24 Gross Motor Games and Activities For Parent-Child Outdoors


Gross motor skills involve movements using the large muscles of the body. They include things like running, jumping, catching and throwing balls, and other large muscle activities. “Good gross motor skills are essential, because the body develops from large moments such as control of the arms and the legs, to small, isolated movements that include the hands and fingers. Without reasonable gross motor control, it can be difficult for children to move onto developing the fine motor skills . . . .”

Here are 23 games and activities that young children can do to have fun while improving their gross motor skills. All are designed for two or more people to play together. All of these games can be played outside, many of them can also be played inside with enough space to run.


1. The Run-Around

One person gives directions such as “run to the big tree, touch the bark, and come back,” or “run over to the slide, go down one time, and come back” or “run around the tree three times.” Great not only for gross motor skills, but for listening and following directions.


2. Balloon Toss

Blow up several balloons and toss them back and forth. Try moving closer to each other and farther away from each other. Try using different body parts (hands, elbows, heads) or blowing the balloon up in the air. See how many times your preschooler can bounce the balloon up before it falls to the ground.


3. Hula Hoop Fun

Invest in several different colored hula hoops; lay them on the ground. Give instructions such as “run to the red hula hoop and pretend to be a car,” or “hop over to the green hula hoop like a bunny.”


4. Egg Races

Using plastic eggs, race from one end of the yard to the next holding the egg on a serving spoon (or a measuring cup or smaller spoon, depending on the dexterity of your child). See how far your child can get without dropping/breaking an egg. Try not to focus on “winning,” but on having fun while walking with the egg.

A hilarious alternative to this game is to have the children get on their hands and knees and push the plastic eggs from one place to another using only their noses.

 Chalk-Numbers-Activity chalk1                                                    chalkbucketimages-3img_6324

5. Sidewalk Chalk Simon Says

Draw large shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, etc. using sidewalk chalk. Say “Simon says stand on the yellow square,” or “Simon says sit on the number 5.” For more advanced kids, try multiple step instructions like “Simon says run to number 14, then hop over to number 20.” This is a fun way to work on recognition of higher numbers, lowercase letters, etc.

For an EXTRA Challenge and to develop Executive Functions – Promote FOCUS and practice LISTENING skills – play by having the child do the OPPOSITE of what Simon Says!


6. Jump the Brook

Draw two lines on the ground with sidewalk chalk (or use ropes in the grass). Let your child try to “jump over the brook.” You can move the lines together or farther apart, depending on your child’s abilities.


7. Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone

In the group version of this game, children in a circle take turns hiding the “bone” from the doggy, who tries to find it. That’s impossible in a two person version. Instead, we enjoy taking turns hiding the bone in various places around the room or in the yard. It helps to have a defined hiding area, and be sure to offer hints if the child gets frustrated finding it.

Feel free to use the chant – have the child close his eyes while you hide the object and open them at the end of the chant (and if you’re skeptical of the value of chants and rhymes, read “The Importance of Rhyme“):

Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who! Maybe you . . .
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.

Group Version: Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone

This is a good activity for ages 2 thru 6 or so.

At a birthday party, if you’re planning a lot of outdoor activities, this is a good thing to have in the corner of your mind in case of bad weather!  This is a good game for Clifford, Blue’s Clues, Dalmatian/Fire, Scooby Doo, etc theme parties.

The Chant:
(feel free to change “Doggy Doggy” to “clifford, clifford”, “scooby, scooby”, etc.)

Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who!  Maybe you…
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.

How to play:

Have the birthday boy or girl be the first to be the doggy.  They should sit in the center of the circle of children and close/cover their eyes while the song is chanted (it doesn’t really have a tune).

Alternative 1:  have an adult give the bone (or whatever you choose to hide…  A shoe works too) to one of the children while chanting the song (make sure you give each child a chance to have the bone).  Have all of the children hide their hands behind their backs.  When the chant is over, the doggy can uncover his or her eyes and gets 3 guesses as to which person has the bone.  Whether the doggy gets it right or not, the person with the bone gets to be the next doggy.  Because you’ve made sure to give each child a turn with the bone, each child will get a turn being the doggy.

Alternative 2:  (more competitive) — have the last person who was the doggy, give the bone (or whatever you choose to hide) to one of the other children while everyone chants the song.  Have all the children hide their hands behind their backs.  When the chant is over, the doggy can uncover his or her eyes and gets 3 guesses as to which person has the bone.  If they guess where the bone is, they get to sit outside the circle and the person with the bone is the doggy.  If they don’t guess where the bone is, they have to be the doggy again.


