Movement of the Month: What is the Difference Between Jumping and Leaping?

Leaping involves taking off from one foot and landing on another. It is a continuous, rhythmic skill that requires the ability to balance on one leg, generate enough force on the standing leg to jump off of the ground, and then land on the opposite leg without falling over. Children typically begin leaping around the age of 3 or 4, and with enough practice and opportunities to explore, will often become proficient at the skill between the ages of 6-8! 

Leaping is a good indicator of a child’s ability to maintain balance while moving, also referred to as 'dynamic balance'. It is an important skill to develop and acquire for safe body management. For example, it can help stabilize a child when they fall off balance or lose their footing.
Did you Know?
Leaping typically comes after jumping and before hopping on one foot.
It serves as a foundation for running, hopping, jumping rope, skipping, galloping, playing hopscotch, balancing on one leg while getting dressed, dancing, striking a ball with your foot, basketball, and ultimately helps improve a child’s ability to stop and change direction.
What is the difference between jumping, hopping, and leaping?

Leaping: take off on one leg and land on the opposite leg

Hopping: balance on one leg, generate enough force to hop up off of the ground and land on the same leg.

Jumping: stand on two feet, jump off of the ground, and land on two feet.

Click here to see examples of each movement

What are some fun ways for my child to explore leaping?

Remember, every child develops at their own unique pace and new skills are learned through continued practice, exploration, and encouragement! One simple way to introduce leaping is by playing Follow the Leader. You can demonstrate the movement and then encourage the child to mimic you as you move around the room. Children also love to use their imaginations, so here are 3 of our favorite games to encourage leaping:

1. Cross the River

Use a string, shoelace, or simply tape on the ground and fold it in half to represent a river. Encourage your child to leap over the river. Widen the river for an added challenge! You can even draw, cut out, and add pretend fish, sharks, or alligators into the river!

2. Sidewalk Leaps!

Each time your child finds a crack in the sidewalk, encourage them to leap from one foot to the other over the crack. Drains in the sidewalk create a big challenge and can be more fun for older kids. 

3. Fun Run!

Try calling out different imaginative ways of running. For example, “Run in slow motion” or “the ground is sticky”! Another idea is to encourage your child to name each foot and then have fun alternating between the names as their feet take turns!


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Note: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Always reach out to your pediatrician, physical or occupational therapist with specific questions and concerns about your child’s development.

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