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6 Toddler Gymnastics Moves for Active Little Ones

Enhance their strength, flexibility, and confidence with these fun exercises.

6 Toddler Gymnastics Moves for Active Little Ones

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Whether they're dancing like nobody's watching, swimming like a fish, or taking a leisurely walk with mom and dad, make sure your toddler gets a taste of the exhilarating world of gymnastics, too. Besides, many toddler gymnastics moves are a great way to enhance their strength, flexibility, and confidence. They are also a great way to foster parent-child bonding time, too!

Looking for some fun and effective toddler gymnastics moves to try at home? We've got you covered. We asked two pros to share their favorite moves, and here are some of the best ones we found: wheelbarrow walks, bear crawls, and more.

Get ready to have a blast while improving your little one's coordination and motor skills with any of these.

Wheelbarrow Walks

mom holding a baby in a wheelbarrow kick position in a toddler gym. The baby's hand are on the floor with legs in the air Source: The Little Gym

Want to get fit while spending quality time with your child? Look no further than the wheelbarrow walk, one of the best toddler gymnastics exercises to try! Taryn Parker, director of curriculum and training for The Little Gym International, says it's a great activity for building your child's core and your own muscles. Just grab a gymnastic or exercise mat to keep safety at the forefront.

"To perform this exercise at home, have your toddler start in a downward dog (or kneeling position), with hands flat on the mat. "For toddlers, we recommend lifting your child from the hips, spotting to ensure their back does not arch. Avoid lifting them from the ankles, and provide extra support under their chest, as needed."

Donkey Kicks (Handstand Lead-Ups)

child in a donkey kick pose in a toddler gym with his hands on the ground kicking his feet in the air Source: The Little Gym

Donkey kicks are the way to go if you're looking for a fun way to teach your little one how to do a handstand. The name will make them laugh, and it's also a great exercise for coordination and motor planning. Just don't forget to put a mat down for safety!

"Children should begin this exercise in a downward dog position, and then parents should encourage them to keep only three body parts on the mat when lifting one foot, she says. "Try to train through imagination and parent modelling; all but one foot is glued to the ground. You can then try to let them let go of the other foot."

Parker says you can also make this exercise more challenging for older toddlers by encouraging them to keep their hands flat on the mat while simultaneously jumping slightly up with both feet.

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Balance Beam Walks

young child learning to walk on a balance beam with the help of a coach spotting her up Source: The Little Gym

If you're looking for a fun way to improve your toddler's balance and listening skills, look no further than a balance beam walk! Whether you have one at home or can access one at a gym, your little one will love the challenge. And if you don't have a balance beam, don't worry. Parker says you can easily make one at home with some tape and an exercise mat.

"You can create your own balance beam by taping a vertical line along your gymnastics or exercise mat," Parker explains to Today's Parent. "Make the balance beam as wide (or wider) than their foot, and encourage them to walk forward with one foot in front of the other. You can then introduce different directions, including forward and sideways.

If you have an older toddler, Parker recommends parents let them tiptoe or jump off the beam to make the exercise more challenging.

Sit-Ups

child smiling while doing a sit up with other children in the background iStock

Who says sit-ups are just for adults? According to Parker, it's a great toddler gymnastics exercise, too! Just make sure you have a mat and a wooden spoon on hand to keep them safe and under control.

"You can start this exercise by encouraging your toddler to lie on their back on a flat mat," Parker says. "For younger toddlers, we recommend holding a wooden instrument (such as a wooden spoon) in the middle and letting your child grab both ends. This way, during the sit-up, you have one hand that you can use to spot their back and control the way down."

However, if you've got an older toddler who's getting a bit too big for their britches, Parker suggests upping the ante by having parents hold both ends of the wooden spoon to see if their child can handle the middle and do a sit-up.

Forward Rolls

toddler girl starting to roll forward on the ground iStock

If your child is scared of rolling or falling, Dr. Kevin Huffman, the CEO of On the Rocks Climbing Gym, recommends forward rolling as a way to help them build confidence and develop spatial awareness. This exercise also helps improve balance, body awareness, and core strength.

"To do a forward roll, your child should first squat down and then tuck their chin toward their chest, Huffman says. "Then they should place their hands on the floor in front of them and gently roll forward onto their back."

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Bear Crawls

child starting to do a bear crawl while dad sits next to him iStock

According to Dr. Huffman, bear crawls are another fantastic toddler gymnastics exercise. Not only can it improve coordination, strengthen the upper body, and improve motor skills, but it also promotes cognitive development as it requires them to think about their movements and navigate their surroundings.

"To do a bear crawl, have your child get on all fours and then lift their knees slightly off the ground, he tells Today's Parent. "They should then walk forward by moving their opposite hand and foot together."

This article was originally published on Sep 26, 2023

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