Five fun and simple ways to keep kids active indoors this winter
January 10, 2022
by Lindsey Flannery
We all know the value of getting kids outside. Nature play offers a multitude of benefits including improved mood, better focus at school and home, and better peer relationships -- not to mention how much fun they have sledding or building snow forts.
However, when it’s -5 degrees, the wind is howling, snow is blowing, and the sky is gray and dreary, you might find yourself hunkered inside for days on end. And if you happen to have multiple children (or one very rambunctious one), your patience may be slowly waning.
That’s when it’s incredibly helpful to have some ideas in your backpocket to get kids active indoors! According to Harvard Health, kids need at least an hour of physical activity every day for mind and body health -- even when they can’t be outside.
These simple activities will help you get kids off their screens, or focused on something other than wildly chasing each other around the house with makeshift “weapons.” (Sound familiar?)
1) Mom and Dad, drill sergeants
Hear us out: you may be surprised at how excited your kids are to get down and give you 20, especially if you make it a competition between siblings or with Mom or Dad. When the energy in the house is getting a little too wild (and you’re worried something’s about to get broken), direct that energy!
Try: “I bet you can’t do 40 jumping jacks!” or “Which one of you can do more pushups in one minute?” or “First one to run up and down the steps five times wins! Ready, set, go!”
For a health science twist with older kids, see if they can identify the primary muscles doing the work in each exercise:
- Pushups and planks: biceps, pectorals and core
- Jumping jacks: quads and glutes
- Running in place or on the steps: Legs, glutes, core
Even younger kids will be able to point to the part of their body that is doing the work. Name a muscle group and ask your kids to do an exercise that uses those muscles!
2) Dance party
There is simply no better way to shift negative, slow, whiny or sad energy in a home than to get a dance party going. Plus, it’s an amazing workout! Simply turn on a song you know your kids like and start dancing yourself. Younger kids will join in without much coaxing. Take turns choosing songs and showing off dance moves. Or, choose a guided dance routine on YouTube.
Turn it into a game of Freeze Dance: designate a DJ, and when they stop the music, the dancing stops. When they start the music, start dancing again! Pro tip: Give kids a chance to be the DJ too -- it’s one of those little ways to put them in control, which helps keep power struggles at bay.
3) Household weight lift (with bonus science points!)
This activity gets kids moving, while also learning about the difference between weight and volume. Gather a variety of household items of varying sizes and weights and set them up in a line. Include items that are larger and lighter, like a laundry basket, and some that are smaller and heavier, like a jug of laundry detergent.
First, have kids predict which will be the easiest and hardest to lift. Next, have them go through the line, station style, and lift each item over their head several times. (Safety first: make sure to choose items that kids are able to lift without hurting themselves.) Moving them quickly through the line will result in more giggles and movement!
After, have kids compare the weight, size and density of each item. Note how a larger item isn’t necessarily heavier. A yoga ball, for example, may be larger but it’s lighter than a full jug of laundry detergent.
4) Yoga JENGA
Yoga has incredible benefits for people of all ages, but not many kids will patiently work their way through an entire class on YouTube, even if it is made for kids. This game gets kids moving and practicing poses in a fun, non-intimidating way.
Simply write the name of a yoga pose on some or all of your JENGA blocks. When you pull out a block, you have to do that pose. If the tower tumbles, you have to do a one-minute plank!
These poses will get you started (and yes, you can repeat them on multiple blocks):
- Downward dog
- Warrior II
- Half moon
Google “kids yoga poses” and find a simple image guide of poses to keep up on your tablet or phone screen for easy reference.
5) At-home Ninja Warrior course
This one requires a bit more effort, but you can truly make it as complex or simple as you’d like. Set up an obstacle course that requires kids to jump, crawl, climb and run their way through your house. Time each kid with the stopwatch on your phone and see if they can beat each other’s times, or their own time!
The best part about this idea is you can get creative and use almost anything you have lying around. Some ideas:
- Tape jump ropes to either end of a hallway or door frame to jump over or shimmy under
- Line up laundry baskets, open side up, and jump or climb from one into the next
- Space chairs a couple feet apart in a row and climb onto and off of each one
- Include a toy basketball hoop (or garbage can!) and make a basket from a certain point before moving on
- Use couch cushions to create a tunnel to crawl through
- Include your indoor mini trampoline if you have one
- Create a hopscotch game with construction paper and masking tape on the kitchen floor. If you have laminated paper, it will hold up a bit better. If they fall off, they’re out! (This is a good standalone idea to get movement in the winter, too.)
Whether you make it simple or elaborate, an obstacle course is sure to get kids moving and having fun. If you want to get them extra excited, let them watch an episode of American Ninja Warrior first while you get things set up!
With any luck, the kids will be collapsing afterwards in a heap of giggles and/or exhaustion, and will be ready for a quieter activity afterwards. And younger children will be ready for that coveted NAP! As for you: be proud of giving them creative ways to stay active! You will feel good knowing your kids are moving and staying healthy, even when the weather is less than ideal.