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Tunnel Obstacle Course: Physical Activities for Kids Build Motor Skills

Photo by Karina Uvarova / iStock
Photo by Karina Uvarova / iStock

By Rachel Ward

Those first wavering, unassisted steps your baby takes are magical for you and incredibly exciting for them—they are literally taking their first steps toward independence and a smattering of physical activities!

Fast forward to the toddler days, and independence is well underway as they use their newfound movement to get a closer look at things they weren’t able to reach before on their own—like doorknobs and the drawers on end tables (so don’t get rid of your baby/child-proof house setup just yet, parents).

Even with their entry to toddlerhood, these little humans still have a long way to go before they’ve mastered physical movement and the other skills that go along with it.

“Toddlers have figured out basic movement, but there’s a lot of trial and error as they figure out the many ways that their bodies can move, called gross-motor skills, in addition to where their bodies are in relation to other objects and people, called spatial awareness,” says Linda Nelson from KinderCare’s Education team.

That’s why, in addition to providing plenty of activities related to creative expression, early science, and the like, we’re also placing a strong emphasis on physical development for the toddler set—and this activity is one of our favorites. 

This Physical Development Game Builds Spatial Awareness Skills (and More) for Toddlers

Exploring makeshift “tunnels,” whether made from household furniture or cardboard boxes, is sure to elicit plenty of excited giggles—and up the ante on learning benefits at the same time! (And no worries, parents, we’re supervising carefully the whole time.)

“As children work on moving over, under, around, and through tunnels, they’re trying out new ways of moving they might not have thought of yet, while also building coordination and balance,” explains Nelson.

All that movement exercise is crucial for getting kids prepped for the next big steps—like bowling with water bottles, playing softball, and learning how to cartwheel!

We’re focusing on physical skill-building all the time at KinderCare, but there’s a lot of fun ways you can do the same at home! Try some of our ideas below.

Work It! 4 Fun Physical Games and Spatial Awareness Activities for Toddlers

1. Have a little dance party in your living room

There’s no end to the fun when the music’s turned up loud and your whole family is droppin’ it like it’s hot! Not only is it a great way for older kids (and you, parents) to get a little activity into their daily routine, but it also helps toddlers explore new ways of moving and build motor skills. Challenge them to try moving like a butterfly, doing the bunny hop, or leading a conga line!

2. Do the Hokey Pokey (and shake it all about)

There’s a reason this song/dance is a childhood classic! As toddlers focus on moving each arm or leg, they’re building awareness of each limb and working on balance and coordination at the same time (and the intro to right vs. left is a bonus, too).

Photo by ziggy-mars / iStock
Photo by ziggy_mars / iStock

3. Play a game of catch

Hoping your toddler will venture into the big world of sports one day? Grab a soft and squishy ball and take turns passing it back and forth to each other. Your child might have some trouble at first as they build their body awareness and motor skills, but hey—practice makes perfect!

4. Play hide and seek

Where, oh, where can your child hide? The thrill of searching for a place where you won’t see them after you finish your countdown makes this game a toddler favorite—but it’s also helping your child think about where their body will fit in relation to objects around them (a.k.a. spatial awareness).

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