Balance, Early childhood development, Evidence Based Parenting, Gross motor development, Indoor activities, Parenting, Proprioceptive system, Screen free activities, Vestibular, Winter

Five Active Indoor Play Ideas

OK readers, this is actually my last tip in my Winter Survival Series. I did wonder whether to bother posting this, seeing as Winter is almost over (hooray!) but then I remembered that I live almost at the bottom of the world, and often the cold rainy days can streeeeetch their fingers into Spring as well. So, here we go!

Copy of relax and listen

I know that there’s already a heap of indoor play ideas out there on the inter-webs, but a lot are for older kids. And some of them are just a bit hard to set up (like stringing the yarn up in the hallway for a spider web…. cool idea in theory, but I’m just a bit too tired to do that kind of thing!). So these five are easy to implement (even for tired Mums like me), and are tried and true for preschoolers.

Active play is so important for preschoolers. It is recommended that preschoolers get at least three hours of active play every day (1). This recommendation has come about by the NZ Ministry of Health analysing the latest evidence that exists about play recommendations.

The Ministry of Health also say that at least ONE hour should be “energetic play” (such as running, jumping, riding bikes or scooters etc).

The evidence has shown that young children who are engaged more often in active free play have healthier body weights, better balance and stability skills, are more creative, and are more resilient (able to cope better with change).

Cool huh! Well I think it is, but I’m a bit of a geek.

I think as parents, we might think that we “know” these things already, but to have it proven by international evidence and written in black and white by the Ministry of Health is pretty powerful to help that info sink in. Plus as parents, we all know it’s good to tire those little energetic bodies out, in the hopes of good naps and easy bedtimes!

I know that it can sometimes be a challenge, especially if it’s a cold rainy day outside. Sometimes, it feels much easier to turn on the TV if the kids are driving us bonkers on a wet day (I’ve been there too!). But then again, I’ve also found that redirecting the craziness into one of these activities helps to maintain a level of sanity in the house.

So without further adieu, here’s the five top active indoor play activities that happen in our house… tried and tested on cold rainy days by a Mum of two little boys:

“Run and Jump” onto the couch cushions: 

My couch cushions seem to live permanently on the lounge floor. Every. single. day. Occasionally from about 8am onwards. And yes it gets annoying. But I’ve tried to chill out about it, and sometimes I will even actively encourage it. I encourage the kids to race from the kitchen and jump onto the cushions. Earlier on this year we bought a giant outdoor beanbag, and it lives indoors in our lounge. It’s been the best thing EVER for this game. Of course, I was a little nervous at first that it would pop… worst nightmare! But this thing is ROBUST. The boys can jump onto it to their heart’s content.

They invent different sorts of jumps – spinning jumps, onto the knees, hopping jumps, jumping off the side of the couch, etc. Spinning jumps are particularly awesome because spinning develops their vestibular (balance) system.

Indoor obstacle course:

Obstacle courses are a HUGE favourite in our house. I’ve been setting them up ever since the kids started to crawl. I find it’s an especially good activity for the late afternoon i.e. that time of day when we’re waiting for dinner to be ready and the kids are going bonkers but it’s just too cold to go outside!

We set up chairs with a blanket draped over as a tunnel, stools as stepping stones, cushions to crawl over, long blocks to balance on, yoga mat to crawl over, an upside down laundry basket to climb over, etc etc, pretty much anything we can think of. We utilise the whole house – up the hallway, around the lounge, the entranceway. Some end up being pretty epic!

 

Negotiating obstacle courses are a great way for kids to develop body awareness and get some proprioceptive feedback (knowing where their limbs and joints are in space) – especially if you set up crawling activities. Obstacle courses are essential in our house to help keep them busy and me sane!

Dance Party:

Some kids are just naturally into dancing… mine aren’t really that much! But occasionally we get our jam on and have a dance party. I’ve found that setting the scene has been particularly helpful to encourage some hip hop jives. Putting a blanket down on the floor and calling it a “dance mat” has got them more into it. Groovy!

Kids yoga:

Kids yoga is awesome, providing they actually join in! Sometimes I have to join in with them, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (except when they crawl all over me and steal my yoga mat of course). Here’s a couple of Youtube favourites that we use:

Cosmic Kids Yoga: super fun themed yoga. I would say these are suited for about age 3.5 up, just because I have found them just a bit too visually stimulating for my two year old – he kind of zones out. There are so many different themes on Cosmic Kids; pirates, Hungry Caterpillar, even “Frozen”. Check them out!

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 8.45.24 PM.png

If I want a quiet yoga session without the visual stimulation of Cosmic Kids, I put on this one here by Yoga Today It’s just under ten minutes length, which I find is a perfect length  for the kids (and me) to wind down if need be. I think this one is good for the really young preschoolers too, as it’s less to take in than Cosmic Kids.

Yoga boys.jpg
Following “Yoga Today” before bedtime, at ages 2 and 3.5 years.

And lastly, vacuuming:

(I know, random, right)…

My two boys really looooove vacuuming. They actually fight over who’s turn it will be first. Crazy! The “trick” I’ve used is to let them choose one of the special head attachments; they both choose different ones and then they pull that vacuum cleaner around, crawling around the floor, bending down to suck up the any fluff or dirt they can see. They LOVE it, and it’s a great gross motor activity for them! Does anyone else’s kids love vacuuming too?

So there you go, five fun indoor activities that will burn off some energy, develop your kids gross motor skills, balance system, and body awareness, and MOST importantly, help keep you sane as a parent. I suggested these five because they are tried and true in our house. Do you have any suggestions about what works in your house? Come on over to Facebook or Instagram and join the conversation, I’d love some more ideas!

Keep active, and here’s to Spring’s imminent arrival.

🙂 Rach.

 

References:
(1). Ministry of Health. 2017. Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under-fives. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

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