Jumping is a motor milestone that requires strength, balance, coordination, body awareness and motor planning. When practicing jumping we want to be sure to expose our children to different environments around them, with feet bare the child is able to interact with the unique texture of the ground surface.
Practice on soft grass, padded mats, carpet and hardwood. Each surface offers its own challenges to the child as they begin practicing jumping! Use other children as models, as peer play is essential to the acquisition of motor milestones. Children observe and learn from others.
- Jumping forward with one foot leading: 18-24 months
- Jumping in place with two feet together: 22-24 months
- Jumping off small platform landing with two feet: 24-30 months
- Jumping over obstacles: 30-36 months
- Jumping forward with two foot take off and landing: 36 months
- Hopping on one foot: 48 months
It is important to not rush each child’s skills along. Jumping occurs in a step wise manner, with children first experimenting with weight shifting, jumping down, jumping over, jumping up, hopping on one foot, and finally alternating hopping on single leg and double leg as in hopscotch. All milestones occur on a continuum and we can help support and encourage our little ones as they grow and experiment with new activities!
Tips to Teach Children to Jump Independently
Therapy Ball Jumps
Using a therapy ball begin by stabilizing the ball with your body in a corner or against a wall. Support the child with downward pressure at their hips as you encourage gentle bouncing up and down. This allows for important proprioceptive feedback from the ball into their lower extremity joints.
Using the trampoline with a bar can help children develop independent jumping skills, recruiting upper body support until they are ready to rely on lower body strength to propel vertically!
Role playing animal movements, can help infuse creative expression into jumping! Try frog jumps – deep squat to jump and bunny hops – upright vertical jumps.
Using tactile footprints helps to designate a colorful starting and ending position for the child. The gentle texture of the footprint helps activate the plantar intrinsic muscles of the foot as they grip the floor.
Platform jumps allow us to practice jumping down from low height, jumping over and jumping up! We love using the foam balance beam as it provides helpful proprioceptive input especially with bare feet. Colorful spots provide bright visual cues as well as promote narrowed base of support during jumping.
Colorful Tape Jumps
Jumping over colorful tape lines is a great precursor to hurdles, offering visual cues to develop motor planning skills needed for jumping!
Once child masters jumping over colored tape, you can begin to introduce obstacles which promote more vertical height. These hurdles are great because you can gradually increase height to challenge the child as they develop more strength, balance and control in jumping skills!
The colorful tactile footprints help to address lower extremity alignment during jumping.
The hoop ladder is a fun tool to practice jumping, promoting narrowed base of support as child is motivated to plant feet inside colorful hoop.
A foam hop scotch floor puzzle can be used to practice open close jumps, jumping forward and sideways as child progresses to each number, and ultimately single leg to double leg jumps.
Jumping Red Flags
It is important to contact your Pediatrician or a Pediatric Physical Therapist if around 2.5-3 years of age your child continues to show difficulty jumping and you notice any of the following:
- Asymmetric Jumping (pushing off only from one side)
- Lacking Power in Push Off (not able to gain vertical clearance in jumps)
- Frequent Falls (legs not supporting child upon landing jumps)
- Anxiety or Frustration (demonstrating resistance or fear of jumping preventing the child from conquering this motor skill)
For activity ideas to promote jumping read “Fun Activities…with Colored Spots!”