Let’s face it, exercise for kids and winter months don’t easily add up. So if you’re wracking your brain for outdoor games for kids or indoor alternatives to the local kid’s gym, you’re in the right spot. Keep reading for creative ways to work out the wintertime wiggles.

photo: Juhan Sonin via Flickr

Let the Games Begin … Inside!

1. Play balloon sports. All it takes to play balloon volleyball, baseball, basketball or hockey is hot air (to blow up the balloons!) and a little ingenuity. Use trash cans on opposite sides of the room as baskets, and a simple painter’s tape line to divide the room for a volleyball net. For hockey and baseball, use pool noodles to bat balloons in the air or on the ground. They shoot, you score with these simple games!

2. Tune in to Go Noodle. Turn your screen into a vehicle for movement with Go Noodle’s free programming for families. Once you sign up, you’ll get access to hundreds of silly songs that kids will want to sing along with, and each one is focused on getting kids up and moving. It doesn’t hurt that you get a dose of learning with each little ditty too. Get your groove on!

3. Complete a smartphone photo challenge. Make your kids’ day with this simple-to-set-up activity that you can play virtually anywhere. To start, develop a list of random items your kids could find around the house (inside or out). Things like a mix-matched pair of socks, an icicle hanging from a tree, a picture of a green turtle, etc. Then, send them off with your phone to find and snap pictures of each of the items. Make the list as long or as short as you like, and change it every time you play.

obstaclecourse3_indoorfun_redtricyclephoto: Gabby Cullen

4. Work through an obstacle course. And under it, and through it when you set up an obstacle course around the house for your kids to complete. Use what you’ve got (hello, boxes from holiday deliveries!) to set one up. Then have your ninja warriors test their skills on the course that gives them a totally legit reason to climb the furniture.

5. Run a potato relay. To play this silly game, all you need is buckets, potatoes, and kids with a good sense of humor. Set the buckets up at one side of the room. Then have each kid carry a potato down between his legs (no hands allowed) and plop it in the bucket before turning tail and running back to tag the next in line. It’s one hilarious “drop it like it’s hot” situation!

photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

6. Host a dance party. Host an indoor dance party with your sidekick. But instead of just flipping on the standard iTunes playlist, queue up some YouTube vids to get everyone moving in the same direction. We’re crushing on Shake Your Sillies Out, The Hokey Pokey, and one that every child of the ’80s should pass on to their kin—Mickey’s Mousercize. Dance till they drop!

7. Jump into pillowcase races. Who doesn’t need an excuse to change the bed sheets? This is a great one. Have the kids stuff themselves into their pillowcases, then send them off down a carpeted hallway or across a room with a rug toward an imaginary finish line. Add in obstacles or a course to make it more challenging and to keep the fun rolling.

kids-juggling-scarves-franklin-park-library-flickrphoto: Franklin Public Library via Flickr

8. Learn to juggle! Life with kids is always a circus. So it’s only fitting your kids should take time to clown around when they need to get those wiggles out. Help them on their way with simple juggling instruction. Our Everyday Life maps out an easy way to learn in just three steps, using scarves instead of beanbags or balls. Since they fall so much slower, it gives kiddos the time they need to figure out how to keep everything up in the air.

9. Stand your ground with a Sumo wrestling challenge. An exciting one to play with a parent, this simple activity pits your kiddo against you in a battle of physical strength. To play, you need to lay out a circle using painter’s tape or something that’ll easily peel off your floors. Make sure it’s big enough to move around in. Then plant yourself firmly in the middle before motioning to your sidekick Matrix-style to try and wrestle you out of the circle. Set a timer for each round or keep it going until you finally get pushed out.

photo: Ben Dickson dbr via Flickr

10. Play in/out balloons. Once you’ve had your fill of sumo wrestling with your kids, get some balloons in on the action. Blow up a whole bunch of balloons (size isn’t too important), and then divide them up so roughly half is inside the circle and half are outside of it. Then free the kids, challenging one to get as many balloons into the circle, while inviting the other to keep as many as possible out. It’s a Ying/Yang situation that’ll wear them out faster than you can say, “nap time!”

11. Choreograph a cheer! Get into the family spirit by having your crew come up with a family cheer routine. Be sure to include all the signature moves like pyramids (parents on base!), claps, and plenty of herkies. Pom poms are optional on this one. The best part? You can pull this bad boy out at the family annual reunion or when your mini-me rocks a play on the sports field.

photo: Kizzzbeth via Flickr

12. Dance on bubble wrap. This is the time to pull out all the bubble wrap you’ve stashed since the holidays. When your kids get restless, pull it out and create a dance floor. Crank the tunes and let them jump, jump, jump!

