I recently saw somewhere that 89% of children prefer to be inside. They prefer to sit on their tablets, in front of the tv, or even just playing in their rooms instead of being active and playing. Many of us parents work hard to make sure our kids are active outside but it’s easy to turn to electronic devices when the weather is too hot or too cold to be outside. Fall is beautiful for many of us, but it's also often wet...and turning cold. And then comes winter. Here are 10 indoor activities that will give exercise for children a new spin.

Quarantine during COVID took being indoors all the time to a whole new level. During the virtual school years, kids were forced to be inside for everything. Recess was non-existent for the most part, and PE was done in front of a computer. Sports were canceled and kids didn’t even get the bit of exercise they used to walking from class to class or to different activities within the school.

But staying active year-round, whether it's due to quarantine or due to not-so-great weather, is extremely important — especially for kids.

Why exercise for children is so important for physical, mental health

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity is still a huge issue. As stated on their website, “Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high.

“For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in 2017-2018:

The prevalence of obesity was 19.3% and affected about 14.4 million children and adolescents.

Obesity prevalence was 13.4% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 20.3% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 21.2% among 12- to 19-year-olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain populations.

Obesity prevalence was 25.6% among Hispanic children, 24.2% among non-Hispanic Black children, 16.1% among non-Hispanic White children, and 8.7% among non-Hispanic Asian children.”

Data is still being collected for the COVID years but it is expected that the rate of obesity will increase due to lack of physical education and the lack of healthy food options that are generally available in lower-income schools.

Not only is physical health an important part of exercise for children, but so is mental health. According to the American Psychological Association,
“Physical activity has a small but significant effect on the mental health of children and adolescents ages 6 to 18, according to a review of 114 studies. On average, young people who exercise more have lower levels of depression, stress and psychological distress, and higher levels of positive self-image, life satisfaction and psychological well-being (Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., et. al., Sports Medicine, Vol. 49, No. 9, 2019). Exercise may also protect children's mental health over time: One study found that 6- to 8-year-olds who got more exercise had fewer symptoms of major depressive disorder two years later (Zahl, T., et. al., Pediatrics, Vol. 139, No. 2, 2017).”

Regular exercise can also help with behavioral issues.
“Regular exercise can improve behavior, including those with behavioral health disorders like autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression. In a study of children with behavioral health disorders in Kindergarten through 10th grade, those who participated in a cycling program for 30-40 minutes 2 days a week experienced significantly better self-regulation and fewer disciplinary time-outs (Bowling, A., et. al., Pediatrics, Vol. 139, No. 2, 2017).”
Research has also found that regular exercise improves a child’s attention span immediately after physical activity. It has also been found that it can help with the cognitive development in children from ages 5 to 12 in small, but measurable amounts.

Keeping kids active doesn’t always mean outside

When parents think about ways to keep their kids active, they often think of outdoor activities like sports, running, and games. But physical activity can’t always be done outside, and there are plenty of areas around the country where it is simply too hot in the summer and/or too cold in the winter to spend a lengthy amount of time outside.

We are a military family, so we have to adjust our activities based on our climates every few years. For example, we now live in South Florida where the summers are dangerously hot and the sun can cause extreme burns if precautions aren’t taken. Our outdoor activities now include things like kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, and other water-based activities but we have also had to accommodate to finding things to do inside the house when it's simply too hot (or there are hurricane-force winds).

We also lived in Kansas. And although the summers there were also insanely hot, we found that it was the winters that kept us inside most of the season. Ice storms and strong winds made even playing in the snow almost unbearable. We had to find ways to keep our then very young children active and occupied despite the weather.

Luckily for my children, my husband and I are very active. Although our workouts are not traditionally “fun” for our kids, as they have grown they have watched us stay active and understand how important it is. They have seen it become a priority in our lives and it is important to us that they continue to see us model these healthy habits. Now we sometimes find them having woken up early in the morning to “workout” or they will join us for part of our own workout. They might hop on the spin bike or ask us to go rollerblading just to be active. And since they don’t participate in sports activities, we find it extremely important for them to have these other opportunities to continue to stay active.

As the weather begins to cool down this fall and winter, you might be thinking about what activities you can do indoors to keep your kids active and healthy and happy. Below is a list of ten out-of-the-box ideas that can help to keep your kids smiling all through the winter blues.

10 Indoor activities that can help keep your child active during the winter months

1. Indoor bounce house-
A bouncy house inside? If you have the space, this is one of the best things you can invest in. There are some pretty small ones that are easy to inflate and store, so you don’t need a ton of space to set them up. They are a great activity to have for smaller kids and you can even put things like plastic balls to make it even more fun! We used to have one that we kept in our basement in Kansas during those cold winter months!

2. Indoor obstacle course- Another great idea is to create an indoor obstacle course. You can even make it span several levels of your home! Jump over couch cushions, spin around a saucepan, jump rope 10 times…the possibilities are endless! Just get creative and use items in your house to make it a ton of fun.

3. Dance party- Sometimes you just need something quick to get those wiggles out. A dance party is a fun and easy way to get the kids moving. Turn on some bouncy music and show your kids some sweet moves. If anything they will get a kick out of seeing you dance!

4. Kids Crossfit- This is a little more traditional of an exercise and one that is great for older kids. You can look up kids crossfit ideas on Pinterest to get you started.

5. Kids Yoga- Yoga is a wonderful and calming way to get your children active. Kids Cosmic Yoga on YouTube offers fun and playful yoga sessions that go along with some of your child’s favorite movies and stories!

6. Kids workout videos- You can find kids workout videos all over YouTube as well. Have your kids follow along to get a great workout in- and you can follow along too!

7. Follow the leader workouts- A big hit out of quarantine came follow-the-leader type of workouts. Before you get started have everyone pick a workout and a card from a deck. Shuffle the cards. When you pick that person’s card, they will do the workout they chose and everyone in the family can follow along. The next pick will be the new person’s workout followed by the previous one- continue on until the entire family has gone!

8. Exercise bikes or treadmills- Older kids can use your family’s spin bike or treadmill inside.There are a ton of free videos online for both types of exercise that they can follow along with!

9. Balloon volleyball- Blow up a balloon, break into teams, and bounce the balloon back and forth over a line of tape on the floor! You can also modify for younger kids with a simple floor-is-lava premise- just keep the balloon off the floor!

10. Hallway soccer- If you have a long and narrow hallway you can clear it of any obstacles and have a little kicking and passing. But don’t use a regular soccer ball- find a soft, cushioned ball to use instead!

Image: Dmytrenko Vlad