5 Clever Gross Motor Play Ideas for Developmental Delays

Trying to encourage your tot towards milestones & overcome developmental delays? Give these gross motor play tactics a go.

Trying to encourage your tot towards milestones & overcome developmental delays? Give these gross motor play tactics a go.


One of my least favorite jobs as a parent is filling out the development logs for a new doctor or a new school. Everything with my daughter is approximate. I cannot remember when she finally sat unassisted or started walking. Each milestone was a process, and there wasn’t much delineation between the before and after. So, approximations it is.

The process for achieving each milestone included a lot of hard play. Watching the therapists work with my daughter was incredible. Everything was play-based, so while she was working her tail off, she enjoyed it. She loved seeing her therapists come to the house because she had fun – hence, hard play. If you’re trying to encourage your little one toward some of these milestones, give these hard play tactics a go. It may take some time, but you will see progress! Keep in mind that these different activities are focused on specific gross motor areas and will vary by age and ability.

Gross Motor Skills Play Ideas

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  1. Rock and reach. While there are differing opinions on whether or not crawling is necessary for development, we worked on this skill with my daughter to work on rotational motion (use of the opposite arm and leg) and to strengthen her core. Start by helping your baby get into a crawling position. Hold the hips and thighs to help him keep the position. Gently rock his body back and forth and make silly noises (I would say “bop, bop, bop” in time with the rocking). Once he seems content in this position, put a desired toy at eye level and encourage him to reach for it. Keep your hands in place as he reaches so he doesn’t collapse his position. This will help him learn to stay in the crawling position and strengthen his muscles as he balances to reach.
  1. Play in tall kneel. If your child has stability challenges, you probably have seen w-sitting. It is the most stable position for her to sit, however physical therapists will tell you that w-sitting is a huge no-no. The tall kneel position (the calves at a right angle to the thighs) is a great position in which to play because it also encourages your child to stand through the tall kneel position when she starts working to stand. Get a toy like a piggy bank or something that will keep her engaged and focused and hold it just at eye level. You might need to use your free hand to keep her from standing while she plays. Playing in tall kneel will increase her stability and muscle strength.
  1. Bouncing on a ball. Exercise balls are beneficial because they strengthen your core muscles without you even realizing it – you have to tighten your abdominal muscles for stability. The same is true for your little one. Sit him down on an exercise ball and kneel in front of him. Bounce him on the ball, then tilt the ball to one side as he bounces. He will naturally tighten his oblique muscles to try and pull himself toward center. Move the bounces from side to side and front to bank – it’s a great core strengthener!
  1. Bubbles! Let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love bubbles? My little one was very motivated grab for and pop the bubbles, so they really got her moving. A bonus is that bubbles are often an outside toy, and the grass is pretty forgiving should your toddler take a tumble. If bubbles don’t motivate your little guy, find something that does. He will be much more inclined to work for something that is really appealing to him.
  1. Toddler trampoline. Jumping was a personal goal of mine for years, and at almost 7, my daughter can now get some air under her feet. We got her a small trampoline when she was a toddler because it gave her an unsteady surface (again, to focus on the core) with a handlebar for stability. She loved bouncing on the trampoline and it worked on strengthening many different muscles.

These suggestions are no replacement for the support of a physical therapist, and if you have concerns about your baby’s or toddler’s development, make sure you discuss them with your pediatrician. This collection of play ideas are some that made a difference in our life, and hopefully you’ll find them helpful in yours! Keep at it – the play is hard, but the achievement is so rewarding!

Did you come up with any fun and clever gross motor skills play ideas to help overcome developmental delays? Share below!

2 thoughts on “5 Clever Gross Motor Play Ideas for Developmental Delays”

  1. Stacey Roberson

    These are some wonderful ideas. My daughter has developmental delays and we have been working with her to get her caught up. She does love the trampoline – she doesn’t jump yet, but will sit and bounce on her butt.

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