During long winter months, it can be difficult to make sure your child is getting enough exercise. It may be too cold to stay outside for long or to go outside at all. In those instances, parents and caregivers have to figure out how to get young kids to exercise indoors.
Making sure that a child gets enough exercise is key for physical and mental health, not just today but in the future as well. Children who are overweight as children are more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes later in life. Building good habits and staying healthy at a young age can lead to a healthier life down the road.
If you want your child to get more exercise, check out these seven ideas for indoor movement activities for young kids:
Simon Says isn’t necessarily a game with a lot of movement, but if you lead it right, your child can get some good exercise. This works best if you have multiple young children (or at least another adult player). If they are playing alone, your kid might see through your tricks and know that you’re just trying to give them a workout.
When you give commands as Simon, choose things like “Simon says do jumping jacks” or “Simon says hop on one foot.” Make sure to mix these in with some silly, easy tasks. By the end of the game, their heart rate is up and they’ve burned off some energy.
Keep the Balloon in the Air
Quite simply, Keep the Balloon in the Air is a game where you keep a balloon in the air. Blow up a birthday balloon and take turns with your kids to hit it back and forth. When the balloon hits the ground, the round is over.
This game is great because there aren’t any difficult rules to remember. Just don’t let the balloon fall. It’s perfect for kids (or adults) of any age. You might even get the dog to participate. Before you play, make sure to move any fragile items that could break or sharp-cornered furniture that might hurt if bumped.
The past year has been stressful for everyone, even young kids. On top of what’s going on in the world, they may also just be starting school, switching back and forth between in-person and remote learning, missing their friends, etc. This stress has a negative impact on kids’ mental health.
When the stress gets to a tipping point, take a break and have a pillow fight! Pillow fights are fun, they burn off some energy, and they can also work out aggression in a safe and playful way. Maybe the winner of the pillow fight also gets to jump on the bed for a minute. That feels like a reward, but it’s also a bit more exercise. After they’ve let off some steam, your child can more readily return to daily activities.
Hula hooping was a major exercise fad a few years ago for teens and adults. Although started as a children’s toy, it’s easy to see how this item can help strengthen core muscles and give you a bit of a cardio workout.
You can find a cheap hula hoop at just about any supermarket or toy store. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to get children moving. Bring your child with you if you have to buy a new one. Hoops come in different sizes and different weights depending on your child’s size.
Yarn Laser Maze
This one requires a bit of prep time and will take up some space. If you have a hallway in your house, turn it into a yarn laser maze. Model this after those scenes in heist movies where someone has to dodge the lasers to get to a precious jewel or protected item.
For an easy maze, create fewer “laser” lines with the yarn. For a more difficult one, add more lines to make it harder to get around. You can have your child move at their own pace, or see if they can get through it in a set amount of time. You can also ramp up the exercise factor by periodically making them freeze in place. It keeps their muscles engage for a second and makes it more challenging.
A dance party is the sneakiest way to get your child to exercise. What kid doesn’t love to dance? It might be 20 or 30 minutes before the excitement of the activity wears off and they start to get tired. Dance parties are the most fun in groups, so get the whole family moving or set up a virtual dance party with some friends!
With in-person events canceled for the foreseeable future, many DJs, artists, and children’s theaters are hosting virtual events. Tune in for one of these events as a special treat that gets your young kids up and moving.
The Floor Is Lava
The Floor is Lava is a classic home exercise activity. It’s another option where it feels more like a game than a workout, which is key to keeping children engaged and interested.
Clear out some of the bulky, dangerous, or fragile items from a room. Bring in pillows, step stools, and blankets to spread around the room. Then, try to get from point A to point B without touching the ground. You can work together, or an adult can set up the course in a way that is challenging for the child. If the kid can get through it easily, try removing one or two pieces or make the spaces between them larger.
When trying to get young kids to exercise, you must make it fun. They will be more willing to exercise and more excited about exercise if it’s part of a game. The next time your child is feeling stir-crazy, try out one of these ideas to help them burn off some energy. It’s so much fun, they won’t even know that they just got a workout.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool, with facilities serving families at multiple locations in the Chicagoland area.