Toddlers are naturally curious and energetic. This is the perfect time to help them develop good health habits that boost physical fitness and encourage the development of hungry minds. Here are five ideas for exercises that boost development without skimping on the fun factor.

Take a walk

Walking is a great way to foster gross motor development. Although toddlers have developed into confident walkers they are still developing trunk control, stability, coordination and balance. Walking gets the large muscles of the body moving. Why not head out for the park where you can also build vocabulary skills by discussing nature or greeting animals? Closer to home you might walk around your neighborhood. Children can pair language development with gross motor development by naming the buildings and objects they see, identifying colors or counting cars as they pass by.

Sign up for yoga

Many communities offer yoga classes designed with young children in mind. Children benefit from these sessions by improving their flexibility, coordination, and neuromuscular development. Yoga is especially helpful in young children for its ability to develop focus and patience. Both of these are great skills to cultivate as they can help with learning in school and about the world.

Splash in the pool

The results of a four year study by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research found that young children who swim regularly have more advanced gross motor development. These children were better able to hop, climb stairs and stand on one foot than children in the control group. Researchers also found that the children participating in swimming did a better job of following directions; had stronger visual motor skills and more successfully completed tasks like cutting and drawing.

Toss a ball

This is a great way to boost hand eye coordination and even to help children build cardiovascular strength, coordination and balance as they will likely have to run a bit to stay in the game. Count how many times they catch the ball or play a game of seeing how far along the alphabet you can get with each catch. For example, on the first catch you might say “a” and then “b” on the next catch. You can also try kicking a ball which is good for balance and cardiovascular strength as well.

Take a ride

Your toddler may not be ready for a bike or a trike just yet but foot power is even better at this age. As children pretend to drive around the house or the yard on their favorite ride-on toy they are getting exercise, building balance and, of course, having fun and adventure.

There are countless exercises to boost toddler development. You don’t even have to look very far – eager young hands can help rake leaves, busy feet might enjoy a game of hopscotch or a whirl on the dance floor with mom and dad. The most important thing parents can do is stay active themselves. As the old saying goes, children learn what they live.