Keep Kids Active While Practicing Social Distancing

Schools are closed, events are canceled, and public health organizations are calling for social distancing in response to the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the chaos, you, or a caretaker, are faced with keeping kids entertained and engaged. While so many things feel out of our control, taking an activity break can serve as a welcome distraction, burn some energy and relieve stress. Read on for physical activity tips for kids (or the whole family).

Outdoor physical activities for kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends we all practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the current COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, we should avoid crowds, skip large events and keep a safe distance (about 6 feet) from people who are not family members.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t go outside! The virus is not airborne, so if we keep a safe distance and practice good hygiene, a little fresh air could do us a lot of good. Here are some tips for safely being active outside:

  • Go for a family walk. Take a break from work, the news or the online buzz by getting the whole family (including furry friends) out for a 30-minute walk. If you don’t have a half hour, just do what you can.
  • Shake the rust off your green thumb. Winter weather is beginning to thaw, so enlist the kids to help you in the yard or garden. Pulling weeds, digging holes, planting bulbs and watering plants can get the heart pumping more than you think.
  • Have a family field day. Set up for a water balloon toss, pass the baton, a three-legged race, a crab walk, relay races—the possibilities are endless. Bring a piece of the schoolyard home, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
  • Get back to basics. Remember the days of chalk-scribbled hopscotch, red rover and hula hoop obstacle courses? Relive your favorite childhood games with your little (or not-so-little) ones.

Indoor physical activities for kids

We know you can’t spend the whole day outside—surely work, other responsibilities or the weather will bring you indoors for long periods of time.

You may have to flex your creative muscles a little more to keep kids active, engaged and entertained inside, but we’ve got you covered with these tips:

  • Create a scavenger hunt. Pick a theme, and give your kids cards with clues. For example, try a memory hunt! Hand out cards with clues describing a photo in your home. Have the kids match the memory to the photo, and talk about the memories as a family. (Bonus: Enlist older kids to help with clues.)
  • Try kids yoga. If you have access, try a YouTube search for kids yoga. If not, give the kids 5 stretches and set a 20-second timer for each move. Repeat your “flow” 3 times for a few minutes of active calm.
  • Let them in on grown-up “fun.” Kids often love taking part in the tasks we don’t enjoy doing as adults—like doing the dishes, laundry or cleaning. Ask them to help you with your chores list, taking special care to let them do the work. For littler ones, start a cleaning race. Set a timer and see who can pick up the most toys and put them back in their rightful place.
  • Enlist your furry friends. Let the kids play hide and seek with your household pets. If your pet is used to playing with kids, play an indoor game of tag. Tired kids and a worn-out pup? It’s a win-win.
  • Pretend the floor is hot lava! Put pillows and blankets around a room. The kids must jump from pillow to pillow (or blanket to blanket) as they try to avoid the “hot lava floor.” Remember ... don’t fall in!
  • Have a hula hoop contest. If you have supplies at home, see who can keep their hoop up the longest. We promise this will be fun for the whole family, and the laughs will keep you energized long after the fun.
  • Go on an indoor adventure. Set up a pillow fort or indoor campsite where kids can escape to read, play or learn. From finding supplies to setting up, they’re sure to burn some energy.
  • Use online resources. Virtual resources like GoNoodle are full of games and activities to get kids’ bodies moving and brains working. And they just created a free resource to support families with kids at home due to COVID-19.

When in doubt, dance it out

Dancing is a miracle activity—it requires minimal equipment and is seriously efficient at getting the blood pumping—and there are so many fun ways to work dance into your day that we had to give dancing its own section. Try some of these fun ideas:

  • Simply bust a move. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just put on some music for 5 minutes a few times today to get moving, forget about the chaos and spend time together as a family.
  • Jog their memory. Put their bodies and brains to work by starting a memory dance game. Get in a circle, give them a dance move, and tell each new person in the circle to add a move. The first person to forget the whole set gets to do 10 jumping jacks!
  • Play freeze dance. This one is seriously easy. Crank some tunes, and get the whole family moving. Pause the music every few seconds, and tell the room to freeze! Anyone who doesn’t freeze gets to do 5 toe touches.
  • Make it old school. Remember musical chairs? Set up a game on the couch or at the kitchen table. Last one dancing gets to pick the next activity.