Weeks, or even months for some of us, of social distancing have taught us that creativity and a good attitude are keys to staving off boredom during this pandemic. Another good practice for boosting our moods during this difficult time? Exercise!
Daily physical exercise helps children build strong bodies, reduces their risk of depression, and improves attention and some areas of academic performance, according to the CDC. Preschool-aged children should be active throughout their day — for roughly three hours — for healthy development. Children ages 6 and older need at least an hour a day of moderate or intense physical activity.
But how do you manage this if you’re stuck inside your home or apartment? What do you do if you don’t have a lot of free space to work with? Here are a few ideas to help get you, and your kids, moving.
Dance – Crank up some tunes on the radio or Spotify and let your kids boogie to “Baby Shark” until they (or you) can’t boogie any more. Feeling creative? Have your children choreograph their own dance routine and have a dance-off. Want to practice listening skills? Try a game of freeze dance.
Balloon games – A cheap bag of balloons from the local dollar store can provide quite a bit of entertainment for little ones. Blow up a few and get a game of balloon volleyball going or have your child see how long they can keep a balloon from touching the floor. Want to make it harder? Have them do it without using their hands. Place a balloon between their legs and see how far they can waddle like a penguin before the balloon drops. Set up a finish line and see if your child can blow their balloon across the room to it. More than one kid (or kid at heart) at home? Balloon races!
Crab carry/races – Strengthen those core muscles with a series of crab races down the hall or across the living room. No one to race against? No problem. Grab a ball, a small toy, or even a piece of fruit and have them balance it on their core while they crab walk across the house.
Yarn maze – If you have some scrap yarn or string lying around why not create a yarn maze? You can drape it and wrap it around furniture and let your kids go “Mission Impossible.” See who can get through the maze without touching the yarn or who can get through it fastest without knocking anything over.
Cottonball carry – Think old-fashioned egg and spoon race, but with cotton balls. A lot less messy, but just as much fun.
Activity stations – Think of this as toddler circuit training! Draw a few exercises out on sheets of paper and station them around the house, then guide your child from one area to the other. Try jumping on one foot in the kitchen then bear crawling to the dining room for another exercise.
Obstacle courses – What kid doesn’t love a good obstacle course? Make one up yourself or have your child help you set it up. This can be as simple as “the floor is lava” or as complicated as you want to make it.
Copycat – Stand facing your child and have them try to copy all your movements. Do a fun dance or act like an elephant. Then let your child have a turn!
Animal walk – Don’t have the time or patience to set up stations around the house? We get that. This is an exercise you can guide your kids through while you’re working on your laptop, making dinner, or just relaxing on the couch. All you have to do is say an animal and have your child act out how that animal moves. Hop like a bunny! Slither like a snake! Crawl like bear! Fly like an eagle! As soon as they seem to be getting bored with one animal, move on to the next.
Color hunt – Get out a few sheets of different colored paper and set them on a table. Then let your child go on a hunt all over the house to find 5, 10, or 15 items that match the colors. Or, you can hide specific items (blocks, balls, toy cars, etc) that they have to scour the house to find and match to the correct color.
Bowling – Set up an indoor bowling alley in your hallway with a few plastic cups and a small ball. Teach your kids how to keep score and you’ll incorporate a fun math lesson with exercise.
Balancing – Another way to strengthen muscles and encourage focus is balancing. A simple piece of masking tape or string and some floor space is all you need. Have your child practice walking straight lines or zig zags. Too easy? Have them try doing it while balancing a book or two on their head!
Indoor skating – Clear the furniture out of the way and strap on some paper plates or rags and get skating! Paper plates work best on carpeted floors. If you have tile or hardwood, socks should do the trick, or try using soft dish rags or dryer sheets.
Sack races – This one may get a bit wild, but it’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun. Pull some pillow cases out and let them hop their way around the house to the finish line.
Wheelbarrow races – Sure, you can do a conventional wheelbarrow race, or you can up the difficulty by collecting objects around the room and placing them in a basket. Grab your child by the feet and have them walk on their hands around the house collecting the items one by one and return them to a designated basket or area. A fun way to clean up a bedroom!
Fashion show – Create a small runway and let your child get creative with their wardrobe and yours. Then crank up the music and let them show you their fiercest runway walk.
Yoga – Kids can get a great cardio workout while also easing stress with yoga. If you know a few moves yourself, get down on the floor and show your kids a vinyasa. New to yoga? There are countless free videos on YouTube designed for children, like Cosmic Kids Yoga.
YouTube exercise – If they’re on their devices anyway, why not let them burn off some energy at the same time. There are several YouTube exercise channels that can help. A few to check out: GoNoodle, The Learning Station, and Wii U dances.