Gift Guide: The Best Indoor Gross Motor Toys For Active Kids (To Get That Energy Out!)
The best energy burning indoor toys for toddlers to big kids
Greetings! We’re so glad you’ve landed on one of our incredible 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides for Kids. If you’re in the midst of frantically searching for the perfect toy for your child (or niece, or nephew, or friend’s kid, or…well, you get the picture) you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this is where you’ll find it. The gift that will not only get gasps of excitement when opening, but one that won’t be relegated to the bottom of a deep, dark storage bin.
In case you’re not familiar with our guides, we work year-round testing toys with kids of all ages and stages, and feature only the ones that repeatedly knock their socks off. We arrange these gems in our different guides based on a child’s interests because we asked parents how they typically shop, and the overwhelming response was that they search for what their child is currently obsessing over – you know, that one “category” they just can’t get enough of.
Now this guide is slightly different, because it’s not solely based around an interest, but also a need. Kids’ need an outlet for all that physical energy they have stored in their fidgety, itching-to-run-around-and-tackle-their-little-brother bodies (you know it all too well, right?). But what can you do to help your kiddos burn off some energy when you can’t easily go outside in the dead of winter, on rainy days, or times when you’re in the midst of making dinner and not available to supervise your energetic pre-schooler outside?
Well, we have your solution.
We’ve recommended over 30 toys that will help kids stay active, strengthen their muscles and develop gross motor skills, all from the comforts of their own home. We had kids bounce, scoot, spin, jump, climb, balance and stretch out their energy with these toys and compiled only the ones that were easy to use, insanely fun, and got the most use over an extended period of time.
At the end of the day, we can attest to countless reports of stellar nap times and breezy bedtimes thanks to these toys wearing out our kid testers (hurrah!).
All the toys on our list make a great gift (and most are versatile enough to be taken outdoors as well) and can make a world of difference to everyone’s sanity…particularly yours!
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*recommended ages are from manufacturers
Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug (18 months to 50 lbs)
OK, what child can possibly resist these adorable and inviting Wheely Bugs?! Certainly not the kids we had test them out, who were more-than-nudging their way onto these fun critters to take them for a spin. They are super simple to use, with an easy-to-grip handle and multidirectional casters that kids can maneuver using their legs to go backwards, forwards, sideways or in circles.
The body of each Wheely Bug is nice and cushy for a comfy ride, and can easily be wiped clean. They’re low to the ground, have safe rounded corners and are stable enough for even the littlest tikes to climb on and off without constant supervision. The only hard decision here is which animal to choose!
Wishbone 2-in-1 Flip (age 1-5)
We love Wishbone for their innovative, smart and beautifully crafted products, and the 2-in-1 Flip embodies all 3 of these attributes to a T. The Flip is built to last from sustainably-grown birch wood, and can transform from a Rocker to a Ride-on in a matter of seconds - no tools or frustrated searches for the owner’s manual required. This is a great toy to share amongst siblings who may be at different stages of motor development. It’s simple to assemble, and the clean and modern lines make it a piece worthy of a spot in your living room. Our tester’s had a blast on these – rocking and rolling all around the house.
And if you have a pre-walker, you may even consider the Wishbone 3-in-1 Mini-Flip (age 1-3) which can also be used as a walker!
We looked at numerous ride-on toddler trikes, but the Fly Bike won us over with its portability, smooth ride, easy steering and overall stability. It’s the perfect mix of a bicycle and scooter for toddlers who aren’t quite ready for a pedal tricycle or a 2-wheel balance bike. They can learn the basics of coordination, balance and directional steering with ease, and once our kid tester’s started feeling comfortable, you should have seen them whizzing around on these. They can go as fast as their little legs can push them!
And our favorite part: the Fly Bike easily folds for compact storage and simple travel. Bring it inside in the winter, but it also works wonders outside – truly a toy that will get loads of love, and set-up your child for a smooth transition to a 2-wheeler down the road.
Gymnic Rody (age 3-5)
If you’ve ever encountered a Rody, you’ll understand how kids are naturally attracted to these colorful, bouncy creatures…they just want to hop on and go for a ride (and yea, we kinda do too). Their contoured shape and easy-to-grasp ears will help your child's body as they bounce up and down – helping them develop balance, coordination and strengthen their core and leg muscles.
We found that if there’s a Rody in the room, it’s often surrounded by a gaggle of kids eager for a turn. Even kids as young as 12 months can immensely enjoy this well-made toy with a little help in the saddle.
Learning Advantage Step-a-Logs (age 2+)
These Step-a-Logs are the perfect addition to any play room. They extend over 14 feet and can be placed in a variety of formations (from straight to zig-zag) thanks to the flexible rope connectors. The logs have a raised surface to prevent little feet from slipping off and can be stacked on top of each other for compact storage.
