Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rainy-day movement ideas for toddlers

August is still with us, and the sun is shining. But my thoughts are turning ahead to the upcoming autumn and winter, when Seattle will be shrouded with clouds and weeping with drizzle, and going to the playground will seem far less appealing than now.

I'm already nervous about the transition. We have a very active 2-year-old who needs to move all day to get his wiggles out, feel good, and sleep well.

Rachel's Ramblings had a great post awhile back called "In Defense of the Energetic Child," where she linked to a really helpful list of Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers at a sensory processing disorder site.

Trust me, even toddlers without any sort of processing disorders need a lot of movement in their day, and this list is great at inspiring me to find ways to get Mikko up and moving, even when we're inside.

So I thought I'd share a list of ideas for movement-related indoor activities, and please share any of yours in the comments.

I'm going to assume a few starting conditions, and your mileage may vary. We're in a one-bedroom apartment, so I'm going to assume others might also have limited space to run inside. Of course, you could always leave your home for a bigger indoor space to run around, or brave the weather regardless, but for this exercise, I'm concentrating on home-based activities. Some of them take only a few minutes, and are good to intersperse throughout the day to make sure your toddler has burned enough energy to feel satisfied and get a good sleep when it's time to rest. As I mentioned, I have a 2-year-old, but I think some of these exercises would work for older or younger kids, too. Some will repeat suggestions on the Gross Motor Activities list, since we've used some of the ideas personally. I'm mostly considering things that don't require any particular toys, though if you have ones that work well, feel free to mention them. If you don't have other children around to do all this playing, you'll be burning a lot of energy, too — I don't know about you, but that's something I'm working on anyway (while reading Playful Parenting) — trying not to be so reluctant to get moving and play with my child.

     • This one works really well to get our guy moving. Start doing motions, and invite him to join you, like a really easy Simon Says. "Touch your toes, march in place, jump up and down, touch your shoulders, turn around," etc. This can go on as long as you want, or as long as you can think up motions! For older kids, actual Simon Says might add a fun challenge to the game. For younger kids, just following the instructions in the first place can be enough of a challenge!

     • Do nursery rhymes and songs that have motions. I used to think that I would instill in my children a sophisticated musical taste — no need to dumb it down, I thought. Well, I don't know about other people's kids, but my son can't get enough of "Wheels on the Bus," "The Itsy-bitsy Spider," "London Bridge Is Falling Down," and "Patty-Cake." Also especially good for easy bilingual learning of body parts is "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" in your target language. Older kids will enjoy hand clap combinations and ball-bouncing or jump-rope rhymes from your childhood. I remember attaching a Chinese jump rope to sturdy chair or table legs worked well when I didn't have three people to play! Try also hula hoops, baton twirling, and making up your own cheers with pom-poms. Come on, you never wanted to be a cheerleader?

     • Blow bubbles and clap each one to pop it.

     • Make or buy your own bean bag toss game for some safe indoor throwing.

     • Speaking of which, you might not have a safe space for throwing balls around, but I've found that kicking balls from one person to another along the floor is lots of fun for little toddlers. For non-walkers or as a change of pace, you could also try rolling balls to each other.

     • Build very high block towers, and then do what comes naturally: Knock them down!

     • Jump out of doorways and closets, or crouch behind furniture to surprise someone. This is a good respite activity for tired adults, because you can get the kids to do all the running, while you stay mostly still in a succession of hiding places! (Ask me how I figured this out...)

     • Let your toddler crawl under the covers on the bed, and then play like you can't figure out why — this — bed — is — sooo — lumpy, as you push on the wriggling, giggling mass. Bed covers also make a great tent.

     • As long as you're on the soft surface of a big adult bed, play some games that might be dangerous with a harder fall: horsey and airplane and wrestling. I found out by chance that Mikko loves a new game we created. I kneel on the bed, and he clambers around behind me and holds onto my shoulders. Then I fall face-first on the bed while he hangs on and rides down. He ends up landing mostly on my bum, which — trust me — is a soft landing. It's like a toddler roller-coaster!

     • Jumping is also fun on mattresses or mini-trampolines or off stools. If your kids are too young to jump by themselves (ours hasn't yet managed to get any air), hold them under the arms or by their hands (not as physiologically recommended, but generally too fun to resist) and jump them really high yourself off of something bouncy.

     • If you're still over that soft surface, might as well hold them upside down for awhile. Get them used to gymnastics early! Mikko's started naturally getting into a handstand pose.

     • If you have stairs inside, babies love climbing! Particularly if they're nice and carpeted, bumping down on your bums can be fun for everyone. Climbing and balancing along ledges or across furniture is also fun if you have the stomach and set-up for it. My parents even rigged a rope over a doorframe for my wannabe-firefighter brother when he was a preschooler so that he could literally climb the walls.

