We all know those days⏤the ones when the weather is not amenable to outside play. It’s either scorching hot or so frigid that your children just cannot put on enough layers. Those are the days when you give up on the idea of your children playing outside and you know that you will all be stuck indoors. The challenge is evident right away: the children are either bouncing off the walls or have their faces glued to a computer or tablet playing video games and watching movies. As a parent, these are the days when you attempt to pull out all the parenting tricks you have ever learned. You might wonder, “How can I keep my children active indoors (without breaking furniture or otherwise destroying the house)? Staying indoors does not have to be all boredom and frustration. Using a little creative thinking and a dose of patience, you can help your children stay active, healthy, and happy on those indoor days.

Active Children are Healthy Children

On bad weather days, it’s tempting to give in to the lure of the screen and the couch and allow our children to do the same. However, we all know that active children are healthy children. Therefore, it’s in our children’s best interests to help them find ways to stay active, even when they can’t play outside as usual.

Child health experts, like those at the CDC, recommend that children stay active in daily life as well. Current guidelines suggest that for children ages 3–5 years old, they have three hours per day of activity of varying types. This could include playing on a playground, playing indoor games or helping out around the house with chores. Similarly, for children 6–17 years of age, the guidelines recommend at least 1 hour per day of moderate-to-vigorous activity. This can include a mix of both aerobic activity and movement that focuses more on strength (like pushups, situps, or bodyweight exercises). 

The emphasis on keeping children active is not just based on a concern for children’s physical health. More and more research is showing the benefits of physical activity for other aspects of children’s well-being, including mental health and academic achievement. Specifically, there appears to be a consistent link between children’s levels of physical activity and lessened rates of depression and psychological distress. Furthermore, higher rates of physical activity are found to predict psychological well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, and self-image. The benefits of physical activity even extend to children’s academic lives. In an analysis of multiple studies, researchers found that greater physical activity was linked to better academic achievement in children.

Therefore, our efforts to keep our children active indoors, even amidst the challenges, are well-placed. Anything we can do to keep their bodies moving on bad weather days will ultimately help their overall well-being.


Child-friendly Ideas for Active Indoor Play

Keeping children active while indoors has some inherent challenges. Depending on one’s living space, there might not be much room to move around extensively. Furthermore, if you have more than one child, having adequate space and ideas to keep them all occupied can be tricky. Here are a few creative ideas that help with keeping children active when they can’t play outside:

  • Indoor Obstacle Course: Around pillows, chairs, books, or blankets as obstacles that children must jump over, climb through, or hop around. Encourage your children to develop new ideas for changing the course each round.
  • Dance Party: This idea is always a hit! Turn on your children’s favorite tunes and get moving. Dancing is a great way to stay active and release stress.
  • Indoor “Ice skating”: Don’t worry, there’s no actual ice involved. Have your children wear their socks and slip around on tile or wood floors like they are skating. 
  • Scavenger Hunt: You may not think of creating an indoor scavenger hunt, but it works well. Make a list of obscure or hard-to-uncover items for children to look for all over the house. The winner gets a prize.
  • Yoga: Keeping children moving doesn’t mean everything has to be fast-paced. Slow things down with a yoga session for you and your children. Teach your children the poses you already know or look for online video classes.
  • Balloon Volleyball: Who says you can’t play ball in the house? Inflate a balloon (or two) and challenge your children to a round of balloon volleyball. You don’t even need a net⏤just use your imagination!
  • Laundry Basketball: Clean up and have fun at the same time. Put out a hamper or basket and let your children see who can toss dirty clothes into the basket to make a goal.
  • Exercise Videos: Long gone are the days when exercise videos were only for adults. Search online for a plethora of exercise videos suited for children. Many online videos now include fun music and games to keep children motivated to move their bodies.

Despite the challenges of keeping children active indoors, the benefits are clear. Children who are active tend to be happier and healthier. Additionally, the memories you make and the connection you build with your children by doing these activities together serve to strengthen your family bond. 

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development, to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice

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