Two things we need desperately right now (besides vaccines, tests, and adequate hospital facilities) are opportunities for our kids to engage their whole bodies in activities that they can do independently.
In answer to this conundrum, we've curated a list of local parents' favorite toys that support gross motor activity while we're at home. We have linked to our affiliate Amazon for your convenience.
Gross Motor Toys for Inside the House
These versatile balance “stones” help parents make an obstacle course for preschoolers. (Pro tip: hide them around the house and send kids on a mission to find them for an entirely different mode of play.)
Any preschooler will enjoy folding this couch, flopping on it, turning it on its side to create a fort's wall, and using pent-up energy to drag it around. At $117, it's not a bad price for a spare bed for a child's overnight guest, something to look forward to when life resumes as normal. Find it on Amazon.
A less expensive and easier-to-store item is this mega-pillow case. Simply stuff it with five pillows you already own to create this invitation for crawlers and toddlers to climb, pull, and drag, engaging every muscle in their body.
Gross Motor Toys for a Small Backyard
If you have a yard, now might be the time to add a climbing toy.
A simple slide is easiest to set up and takes the least amount of space. For many years, we had a structure that was a little bit bigger, offering a platform to stand on and a tunnel to crawl through, as seen above. (Hint: search “climber and slide” to see options.)
Nylon tunnels are collapsible for storage and can be used inside and outside. We like this one.
Gross Motor Toys for Around the Block
Is it time to upgrade your child to the next level of transportation?
Spokes Bike Lounge in Berkeley has an upcycle program and will help clients get started on a path of being able to trade their bikes up every time their child needs to move to the next size. Their website is difficult to read, so we recommend texting them to start a conversation: 510.545.2203.
The big splurge: a trampoline
Backyard trampolines are hotly debated for their safety, so I'll just stick to the facts: I've had one in my backyard for about four years and it gets used every single day. No one has sustained an injury on it.
I have a Skywalker brand, the gymnast model, which I'm happy with because both of my kids are tumblers. It's huge, which was important to me because I was buying it when my kids were at the end of elementary school, and it's still comfortable for my son who is now 5'9″.
Prices and availability on trampolines aren't great right now, and because we would like to keep our local stores in business, I encourage you to contact your favorite independent toy store and find out if they can facilitate the order for you. Even if they don't carry trampolines, they might work with a distributor who does.