How to Teach Locomotor Skills to Children

Children running down path
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Locomotor skills are the basic foundation of human movement. They include walking, running, skipping, hopping, galloping, leaping, jumping and sliding. By extension, both throwing and dribbling skills may be included under the locomotor label. Your child will likely be ready to practice walking around 12 months, running, hopping and jumping at 24 months and galloping, sliding and skipping at 36 months of age. Proficiency in these areas is critical to developing a confident and agile child.

Start with a chosen action first, using narration to explain what you are doing. Be clear in the way that one motion differs from another. For example, when showing children how to jump, you might say, "Last time we practiced, we did hopping. We took small little hops, like this. Today, we're going to try jumping. Watch as I show you how to JUMP. I'm going to put both feet together and make a big jump, landing with my feet together. Notice how my jump was bigger than my hop, but not so big that I lost my balance and fell.

Provide guided practice for the skill by performing the action with children, again narrating the movement and encouraging children to chant along with you. You could say, "Now it's your turn. Put your feet together, just like mine. We'll count to three, then we'll take a small jump and each land with our feet together. Ready? One, two, three ... jump!"

Give feedback on each child's execution of the motion, and provide continued guided practice. You may comment, "That was an excellent jumping movement! This time when you try it, remember to land with your feet together. Watch as I do it. One, two, three ... jump! Can you see how my feet look? Now you try with me. One, two, three ... jump! That's it! You landed with your feet together! Let's try again."

Provide regular, ongoing practice and frequently review the previously taught skills. To maintain the children's interest, incorporate games into locomotor practice whenever possible. For instance, introduce a signal, such as a bell or whistle, to indicate when children should begin and end a particular motion. "Simon Says" is another fun and easy way to have students demonstrate particular motions. Spread a number of different colored beanbags around the room, and give directions for children to move to each beanbag. For example, "Leap to the red beanbag. Now gallop to the blue beanbag." Tag games and the classic "Duck, Duck, Goose," are additional ways to build locomotor skills.

Angela Powell Watson has written for dozens of print and online resources, and recently published her first book. Watson holds a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and Art from Hood College, a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Western Maryland College and National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist.