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Indoor Sensory Activities that are Perfect for Winter

Updated: Jan 22

We love getting outside and taking advantage of what each season has to offer, but like most Canadians, we spend more time indoors during the cold winter months. This can make anyone feel stir-crazy and can be especially difficult for children who are movement seekers. Without as many safe opportunities to jump, run, climb or move their bodies, you might find that your movement seeker experiences more big feelings in the winter or begins to try out unsafe movement (like climbing onto a cabinet).

While we love indoor swings, dedicated climbing toys and soft play sets, you don’t need to spend any money to create opportunities for your child to explore movement and expend their energy indoors. Here are our favourite ways to get moving that only require items you have in your home:

Obstacle Course

What you need: Any large household items that can be jumped over, crawled through, spun around, etc. (e.g., cushions, large boxes, office chair).

What to do: Set up a variety of items as obstacles. They could be simple (e.g., stickers to jump on an office chair to spin in) or intricate (e.g. a piece of tape on the floor to use as a pretend tightrope) depending on your child’s age and interests. Show your child what to do with each obstacle (they may have their own ideas too!) and take turns going through the course.

Pillow Crash Pad

What you need: Couch cushions, pillows, blankets.

What to do: Create a soft pile of cushions on the floor and take turns crashing into it. You can do big jumps from the couch or run and crash into it.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

What you need: Any soft surface that you feel comfortable with your child jumping on (mattress, indoor trampoline, cushion, etc.)

What to do: Sing the 5 little monkeys song and pause for your child to pretend to fall. They might prefer to pretend to fall themselves, or have you lift them up and “fall” with them.

Animals Races

What you need: A clear space on the floor.

What to do: Take turns picking animals and pretend to move the way that animal does (e.g. hop like a bunny, crawl like a bear).

The Burrito Game

What you need: A blanket and throw pillows.

What to do: Pretend to make your child up as a burrito by laying them down on a blanket (the tortilla!). Pretend to add in different toppings as you toss each pillow on. You child may like it if you “chop” the toppings and give them light karate chops on their back. After you add all the toppings, wrap your child up in the blanket like a burrito. This can be a great activity for children who enjoy squeezes and pressure.

Tips for success with sensory activities

Don’t put pressure on it:

Some children are reluctant to participate in new activities or don’t respond to explicit instructions to engage with you. You can encourage your child to explore the activity by setting it up and getting started by yourself. This could look like setting up a pile of pillows and jumping onto them on your own. You might feel a little bit silly doing this, but showing your child the activity as opposed to giving them an instruction can go a long way!

Follow your child’s lead:

Once your child gets into the activity, they may have their own ideas about how to play. Encourage their ideas by imitating what they are doing and telling them have much fun you are having.

Incorporate learning opportunities:

Sensory activities provide ample opportunities to practice language and social skills. Practice taking turns doing the obstacle course and cheering each other on, or change up the monkey song to have the monkey bump their head, foot, arm, etc. to practice different body parts.

Switch it up:

If your child seems less excited about an activity than normal, that could be a sign that it’s time to change it up a bit. Setting up new obstacles or making a new pretend food can make the activity feel different and more fun!

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