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4 Play Ideas to Get Kids Moving

Play can be a great way for kids to get the physical activity they need each day.

Body movement is important in so many ways. We usually hear about how important exercise is for our hearts or healthy weight. But the mind and mood are all wrapped up in movement too.

For kids, movement can be sports, dancing, chasing after each other, or an impromptu game of Simon Says. The important thing is moving and stretching joints and muscles—and hopefully at the same time getting brains in the calm and focused "zone."

Sensory input in physical play

For children on the autism spectrum, some pretty particular movements and sensory inputs can get them calm and focused. For example, after a good spin, some kids with autism can focus more on social interactions. For others, feeling joint pressure (like wall push-ups or crawling like a bear on hands and feet) helps them feel more grounded in their bodies.

It can take some detective work to figure out how to get your kids moving in a way that feels good to them. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Pillow play


    Make good use of old pillows (or ones you don’t mind kids stepping on) by playing "the floor is lava," for example. Or, build a good, old-fashioned pillow fort. Some kids love the feeling of pressure they get while reading leaning against pillows; others will want to destroy the fort and rebuild it over and over; while others may pretend the pillows are mountains and caves for their figurines and cars.

  • Indoor obstacle course


    Appeal to kids’ competitive streaks by making an obstacle course. Time how fast they can run it in consecutive turns. It doesn’t need to be complicated ("run to the bedroom, turn around 3 times while singing your favorite song, pick up this stuffed animal and balance it on your head while you walk back to the kitchen")–whatever is silly and safe in your particular home. Let your kids help decide what order the obstacles are in, and even try to run it yourself!

  • Dance time


    Some kids find it easy to dance as soon as good music comes on. Others need some help thinking of how to move their body. Try a challenge where you and your kids take turns making up a dance that expresses an emotion. You can also act out what that emotion looks like in a movie or book character, or try to capture what it feels like to be an object (think: sprinkler!).

  • Chore challenge


    ​​Turn chore time into a chance to get moving. Have kids hop or skip from room to room, picking up their toys. Hand them a garbage bag and challenge them to lunge their way from room to room to empty wastebaskets.


    The goal is to help kids love their bodies and feel confident moving them in ways that feel fun, not like work. It can feel impossible to compete with the ease of sitting on a cozy couch with a TV or iPad, but if you make playful body movement a part of every day, kids will come to love it and expect it.

    More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Melissa & Doug: Our Blog
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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