originally written for and published on Wolf+Friends
The temperatures have fallen and it's dark outside by 5:00 pm. In many parts of the world, this means that parents will have to get creative with indoor fun to keep little ones engaged and active all winter long! While there is nothing as good as nature’s playground, you can provide your kids with indoor, sensory-rich, gross motor play that keeps them regulated instead of going stir-crazy!
These are my go-to toys for indoor play:
A tunnel & tent set is perfect to set up around furniture if you don’t have a playroom or basement kid-space. Crawling is a great way to provide proprioceptive input that helps kids calm and organize. Set up some fine motor activities or exploratory play toys (puzzles, games, bean bag chair, puppets) inside the tents and invite a friend to join in the fun! The best part about this set is that it collapses down into a little bag for easy storage in the toy closet!
Another tunnel option I love is this lycra fish tunnel because it encourages crawling, creeping, stretching, and pushing! Kids use all of their muscles pushing through the lycra space and incorporating an exercise ball is a bonus challenge! For sensory kids who love body sox, this is an interactive sensory opportunity to engage with a peer in a proprioceptive activity that they find calming and organizing. Let the ‘under the sea’ play schemes begin!
One of the versatile favorites (but requires adult supervision) is an exercise ball. We all have one somewhere in the house with the best of intentions to work on our own core strength… but consider repurposing it for the kids this winter. Bounce them on it and sing a song, roll them over it on their bellies to put together a puzzle, roll upside-down to pick up blocks, squish them underneath to make a kid sandwich, or pushing it through a tunnel! If you have a hippity hop kids can jump themselves too! The possibilities are endless but remember that an adult needs to supervise this activity.
If you’re lucky enough to have a playroom, dedicated kid-zone, or garage space, a scooter is another gross motor favorite. Kids can create obstacle courses, race a friend on a chalk-drawn track, or zoom like a rocket ship! On bellies, on knees, or even on their backs, kids can meet their vestibular and proprioceptive needs while working on upper body and core strength. Pinterest is a great resource for scooter activities – everything from whole-body bowling to scooter board Hungry Hungry Hippos!
In our house, the playground activity we miss the most in the winter is the swing. If you’ve got a doorway, you can install this indoor swing for the kids who need a stronger dose of vestibular input on a more regular basis! If you’re crafty and your kids are small, there are DIY swings that can expand on this basic set. Check out our website for some great swing ideas!
As you prepare yourself, the kids, (and your house!) for more indoor playtime, take a look around your house to find what might be used for jumping, sliding, crashing, pushing, swinging, crawling, and bouncing to help your kids get their sensory wiggles out. Consider adding a few of these faves to your playroom to get them moving in new ways!