There are many activities one can do with children while staying inside and getting energy out. Today, we’ll list a few ideas to get you through the spring showers that lead to summer flowers!
As with most of these activities, it’s all about using what you have on hand. An obstacle course can be constructed of anything like a rope laid out on the floor or some masking tape to make a tight rope to balance across. If you have unbreakable, sturdy bowls these could also be used for balancing on when turned upside down. Set out any kind of container that can catch bean bags (or rolled up socks) when they are tossed. Use a tunnel or box as an obstacle to crawl through, over, under, balance/climb on, or jump off of landing on a soft couch cushion. As long as the children are safe, there are many options available.
A balloon hung in a doorway can be very useful for many activities. To secure the balloon, you may want to screw an eye hook into the middle of the door frame (making sure it won’t keep the door from closing) and hang the balloon from it to the height of the child’s waist. Then the little one can use their hand to practice forehand hitting, backhand, overhead, smashing it from up high, and so on. This game promotes eye-hand coordination and is the first step toward any racket sport. Once the child is good at using their hand to hit the balloon, you can move on to a lightweight paddle. Here is a link to making your own paddle.
A quick note on the choice of balloon material: It is preferable to use Mylar over latex as when latex balloons pop it is very dangerous if a piece is sucked into the child’s lungs. When using a Mylar balloon (after the helium is gone), stick a drinking straw into the hole and blow it up again before hanging it. Once the balloon skills have been mastered, the next level would be a whiffle ball.
This is an activity that can be done individually, and it is a great option for a family game time too. Instead of a net, make a barrier with chairs or a couch and hit the balloon back and forth over it. It is best to use your hands instead of a paddle due to the close contact of the players. (We learned that one the hard way!)
Fast Feet is all about learning how to walk and run in place. Nothing extra is required for this activity other than an adult or older child to call out the direction the child should face. A story could add a lot to this by involving the child in an adventure. They walk (in place) through a forest, starting at a normal pace. (If the child has difficulty staying in one spot, a hula hoop or taped square on the floor may help.) To get a feel for the speed of the walk, the older helper can clap their hands on their knees at that normal pace. Then, as the story takes an interesting turn (perhaps when a T-rex enters the forest), the clapping speeds up and the walking child needs to run in place – “fast feet!” This can go so many different directions – crouching to hide in a bush, rolling over, tiptoeing, slow motion, and all over again. Here's another variation: Is the floor moving?
Following directions is a great skill that comes out of this game as well as aerobic exercise with the fast/slow, up/down nature of the movements. On a fun filled adventure with lots of laughter, it may only take a couple of minutes before they get worn out. The key is that they learn how to listen and follow directions which is wonderful to do in game form as they don’t even realize they are working and learning!
Jump the River
First, a river is made on the floor. The cheapest way to do this is to use the least expensive, least sticky tape you have (often masking tape) that will not leave a mark on the floor. Make the river into a “V” shape going from about 6 inches apart to almost 2 feet apart. The child can start on the narrow end of the river and jump across. After that part of the river has been traversed, the child can move one step over each time as it gets wider and wider. On the widest end, sturdy bowls (as mentioned above) can be used upside down as stepping stones. Fun additions to this game are rubber snakes or toy alligators placed in the “water” to add to the excitement.
Jump the River is working on the really good skills that lead to standing broad jump and leaping (feet far apart, one foot in front of the other, starting with one foot and landing with the other). In the house, jumping is more controlled than leaping. An alternative idea is to tape two parallel lines on the floor and have the child crab walk, bear walk, etc. down the parallel bars. We've covered this game before here.
Dancing on Slick Paper
Taking some waxy or shiny newspaper ads (don’t use regular newspaper as it gets print on everything), give each child a piece of slick paper. (They are a little more slippery on hard floors.) Let everyone know that it is okay if their paper rips. Then pick out some instrumental music with a fun, fast beat (banjo music?). Tell them, “I’ll give directions when I turn on the music, so listen carefully and try to do what I say.”
First, just try to get them to bob or clap to the beat. This is teaching them to hear the beat. Then try a little more, like dancing down low, up on their toes, turning in a circle, one foot then the other, on their knees, etc. – but always staying on the paper! Try to model safety if things start getting out of control, like suggesting to slow things down. Add whatever you can think of that’s safe and fun. Have them make their elbows dance on the paper! End with the kids dancing any funny way they want.
For an extra bit of fun, after the dance have them pick up every little piece of paper and roll it into balls. Have a snowball fight! (Free-for-all or with teams and a rope down the middle.) Finally, everyone helps put the paper in the recycling to finish it off.
Blocks with Numbers
We’ve linked Kirby’s tutorial for making a block here. Once the cube is made, put numbers on each side. Each take turns rolling it and jumping the number of times as the number that lands face-up.
Socks, Socks, and more Socks!
Roll up socks into balls and have another snowball fight.
Use a coat-hanger paddle – remember the kind with pantyhose stretched over a coat hanger bent into the shape of a paddle? – to carry a rolled up sock (or balloon) around balancing it. Or bounce the sock ball up and down on it.
These activities – and many more – can brighten any dreary day. I’ve even used these when a child is home with a fever and not too sick anymore. Enjoy!