Indoor Physical Activity for Kids – Ideas and Inspiration
I am a big believer in the benefits of fresh air and exercise for kids. For adults too. And it’s even better when you can enjoy both as a family. Unfortunately, these past few weeks of winter weather have trapped me inside with my children without our usual daily dose of fresh-aired freedom and exercise. We’ve been in desperate need of some indoor physical activity for kids to burn off some energy!
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On a typical day, I take my kids outside once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Even more, if it’s an especially nice day. On one of those outings, I like to take us all for a walk around the neighborhood.
I also like to have daily outside time that involves playing games in the yard or enjoying our swingset. The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day for kids. And I think that’s an absolute minimum.
It can be hard to get that level of physical activity indoors. But it’s worth the effort when the kids stop fighting and whining and start playing. Plus physical activity improves everyone’s mood. The kids AND mine.
Best Times of Day for Indoor Physical Activities with Kids
I try to time daily physical activities, whether inside or outside for naturally cranky times. Late in the afternoon right before the witching hour meltdowns is a great time for an exercise-inspired attitude adjustment. Sometimes it carries us all the way to dinner without one tantrum or fit.
And physical activity is a great way to shake off the morning blahs and start the day off on a good note. I even try to have my kids exercise in the morning before school.
Moms Need Indoor Physical Activity as Much as the Kids
The truth is these indoor physical activities are as much for me as the kids.
No one would consider me particularly outdoorsy, but I love a walk outside. And I crave breathing in some outside air at least a couple of times a day. So when I can’t get outside, I get a little cranky. I need to move!
On days when I can’t get outside with the kids, we have to find other ways to expend some of our pent-up energy and stretch out. So, I’ve come up with a list of go-to physical activities we can do indoors.
Sometimes fresh air just has to wait (don’t mind me if I stick my head out the window). But we still need to get some exercise even if it’s indoors.
Indoor Physical Activities for Kids
1. Dance Party
This is my all-time favorite indoor activity with kids. I’ve been doing it ever since I was a kid myself and there are even home movies to prove it. It couldn’t be more simple. Just turn on some music and let the kids jump, wiggle, and dance their little hearts out.
If dancing is new to them, they may need a little help getting started. So go bust a move, mama! Show them how it’s done.
These dance parties are the reason my daughter and I have the same taste in music. She’s been dancing to my favorite 90’s pop songs since she was born.
If you prefer to make a little order out of chaos you can arrange a game of musical chairs with roughly the same physical benefits.
2. Improvised Indoor Games
If you’re looking for fun indoor physical activities for kids, all you need to do is think back to your own childhood. I have found particular inspiration thinking about the kinds of games we used to play in P.E. when I was in grade school.
For example, running lines. Or hopscotch. Or obstacle courses. You can do this stuff in your house. You may not have as much space as a school gym. But chances are you also don’t have as many kids. You just need to get creative. Here are a few games I’ve done in my (small) house.
Indoor Physical Activities with Lines of Tape
- Use painter’s tape to make lines on your floor. See which of your kids can jump to the furthest line. Then hop from line to line on one foot. Next, have them try jumping backward. And so on. Encourage them to come up with their own games.
- Create hopscotch squares with painter’s tape on the floor and play.
- Walk a line of painter’s tape heel to toe as if it was a balance beam and see how far your kids can walk.
- Create an obstacle course in your hallway with tape going from wall to wall. Kids can climb over the tape or through it depending on the setup. And see who can get through without knocking it all down.Yarn also works well for creating an obstacle course.
These are just a few ideas of what must be hundreds. And your kids should absolutely try to come up with some of their own.
Indoor Physical Activities with Balloons
- Have your kids race from one end of the room to the other holding a balloon between their knees.
- Hit a balloon or a beach ball up in the air and see how long you can keep hitting it back and forth without letting it hit the ground.
Races You Can Have Indoors
Even if you don’t have much room to run in your house there might be space for a few races.
- Balance a hard-boiled egg on a spoon and race each other across the room.
- Pillowcase races similar to potato sack races. (Hint: use pillowcases you aren’t that fond of in case they don’t survive.
Animals walks are a great way to help your kids be physically active indoors. But use caution when trying it yourself. At our age, we can’t always bend that way without paying for it.
Animals walks can be done as races or just moving around the room. It’s fun and great imaginative play too. Basically, you have your kids go around the room “walking” like different animals.
The idea for this one came from The Superkids Activity Guide and is a perfect indoor activity for kids to get the wiggles out.
To get your kids moving, try these animal walks (then add your own!)
Bear: Walk on all fours, legs straight, bum in the air like a bear. Feel free to stand up and roar occasionally
Snake: Slither along the floor on your belly like a snake.
Kangaroo: Hop, hop, hop across the room like a kangaroo.
Crab: Crawl across the floor on all fours, with your back towards the floor, and your tummy and face towards the ceiling.
Bird: Walk around arms flapping like the wings of your kid’s favorite bird or insect.
Dinosaur: Stomp around the room like a T-Rex. Big feet, little arms.
3. Bring the Outdoor Toys Inside
One great way for kids to be active inside is to bring some of the outdoor toys in. Obviously, this doesn’t work with everything you have outside.
But if you have younger kids with ride on toys, trikes or small plastic slides and teeter-totters, this stuff can easily be brought in the house on bad weather days for indoor physical activity and fun.
If your house isn’t quite big enough for these toys, or even some of the games I suggested previously, consider whether you can pull a car out and use some space in the garage for active indoor play.
