Gross Motor Skills For Preschoolers – 3 Ways to Embed Physical Activity

In order to meet the 2 hour recommendation for physical activity, gross motor skills for preschoolers should be encouraged throughout the day.

Did you know that The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that preschoolers engage in at least 120 minutes of structured and unstructured physical activities each day? In order to meet these recommendations, gross motor skills for preschoolers should be encouraged throughout the day. Gross motor skills such as running, jumping, and skipping are moderate to vigorous types of physical activity. With the push for early academic learning in young children, it can be hard to find 2 hours per day for physical activity in preschoolers.

3 Ways to Embed Gross Motor Skills for Preschoolers Throughout the Day

Here are three easy ways to include gross motor skills for preschoolers all day long.

Take Physical Activity Breaks

It is recommended to include two, 10 minute, motor activity breaks throughout the day before returning to a lesson.  Many teachers call these “brain breaks‘.  It is a time for your brain to take a break from all the learning and re-energize. Here are some examples of brain breaks for small spaces that include gross motor activities:

These quick gross motor activities will help preschoolers add in physical activity and encourage the brain and body to be ready to learn.

Encourage Physical Activity During Transition Time

Preschoolers rarely stay in one spot for long.  Developmentally they are meant to move and transition to different activities to stay alert and engaged.  Maximize transition time by adding in movement during transition time.  Instead of just walking in a straight line or slowly walking back to your seat mix it up by adding in different gross motor skills such as:

  • walking backwards
  • walking sideways
  • crawling
  • walking with your hands overhead
  • marching with high knees

If you want even more ideas, check out the Monster Movement Transition Cards digital download. It is a collection of 56 quick sensory motor movement cards. Just grab a card and perform the action when transitioning in the classroom (ie desk to circle time), in the hallway (ie classroom to therapy room) and at home (ie wake up activities, during TV commercial breaks, etc). Just print them out, cut apart and you are set to go, no equipment required! There are 30 cards with various movement activities and 26 cards that are animal actions for the letters A to Z. Find out more.

Embed Movement into Academic Lessons

To add even more gross motor skills for preschoolers throughout the day, embed activities into academic lessons.  Here are some examples:

Literacy/Reading Time

Choose books that you can incorporate movement into the lesson. Find books that include animals, sports, transportation, or other movement type activities in the story. It will make it easier to incorporate actions while reading. Try reading the book through the first time. Then the second time you read it the children can act out the motions to go along with the story.   Make some cards with the action verbs on it from the story. Use those cards during other times during the day for movement break activities.

Encourage movement with 10 imagination action journeys to read and perform.  Imagination Action Journeys are 10 fun-filled stories that encourage literacy, physical activity, imagination, and creativity.  Children will enjoy reading and acting out the stories.

Teach the letters of the alphabet using movement. Exploring educational concepts through movement and multiple senses give children opportunities to learn in ways they understand. The ABC’s of Active Learning © offers readers tons of multisensory literacy activities based on each alphabet letter. Find out more.

Number Skills

Adding counting and number recognition to encourage gross motor skills for preschoolers is probably the easiest to put into action. Preschoolers can count as they exercise or play catch. Roll dice, count the numbers and perform that many of a certain motor skill.  Use beanbags to play games that have numbers on them.


Keep it simple and add in physical activity to the science lessons your are teaching.  For example, if you are learning about the weather, preschoolers can act out different types of weather such as rain, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Explore basic physics principles using ramps and balance beams. Water play can be a great way to explore early science concepts.  Preschoolers can squat, lift, and pour during water play.

Don’t Forget Recess to Encourage Gross Motor Skills for Preschoolers

Do not forget the importance of recess to develop gross motor skills for preschoolers.  Young children need unstructured, physical activity time throughout the day and the easiest way to provide this is outdoor recess.  Children also learn important social emotional skills during free play too. Best part of recess? No planning required!


Yang, H. W., Ostrosky, M. M., Favazza, P. C., Stalega, M. V., & Block, M. E. (2018). Embedding Motor Activities Into Inclusive PreschoolsYoung Exceptional Children, 1096250618783994.

Mini Movement Breaks


Mini Movement Breaks

This download is a collection of 60+ quick sensory motor activity cards that require no equipment. Most of the movement breaks can be done with one child or a group of children. It does not get any easier than this to encourage sensory motor activities in the classroom.



In order to meet the 2 hour recommendation for physical activity, gross motor skills for preschoolers should be encouraged throughout the day.