Once Grace started walking, I’ll admit that we focused less on gross motor development in favor of working on other skills. Often, I’d check off the physical therapy box at the playground, with obstacle courses set up around the house, or during free play . When we have decided to add a new toy to help improve a particular gross motor skill, they were often large and expensive.
If you have generous grandparents or family members who are willing to give gift cards, these are great gifts to ask or save up for. Thankfully, these toys are also commonly found on Facebook marketplace, (virtual) yard sales, and even Buy Nothing and Freecycle groups. If you’re fortunate to be a member of a local DS organization (find yours here or here), inquire about anyone looking to unload toys. We all seem to use the same same ones at different times!
This is a list of some of our favorite gross motor toys over the years, which are ordered from infant (top) to progressively older users.
This free-standing acrylic mirror was one of our first therapist-recommended purchases after Grace’s birth. Turns out one of the biggest motivators for tummy time, rolling over, and crawling was her own adorable face. It can also be used later for feeding and speech as well as discussing emotions even further down the road.
The Kick and Play Infant Gym will grow with your infant from the earliest days of playing on their back to working on endurance while sitting. A great first toy for any child.
Crawling through a play tunnel promotes not only gross motor development but also hand strengthening for fine motor development and even sensory input. Check out the OT Toolbox for fun ideas on using your tunnel and even creating your own. If you choose to purchase one, be sure to search around for the best price. These are sold by many sellers on Amazon with great variability in price and availability from day-to-day.
This musical table was a favorite of Grace’s during the pull-to-standing and cruising stages; the music and lights were great motivators. Have your phone ready if introducing one of these; you’ll want to capture the dance moves that are sure to follow.
A water table may be a little out of season right now. Look for used ones to appear for sale during spring cleaning season. Splashing in the water encourages standing and cruising, while, scooping, pouring and toy manipulation promote fine motor skills.
I liked the idea of these stepping stones but was usure how much the girls would use them. Thanks to generous grandparents, we got them last year, and they have been a big hit. We use them for everything from obstacle courses to tele-therapy to superhero and Jedi training. This particular set has more variation in stone height than other options, of which there are several of on Amazon. This is a good item to search for and find a version that meets your needs and budget.
We got scooter board to work on pelvic floor strengthening for potty training but have since found many other fun uses for it. Other activities to help provide sensory input while building upper body and core strength and endurance can also be found on The Inspired Treehouse (an amazing therapy resource) and Therapy Fun Zone.
This collapsable soccer net is our favorite sporty gross motor toy. It’s lightweight enough that we can set it up in the house yet portable, so we can take it to the park. It folds to roughly the size of a golf umbrella for easy storage. That said, if you have a more exuberant soccer player in your house, you may want to choose something more sturdy. The ball that comes with this one is pretty wimpy and had a strong smell. We prefer to play with a Nerf/foam ball with some extra weight and stability.
A peanut ball is a less expensive alternative to the Rody or other ride-on, inflatable bouncing horse. We received a Rody as a gift and while the price is a bit steep, there are many less expensive versions out there. It is good for moving from place-to-place, and my younger daughter prefers it. Given the option, Grace prefers the stability of the peanut ball and is happy to bounce in place, especially along with music, while she builds core strength and stability and receives sensory input. (The product description guides you on measuring your child for an appropriately sized peanut ball.)
We splurged on this gymnastics bar shortly after stay-at-home orders hit our area this spring. The girls had been attending gymnastics lessons and enjoy practicing what they learned there. It’s great for building hand and core strength. I like how the height is adjustable, and it folds flat, so it takes up less of our already small space. We added this swing, which has been a lifesaver during virtual schooling as a way of giving Grace the sensory input she craves. The bar is very stable (and rated up to 110 lbs) when used individually, but I would recommend a swinging weight of 35-40lbs or less.
What are your favorite gross motor toys? Share in the comments below.
Want more gift ideas?
Check out my list of Gifts made for and by People with Down syndrome, Our Favorite Fine Motor Toys, Our Favorite Board Games for Preschoolers and Early Elementary, and Our Favorite Products that Promote Independence.
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