8. We All Play Ball

Roll or pass a ball back and forth. Pair each roll with a verbal cue. For example, take turns saying the ABCs (each person says a letter on her turn), count forward or backward, think of different colors, shapes, foods, etc.


9. Toe Pick-Up

Take off your socks and shoes and pick up small toys with your toes and put them in a bucket. For more skilled preschoolers, try picking up all of the yellow objects, then the blue, the red, etc.


10. Mother May I?

In this simple game, the direction giver stands on one side of the room/yard, and the child(ren) stand on the other. The children take turns asking the direction giver, “Mother, may I _____?” (i.e., take 3 giant steps; hop 4 times; take 2 baby steps) The direction giver can answer “Yes you may” or “No you may not” at her whim. There are other variations of this game, use the one that is the most fun for your child. Mother May I is great for exploring limits and accepting compromise.


11. Pop Goes the Weasel

Child runs around adult in circles, everyone sings the song “Pop Goes the Weasel.” When you sing “pop goes the weasel,” grab the child for a big bear hug (and/or tickle, if your child enjoys that).)

Lyrics/link to song: http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/pop_goes_the_weaselmp3.htm

Round and round the cobbler’s bench
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought ’twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A half a pound of tupenny rice,
A half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

Up and down the London road,
In and out of the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

I’ve no time to plead and pine,
I’ve no time to wheedle,
Kiss me quick and then I’m gone
Pop! Goes the weasel.

Other Versions of “Pop Goes the Weasel”

Version 1

Round and round the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought it was all in fun.
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That’s the way the money goes.
Pop! Goes the weasel.

(Mother Goose Club Version)

Version 2

All around the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought it was all in fun.
Pop! Goes the weasel.I’ve no time to wait or sigh,
No patience to wait till by and by;
Kiss me quick, I’m off, good bye.
Pop! Goes the weasel.Source: Wier, Songs the Children Love to Sing (1916)

Version 3

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Mix it up and make it nice—
Pop goes the weasel.

Every night when I come home,
The monkey’s on the table;
Take a broom and knock him off,
Pop goes the weasel.

Source: White, Notes and Queries, Vol. 111 (1905)

Version 4

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes—
Pop goes the weasel.Every night when I come home
Supper’s on the table;
That’s the way the money goes—
Pop goes the weasel.

Source: White, Notes and Queries, Vol. 111 (1905)

Historical Background (Pop Goes the Weasel)

Dating back to the 1700s, “Pop Goes the Weasel” originated from Cockney Rhyming Slang, a system of cryptic phrases used by Cockneys and poor Londoners. Rhyming Slang is created by finding a rhyme for a given word, identifying a synonym for the rhyme, and then substituting the synonym for the original word. For example, “head” rhymes with “bread,” and the Cockney Rhyming Slang for “head” is “loaf.” Cockneys created the secret slang because of their suspicion of strangers and strong dislike for the police. “Pop” is the slang word for pawn, and “weasel” originates from “weasel and stout,” meaning coat. During difficult financial times, poor commoners would pawn their suits on Mondays and reclaim it before Sunday in order to be properly dressed for church. Thus, the birth of the saying “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

You Tube Video of Pop Goes the Weasel:


12. Red Light Green Light

The stop light stands at one end of the room/yard, the player(s) stand at the other. The stop light calls “green light,” and the players move toward the stop light. The players must stop when the stop light calls “red light.”

Add variations to keep things fun: “yellow light” can mean walk slowly; “blue light” can mean hop; “purple light” can mean walk backwards, etc. Take turns being the stop light.

Play OPPOSITES for a challenge and to develop FOCUS and LISTENING Skills – Red means go and Green means stop!


FREE Printable Charades Cards & Blank Template to add your own Cards:

Activities Cards: charades-cards-kids-activities

Animals Cards: charades-cards-kids-animals

Easy Kids Cards: charades-cards-kids-easy

Emotions Cards: charades-cards-kids-emotion

Actions Cards: water-charade-cards-actions

Blank Template Cards: charade-cards-charades-ideas

13. Charades

For younger children, make the clues they are to act out very easy: reading a book, sleeping, happy, sad, dog, cat. Use picture cards instead of written words (you can cut them out of a magazine), so that you don’t know what the child is acting out.


