Indoor Exercise Activities for Children

Exercise is essential all year long and an important part of both physical and mental well-being, but cold weather often keeps us indoors and less active in the winter. Unless there are extreme weather conditions or extenuating circumstances, playing outside in the winter is safe for children and adults. That said, physical activity does not always have to be outdoors. There are fun – and safe – ways for you and your child to get your hearts pumping at home. 


Children and adults need to move their bodies regularly. The amount of exercise is dependent on the age of the child. Children five and younger need to be physically active throughout the day in order to grow and develop. Children and adolescents over the age of six require at least one hour of daily physical activity to stay healthy. 


Many children will meet the hourly recommendations when they are interacting with their friends. Bike riding, running, playing sports, and climbing on playgrounds or in trees are part of their daily movement. The most important form of exercise needed for children is aerobic activity, meaning an activity that will make their heart rate go up. Muscle and bone strengthening activity is also important, and is often attained by climbing, jumping or running. For older adolescents and teens, individual or team sports and activities are often the main source of these types of exercises, while younger children are likely to meet the requirements while playing. Encourage your child to move and explore their environments in a safe way, and provide opportunities for them to have fun while exercising. 


Physical activity does not have to be done outdoors. With some minor adjustments and planning, it can be done safely indoors – even if you live in a smaller space. 

  • Dancing and yoga are two great indoor activities for your family. No extra equipment is needed; yoga mats can be replaced by a blanket or towel, or not used at all. Dancing can be turned into freeze dance where you dance as long as there’s music, and freeze when it stops. 
  • Musical chairs are similar to freeze dance, but require chairs and at least 4 willing participants. Grab a chair for all but one participant, place them in a circle and start the music. Walk around the chairs until the music stops, quickly sit down to move on to the next round. The person who did not get a seat waits for the game to start over, or does jumping jacks for one round and jumps back in after the next round. 
  • Other indoor activities include jumping, small obstacle courses, crab walking, tumbling, and balancing. A great way to encourage young family members to move is by challenging them to get from point A to B without walking. Have them crawl, hop, leap or dance instead! 
  • An indoor scavenger hunt can activate their mind and body as they compete with you or their sibling to complete their list of items spread throughout the home. 
  • Purchase a pack of balloons and keep it out of sight from the kids. On rainy or cold days bring it out and let them get creative. Balloons can replace balls and make many sports more indoor appropriate. Try balloon soccer or volleyball


Many video games these days encourage physical activity. If your child has a video game console, look into finding a game that incorporates movement. Digital channels such as YouTube also make it easier to find fun child- and teen-friendly activities to encourage movement. Yoga channels, dance tutorials, indoor exercise videos and more are available. However, keep in mind that screen time needs to be thoughtfully managed and monitored. 

Read more about kids and screen time and how to keep them safe online in our previous blog posts.  


Cold and rainy weather does not have to prevent you from going outside. Unless there is an extreme weather advisory in effect, it is safe to go outside if you dress appropriately. For the winter, dress yourself and children in layers and be sure to use hats and gloves to keep warm. Take a family walk, go sledding, build a snow castle, play a round of tag, bring bikes or scooters out if it is not icy or snowy, or work together to clear the snow off the car and driveway. 


Spending time outdoors is vital for improving your mental health. Children who spend more time outdoors have an easier time focusing and paying attention. Outside play promotes creativity and critical thinking and research shows that kids who play outdoors have less stress and aggression. Try to go outside for at least 20 minutes each day, as it is beneficial for you and your child. 

Learn more about the benefits of outdoor play and how to keep children moving.