Stay & Play: Keeping Your Children Physically Active While Out of School

Written by: Jenni Hamel, DPT

Now that we are all finding ourselves spending more time at home with our kiddos, we may be needing to dig deep to stay active. The U.S. Department of Health and Human services recommends that children between the ages of 6-17 partake in one hour of physical activity every day.2 For children ages 2-5 there are no precise guidelines, but this age group is recommended to have short bursts of time spent doing physical activity throughout the day. Going for walks or riding bikes outside are both good ways to burn off energy and stay active, but what happens on days when the weather is 20 degrees with 25 mph winds? Going outside may not be an option and we may have to be a little more creative to keep the activities interesting while we are all home. I wanted to provide some fun ways to stay active and allow our kiddos fun workouts in the comfort of your home.

One of my favorites is laundry basket pushes or pulls. If you have hardwoods you may want to throw a towel or blanket under a plastic laundry basket to keep those floors from being scuffed. Next, one kiddo can ride in the laundry basket while the other pushes the laundry basket down the hall, around the living room or anywhere there is space. You can even set up a race track to make it more engaging, timing them for each lap completed. Once one kiddo has completed the race track, have them switch places and continue the activity. This is a great activity if you only have one kiddo as well! Just have them load up a few blocks (to give the basket weight) and then some stuffed animals and it can become a parade around the house.

Another great activity is an obstacle course. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as anything that gets us moving will be beneficial. Place items on the ground as targets, things like old hand towels or throw pillows. This allows the kiddos a target for jumping from one foot to the other, two-foot jump to two-foot landing or even walking a tightrope by rolling a towel and laying it on the ground. Consider the safety of the obstacles you are using.  Have them crawl under the dining room table or under two dining room chairs with a broom across the seats to make it more challenging. Another obstacle I like to utilize that may not be readily available are skateboards or scooter boards. Have them sit on their bottom and pull with their legs or lay on their tummy and “swim” with their arms. Anchor a rope or twisted sheet, they can pull themselves forward on the rope while sitting/laying on the scooter. If you want a little exercise you can hold the sheet while they pull closer to you.

If objects aren’t available to make a physical obstacle course, you can create an invisible obstacle course. Imagination can be key to a great playtime experience. You can have your kiddos tip-toe past a sleeping lion (or the family dog/cat), reach up high and walk on your heels or toes to touch the sky, frog jump forward to jump over puddles, crabwalk under the dining room table or even bear crawl around the coffee table.

I like using obstacle courses to help with clean up too. Each time they go through the obstacle course have them rescue a toy from the lava floor. To progress the obstacle course, have teams of two or more giving instructions to a blindfolded participant, but make sure there are no tripping or hazardous obstacles.

Another great activity I enjoy is utilizing a parachute or large sheet.  Use a colorful sheet and have them sit on the ground under the sheet in the middle and have two people holding the sheet. Place stuffed animals or toys on the ground that follows the perimeter of the sheet. Two or more people will be lifting/shaking the sheet up and down rapidly (only about a foot or two) while the child under the sheet crawls around on the ground and tries to collect as many toys as they can in the allotted time. This is a great activity for the kiddo while they are under the sheet but is also great for them if they are helping shake and lift the sheet.

There is always the tried and true wheelbarrow! One kiddo places their hands on the ground and the other (or an adult) grabs their ankles. Make sure the kiddo with their hands on the ground has good weight and feels comfortable with walking forward. Wheelbarrows are another great activity that you can use to navigate obstacles and even have a race track time set up. To make this harder, see if they can walk over obstacles while in the wheelbarrow position.

You can utilize as many or as few of the exercises above; these are just suggestions or ideas to keep your kiddos moving. The biggest thing is to make sure you and your kiddos are getting up and getting moving daily. Research shows that when kids are active, it leads to an increase in blood flow and release of endorphins. Both have shown to improve memory and concentration, as well as improving mood and reducing anxiety.1 With the way things are right now, physical activity provides more than just getting us stronger, it helps our mental health as well.



  1. Singh A, Uijtdewilligen L, Twisk JR, van Mechelen W, Chinapaw MM. Physical Activity and Performance at School: A Systematic Review of the Literature Including a Methodological Quality Assessment. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(1):49-55.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008.