Skip to Content

30+ Active Play Ideas for Busy Days

“Mom… the leaves are changing color and it’s going to be fall then winter,” my four year old informed me the other day.

I tried reeeeeallly hard to ignore that little detail! I do love the fall season here in New England, but it’s also one of the busiest times of the year with school starting, then holidays right around the corner.

Colder weather also slows us down, keeping us inside, riding in the car more often. So I’m already planning ways to build active play ideas into our busy days.

This post is in partnership with Horizon Organics and I received compensation.

Here’s my strategy for building active play into busy days

Schedule it in: 10-15 minutes right after school is done or after dinner is the perfect slot of time to do something active with the kids. Plan it and make it part of the routine.

Find small moments: take the 5 minutes after each time you park the car somewhere to have the kids run around, stretch or do some activity.

Save time with quick snacks: make it easy to pack a lunch or take a snack break with a few pre-packaged foods like shelf-stable milk cartons, pretzels, or yogurts. The time you save can be your next “small moment” of activity!

For 20 years Horizon Organic has been providing healthy organic milk, cheese, and other organic dairy products. We want to help supply families with the tools they need to be healthy and nutritious.” –

Keep track: use an app or even a small notebook to jot down when kids got some activity in – maybe just by noting a small star into your calendar. I always find it helpful to see how much we’re actually doing, and it keeps me accountable when I notice a stretch of days with little to no activity!

30+ Quick Active Play Ideas for Busy Days

What can you do in just 5-15 minutes to get the kids active? Here’s a big list!

For the Car – keep a few handy items in the car for some quick playtime at the park or in parking lots (also works for at home too!)

  • Bubbles – kids love to blow bubbles and love to chase them!
  • Frisbee – throw it back and forth a dozen times and you’re done!
  • Inflatable ball – easy to store, quick to blow up – have a little toss around while mom puts the groceries in the car
  • Horseshoes – most parks will allow you to set up this quick and easy throwing game in the grass
  • Jump Rope – great for solo kids or groups
  • Relay Races – when you have no props, just go back and forth running!

For the Driveway and Backyard

  • Sidewalk Chalk – not only is expressive, but kids have to move around a lot to draw large pictures. Or they can draw….
  • Hopscotch – all that hopping is fast fun!
  • Recyclables – build with large boxes destined for the trash
  • Ring Toss – set up cones or even a stick and toss a rings made of pipe cleaners if you don’t have an actual game set
  • Nature Walk – you’ll be surprised what you can spot in your own yard
  • Obstacle Course – we all have plenty of items in the yard to go under, over, or around
  • Gardening – older kids can plant fall bulbs, younger kids can dig up weedy spots – there’s lots of movement in gardening!
  • Tag – simple and effective
  • Catch – again, it’s the simple ways to get active that sometime get overlooked. Grab a tennis ball and just throw back and forth a dozen times a day!
  • Ladderball – this is one you’d have to buy at the store, but a very fun game that builds hand-eye coordination
  • After dinner walk – this is one of my favorites, and easiest!

For the House

  • Art Easel – sounds simple but just getting kids UP from the table or couch to draw and create gives them some activity
  • Clean House – why not get some help dusting and sweeping? It’s important for kids to be family helpers and it gets them up and moving. Depending on age, kids can:
    • Dust
    • Vacuum
    • Sweep
    • Return items to their proper room
    • Water plants
  • Act out a story – put a selection of favorite picture books in a pile like a deck of cards. Have kids pick a book and then act out that story for their siblings or friends.
  • Scavenger Hunt – either hide some pennies around the house, or make a list of items for them to find.
  • Bean Bag Toss – can be a gentle way to get some physical activity inside the house (also great for the driveway). No bean bags? Use a funnel to partially fill a few balloons with rice or corn and tie off.
  • Hide & Seek – if you’re brave! 🙂
  • Indoor Golf – use painter’s tape to put some large cups on the floor, then use gift wrap tubes and a light ball to play!
  • Gift Wrap Sword Fights – again, if you’re brave. Or have a basement! 🙂
  • Marching Band – create instruments out of household items (pasta in a box, wooden spoons on a bowl, etc), and have kids march around the house playing
  • Paper Airplane Throw
  • Indoor Bowling – either with a game set, or set up empty toilet paper tubes and use a lightweight ball
  • Ball Pit – if you have younger kids, use a pack n play, older kids you might inflate a kiddie pool and fill with those play balls for some fun. This can get a bit messy but it’s so fun!
  • Balloon Toss – balloons take up no space until you inflate them, and are easily disposed of afterwards – this is a great item to keep in the car as well for a quick game.

All these active play ideas are easy to do, use just a few or no props, and can be done just about any time and anywhere! See how many you can check off in the next month! To make it easy, I’ve created this free printable – 30 Active Play Ideas for Busy Days – for you to keep on your fridge or bulletin board! (Click the picture to open and print!).

Active Play Ideas for Busy Days

Also… check out my list of ideas for a Kiddie Workout – active play for the littlest set! And more great resources for a healthy back to school routine can be found on the Horizon Back to School Pinterest Board!

This conversation is sponsored by Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.