Directing Kids’ Energy When Indoors

Keep It Off the Ground by Jennifer Miller

As I watched kids of all ages, bundled in hats and gloves, burst out of the school building at pick up time yesterday, I thought about the exercise they weren’t getting (during indoor recess) and the energy my son would need to exert when he got home. The snow continued to fall and he had energy to burn. During this time of year, it can be a daily struggle. Kids’ bodies just weren’t designed to be sedentary and hibernate through the winter. And often, that need to get out the wiggles leads them to misbehaviors and us to irritation. Whether it’s throwing their bodies around in ways which are destructive to your indoor furnishings or jumping on you, kids can use help in finding constructive outlets for their energy so that they don’t resort to behaviors that will be a problem for you and your family.

If the temperature is not below zero, bundle up and get them outside. Fresh air and the room to run can do wonders for that physical exertion need. But if it’s too cold or you’ve already had your outdoor fun but the wiggles continue, you need indoor solutions. Here are my ideas for ways to get them moving!

Hard Floor Spin Off
See how many times your child can spin on his or her bottom on the hardwood floor. Keep track and try to beat your own scores. Parents may get dizzy just watching but for many kids, this is pure fun.

Dance Party
Turn on some music and dance it out. Give your kids the chance to pick or select their favorites. To extend the activity, they could decorate the dance room with their own handmade disco ball or confetti but it’s not necessary. Just dance!

Keep It Off the Ground
Regardless of the age of the child, it amazes me at the interest in a single balloon. Blow up an average balloon and challenge your kids to keep it off the ground. This winter, we added that if anyone misses the balloon and it touches the ground, he or she has to take a lap around the house.

Hide the Object
Find an object that your child agrees he’d like to seek and find. Then, take turns hiding it in all corners of the house. You can use “cold, warm and hot” as indicators of how close he is to finding it.

Indoor Olympics (with safety rules first)
If your kids are familiar with the Olympics, involve them in creating their own set of household-appropriate Olympic games. Maybe you do a ball roll or a long jump and measure it. Perhaps kids create a pillow obstacle course. Maybe they see how many push ups they can do. Demonstrate one Olympic challenge you create and then, challenge them to create their own. Use a timer and encourage them to beat their own time. Do set safety rules before they begin such as, balls stay on the ground or the basement is the only place where games can take place. Do a finale in which they have to do each game in a row.

Climbing Rhyming Game
Start at the bottom of the stairway. Kids can pick any word (such as dog) or phrase (such as dog food) and then, they move up a step. Each time they climb, they need to add a rhyming word (such as fog) or phrase (fog mood). They stay on the step until they can come up with one. Try it a few times and see if they can get all the way up.

Lively Clue (for several kids)
Dress up a stuffed friend with a costume and accessories. Pretend he has perpetrated an innocuous crime, like littering in the park. If you can give him a name and a back story, it will stir kids’ imagination and they’ll have more fun with it. Now all but one hides the criminal in a remote part of the house. Those who know where he is have to provide clues to help the “detective” who does not know how to find him. If they can add to his story and embellish his character through their clues, so much the better.

Family Back Massage
Be certain to demonstrate first and set boundaries before trying. Show kids the acceptable area on a person’s back and shoulders that they can massage. Show on each child’s back how to be very gentle or apply a little more pressure. When finished, do the “Tennis Ball Tighten and Release” exercise which helps with calming bodies down. Lie down side by side on the floor or on the child’s bed, backs to the floor. Close your eyes and ask your child to close his as well. Using a gentle voice, ask your child to pretend there is a tennis ball at the base of his feet. Ask him to try and grab the ball with his whole foot including his toes with all his might. Ask him to hold it for a few seconds. Then, let the ball go. Now ask him to pretend the ball is between his ankles. Squeeze the imaginary ball as hard as possible for a few seconds and then let it go. Try this at his knees, on his tummy, between his arms and his side, in his hands, at his neck and at the back of his head where it touches the floor. Each time tighten those muscles for a few seconds and then fully release. This will guide a child to notice each part of his body, focus on that part and send relaxation to that part of the body letting the tension go.

Follow the Leader Tai Chi Style
Have you ever watched individuals doing Tai Chi in the park? Practitioners move every muscle in their body but slowly, fluidly and with control. The movement tends to flow and not stop. Challenge your kids to do the game follow the leader with this slow, ongoing movement. It can be very difficult so they may need to take breaks but see if they can move through the entire house in this way.

Alphabet/Word/Phrase Treasure Hunt
This can be great practice for kids who are learning letters, words or phrases. Write each letter of the alphabet (or word or phrase) on single index cards, one per card. Tape a letter or word card to an object that begins with that letter. For example, the “P” card gets taped to the piano. Place the cards all over the house. You can make the placement of the cards easy or hard to find depending upon what kind of challenge you anticipate will be enjoyable for your child. Give your child a full alphabet as a reference throughout the game (if finding letters) and also a gift bag to collect the cards. Now hunt! Each time your child finds a card, in order to “claim the prize,” (a.k.a. put it in his gift bag) he must name the letter (or word). If he cannot, no problem. Look and sing through his alphabet reference and find it together or sound out the word.

For Tweens/Teens:

Family Snow Removal
You may not be able to motivate your kids to go out and shovel if you just tell them to do it. But initiate the activity as a team, work with them, and they may enjoy the process and get exercise too. Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows at the end always helps too! If you or your partner are highly efficient or have to shovel before work, later ask your kids instead, “Are there neighbors we know who are older or who have physical impairments that might make it difficult to get their shoveling accomplished? What about going and helping them out together?”

Music Video Dance Routine
Can you mimic the dances that are performed in favorite music videos? Look up some videos that you know and dance along! Teens will be sweaty in no time!

Jumping Jack Challenge
Have your teen select a favorite high energy tune and see how many jumping jacks she can do in a row. Work up to doing it throughout the entire song.

The cold winter months can be a time when families laugh, play and connect with one another without many of the distractions that come with the warmer months. Thinking about a few ways to get your family moving can create a more positive environment in your household. Kids will get their physical needs met and you can enjoy that extra time together.

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