How to make a DIY indoor active play space on a budget

Late fall can be a difficult time for active families. There’s not enough snow yet for winter sports, but it’s often too cold for more summery outdoor activities.

When my son was younger, we created an indoor active play space in our basement to keep him moving and help him burn off excess energy—and you can too.

Here are some easy and inexpensive ways you can create an active indoor play space for your child at home. 

Getting started

You don’t need to invest in fancy equipment. Here are some cheap, easily sourced items you can use to inspire active play:

  • Bean bags (or several old socks, rolled up for easy throwing)
  • Coloured scarves
  • Hula hoops (get these in various sizes if possible)
  • Some brightly coloured duct or masking tape
  • A pair of oversized foam dice
  • Soft cotton rope
  • Plastic bowling pins, empty milk cartons or plastic jugs
  • A soft plastic ball suitable for rolling or tossing
  • Two empty coffee cans

With these supplies, you can create dozens of fun and healthy activities that can be easily adapted to suit the space you have—even if it’s just a corner in your living room or an empty hallway.

Keep your active play items together in a bin or box, so you can rotate activities and keep things fresh.

If you’re building your active play space in an area with concrete, tile, or wood floor, I recommend buying interlocking foam floor tiles for comfort and safety. They’ll also help you to define your play area. 


Related read: Indoor activities for winter


Activities to try

The only limit is your imagination, so I’ll just give you a few ideas to get started. 

  1. Make a bean bag toss game using the hula hoops and bean bags (or old socks). The hoops can be spaced around the room, with different point values depending on how far away they are or the size of the hoops. Use tape to write point values on the floor inside the hoops. You can even put obstacles like chairs or bowling pins in the way for an extra challenge.
  1. Make a balance beam on the floor using tape. Challenge your child to walk across it in various ways, including toe to heel, taking giant steps, even backwards.
  1. Create an obstacle course, attaching rope between chairs and other objects so the child has to climb over or crawl under. 
  1. Make a bowling alley with the plastic pins and the ball. For an extra challenge, place the pins so the ball has to bounce off a wall first.
  1. Toss the scarves in the air two or three at a time and try to keep them all in the air. The more kids who are playing, the more scarves you’ll need. You can also use balloons for this activity.
  1. Use tape to create a hopscotch game. 
  1. Make tin can stilts. Take the two empty coffee cans, punch two holes across from each other in each can, near the closed ends, and thread some rope through the holes. Make the rope long enough for your child to hold both ends of each rope in each hand. Wearing running shoes, have the child walk around the room standing on the closed ends of the cans (keep the plastic lids on the cans to protect your floors). 
  1. Use tape to create a start and finish line, and have your child race from one end to the other in various ways, including crab-walking, rolling, or slithering like a snake.

You can find even more ideas for playful ways to develop physical literacy in the Activities section of this website.

Tip: You can create a numbered list of activity ideas on a whiteboard or a piece of paper, and have your child throw the dice to decide which activity to try. Or you can download these awesome activity dice.

Now, your turn!

With a little imagination, you can keep your children active and happy no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. Why wait? Start gathering your materials now so your indoor activity centre is ready next time bad weather keeps you indoors. 

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