With four boys, our house has a lot of noise and a lot of energy! (If you want a demonstration, just check out the video in this post!) I would say it gets better with age, but my oldest son (9.5 years old) has the most energy of all of them, so I think it’s probably a personality. My 3 year old has a lot of energy too, although he’s not quite as loud. Over the years, I’ve gathered a list of ways that are okay for them to burn off a little steam, because we all know that if high-energy kids have nothing to do, they’re going to find something!
Some of these ideas are good for inside, and others for outside. Also, I think it’s important to mention that for some kids, an activity that requires a lot of thinking rather than a lot of physical exertion is actually more calming. So at the end of the list I have some ideas for kids that will challenge their minds and their creativity. Since I have all boys, most of these ideas will appeal to boys, but girls will probably enjoy many of them too!
1. Hit balloons back and forth with homemade cardboard paddles.
2. Trick Show. My boys love to show off all the amazing things they can do! This game works well indoors or outdoors. Simply be an enthusiastic audience for your kids, and let them show off their stunts (front rolls, amazing jumps, etc. within reason) one at a time.
3. An indoor ball game with one of those cheap lightweight balls from the toy department.
My boys invented a game that they named “Jump It.” Several versions have grown out of the original version. To play Jump It, two players stand across the room from each other, facing each other. They take turns throwing the ball at each other. The other person must jump over the ball, dodge the ball, or catch the ball. If the ball hits them, they lose a “life.” The boys usually start with 8 lives each, and they play until someone has lost all of their lives.
Ninja Jump It: Same rules, but you try to kick, knee, karate chop, dodge, or catch the ball.
Sword Jump It: (This is the greatest version, they say.) Each player has a Nerf sword. The players cannot use their hands in this version, but hit the ball back and forth with their swords.
I cannot tell you how many hours they have spent playing all their variations of “Jump It” this winter! This game works indoors for us because we have a play room. This type of ball does not hurt people at all, but I wouldn’t want them to play it in any room where they could knock down decorative items.
4. Fling cotton balls with plastic fork catapults. This is as simple (and fun!) as it sounds. Or, recycle plastic restaurant cups into ping pong ball shooters!
5. Hold a family backyard olympics. We did this last summer with some running, jumping, and Nerf shooting events. I gave each of the boys a name tag to wear around their necks, and we recorded scores for each person on their nametag rather than having them compete against each other. This idea would also make a fun birthday party or multi-family summer get-together!
6. Throwing ice. Simple, yet so much fun! We did this the other night after a long school day. I took a plastic container of ice out front, and let the boys throw the ice out into the street. They had a blast watching the ice break as it hit the pavement. Then they went out and gathered up the ones that didn’t break and threw them some more, then stomped on what was left.
7. For preschoolers – see how many ways you can think of to get from one side of the room to the other. Think beyond just running or jumping! There are several ideas in this post.
8. Go to a stream or pond and throw rocks. Older kids can learn to skip stones. Kids find it really satisfying to hear that “plunk” when they throw a rock into the water and then watch the ripples form.
9. Invest in a mini-trampoline. Ours has been totally worth it! High-energy kids can bounce for a few minutes to get the wiggles out before sitting down to do schoolwork or homework, and they might even enjoy bouncing while you drill them on their addition or multiplication facts. We own the Fold & Go Trampoline because we wanted a handle to hold onto since Owen was only 2 when we got it. However, you can spend less if you get one without the handle. Our gymnastics gym uses Pure Fun trampolines. (Amazon Affiliate links)
10. Get your kids busy with something that involves the mind. For some kids, active play will only make them wilder! Everyone needs exercise, of course, but sometimes an activity that challenges the brain can be just the thing for soaking up some of that excess energy. For older kids, challenge them to build a bridge out of straws and straight pins or to build a Lego boat that will really float. For preschoolers, try having them cut alphabet letters out of cereal boxes and other food packages. My 3 year old will happily spend a long time cutting and gluing, and he had fun cutting out the letters of his name to make a poster!
More active play from other great kids’ activity bloggers:
Use pool noodles to make an outdoor obstacle course – this looks SO fun!
Use straws to make an indoor high jump! Put out pillows for a soft landing.
Make a Nerf shooting range with plastic cups and Lego minifigures. Awesome!
For younger ones – 15 ideas for gross motor sensory play.
Toddler Tennis – throw soft balls or toys over a rope indoors. Lots of fun for little ones!
Allison Mar 17, 2013
Another great post Sarah! I love the ice throwing game. We play with ice a lot, but I've never given them some just to throw. Great idea!
Emilia Mar 17, 2013
Thanks for the ideas! I'll have to get some balloons and the paddles, it would be the perfect thing to burn excess energy before bedtime. I only have the one boy, but boy, does he have energy! He's only two, and lately into hitting and smashing (his sisters mainly), and I've tried to direct it into a "attack the dinosaur" -pretend play, but balloons would be great for hitting too.
