How to Make an Indoor Little Gym for Your Preschooler
Preschoolers are active little learners! An indoor little gym is the ideal solution to fill their need for physical activity. It also encourages creativity, problem solving and sensory learning.
Preschoolers love to explore! They need several hours of physical activity each day. An hour of that time needs to be structured play directed by you. Focus on strengthening their large motor skills. Choose activities that develop balance, spatial awareness and coordination. Pick games that include running, jumping, rolling and throwing. Playgrounds with ladders, ropes, and jungle gyms are great options. The goal is to get them moving.
This structured time is one of the best ways to connect with your child and start them on a life-long habit of fitness. Keep it fun!
Another great option to fill that hour is to enroll them in a kid’s sports program. Gymnastics, dance, martial arts and other indoor gym activities are excellent choices. These programs offer extra physical growth experiences not easily duplicated at home. As you watch, you’ll learn new movements you can add to your at-home routine.
Does Your Preschooler Really Need an Indoor Little Gym?
One hour of structured play is great. But what will your little energy bunnies be doing all the other hours of the day? How will you keep them occupied and happy? Will you sit them in front of some electronic device? No! Instead, create a safe indoor little gym area they can explore on their own!
Keeping young minds, bodies and senses challenged is essential for optimal growth. An indoor play area adds to their large and small motor skill development. They’ll figure out how to manipulate their bodies over, around or through obstacles. They’ll learn what it takes to balance in different positions. They’ll also learn how to solve puzzles and stimulate the creative side of their brains.
Your indoor gym will evolve according to your child’s developmental needs. You’ll discover new ideas to add to or replace others in the allotted space. In the end, your preschooler will be more than prepared for formal school!
What will you need to create an indoor play area?
You already have a variety of useful items you can use to create stations for your gym. For other stations, you can construct some DIY soft gym equipment from materials you have as well. And you can always buy a few things if desired. Once you begin, your own creative juices will start to flow and you’ll come up with even more ideas. It can also be a great toddler exercise area, though you’ll need to provide a little supervision.
This list will give you plenty of ideas to start with. It also includes a few quieter activities. This gives their bodies a rest while their minds remain actively learning.
15 Ideas to Make an Indoor Little Gym for Your Preschoolers
1. Create a Ball Pit
All indoor activity gyms for preschoolers need a ball pit! If you own an inflatable pool, Pack-n-Play or sturdy cardboard box, all you need to do is fill it. Choose colorful, sturdy plastic balls that are still somewhat soft. You’ll find them in various quantities offered by many companies.
Jumping into the pit and hiding or ‘swimming’ in it isn’t all kids can do. They can practice tossing balls into baskets or muffin tins or throwing them at targets. Remind them to put them all back afterward!
2. Set Up a Mini Trampoline
Your curious preschooler is wired to figure out how things work. A mini trampoline will be a physical and mental challenge for them. Trying to bounce while staying centered and balanced takes work! Once they achieve that, they’ll attempt more jumps. Tuck jumps, straddle jumps and pike jumps will follow. They may even attempt jumping and spinning.
Adding a trampoline to your indoor gym will improve posture and strengthen bones. Bone density is formed during these early years, so get them jumping!
3. Hang a Swing
Did you ever wish you could fly when you were a kid? Most kids dream about having that ability. Putting on capes and jumping off the sofa into the air was a thrill – even if it only lasted for two seconds!
Swinging is the next best option. They’ll soar through the air, feeling the breeze on their face. Closing their eyes and imagining they’re Superman gives the ultimate physical and emotional ‘lifts’ for a preschooler!
Beyond the fun, swinging provides a host of other benefits. It develops gross and fine motor skills and strengthens the core. It increases spatial awareness and improves balance. It promotes brain growth as they twist and spin into dizziness! All you need is a pull-up bar added to your doorway or a sturdy beam to attach the swing to.
4. Build a Tunnel
A tunnel is full of unlimited imaginative play ideas. It can become the entrance into a new land or a secret hiding place. A tunnel is one of the best ways to spark creative brain development.
Tunnel play involves a lot of physical and mental coordination. Crawling forwards and backwards requires both sides of the brain to work together. It’s a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens the core, shoulders and hand muscles. It also develops wrist extension that prepares kids for handwriting.
Tunnels can be easily constructed. Attach a few tables or chairs together and drape them with sheets. Or attach sturdy cardboard boxes together. They can be super long or short. Let your preschooler decide!
