The Best Gross Motor Skills Toys To Burn Energy

pikler triangle benefits

Inside: Get my best recommendations for energy-burning gross motor skills toys for your toddler and preschooler. To help them balance, jump, bounce, scoot, and climb their way to better physical development and coordination.

I had turned my back for 45 seconds when I heard my 3-year-old declare the parent panic-inducing words:

“Look what I did, mama!”

My brain involuntarily started to assess how bad the situation was (No one is screaming in pain — good.) 

I turned around and saw my little daredevil clinging to the outside of our staircase, Godzilla-style, nearly up to our second floor. 

I’m rock climbing,” he said proudly.

I was having a combination of panic mixed with heart attack, sprinkled with a bit of amazement, if I’m honest.

The first course of action (after retrieving mini-zilla from the stairs) was to bring out the Pikler immediately. Because I know once my little climber gets it in his head, he’s going to keep doing it. And the best way to handle this is for me to channel that energy into something safe for him.

gross motor skill toys for active toddlers

Not to mention, I know it’s totally developmentally appropriate because, at this age, they just love to move around and try out new physical challenges.

And guess what? It’s not just fun and games; it’s helping them build strength, motor planning, coordination, and spatial awareness. Plus, it’s a great way for them to learn and interact with other kids, which boosts their cognitive and social skills too.

So, let’s get straight to the good stuff: the toys your kids will love while getting their wiggles out.

Ready to hop in?

Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I might earn a small commission if you love something as much as I do. But I only recommend what I actually like myself.

My Top 3 Favorite Gross Motor Skill Toys

#1 Nugget Couch Dupe

Waterproof Play Couch – Check Price

#2 Pikler Triangle

Pikler – Check Price

#3 Wobble Board

Wobble Board – Check Price

These are my absolute favorite movement toys that my 3-year-old has loved. Why these 3?

  • Because my kid doesn’t outgrow them (in my case, since my son was about 6 months old and going strong at 3)
  • They are open-ended toys, which means the sky’s the limit of with the number of ways to use them
  • They are beautifully made, which means they stay OUT and get USED (almost a part of my décor)
  • They are indoor gross motor toys

#1 Recommendation: Nugget Couch (Alternative)

The nugget couch gets a lot of hype for a reason: kids can’t get enough of it and they don’t grow out of it. It also makes a great couch when kids aren’t actively playing with it (or a bed for you when your toddler can’t sleep at night). Read on for my honest nugget couch review to see why it’s my number 1 recommendation for gross motor development toys.

nugget couch age range

Is The Nugget Couch Worth It?

Yes, the nugget couch is worth it. It’s expensive, but it’s our most-used gross motor toy in the house. My son builds forts with it, uses it as a (safe) crash pad when he hurls himself across the room, builds obstacle courses with it, slides down it face-first, and so much more. And when he wants to use our couch as a trampoline? I can point him to jump on his nugget (as my couch sighs with relief). We also were able to avoid buying a couch in my son’s room which saved us money in the long run.  

The downside is that it’s big. So, make sure you’ve got space for it.

is the nugget couch worth it

Why You Should Buy A Nugget Couch Dupe Instead

So, we bought the original nugget, but here’s why I wouldn’t rebuy the original: It’s not waterproof.

We have a dog and 2 cats, and plus, if you’ve been around a toddler for 10 seconds you know that they explode liquids everywhere. Unfortunately for us, our dog decided to use it as his toilet and we had to throw out a whole section of our nugget. 

I’d highly recommend getting a nugget couch dupe that’s waterproof instead, and save yourself the anguish of tearing your toddler’s beloved toy from their arms because it got ruined.  Ask me how I know.

Nugget Couch Age Range

I really like getting my money’s worth of use out of a toy. And that’s one of the biggest reasons these 3 toys made it to my absolute favorites list: you will get use out of them for years and years to come.

We bought the nugget for my son when he was about 1 year old. He wasn’t walking yet and he was able to pull up on it and slide around on it.  And I felt like it was safe because it’s soft and cushiony. 

At 3 years old, he still plays with it daily. And when my 9-year-old niece visits, she loves to get involved too — so this will definitely get years of use.

