Ugh, It Is Too Hot Outside and My Children Are Going Stir Crazy
By: Teri Roberts, DPT
Kids Place Owner and Pediatric Physical Therapist

An Arizona summer can pose a difficult challenge trying to keep children active, yet safe.  Without a pool, I often find myself telling my two children it is too hot to play outside.  At the same time, I become aggravated with their non-stop energy.  This has to be the hardest time of the year for kids and parents.  With school beginning, our children are expected to behave properly and sit an entire day in school before returning home.  After completing homework, our children must entertain themselves with indoor activities until bedtime.  So when do they have the chance to release their energy?  How can we find a happy medium between being active, yet maintaining an inside pace?

As a physical therapist and parent, I have always been more lenient with outside activities coming indoors.  My kids have always been allowed to throw balls in the house (of course, using a softer ball as they begin to throw harder), jump rope in the kitchen, jump on couch cushions placed on the floor, and do handstands and cartwheels in an open room.  However, these rules are probably not the norm in most households and cannot apply to every household.  So, what gross motor activities are appropriate indoors?

Here are some great ideas for indoor activities that will keep your children safe and active during those long, hot summers and early fall evenings:

Play hide and seek

This is actually a very quiet game, yet children find very interesting places in which to stretch or squeeze their bodies.  They often have to hold various positions for a long time, while their seeker is searching.  You can also make a rule that in order to look for the hiders, the seeker needs to walk like a certain animal or jump on one foot.  Children can play hide and seek for a very long time, releasing some energy in a quiet way.

Play the animal game

You can play this game a thousand different ways.  Sometimes, we will play animal charades, or we complete an animal puzzle while walking like the animal with each piece of the puzzle. We may reach an animal book while acting like the animal, instead of just looking at pictures.

Obstacle courses

You can make your entire house an obstacle course, without breaking anything.  Use couch cushions, pillows, blankets, tape on the floor, tiles of your floor, and/or stairs.  Give your child a sequence of activities to complete and time them to see who can complete the obstacle course with the fastest time.  An example of an obstacle course we use at our house starts in the kitchen with a bear walk to the stairs.  The kids then carry a laundry basket (small with about 5 lbs of clothes) upstairs, walk back down stairs,  hop to the living room, and jump over pillows placed on the floor.  They will then gallop to the family room and perform 10 jumping jacks before skipping back to the starting line.  After teaching my kids how to create an obstacle course, it was amazing to see how many variations they could create on their own.

Kids Yoga

This can be both energy releasing and calming at the same time.  There are many companies that have Children Yoga cards, or you can go to different websites and make your own card (www.playtimeyoga.com).  Have your child look at the card, mimic the position and hold for 30 seconds.  They will have more fun if you do the positions with them.

Although the temperature may be hot outside, it is most important to remember to keep your children active.  As a mother, I know it is easier to turn on the television, or allow my children to play video games, but this creates a horrible habit that will be hard to break once the weather becomes enjoyable outdoors.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should receive more than 60 minutes of moderate to intense activity daily.   In Arizona without a pool, this can prove to be challenging.

Hopefully, these ideas are a great start.  I would enjoy hearing your ideas.  Which indoor activities work for your family?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and contact me directly if you would like additional indoor activities for your children.