5. Make a Climbing Wall
It’s hard to beat climbing when it comes to developing overall body strength. Climbing trees, ladders, jungle gyms – all these are challenging and engaging activities. Introduce your preschooler to the fun world of climbing with a DIY climbing wall.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to cut lengths of 2x4s into squares and screw them to plywood. For the beginning climber, safely angle the plywood to your child’s comfort level. A few feet off the ground is good for starters. Continue to raise it, making sure it’s secure, until they’re ready for the full vertical wall. At that point, screw the climbing board permanently in place onto a wall. Make sure you’ve got a large soft crash pad underneath!
6. Put Together a Foam Block Area
Foam blocks are another fun, versatile addition to an indoor play area. They come in many sizes, colors and densities. If you have the space, each type can become its own station.
Foam climbing blocks are the type used in preschool gymnastics classes. If you have the space, they can become a gym in themselves!
Foam pit blocks are soft foam squares, usually six or eight square inches. They’re ideal for building forts, tunnels and pyramids.
Foam building blocks are the obvious choice for areas with limited space. They come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Preschoolers will find endless creative ways to use these. They’re great for developing fine motor skills and problem solving.
7. Set Up a Bowling or Kickball Lane
Adding a bowling lane to your little gym is free, easy and fun! Save 10 empty water bottles in any size. Set them up in the correct bowling arrangement or let your child create a new setup. Find a medium weight ball the right size for your preschooler. A mini soccer ball works great. Use a piece of masking tape to make a line they must stand behind.
That’s it! They’re ready to roll! Add variations such as more bottles, different sizes or shapes. Stack foam blocks instead of bottles. Increase the distance. Have them face backwards, bend over and roll the ball through their legs.
Kicking the ball is also great exercise if your location allows. It improves balance and coordination. Preschoolers must figure out how much force to use and learn how to aim. Once they get the hang of it, their kickball fun will need to be moved outdoors!
8. Build a Balance Board
Balance boards are not only fun, they’ll also improve strength and core stability. Other benefits include increased gross motor coordination, improving spatial awareness and fostering creativity.
Confidence in their ability to balance will reduce fear in many situations. At some point they’ll need to cross the log over a creek or walk over a rope bridge at a park or playground. Give them a head start in the safety of their own gym with a balance board.
They’re super easy to build from materials you probably have on hand. If you have plywood or an old skateboard, PVC pipe and bolts with locking nuts, you’re ready to go! If you opt to buy one, you’ll find an amazing selection to choose from.
9. Create an Obstacle Course
An obstacle course is another idea you’ll want to add to your list of indoor gym activities. This alone can become your little gym! These courses can be as short or long as you like and adjusted to fit any size room or hallway. They can be constructed and deconstructed in minutes or made to last for longer periods. Courses are only limited by the imaginations of those who create them!
Suggestions for starters include:
cardboard boxes to crawl through
masking tape for “drawing” on the floor
chairs to jump off or roll from their belly with hands on the floor
cushions to hop to
cones or other objects to circle or weave through
hoops to jump or hop in and out of
large or small blocks they must stack
buckets to toss bean bags into
You get the idea!
10. Set Up a Balance Beam
Learning to balance is not just a nice idea, it’s an essential skill needed to get through life safely! A balance beam provides a fun challenge to your little gym. Kids gain confidence as they learn to move forward, backward and sideways on a beam. Those with a good sense of balance are much less likely to suffer injuries.
Most sports require good balance. The act of learning to balance stimulates all kinds of brain growth. As your child gains confidence on a low beam, you can raise it little by little. Placing cushions or mats alongside or under a raised beam adds a nice layer of protection.
DIY balance beams are simple to build. A single length of 4×4 inch wood is great for starters. Search for DIY balance beams for kids online and you’ll find pages of results.
11. Add a Cornhole Game
Cornhole is not only popular with adults. Kids enjoy it just as much. Making a cornhole board for your little gym can be as simple as cutting a hole in a sturdy cardboard box. If you want to upgrade, the internet is replete with plans. Add a few bean bags and you’re set!
12. Put Together a Reading Corner
There’s no way to underestimate the importance of reading. Instilling a love for books and reading should begin at a very young age. Build a collection of wholesome, colorful books for your toddlers and preschoolers. Read to them often. Take them to the library and help them choose appropriate books. Keep them supplied with a constant flow of fresh reading material.
