Seattle rain? You can still play inside!

December 19, 2014 Kathryn Lent, PT, DPT

In the last few years, I’ve taken note of various national campaigns encouraging improved health and wellness in children. Some aim to inspire at least an hour of play daily. Others focus on movement in conjunction with eating nutritious food to help fight childhood obesity. All of these campaigns share a common important message: regular physical activity improves a child’s overall health.

With the winter months upon us, my patients and families are concerned how to maintain activity levels when it’s cold, rainy, and gets dark outside too early. Even in the warmest months, there may be reasons a child might be inside more than out – including safety concerns. Fortunately, there are many fun ways children CAN stay active indoors when playgrounds are cold, ball fields are icy, yards are soggy, or the sun goes down too early. 

Here are some ways kids can play inside while also working on strength, balance, flexibility, or coordination:

  • Turn a hallway into an aisle of make-believe–Have your son or daughter pick a favorite animal and pretend to walk/swim/slither his or her way from end to end hunting for food.  More than one child? Turn it into a relay. No hallway? Put out some pillows, couch cushions, or blankets to create an obstacle course for those animals to climb in and out of tunnels, caves, and mountains. Maybe they prefer dinosaurs or monsters? No problem! Watch out for those sharp teeth!

  • Dance – Depending on age of the child, options include playing freeze dance, creating a music video, or simply finding a favorite album or station and turning the living room carpet into a dance floor.

  • Jump rope – Depending on house rules, this might require a basement floor, covered patio or garage space, but can still be done in a relatively small area. Jump-roping is an excellent option for different levels of ages and skill. A young child could hop forward while an advanced teenager might use it to work on his or her sports footwork during an off-season.  For a quick, higher intensity workout, try a 5-10 minute jump sequence (100 forward, 100 backward, 100 skip, 100 boxer shuffle, 50 right leg, 50 left leg). And if you don’t have a rope, pretend!

  • Practice juggling – Start simply by tossing one ball or bean bag back and forth and getting comfortable with it. Add a second or third over time. Juggling is not only fun, but also improves hand-eye coordination (very important for brain processing). As an alternative, try putting a ball on the floor and touching each foot to the ball, alternating sides and seeing how many touches you can get in a given amount of time.

  • Other options:

    • Yoga (pictures help)

    • Simon Says

    • Board games with body motions

    • Charades

    • (These allow you to be creative with movements such as standing on one foot, jumping to the sky, crouching down low, or holding the body still for strength and balance.)

Whatever way works for you and your family, just remember to keep moving and have fun!

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