I would honestly recommend the play couch for any age child — and the earlier the better because you’ll get more years of use out of it. 

#2 Recommendation: The Pikler Triangle Set

What Is a Pikler Triangle?

The Pikler triangle is a gross motor toy for kids about 6 months old and up. It’s a triangle structure made with horizontal bars that kids use as a ladder to climb up.  Once they get to the top of the triangle, they can cross to the other side and climb back down.

pikler triangle benefits
Our cat, Boo, is a big fan of the Pikler

I originally discovered the Pikler design when researching the work of pediatrician Dr. Emma Pikler. She was a Hungarian pediatrician who emphasized the importance of respectful and autonomous movement for infants. Specifically, that babies and children’s motor development should be self-initiated. 

That means, letting babies learn to sit up on their own. Let them learn how to walk. Let them explore and climb.

Because if they can get up on their own, then they can more safely get down on their own.

And promoting self-initiated motor development in infants allows them to develop essential physical skills at their own pace, fostering greater independence, confidence, and a deeper understanding of their bodies. Additionally, it encourages secure attachment with caregivers, leading to better emotional and cognitive development in the long run.

are pikler triangles worth it

And she designed the Pikler triangle to do just this. Because kids can use the bars to pull up on, and independently climb when they are ready. This autonomous activity empowers kids to combine gross motor skills with cognitive planning. And when they do it by themselves? The confidence they build is written all over their faces. These are the Pikler triangle benefits.

Are Pikler Triangles Worth It?

Yes, the Pikler Triangle is worth it, if you have the space for it. Kids love climbing on it, and it helps them develop those important gross motor skills.

We got ours years ago and there are a lot more options now. While I love ours, if I were to buy it again, I would pick one in natural wood and with more climbing options.

This wooden climber has fantastic reviews, and lots of parts that come in the set to make a full indoor jungle gym. And if you can grab it for less than $250, it’s a steal.

What’s The Best Age For Pickler Triangle?

I bought ours when my son was around 6 months old. I would set it up next to him, and he would drop toys into the slots. I let him do his thing. At this age, it’s really minimal usage and more about exploration.

gross motor skills toys for 2 year olds

My son didn’t really start pulling up on it til closer to 1 year old. He would climb up a few rungs and get scared. And this is part of the process — building the confidence to try something new and scary, and accomplishing it.

I remember the day my son made it to the top. It was pure joy on his face. He did it all by himself and was so proud of what he did.

At 3 years old, he still climbs on it, builds forts with it, slides down the slide, and rock climbs up. 

Is the Pikler Triangle Safe?

Like with any toy there’s always risk, but yes our Pikler has always been safe with our son, even as young as 6 months old.

pikler triangle safe

Here are my tips for Pikler triangle safety:

  • only buy a Pickler where the space between rungs is smaller than 3.5 inches (according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission) so that your child can not fit their body through the space
  • always (always) supervise your child when they play with it
  • we set ours up in a cleared space (not near hard furniture) and put our nugget cushions around on the floor
  • don’t push your child to use it or assist them (just stand by in case they need you) — the whole goal is that they use it independently and when they are ready

Pikler Vs Nugget

You really can’t go wrong with either the Pikler or the Nugget, but if I had to pick one, I’d get a Nugget couch dupe. Here’s why:

  • My son uses the Nugget more often
  • They both take up a lot of space, but when not being played with you, you can use the Nugget as a couch (the Pikler needs to be stored)
  • My son is really into open-ended play and the Nugget offers a bit more creative play options (in addition to gross motor play)

#3 Recommendation: Montessori Wobble Board

My third recommendation made the cut because (again), it’s a long-lasting toy that will get years and years of use. The Montessori wobble board’s main usage is for kids to build their balance on by standing on it as it wobbles back and forth — building core strength, balance and coordination.

But, it’s deceptively open-ended. Flip it over and it’s a slide for toddlers. Prop one end on the couch and it’s a ramp for cars to race on. Lay a blue silk underneath it and it becomes a bridge to build entire villages around. 

gross motor skills toys wobble board

The biggest perk about the wobble board is that it doesn’t take up much space. Which is a difficult feat with gross motor toys. If you’re in a small space, I highly recommend this space-saving toy

We got ours when my son was around 1 year old. I was a bit nervous because the recommended age starts at 3 years old. But we didn’t use it as a wobble board when my son was that age.  We sat on it with him and would use it as a rocking toy.  He’d use it as a slide.  It wasn’t until he was older did my son start to stand on it.

