When the weather outside is frightful… kids still need to play!

Seven ideas for indoor large-motor play opportunities on cold winter days.

It's critical to keep kids up and moving even when they can't get outside to play.

It's critical to keep kids up and moving even when they can't get outside to play.

When the winter winds start to blow, many children end up inside for many days on end. As temperatures dip below zero and children aren’t able to get outside to burn off extra energy, many parents find themselves searching for ideas to keep their children occupied and busy indoors. Large-motor play experiences are important for children in many ways. From staying physically healthy to building muscles, strength and balance, it’s critical to keep kids up and moving even when they can’t get outside to play. Michigan State University Extension offers the following ideas for indoor large-motor play:

  1. Freeze Dance: Turn on fast-paced music of any kind and have a dance party! When the music stops, challenge children to freeze. This is both a lot of fun and an opportunity for children to work on their self-control and direction following skills.
  2. Yoga for Children: YouTube offers many video-led yoga or stretching activities. These types of activities offer children an opportunity to build core muscles and strength, while also building self-calming skills, mindfulness skills and internal awareness of their own feelings and emotions. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension offers tips on yoga for children.
  3. Tape Road: Using painter’s tape, create a road that runs through the house. Around the corner, through the kitchen, up the stairs, down the hall. Provide them with cars and trucks to drive along the track. You can go big and create a road wide enough for ride-on toys, or a smaller one for little trucks and cars. This game can be as elaborate as you would like, with intersections, stop signs and even tunnels!
  4. Race with Straws and Pompoms: Using painter’s tape, mark a start and finish spot. You can create lanes if you would like to help keep kids on track and avoid collisions. Provide each child with a straw and pompom. They have to blow through the straw to move the pompom from one end to the other. Check out pictures and more detailed instructions at PBS Kids.
  5. Balance Carefully: Place a bean bag or small stuffed animal on your child’s head. Challenge your child to walk from one place to another while keeping their balance. Gradually add challenges such as trying to crawl, walk backwards, etc. Find this and other ideas for fun indoor motion activities at SPARK.
  6. Go on a Scavenger Hunt: Your scavenger hunt can be very simple, such as trying to find all the hidden blocks, or more elaborate with pictures to match what they’re looking to find. Have children search for their items and gather them into a basket. You can make this more complicated by adding in a motion such as hopping or crawling to the next item.
  7. Climb through the Web: Using painter’s tape, run tape diagonally across a hallway from one wall to the other. Create a “web” for children to climb through. Challenge them to move through the web by ducking, crawling, taking big steps, etc. without touching the sticky web.

Physical activity is very important for the healthy development of young children. While winter can make it more complicated to get children up and moving, there are still many fun activities to keep children engaged and physically active. For more information about children’s physical health and development and other early childhood education topics, visit MSU Extension’s website. 

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