We are lucky enough to be able to offer developmental play groups that are broken up based on skill. We have chosen to divide them as pre-crawlers, pre-walkers/new walkers, and toddlers. This gives parents a chance to self-select for where they think their child would fit best. Each week we have a different topic we look at and can have some talking points on. Since we are mostly PT’s though, its easy to gravitate towards gross motor play. So its been fun to watch kids grow and interact through gross motor play.
We have done our best to set it up as a ‘free’ play environment where the kids can play with areas of their choice. What is nice is to see them try to imitate their peers. So, while one kiddo may not be interested in going up the ramp or through the tunnel, often by the end of the session, they are attempting to do it because one of the other kiddos is doing it.
It also allows them to show interest in a toy or activity even if they aren’t sure they can be successful, or may be hesitant to try. When we see them show interest in the activity we are able to help facilitate them playing so that they can be successful. So, even though its free play, it still has support for the kids so they can learn and refine new skills.
You don’t have to have a group to incorporate this into your play at home. Set up an environment, inside or outside, with various games/toys/skills that may be new to your child, or they may still be working on. Let them gravitate towards items of their choice but be there to support them when they need it. You can encourage use of items that may be more challenging by putting a favorite toy there, such as at the other end of a tunnel, or at the top of a ramp.
How have you encouraged gross motor ‘free’ play with your kids?