motor skills are related, but in fact, they are very closely intertwined! Gross motor skills require good sensory processing skills including proprioception to know where the body is in space, sight to take in the environment, touch to feel the ground with hands, feet or both, vestibular to keep balance during movement activities. See….important, right? So, what sensory activities do I recommend? Honestly, the possibilities are truly endless. I’ll list a few of our favorites, but just know that this list is in no way comprehensive! Be creative and find some activities that work for you! Start here for a quick overview of your sensory systems and to learn a few ground rules for sensory play!
Paper Sensory Bin
We love to use wadded up tissue paper, streamers and crinkle paper (in the gift wrap section) for a fun sensory activity. Throw all of that in a laundry basket, stick your toddler in the middle and let her have a blast! Keep in mind that the more of your baby’s skin that is exposed, the more sensory input she will receive, so if she seems to be not tolerating it as well, she may be getting too much stimuli! A simple modification is to put the paper items in a smaller bucket and let her just enjoy with her hands instead of her whole body.
Baby Food Bathtub Painting
Grab your favorite color of baby food and a paintbrush (you could also use a basting brush from the kitchen like we did) and let your toddler paint the blank canvas of the bathtub! You could use actual paint if you are feeling extra brave, but I prefer baby food because it is edible and my daughter loves to taste-test everything! When you are done with this activity, just turn on the shower to rinse baby and bathtub and you’re done! You might want to invest in a non-slip mat like this before trying this activity – it can get pretty slippery!
DIY Baby Sand
Graham Crackers + Oatmeal = EDIBLE BABY SAND! This is a HIT at our house! We love to use a sand bucket, large spoons and nesting cups during this activity to practice scooping, dumping, and transferring sand from one container to the next. We have hardwood floors, so I just put it all in the floor and let my girl go to town. When she is done, I sweep it up and all is clean!
Ice Cube Painting
This is exactly how it sounds. I use food coloring to make some colored ice cubes (make sure you put popsicle sticks in the water before freezing) and then use a piece of paper or a coloring sheet to let her “paint” on. As the ice melts, it makes fun, cold paint that is safe to ingest if she decides she is thirsty mid-activity! We use these disposable place mats to keep the food coloring off the table.
Now, this last activity requires a bit more adventure (and bravery) on mama’s part. What better way to practice jumping and pre-jumping (balance, squatting) skills than to head outside and jump in the rain puddles! A little rain (and maybe mud) never hurt anyone, right? If your toddler isn’t jumping yet, that’s okay – you can still get some great motor benefits out of this! To facilitate jumping, grab your toddler under the arms, help her squat down and say “1, 2, 3, JUMP!” as you lift her up in the air! She most likely won’t actually be helping you jump the first few times, but with consistency, she will start to participate by practicing the explosive extension we use for jumping. NOTE: Always grab under the arms/around the trunk and NEVER by the hands/arms as you could easily dislocate your toddler’s elbows!
I hope these activities provide some fun for you and your toddler during this “april showers” season! Gross motor skills can be fun and can happen RAIN or SHINE!