10 indoor physical activities for kids


Summer is over, the days are getting shorter and colder temperatures will soon set in across much of the country. For parents and teachers caring for children in the early years, this means going out for exercise in a park or playground will become more and more difficult.

But experts say planning indoor physical activity for kids can help keep kids active and entertained.

“Being indoors doesn’t mean physical activity has to stop or even be shortened,” says Richard Rairigh, physical activity education advisor at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. “It’s important to stick to the recreation schedule, and it can easily be done indoors with a few modifications.”

[READ: Virtual Field Trips for Kids: Worldwide Wonders.]

Rairigh says research suggests children should ideally get 120 minutes of physical activity each day. If going outdoors is just not an option, here are some physical activities for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 4 that can be enjoyed indoors:


Dancing is a fun way to burn off excess energy. On the GoNoodle.com Indoor Recess page, parents and teachers can find videos and activities that feature guided dance lessons to cool new music for kids. Activities are linked to major academic principles, including reading, science and math. All activities are suitable for small indoor spaces.

Parachute play time

This one from Munchkin.com only takes a bed sheet, if you don’t have a parachute lying around. Have all family members hold one side while quickly moving their arms up and down. Put a few small balls or balloons on top and see how fast you can knock them down.

Pleasure of the balance beam

Using a real gymnastics beam isn’t the only way kids can learn balance. This Active for Life idea recommends using painter’s tape to draw a straight line on the floor. Encourage your child to walk forward, backward and to the side.

Bookworm training

Story time shouldn’t be just a bedtime ritual. Choose a book with the word repeated often. For example, choose the word “hat” if you read “The Cat in the Hat”. Each time the word comes up in the story, the students do an exercise.

Avoid the shark

This one, another from Active for Life, takes a little more space, resources and time, but it’s a creative way to burn energy. Cover your living room floor (the ocean filled with sharks) with foam floor tiles or towels stuck to the floor with duct tape and have your child jump from one to the other without touching the water.

Races to teach animal life

Jump like a rabbit or waddle like a duck. This one, courtesy of the Mommy Poppins website, can be done when classes get boring and little minds start to wander. Call a time out and have everyone crawl like a snake.

Learning is fun and active

Do you want to interrupt the work of the book or the teacher’s conversation time? Run for Good suggests that children get exercise while they practice math or spelling. They can do jumping jacks as they spell words, recite math facts as they do squats, or pass a ball back and forth like they don’t either.

Snake dance

For this Playworld activity, the children form a line to make a snake. They place their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them, and the first child or teacher guides them into the room or play area. To make things a little more exciting and challenging, the kid in the front row can try to mark the kid at the end.

Running inside (really)

Even if you don’t have much room to run around in your home or classroom, there might be room for a few errands, according to the Worth Writing Forblog. Balance a hard-boiled egg on a spoon and race across the room or have pillowcase races similar to potato sack races. (Tip: Use pillow cases you don’t like in case they don’t survive.)

An old but good one: Simon Says

In this old Family Fun Twin Cities favorite, you are the leader and you get the kids to go frantic. First, choose someone to be “Simon”. Simon starts a command with “Simon says” or not. To stay in the game, only children need to follow commands starting with “Simon says”. If you want to make the game harder, just run commands faster and make the actions harder.

“Teach through the curriculum”

Adults may be tempted to shorten the time spent outdoors and go back indoors where it is warm and toasty. But don’t forget the goal: exercise, indoors and out, helps support healthy and happy children. It can also reinforce other learning.

William Potter, president of the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, teaches cross-curricular math, literature, and science in his physical education classes at Serendipity School Elementary. in Belmont, California.

“Teaching in all programs is a great way to integrate physical activity, movement and overall fitness,” says Potter. “We found these lessons worked great when everyone was learning at home, and they translate well in small spaces indoors.”

Longtime physical education teacher Terri Drain, president of SHAPE America, the Society of Physical and Health Educators, touts the benefits of physical activity in any setting.

“I hope the kids still do most of their exercise outdoors,” she says. “Right now, if you ask a student what they like to do, only 1 in 5 will answer an outdoor activity. They get away from nature, and that’s not always a good thing.”

Looking for a school? Explore our K-12 repertoire.

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