Stuck Indoors? Five Activities to Manage Pent-Up Energy

Stuck Indoors? Five Activities to Manage Pent-Up Energy

By Michelle Mady

The coldest winter months can be the longest months for parents of young children. Younger toddlers are starting to get really mobile; climbing on everything. Older toddlers have pent-up energy. Throw in the limited opportunities for indoor activities due to the current pandemic, and what are parents to do?

Not to worry. Here are five quick and easy-to-prepare activities to help you stay sane this winter.

Plan an Indoor Scavenger Hunt 

Send your children around the house to find certain items. For younger children, as young as mobile infants, you can “hide” a stuffed animal or lovie in places and help them find it. You can tweak the difficulty for older children. Have them find toys that you hid, things that are a certain color, items that you need to collect for dinner, or items that start with a certain letter. Be specific with something you are looking for as they get older so they can’t just grab the closest thing to them. Hide something in a bin of blankets for your toddler to discover, moving each blanket out of the way. 

Set Up a Pillow Obstacle Course

Create an obstacle course in your house. Use a stack of pillows for your child to jump on or climb over. Painter’s tape on the floor or rug is a great way to guide the course. An X on the ground may mean jump up and down; a squiggly line on the floor to follow has children walking in new ways. Use a chair halfway through your course to climb over, under, or even through. A cardboard box can double as a tunnel to climb through. Look around your house for items you already have and get creative with your course.

Include Some Screen Time

I know -- you don’t hear these words too often. But there are wonderful online resources that have come out, especially in the last year, to help children increase movement when we can’t get out of the house as much. Check out Cosmic Kids Yoga to participate in a yoga story.  Check out Go Noodle for some silly dance along songs. There are a lot of Preschool Movement songs to be found on YouTube, which feature songs with directions and not a bit of animation.  Jack Hartmann’s songs and albums are a particular favorite of ours at home. Dance along with your child for a bit of parent/child movement fun!

There are wonderful online resources that have come out, especially in the last year, to help children increase movement when we can’t get out of the house as much. 

Play an Animal Movement Game

This one is a hit with older toddlers and up! Here’s what to do:

  1. Start by asking your child to “go to sleep,” but just pretend.
  2. Let your child lay on the floor and pretend to sleep for a few seconds, then yell, “Wake up, Lion!”
  3. You child will jump up, crawl around, and roar like a lion. As they pretend, you can sing, “Roar around, roar around, roar around lions … then go back to sleep!”
  4. Repeat this game and keep it fresh for calling out different animals (birds, worms, fish, cats, and butterflies tend to be favorites). You can also call out yoga moves, vehicles, or favorite characters to act out.

Play “Cinderella”

Okay, this one might be more for us than them, but I clearly recall having a blast pretending to be Cinderella when I was younger.

Grab a bucket of soapy water, some rags, and let the kids wash the floor. They won’t do a great job, and you may have to rewash it later, but it works out just as much energy and as many gross motor muscles as an hour at the playground. You can also spray some soapy water on tables for them to wipe down. A favorite activity in my classroom is washing toys. A bin of soapy water with paper towels to clean the toys and another with clean water to rinse the toys. Use these activities to keep up with some cleaning and work out some energy on the way.

It may be a long winter this year, after having had a long year. But if we can tap into some activities to support their energy level, we can make it through the season. Let’s hope for a mild winter and an early spring! 


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.

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