Create a cozy corner. This might include a bean bag chair, a soft rug and perhaps a little tent. Add shelves, use crates or stack sturdy cardboard boxes. Make it feel like a private hiding place where they can enter into a new world without distractions.
Their imagination will soar! They’ll be well on their way to a lifelong journey of discovery and learning. A child who becomes an exceptional reader will become an exceptional learner. Be sure to include this in your little gym space!
13. Create a Costume Shop
Playing dress up ranks high on the scale of favorite activities for little kids. Pretending to be a pilot, vet or teacher is great fun. Their choice of costume lets them enter into another person’s role. It helps them to better understand the real world.
Dress up involves changing their mindset. It challenges them to think and act in the role they are now playing. They’ll get to experience new emotions. They’ll have to figure out how to communicate using new vocabulary. It can even result in the beginning stages of empathy for others. Identifying with another person’s struggles is essential for building good relationships.
Take a trip to the thrift store and gather a variety of clothes, shoes, scarves, hats, etc. to add to what you already have. Add accessories to match different roles. Wash them, put them in a dresser or bins and let the fun begin!
14. Organize a Craft Station
Another rest station in your play area should include a craft table. Building the creative side of the brain does not only expand opportunities for more fun. It also teaches kids how to ‘think outside of the box’ and become good problem solvers.
Research has clearly shown that the most significant brain growth occurs by the age of three. Studies reveal that “high quality social and cultural experiences are more critical in the early years for the development of healthy brains and well-rounded personalities than at any other time during the rest of childhood and adulthood. These critical experiences include imaginative, creative and cultural opportunities.”
Set up a table and fill it with art and craft supplies preschoolers can use with little or no supervision. Assign each item its own container. Then teach your child the importance of cleaning up after their creative ventures.
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crayons, markers, and colored pencils
art paper, card stock, construction paper, tissue paper
scissors appropriate for their age
extra fun stuff like play-doh, craft sticks, pom-pom balls
consumable craft/coloring books
household items such as toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, pieces of yarn
sticky back velcro squares and felt
This is a great way to teach organizational skills as well!
15. Set Up a Pattern Block Table
Kids love to play with pattern blocks! They learn to love math without having any idea they’re doing so! Math pattern blocks teach kids about shapes, colors and patterns. They also teach problem solving skills. Difficulty ranges from easy to hard. Try them yourself! Don’t be surprised if you find you’re equally challenged!
Pattern blocks can be made from materials at home or easily found online and in craft stores.
Here’s what a set of block shapes includes:
A multitude of free printable template designs are available online for downloading. Use high quality sturdy paper that resists wear and tear. Or purchase a wooden set that lasts.
There you have it! Fifteen great ideas to get you started on creating an indoor little gym for your preschooler. After you’ve designated a space, choose any of the above activities and begin filling it. You may only have space for a few. That’s fine. Rotate activities when your preschooler needs a new challenge. You can also set up stations in a few different areas in your home instead of occupying a whole room.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Indoor Little Gym for Preschoolers
Most choices we make in life have both advantages and disadvantages. Each new endeavor needs to be evaluated before investing time and effort into it. This is no exception. Here are some things to consider before you get started.
Meets the daily physical activity requirements for preschoolers
Assures active learning and brain development
Minimizes electronic device use which stifles both physical and cognitive development
Adequately prepares preschoolers for kindergarten, avoiding the expense of sending them to an early learning center
Strengthens the parent-child bond as they engage in fun activities together
Encourages independent learning, freeing up time for parents to get other work accomplished!
Limited available space
Some supervision is needed, at least in the beginning
Young toddlers will need to be either supervised on many of the stations or kept busy elsewhere
Limited social-emotional development compared to a structured gym class
Does not provide exclusive training for a specific sport
Is creating an indoor little gym a good idea for your family?
Of course it’s a good idea, but it will take planning, time and effort. Remember: it doesn’t have to be elaborate! Add one or two stations in a room. Keep in mind the goal: providing opportunity for physical activity. Even adding a few of the above stations will spark creativity in your preschooler. Add a friend, and there will be even more!
You can always supplement their physical growth needs. Enroll them in an outside athletic program. Oftentimes you can adapt your home gym to include some of the skills they learn at these classes.
EmethGym provides quality training in gymnastics, ninja and tumbling. Many of our students practice what they are learning in class at home. Our caring coaches emphasize individual progress. Our character training program builds kids up on the inside. That combination has satisfied the needs and desires of hundreds of families. By building kids up both inside and out, we give them the tools they need to be confident, fit and focused leaders.