     • Speaking of how cool my parents were with danger, my dad installed a really long rope-and-board swing in our playroom when I was in elementary school. Our ceilings there were 12 feet high, but something sorta similar might be a possibility. Swinging indoors sounds divine still!

     • Have one of those big, inflatable birth/yoga/pilates balls? Babies love to bounce, bounce, bounce on top, with some help with balance.

     • Kids love music, and you might as well introduce them to the fun of instruments before all the joy is sucked out in music classes or lessons! Collect a bunch of cheap musical instruments whenever you see a good one in a toy shop or thrift store. Good choices for little kids include kazoos, shaker eggs, little drums, maracas, anything else percussive or shakeable, harmonicas, and recorders, and if you have adult instruments, they'll enjoy supervised time with them as well. Mikko can turn on and jam on my electronic keyboard by himself, and he loves unpacking and fooling with my guitar, violin, and flute. Granted, parts of my guitar and violin are now broken, and my flute is dinged, so either lower your standards or don't say I didn't warn you about the supervised part!

     • Once you've gotten some rhythm going, start dancing along to some recorded music, or put on your own parade!

     • If you have enough people and space, break out the rainy-day favorites from your own childhood, according to age level: Duck, Duck, Goose; Ring Around the Rosie; Leap Frog; Red Light, Green Light; Mother, May I?; freeze tag. Oh, the fun!

     • Kids don't have the same distinctions between work and play that we do. Unless something has already managed to condition them otherwise, toddlers and young kids will enjoy cleaning with you. Mikko loves pushing around a huge broom or dust mops, and I make sure I always break out multiple feather dusters if I want to use one for myself. Have antsy but helpful kids make multiple trips to put trash away or run little errands from one room to another. And is it just Mikko, or do all toddlers love emptying objects out of bins? This isn't so much cleaning as messing up, unless you can convince them to empty the objects into another receptacle!

     • For preschool or older kids who understand the concept of time, try timing simple actions, like getting dressed or brushing teeth. Make your kids race from a certain spot, perform the action, and then get back to the starting spot within a certain time limit. Be certain to call out updates and encouragement. This is a good way to trick kids into doing something boring, fyi, and always used to work on me!

     • Hop in the bathtub and splash around.

     • Build a fort with couch cushions and old sheets, or score a discarded refrigerator box for extra points.

     • Spin around and around till you get dizzy. Once your toddler is dizzy enough, you can quietly back out of the contest and just help them watch out for sharp corners.

     • Depending on space, room layout, and flooring, your kids might be able to ride trikes or scooters or roller skate (does anyone use regular old roller skates anymore? Well, you know what I mean) in the house.

     • Set up some real or substitute bowling pins — maybe some shatter-proof but heavy plastic bottles or block towers — and then take turns rolling balls to knock down the target.

     • If you have equally fidgety pets around, give your kids the task of flicking a fishing pole toy for cats (as a former cat sitter, let me forcibly recommend the awesomeness that is Da Bird and caution that you will be disappointed with any other pole toy) or rolling balls and tossing toys for the dogs.

     • Try some imaginative play like pretending you're all certain animals and crawling, running, and flying around making appropriate noises. Or make believe you're driving a bus around the house and picking up passengers in the form of stuffed animals and dolls. Let the bus get faster and faster.

     • As we know from babywearing, even being carried counts as motor activity, because it stimulates your child's vestibular system of balance. If you have a high-weight carrier, you can still carry your toddler or young child around while you get something else done, or try piggyback or horsey rides if your back or knees can stand it!

     • For a special but made-up occasion, throw an impromptu un-birthday party! Make and break your own piñata, play Pin the Tail on the Donkey complete with blindfold and lots of spinning, and blow up and toss balloons around (also a safe throwing activity for indoors!).

And that's what I've come up with! That should keep them busy for a minute or two, right?

Seriously, give me any more ideas in the comments! I can always use new ones to store away for the upcoming loooong winter.

Running girl photo courtesy Clover_1 on flickr (cc)
Block tower photo courtesy Squiggle on flickr (cc)
Piano player photo courtesy sean dreilinger on flickr (cc)
Toddler wielding brooms photo courtesy ju-leo on flickr (cc)
Splashing in the tub photo courtesy Monroe's Dragonfly on flickr (cc)
Piggyback ride photo courtesy sean dreilinger on flickr (cc)


B said...

Did no one comment on this awesome post?? I don't have anything to add at present but it was just the sort of thing I was looking for. Some really fabulous ideas! Thanks! :)

Lauren Wayne said...

Ha ha! I think that was back when no one was reading my blog. :) So glad you found it and like it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post! Great ideas.

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