Parents of toddlers, I feel compelled to check in with you: Are you ok? Has all that little-kid energy created a vortex in your living room or a black hole in your kitchen or—I don’t know—made them spontaneously combust? Anything seems possible right now!
I remember the toddler years (they have a way of burning themselves into a parent’s psyche). I was a stay-at-home mum in those days, and I recall how getting out of the house, to a playground or a splash pad or anywhere, was key to maintaining sanity.
I also remember how long the winters felt, all cooped up inside long enough that we parked a mini-trampoline and a hopper ball and a toddler slide in the living room. And still, my son was going to preschool or we were going to my in-laws’ house for dinner or, you know, just leaving the house occasionally.
What I’m saying is, you are all on my mind. The fact that your kids’ energy has probably physically manifested into some sort of mythical force is on my mind. So I asked our Offspring Facebook group for any and all suggestions for running our kids and their energy into the ground—and they came through.
If you have room (and money) to spare
This is going to seem very unfair and annoying to those of you living in small apartments or those of you who live in small homes with tiny backyards and unfinished basements. (Or, you know, if you have to watch what you’re spending right now.) But I would also encourage you to reconsider what you define as “too big for our home,” because these are not normal times. These are times to push the chair no one sits in off into a corner and replace it with a mini-trampoline.
So, that’s my first suggestion. We had one, it sat in the middle of our living room for a full year (maybe two). We had to walk around it to get across the room, and we were constantly pushing and pulling it out of the way, but it was worth it. If you can afford it and you have a few feet of space to spare, it’s worth it.
Of course, if you really want to go big, you could opt for the full-on bounce house. My sister-in-law just set one up this week and sent me a picture of my very pleased two-year-old nephew. If ever one was to splurge on such a thing, now would be the time, is all I’m saying.
You could also try a pikler triangle, which can range from super basic to pretty elaborate. I’d endorse the small-slide-in-the-living-room move, too.
If you’re tight on space
A bounce house isn’t an option for everyone. It wouldn’t be for me, either, thanks to an unfinished basement with low ceilings and a narrow backyard that slopes. But if you’ve got a little money to spare, Facebook group member Michael says this balance board is the best $30 he ever spent.
My son had something similar—called a Spooner Board—when he was little. He’d balance and shift back and forth on it while he watched TV, and it made screen time feel a little more acceptable because he was doing something physical at the same time. The Spooner Board was pricier, though, and didn’t have that cute monkey face staring back at him.
Another good one was recommended by Eric in our Facebook group (and backed by me, because I think this thing still lives in our basement): The Kidoozie Pogo Jumper. It’s soft and low to the ground and zaps a lot of energy quickly. (It’s fun for adults, too, FYI.)
One last option that looks to be great for small spaces: This indoor “playground” that hangs from a doorway. It’s not great for tight budgets but it could be a saviour for those with no outdoor options.
Free ways to get them moving
While having all the right gear is great, you don’t have to go online-shopping-crazy to get your kids moving. Try these free, screen-based apps and shows that are popular right now:
GoNoodle. Kids love GoNoodle’s dances and games, and they probably already do it in school so there’s a good chance it will be familiar to them.
P.E. with Joe. Joe will be your family’s physical education teacher while we’re stuck at home. It’s become an instant favourite among parents of young kids.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures” ideas
You’re probably already getting very creative in how you’re getting your kids to move around right now and use up that energy, but here are a few more ideas if you’re getting stuck in a rut:
Have a hallway? No, you have a raceway. Challenge them to run up and down the hallway. Time them and see if they can beat their own personal record.
Create your own obstacle course. Use whatever materials are within reach. Have them jump over things, climb under things, crawl across the couch; and then do the course backwards.
Have painter’s tape and a hard floor or low-pile carpet? Make your own hopscotch game. (I have also done this with bubble wrap, and it is awesome.)
If all else fails, pull their mattress onto the floor and let them jump. No one knows, no one cares, no one is judging.