So you’re stuck at home during this quarantine and your kid is driving you crazy…what do you do?! I’m constantly in a state of searching for activities for my high energy kid, Finn. Aside from displaying the Gospel to my kids, it seems like my #1 daily goal is to get energy out of them! God did not grant me children who will sit quietly and color or read books all day. So I’ve had to learn the hard way how to get energy out of my boys through trial and error. This is some of what I’ve learned.
My strategy for the day is typically to feed them, get energy out of them, and then try to have some quiet time. I’ve found that they will play on their own more independently if those two needs are met. Our day starts with breakfast, a short devotional where we read a Bible verse together, and then trying to go for a long walk or some sort of activity (preferably outdoors) that will help Finn burn off some energy.
So, if you’re working from home because of this COVID pandemic, I highly recommend trying to feed and de-energize your kiddos before trying to get some work done. (Another helpful hint for working from home: try to get as much work done as possible BEFORE your kids wake up. Get the hardest tasks done first, right from the start of the day. Trust me. Try it. You can thank me later.)
A few helpful principles for wearing out your high energy child:
- Utilize muscles that aren’t typically used – this is tiring for all of us!
- Challenge them with activities slightly above their ability. If it’s too hard, they won’t want to do it. But if it’s too easy, they won’t burn off as much energy. It’s a balancing act!
- Be okay with repetition – if something works, don’t be afraid to do it again and again…and again. You’ve probably noticed, kids love repetition.
- When in doubt, go outside. Nature is somehow simultaneously stimulating and calming. God is amazing!
Activity Ideas for wearing out your high-energy kid:
Outdoor obstacle course: okay, okay, we’ve all seen those super moms do the insanely intricate obstacle courses. That’s not what I’m talking about, so don’t get intimidated. We have cones from Tyler’s flag football team and I use those, but you could use plastic cups or even small bowls as markers for your obstacle course. This can be done in the backyard on foot or we’ve done these obstacle courses on Finn’s tricycle in our cul-de-sac. I simply set out the cones with twists and turns for him to navigate…over and over again. He especially loves it if we make it some sort of race or competition. We’ll pretend he’s a motorcycle racer and he has to win the race. Or, if we’re in the backyard, we’ll pretend he’s a football player and he’s jumping over and around other players!
Animal exercise game: This is particularly great for days when you’re stuck inside. Crawl like a crab, hop like a bunny, stand on one leg like a flamingo… You can print out this sheet, cut it into cards and shuffle them. I recommend printing a few copies so you can do each exercise more than once. You can do as many sets as you want, or put on a timer. This game is adjustable depending on your child’s age and ability. Bonus: they can color the animals and this game is great for animal recognition.
Teach them a new skill: You know how whenever you learn something new, it wears you out? This works the same way for our kiddos. Whatever the new skill is, they’re opening up new neural pathways in the brain – which is hard work! So teach them something – anything – new: how to fold their laundry, cook an egg, or ride a bike.
Dance party: this is my go-to activity when trying to get energy out of Finn. And it’s so fun! If your kid isn’t much into dancing, you can always try some action songs such as these.
The “how many” game (also can be called the “I bet you can’t do ____ game”): I learned this from my friend Dina, who’s a mom of 4, when we had a play date at one of those indoor mall play places. Her youngest son was climbing over a giant plastic turtle and she said: I bet you can’t jump off of there! And he did. Then she said: I wonder how many times you can jump off of there in a row…so he jumped off of the turtle over and over again. The wonderful thing about this “game” is that it can be done anywhere, over anything. I bet you can’t do 15 burpees. I bet you can’t run up and down the stairs 10 times. How many jumping jacks can you do? Let’s count!
Have them exercise with you: I’ve been doing 15-minute Momma Strong workout videos lately and occasionally I’ll invite Finn to join me. He’s not quite coordinated enough to do all of the exercises, or to do them accurately, but he has so much fun doing them! And it’s tiring. For both of us! Ha.
Speed scavenger hunt: This can be done inside or outside and there’s a few different ways you can do this: you can either have your child collect several items for you to hide OR you can create your own list of items for them to find. Have your child go in their room or close their eyes while you hide the items and then set a timer (this will help them to run from place to place!). Make sure your hiding spots vary in difficulty so they don’t get too discouraged if they can’t find anything – or find them too quickly! We’ve done this outdoor scavenger hunt and Finn loved it: Life With My Littles Scavenger Hunt.
Sidewalk Chalk Course: This is a fun one! Using sidewalk chalk, set up a course for your child to hop, jump, step and balance their way to exhaustion. This video shows a rather long course, but you can make it as short or long as you’d like.
Balancing games: balance forces them to exert themselves in atypical ways. How long can they stand on one foot? Can they walk across this balance beam (which could be a line of painter’s tape on the floor, or a spare 2×4 from the garage)? Once they master that, can they walk on their tiptoes across it? Freeze dance is another great balancing game that will get them moving!
Tree climbing: or, really, any kind of climbing! Climbing is exhausting and it’s really a full-body workout. If you don’t have trees or a jungle gym at your disposal, you could always challenge your high energy child to see how many times he/she can climb up the stairs on their hands and knees.
Smashing ice: The simplest version of this is to hand your kid a mallet/hammer and let them smash ice cubes (we usually do this on our porch or in the driveway). We let Finn use a rubber meat tenderizer mallet like this one from IKEA. I’ve also let Finn smash dried pasta or broken toys. If he’s smashing anything other than ice, I usually have him wear sunglasses or his protection goggles from his science experiment kit. To amplify their interest, you can freeze small toys in an ice cube tray for them to “excavate.”
Balloon toss game: Blow up a balloon and either toss it back and forth between you, or you can try to not let it touch the ground! For older kids, you can add more balloons to get them really moving. Or add tennis rackets for extra fun!
Don’t touch the lava game: This can be done indoors and outdoors. Inside, you can use blankets and cushions to set up a rock-jumping course. Essentially, the floor is the lava and the cushions/blankets are the “safe zone” rocks. At one of our parks nearby, there’s a series of large rocks that Finn likes to jump between and we play don’t touch the lava. He loves it!
Wrestle mania (or tickle time): Laughter is the best medicine! And, also, it’s exhausting. Have you ever laughed so hard that the next day your abs hurt? Exactly. So get to tickling. Or wrestling. It’ll be a fun workout for everyone involved! You can set up a “wrestling arena” on a rug or blanket with cushions around.
Tape jumping games: I’m not sure if you can tell, but I love using painter’s tape for lots of different activities! For this game, you can use painter’s tape on the floor. You can start by putting 6 lines on the floor about one foot apart (adjust based on your child’s height) and have them jump in between them. You can switch it up and have them jump on one foot or jump backward. Here’s some more activities you can do with 6 lines of tape.