Bringing Motor Play Indoors for Young Children

An example of an indoor obstacle course. Photo provided by Canva
An example of an indoor obstacle course. Photo provided by Canva

By Hayley Jackson, Extension Educator in Lancaster County

With the cold weather and shorter days during winter, it is sometimes hard for young children to get all of their energy out. Although there may be days when children are able to go outside to play during the winter, there are many times when it gets dark too early or the weather conditions aren’t conducive to playing outside. Gross motor play involves the movements we do with our whole body, such as throwing a ball or running. According to the National Association for Educators of Young Children (2018), gross motor skills help children with their coordination, balance and core strength. Gross motor play typically happens outdoors, so what can we do on those days when you can’t get outside? Here are a few fun and creative ideas to encourage gross motor play indoors:

• CREATE AN OBSTACLE COURSE. Using objects you normally find around the house, such as chairs, books and plastic cups, you can create an obstacle course for your child to maneuver. You can encourage them to crawl under chairs, hop over books and throw small balls into plastic cups in order to complete the obstacle course. If there are multiple children, you can time each child and have a competition to see who can complete the course fastest. One way to expand this activity is to have the children create their own obstacle courses after you have shown them how it’s done.

• GO NOODLE. Go Noodle is a free website ( that has tons of different high-energy videos for children to engage with. Some of my personal favorites include “Heartbeat” (where you run in place and do other various exercises to get your heart pumping faster) and “Fabio’s Meatball Run” where children help Fabio dodge various obstacles on his way to deliver meatballs to his grandmother. Go Noodle has hours of engaging active videos that allow children to expel some of their energy in the comfort of their living room.

• INDOOR BOWLING. Indoor bowling is a great way to get some energy out and have fun as a family. You can use empty 2-liter pop bottles as the pins and then any kind of ball as the bowling ball. Children can even take the time to decorate the bowling pins and these materials are great to reuse the next time they are bored and they aren’t able to play outside.