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8 indoor activities to release kids' energy

A family dance in their living room in this undated photo.
PBS Kids for Parents
A family dance in their living room in this undated photo.

When my daughter was young, it took a lot of mental energy — creativity and time — to come up with new ways to get our energy out inside, especially during bad weather days, extended weekends or even as part of our everyday routine. Physical activity is important for children and adults alike. Getting regular exercise helps keep our bodies healthy, sets up positive long-term habits, supports restful sleep and helps children be prepared to learn.

To help kids get out that energy, here are eight ideas for indoor games to get the wiggles out!

1. Turn on music and dance

Play your favorite songs and move to the beat together. Moving to music is a great way to get energy out and to practice important skills, like self-regulation (find additional music games here). Try “mirror dancing” with your child. Stand face-to-face several feet apart and take turns being the dancer and their reflection (try to copy what the dancer does like a reflection in a mirror). And make up some new dance moves with Pinkalicious or play freeze dance with Peterrific in this fun game!


2. Set up obstacle courses

Give your child physical activity challenges to complete: “Can you hop down the hallway on one foot and then tiptoe all the way back?” Use laundry baskets, pillows or other items around your home to create more complex obstacle courses.

WATCH: Pinkalicious builds an obstacle course for a pretend ride with her unicorn, Goldie!
Toddlers might be more interested in following you through an obstacle course than following instructions, but older children might enjoy the challenge of trying to remember multiple directions: “Let’s see if you can remember all these steps! Touch the table with both hands two times. Climb over the laundry basket and walk down the hallway. Knock on the bedroom door three times. Then, take giant steps all the way back to the couch.” Let your child create obstacle courses for you too!

3. Create a scavenger hunt

Make a checklist using simple pictures or words with items your child can find around the house, such as: two red books, four chairs, two tables, one black shoe, one white shoe. Help your child cross off each item as they are found. For older children, create scavenger hunts focused on finding items that are specific shapes or colors, such as two triangles, four circles, three things that are purple.


4. Play stuffed animal hide and seek

Take turns hiding a stuffed animal or an object (like a wooden spoon). As your child looks for the hidden item, offer clues that help her practice directions: “Turn left. Walk two big steps forward. Now look under the blanket.” Give it a Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! spin with this activity sheet!

5. Toss a sock ball

Roll up pairs of socks and gather one or more cardboard boxes or bins, like laundry baskets. Take turns tossing socks into the box. Younger children may enjoy standing close to the box and dropping socks in, dumping them out and then dropping them in again. Older children may enjoy seeing how far away they can stand and still get the socks in the box or getting creative by tossing with their eyes closed, or tossing while standing on one foot.

6. Scramble and sort the laundry

Involve your child in household chores that require physical activity. Children love to feel like they are contributing to the household! Pushing a full laundry basket back and forth down the hallway is one way to get energy out. Putting laundry away is another. Sort laundry together into piles of different colors or types, such as socks in one pile, pants in another. Pretend you are delivering mail or pizzas as you put piles of laundry away.

7. Walk a tightrope

Lay a piece of string or tape down on the floor. Have your child pretend to cross a tightrope or a narrow bridge. Walk with one foot in front of the other with arms outstretched to each side to help keep balance. Make up a story with your child to go along with what you do! After crossing the bridge, lay down a second piece of string or tape parallel to the first. These lines now become a river to jump or pretend to swim across as your child continues the adventure!

8. Engage in active storytimes

Turn story time into physical activity time. After reading a book together, read the story again. This time, pause and make up actions to go along with the story line, such as stand up and pretend to walk to the zoo.

Each of these activity ideas can be modified and enhanced to include your children’s interests. Obstacle courses can become part of an imaginary adventure under the sea. Stuffed animal hide and seek can turn into an animal rescue mission. Follow your child’s lead and get those wiggles out!

Copyright 2024 PBS Kids for Parents. Click here to see the original story

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