14. Basketball

Using any ball and “hoop” (a trash can, and bucket, a wagon, etc.), take turns shooting the ball toward the hoop. Let your preschooler start at whatever distance is comfortable for him. Concentrate on having fun – not making it a contest!

*There are lots of Fun Basket Ball Games to play with your child (I have a separate post on this but on my other website that explains several fun games – PIG, HORES, 21 etc). www.skinnurse.wordpress.com

597029-1629-21 crab_soccer

15. Crab Soccer

Get down into a crab walk position, then kick a bouncy ball back and forth or try kicking it into a goal. This is a fun (and funny!) way to exercise different muscle groups.


16. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Start out by singing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes at a normal pace. Once your child gets the concept, try it slower, faster, super fast, and “warp speed,” or substitute other body parts in for a change of pace.

Link to Tune “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”: http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/headshmp3.htm

Version I

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes

And Eyes   and Ears and Mouth and Nose
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head Shoulders Song

Or maybe you remember Version II best!

(To the Tune of London Bridge)

Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes,
Knees and toes,
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
It’s my body

Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Mouth and nose,
Mouth and nose,
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
It’s my body

Ankles, elbows, feet and seat,
Feet and seat,
Feet and seat,
Ankles, elbows, feet and seat,
It’s my body

Video on You Tube: 


17. Hopscotch

There are many different ways to play hopscotch. One way is to draw your basic hopscotch grid, then the first player throws a marker (we use a rock) into box #1. The player hops on one foot (or alternating feet, or both feet for some kids!) all the way to the last box and back, stopping to pick up the marker on her way. Players take turns trying to throw in each box in order (1, 2, 3, etc.).

A simpler way to play is to follow the instructions above, but only to hop to the first square, pick up the marker, and return.

You can also vary the way you draw the grid.

Snail Hopscotch Variety:

Snail hopscotch

1. The player hops through the grid – one hop only to each space.

2.  Player may rest at home (10) with both feet before turning around and hopping back to the base line (1).

3.  When a player successfully hops to 10 and back, that person’s initials are chalked in any space chosen by the player, except home (1).

4.  From now on, the player may rest on both feet in that space, but no other player is allowed to hop into it.  When players come to any initial space other than their own, they must hop over it.  

5.  The game becomes harder as the spaces are initialed.  When there is only one player left who can complete the grid, that person is the winner. variation:    Play the game just like potsy.


18. “Touch” Game

One person gives directions, saying: “touch a tree,” “touch something blue,” “touch something high,” etc. The other person runs as fast as she can to find and touch whatever it is.


19. Follow the Leader

The leader walks, runs, jumps, etc. around, the other people follow and repeat the movements. Take turns being the leader.

  • Reach Up and Touch the Sky
  • Sniff like a dog
  •  Meow/Crawl Like a Cat
  • Balance
  • Fly Like a Bird
  • Log Roll
  • Take Deep Breaths
  • Walk, Run, Skip, Jump
  • Turn with your arms out
  • Stretch and touch your toes
  • Touch your head, shoulders, eyes, ears, knees, elbows, nose etc.


20. Ring Around the Rosie

Hold hands and sing the traditional “Ring Around the Rosy” song.

You Tube Link: 

Clear a space so that you and your child (and any other players) have enough room to hold hands, walk in a circle, and sit down without hitting anything. As you’re walking – or galloping – in a circle, sing:

A pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes
We all fall down!

On “fall down,” sit quickly on the floor. This part is usually a hit!

You may be playing this game for a while, so if you’d like a little variety, you can add a traditional (though less well-known) verse. Chant it while you’re still sitting, then jump up at the end:

Mammy in the teapot
Daddy in the cup
When our mother calls us
We all jump up!

Here is a Link to the music of “Ring Around the Rosy” (This website is a bank of children’s songs!): http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/ringaroundmp3.htm

(Start activity with children hold hands and dance around in a circle)

Ring around the rosies
A pocket full of posies;
Ashes, Ashes
All stand still.
 (Children hold still)

The King has sent his daughter,
To fetch a pail of water;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes
All fall down
. (Children fall to the floor)

The bird upon the steeple,
Sits high above the people;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes
All kneel down
. (Children kneel)

The wedding bells are ringing,
The boys and girls are singing;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes,
All fall down
. (Children fall to the floor)


21. What Time Is It Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox stands with his back to the other player(s). The players ask “what time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox answers with a time. If he says two o’clock, the other players must take two steps toward Mr. Fox. Once one player gets close enough to touch Mr. Fox, the fox turns around and tries to catch one of the players. The players attempt to run back to the starting line.