Kys Jun 9, 2013
a pool noodle cut in half works as a great indoor paddle for balloon tennis (my 2yo daughter loves it). We also do 'don't let the balloon touch the ground' a good rainy day indoor game.
sarahelisabeth Mar 18, 2013
I've just pinned this-some ideas that will be very helpful. Thank you.
Esther Irish (@LaughWithUsBlog) Mar 19, 2013
Great ideas! I never did get an indoor trampoline because I thought they'd kill themselves, but maybe the house would be okay. He he! No, really it looks like fun!
Kat Mar 19, 2013
Thanks for including our link! Great post - I bet a LOT of parents appreciate this list!
Kirstylee Mar 21, 2013
This is seriously the greatest list of indoor ideas I have ever seen. That's probably because I have two boys and they have SO much energy. Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas. We are definitely going to play that sword Jump it ASAP.
Denise Mar 22, 2013
Great ideas! I've got to add Lego guys to the Nerf course.
Kelly at Little Wonders' Days Mar 31, 2013
This is a super list of fun active activities for kids. I have 3 kids with A LOT of energy, so we're always looking for good outlets. Ice throwing sounds like a fun one for summer! One indoor activity my kids like are crab walk races. Thanks for linking up to the After School Link Up.
Julie @ Creekside Learning Apr 20, 2013
Sarah, I love this. Totally going to try the Jump It games and the ice throwing. My oldest NEEDS movement like this every morning so that the rest of the day goes smoothly for him and we are always looking for new ideas. Thanks! Pinning now!
Mandy Lake May 28, 2013
I love these activities! My 2 kids will most likely enjoy them! Thanks a bunch!!!
Amanda Jun 23, 2013
When I was a kid my mom was a refrigerator tech at a used appliance warehouse. On Saturday we would go to work with her. When she would test to make sure the ice makers were working properly she would give my brother and me buckets of ice. We would go to the sloped loading dock and "bowl" the ice cubes to see who could get them the furthest in the parking lot. My kids do it now in our drive way. I loved playing ice bowling with my kids!
Ashley Jun 24, 2013
Last summer we did "real life Fruit Ninja". Which was basically water balloons filled to a variety of sizes and one kid (or I) would toss a bucket full at the other kid. The kid getting thrown at has to pop them by slashing them with their "sword". For the sword we happened to have a wooden dowel laying around so they used that. So much fun!
Julie Aug 4, 2013
Some great ideas! I also have four incredibly energetic boys and the giant trampoline Santa brought this past year has been a life saver!
My boys also LOVE to do races across the room.
When it rains the first thing we do is run outside to play! They have found a love for taking leaves and watching them float down the gutter.
Susan Sep 15, 2013
As a Mum of 2 active boys (6 & 7yrs), I appreciate the need for activities which encourge children to burn off energy. Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas. We'll definitely be putting them into action.
By the way, we have a trampoline outside which was one of the best pieces of equipment we've purchased. After the boys have jumped on it, they're able to concentrate on different tasks with greater clarity!
Wendy G Nov 4, 2013
THANK YOU!!! I happened upon your website and tried "The Trick Show" right away. It lasted about 3 minutes. And then a "high jump" competition began (jumping over and landing upon couch cushions) and that lasted about an hour. My boys had so much fun they didn't realize that they hadn't spent the evening on the computer. I had a blast watching them. Tomorrow, we're going to throw the ice cubes onto the street!
Sarah Nov 5, 2013
That's awesome! Thanks for taking the time to let me know how much fun they had!
Christina Apr 12, 2014
Love, love, love this post! I have three very active boys that we homeschool so I'm always looking for energy burners!
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Suzanne Holt Aug 15, 2015
What fun interactive ideas for kids. One other fun one might be letting kids paint a fence with water. Unfortunately my boys are too old now to be convinced of the merits of that activity.
Kaye Swain Jan 26, 2016
Great tips. Simon Says was always a fave of my grandkids and me, along with Mother May I and sometimes Red LIght Green Light. I'd come up with all SORTS of funny and busy actions and it would make rainy days, when we couldn't go to one of our fave parks, a lot more fun and active :) They're almost teens, but one still enjoys doing it once in a while :)
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Chuck Habing @ Bouncing teeter Totters Mar 27, 2017
Good article that I just read so I am late to the comments. I really liked the Jump It games with the different versions. Trampolines are always fun too. Keep Jumping and Bouncing
Emily May 31, 2017
thank you for this 10 ways how my kids can burn energy and make some fun
Fia Oct 23, 2017
I ❤️ Your ideas! ??✋
Paul Mar 8, 2019
I think that play on a trampoline is very safe for your kids
Jenjo Games Jun 27, 2020
Tons of great ideas here ! All kids will definitely enjoy playing these for long hours. I personally involve my young ones in outdoor play. As learning which we get in addition to physical strength is very important for their overall growth. Your blog has given me many more interesting ideas for my kids to have great fun outdoors. Thanks for sharing this!
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