Keeping kids active is an ongoing challenge, especially in the era of smartphones and video games. Although many families build playground equipment in their backyards, some climates are too rainy, cold, or hot to allow year-round use outdoors.
Indoor gyms are an excellent solution for kids, and they can be customized to suit their age and interests. It's easy to install a few basic pieces in the corner of a playroom or the basement.
The focus for kids gym equipment needs to be a balance of fun, safety, and developmentally-appropriate activities. Some equipment choices depend on the child's age, but many items can grow with the child for at least a few years. Here are eight great home gym ideas to keep your children happy and healthy.
Trampolines are both easy and fun for children of all ages to manage. Children under the age of five will require supervision to make sure they consistently jump vertically, but once they have the hang of it, they can use it on their own.
Trampolines help build leg and core muscles and are also a good test of kids' balance. If you have more than one child using the gym, make sure they understand that only one child uses each small trampoline at one time. You may want to buy a second one if needed to avoid conflict, but make sure to keep them a few feet away from each other to avoid collisions.
Thick ropes with a few knots in them are perfect for kids who love climbing. They provide a good workout for the entire body, especially if you increase the distance between knots over time.
Keep in mind that climbing ropes can be a challenge for kids of any age who lack the upper-body strength to do them at first. Kids may need lots of prompting to practice using it if they can't manage it the first few times. However, once they hit second or third grade, they should manage the rope like a pro.
Monkey bars are generally easier for kids than climbing ropes because kids have to move themselves sideways, not upward, and can use their swinging motion to build momentum. However, monkey bars still build excellent upper body strength and hand-eye coordination.
Monkey bars for children up to third grade should be no higher than 5 ft. off the floor to help prevent serious head injuries. If you decide to build your own monkey bars, make sure the bars are spaced no more than 1 ft. apart so your children can swing across safely.
Rock Climbing Walls
Even if your gym area's ceiling is not very high, you can take advantage of your horizontal wall space to build a space kids can climb across. Moving horizontally is still an excellent workout and test of children's creativity.
Include an assortment of rock sizes and shapes, and make one portion of the wall contain a more difficult variety of rocks farther apart from each other. Also, remove a few rocks over time so children can continue to challenge themselves even as they master the wall.
Steps and Ladders
Although they seem basic, steps and ladders provide good leg and arm exercise. A set of steps or ladders built into a playhouse is a good starting point, but since they take up so little horizontal space, consider installing an additional ladder near a slide or rock climbing wall.
Ladders more than about 3 ft. high should have a mat underneath them, especially if a child under the age of five is present. However, they are generally safe for kids' gyms, especially if they have wood or plastic-covered steps to help prevent injuries.
Slides are not necessarily a source of exercise in and of themselves, but they provide great motivation for younger kids. Putting a slide at the top of a tall ladder or other structure provides fun for kids over and over again.
Make sure to put a mat at the bottom of the slide, even if your gym floor is carpeted. Kids can launch themselves down slides at considerable speeds once they are old enough to push with their upper arms.
Foam tumbling blocks provide a great climbing and playing surface for very young children. As they get older, children can also use these blocks to jump and roll or build towers and forts.
Tumbling blocks are great supports for children practicing gymnastics. Ideally, your child should be enrolled in gymnastics classes to safely learn how to do somersaults, bridges, and other basic skills. If not, then make sure to show children how to do these skills without risking neck or head injuries.
Swings and Trapeze Bars
Although people usually think swings are for the outdoors, small swings can be installed in individual homes. Doorway swings and swings that hang from horizontal bars are great for kids as long as there is enough room in front of and behind them.
Trapeze bars and rings are another fun choice, especially for elementary school children who have upper body strength. They provide a wider range of potential exercises for kids but take a little bit of getting used to. Like with the tumbling blocks, parents should make sure their kids know how to use them safely and place a mat underneath if needed.
Making Memories Indoors
Many schools are beginning to trim back on students' recess and physical education time. A home gym is a great way to engage your kids in healthy exercise, even during cold or inclement weather.
Although putting together a gym requires some careful consideration of each child's age and height, this process can be fun for the whole family. Get creative when picking out monkey bars, tumbling blocks, rock walls, and other kids' gym equipment. There's a huge range of styles and colors to choose from so you can make your gym room bright and playful.
You'll get to see your children master equipment and move on to even greater challenges indoors or outdoors. The resulting satisfaction for you and your children builds confidence that will follow them for the rest of their lives.