Your youngster doesn't need to go out to have fun, so bring the indoor playground to him and he'll have a blast with all the stuff you set up just for him. You can customize the toys and equipment in the room to correspond with his interests and developmental stage, and when you're in the middle of cold and flu season, it will be nice to know your child won't be climbing, sliding and bouncing on equipment that's been touched by hundreds of little hands.
1 Set up a ball pit in your youngster's very own indoor playground. The bright-colored balls provide toddlers and preschoolers with visual and tactile sensory stimuli. Larger ball pits also massage the body and provide a child with a sense of buoyancy.
2 Place one or two playhouses in the playground to encourage your child in her imaginative play endeavors. You can purchase the playhouses or transform giant cardboard boxes into upcycled playhouses that your child can customize -- and she'll learn a little about creative recycling, too. Transform the cardboard boxes into castles, pirate ships, spaceships or cabins with some tape and child-safe paint.
3 Add a toddler- or preschooler-sized soft structure. While the giant inflatables and enormous play structures at commercial indoor playgrounds might seem tempting, they are often designed for an older playgroup and could be dangerous for very young children. Soft play structures provide a safe place for your child to improve muscle and motor skill development, spatial orientation, balance and even hand-eye coordination.
4 Place a variety of rockers and ride-on toys in the playground if there is enough space in the room. These will help your child get some energy out while helping him develop his gross motor skills, too.
5 Install shelving against the wall -- make sure it is anchored securely to the wall -- and fill the shelving with fabric bins full of dress-up play accessories. You can also use the shelves to store other play items and install a small curtain rod next to the shelves to hang your child's dress-up costumes.
6 Pick up giant foam blocks for your child to use for building. These blocks are easy to use to build houses, walls and any other creation your child can imagine, and won't hurt your child if she steps on them during play.
7 Set up a child-size table and chair set for arts and crafts to encourage creative and fine motor skill development. You can keep the supplies in a fabric bin high on the built-in shelving to prevent your child from getting to them and decorating the walls.
8 Install a child-safe swing in a ceiling joist. Instead of a traditional child's swing, choose one that your child must climb in with a pod-like seat to keep her safe and install it low to the ground. The swinging motion can actually help your child with vestibular (motion) development, helping her improve her balance and smooth movements. If you're not the handiest when it comes to home renovations, have a professional install the swing to make sure it is done properly.
Items you will need
- Ball pit
- Soft play structures
- Rockers and ride-on toys
- Wall shelving
- Fabric bins
- Foam blocks
- Child-size table and chairs
- Child's pod-like swing
- Child's Play: Montessori Games and Activities for Your Baby and Toddler; Maja Pitamic, et al.
- Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth; Dorothy Singer, et al.
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images