Inside: A list of fun gross motor activities for kids to practise spelling their names and get moving!
As parents, we often find ourselves looking for ways to help our children channel their energy into constructive activities, like building a tower instead of emptying toy boxes onto the floor. In the same way, we can use activities that involve movement at home to offer learning opportunities that help our children to expend energy while working on their literacy skills.
In reality, our children are constantly on the move, a normal attention span for a toddler or preschooler may only be a few minutes (4-12 depending on age) and frankly, moving is fun!
What are Gross Motor skills?
Children develop their gross motor skills when they use their large muscles to practise movements like walking, crawling, running, jumping, lifting, carrying, hopping, turning, pushing and pulling.
How might Gross Motor activities for kids help with their learning?
Engaging often and repetitively in these gross motor movements helps children to learn how to control and move their body, improves their hand-eye coordination and builds their confidence in what they are able to do.
When children have regular breaks to engage in gross motor activity, it actually helps them to feel calm, regulated and able to focus. What better way to feel when you have learning to do?
Aside from the physical benefits of including movement into learning at home, it is widely accepted that gross motor development is linked to the development of fine motor ability, including the hand and finger control involved in writing, as well as the development of other cognitive abilities like a child’s spatial awareness and visual analysis skills.
Believe it or not, spatial awareness is a skill not just used when kicking a ball into a net, but when a child is following words across a page! And analytical skills contribute to reading fluency and mathematical ability as much as they do to deciding where it is safe to step or jump! Gross motor activities for kids are also great for providing language opportunities to talk lots about procedure and explain problems and how to solve them.
5 Gross Motor Activities for Kids to Learn their Names
Here are five ways you can help your child practise their letter recognition and learn to spell their name while simultaneously helping them get moving, take a sensory break from sitting still, and learn, with things you may already have around the home.
TIP: For all of these activities, if your child is less familiar with the alphabet, it may help to have their name written on an A4 piece of paper somewhere nearby so that they have a reference for what comes next. You can point to this as you instruct them to find what comes next and don’t forget to make each letter’s sound clearly too. Developing the phonological connection between letters and sounds is the first step to reading fluency later on.
1. Balloon Letter Search
Here is an easy and fun gross motor activity to get your child running around and laughing in no time as they race to find the right balloon.
Blow up the same number of balloons as letters in your child’s name. On each balloon, write or draw one letter clearly so that when the balloon is on the floor it is easy to spot. Use a capital for the first letter of their name and repeat the same letter twice if needed.
Now one by one, instruct your child to find the next letter and bring you the balloons until together you have lined them all up! This game is like herding sheep, especially if you’re dealing with more than four letters because the balloons like to float away during the commotion!
2. Paper Plate Caterpillar
This is another low prep gross motor activity for kids that you can organise in seconds. Write each letter of your child’s name on a paper plate so that you have one per letter. Keep one plate with you as the caterpillar’s head. Then, you can lay the letter plates out across the floor, hide them or use a piece of sticky tape or blue tack to stick them up higher in places around the room.
Tell your child, ‘Oh no! Mrs Caterpillar has lost her body! Can you help me find it?’ Pretend to talk to the caterpillar and ask which letter comes first. You can test your child and see if they know!
Keep going until the caterpillar has her whole body back, you can tie or stick them all together and colour them in or put them all back and try again!
3. Stepping Stones
For this activity all you need is a piece of chalk if you have access to a driveway or footpath or the letters of your child’s name cut out of pieces of paper. Your preschooler can practise jumping, hopping, and keeping their balance as they step from one letter to the next to spell out their name.
Practise going fast and slow, using both feet or hopping on one foot. How far apart can you put the letters before they can’t jump from one to the next?
4. Cereal Box Tower
Can your child stretch up high and lift up their arms to build a name tower? Using any clean and safe recycling you can find (cardboard or cereal boxes, milk bottles or even toilet rolls are good for this one), write a letter of their name on each box. It helps to write on the biggest first to set them up for success.
As they identify each letter, tell them to build the name tower and see how high they can get it before they need help! Can they stack all the letters of their name without it falling over?
5. Letter Poses
For older preschoolers who like a challenge, or if you’ve had time to give this one a little bit of thought, see if together you can create the shape of each letter with your body. Some might be easy, like T, L, U and O and some might take a little more thought. This is a good opportunity to help your child notice the shape of the letters and think about how they are formed.
You could then sing a name song to the tune of ‘Bingo’ and see if they can make the letter poses in time to your singing:
‘’There was a boy, full of joy
and Caleb was his name, oh
and Caleb was his name, oh!’
Give these Gross Motor Activities a Try!
Next time your child needs a break from sitting down or you want to change things up and try something new, give one of these activities a go. You could try each of these activities spelling names forward and backwards, trying different simple words or even making an easy sentence with an older preschooler. Have fun!
For more practice with names, check out these multi-sensory name recognition activities. I also have more early literacy activities for children that you may find useful, such as activities for letter formation, preparing children to write and activities to overcome ‘b’ and ‘d’ confusion.
If you are looking for fine motor activities for kids, I’ve got you covered too! Check out these blog posts: 1) super easy dot sticker activities and 2) hands-on learning activities with bottle caps and pouch lids.