Even when there’s not a global pandemic to contend with, there are times throughout the year when you’re stuck inside with kids, wondering how to get through the day with as much fun, as little boredom, and as few meltdowns as possible. Lately, this is truer than ever, as families across the U.S. have been stuck at home for weeks on end in a national effort to keep the coronavirus at bay, with many of us suffering from cabin fever as a result. Though most of us aren’t teachers, we’ve had to adjust to homeschooling our children, including leading their physical education at home. Exercise for kids is as essential as it is for adults, especially now, during such stressful times; it’s safe to say that indoor activities for kids that are fun, active and engaging have never been more important than they are at the present moment.
With that in mind, here are six fun indoor activities for kids at home who are in need of a little inspiration. If your family is the competitive type, you can have the kids come up with scoring rules for each game below, and reward the winner with a special snack, their choice of TV show or some other coveted prize.
Painter’s tape games!
Use blue painter’s tape (since it’s easy to remove without damaging surfaces) to mark off shapes or areas on the floor. If your children are very young, you can combine this activity with reading and counting practice by including tape letters and numbers in the mix. Then give your kids instructions: If you’re standing on a square, do five jumping-jacks; crab-walk from A to B to C; toss a stuffed animal into the nearest square; or hop from one triangle to another. The possibilities are endless, and the taped shapes and movements can be modified for any age or ability level.
Grab dining chairs, couch cushions, sheets, and blankets—whatever your kids need to build a cozy fort in the living room or on their bedroom floor. Forts are a kid favorite for reasons that are both primal and universal: Having a cozy place to hole up can make us feel safer. Forts are a great spot for reading and distance learning. They can also make great PE activities at home if they’re constructed as obstacle courses: Set up tunnels, improvised balance beams, jump-off points, and other challenges, and have your kids crawl, leap, step over, tiptoe and otherwise carefully make their way from start to finish.
This one is a simple classic for a reason: It’s easy to do, it’s fun, it makes for a great indoor PE game, and everyone in the family can have input. Have kids come up with five to 10 physical activities they enjoy, such as high-knee jumps, lunges, push-ups, squats or mountain climbers. Kids can write the name of each activity on a sheet of paper and tape the papers to the wall, evenly spaced around the room. Then each family member chooses a starting activity to perform for 30 to 60 seconds before switching stations. Another way to perform this activity: Roll dice to determine how many repetitions of a given activity each family member will perform.
Tie a balloon to hang several inches above arm’s reach for your children, and challenge them to jump up and tap it as many times as they can. Play balloon soccer or volleyball to brush up on form, or hold balloons between the knees while doing crunches or leg lifts for core strength-building. Smaller balloons can be used for silly fun like holding the balloon between chin and chest and passing it from one family member to another without using your hands. And there’s always the classic “keep the balloon from touching the ground” game to see how long the group can keep it aloft. For a fun twist, use paper plates and popsicle sticks to make paddles for swatting at the balloon.
Plastic cup silliness!
Plastic (or paper) drinking cups aren’t just for kids’ birthday parties. They can also be used for indoor PE games that develop your children’s throwing skills and accuracy along with their strategizing and teamwork. Have kids toss small balls or toys to each other, and catch them not with their hands but with a plastic cup. Or, place the cups on their sides on the floor and try to roll balls into the “goals”; increase the challenge level by using paper towel or toilet paper rolls as pass-throughs for the balls on their way to the plastic cups. You can also set up plastic cups either in tower stacks or in bowling pin formation, and then take turns rolling tennis balls for a satisfying version of indoor bowling.
Much like potato sack races, pillowcase races are fun not just for little kids but for people of any age who are looking for good indoor recess games to pass the time. To reduce the potential for injury, play this game on carpeted floors only, if possible. Set up a course with stuffed animals for kids to hop around, along with a start and finish line. If you have a larger family, you can also play this one in teams as a relay race.