4. Scavenger Hunt
If you plan it right, a scavenger hunt can be a really fun (and active) way to play indoors. Sure, it takes some prep work by a parent but you don’t have to get too elaborate. And older kids can plan one for each other.
Be sure to send your scavengers up the stairs and down or from one end of the house to other several times to get them moving.
A variation of this would be to have an indoor Easter egg hunt if you have any sitting around. Or anything really you can hide and have your kids run around looking for.
A trampoline is a good workout. And definitely useful for kids who need to exercise indoors. I like this trampoline because it has an adjustable handle. And isn’t too huge to have indoors.
The negatives for a trampoline is that it does take up some space. And if you have more than one kid and only one can use it at a time, there may be a battle. But it is a fun indoor activity.
I’ve had a trampoline in my living room for a while. And my kids definitely love it for being active on rainy days.
If space is something you DO have, like a playroom or a large family room, consider a tumbling mat. My kids love to launch themselves off of furniture. Or jump, wrestle and roll around on the floor.
A tumbling mat is a great place to do all of those things indoors.
I love these things! Kids need to jump and roll and play rough sometimes. These mats just provide a little safety while they do it.
I also like these foam playsets for younger kids for climbing on and jumping around.
7. Hula Hoops & Jump Ropes
Hula hoops and jump ropes have been helping kids be physically active for generations. And although you’ll need to clear some space for your kids to play with them, storage is less of an issue than it is with a tumbling mat or a trampoline.
Hula hoops are available all over the place. Even dollar stores carry them. But super cheap ones often don’t twirl right and are easily bent. Consider a quality mid-price hula hoop so that you can show your kids how they are actually supposed to work.
Similarly, a quality jump rope is going to provide more fun over the long haul and a better active experience for kids.
It doesn’t need to be super expensive but too cheap and they end up hitting kids in the face or breaking apart. Speaking as an experienced cheapskate, spend just a few more dollars for a jump rope that can be used for real fun.
Then turn on some music and let your kids swirl their hips and hoops or skip that rope indoors.
8. Indoor Swing or an Indoor Gym for Kids
If you have the space and money, there are some really amazing toys designed for keeping kids physically active indoors.
An indoor swing can give your kids some sensory input in the house and some movement. This is a reasonably priced indoor swing with great customer reviews.
But if you really want to keep your kids active in the house this kids indoor gym is exactly what you need. Or something similar.
You can even do a search on Pinterest for ‘DIY kids indoor gym’ and find ways to create your own physically active space for your kids in the home.
If you have a playroom or dedicated kids space, this might be well worth the investment.
9. Choose a Children’s Exercise DVD or the GoNoodle app
Kids Excercise DVDs
I know screentime is not usually the answer to helping your kids be physically active, but sometimes they can really help you out.
I realized pretty quickly after starting a home daycare that I would need something physical to keep the kiddos busy on the bad weather days. And I don’t happen to have room for an indoor gym.
Another home daycare provider recommended the Rock N’ Learn Alphabet Exercise DVD to me. She told me it was completely annoying but that every kid loved it. Truer words were never spoken.
The Rock N’ Learn Alphabet Exercise DVD consists of a very enthusiastic man in a shiny purple tuxedo singing the alphabet in a synthesized voice. There is a bizarre dance move for each letter. My kids call him “the Exercise Man” and are his biggest fans.
The DVD takes about 30 minutes and is usually the perfect length of time for me to prepare the kids’ lunch. Your kids will love it. You may not. But it’s exercise and you can join in for a little alphabet exercise yourself if you feel like rockin’ to the ABC’s.
On other days, I need something a little more mellow. I’ve written before about my attempts to start doing yoga with my kids. And the dinosaur-themed Yoga for Kids DVD continues to be a favorite at my house. For me and the kids.
It’s easy and entertaining. And more importantly, it gets us moving even on the days we can’t go outside.
If your kids are too old for the Alphabet Exercise DVD, they might like GoNoodle. The GoNoodle app has great songs and dance moves designed for kids to get them moving and dancing indoors.
And the GoNoodle app is FREE. If you want to play it for your kids on your television but you don’t have Apple TV, all you need is a cord like this one to play the app from your phone to the TV.
This app has become a real favorite with my kids. And is one of our favorite activities to do indoors when the weather is bad.
10. Assign Chores that Make them Move
Do you and your kids need some exercise? And does your house need cleaning? (If you say no, we can’t be friends).
Well, assigning chores is your chance to get both of these things crossed off your list at once.
You can make it fun by playing some music or making a game or contest out of housework tasks. I’ve had some luck with giving everyone a bucket and seeing which of us can pick up the most toys the fastest.
If you have a child-sized broom you can set your kids to sweeping the floor. Or have them dust some shelves. I just taught my six-year-old to push the vacuum around.
Get creative and find some physically active kid-friendly chores that need to be done.
There are a lot of ways to make housecleaning active and fun for kids. I can’t guarantee how much actual cleaning will get done, but the kids will be moving.
And if they hate it, maybe next time they’ll come up with their own indoor active games to avoid you assigning chores a second time. Win-win!
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines state kids need at least an hour of physical activity on most days. Icy, windy, or otherwise unpleasant weather days can make that hard to achieve.
Without some daily exercise, my kids start to lose it a little bit. And I’m usually not far behind. For the sake of your kids and yourself, I hope these tips give you some ideas for getting physically active on the days you’re stuck inside.
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