In this age of computers, video games, television, and movies-on-demand, the old days of “Go outside and play,” become harder to digest for today’s children. Combined with the winter weather, which generally means cold rain in southeast Louisiana, it seems harder than ever for our children to get their important daily exercise. But it can be done.
Benefit of being active indoors
Children from preschool ages and up should be engaged in physical activity for at least an hour each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the weather is pretty, this generally isn’t a problem for families with children. But when it’s too cold, hot, wet, windy, or icy to go outside, children (and their parents) are all too tempted to skip any physical activity and resort to sedentary pastimes. Playing board, video, and computer games aren’t bad activities; they just shouldn’t be the only activities.
Kids need to burn off a little steam, build some muscles, and boost their health with indoor workouts that really are possible and a whole lot of fun. To help foster family fitness, especially during the winter months, try some of these exciting activities when those raindrops and temperatures start falling.
1. Animal kingdom. Make a list of animals and ask your preschooler to walk like an elephant, leap like a frog, fly like an eagle, and slither like a snake. Get her body in motion, and join her if you can. You can also have toddlers “work out” to Eric Carle’s fitness book, From Head to Toe, where different animals invite them to move as they do. Kids will answer, “I can do it!” while they bend their heads with the giraffe, move their arms with monkeys, and connect reading with movement with you playing along.
2. Freeze dance. Put on the music, and get everyone dancing. Then pause the music. Everyone has to stop and can only resume dancing when you turn it back on. Make it a game, and let all age groups and ability levels play. You may be surprised at their creative moves!
3. Nursery rhyme activities. Transform familiar nursery rhymes or songs into simple fitness activities. For example, sing “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” as your child pretends he’s a mouse running and a clock swinging its arms.
4. DIY hopscotch. Bring this playground game indoors by using masking tape to “draw” the numbered board on the floor. Use a beanbag or pair of rolled-up socks as a marker. The first player tosses the marker into the square numbered one and hops one or two feet at a time (depending on age and how the board is drawn) up and down the board, picking up the marker on the way back. For little ones, don’t worry about any guidelines beyond that. Older children can play by the game’s classic rules, like losing a turn if the marker touches a line or bounces off a box or if the player stumbles.
Use soft balls, sticks, beanbags, cones, or other objects to make playing creative. Improve eye-hand coordination and strengthen muscles with these two ideas.
5. Which Way? As you roll a ball toward your child, call out directions on how to kick it–softly, hard, far away, toward you, toward a sibling, etc. Make sure you’re in a game room with breakable things put away.
6. Carnival fun. Ask your children to help you draw a funny face on a large cardboard box, then cut out big circles to toss bean bags through. Or label holes with the letters of a child’s name or the initials of more than one child, and see whether they can throw bags through the right order or letters.
Get your kids climbing, reaching, and twisting; they’ll strengthen their muscles and increase flexibility.
7. A to Z fitness. Alphabetize some moves–for example, “B is for bend; way down, touch the tip of your toes!” or G is for grab; see if you can grab this big flag!” Sing “The Alphabet Song,” and ask your child to chime in with his own suggestions.
8. The Hokey Pokey while singing the song.
9. Play Twister.
10. Set the Pace. Have your child show you how slowly a turtle moves and how fast a bunny runs. Then explain that you’ll call out “Bunny!” or “Turtle!” and see whether she can move accordingly, quickly changing her tempo when you switch animals.
11. Wheelbarrow Obstacles. Set up a simple obstacle course on a soft surface. Hold your child by the ankles and let him slowly walk on his hands, navigating the challenges.
12. Buy a light-up, noise-making dance mat. Your child will boogie down and be encouraged and thrilled to keep going with the lights and the noises.
13. Try the game, Step To It, where players pick cards that require them to walk, hop, and jump around the house.
14. Get a karaoke player and have everyone sing and dance.
15. Balloon bounce. Blow up a few balloons and toss them into the air. It’s up to the children to gently bat them higher as they fall so the balloons don’t touch the floor. You can encourage the kids to move around more by tapping some of the balloons yourself so they cover a wider area of the room. Make the game a competition for older children and see who can keep four or five balloons airborne the longest. Do not leave young children unattended with balloons. When they pop, they can become a choking hazard.
16. Beat the clock. Write down a few movements that can be done while staying in one spot, such as hopping on one leg, doing jumping jacks, running in place, or doing sit-ups. One person holds a stopwatch (your cell phone might even have this feature) and reads the activities from the list while the other person does five or ten repetitions of each one. The clock stops after the last repetition is completed and that person’s time is written down. Then they switch places. Whoever does the moves in the least amount of time is the winner. Change the order and make new ones up.
Need to get out of the house but stay indoors?
17. Go walking through the mall.
18. Try an indoor skating rink.
19. Indoor playgrounds or activity centers. Some even have challenging maze-like climbing structures or huge inflatable bouncers, both of which can give kids (and adults) a real workout.
20. Indoor swimming pools
21. Kid gym classes
22. Bowling. This classic pastime is fun for all ages. Find out if your local lanes have bumpers for the little ones.
You may be surprised at the creativity of your children once everyone gets the hang of indoor fitness.