13. Put on a storybook play. Combine two favorite snowy day activities into one when you help your kids get their favorite book ready for its stage debut. Think out costumes, dialogue, and actions as you prepare them to act out their favorite book for the most approving audience around—you and your parenting partner! It’ll be all standing ovations and encore applauses when they’re done.

photo: Juhan Sonin via Flickr

14. Dive into a dress up race. If dress up is your kid’s jam, then try this creative twist when everyone needs to get moving. Pull out your dress up chest or pile all your best costumes together. Then call out open-ended prompts your kids can respond to with their clothing choices. Dress up as someone who helps others. Dress up as someone who builds things. Dress up as a hero. Have kids race against each other or set a timer for singletons as they take on this best-dressed challenge.

15. Get physical! Allison at No Time For Flashcards has mapped out everything you need to know to recreate a simple movement simple game at home. All it takes are a few index cards, markers and scissors to start playing. And she recommends that parents get in on the fun too. The best part? Playing this means you can go ahead and skip that trip to the gym.

photo: Kristina Buskirk via Toddler Approved

16. Play hopscotch. A long stretch of wood or tile flooring is all your little ones need to play a little indoor hopscotch. Lay out the game using painters or washi tape so it won’t stick to your floors. Then off they go, tossing and hopping down the alley until they reach 10. Get more on this sweet idea over at Toddler Approved.

17. Dash around the color wheel. Preschoolers will totally dig this simple game you can make with construction paper. Place colored papers around on the ground cakewalk style, and turn on some music. Then start your crew out around the circle. Whatever color they’re on when the music stops becomes their challenge color, and they need to race through the house to find an object in that color. First one back to the circle wins!

18. Play up/down cup. This simple game is a total energy burn. To play, grab 20 Solo or Dixie cups from the cupboards. Then scatter them around the room, 10 facing up and 10 facing down. Divide your crew into the Up Team and the Down Team before setting a five-minute timer. Once the timer is set, send the teams off to flip cups in their direction (up for Up Team, down for Down Team).

Let the Games Continue … Outside!

19. Play tag. It doesn’t get any easier than tag when your kids need to move. Throw them outside, name someone as “it” and leave the rest up to them. All they need is an open space and some warm clothes to get this game going.

20. Go geocaching or letterboxing. When the wiggles hit, load up the kids for a real-life treasure hunt in the great outdoors. Follow high-tech clues left by geocachers when you download the app that tracks treasures hidden all over the world. Or opt for a decidedly low-tech option when you embark on a letterboxing adventure, where all you need to participate is a rubber stamp, stamp pad, and cool hider-handle to leave your mark on the stash you find.

21. Run a stuffie rescue relay. Pull out the sleds for head-to-head relay races in the yard (If you don’t have snow on the ground, your kids can load up stuffies in need of rescuing in their trusty wagon.). Once her load is set, race down, leave the cargo and race back to grab more before heading out again. If your kiddo flies solo, time her as she makes her down-and-back trips to see just how fast she can deliver everyone to safety.

photo: WalkingGeek via Flickr

22. Build forts. Building a snow fort is as simple as grabbing a loaf pan, filling it up, and putting it all on repeat. Even without snow on the ground, you kidlet can test her building prowess: Encourage her to scavenge fallen branches and pine tree boughs to build a teepee.

23. Use snowballs for target practice. Have hula hoop? Will play. Set out three in the yard, on the ground or hang them from trees. Then have your crew gather an arsenal of snowballs (or use tennis or baseballs if you’re in a no-snow-zone) to throw in this target practice session. Take aim and toss! Score points for each ball that makes it through the hoop. Fire away!

24. Start a snowball fight. There’s nothing better than a simple snowball fight to get families outside and moving. Grab a handful, mold it tight and then let ‘er fly, taking aim at sibs, parents or friends.

25. Set up an outdoor treasure hunt. Set your kids free in the backyard to seek out hidden treasures. They’ll have a blast busting through the snow or grass trying to find little trinkets you’ve hidden beforehand. If the snow’s your backdrop, make it a rainbow hunt. If not, go with a camo scavenger hunt, digging up wintery earth tone items to hide that’ll give kids a challenge.

26. Set out on a hike. Whether winter at your place involves snow or not, taking your kids for a walk in the woods gets the blood flowing. Find a clear trail or lace up those furry winter boots to bust through the snowpack in a state or city park, forest preserve or nearby open space that gives them plenty of room to roam.

You’ll also love: 

100 Indoor Activities Because Winter Isn’t Over Yet

Indoor Activities That’ll Keep Them Entertained for More Than an Hour


10 Indoor Activities to Get You Through the Rest of Winter

What’s your favorite get-moving game? Tell others about it in a comment.

—Allison Sutcliffe

Feature photo: Aikawa Ke via Flickr