28 - 30 Months

Simple games that bring out surprising skills

Toddler running to a woman outside while she holds a green card
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Playing movement games—like “Red Light, Green Light” and “Crawl Like a Turtle”—is a great way to practice the gross motor skills your two-year-old is working on right now. At this age, your child is likely able to stop more easily, turn corners, and change direction while running or walking.  

“Red Light, Green Light”, with its abrupt stops and starts, is just right for practicing gross motor control. It’s also a great way to practice pedestrian safety, and can be extended in a wide variety of fun, silly ways.

Here’s how to make “Red light, green light” fun and fresh:

  • Start in your home; a long corridor or even just a few feet of open space are perfect for young children learning the rules. Holding up objects that match the colors you’re calling out adds a helpful visual; red and green bean bags, balls, or pieces of paper all work great.
  • Tell them that this is a listening challenge: when they hear “green light!” they need to run, and when they hear “red light” they should try to stop as quickly as they possibly can. Demonstrate stopping and starting so they can see how it looks.
  • If your child is having trouble stopping (which is common), consider teaching them to jump to a stop, which may make it easier.
  • If you venture outside, try the game in a safe place first, like a yard, open field, park, or playground.
  • When they understand the game, you can get creative with new elements:
    • “yellow light!” can mean WALK SLOWLY
    • “blue light” for HOP
    • “purple light” for WALK BACKWARDS
    • “pink light” for WALK SIDEWAYS

This is a great opportunity to practice some newer gross motor skills, like walking (even beginning to run) on tiptoes, jumping forwards, backwards, and sideways, and leaping as far as they can.

  • Ask your child to be the leader, while you take a turn being the runner.
  • When you’re out walking, you can point out real traffic lights and connect them to the game: “what do we do when the light is red? We stop at the curb. Now it’s green, so we look both ways to make sure no cars are coming, and then we can walk across the street”.

Here are some other fun movement games for practicing gross motor skills:

Crawl like a turtle

This is an animal imitation game that gets your child moving their body in a variety of ways. Demonstrate each movement for your child and then invite them to try.

  • “Hop like a frog” 🐸 You can designate “lily pads” (like stepping stones, bricks, or chalk circles) for them to hop between. This challenges them to squat all the way down and hop with both feet.
  • “Walk like a crab” 🦀 Show your child how to get on all fours and crawl sideways—know that coordinating legs, feet, arms, and hands together to move sideways (or any direction) on the ground is quite a challenge for your child.
  • “Gallop like a horse” 🐎 This kind of bilateral coordination, where one leg is walking and the other is running, will take a while to master. You can slow it down by showing your child how to first take a step with the front leg, then try a hop with the back one.
  • “Stand like a flamingo” 🦩 Balancing on one foot is a new skill for two-year-olds, and most won’t be able to do it for more than a second or two at a time without holding someone’s hand. Show your child how to stand still, then lift one foot up off the ground, like a flamingo. 
  • “Crawl like a turtle” 🐢 Turtles are famous for their slow gait, so you can tell your child to make their body small and tight, and crawl as slowly as they possibly can. You can do the same, and have a turtle race with your child. Slowest one wins 🙃

Pillow walking

Toddler jumping from a pillow to another pillow on the ground

This is a great indoor activity that requires nothing more than a set of pillows. Make a line of pillows, with a little space in between each one, and invite your child to walk from one end to the other on top of the pillows. The cushiness of the pillows makes for a balancing challenge.

Sharks in the water

Gather together a collection of stuffed animals and animal figurines (include any toy sharks you may have, but they can all be “sharks”) and spread them around an open space. Have your child run around the space, trying to avoid the animals. They can run around the animals, hop over them, or sidestep them. You can also give them a turn to place the “sharks”, and now it’s your turn to “swim” 🦈

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Posted in: 28 - 30 Months, Gross Motor, Playtime & Activities, Outdoor Play, Child Development

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