It’s winter or autumn and miserable outside. You’ve all been indoors all day. Or you’ve been out, but your child is still full of energy, running around aimlessly or loudly bouncing on the sofa. You’ve run out of ideas. He is still full of energy and only movement or sensory activities will get his interest and attention. You wish you could take him to the playground, to slide or swing or jump. But it’s grey and raining, or dark and cold out there. You want to avoid the ‘lazy baby-sitter’ of putting on the TV or sedating your child with an iPad. But you need him to calm down, to stop running or whinging, and to engage in some more focused interactive play. So, what can you do?

I want to show you a simple solution that leads to high-quality physical and interactive play, is easy to set up and store, yet costs very little and provides you with endless opportunities to have fun with your child. It will help you to

  1. engage your child emotionally in fun physical and interactive play, as he’ll need you to help him to ‘make it work’
  2. interact with him in fun movement games that get him to keep coming back to you for more
  3. encourage meaningful communication, as actively ‘doing things’ supports language development and thinking
  4. create opportunities for complex social problem-solving, motor-planning and sequencing
  5. stimulate new ideas and imaginative play together, that are regulating and sensory, or make-belief and symbolic
  6. to give him something to talk about, to tell daddy or gran, perhaps for you to draw a picture together later on, so he can ask to ;do it again’ on the next rainy day

What is it? And where can you get one?

It’s a plank or long piece of wood. Any chance of a plank that could be liberated temporarily from some basic shelving? Or you can buy a plank or long piece of wood from your local hardware or DIY-store.

Add some sofa cushions or pillows, some books or bricks, and your plank is ready to create your indoor gym and become

  • a slide
  • a balancing beam
  • a sea-saw
  • a ‘river’ to jump over
  • a bridge for cars or a train to run down on
  • a house or tent, when laid across the seats of 2 chairs with a sheet draped over it
  • etc

The ideal measurements are a length of 150 cm (or 5 ft) x a width of 30 cm (or 1 ft), and of course it must be smooth with no sharp corners or edges. Cushions or pillows may be needed to soften the ground.

After spending some of that pent-up energy with sliding and having fun with simple physical activity together, your child will be tired, satisfied and much calmer. And then you will both be ready to sit down for some welcome quiet time.


More ideas for playing at home or how to get help with a child, who is aimless, hyperactive or shows autistic-like behaviours can be found here

Main Picture from: Entertaining and Educating your Pre-school Child – An Usborne Guide 1993

16 Key Strategies for DIRFloortime Play

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