Gross Motor Growth


It's not every day that a single activity engages an entire group of young children for a significant amount of time, but since February, the toddlers had united in one thing: jumping. What began with a child-led game of taking turns leaping into a pile of pillows soon became a daily occurrence — so frequent that the entire layout of the classroom was rethought and redesigned with this clear desire for a place to jump as the central idea. With some suggestions from the centre's resource consultant, we as educators reclaimed the pillows for the quiet area meant for resting and reading stories, and designated a different space where jumping and other gross motor-based risky play could take place more safely. 

The toddlers adapted very quickly and the gross motor area seemed to become a favourite place for much of the class. With a soft foam climber, a couple of stumps, some plastic stepping stones, and a pair of gym mats as the landing zone, the toddlers set up this area each day to pass the time there in an endless game of step, step, step, jump. We continued to foster this type of play by providing more opportunities; out on the playground, the children were able to utilize objects of different heights (various stumps, wooden blocks, a log bench) to engage at whatever level was comfortable for them. On a trip out to the nearby forest, they were able to climb onto, balance across, and jump off of fallen trees. Not only were they growing and challenging themselves physically, but they were also engaging socially as they took turns, followed each other, and were inspired by watching their peers to keep trying. 

Balancing, climbing and jumping are all forms of risky play, and risky play is integral to early childhood development. Children are able to build confidence, independence, and resilience as they begin to trust their own abilities to fall down and stand back up again. Much like an adult watching a scary movie, risk-taking in play allows children to experience manageable amounts of fear, which in turn leads to feelings of excitement, accomplishment, and developing skills for coping with stress. Over the span of several weeks, our toddlers demonstrated how their risky play is making them brave and strong! 

child walking across wooden log outside on the playground

Children climbing across logs in the classroom