8 High-Energy Indoor Activities To Tire Out Your Kids When You're Stuck At Home

The internet provides (and no, we don't mean screen time).

School’s out— at least for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to COVID-19, classes might very well be suspended for the remainder of the school year, which means parents will be trapped indoors with their restless and oh-so-energetic little companions.

So, what to do with them?

On the one hand, you’d like to keep them busy. On the other, maybe the idea of banishing them to the couch to watch “Toy Story 4” just one more time just doesn’t cut it for you anymore. (To be fair, it’s a great movie.)

And that’s where the question comes in, the one weighing on the minds of so many Canadian parents: what are you supposed to when they aren’t allowed to go outside and play with their friends, and you’ve run out of ideas?

Lucky for you, we have some answers — courtesy of the internet.

Running up and down the stairs

So maybe this one can feel a bit unnatural, considering the number of times you’ve likely had to say, sternly, “Don’t run up and down the stairs!” But desperate times, as they say, call for genius measures.

Take Halle Berry, for example, whose family is thinking up ways to pass the time. On Tuesday, the actress shared a video on Instagram of her six-year-old son, Maceo, climbing a short flight of stairs clad in zippered stiletto-heeled boots.

“Quarantine Day 12,” the actress wrote in her caption.

Of course, you don’t need to outfit your kid in a pair of heels if you don’t want to. But Berry might be onto something with the stairs part. Going up and down the stairs is a good way to tire out your kids — and they won’t even realize they’re exercising.

Of course, you’ll need a set of sturdy, safe stairs that aren’t too slippery. Then make said stairs into a game. Whoever can do the most sets, wins! (Once they begin to get exhausted, you can consider feigning a loss.).

Your kiddos should have the dexterity and balance to handle going up and down stairs if your game involves that, or you can use them as an accessory for a different type of activity.

Check out these simple ideas from the Inspired Treehouse and this stair ball game to get your creative wheels turning.

Setting up an obstacle course

Playing on the jungle gym at the little one’s favourite nearby park is definitely off limits right now. But you can still find ways to recreate that exploration experience, without too much heavy lifting.

Obstacle courses encourage thinking and problem solving in young kids. Not to mention they require lots of running, jumping and crawling — perfect for working them into exhaustion. (If you have more than one kid, it’s also a great way to get them to work together, or to introduce some friendly competition.)

And it doesn’t require too much. Kylie Macnab, a parent from Omaha, Nebraska, made one using only some tape on the floor — with the occasional command spelled out, like “spin” or “shoot” — and a bunch of furniture from her home.

For some obstacle course ideas, in case you aren’t feeling too creative these days, check out this post on Playtivities. You might also be inspired by these sensory paths, which have been popping up in schools, and use decals to create cool pathways for kids to jump, skip and play along.

Building a fort together, then playing inside it

Who doesn’t love forts? As it turns out, they don’t have to be reserved for the cold winter months, when there’s a snow day and the kids are off from school. (Besides, every day is sort of a “snow day” right now, if you think about it.)

It’s like indoor camping, only it doesn’t require any expensive supplies. Plus, it might prick that feeling of childhood nostalgia.

Do a LEGO challenge in the fort:

Set up a TV inside at night and watch a movie together:

Or just ... hang out:

You can even get them to do some exercises inside (or outside) the fort, and make it into a game with some cue cards:

Parent Kathryn Connors wrote out cue cards to get her kids to exercise.
Kathryn Connors
Parent Kathryn Connors wrote out cue cards to get her kids to exercise.

All you really need are some bed sheets, tape, binder clips, pillows, blankets and furniture. Some people do it all with cardboard. Some string lights are good, too, if you have any leftover from Christmas, but those are optional.

Get the kids involved in the building process so they can get creative. (And extra tired, too.)

Check out Red Tricycle and Kitchn for some inspiration.

Playing “Jump the River”

Sure, plenty of games are just a click away on a Nintendo Switch, or PlayStation, or whatever your kid’s preferred electronic device is. But that won’t tire them out much, aside from their eyes from straining to look at the screen.

Jump the River is an easy-to-set-up game that requires nothing but some tape/string/rocks/whatever you can fashion into two parallel lines, and some jumping skills. It’s an elimination game, so the more the merrier, and it helps kids to develop gross motor skills and coordination.

All you have to do is place two lines of tape on the floor — or whatever you’ve chosen to use — and set the mood with some storytelling. You can’t escape the house, so sell the fantasy: maybe the situation is that they’re walking through the woods and they’ve come to a stream they need to cross.

The point is to jump over the river. Each time they do successfully, you move the lines a little more, and the river gets wider. Just make sure you have enough space so kids can jump safely!

Check out Fatherly for some tips on how to play.

Finally, do those TikTok dances and challenges together

This one might be a longshot. (It probably works best with older kids.)

You’ve totally seen them before. Maybe they’ve surfaced on the internet, or maybe it’s your kid who’s shown you a clip on their phone. TikTok, that now-famous app where young people upload short-form videos, is flooded with viral dances that kids are doing to popular songs.

And some, in particular, are perfect to do together.

Here are a few you can try out. They might not tire anyone out, but they sure are fun to do.

Taking a bike trip across the world (virtually)

If you search hard enough, you can find almost anything on YouTube. Plenty of people already use the site to work out, and since nobody’s going to the gym right now, many are probably accessing those virtual trail videos that make running on the treadmill less boring.

There are also some other great simulation videos, themed for bike trails or roller coaster rides. These are perfect to use if you have stationary bikes, so your kid can get a full workout while also visiting some of the world’s most remote places.

Tell them they’re flying, like that scene in “E.T.,” and put on a video flying over Norway. This is sure to tire them out!

“We plop the kids on stationary bikes, put their iPads on and off they go! So far they’ve biked the hills of Hawaii and visited Italy (pre-outbreak),” Connors wrote in a Facebook post.
Kathryn Connors
“We plop the kids on stationary bikes, put their iPads on and off they go! So far they’ve biked the hills of Hawaii and visited Italy (pre-outbreak),” Connors wrote in a Facebook post.

A gentle but rowdy pillow fight

Roughhousing sometimes gets a bad rep.

Some parents are concerned that their kids can get hurt, and others might worry that it inspires violence. But when it comes to pillow fights, getting rowdy can be both safe and fun.

Take this adorable clip, for example, in which identical three-year-old twins have a little pillow fight in their bedroom, chanting “Germs, go away!” as they discuss how excited they are for spring to come.

And looks like there are some physical benefits, too.

Aside from tiring them out — swinging and being hit by pillows really can be exhausting — a parenting guidebook called “The Art of Roughhousing” has found that getting a bit rowdy can make kids smarter, emotionally intelligent, and likeable. It can teach self-control, fairness and even empathy.

Basically, you’re hitting a bunch of birds with just one good stone. These Canadian dads share more on how to horseplay safely.

Whatever this is

Not totally sure what’s going on here ... but they look like they’re having a blast.

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