Preschoolers are not known for being still. And, frankly, they shouldn’t be still! Preschool teachers, you are amazing for pulling something new out of your hats 1,712 times a day to keep up with your active students. Well, we’ve come up with some new tricks for you! We’ve compiled a list of fantastic indoor gross and fine motor preschool games that require only simple materials––or none at all––to keep your class happily jumping, twirling, stretching, and strengthening.
Budget-Friendly Gross Motor Games and Activities
Use these ideas to help preschoolers develop body awareness, strength, and flexibility, while working on following directions and, of course, having fun.
1. Exercise with Dice
Roll a number die and a die with an exercise assigned to each side. Have children do the exercise the number of times shown. For indoors, try toe touches, arm flaps, jumping jacks, side-to-side jumps, twists, and star jumps, or choose movements that fit the physical needs of your students.
2. Body Bridges
For a fun, core-strengthening, and cooperative task, ask some children to hold poses like hands-and-knees, plank, or downward dog while other children drive cars and trucks under the “bridges” those poses create.
Source: The Inspired Tree House
3. Homemade Balance Beam
Challenge students to construct homemade balance beams using spare boards. For an indoor option, use large wooden blocks. Can they walk all the way across? Can they go backwards? For students who might find it difficult to balance on a raised surface, use masking tape lines on the carpet or cut pieces of cardboard boxes they can use to make a path.
Source: Hands on As We Grow.
4. Cross the River
Arrange poly spots in a line that snakes across your classroom. Invite children to be “ants,” who have to cross a “river of hot chocolate” by stepping on “marshmallows.” Have them hold hands in a line and work together to get across. Vary the activity by moving some marshmallows closer or farther apart, so children have to use different tactics.
Source: Adventure, Play, Peace by Nancy MacPhee Bower
5. Recorded Yoga Directions
Do you want to expose your students to the benefits of yoga, but worry that you can’t even touch your toes? Say “om” to recorded pose instructions like those on Dance For the Sun: Yoga Songs for Kids by Kira Willey, which includes music with friendly voice-over directions for everything from posing as a caterpillar to a surfer.
Source: Dance For the Sun: Yoga Songs for Kids by Kira Willey
6. Yogi Benders
Call out two body parts and tell students that only those two parts can touch the ground. Try “one foot and one hand,” “two knees and two elbows,” “one bottom and one finger,” or “two knees and one head.” For an adapted version, have two or three students share a large exercise ball and work together to try to hold the ball still using certain body parts.
Source: Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children by Lisa Flynn (founder of Childlight Yoga)
7. Hula Hoop Islands
Place hula hoops around your classroom. Play music and ask children to move around the hoops. When the music stops, they must stand inside a hoop. Take away a hoop each time you stop the music.
Source: Kids Movement Project
8. Hula Hoop Movements
Set up a line of four to six hula hoops across the floor of your classroom. Have students wait behind the first hoop and call out directions for how to move through the hoops. Try bunny-hopping, giant-stepping, tiptoeing, or scurrying like mice. Play music with different tempos to encourage students to move at different speeds.
Source: Learn Play Imagine
9. Land, Sea, and Air
Designate one area to be the “land” and one area to be the “sea,” using your rug and floor tiles or masking tape. Students must hurry to the correct area when you call out “land!” or “sea!” and jump as high as they can when you call “air!” Keep students laughing with surprise commands like “earthquake!” and “tornado!”
Source: What Do We Do All Day
10. Indoor Relay Races
Stuck inside because of the weather? Set up an impromptu relay race. Ask students to carry bean bags or other objects on different body parts across the room. Or, try this partner relay activity, from The Inspired Treehouse, in which two children must work together to hold a ball between themselves.
Source: The Inspired Treehouse
11. Indoor Tennis
Get some wiggles out and spark some laughs by setting up this “tennis” game with balloons and fly swatters from Little Bins for Little Hands. Students can try to pass balloons back and forth or work together to swat balloons into a bin, cardboard box, or across a masking tape line. For an adapted version, use large traffic cones as stands for the balloons.
Source: Little Bins for Little Hands
Budget-Friendly Fine Motor Games and Activities
Squeezing. Pinching. Grasping. Releasing. Even when preschool bodies are stationary, hands usually aren’t. Use these fine motor activities to build finger and hand strength and prepare students for writing.
1. Pick Up “Crumbs”
Finger plays are beneficial for so many reasons. Try this one about little mice who pick up crumbs. Instead of the gathering motion shown, try having students use their thumbs, forefingers and middle fingers to collect confetti, sequins, or mini puff balls into a basket of “crumbs” for extra fine motor practice.
Source: Makin’ Music
2. Foam Poking
Have students poke toothpicks or golf tees into pieces of Styrofoam. For an added challenge, invite them to balance objects like marbles on top of golf tees.
Source: Pink and Green Mama
3. Hide-and-Find Items in Modeling Clay
If regular activities are losing their appeal, add small items to your modeling clay station to encourage hide-and-find exploration. All that squeezing and pushing is great for fine motor development. And hiding LEGO figures and other objects? That’s just plain fun.
Source: What Do We Do All Day
4. Coin-Flipping Races
Spread out a pile of pennies on the rug with all heads showing. Have students race to flip them all over to tails. See more fine motor activities that use spare change at Little Bins for Little Hands.
Source: Little Bins for Little Hands
5. Gem Trails
What preschooler doesn’t love gems? Use inexpensive glass gems or large sequins and ask students to arrange them along curving “path” drawn on paper. If keeping the items in place on paper is frustrating or too difficult, roll out a flat area of modeling clay and push the items into it to make “trails.”
Source: Mom Inspired Life
6. Finger Soccer
Have pairs or small groups play “finger soccer” on the rug, using only their index and middle fingers as “feet” to move a small ball. You can even make felt “jerseys”!
Source: Your Kids OT
7. “Bobbing” with Kitchen Tongs
Activities using tongs are great for building fine motor strength and dexterity. Try this fun “bobbing” for apples activity, where students try to pick up floating fruit with kitchen tongs. You can also swap out apples for another item or two.
Source: Fantastic Fun and Learning
8. Monster Feeding
Create a “monster mouth” out of a flip-top container and ask students to use clothespins or large tweezers to pick up puffballs or other small items to “feed” the monster. They won’t want to get their fingers nibbled!
Source: Therapy Fun Zone
9. Hang the Laundry
String up a clothesline in your pretend play area and have students use clothespins to hang a doll’s laundry to “dry.” If you’re short on space, set up a tray clothesline like the one illustrated below.
10. Clay Snowballs
Gather a collection of plastic animals and tell students they are preparing for a BIG snowball fight. Show students how to roll small balls of modeling clay in between their thumbs, middle, and index fingers and make a stockpile for each animal. Or, set out a bowl and spoon and ask students to roll “peas” to make a bowl of “pea soup.”
Source: OT Mom Learning Activities.
Preschool teachers and parents of little ones, we know you’re out there creatively keeping your kids busy every day. What are your favorite preschool games and activities?