Editor’s note: This article was updated on Jan. 6, 2023.
Outdoor play is great, but what happens when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate? When we find ourselves stuck indoors on nasty, stormy days, or days that are unbearably hot or cold? Well, while the kids may think they’ve just gone to Minecraft heaven, and you momentarily delight in the silence that settles around as they “plug in,” you may soon find they’re climbing the walls.
Somewhere between the zombified-forklift-them-off-the-couch-and-surgically-remove-the-gadgets zoned-out state and the poke-at-their-siblings-until-they-scream restless state is your cue to stage a get-up-and-move intervention. Think of it as feeding your child a snack before he gets hangry.
Psst! Moms and dads: Remember that kids learn by example, so why not include the whole family with these tips for get-off-the-couch fun that you can have in the comfort of your basement?
1. Dance party
The Just Dance series of games are a fantastic way to burn off pent-up energy. Comfy, airy clothing is a must because you will work up a sweat in about three songs! No game console? No problem. Host an impromptu living room dance party which is as easy as putting on some favourite tunes and rocking out.
2. Scavenger hunt
This takes a little extra prep — great for getting an older sibling involved. Set up clues around the house and have a treat or surprise waiting at the end (maybe a delicious smoothie). The twist? Each clue contains one activity the kids must complete before moving on to the next one. For example, have them hop 10 times on one foot or do a crab walk. Once the chase is on, the kids won’t even realize they’ve been off the couch!
Indoors? Yes! We once had an actual hopscotch set made of interlocking mats. But it’s just as easy to put down painter’s tape on the basement floor (best spot for jumping). Use Lego blocks in different colours as markers and the game is afoot.
4. Obstacle course
Push back the couch, zamboni the Lego out of the way, and suddenly you realize how much play space there actually is in your basement. Setting up a timed obstacle course is a great option (again, ask an older sibling to help out). Use plastic hoops, foam mats, balls in different sizes (to either kick along, toss, or roll), mini hockey sticks, plastic pylons, or plastic cups — whatever you can find. With a little imagination, any combination can make for a fun race against the clock.
5. Indoor basketball/soccer/hockey/catch
Despite what you might think, kids can play in the most restrictive of spaces, especially when you don’t want them to. Obviously, if you have a wide, open basement, these games are great. But even an over-the-door basketball net and foam ball is an unobtrusive option (if you don’t mind the loud “thump” every time your children smash into the door while testing out their dunking abilities).
This classic game tests strength, flexibility, and resilience and is fun for the whole family. Haven’t got your original box stashed away somewhere? Get creative and make your own version. Instead of the dots, mark “X”s in coloured tape (electrical tape or duct tape) in a 4×6 grid pattern on the floor. Instead of a spinner, create 16 cards/pieces of paper: one each of the left/right foot and hand in each of the four colours. Mix the cards up in a bag or hat and each turn pull a card from the bag.
7. Hula hoop or skip rope
With enough space (and a high-enough ceiling) so they don’t bump into someone or something, have a little friendly competition. Moms, I’ll tell you right now, your hula hips will thank you.
So the next time your kids complain that they’re bored, or you’re looking for something to get some flush back into their zombified cheeks, get them off the couch with one of these fun activities.