Also, I’ve noticed that when I like the design and look of a toy — I’ll leave it out on display.  Which means my kid uses it more, because it’s not tucked away in a closet. The wobble board is sleek and made of natural wood.  It’s a conversation starter with guests.

Gross Motor Skills Toys For 2 Year Olds

So, I the Pikler Triangle and Nugget from my favorites above are excellent age-appropriate choices for gross motor skills toys for toddlers. But there are some more ideas that are great for younger toddlers.

Space Tunnel 

Toy tunnels are excellent for kids’ gross motor development. They give toddlers a chance to get moving and have fun while doing it. Crawling, climbing, and maneuvering through the tunnel help improve strength, balance, and spatial awareness. And this one is super cool with the space station for dramatic play.

Wobble Disc for Toddlers

While the wobble board is one of my favorite toys, it’s not technically recommended until a kid turns 3. That’s where the wobble disc comes in for younger kids. Kids sit in it, instead of standing, and has higher sides for kids to hold onto. 

Rocking Boat

Another balance toy option for younger toddlers is the rocking boat. It’s another wobble board alternative for younger kids but with more ways to use it. Multiple kids can get inside to see-saw. Hop inside and it’s a pirate boat on the open seas for open-ended imaginative play. Flip it over and it’s a bridge and climbing toy. 

I also love that it’s natural wood and a beautiful design.

Indoor Golf Game

Switching gears a little, this indoor game will let your toddler practice their precision (and their patience) by playing golf. I love the design of this beautiful set, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space, which is hard to find with gross motor toys.

Gross Motor Toys For 3-Year-Olds

While my top 3 favorite gross motor toys above are perfect for 3-year-olds, here are some other fun options.

Stepping Stones

We have found countless practical uses for these stepping stones. Step up your “floor is lava” game by setting up an obstacle course your preschooler needs to hop from stone to stone. While building balance and coordination. 

But the more practical uses? My problem-solving toddler started to use them to reach things, like the light switch and getting toys off his shelf. Then he brought one into the bathroom to reach the sink.

Balance Beam

This balance beam is a fun indoor or outdoor balance challenge. And loves that it folds up flat for minimal storage.

Indoor Monkey Bars

If your kid is a hard-core climber you might want to bring playground equipment inside with indoor monkey bars. If you’re not sure if you should invest in something this big, see what your kid gravitates toward on the playground.  Are they super active? Do they need to get that energy out in order to sleep? Do they use this particular toy at the park?  If yes, this would be an excellent toy for home.

Picking The Best Toys For Your Family

If you have a kid whose mission in life is to climb the tallest surfaces in your house, or who starts going nuts while you’re trying to get dinner on, channel that energy! Give them something safe to climb to redirect their energy and build those gooey developmental skills (and keep you from pulling your hair out). 

Gross motor toys don’t have to be complicated, and honestly, the ones that get the most mileage are minimal and open-ended. Pick one that aesthetically goes with your decor because if you like it, you’ll leave it out. And your child will play with it more.

Let me know your favorite toys in the comments.

Leave a Comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Hey There

I'm Stefanie—Founder & Designer For Little Moon

If you’re a toddler or preschooler parent who dreams of having a kid who is captivated by learning — but are too busy raising your tiny human on exactly 3 hours of sleep to research educational activities — nice to meet you, I’m your new solution.

I’m a cognitive psychologist + toddler mom, and I design nature printable activities to help your little one grow, learn and thrive through hands-on play, in a healthy way.

free download

Want 15 Creative Activities You Can Do with Flashcards?

Stop using drills and focus on games that make your child want to learn. Here are 15 unconventional activities to start thinking out of the box.

special delivery

Get Fresh Activities—straight to your inbox

Want to get fun-filled activities & research-backed tips to support your little one’s development + super secret offers? Say hello to Little Moon Mondays newsletter.

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00
Send this to a friend