Playtime Tips: Motor Development

Playtime Tips: Motor Development


Motor development toys encourage children to move their bodies while developing their fine motor skills (i.e., smaller movements) and gross motor skills (i.e., larger movements). We love motor development toys because they encourage children to learn new skills, discover their abilities, and explore their surroundings. These toys set the foundation for becoming lifelong movers. 


  • Fine motor skills (e.g., grasping, reaching, manipulating objects)
  • Gross motor skills (e.g., walking, running, swinging) 
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Balance
  • Concentration/patience
  • Problem-solving skills

Play Prompts: 

Try these tips to add challenge, simplify, or switch up how you play with motor development toys. Bring in the whole family by simplifying for younger siblings or stepping it up with older siblings!


  • Observation Station: Observe first. Watch how your child plays with the toy (there is no one right way!). This will show you their understanding and allow you to follow their lead based on interest and ability. 
  • Lights, Camera, Action Verb: Narrate the skill by naming the action verb repeatedly (e.g., twist, pull, push, throw, bang). Encourage your child to use that word as they practice the action if they are able to. Reinforcing the word with the action is helpful!
  • Sillies Shakeout: Learning new skills can be frustrating. If your child is getting worked up, count down from 5 to 1 while shaking out your left arm, then repeat for right arm, left leg, right leg, and whole body. Assist your child or have them do it on their own, depending on their age. Sometimes an abrupt activity switch is helpful to shake off the frustration and reset.
  • Parts of a Whole: If there are multiple parts to the toy, use them separately first. Have a child become familiar with each piece individually before using them together. 
  • Setting Switch: Try using the toy in different environments, different positions, and with different stimuli (e.g., music, lighting, people around). Motor development toys take concentration and problem-solving, so changing the conditions of where/how/when the toy is played can affect your child’s success and enjoyment. 

Step up:

  • Obstacle Course: Build an obstacle course and add the toy as part of it. Place pillows or hardcover books to step on, scatter objects to crawl between, roll up a towel to walk on, and then add the toy as part of it. Start with two sections and add more. 
  • Teacher Time: Have your child teach you (or a sibling) how to use the toy. Make a few mistakes along the way. 
  • Reverse, Reverse: Encourage your child to try using the toy in reverse (e.g., walking backwards, taking it out instead of pushing it in, receiving the ball instead of kicking). What other ways can you use the toy?
  • New Rules: Invent a new way to play with the toy. Try switching to the non-dominant hand/hoot, closing your eyes, doing it in a certain amount of time, changing positions,  etc. 
  • Taking Turns: Use this toy to practice sharing and taking turns. Narrate along, ‘you do, I do’ to help them transition back and forth. Add in new ways to do it (e.g., ‘I do it fast, you do it fast. I do it loud, you do it loud.’)


  • Raise the Stakes: Create some friendly competition by making it a game (e.g., farthest throw, fastest time). Option to add in a silly reward like choosing tomorrow’s outfit, picking what you have for dinner next week, choosing the music, or picking the next activity.
  • Pretend Play: While motor development toys are great for practicing a movement skill, they can also be used in different ways. Get creative by imagining a new world and playing out a scenario while using the toy. What else can the toy be? 
  • Making Moves: Children are constantly practicing their fine and gross motor skills in everyday movements. Look for movements that are similar to the movements they are practicing with their toy. Name the action they are doing in everyday tasks to show how often they move (e.g., Twist the cap, grab the stuffed animal, push the door).


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