We found that kids got super imaginative with these logs, playing fun games centered on getting from one side to the other without falling off (the ground quickly becomes “hot lava”, a “dinosaur cave” or “icky mud”!) and were especially great for play dates or sibling play. Our only gripe is that they don’t have any anti-slip grips on the bottom of the logs, so you either have to add your own, or use on carpet.
2-in-1 Balance Board (age 4+)
A balance board is a great toy for kids (and grown-ups!) to improve their stability and coordination, and the 2-in-1 Balance Board steps up the fun by adding a maze to the base. You need to use your trunk and leg muscles to balance while maneuvering the ball through the maze to “win”. Our tester’s favored this board over several others because of this interactive element, which kept them engaged for lengthier periods of time, and coming back for repeat sessions.
Carrom Balance Board (age 13+)
If you’re looking for an active toy for an older child, the Carrom Balance Board is an exciting and challenging tool that’s perfect for those that love to skateboard, ski, snowboard, surf or participate in other activities that favor balance and agility.
Now let us warn you, there is a learning curve to this – they won’t be able to just hop on and start balancing right away. You need to start on a soft carpeted area and hold on to something sturdy while you get the hang of it, and even doing that is a major core and leg workout…muscles will be burning! But once they do master the balance, they’ll find it incredibly addicting. It comes with a how-to booklet with plenty of tips and even some tricks to try! This got 2 big thumbs up from all the teens we had hop on board.
Folding Gym Mat (all ages!)
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple padded Gym Mat – this piece of equipment got maaaajor love from our kid tester’s, who blew us away with their creativity and overall enthusiasm for it. Not only was it used for gymnastic-type moves like somersaults and cartwheels, but it was quickly integrated into imaginative play games that included running, jumping, rolling and goofy made-up tricks.
Play evolved into standing it up to create forts and barriers, and even long ramps for car races. Younger tots loved the soft surface to practice crawling and rolling, and even the teeniest babies enjoyed the extra padding during tummy time. The panels fold together so you can easily slip it under a bed or into a closet when not in use.
If your kids are home on snowy or rainy days, you need this Gym Mat in your life!
KidO Bilibo (age 2-7)
Now speaking of versatile, meet the Bilibo – an award-winning open-ended activity toy that can be used in a multitude of creative ways. The first reaction for kids when introduced to the Bilibo is usually to climb right in and take it for a spin, or simply hang out in it rocking back and forth. But it was also used as a stepping stone (in conjunction with the Step-a-Logs), a fun sled for stuffed animals (a rope was tied through the holes for this idea), and get this…even a “potty” for some baby dolls! The play options are limited only to your child’s imagination.
Melissa & Doug Happy Giddy Tunnel (age 3-5)
Get your kids wiggling like caterpillars through this brightly colored Happy Giddy Crawl-Through Tunnel from Melissa & Doug. At 5’ long, they’ll burn up tons of energy going back and forth, and in and out of this sturdy yet portable tunnel. It features fun flip-up doors on each end with peek-a-boo windows that the kids absolutely loved – these definitely set this tunnel apart from some of the others on the market. And parents love that it’s easy to collapse into a small, flat circle to tuck away when the sun comes out.
Fat Brain Toys Teeter Popper (age 3-8)
At first glance the Teeter Popper might not look like much more than a balance board, but give it to a child and you’ll soon find out that the creative potential for this toy goes far beyond one use. The kids we had try it out also used it as a seat for lounging, rocking, and spinning, and even for imaginative play as a boat, bridge, doll bed and more. The suction cups on the bottom help provide some additional stability, and make an addicting sound (to them at least!) that boosts their engagement. And a bonus we discovered – these suction cups are compatible with Fat Brain Toys Squigz, (featured in our Best Building Toys Guide) so it makes a fantastic base to build off!
Spooner Freestyle Board (age 3-12)
The Spooner Freestyle Board offers similar play options as the Teeter Popper above, but has the added benefit of allowing older kids to perform some pretty nifty skate-board-like tricks. That being said, we had plenty of 3 year olds climb aboard and spin and twist into fits of giggles, so this is definitely one that can grow with your child, and get years and years of use.
swinging, climbing + jumping
Gymnic Hop Balls (age 2+)
We remember having one of these kid-sized bouncy balls as a child, and the design hasn’t changed much since then…it’s pure and simple fun that kids go back to again and again. You’ll find your children bouncing around like little giggling kangaroos burning off boat loads of energy while developing balance, spatial awareness and gross motor skills (bonus!). (editor’s note: my kids have races on their Hop Balls, make obstacle courses to maneuver through, and sometimes just hang out on them on their bellies. They’re awesome!)
