Toys That Encourage Active Play Indoors
Physical activity and active play are vital to a child’s development. Aside from the obvious health benefits of regular exercise, active play provides opportunities for learning and practice of gross motor skills. It also supports executive function, including skills like paying attention and seeing tasks through to completion. In the same way we don’t always get enough exercise ourselves, even though we know its benefits (Do you guys have that gym membership collecting dust like I do?), we sometimes don’t always find the time to provide enough active play for our children either. You might not have a backyard, or it might be too cold or too rainy to be outside. We’ve all let those excuses get in the way before, only to find ourselves left with a child that’s full of pent up energy and nothing to do with it. If that’s the case, know that there are lots of options for active play indoors instead.
There are lots of options that provide guided exercise instruction in a fun and interactive way. Bakari is a fitness and memory game in one. Players earn points by matching activity cards and completing the challenges on the cards. Fitivities is another board game that requires players to complete different exercises as they move their game piece around the mat. If you can’t make it to your own yoga class, join your child in a game of yoga activity blocks. Take turns rolling the dice and performing the yoga poses together for the time shown on the dice. To up the stakes a bit, Yoga Spinner allows players to collect a colored card for every pose they’re able to hold for 10 seconds. The first player to collect a card in every color wins.
If your child is only into exercising if they don’t realize they’re exercising, toys like Ultra Dash are a great bet. The game requires players to spread targets around a room, and then use the tagger to race and touch the color that lights up as fast as you can. Kids can play against the clock or another player, which makes it a good option for when their friends are over. Another version of the game, Hyper Dash Extreme, has additional game modes and incorporates basic math skills. These feel more like completing a secret mission, rather than a workout.
For those of you who have some open space available in your home, or at least the ability to push your coffee table off to the side during play time, tunnels and Step-A- Logs provide a great option for indoor active play. They can be used as a stand alone toy or as part of a larger obstacle course. The crawling and balance that these toys require are great for the development of gross motor skills, and the best part is that they’re easily folded or stacked to be stored until next time. If you’re interested in the idea of putting together an obstacle course, these non-skid cushions would be another great addition to encourage jumping, hopping, and climbing and support strength-building, coordination, and balance. The Dot N Roll activity mat can be used for general jumping and tumbling, or as a classic game of twister with dice. Playing that way is great for developing balance, strength, and coordination, and it also supports the development of cognitive skills, such as following direction, left and right discrimination, and color recognition. Twangled is a fun new game that requires players to kick the spinner and follow the directions they land on. If you and on “over blue”, you must move your entire body over the blue band. This is great for motor planning, problem-solving, and balance. A hop scotch mat can be rolled out for playtime, and then just as easily rolled up to be put away. Extra points for teaching your child an “old-school” game! For your especially active bundles of energy, a simple trampoline can provide great exercise and lots of fun.
If you’ve got limited space at home, don’t be discouraged. There are tons of options for active play that don’t require lots of room but pack a punch when it comes to physical activity. Games like Scavenger Hunt or The Floor is Lava allow kids to move around their space without having to rearrange all of the furniture. Scavenger Hunt also gives extra points for every item they clean up, which sounds like a win-win situation to me. Wiggle Box provides 80 unique movements and challenges to choose from, and Thumball is a cool toy that similarly provides lots of specific tasks for players to perform as the game progresses. Dance Charades, which requires players to act out their topic through dance, is a perfect option for family night and larger groups, as is Pancake Pile Up, a relay race game.