5 Fun Indoor Fitness Ideas for Kids

5 Fun Indoor Fitness Ideas for Kids

Bad weather is no excuse to sit around watching TV. There are plenty of ways kids can have fun and stay active without even leaving the house.

By Amanda Genge, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

Children benefit greatly from active play. Unlike watching TV or playing video games, activities that make their bodies move give them an important dose of daily exercise.

Benefit of being active indoors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages 6 and up should have at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each day. Younger kids should also be engaged in unstructured physical activity for at least an hour. On a typical day, when they're allowed to roam and play outside, many children will have no trouble meeting these targets.

But when it's too cold, hot, or wet to go outside, kids can be tempted by sedentary pastimes like watching TV or playing video games. That's why it's so important for parents to offer fun and engaging active alternatives. After all, activities like climbing, jumping, and running don't just build muscles and give kids' health a boost. Impromptu "workouts" like these also let little ones burn off steam. And let's not forget that calmer kids means calmer parents. This becomes even more important when the weather is bad and everyone is cooped up inside.

Indoor active play ideas: fun and fitness without leaving home
Here are some fun ways to sneak in a little fitness when you're stuck indoors. The games and activities can be adjusted to suit any age or ability level, from toddler through school age. Encourage your kids to think of other ways they can keep moving indoors - their creativity might surprise you!

  • Freeze dance. Put on some energizing music and encourage kids to do their best dance moves. When you pause the music, they have to stop, only resuming dancing when you turn it back on. Let the kids take turns being the DJ to control the music.
  • Scavenger hunt. Write a list of items and read them to your children one at a time (or let older kids carry their own list) so they can look throughout the house for the objects in question. Things like puzzle pieces, utensils, crayons, or books with specific pictures on the cover are some ideas to start. Up the ante by giving hints instead of a list, giving tips like "Find something that comes in pairs" (socks or shoes) or "Find something that is round and edible" (apple or orange).
  • DIY hopscotch. Bring this playground game indoors by using masking tape to "draw" the numbered board on the floor. If you don't remember what it looks like, a quick Internet search can show you some options. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Mix up the game by varying the order of activities or adding more challenging ones to the list.

Want to leave the house and get moving ... but still stay indoors?
For times when the fun within your own four walls just isn't cutting it, think about packing up the kids and heading to one of these places:

  • Indoor playgrounds or activity centers. These are cropping up in many areas. Some even have challenging maze-like climbing structures or huge inflatable bouncers, both of which can give kids (and adults!) a real workout.
  • Indoor swimming pools. Local recreation centers may offer inexpensive classes for kids as young as preschool age.
  • Kid gym classes. Haven't been to one of these yet? Call around - many offer a free trial session.
  • Bowling. This classic pastime is fun for all ages. Find out if your local lanes have bumpers for the little ones.

Sources:

  • National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Active start: a statement of physical activity guidelines for children from birth to age 5. Accessed: 10/20/2010
  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Good health starts at home. Accessed: 10/20/2010
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do children need? Accessed: 10/20/2010

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