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 sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, and other gross-motor, active fun.
However, with wind-chills well below zero at times, winter means a lot more time is spent indoors.
Even in the summer, several rainy days in a row can send my active, high-energy kids into a cabin fever frenzy!
What can you do when you’re stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?
This big list of active indoor fun for kids might just help burn off some of that excess energy!
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Indoor Fun for Kids:
Snowball Fight – Yes, you can have a snowball fight indoors and burn a lot of energy doing so! 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!
Tip: It’s even more fun if you create some obstacles to hide behind.
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 from Blast Zone. It had the best reviews for durability (the material feels just like commercial bouncy houses), and it’s still going strong 3 years later! Our twins are now 7 and they can still both jump at the same time in it. It’s been a lifesaver on several occasions when the weather kept us indoors.
Another less expensive option would be a small, indoor trampoline like this Little Tikes one, or even an exercise ball. If all else fails, you can always resort to letting the kids jump on your bed (I do!). Jumping uses a lot of muscles group, so it burns off excess energy quicker – very helpful indoor fun for kids!
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.
Let the kids enjoy active indoor fun by jumping into the pit, swimming in the balls, throwing balls, and so on. Frugal ideas for ball 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. We only had one usable kleenex box, so I improvised with a juice pouch box.
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.
What an easy, indoor fun for kids that doubles as an energy-burning activity that uses items you most likely already have at home! Our active boys especially liked to climb, but we were equally surprised by our daughter’s skills (earning her the nickname, Monkey).
Activity Dice – Create a large dice from cardboard or cardstock (the bigger the better in the eyes of children). 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 – game changer! Our kids really enjoy this type of active indoor fun for kids!
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.
Another “freezing alternative is to turn the lights off and when they come back on, everyone has to freeze in place (while music continues to play, of course).
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
Dancing burns a lot of energy and keeps everyone entertained at the same time.
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! Our children have spent endless hours getting out extra energy this way when we’re stuck indoors.
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. What better use of family time than to burn off some stored up energy?
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-ha!). As with all active fun, it usually ends when someone cries.
Spikeball - We created this game using punch-balloons leftover from a birthday party. 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 during a particularly crazy game).
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, bigger and bouncier, so they can travel farther.
Tip: it’s more fun and crazy if you have more than one balloon. Second tip: if you have a wide age range like we do, be sure the littles get their fair share of turns or you’ll endure much pouting.
Other balloon fun – Balloons are great for quick and easy active indoor 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 (cut them in half for smaller players).
Play volleyball by hanging a string or a blanket between two chairs 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 for energetic fun 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 a 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.”
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 a few 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 foam disc shooter from years past.
Sometimes we sneak attack our teenager or Dad, but usually we play all together. Gather up the ammo and have fun chasing each other all over the house. Tip: 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 hoops, 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 and is another one of our most-requested indoor games. 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. And if you have a dog, chances are he or she might give away your hiding spot by sitting and staring near you or barking. This is a favorite from our indoor fun for kids list.
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 or Amazon. Here are a few that will encourage movement:
Sword-fight – Our boys (and often our daughter, too) love to sword-fight with their light-sabers, but inevitably someone gets hurt and we have to quit. 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 teenager joins in with us! What a fun way to be active indoors!
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 indoor version. 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! And if you don’t want the mess of getting all the blankets out, consider this pop-up princess castle or this fun teepee!
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 like this, or 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 indoor 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 or doorway (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. How fun would this doorway swing be?!
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!) While you laugh, they’ll be expending lots of extra energy.
BONUS IDEA for Energy-Burning Indoor Fun for Kids:
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. Instant indoor energy-burning fun for kids that takes only minutes to create.
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)