Blogger Jaime Eastman

Toddler Games: Motor Skills + Fun for Ages 18-36 Months

Library program room set up for Toddler Games with bean bags, blocks, crawling tunnels, and balancing stones

Do you want to engage toddlers, practice motor skills, and capitalize on the enthusiasm of the summer Olympic Games? We did! With increasing toddler attendance at our early learning programs, we wanted to add programs specific to the target age of 18 to 36 months. Practicing gross motor skills and free play was a great start, and the beginning of Toddler Games. Read on for more details.

An open duffel bag with colored tape, pool noodles, papers, and craft poms
The kit houses most of the program’s needed supplies.

Supplies

Toddler Games is highly customizable, so you can purchase (or repurpose) only the supplies you need for your chosen activities. Our system is five buildings, so we created a program kit with reusable, shared supplies. A large duffel bag works well for easy storage and movement. Another option is something like a Very Useful Box, which we use for other program kits.

Program Prep

Most prep time is day-of program setup. Before starting the series, we created a detailed program outline, located templates, and created signage that outlines each of our toddler games. Staff instructions on the reverse provide a quick outline of setup. The hosting building chooses four or more activity stations and one still station, based on their room size and interests.

Bean bags behind a colored tape line face a bulls-eye on the floor made from colored tape
The bean bag toss is ready to go!

Set Up

We host Toddler Games as a come-and-go program, where families move through the room based on their unique interests. When setting up, make sure you have plenty of space between activities to allow for movement, exploration, and rogue supplies. Toddlers are nothing if not unpredictable! Also, consider creating a designated area for stroller parking and holding personal belongings.

Activity Stations

ActivitySupplies NeededObjective
Bean Bag TossBean bags, colored masking tapeCreate a bulls-eye on the floor. Toddlers stand at the start line and throw bean bags towards the target.
BowlingBeach ball, mini bowling pinsSet up bowling pins. Toddlers use beach balls to knock them down.
HockeyBeach ball, bin, masking tape, pool noodlesUse a bin to set up a goal, with a starting line at least 6 feet away. Using pool noodles, toddlers guide the beach ball into the goal.
Ribbon GymnasticsRibbon wandsToddlers dance and make shapes with ribbons.
Ring JumpColored masking tapeCreate a line of tape rings. Toddlers jump from ring to ring.
Rocky River CrossingRiver balancing stonesPlace 6-8 balancing stones with a start and finish line. Toddlers climb over the rocks to get to the other side.
Tunnel CrawlCrawling tunnels, masking tapePosition the tunnels, using an arrow to mark the entrances. Toddlers crawl from one end to another.
Walk the LineColored masking tapeCreate a pattern of taped lines on the floor. Toddlers walk on the line from one end to another.
Weight LiftBig Blue BlocksCreate weightlifting “bars” using connecting pieces and circles for toddlers to lift.
Activities focus on a variety of gross motor movements.

Still Stations

ActivitySupplies NeededObjective
ColoringColoring sheets, crayons, markersProvide a variety of themed coloring sheets with supplies.
Pom Pom SlalomBendy straws, butcher paper, markers, pipe cleaners, pom pomsPoke pipe cleaners through butcher paper to create gates, then draw a ski path with markers. Using straws, toddlers guide pom poms through the course.
Rings SortingBowl, colored rings, masking tape, pom pomsTape colored rings to the floor. Toddlers sort a bowl of pom poms into the appropriate colors.
Still stations include quiet activities that focus on fine motor skills.
Crawling tunnels are set up around an open floor space.
Crawling tunnels are always a hit. Be mindful that yours might roll on the floor while toddlers play.

Gold Medals

Everyone’s a winner at the Toddler Games! For the craft, staff printed medals on gold cardstock and provided supplies to decorate. Once complete, we used red ribbon to finish the medals.

Tips and Feedback

Our first Toddler Games had 62 attendees, and our second, 93. We’ll continue offering the program throughout the summer, collecting feedback from attendees and presenters. Ultimately, our goal includes repeating the games throughout the year, adding new activities as needed. Here are some tips we’ve collected so far:

  • Anticipate a crowd! Our summer programs often mean bigger groups and our demand for toddler programming made this one a hit. If you can, choose a bigger room or space. To limit group size, consider ticketing or offering multiple sessions. Be mindful of sensory overload.
  • Allow time to prepare. Program set up is simple, but you’ll need time to lay tape, arrange activities, and otherwise figure out your flow.
  • Add some music! We added background music, which added opportunities for more movement. Impromptu dance parties are a great way to get moving!
  • Adjust as needed. Try out your activities before the program, and adapt. For example, we replaced the butcher paper in the Pom Pom Slalom with foam board for extra depth and durability.

Full credit goes to my fabulous colleague Anna Kopinska, the librarian mastermind behind this wonderful program. You can reach Anna or me via email or through the comments below. Let the games begin!


All images courtesy of the author. This post addresses ALSC Core Competency #3: Programming Skills.


The author poses with ribbon wands

Jaime Eastman is a senior Public Services Librarian and Early Learning Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. Jaime is also working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.

One comment

  1. Lisa Bintrim

    This is great! I’ve done a couple of obstacle courses for toddlers and preschoolers, and the families always love them. I’ll definitely be borrowing some of your ideas for future programs.

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