Great Indoor Activities For Cold (Or Hot!) Days


By Anne Etra, contributor

The winter months can be a challenge for anyone – parent or nanny – who has to limit the outdoor time in the cold, but still needs to help kids burn off energy, stimulate their minds, and have fun.  

Here are four exercise activities parents and babysitters can use to entice children to run, jump, push, pull, play, dance, balance, and stretch -- bringing fresh blood to their muscles, looseness to their limbs, and alertness to their brains -- all while staying indoors.

Now, put on some fun music. Clear the area.  Amp up your own enthusiasm and start moving.  And don't forget to stop for water breaks.

Game: Sock Toss

Great for toddlers, this game helps coordination, balance and body awareness. It will develop gross motor skills, increase eye-hand coordination and help kids control their arm movements.
  • Grab a laundry basket and multiple pairs of socks.
  • Place an empty laundry basket about two feet away.
  • Demonstrate to your child tossing the socks, underhand, into the basket.
  • Emphasize 'turn-taking' by alternating with the toddler and narrating, "MY turn, YOUR turn."
  • Include practice counting while you and the toddler toss.
  • Learn to identify socks by colors and/or sort by a different attribute such as size, material, solid/stripe/polka-dot (divide the socks into color piles before throwing them into the basket).
  • For an added challenge, have two different baskets as targets or lead your child in a 'victory lap' (or two) around the room.
Game: Sleeping Giants

Perfect for preschoolers, this game develops listening and understanding skills, encourages social and emotional development, and improves control and balance in walking, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, marching.
  • Explain to the children that they are going to pretend to be giants who like to jump. Let them jump up and down for fun and practice. Tell them to stop jumping when you say "Sleeping Giants!"
  • Once they hear "Sleeping Giants" children will stop and lie very still on the floor. When you say "Waking Giants" the children will jump up and down until you call out "Sleeping Giants" again.
  • Continue the game to allow children to practice stopping and starting. Substitute other motor skills instead of jumping, for example walking (penguins!), hopping (frogs!), skipping (elephants!), crawling (bears!) and marching.
  • Additional ideas to include are creating masks or use dramatic play props as they pretend to be giants; inventing facial expressions, sounds, or movements that they think a giant would make; taking photos of the children moving like giants and sending them to their friends.
Game: Punch Balloon Move and Play

A great game for kids aged 6-8, this activity develops body awareness, increases muscular strength and agility, and challenges mind-body coordination by balancing and spelling at the same time.

  • Balloon Stepping. Put obstacle on floor and have kids hold a Punch balloon in one hand while they lunge (Take a big step) over object. Could use anything: plates, stools, tape marks. Five steps forward, five back.
  • Balloon Skip. Place chairs, buckets, or other objects out for children to run or skip around with balloon.
  • Balloon Sit-to-Stand. Child sits on chair holding balloon. Parent shouts 'Stand up' and child stands and taps balloon with their other hand, sits back down. Do this 10 times.
  • Balloon Core Balance. Child is on hands and knees, palms under their shoulders. Hand them a balloon and ask them to write their name in the air with it. (Or spell some words, cat, dog, etc.) Switch hands. Do this twice.
Game: Olympic Hot Spot Challenge

Great for kids aged 9-12, this physical endeavor boosts coordination, agility, core Stability, speed and power.

Clear out some space and create 'hot spot' stations with different activities for fun and variety. The children move from one to the next every 30 or 45 seconds.  Let the kids choose their own "pump up" music or add their own challenges to mix up the fun.  
  • Push-ups (against the wall, on their knees, or full push-ups)
  • Sit-ups
  • Jump rope
  • Step-ups (either with a 'step' or run up and down the stairs!)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Balance on one leg
  • Ball toss (with a partner)
  • Ball twist (with a partner, stand back to back and twist side to side as you pass a ball left and take it right)
You'll find yourself having as much fun as the kids, whether as a participant or as a cheerleader.  Just taking 30-60 minutes a day of active play not only yields physical benefits, but also emotional.  Activities of skill, regardless of age, give children the sense they have achieved something new and challenging. They feel better.  And more important, they feel happy.