Parents are always looking for ways to keep their kids active in the winter. Unfortunalty, this winter we can’t rely on visiting bowling alleys or trampoline parks as we have in the past and there is no guarantee of snow for snowman building, and, let’s face it – it can get pretty cold the further from the equator you get.
While it’s easy to give in and just let your children spend more time playing video games or with Apps on the IPad, we encourage you to find creative ways to get your child moving indoors that will help to keep them in a good mood while enhancing brain development and academic performance.
Here are some ideas for holiday gifts that can be used indoors with minimal space requirements. See the descriptions below for age ranges and benefits of each item.
Indoor bowling helps children to develop eye hand coordination, standing balance with weight shifting, sequencing skills, and visual skills. Younger children should play in a hallway with limited visual distraction using the walls as bumpers. Older kids can set up obstacle courses incorporating a turn of bowling each time they complete their course. Print off a score page so they can play a real game with their friends. Manufacturer recommends this product for ages 6 months and up.
Jumping can be alerting or calming depending on the child. The intense input to the muscles and joints provided by jumping helps to decrease anxiety while the vertical movement is alerting and helps to activate a child’s body against gravity. Timing when to bounce can be a challenge for some children. Cheer them on by counting how many jumps they can do each time or clapping in rhythm and have soft cushions nearby in case they need to crash off between attempts. Manufacturer recommends this product for ages 3 years and up.
Catching smaller balls can be hard for little hands and eyes to coordinate. Paddle toss games make it a little easier to transition from larger playground balls to tennis balls with the use of velcro paddles. The velcro paddle also acts as a shield for little ones who are afraid of balls coming toward them. Practice standing close together at first. Then take steps backwards with each toss as your child improves to see how far apart you can get! For a fun variation, put on your child’s favorite song and throw to the beat. Manufacturer recommends this product for ages 3 years and up but we tend to wait until closer to 4 or 5 years to transition to smaller balls.
Spooner boards are versatile balance boards. They are not just for balancing, but that is a good place to start! Spooner boards can be used to improve balance by challenging children to weight shift, turn, walk the board forward, and spin. Children can watch other children demonstrate all levels of tricks on Youtube. Need a spin board but don’t have the space? Use the spooner board as a spin board too! Manufacture recommends this product for ages 2 years and up but we use it most with children 6 years and older.
The Bonobo Gym is a pressure-mounted swing designed to fit in a doorway. Depending on the package that you purchase, Bonobo Gym can include various combinations of a swing, ladder, rope, and/ or monkey bars. A Bonobo Gym can be used as a pull up bar as well. If you can only purchase one attachment, think about activities that your child naturally seeks out. Does it makes them feel good to swing, hang from a bar, tip upside down, spin on a rope, climb a ladder? Conversely, if your child does not naturally seek out swings, a door swing in their home may give them a safe place to start. Manufacturer recommends this product for ages 3-12.
Some thoughts to consider with indoor play.
Indoor play can be a lot of fun, but also requires that ground rules be set. Prior to introducing gross motor materials for in-home use with your child, try them out yourself, troubleshoot, and establish a plan for how to introduce the item to your child. You can even make signs to remind children of the safety rules. Think about floor surfaces, windows and other breakable items before decided the best room to encourage play. The more comfortable you feel with the use of the equipment, the more comfortable your child will feel about using it too! Also, you can never go wrong with beanbag chairs, old crib mattresses, over-sized pillows, and Duvet covers filled with scrap foam from a local upholstery store to create soft surfaces to crash and jump on.
While I am not against buying video games or downloading another App than you know your child will love, it is also important to find ways to engage your child to help him/her develop over the long-term. As technology becomes more and more embedded in everyday life, creating opportunities for movement goes a long way toward supporting a child’s self-regulation and ability to learn. Balancing screen time with movement, crafts, science experiments, cooking, and helping with chores will help your child reach his/her potential and make great family memories along the way!