I have kids that don’t sleep well. I mean, they have NEVER really slept well. So, my goal during the day is to wear them out. Worn out kids sleep better! (It’s true!) Also, when the kids are engaged doing something fun, they are happier. I endorse free play as well, but some days they need direction (and play with Mama!).
It is hard to expel lots of energy in the winter, when the wind chill is -20 degrees F and all five of us are stuck in the house. So, here are some things that we do to burn off energy!
1. Play Hide-and-Seek
You can do this with any child at any age. My 2-year-old plays and has been playing with us since she was a baby. I’m not saying she’s good at it, but she has a great time! Also, this game has been THE BEST way of teaching each of my kids to count to 30. My 2-year-old counts to 17 by herself. I don’t compare kids, but I think that’s pretty good! I also used to play this when my oldest was just a baby. We would just stay in one room. I would hide and call out to him and let him find me. It was fun!
Truth be told: When I’m counting, I’m usually straightening up a room, putting dishes away, or folding some laundry. So, I feel productive, too.
2. Relay Races
You don’t even need a lot of space for this one, so don’t let a small house keep you from doing it. The BEST part about this game is that there are hundreds of variations! I just helped with a Christmas party at school (for first graders), and I had them play a relay race game in a very small classroom. They had to pick up a Christmas bow (you know the old-school ones with peel-and-stick on the back) with a spoon and walk/run it down to a Christmas bag. The team with the most bows at the end wins! The first graders liked it WAY better than I thought they would! They asked to play it a second time!
Other relay races: scraps of paper balled up — run each piece into a pile until they are gone. Picking up toys — if it is a race, then it’s a game! You can use just about ANYTHING to play relay races.
You can even make it a learning race! This can get creative and change depending on age. For my first grader, I do it for his spelling words. Run down to the paper, spell the word I call out, and run back. Then, do it again. For my 5-year-old, I have him do it with writing his letters or numbers (or the short words he does know). He also does math equations in race-form. He begs me to play the race game with any kind of school work. For my 4-year-old, I have her practice writing her name and her numbers and a few words she knows. For my 2-year-old, I have her write the first letter of her name OR circles, because those are things she knows.
This all keeps the kids moving, using their brains, and having FUN!
If you have fewer kids, don’t let that stop you! You can simply run races with them, even in small spaces!
3. Obstacle course
Again, you do not need a lot of space to do this one. My kids LOVE it! Plus, Mama uses imagination to create the fun course for the kids. You can change it how you need to for the age of kids. For toddlers and babies, you can set up pillows or cushions on the floor. Then they can crawl/walk over or around them. (This wears them out! Remember, that is the GOAL!) For older kids, you can have them climb the furniture (something that is typically frowned upon in my house!). Put dining room chairs out for them to step up onto and jump down. Line the couch cushions up on top of the couch and the coffee table, creating a bridge to climb under (or use a blanket). Use anything on the floor to have to walk around — or even walk circles around a toy two times or three. Another idea for an obstacle course is here. Remember– WEAR THEM OUT! And kids LOVE it!
This is one I just started doing with my kids. I found a cool (short) video on youtube that gives good direction in doing yoga with kids. (There are hundreds of them, so pick one you like and do it!) My 7-year-old loves it! He likes the challenge to make your body do new things and stretch. And it burns off his energy after school! My 2-year-old will do some of the moves as well. It’s a little more challenging to keep the attention of the younger ones for this, so pick a good video. The one we like the best is about eight minutes long. (It helps to have Mama do it, too! And don’t you want to try it just a little?)
5. Dance party
Oh, the blessed dance party. We have them all the time. I surprised my kids during a particularly frustrating day. I always have music on. Always. So one particular day things were tense. Kids were arguing. Everyone wanted Mama to DO something (get milk, can’t find the pacifier, he touched me – tears, etc). I was walking to do something for someone, when I stopped and started dancing. Not pretty ballet dancing. It was crazy dancing. They looked stunned. Then I said, “Help! I’m stuck in a dance hole, and I can’t get out!” I kept dancing. They laughed. Then they joined me. And we all jumped together out of the dance hole. Moods were lifted. Everyone felt better. So, crank up the volume on your favorite music and dance with those little people! (Any kind of sing-along songs are good, too. Hokey-Pokey. If you’re happy and you know it. The Lord’s Army song. Just to name a few.)
6. Play with water
Some days, nothing works. You can run relays, dance, and play all kinds of games, but your kids will just be moody and irritable. (We all have days like that. Or is that just MY family?) When nothing else works, I give them water to play with. One day, we gathered a bin of toys and tested them in the water, asking each time, “Will it sink or float?” My kids (ages 5, 4, 2) really loved this one. They did the same toys over and over. They loved asking me and seeing if I was right or wrong. They giggled when I was wrong (so be wrong sometimes and let them enjoy that!).
7. Play with ice
One day, we studied ice. My kids enjoyed playing with ice. We talked about the different forms of water and that ice is a solid. I gave them warm water and trays of ice. They had so much fun melting the ice! They also like to do this at the kitchen sink. I gave them bowls of ice, water, and measuring cups and spoons. This is always always a hit with my kids.
I hope these give you some good ideas on how to help kids use energy when you’re stuck inside. Do you have more ideas? Leave me a comment!