Infants: Floor Play
Infants can spend much time in healthful physical activity on the floor. Gather some cardboard boxes or large plastic tubs of different sizes. Place a heavy object inside (to provide stability) and seal well. Then cut different small shapes into the sides of the boxes. Infants can stick their hands into these openings and get the leverage they need to pull themselves up. A well-sealed box or tub turned upside down also makes a great space for exuberant pounding and banging - a terrific way to stimulate cardiovascular development.
Toddlers: It's in the Box!
Cardboard boxes offer toddlers the opportunity for a great deal of beneficial motor play. Take sturdy cardboard boxes of different sizes and tape them together with packing or duct tape to form long "trains." Make segments of varying heights by propping some boxes on sturdy pillows or padding. Then place the trains in a padded area or surround them with pillows. Encourage the toddlers to climb on top of the train at one end and crawl the length of the train. Moving up and down onto the different levels promotes motor planning, eye-hand coordination, and balance. You can also have them crawl through open boxes taped together in "tunnels," which will increase their body awareness.
Preschoolers: Use Crowd Control
Preschoolers can get boisterous when encouraged to do physical activity indoors, and the noise may rise to unacceptable levels. If you have limited space, ask the children to bring a stuffed (plush) animal to school. (Have extras for children who forget.) Play some music and encourage children to march around the room, carrying their animals in different positions: "Carry your animal on your head. Put your animal down and jump forward over it ... jump sideways over it ..." and so on.
Here's another activity you can try if you don't mind rowdy children: Tape a paper plate to each child's hands by placing the hand flat on the back of the plate and crossing it with an "X" of masking tape that overlaps slightly onto the front of the rim. Put out trays of different items (cotton balls, newspaper balls, tennis balls, wooden blocks, plastic eggs, and so on) and have children experiment with different ways to use their paper mitts to pick up and carry the objects.
Kindergartners: On the move
Kindergartners can benefit from activities that introduce motor planning and eye-hand coordination. Set up relay teams and ask children to use spoons to transport items like walnuts (in their shells) from one part of the room to another. Or try a shoe scramble: In a large space free of obstacles, invite each child to remove a shoe and place it in a pile. All the children then sit in a circle around the shoes. At your signal, children run (or hop or skip or gallop) to the pile, find their own shoes, put them on, and return to their places on the circle.
Kindergartners can also blend academics with activities. Divide the class into two groups. Ask each child to pick a partner within his group. In pairs, have children form the letters of the alphabet with their bodies. You can assign the letters for half the teams to form while the other half writes the letters in the sequence they see being made by their classmates.