Winter wears long around this time of year for those of us who live in the Midwest. Usually, our family enjoys the snow because it allows for lots of outdoor fun – sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, and other gross-motor, active fun. However, with wind-chills well below zero lately, we’ve been cooped up indoors. You can imagine the ensuing chaos created by four bored children (okay, three, the teen isn’t as rowdy as he used to be). Our middle child in particular, all boy, struggles to release his pent-up energy in a way that does not harm others or damage items in the home.
We tried every fun, high-energy indoor activity I could remember that worked in years past, but with so many days spent inside, I soon ran out of ideas. So, I turned to my friends and family on facebook. They helped me compile a list for future reference and out of sympathy for you all, I decided to share it here.
Snowball Fight - Yes, you can have a snowball fight indoors! I learned this game from a birthday party we attended recently. You will need a stack of white paper (newspaper will suffice if you don’t have white paper). Crumple the paper into balls – the more you have, the more fun it will be. Dump the paper snowballs into the middle of an open area and let the kids go wild!
Bounce around - Several years ago when the twins were younger and I frequently babysat children in our home, we invested in a small bouncy house. It’s been a lifesaver on several occasions when the weather kept us indoors. Another less expensive option would be a small, indoor trampoline, or even an exercise ball. If all else fails, you can always resort to letting the kids jump on your bed (I do!).
Ball pit - When our youngest son was a baby, he needed some physical therapy. One of the things his therapist did was to create a small ball-pit using a laundry basket filled with balls. At first, he hated it, but eventually he grew to love it. Frugal ideas for pits: laundry baskets, plastic totes, inflatable kiddie pools, or large cardboard boxes.
Indoor Skating – I’ve found two different ways to create indoor skates. One is to tie wax paper around the bottom of your children’s feet and let them skate away. The other is to use kleenex boxes (or other cartons) as skates – just insert feet into the opening.
Climb, climb, climb – Recently I was reminded that kids of all ages love to climb. My husband brought a step-ladder indoors to do some repairs. When he finished, our four-year-olds spent a good thirty minutes climbing up and down, up and down (with supervision, of course). Other options – smaller kitchen step-stools,or a stool your kids might use in the bathroom, stairways, boxes, etc.
Activity Dice – Create a large dice from cardboard or cardstock. On each side of the dice, list a different activity to be performed. Examples: do ten jumping jacks, flap your arms like a bird, twirl in circles until you’re dizzy, hop up and down, jump like a frog, crab-walk, do a somersault, etc. If your child is old enough to find this activity boring, try making it into a competition.
Dance the wiggles away – We have Just Dance Kids’ version for the Wii that our younger children really love. However, we also frequently dance to music on the radio or our oldest son’s ipod. One of my friends suggested playing “freeze” by pausing the music and having everyone freeze in place.
This song is perfect for freezing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7JoCCR4OsM
Or try this active song that was an immediate hit with our younger two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dXoiCMyyu4
Geronimo! – We love this classic. Create a huge pile of pillows, blankets, beanbags, stuffed animals, etc., near a couch or the bottom of your stairway. Jump away!
Pillow Fight – Caution: if you have a child who tends to get aggressive, prepare for possible injuries. It’s a good time to work on self-control. Even our teen boy likes to pillow fight when the whole family is involved.
Family wrestling – Nothing is more tempting to children than when Mom or Dad lay on the floor. For some reason, our four kiddos love to sit on us, climb on us, bounce on us, and so forth. Family wrestling is also a good opportunity for Mom to sneak attack Dad’s feet (he can’t get away with four kids piled on top). As with all active fun, it usually ends when someone cries.
Spikeball – We created this game using punch-balloons. To begin, we spread out in the largest room in our home. Then we “spike” the punch-balloons across the room at another person. Each player receives points for hitting another player as long as it is not a face-shot (we had to ban those). It’s a mad frenzy trying to snatch up the punch-balloons and spike them at others while also trying not to get hit yourself. You could also use a regular balloon, but punch-balloons are just a little heavier and bigger, so they can travel farther. Tip: it’s more fun and crazy if you have more than one balloon.
Other balloon fun – Balloons are great for quick and easy active fun because you can play so many different games with them. Play don’t let the balloon touch the ground, or blow the balloon across the floor. You can even play an indoor version of hockey with a balloon and pool noodles. Play volleyball by hanging a string or a blanket for a net. Hang balloons from the ceiling or a doorway just out of reach and ask children to jump up and touch them. Put a balloon between the knees and race from one end of the room to the other without dropping the balloon. Tie a balloon to their feet and try to step on each other’s balloons. The options are endless!
