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Rock and Roll

  • Ages: 1-6
  • Time: 5+ minutes
  • Materials: None needed
  • # of kids: 1 or more

teaching a cartwheellearning a cartwheel
A kid learns to do cartwheels (and his dad has a blast teaching!).

It seems like, at some point, every kid we know loves to spin around and around (including us here at Tinkergarten, former avid fans of our sit-and-spins). It turns out, there are great benefits to doing this outdoors. And, when we parents get involved, it's wildly fun!


First, getting in close, physical contact with grass, dirt and other surfaces is grounding, calming and connects kids with nature. In addition, the coordinated movements needed to roll or spin help develop gross motor skills and often require kids to "cross the midline", which is important for brain development and is tied to future success with reading and writing. Finally, if you have kids ages 1-5 or so, this provides great practice with the rotation/circulation schema.


Here are some fun, easy ways to encourage kids to roll and spin:

Rolling down hills:

  • Allow it— Some of us need this tip. It's dirty down there and, if you live near a public park like we do, it's easy to worry about what lurks under foot. It is so rarely as bad as you worry it will be, kids don't care, and the benefits are worth it! If you're really worried, survey the area first, then let 'em roll!
  • Give the option— If you are walking along in a field, park or open area and you happen upon a hill or even a mild slope, suggest that folks can continue walking or roll if they'd like...see if they take you up on it!
  • Better yet, just do it yourself!— Just plunk down and start to roll. You will blow kids away, and they will want to join in!
  • Instruct a bit— If a child doesn't know how to roll, get down on the ground with them and show them how to lie on their side first. Then, gently help them to roll over on their bellies, back onto the other side, onto their backs and then back to the first side. Repeat. See if they can get the hang of it.
  • Roll together— Lay down head to head with room between you to stretch arms and grasp hands. Roll down the hill holding one anothers' hands. This can be comforting to kids still getting used to it.


  • Let them spin— It's pretty rare that little kids actually make themselves sick. And, it's been our thought that a kid who does might need to learn his or her limits. Embrace the spinning and just try to pick soft ground cover for if/when they topple.
  • Grab their arms, stand in one spot and spin!— Kids typically love to be spun around, and this gives body and mind a workout (and you build muscles too).
  • Hold different objects and spin— By holding long objects like sticks or wide, flat objects like pieces of bark or leaves while they spin, kids can experiment with wind resistance as they enjoy spinning.
  • Crack the whip— This is an old children's game that has no other purpose but to enjoy the experience. One child acts as the "head" and links either hands or arms to other children, creating a chain or "tail" of the whip. The chain can run around or can spin around, leaving the "head" child in the same spot. Kids can switch up their spots to feel how spinning and forces differ between spots close to the head and close to the tail.

Other fun ideas:

  • Somersaults— If kids have the coordination and muscle strength (they can tuck their head to their chests in preparation to roll) encourage them or gently show them how to do somersaults.
    learning to somersault learning to somersault learning to somersault
    Learning to somersault...pure joy!

  • Cartwheels— If kids have the coordination and muscle strength, encourage them or gently show them how to do cartwheel. You can also hold them at the waist and help them experience the motion of a cartwheel.
  • Sing in rounds— No joke! When you sing in rounds, you also give kids practice with the rotation/circulation schema. If you aren't sure how to sing in rounds, just divide your group (or duo) in half. Then, have one half of group start singing a song. After that first half has sung two lines or so, have the second half start singing the same song from the beginning. Simple, short songs that everyone knows like "Row, Row, Row your Boat" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" can be great to start. If you are one of those parents cool enough to play guitar, banjo or another wonderfully portable instrument, you can play a third round too!

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