Babies and toddlers need to move their bodies. They are wired to explore and push their physical limits. From the very beginning, we aspired to give Eli as much free use of his body as we could by not using baby products whose purpose was to contain the baby, such as playpens, swings, and activity centers. As Eli became more mobile, we encouraged Eli to explore our home, making sure the majority of our home was a “yes” space, and we made a conscious effort to trust Eli and his understanding of his own body by not steering him away from precarious situations, such as learning how to climb off high surfaces (sofa and bed) or pull up on unstable objects. We were there to spot or help if asked, but otherwise, we simply observed and trusted him (easier said than done, for sure; it definitely takes practice). We have also chosen materials to aid this natural need for gross motor work. At 12 months, here are some of the gross motor materials in rotation:
Large blocks. Eli loves to knock these down, push them around, climb on top, climb over, and hide behind these large, soft blocks. I’m sure they will be a wonderful stacking challenge in the next year as well.
Basket of various sports balls. We included a basketball (youth size), soccer ball (youth size), football, a couple baseballs (safety balls), and a few tennis balls. We felt it was important to start letting Eli explore actual sports balls, not just made-for-kids balls. It’s amazing how different the texture of each sports ball is, and it is fun to watch Eli figure out how each ball moves and for him to be challenged in working with the various sizes, shapes, and weights. He chases them, throws them, rolls them, and lifts them as high as he can. We hope to add a volleyball, softball, ping pong balls, and a shuttlecock to the basket next. We may need a bigger basket. Ha!
Medicine ball. We already owned a 12 pound medicine ball, so I figured, why not let Eli have a go at it? It’s definitely a maximum effort work. Eli crawls and pushes, pulls up on the ball and pushes, even rolls his body over the top and slides to the floor (pretty sure that was unintended the first couple times, but he thought it was funny). I love watching him exert his entire body with this challenging work.
Stair climber. Since receiving it at 11 months old, Eli has loved challenging himself on these steps by climbing on and off in different ways, carrying objects with him as he crawls over, etc. Once he walks, I know these stairs will present a whole new level of challenge.
Slide. A birthday present from his GiGi and JJ, the slide, especially climbing the ladder, is the new, fun challenge. Currently, he is able to climb up and down, but he hasn’t quite figured out how to get into a seated position at the top in order to slide down. I love watching him explore his new slide.
Scooter. Right now, the work is getting on and off, which is really the challenging part I realized. Give him a couple more months, and I’m pretty sure he will be scooting all over the house.
Tunnel. Not only does Eli crawl through the tunnel, he loves to push/pull it around. It wasn’t really what I was expecting, but moving the large tunnel around is clearly fun gross motor work for him.
Step stool. This one is a highly supervised activity, but after Eli followed Brian, my husband, up the first two steps of the step stool independently (as I spotted him from behind), we knew this was a nice and wanted challenge for him, so we pull out the step stool to invite him to climb.
The best part of all these materials is that they can be used indoors or outdoors. I love that Eli is able to move the way he was designed to move rain or shine, summer or winter, day or night…preferably not too much during the night. Ha!
What gross motor work does your baby or early toddler enjoy?