Toddlers need half an hour each day of structured physical activities. They need an additional hour of unstructured activities, too. Here are some indoor physical activities you can do at home with your toddler to meet those needs. Plan to do several activities each day and to stretch each activity to 10 minutes or longer if your toddler's attention span will allow.
Set up an Obstacle Course
Use whatever you have around the house. Set up a climb over a big pillow followed by a crawl through a cardboard box, a circle around a foot stool and finally a dash through a doorway. Add to the fun by starting the race with a whistle blow and taping up a crepe paper ribbon in the doorway to break through at the finish.
Play Hide and Seek
Some toddlers might be frightened by hiding or not being able to find you if you hide, so exercise caution when playing this game. Hide in obvious areas with a leg or arm visible at first until he is comfortable playing. Make little noises by clearing your throat or coughing to aid him even further in finding you. Initially when you begin the game (by counting and then announcing that "ready or not, here I come") you may need to count for him. You can also just count very slowly to 3 in order to teach counting and then work up incrementally to 10.
Dancing is an excellent way to work in some physical activity since toddlers are so naturally inclined to love music and moving their bodies along with it. You don't have to focus on anything too structured, just pick three random songs throughout the day and start grooving.
Do Yoga or Other Types of Organized Exercise
If you already do some type of organized exercise at home like aerobics or yoga
, get your toddler involved. If you use this as a time for yourself and feel like it's going to be tough to get in a hard workout with him beside you, then just invite him in for the warm-up and maybe the last 10 minutes of your workout. Or build in an additional 10 minutes at the end to cool down or add a special yoga sequence just for him. Even though it's time for you, it's a good idea for him to share this with you and learn from your good example.
Just after my son woke up each day and while I was getting his breakfast ready he would do his stretches. Initially, this activity was purely to keep him busy so I would have long enough to scramble an egg or cut a piece of fruit without a fuss. It became a routine that lasted years, however, and was a great way to squeeze some physical activity in. Our kitchen and playroom were open to each other so I would call out stretches to him as I cooked like, "Reach to the sky and keep reaching," and "Touch your toes," or "Bend to the side." Just keep it simple and show your toddler how to stretch at first and then he'll be able to do it on his own.
Have a Parade
The point of a parade is something near and dear to the heart of the toddler: It's all about showing off and celebrating. So any time you've got cause, throw on a happy tune and march around the house. A new dress? New shoes? A new stuffed animal or toy? Potty training success? These are all reasons to happily march through all the rooms of the house.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
Pick several toys or other objects and hide them around your home. You can create a list with drawings or pictures of the objects and help him cross them off. Don't hide things in difficult spots and exercise caution when hiding beloved objects like security blankets or pacifiers. Some toddlers love this and think it's very fun to find them, while others melt down at the mere thought.
Play Find the Timer
Hide a ticking kitchen timer set to 5 minutes. He should be able to detect the ticking noise getting louder as he gets closer. You can also indicate closeness by saying closer, farther
or hotter, colder
or by increasing or decreasing the frequency of clapping as he approaches the object.
Play the Up and Down Game
Let him hold an object (flags are especially fun for this game) and tell him to raise it high if you say a word that is high or hold it low if it's something that is low. So if you say roly poly
then he would hold his flag low and if you say sky
he would hold his flag high in the air.
Have a Tornado Drill
You can get some physical activity in and practice safety by performing a regular tornado drill.
Practice Balancing Items
Balancing items is more than just a physical activity, it's cognitive and helps him learn body awareness. To start, use something flexible like a beanbag and have him try to walk a few feet with it balanced on the back of an outstretched hand or on his head. Once he's experienced success with that, try other tasks like balancing a small board book on his head or walking across a room with a small ball inside a spoon.
Roll a Ball Back and Forth to Each Other
If you have the space to play with balls
inside or in the garage, go for it. If you have little space or don't want things getting knocked over or broken, you can still have fun with a ball. Sit with legs spread and feet touching and roll a ball back and forth to each other. Extend the activity by trying to roll and catch with just one hand or by catching the ball with eyes closed.
Play Pass the Ball
Another fun ball activity is a bit like a relay race. If you have any area that forms a circuit in your house, start there. In my house, you can start in the living room and pass through three other rooms in a perfect circle, for example. You could also just use a couch or a rug to mark the area. Tell him to stay in one spot while you run around with the ball. Pass the ball to him and tell him to follow the same route to get the ball back to you. You can also use other objects like a stuffed animal or doll.
Shake Clothespins out of a Milk Jug
Take a half gallon or gallon plastic milk jug and clean it thoroughly. Purchase the old fashioned ball-top clothespins that don't have a spring. They are constructed of a single piece of wood and fit easily inside the opening of the jug. For fine motor practice, let him fill the jug and then for a fun physical activity, let him hold the jug upside-down by the handle and shake it vigorously until all the clips have fallen out.