Children who get outside regularly get the exercise they need. Regular activity provides a natural outlet for building strong bodies and relieving stress and the effects of ADHD.
But what if outdoors isn’t an option? Cold and rain can chase us indoors. Maybe the neighborhood isn’t safe or doesn’t have parks. Maybe your child has physical limitations that restrict access to the outdoors. Or the short, dark days of winter don’t leave time for getting outside.
Fortunately, parents who want to keep their kids on the move can find indoor physical activities for youth. Plenty of choices in healthy activities and indoor games for kids mean that children can find what works for them and stick to an active schedule — no matter what it’s like outside.
Why Staying Active Indoors Matters
Sixty minutes of varied physical activity a day helps children build strong hearts, bones and brains. When healthy, active living is woven into family life, children build healthy habits that last a lifetime. It’s not always easy, when schoolwork, video games and TV conspire to keep kids seated all day, but the benefits of making time for daily activity are compelling.
- Weight control: One child in three is considered obese or overweight. The consequences are serious, including higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, asthma and joint problems. Children who are obese can suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Exercise and activity burn calories and help kids keep their weight down for happier, healthier lives.
- Better health: Children who stay active have stronger hearts; veins clear of cholesterol that can lead to high blood pressure; stronger lungs; lower blood sugar and stronger bones. They are less likely to contract Type 2 diabetes and even cancer.
- Better moods: Childhood can be tough sometimes, but playing video games all day is not the way to relax. It might seem counterintuitive, but exercise helps kids relieve stress and blow off steam.
- Energy boost: When the heart and lungs are strong, the body’s endurance improves. Exercise also sends oxygen and nutrients to tissues, building energy reserves that fight fatigue.
- Better sleep: Kids need a good night’s sleep if they’re going to tackle the day and all their schoolwork. Regular exercise helps young bodies go to sleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.
16 Indoor Activities and Games for Kids
It’s raining. It’s pouring. Nobody wants to go outside when the weather is yucky. This is the time to teach your child that exercise can happen anywhere, including in the home.
Experts suggest that parents take a four-pronged approach to making at-home exercise a habit by:
- Setting goals, such as increasing the number of jumping jacks your child can do.
- Trying a variety of exercises to keep it interesting.
- Finding suggestions through online resources such as GoNoodle.
- Setting a good example by prioritizing exercise yourself.
Indoor exercise can come from a surprising variety of activities, so give these a try.
- Obstacle courses: Rearrange furniture and cushions to create obstacles for your child to maneuver over, around and under. Add challenges, such as balancing a book on the head or using their nose to push a ball across the floor. Add academic challenges, too, helping your child work on their numbers with instructions to spin a board-game spinner a certain number of times, or boosting literacy by having your child think of a word that begins with a certain letter before moving on. Or try zigzagging yarn around the room, making it look like a laser maze and challenging the kids to get through it without touching the yarn.
- Yoga: Yoga is an activity that kids can start young and maintain for life. Benefits include regulated blood sugar and insulin levels, regulated hormone levels, improved balance, stress reduction and higher concentration. For kids with special needs, yoga can loosen rigid muscles and release tension. Young athletes who cross-train with yoga can prevent overuse injuries.
- Silly Olympics: Declare that the Silly Olympic Games have begun. Stage crab-walk races, balloon ball games, scavenger hunts and sock skating matches. Turn a coffee table into a winner’s podium and award medals to the victors (who are all of you, of course).
- Dance, dance, dance: A dance party can break out anytime. Play favorite tunes and get moving. Hang a disco ball for ambience. Search online videos for how-to guides on dance moves, so you and your child can learn the moonwalk or the worm.
- Hallway high jinks: Remove any breakables, set up nets at both ends of the hallway, and play hallway hockey or soccer.
- Bookworm workout: Rainy days were made for curling up with a good book, but maybe it’s time to add a little movement. Make reading an active workout by choosing a word that’s sure to come up frequently in a story and do an activity such as jumping jacks every time it comes up. If you’re reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” pick the word “eggs,” and your child will get plenty of exercise.
- Couch potato workout: Take a break from watching videos or playing online games and get in a few exercises. Have your child stand up and sit back down again fast enough and long enough to get the heart rate up. Try triceps dips or leg lifts on the couch.
