Here are a few ways to use random household objects to turn your home into a safe and engaging jungle gym for your kids on rainy days.
Kiddie pools aren’t just for water. They can hold a variety of things such as sand, dirt, balls, and slime. It’s a great way to let them experience sensory activities with their feet, as well as their hands. Make a mess and have fun!
Cardboard boxes are extremely versatile. “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis is a great book to read before you let your children imagine and build. They can be used as parts of forts. Large ones can be used as playhouses. For smaller children, diaper boxes make great cars, and airplanes. You can also unfold them and use them as a slide on the stairs, a mat for stomping and dancing, or as a canvas for foot paintings. Use your imagination and look through the recycling bin for what could be hours of fun.
Cushions and pillows are amazing for forts. They make great hurdles to jump over, and by placing them on the floor you can create a safe way for small children to play “The Floor is Lava”
Painter’s tape is extremely useful. Use it to make jumping lines, balance beams, race goals, volleyball nets. You can use it for hopscotch, too. Some variations could be making shapes on the floor, a spider web, or a house. Combine ideas to make an obstacle course! When you’re done, let your little one peel everything up. It’s a great sensory activity for them, and it encourages helping.
Laundry baskets make great indoor basketball hoops. Let your older children push your little ones, or mommy and daddy can race for family fun. They can also be used as collection spots for games. Tell your children to collect blue toys, or animals, or food, and run to bring them as quickly as possible. You could also hide toys or put them in difficult (but safe) to reach places and have them retrieve and run back to the basket.
Balloons are great. They can be used like a ball for a slightly different take on many different sports and gross motor activities. For older kids, turn on some music, and see who can move and keep their balloon off the floor the longest. For an extra challenge, try it with feet only. (Please supervise with small children, the popped balloons become choking hazards.)
Crepe paper can be strung up to make a finish line. You can also create a web in a narrow hallway, and let your children pretend to be spies as they move over and under the network of lines.
Dryer sheets or even paper towels can be used as skates on hard floors. (It may not be the safest thing, but my grandmother used to trick us into cleaning her kitchen floors this way. Just add a little soap if you think your children can handle the extra slipperiness.)
Plastic cups are amazing. Build a tower and knock it down. Use them as mini-golf holes. If you have enough you can build a castle or an igloo. They also make great bowling pins. You can even arrange them on the floor to be jumped and stepped over.
If you have scrap wood or PVC piping you can use it to build a frame. Throw a sheet or a blanket over the top to make a little play tent.
Making an obstacle course is easy. Take a variety of things and line them up to encourage running, jumping, stepping, balancing and crawling. Set the course and take turns going through it.
Chairs are great for cars, airplanes, buses and other moving vehicles. Lining them up, climbing onto them, is a great way to burn some energy for your little ones. At school, the kids like to pretend they’re on an airplane, and letting them take the lead by asking, “Where are we going?” “Who will we see when we get there?” Is a great way to get their imaginations working.
Finally, forts are so much fun, and you can use literally anything. Use chairs, blankets, pillows, tables, furniture, and make a little nest. It’s more exhausting than you think, and is a great upper body workout for helpful kids who will be happy to bring you heavy-for-them pillows and books. When you’re done, curl up inside with a laptop and watch a favorite show, read a book, take a nap, or pretend to be a bear in a cave.
Don’t be afraid to make a mess. It’s worth it to keep your children active and engaged. Preschoolers are also more than happy to help clean up as long as it still feels like part of the game.
Have fun and stay healthy!
Ms. Ashley and Ms. Bri