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5 Super Fun Indoor Gym Activities for Preschoolers

December 13th, 2018 | 4 min. read

By Gryphon House

Well-balanced nutrition and physical activity are key components of a healthy lifestyle. Many physical fitness and nutrition programs separate the two components. "The nexus of physical activity and contextual learning in exercises can be an optimal, engaging, and enjoyable way of teaching preschoolers about healthy nutrition and exercise," says Deborach Kayton Michals, the author of Up, Down, Move Around — Nutrition and Motor Skills. "By linking nutrition to physical fitness and motor skills, the preschooler will understand the idea that healthy eating and physical fitness go together."

Preschool children need to move and physical activity is a proven pathway to cognitive learning for this age group. Active play provides the most effective learning for preschoolers, giving you wonderful opportunities to influence children's learning in both hemispheres of the brain. Active learning sharpens auditory discrimination and multiple-intelligence learning as children listen to and process information, translating that information into physical activity. A child's attention becomes more focused during physical activity, and a great learning opportunity exists at this peak of focus.

"I started out as a young teacher and dancer, teaching movement education in motor-skill development, creative thinking, self-confidence, and problem-solving," shares Michals.  "As I taught, directed programs, and trained others over the course of more than 25 years, I saw that it was possible to use these methods to teach essential material from the rest of the preschool day. My experience integrating these aspects of action and learning inspired me to incorporate fitness, body awareness, and obesity prevention into a total-child approach."

How Does the Garden Grow?

Support the children's understanding of how different plants grow.

How to Do It

  1. Invite the children to join you in a circle. Teach them the following rhyme.
    Does it grow in the ground? ( crouch down)
    Does it grow on a tree? ( stand up and reach out with arms)
    Does it grow on a stalk? ( arms reach up high)
    Oh! Let me see!
    Does it grow on a bush? ( crouch down with round arms)
    Does it grow on a vine? (stand, reach out with wavy arms)
    Does it grow up a wall? ( bring hands down, then “grow” up with arms high)
    How does it get really tall?
    When I eat all these things ( sway to the rhythm of rhyme, head side to side)
    So healthy and good
    I also will grow
    And grow like I should!
  2. Name a fruit or vegetable,  such as a grape. Ask the children, “How do you think it grows?” Listen to their responses, giving each child a turn to guess.
  3. Tell the children how the fruit or vegetable grows: in or on the ground, a tree, a stalk, a bush, or a vine. “ A grape grows on a vine!”

Food Dance!

This activity is a silly way to encourage children to think about healthy eating.

How to Do It

  1. Ask the children to stand in a circle. Tell the children that you will call out a specific food, and they are to make their bodies in the shape of that food and dance around like they think that food would dance.
  2. Call out a variety of foods such as the following. Some are easier than others, so accept any of the children’s attempts to make those shapes and dance around. (prepare to giggle!):
  3. Let the children call out food for the rest of the class to imitate.

Hello Stretching

Use this simple stretch to greet the children and help them focus.

How to Do It

  1. Ask the children to sit in a circle with a little space between them so they can move.
  2. Ask them to stretch out their legs in a V shape in front of them. They should sit so that their legs are comfortably wide apart.
  3. Ask them to sit up tall and stretch their arms up, up, up in the air.
  4. Encourage the children to stretch their upper bodies over to one leg, while staying in the V shape.
  5. Encourage them to stretch an arm over their heads and wave hello to the child next to them.
  6. Encourage the children to stretch their upper bodies over the other leg, while staying in the V shape.
  7. Stretch the other arm overhead and wave hello to the child next to them on the other side.
  8. Come back to the middle with arms stretching up, up, up again. Wave and say hello to the whole class!

Stretching Safety Tips

  • Warm up before stretching: fast walk, run or gallop in place.
  • Only stretch as far as is comfortable. Do not force or push the muscles. Tell the children to stop if it hurts.
  • Stretch slowly.
  • Do not bounce into the stretch.
  • Breathe while stretching; model the breathing and tell the children to breathe in and out.
  • Stretch the whole body, not just the parts that will be used in a particular exercise.

Walk like an Animal

Try this variation of the game Charades.

How to Do It

  1. Ask the children to sit in a circle. Have each child take a turn walking like her favorite animal. Encourage the other children to guess the animals.
  2. If the children have trouble thinking of the ways animals move, whisper suggestions from the following list:
    - Elephant: bend over, swinging one arm like a trunk
    - Tiger or Lion: crawl on all fours, slowly and carefully
    - Alligator: lie on tummy and push with arms and legs, opening mouth wide
    - Snake or Eel: lie on tummy with arms at the side and wiggle to move around
    - Monkey: pretend to swing from tree branches
    - Dog: crawl on all fours and wag “tail”
    - Turtle: pretend to swim using arms and legs to propel body, come up for air
    - Squirrel or Raccoon: crawl on all fours, stopping to sit on haunches and pretend to eat with hands
    - ​Deer or Antelope: leap around the room

Ball Bounce Cardio

Using an imaginary ball gives cardio benefits and ball-handling skills without a ball to drop and pick up.

How to Do It

  1. Ask the children to line up on one side of the room. Tell them that they will pretend to carry imaginary balls as they move across the room.
  2. Ask the children to pick up their imaginary balls.
  3. Ask them to run across the room while pretending to bounce a ball. Encourage them as they move.
  4. Next, ask them to pretend to bounce a ball across the room and then shoot a basket.
  5. Ask them to side-gallop while pretending to throw a ball in the air and then catch it.
  6. Ask them to gallop or run while pretending to throw a ball in the air and then catch it.
  7. Ask them to gallop or run while pretending to toss the ball from hand to hand. 

Expand It!

When the children are comfortable with pretending to bounce a ball as they move, add music and encourage them to move to the beat.