Winter is on it's way! If you live somewhere that gets large amount of snow and cold, then you can expect your children to be spending more time indoors than out.
Here are some fun activities that can be used indoors or out. It is important to keep your children moving throughout the entire year to encourage physical and sensory development.
An additional bonus for educators, these toys are all low to the ground and portable. That means they can be stored away when not in use and will likely not be affected by state licensing requirements for height. In Massachusetts toys over 18" must have impact absorbing fall zones. Keep in mind that children can fall or slip off toys that are low to the ground and must be supervised at all times.
This is a classic I think we all remember from grade school. For young children, practicing sitting cross legged, laying on their stomach and pulling on a rope, or sitting on their bottom and pushing with their feet all activate core muscle strength.
These inflatable toys help with core strength, balance, and motor planning. They are available in a variety of colors and shapes. Children tend to hold on to the ears, bringing their arms up away from their sides. This forces them to use core muscles rather than their arms for support.
Spin 'N Saucer
This is a neat little scooter that offers a bit more stabilization than the Plastic Scooter. A reason I like this one is that a child is able to spin by pushing the floor with their feet. It is a great way to get the proper vestibular input needed for development.
The Teeter Popper is a versatile toy that offers many play options to many age groups. Crawlers and early walkers can use it to explore balance. Flip it over and they have a hill to climb. Preschoolers can try standing in it, teetering side to side, or sitting in it to spin. Use it upside down as part of your indoor obstacle course.
This is another versatile toy that can be used for spinning, balance, and light compression. Toddlers can use this with help, while preschoolers should be able to explore this freely.
This toy that helps to develop balance, sense of space, and motor planning & coordination. If you are handy, stilts can be made using cans and rope. I recommend this for ages 3+.
While this one isn't a toy, I do feel it offers a large amount of sensory input and movement. It is a chair and they are available in a variety of heights. The idea is similar to using a yoga ball as a seat, but this offers a bit more predictability (since it cannot roll away) and takes up less physical space.
Another blast from the past, the hopper ball. These are great for stimulating multiple types of sensory areas. I like that they can serve double duty as a yoga ball. If you flip it over, the handle serves as a stabilizer and the ball can be used as a chair. Put a puzzle next to the ball and a child can lay on their stomach across the top of the ball to put the puzzle together - now that is some hard work!
Foam Pogo Jumper
This is a fun one for preschoolers and kindergartners. It is a pogo stick, with less falling and less disaster. It is made almost entirely out of foam and it squeaks when you jump! How fun is that? Playing with this toy helps with motor planning, spacial awareness, and core muscle strength.
Spooner Boards Freestyle
Similar to the Teeter Popper above, this "indestructible" curved board offers a large variety of play options. In the company's words "stand, sit, rock, spin, slide, tilt, flop, wobble!" It is suggested that using this board prepares you for learning more difficult sports, like snow boarding and skate boarding.
Monkey Balance Board
The Monkey Balance Board is another balancing toy. It is made of thick wood that holds up to 200 pounds. A bonus to this one is that it is small, so easily stored when not in use. A con is that it is made of wood so will last longer if kept inside.
Another classic that packs a lot into a small toy. Children must sit up straight to use this and put their feet in front. I like using this to help children get away from the "W" sitting position. The ability to have children spin to the right and the left helps to develop both sides evenly. This toy is not for standing on.
If you have the room for one, a mini-trampoline gets out lots of energy while working multiple muscle groups. It is one of my top picks for indoor gross motor activities.
Mini Basketball Hoop
Traditionally, basketball is played outdoors. However, for young children it is usually pretty safe to bring it inside. Bending and reaching offer exercise in a full range of vertical motion. Children are naturally encouraged to use both hands together, moving across the mid-line is a stimulating brain activity.
With the increasing difficulty to add swings to playground spaces (insurance, seriously...), it is important to make sure children get rocking and swinging from other sources. It is a vital part of their development. If you work for a child care center, check regulations to see what can be brought indoors and what is considered an "outdoor" toy. Some states require outside toys to be used outside.
So, there are some ideas. Now I just need to find a way to get this list to Santa!
*Disclaimer* I am not advertising or promoting these particular brands and received no payment for including these products in this post.