Indoor Obstacle Course – This is an often-requested favorite at our house and with our children’s ministry at church, also. First the kids help to create the obstacles using chairs, card tables, tunnels from our Playhut set, brooms for hurdles or limbo sticks, hula hoops to hop through, inflatable swimming rings in place of tires for an agility hop, etc. Once everything is set up, they race through it over and over again! I can’t wait to try this winter-themed course that involves climbing a “snow mountain”: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026298294418/
Sliding - If you have a slide you can bring indoors, you can entertain toddlers and preschoolers for quite some time. Since our kiddos have outgrown our slide, we turned our stairway into a giant slide (something I pinned a long time ago on pinterest). The only thing you need is large, wide sections of strong cardboard. If you use an appliance box, be on the lookout for staples that will need to be removed first.
Nerf/Koosh Gun War – Two of our boys received Koosh ball guns for Christmas, and not long after I happened to find refill packs of balls on clearance at Walmart – score! We also have a couple of Nerf dart guns and a disc shooter from years past. Sometimes we sneak attack our oldest son or Dad, but usually we play all together. Gather up the ammo and have fun chasing each other all over the house. Note: it’s important to establish some ground rules first, such as do not shoot at the face and do not shoot at windows, etc.
Play Basketball – We also have been gifted a Little Tikes basketball hoop, as well as a classic Nerf hoop that hangs over the door. One way to burn lots of energy is to play basketball free-for all. Much like spikeball, there are few rules to this game other than to get a hold of a ball whenever you can and put it through the hoop. If you like a more organized game, you can take turns shooting or see who can make a shot from the longest distance, etc. No hoops in the house? Improvise with a trash can or bucket and a small ball or even wadded up piece of paper.
Scary Hide-n-go-seek – A variation on the traditional game, this version is played in the dark, indoors. We turn off all of the lights except one or two dim ones (for safety). Something about hiding in the dark with the chance of being spooked really gets the adrenaline pumping. Of course, if you have little ones who are scared of the dark, you’ll probably have to hide with them.
Wii activity – In addition to our Just Dance Kids game, we also have Wii sports and a few other games that require activity. You can often find gently used games at a greatly reduced price at places like Game Stop or on E-bay.
Sword-fight – Our boys love to sword-fight with their light-sabers, but inevitably someone always gets hurt. So, I really, really love this pinterest idea for creating light-sabers from pool noodles cut in half. Sometimes we make it a whole family activity and even the teen joins in with us!
Kid-Olympics or Ironkid Challenge - We did this once for our AWANA kids at church during the last Summer Olympics. We used frisbees for a discus throw, pool noodles for a javelin, relay races, etc. We even ordered plastic medals online, but you could easily create your own. Why not have an awards ceremony, too?
Wipeout – I love this idea for energy-burning fun that came from a friend of mine. Use couch cushions, etc. to create a course inspired by the tv show Wipeout!
Giant tent fort - While this activity doesn’t burn quite as much energy as some of the others, it still burns some AND it takes a good amount of time to do. Our kiddos recently spent the better part of a day creating this giant fort using a card table, a piano bench, kitchen chairs, plastic totes, a step-stool, and anything else they could find. We left it up for days until they got tired of it. Any activity that holds interest beyond a day is a winner in my opinion!
Treasure Hunt – This was another friend’s high-energy suggestion. Create a treasure hunt where the clues involve some sort of physical activity such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and so forth. Of course, you need a fun treasure, such as a special snack or maybe new coloring books.
Convert the garage -If you have a garage, consider moving your vehicles and opening up space for bike-riding, roller-skating, skate-boarding, scootering, or even an old-fashioned game of foursquare (use chalk to draw the lines). I’ve also seen hanging ladders, ropes, and sets of rings available for purchse to hang from the ceiling (guess what’s on my wish list?!). If your children are very young or you have the inside space, you might consider bringing a tricycle or scooter indoors even.
Put on a Show – Our children, like most, enjoy performing for any willing audience. Our shows usually consist of lots of “break-dancing,” twirling, and kung-fu-type stunts. Set up a stage area and a seating area and settle in for lots of laughs. (Thanks to another one of my friends for reminding me of this!)
Work the Maze – Create a laser-beam maze in a hallway or other narrow space using yarn or even crepe paper. See who can get through without touching or breaking any of the lines.
Armed with this list, I now feel prepared for the pending snowstorm heading our way (and any rainy days that might come our way this summer).
Once you’ve drained off the extra energy, your children might settle down enough to attempt some of these fun indoor activities from Coffee Cups and Crayons.
Do you have more ideas for energetic, gross-motor indoor fun? We would love to hear from you in the comments!
Our Big List of Favorite Games (categorized by age)
Top Free Resources for Pre-K
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