From jump rope to jumping off the diving board, being able to get a little altitude eventually becomes an important skill as childhood goes on, but there’s a good chance it’s not even something your toddler is working on quite yet.
Jumping is a gross motor skill that takes strength, balance, and coordination, especially bilateral coordination, or the ability to move both sides of the body in the same way at the same time. Many children don’t even really start to get close till around age 2, and jumping isn’t expected from children until around age 3.
Helping them prepare to make the jump
Jumping is one of those developmental milestones that doesn’t generally require a lot of coaching – your toddler will get there in their own time, and it’s entirely normal for that time to come any time between the ages of almost-2 and 3 full years old. Many children do start jumping later, but in the case of toddlers who aren’t jumping by age 3, it can be helpful to check in with a healthcare provider to make sure everything is still on track.
In the meantime, your toddler is probably on the road towards jumping on their own, but there are a few ways you can help encourage them to build the skills that they will need when it’s time to get jumping.
- Encourage active play: Leaving plenty of time for active, free play in a toddler’s life is important for a whole series of reasons. Having the time and space to run around, climb things, grow things, build things and then knock them down again, and all of the other things toddlers like to do when they’re let loose on the great outdoors are excellent ways for toddlers to work on all of the foundations they’ll need for jumping. In active free play, toddlers build up the muscle tone and strength they’ll need for jumping, they’ll work on their coordination, and they’ll start to hone their balance.
- Introduce jumping games: Baby can’t jump if they isn’t trying to jump! Well, maybe they can, but it might take a little while longer. Many games, from Simon Says to hopscotch, can be a chance for you to show them what jumping looks like, and give them the chance to try for it themself.
- Encourage bilateral symmetry: The ability to move both sides of their body at the same time, and to use them together, is one that they are going to be developing for a while, and probably won’t fully master until they are between the ages of 3 and 4, but it can’t hurt to get them started. Activities that involve using their right hand to draw, throw a ball, or do anything else reaching to the left side of their body (or vice versa) can help build this skill. Hand-clapping games like pat-a-cake where one of their hands has to reach diagonally to meet yours are wonderful ways to practice this.
How long is too long?
If it’s taking a long time for a toddler to learn to jump, and especially if they are also showing physical delays in other areas, their healthcare provider may recommend an evaluation to see if an Early Intervention program could be helpful for them. Baby is a ways away from even needing to think about that question now, though.
- Marissa Edwards. “Help Your Child Develop the ‘Crossing the Midline’ Skill.” North Shore Pediatric Therapy. North Shore Pediatric Therapy, April 18 2011. Retrieved June 6 2017. http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/help-your-child-develop-the-crossing-the-midline-skill/.
- Claire Lerner, Rebecca Parlakian. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 28.” Zero To Three. Zero to Three, May 15 2016. Retrieved June 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1259-from-baby-to-big-kid-month-28.
- “Milestones: Children 0-4 Years.” Women’s and Children’s Health Network: Child and Youth Health. Government of South Australia, June 2 2017. Retrieved June 6 2017. http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=122&id=1906.