Oh man, has anyone else’s kid decided that they just want to climb all.the.things in the past few months or is it just mine?? 🤣 I know how important it is to get those “zoomies” out in order for kiddos to get good sleep, but when you can’t get outside to run around and play how are little ones supposed to exert that energy??
Since we have a ton of crummy weather days here in Seattle (as you can imagine, lots of rainy, soggy days for the majority of the year and then even some unhealthy smoky air days in the summer due to wildfires) I have curated an idea list of products for active indoor play to use with Sophie and I thought I’d share them here too! At the bottom of the post I’ve also linked my favorite resources for finding play activity ideas when I’ve gone through all of my usual favorites.
We’ve had a long stretch of rainy weather in Seattle lately, so I’ve been employing a fair number of these to just get through each day. 😜 I hope you find them to be helpful too!
INDOOR ACTIVE PLAY
This item is a favorite among parents who are employing the Montessori method with their kiddos because while it doesn’t take up much space, it is great for open-ended play and little ones get exposure to multiple different kinds of muscle use / balance.
I found a few more options that offer additional configurations (which ultimately means more ways to play!) and I think that they feel a bit like outdoor playground equipment for kiddos.
If you’re a parent, you are likely already aware of the madness around “the Nugget” configurable couch / foam play gym. It’s apparently the best on the market and when stock is low there is a freaking RAFFLE WAITLIST. It’s the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze of this generation. Admittedly, this product is way more beneficial to kiddos creative, cognitive, and motor skill development than a Tickle-Me-Elmo toy. 😉 The brand will occasionally offer new prints and colors for the covers and even recently launched a waterproof liner that you can put on between the outer cover and the foam pads inside to prevent damage from spills! These are some suggestions for how to use your Nugget for playtime!
The Nugget is certainly worth the hype, but there ARE other options that will work just as well. I’ve linked some of those alternatives in the widget below.
*EDIT SEPTEMBER 2023* I just discovered these adorable attachments for your play couch that will create even more options for playtime with your little ones! So cute, right? I also love that they can be rolled / folded up for easy storage. While I acknowledge that these accessories don’t exactly encourage active play I still felt like they were worth sharing as another way to enjoy your play couch!
Akin to the previously mentioned configurable gym shapes, but instead of converting into a possible couch, these curved shapes will encourage alternative kinds of imaginative play. I have also seen parents rave about this item that is a blend of the Montessori Pikler and the curved foam shapes.
I can see the value in both items being dual purpose (for both play + chill); it just depends on your space and how your little one prefers to play!
If you don’t really have the space for the previously mentioned shapes, I still recommend getting a padded floor mat. These are great for tumbling, jumping, and general romping around (awesome for watching a kids’ yoga or exercise class). These are easy to fold up flat so they can be stored under furniture or in a closet when not in use, but I feel like they would be great to keep out all the time!
Balance Beams // “Rocks”
Playing “the floor is lava” was always one of my favorite games to play as a child and we are carrying on the tradition with our family! The balance beam can be used starting at a younger age, but the “rocks” may be better for slightly older toddlers (read: maybe not great for the ones that are still learning to walk – haha).
One great thing about both of these options is that they don’t take up much space and are easy to put away when your littles are done playing with them as they quickly stack / disassemble.
This one is another great option for small spaces as it collapses flat for easy storage! Such a simple-yet-fun item to add to your home for play… and the perfect addition for an indoor obstacle course!
This featured slide is not only aesthetically pleasing (yes, I am a “sad beige” parent if you haven’t noticed that I prefer a neutral aesthetic — haha), but I also like that it includes a basketball hoop and a ring toss hook on either side of the slide stairs so it can really be multi-purpose for indoor activities!
One slide option in particular is ideal for small spaces because it is (1) customizable in length, (2) easy to “install” because each piece rests directly on your stairs, and (3) convenient to store due to their stackable nature and are slim enough to easily slide (ha!) under a bed or stand upright in a closet.
I absolutely adore how sturdy and comfy the foam ball pit options look, but as someone with limited storage a collapsible version makes the most sense for our household. And since we need to be able to put the ball pit away when not in use, I really like the idea of having a designated container to keep the balls in.
I love this one because it looks like the safest option for a trampoline (which are inherently dangerous and normally make me quite nervous!). The fact that it’s inflatable means that there are no springs or spaces for tiny limbs to get caught in and I love the mesh sides to prevent big tumbles!
Bonus: it deflates which means that it should be fairly easy to store.
I’ve included a few additional options for indoor bouncing in the widget below.
This one definitely requires SPACE so it’s not going to be the best option for everyone, but I had to include it in my list because it’s probably the prettiest bounce house I’ve ever seen (no circus colors here!!).
For the record, this item can be used both inside and out so you’re not restricted to using it only in either space, BUT since we’re specifically looking for ways for kids to be able to exert their energy indoors in this post that’s the aspect that I’m focusing on. I just wanted you to be aware that this investment item can also be used outdoors if you have a yard you want to use it in when the weather is agreeable.
INDOOR, LOW ENERGY ACTIVITIES
Of course, you already know about the usual coloring, reading, and imaginative play suggestions for hanging out indoors. Those are all great for helping to minimize screen time, but sometimes watching an ~hour long movie or a few episodes of “Bluey” on Disney+ is what we need and there’s no shame in employing that resource. I enjoy following @thegamereducator for tips on how to manage screen time and for teaching Sophie how to self-regulate (which are skills we weren’t taught as kids because the technology was so new!).
I also love following @busytoddler for easy indoor play ideas to keep kiddos occupied for a little while. I think that the activities are especially brilliant because not only are they easy to set up, but they’re also usually pretty easy to clean up (thank you, Susie)! I truly enjoy actively playing with Sophie, but sometimes I have things I need to get done and she needs her own independent play time so these play ideas accomplish this for both of us!
I will say, there are some days that we just NEED to get outside so we gear up with the right shoes and outerwear and just resign ourselves to the fact that that getting wet or muddy is going to happen. I can definitely tell when Sophie hasn’t had enough time outside to play and explore… it’s so grounding to get fresh air and be out of the house, especially when you’re immersed in nature. A few ideas could be: gardening (either at home or a community garden), playing on a playground at the park (playground finder app), splashing in puddles near your home, or taking a little nature hike (you don’t need to make this a huge endeavor… even just exploring a little green space nearby where you live totally works). 1000 Hours Outside is an excellent resource for suggestions and inspiration for getting outdoors with your little ones!
I hope this is a helpful resource for you when your kiddos are just bouncing off the walls.
Please feel free to share any of your tips, favorite activities or play products in the Comments section below for other parents needing additional support!
It takes a village to raise little ones and we’re all in this together.
Sending hugs —