How To Play Explained in 9 Simple Steps:

  1. Can you outfox the Fox?
  2. This game is for 3 or more players and should be played in an open area.
  3. The object of the game is to walk past Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox without getting caught.
  4. To play, pick someone to be the Fox. Everyone else should line up on the starting line.
  5. The Fox will stand about 20 feet away with her back turned.
  6. The rest of the players say, “What time is it Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox?”
  7. If Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox answers a time like, “It’s five o’clock” players take five steps forward. If she answers, “It’s one o’clock” players take one step forward, and so on. The players can take any size step they want.
  8. If Mrs. Fox says, “It’s time to eat you!” she turns around and chases the other players back to the starting line.
  9. If Mrs. Fox catches someone, he becomes the next Fox.


You can play this with any variation of animal that your child is interested in; I’ve also heard “Mr. Shark” played at the pool.

22. A Tooty Ta Ta

This hilarious song and action game will get both adults and kids giggling. Watch the video to learn how!


A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
Thumbs up CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back, Tongue out, CHORUS


Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Thumbs up! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Elbows back! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Feet apart! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Eyes shut! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Clap hands! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.

Link to the video: http://tmas.kcls.org/a-tooty-ta-ta/

four-square-corbismkbb277ca03-66b4-4fe5-b378-f42b6e2af333four square old school

23. Preschool Four Square

In traditional four square, you try to get other players “out.” In this version, we’ll concentrate more on controlling the ball. In each of the four squares, draw a picture or write a letter or number (or word, or whatever else you are learning about). Take turns trying to bounce the ball into each square. Players can also rotate around and try to bounce the ball back to each other.

*Also on my other website www.skinnurse.wordpress.com I have detailed explanation of this game with official rules and variations.

41pxj9UFcFL._SX425_ Retro-games-11

24. Hide and Seek

Play hide and seek the traditional way or try a variety by hiding a stuffed animal in the yard or park – Give hints using colors “Red – HOT – getting really really close,” —— “Blue, Cold, Frozen – not even close.”  — “Yellow – Getting Warmer and warmer – you are close.”


Family and Kids Basket Ball Games

Family Basketball Games

1. H-O-R-S-E The game of H-O-R-S-E is an old time favorite

  • Any skill level can play
  • The set-up is simple: 2 players or more, a hoop & a basketball.
  • How to Play: The first player chooses a spot on the court and takes a shot. If the shot is made, the next player must repeat the exact same shot. If the shot is made, the process is repeated. However, if the second player does not match the first player’s shot, then they receive a letter – in this case, an “H.” If the first player misses their shot, then the second player takes the lead shot, and if it is made, the first player must match player two’s shot. And so on. This is repeated until one player misses five shots and receives all five letters that spell out the word H-O-R-S-E!

**** This is a great game to test your outside shot, or even simple layups.  It’s also fun to try the wackiest of shots! Try a “behind-the back” lay-up, a shot from behind the backboard or a shot from way out beyond the driveway. The game can also be altered to a shorter version. This version is called P-I-G.

2. Lightning! Lightning is a game that tests your ability to shoot a free-throw while under pressure.

  • This game is best with 3 or more players (more fun with a large group)
  • It requires 2 basketballs.
  • The set-up is easy:
    • create a free-throw line at any distance you like (the regulation free-throw line is 15 feet (180 inches) from the backboard).
    • It requires 2 basketballs
  • How to Play: 
    • Line everyone up single-file just behind the line and give the first 2 people in line each a basketball. The first person in line takes a shot. As soon as that person releases their shot, the next person in line can take their shot.
    • The object of the game is for the person taking the second shot to make the basket before the person in front of them. If the first person taking the shot makes their shot, they pass the ball back to the next person in line, move to the very back of the line and the game continues. If the first person misses their shot, they must rebound the shot and make a basket before they can pass it to the next player. However, if the person immediately behind them makes the shot before the first player can make a shot, the first player is out of the game. This pattern follows until all but one player is eliminated. The last player standing is the winner.

**** Lightning is fast-paced, highly excitable and the more players you have, the more fun the game. This is a game that tests your ability to shoot under pressure and it can leave you quite winded.

o Speed –

o   21 – Breaking the Ice – Start the game with players shooting single free throws in succession until one player makes a shot, which breaks the ice and counts as 1 point… Then it gets complicated…. here is a link to rules for playing: http://www.ehow.com/how_3049_play-21-basketball.html

o   Around the World

o  Poison