- Hula hoop: Hula hoops offer a great core workout for your child — and you. Spin it around the ankle or arm for additional benefits.
- Home fitness apps: Video games and phone apps offer lots of fun options for “skiing,”
“bowling,” or “running.” Almost any activity you can think of can be found in apps or videos. A home “exergaming” system such as Wii Fit brings a world of sports into the home. Kids love to top their own scores or their siblings’, and parents can get in their exercise by joining.
- Twister: It’s the classic game with the dots and the spinner. Need we say more? Actually, we can. Play it straight, or pump up the fitness by adding an activity with each color. For instance, if the spinner lands on “left foot, red,” do 10 left-foot lunges.
- Activity stations: Set up stations around the room for pushups, situps, jumping jacks, burpees and step-ups. This is a great way of creating an exercise habit that can grow and change as your young child turns into a teenager. Make it a high-intensity interval workout by running a timer, getting in as many reps as possible in 45 seconds and resting 15 seconds before moving on.
- Strength training: No, your child won’t end up looking like The Rock. Strength training uses appropriately sized weights or your child’s own body-weight resistance to build strong bones and muscles. It’s an activity they can start at age 7 or 8 and keep up for a lifetime. Consult your pediatrician first, and enlist a professional to develop a plan.
- Walking and jogging: Your home is the gym for a great walking workout — no treadmill needed. Your child can march or jog to music, run up and down the stairs, do step-ups and lunges, and hop around the kitchen floor tiles.
- Fitness bicycling: Kids love riding their bicycles. Why let a rainy day ruin their fun? Stationary bikes are available specifically for youngsters, while older kids can use the grown-up version. Play some favorite music, audiobooks or videos to make it a fun workout or get in some study.
- Fitness Jenga: Turn family Jenga night into a fitness fiesta. Write an exercise on each block — maybe jumping jacks or a yoga pose — that the player must perform when pulling out that block. When the tower falls, everyone hold a plank for 30 seconds!
- Fitness buddies: Push the family-room furniture to the wall and invite your child’s friends over for their own phys ed class. Hold a dance party, set up activity stations for a fitness boot camp (see Tip 11), or bring out the Fitness Jenga (15) and Fitness Twister (10). Buddies provide motivation and support to help your child keep up the fitness habit.
The Connection Between Physical Activity and Academic Performance
Physical activity improves academic performance. What’s the connection? Simply that the brain, like any other organ, is a body part that needs to be challenged and fed a healthy diet. Plus, children need to be alert and in peak health if they’re going to attend school every day and concentrate in class.
A growing body of research proves the activity-academics connection. Studies have shown that children who get physical activity:
- Do better on standardized tests
- Can recall more vocabulary words before and after class discussions, which demonstrates better immediate and long-term memory
- Show improvements in math
- Raise their academic performance if they’ve been testing below grade level
- Do better academically and get better grades than their inactive peers
Other studies have shown the importance of specific types of activity. In one study, vigorous activity through active video games led to better math performance than traditional recess. Teens whose activity required more coordination, such as balance and adjusting, showed better concentration on academic tasks than those whose physical education classes focused on team sports.
Images comparing the brains of sedentary children with those of children who walked for 20 minutes show a visible difference. The brains of the active children light up with neural activity. They also have larger hippocampus volume — that’s the area of the brain devoted to memory — and larger basal ganglia, for better motor control, behavior and emotional control.
How much activity should your child get? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 60 minutes a day. For time-squeezed families, those 60 minutes don’t have to come all at once. Break it up into intervals, making sure that most of those 60 minutes get your child’s heart racing with aerobic activity, plus time for muscle and bone strengthening. If your child has been inactive, start slowly and gradually build up to more strenuous activities.
Promoting a Physical Lifestyle in Cyber School
The beauty of online learning is that parents can direct their children’s physical education. Kids can pursue the activities that they love, for that extra spark of motivation, and focus on the areas that need work. Even one session of physical activity can improve kids’ attention, memory and focus, so taking a break in the school day can be a great way to return to classes reinvigorated and ready to excel.
At CCA, we promote active, healthy learning. We encourage our learners to take care of their bodies as well as their minds. Our rich menu of field trips offers chances for children to get out, be active and meet other kids. Reach out to learn more about our schooling options for your child today.