Kids are naturally super active on their own, of course but with no playgrounds, no physical education at school and canceled sports, it can be tough to get in daily movement.
Experts recommend that 1 to 4-year-olds need three hours of physical activity per day, and that older kids need movement, too—not just to have healthy bodies, but to make good grades. That’s because physical education (PE) classes and sports practices do more than just get kids to run around—they reinforce a variety of important gross motor skills like balance, coordination, strength, flexibility and reflexes.
So does this mean you should feel obligated to set up a full PE curriculum for your child during this time? No! But anything that gets the kids moving and playing, and hopefully acting a little silly together, is a win right now.
Here are some creative ideas to encourage physical activity beyond “go play outside”—including activities and exercises you can do together with kids.
Indoor movement ideas for kids
If you’re having a bad weather week or you live in an urban area without easy access to a backyard, letting the kids run around outside might not be an option for you right now. But kids can still get in plenty of physical activity without leaving the house—it just takes a bit of creativity.
Twister is fun, encourages flexibility and balance, and is perfect for a rainy day or if you don’t have an outdoor space available right now.
2. Dance + freeze
Adding a “freeze” element to a living room dance party makes it more fun for kids while also encouraging them to practice their balance.
Practicing yoga together is a great way to challenge balance and coordination while also getting some much needed zen time as a family.
4. Beanbag toss
This super simple activity is great for kids of all different ages and abilities as you can easily make it more or less challenging. Set up two baskets, one full of beanbags or soft balls. Your child can practice throwing a beanbag from one basket to another to work on coordination. Move the baskets further apart as they get the hang of it.
5. Jump rope
Jump rope is the perfect indoor PE activity because it uses up so much energy, requires very little space and is excellent practice for coordination.
Outdoor movement ideas for kids
If you have outdoor space available, encourage your child to get out there and play as much as possible. Free play is excellent physical activity—and if you play alongside your child, you just may get some much needed endorphins. Kick a ball around the yard together, play catch or blow up that inflatable pool to splash around in as soon as it’s warm enough.
Here are a few specific activities to try if your kid needs some inspiration to get out there, or if you want to work with them on gross motor skills.
Hopscotch is excellent for helping kids improve balance and coordination because of all of the rapid changes in movement required. Get out the sidewalk chalk and set up hopscotch on your patio or driveway and hop along with each other.
2. Obstacle course
Enlist your child’s help in setting up an obstacle course in the backyard. Get creative with what you have available to make it fun and challenging. Use garden stones or an old 2×4 to create a balance beam, mark a pathway for them to run or ride their bike on, set up a big bucket for them to throw a ball in.
If you don’t have an outdoor space, you can still turn a playroom, garage, basement, or even your kid’s bedroom into an obstacle course. Set up different stations like pillows for them to jump over, a row of chairs for them to crawl under, or a line made from painter’s tape on the floor for them to walk or run on while balancing a beanbag on their head.
Sometimes the simple, time-tested games are the best! Draw numbered squares on your driveway and challenge each other to bounce the ball to a family member standing in whatever number square you call out. (You do need four people for a traditional foursquare game, but if you have fewer than four people in your household, you can create a simple variation by drawing a triangle or a rectangle with fewer spots.)
4. Follow the leader
Line up single file and let each family member take turns being the “leader.” The leader decides how the group will move around the backyard. Think crawling around the perimeter, walking backwards (carefully), hopping on one foot, going down the slide if you have one.
5. Red light green light
Ask your kids to stand along the fence in the backyard. Stand across the yard from them. When you call “Green Light!” they can advance toward you and when you call “Red Light!” they stop. Change up the type of movement they use, from jumping to tiptoeing, and make sure to switch roles so they get a chance to lead too.