The TOMT Tutorial Series: Toddler Development
This is the first in a series of 3 posts on the development of jumping abilities in young children.
Each post will be available for 2 weeks. The full range of tutorials is available to TOMT subscribers Read more
How toddlers learn to jump off two feet
Active toddlers first learn to jump off two feet from about two years. This is a very tricky action as it involves a very rapid, forceful contraction of the hip, knee and ankle muscles to launch the body up off the floor.
Toddlers' first attempts at jumping start with crouching in readiness for take off.
Here you see Max attempting to jump of two feet. He extends the LEs but does not manage to take off from both feet at the same time.
With practice they get the coordination right and manage to launch themselves up into the air. Often they land on their buttocks.
Video clip: Max 22 months first jumps
With time and lots of practice young children learn to jump up and land without loosing their balance.
Encouraging jumping off two feet
The toddler needs to figure out how to coordinate bilateral, rapid and forceful hip and knee extension to develop enough force and momentum to actually lift the feet up off the floor. This takes repeated practice.
► Encourage the toddler to jump by demonstrating the action: draw attention to the crouch position, exaggerate the action a little, and then jump. Prompt the child to also try.
Do this several times, or until the child loses interest.
► Remember, learning to jump off two feet takes many, many trials, so do not expect the child to get it right immediately. Keep demonstrating and encouraging the child to "pretend" jump, do this a few times each day and one day, as if by magic, it will happen.
Jumping over a small obstacle
Once the child can jump off two feet, you can practice jumping over a low obstacle. A broomstick is good for this.
Lay a broom flat on the floor, demonstrate how you can jump over it and then encourage the child to do the same.
Once he/she can jump over a broomstick, try slightly larger obstacles, such as a pool noodle or a row of beanbags. .
Video: Max 2y 9m jumping over a broomstick
In this clip your see Max jumping over a broomstick. He manages this easily, but falls forwards onto his hands on landing because he is new to jumping over an obstacle and must still figure out how to keep his balance on landing.
Jumping on a row of mats
Young children love the challenge of jumping on small mats placed in a row. This encourages the child to land and take-off in a single smooth action.
Lay several 30 X 30 cm sq non-slip mats on the floor. Demonstrate how you jump forwards on each mat. Encourage the child to do the same.
You may find that he follows instructions once, then changes the game, may walk over the mats or start to move the mats around. That is OK, because toddlers like to explore and feel that they have some control over the situation.
Maybe you can suggest that he/she helps you to put them in a line again. Maybe tomorrow will have a different outcome.
Video clip: Max jumping on a row of mats.
In this clip you see Max, aged 3 jumping on a row of mats.
Read more: Jumping down safely