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Why animal walks are fantastic for preschoolers

Can you walk like a crab? Your preschooler probably can! Animal walks are all the rage in preschool classrooms for good reason. Walking like different animals gets all those gross motor skills moving and is wonderful for the joints. (Sounds like adults could use some animal walks, too.) Of course, animal walks for kids are just plain fun because preschoolers love to use their imaginations and pretend to be different things. While they’re enjoying walking like a monkey or running like puppies, kids are getting a workout developing their muscles and improving their core strength. It turns out, animal activities for kids have other benefits, too.

boy doing animal walk on beach
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Calming effect

Now, you wouldn’t think being all silly and walking like a crab across the floor would be a stress reliever, but it actually is. Animal walks have been found to work well in calming anxious kiddos in and out of the classroom. The reason why is when kids are down on all fours or crab walking, they are putting pressure on joints and limbs. In addition to working muscles and developing balance, the exercise works to calm anxiety.

No equipment needed

All you actually need to do an animal walk is open space, and, of course, an imagination. Kids have that. Parents may need a bit of a push to get down on the floor and hop like a frog, but remember, you are getting a pretty good workout and having some bonding time with your preschooler.

Ideal times for animal walks

Your preschooler has probably already strolled around the classroom or playground waddling like a duck, but parents can easily do animal walks at home, too. An animal walk is earmarked for a rainy or snowy day when kids have pent-up energy after being stuck in the house all day. Getting ready for a long car ride? Do an animal walk before everyone piles in the car to shake off that excess energy. Doing an animal walk before boarding an airplane for a flight is perfect for calming your child’s anxieties about flying or sitting still for a long time.

Types of animal walks

So, we know why animal walks are great for kids and parents, too, but how do you go on an animal walk? Here are some fun, easy animal walks you can do with your preschooler in the house, in the backyard, or anywhere with a safe, open area.

happy preschoolers jumping on an animal walk
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Kangaroo hop

Kangaroos are famous for their hops. To do a kangaroo hop, bend the knees slightly, keep the legs together, and try and jump as high as you can. For a little added imagination, have kids hold a favorite stuffed buddy as their joey or baby kangaroo in their pretend pouch.

Leapfrog

Frogs are another group of infamous jumpers and leapfrog is a classic kids game. Turn that game into an animal walk by having kids squat down on the floor, putting their hands forward on the floor. Then, they just hop forward like a frog. If you have multiple kids, you can try a bit of leapfrog, but only if space permits. Another option is to have kids leap over a stuffed animal.

Crab walk

Athletes actually do crab walks in practice because it’s a good core workout. For preschoolers, a crab walk is silly and fun. To get in the crab walk position, think reverse table in yoga. Once kids are in the pose and are ready to be a crab, they can lean back down without having their bottom touch the ground. Then, using their hands and feet, kids walk backward. Crab walking can be tough for kids, and that’s okay. As their muscles, balance, and core strength improves, crab walking won’t seem so hard.

Penguin walk

Penguins are super cute and have an adorable walk to imitate. To be a penguin, kids just need to tuck their arms at their side, turn their feet slightly out, and waddle, waddle, waddle. Make a penguin walk a little more challenging by having kids place a small stuffed animal between their feet like an adult penguin does with an egg.

Cat walk

The cat stretch is another yoga pose that’s great for the back and a stress reliever. To walk like a cat, have kids get down on all fours and stretch their backs upward as a kitty does. Then, kids can stay on all fours and imitate a kitty stroll. Even better if there’s a cat in the house to walk behind.

Dog walk

Unlike cats, dogs don’t exactly stroll. Dogs love to run. Drop down on all fours and have kids have a bit of puppy play. Got a dog? Let them join in on the dog walk.

Galloping

Horses gallop, and galloping is a super fun animal walk for kids. Galloping is also an animal activity for kids that really works those gross motor skills. This animal walk is a combination of a step and a leap. Galloping can be difficult for kids to start. So, demonstrate first.

Preschoolers love to use their imagination, and what better way to have kids pretending and exercising than with an animal walk? Animal walks are great exercise for kids and adults too. In addition to working muscles, balance, and core, animal activities are calming for kids. Remember, they aren’t just for preschool. They’re ideal for home, too. All you need is space and imagination.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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