Exercise that involves the large muscles of the body, and the arms and legs, is important for crawling, walking, and running, jumping and lifting. However, the age at which toddlers achieve these skills depends on muscle development in different parts of the body.
Muscle development proceeds from head to toe, from the head to the feet and outwards from the arms to the hands and fingers, and then the feet and toes. These developments go together with the growth of the brain pathways that become increasingly specialised in movement control.
The following activities will encourage toddlers to exercise their bodies and brains at the same time:
- Climbing frames.
- Stepping stones.
- Balance boards.
- Ride-on toys.
- Toys that can be pushed or pulled around obstacles such as cones or chairs.
- Games that involve throwing, catching, fetching, rolling and kicking.
- Treasure hunts.
- Tunnels or blankets that can be crawled through or under.
- Musical games such as ‘Ring-a-ring-a-roses’ and ‘Pass the Parcel’.
- Bubbles and balloons.
- Television and online programmes that encourage toddlers to dance and move along with the characters.
Fun activities that do not require any equipment include animal movement games, which get toddlers crawling, crouching, bouncing, touching toes, jumping and tag or chase. Dancing, clapping, and marching to music and climbing on and off furniture also give toddlers the exercise they need to stay fit and healthy. The play is enriched when the adult joins in or becomes an enthusiastic spectator.