Article at a Glance

  • Children and adolescents need at least one hour of exercise daily.
  • Foul weather shouldn’t prevent children from being physically active.
  • With creative play ideas, you can help them hit that target.

During winter, some of us may be less inclined to venture outdoors. Frigid temperatures and less-than-pure air are solid reasons for staying in the house, but gloomy weather shouldn’t prevent children from being physically active.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children need at least an hour of exercise every day, consisting primarily of aerobic activities. A focus on bone and muscle strengthening exercises is also recommended at least three days per week.

Sixty minutes of exercise every day may sound like a lot, but many children hit this minimum requirement as part of their weekday routine. With a few creative ideas, you can help them hit that target when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Obstacle Course

Use plastic or paper cups as cones and yarn or tape as tracks to create an indoor obstacle course.

Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of items for children to hunt for around the house. For added exercise, the hunt can require each participant to complete ten jumping jacks or pushups before on to find the next item.

Balloon Volleyball

Inflate a balloon and create a makeshift net using yarn or tape. Balloon soccer and basketball are also great options with minimal potential for furniture damage.

Balance Beam

Lay a 2×4 on the carpet and let the children show off their balancing skills.

Laundry Basket Race

Use empty laundry baskets and let children pair up to race them across a carpeted floor. One child pushes while the other ‘drives.’ Help them get into character with race (bike) helmets.

Garage Play

Use an empty garage to ride scooters, bikes, play ball, and play games like broom hockey.


Limbo competitions are easy to start up and require nothing more than two high-backed chairs and a broom or yardstick.

Karaoke performances

Encourage children to dance while singing along to their favorite songs.

Dance party

Designate a dance floor and crank up the stereo.

Play Gym

Kids love to copy mom and dad. These activities are simple exercises, but combining them into a role-playing game is both fun and can lead to friendly competition.

  • Jumping Rope
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Push-ups
  • Planking
  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Yoga poses
  • Somersaults

Classic Games

These childhood throwbacks are still good fun and guaranteed to accelerate little heart beats.

  • Musical Chairs
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Simon Says
  • Red Light, Green Light
  • Hide-and-seek
  • Crab-walk Racing

Active video games

If you have the gear, play active video games together with your children. Titles like Punch-Out!!, Wii Fit Plus, and Dance Dance Revolution can help you all break a sweat.

Find inspiration online

GoNoodle is a free and interactive tool for getting kids on their feet.

Embracing Chaos

It might make for a noisier home, but a go-to list of indoor games can help direct wiggles productively and keep your family healthy. Best of all, it can short-circuit the boredom that leads to fighting and whining when kids are cooped up.

Additional Resources:

Skip the exercise program and make a friend instead.
Studies link physical activity with better academic performance.
Exercise for kids all fun and games.
Healthy ways to help overweight teens.
Making physical activity happen for your family.
Talking to your child about weight problems.
Being sneaky with fitness.

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