Apr 7, 2023 5 min read

Toddler Preschool Exercises to Keep Little Ones Active!

Leah Woodbury By: Leah Woodbury
a toddler tosses a yellow ball into the air

Toddlers should be active three or more hours daily, or about 15 minutes every hour they are awake, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As child care providers, you know that this age group is always on the move!

National guidance for prschool programs calls for providing at least two opportunities a day for physical activity, totaling 60 to 90 minutes. A 2022 study by the AAP found that 74% of child care programs did provide enough opportunities for physical activity, only half gave kids the recommended amount of time, and just 43% gave them both enough opportunities and enough time, according to a HealthDay article. 

By age 2, toddlers should be able to walk and run well. They might be able to kick a ball and jump in place with both feet. Three-year-olds usually can balance briefly on one foot, kick a ball forward, throw a ball overhand, catch a ball and pedal a tricycle, according to Nemours KidsHealth.

Keep these skills in mind when encouraging your child to be active. Balls, push-and-pull toys and riding vehicles are great age-appropriate toys to help them refine their motor skills. 

Let’s look at five toddler exercise activities you can deploy in your preschool to keep them healthy and lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle!

1. Navigate an Obstacle Course

When you’re thinking about designing your own obstacle course, consider the various elements that make it both fun and challenging, according to the play kit company Lovevery

It suggested including the following in an obstacle course: 

  • something to jump to (spots marked on the ground), over (a rope or a line on the ground) and into (hoops or chalk circles)
  • something to crawl through or under (a play tunnel, table or chair)
  • something to walk on carefully (a board laid flat on the ground)
  • something to climb over (pillows, bean bag chairs or large stuffed animals)
  • something to wind their way around (cones on the ground to weave through)
  • something to run to — you can have the obstacle course finish with a short sprint into your arms 

Think about what the toddlers in your care can do physically and don’t be afraid to get creative!

a toddler crawl through a red and yellow play tunnel

2. Imitate Animals

What’s more fun than moving and pretending?

Preschoolers love animals and mimicing their sounds. Play fun music during this time to keep the kids moving and having fun.

There are so many fun animals to imitate. Walk like a penguin! Hop like a frog! Inch along the ground like a caterpillar! Do a crab walk!

Bear crawls are full-body movements that help increase strength and coordination, according to an Insider article. They target upper body muscles, including shoulders, chest and arms as well as lower body muscles, including quadriceps and hamstrings in the legs.

Tell the toddlers to pretend to be bears moving around in a forest looking for food or trying to catch another animal. Start on all fours with both hands and feet on the ground. Keep arms shoulder-width apart and  hips in the air. Move forward, starting with the right hand and left foot and then  left hand and right foot. 

3. Play With Balls

Balls are great for exercises beyond playing catch.

Sitting and bouncing on a therapy ball “wakes up” the muscles along the spine, according to Your Kids Table.  And rocking side to side or back and forth strengthens more core muscles.

Bouncing on a hop ball is another fun core and balance exercise that also helps with hand strength.

And you can set up an indoor basketball game with crumpled up newspaper as balls. Use a laundry basket or cardboard box as hoops!

4. Practice Yoga

a toddler does yoga in a daycare classroom

Teaching toddler yoga poses is simple and fun and helps the little ones build flexibility.

For instance the tree pose is exciting for toddlers who mastering walking and running, and anything new that they can learn to do with their legs makes them feel like a big boy or girl! 

Hold onto the toddler’s hand and encourage the child to lift one leg up and touch their other leg with it. Eventually, once toddlers gain their balance, they can lift the foot up without holding your hand.

The benefits of tree pose include helping to stretch the thighs, torso and shoulders as well as strengthen the ankles, calves and abdominal muscles.

YouTube is full of great videos of yoga for kids. This 15-minute class by Yoga For Kids with Alissa Kepas is fun for toddlers and even includes buzzing like a bee!

5. Blow and Chase Bubbles

a child playing with bubbles outside

Verywell Family suggests buying some bubble solution or making your own homemade bubbles along with some bubble wands and heading outside.

Young prschoolers will enjoy chasing the bubbles and popping them while older toddlers can blow on the bubbles to see how long they can keep one in the air. 

How Early Learning Curriculum Can Help!

Coming up with developmentally appropriate activities for children in child care settings can be time-consuming and difficult. That’s where Procare Early Learning, an online curriculum solution to address the needs of daycares, preschools and early learning teachers, can help! 

Check out this Procare Early Learning lesson plan you can incorporate this spring. Want something active for this fall? Give pumpkin bowling a try!

This 100% digital offering is seamlessly embedded into Procare and gives teachers everything they need to provide high-quality instruction for infants to pre-K at their fingertips.

No more expensive books, binders or kits, no long hours preparing lessons and no stress for the teachers – just log in, organize pre-loaded lessons per classroom and by age group and let the learning begin! 

Request your demo today to see what an all-digital curriculum can do for your child care business!

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Leah Woodbury

Leah Woodbury is the head of content at Procare Solutions. Her job includes writing about topics that matter to child care professionals and finding ways to help them do their important work. She’s a mom of two who loves getting updates about what her preschooler is doing during the day via the Procare child care mobile app!

Leah Woodbury