Gym1 (ages 3-12)
If you want to invest in only one toy to keep your kids entertained and active indoors, it has to be the Gym1. This amazing system easily installs into most interior doorways in seconds (and won’t leave a mark!) allowing your kids to safely swing, climb and flip their cabin fever away – all while building upper-body and core strength. The attachments are easy to swap out with simple carabiners, and it can hold up to 300 lbs, so you’re free to hop on and play too (just try to resist!).
Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber (age 3+)
If you have the space in a basement or playroom, the Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber will keep your little monkeys entertained and active for hours at a time. Kids can hang, swing or climb on this strong and sturdy structure that is surprisingly light-weight (and easy to move from one end of a room to another). Assembly is painless (taking less than an hour) and there’s plenty of room for multiple kids to enjoy at once.
And when they’re done with being monkeys, throw some blankets over it to make an unbelievable hide-out! The possibilities with this structure are endless, and at the end of the day, you’ll have happy, ready-for-bed kids.
Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper (age 3+)
Want a toy that will have your kids literally jumping for joy? The Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper will certainly do the trick, and will have them good and tired in a matter of minutes. It has a soft, cushiony base where they place their feet, and a stretchy handle that can adjust to any height (even us grown-ups who deserve a turn too). It makes the cutest little squeaking noise as they jump, which they totally love, and encourages them to keep on jumping.
The new Kidoozie Counting Pogo Jumper (age 3+) even has a counter on the handlebar to keep track of the number of jumps they’ve completed, which we found increased the fun-factor even more as they tried to beat their best score. This Jumper doesn’t require much space, and won’t scuff up your hardwood floors. It’s not an Amazon #1 Best Seller for nothing!
Ever pay an arm and a leg to rent a bouncy house for your child’s birthday party, or take them to a “fun zone” that lets them bounce around? Well imagine if you had your very own that you could inflate within minutes to use for parties, play dates or when the going gets rtugh. The Little Tikes Jump 'n Slide Inflatable Bouncer is small enough to set-up inside, but offers a large jumping area for multiple kids with tall walls, mesh netting, and a fun exit slide. It’s a worthy investment that will literally pay for itself.
B. Mat-A-Matics Musical Mat (age 2+)
We’re big fans of the B. line-up of toys, and their B. Mat-A-Matics Musical Mat was the clear winner of all the interactive musical mats we tested. It has 4 engaging modes of play, including Melody Mix, where your child can step anywhere on the mat and dance along to familiar songs; Super Dance, where they can follow the lights and groove to fun dance music; Wacky Sounds, which lets them bop around the mat to hear funny sounds (warning: this includes burp and fart-like noises…which totally delighted our kid tester’s to no end, but thought you’d like the heads up!). And lastly, Memory Music, where your child can complete nursery rhyme songs by repeating the steps.
The Mat itself is easy to clean, lightweight and simple to fold up and tuck away. And don’t count this one out for older kids…they had just as much fun as their younger siblings!
Educational Insights Magic Moves (age 3+)
The award-winning Educational Insights Magic Moves is just that…magic. It will get your kids running, jumping and slithering around with a simple press of a button. The interactive wand includes 90 fun and creative commands like “run like a cheetah”, “float like a butterfly” or “slither like a snake”, plus colored light shows and a variety of music styles. What we like best about it is that multiple children can play at the same time (editor’s note: my 3 kids age 7, 5 and 2 love to pick this one up on rainy days and laugh at each other’s interpretations of the commands!) and it really gets them moving in a fun and entertaining way.
Magic Moves also comes in a Jammin’ Gym version (age 4+) which includes fitness commands like jumping jacks and arm circles or creative expressions like “Let’s Surf!”. Developed by a trainer, the exercises are kid-safe and will encourage a love of fitness while increasing their motor skills.
This lively, fast-action game turns kids into servers who have to race back-and-forth piling up their customer’s specific order of pancakes without it falling. You can decide how far away to place the pancakes (we found the longer distance the better), and our kid tester’s had the brilliant idea to add additional obstacles in the form of random toys and blocks to increase the level of difficulty.
You can play this game with 2 players, or relay-style with teams – perfect for working up a sweat with the whole family, or playing at birthday parties. Super engaging and one of our kids’ favorites.
RELATED: See more of our top game recommendations: The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
Yoga Pretzels Cards (age 4+)
Getting energy out doesn’t have to mean your children are running wild around the house – taking the energy down a notch by introducing the fundamentals of Yoga can still leave them feeling energized and more relaxed, without all the, well, running. We are huge fans of the beautifully illustrated Yoga Pretzels cards, which feature 50 poses divided into sections like Balance, Stand, Forward Bend, Twist & Stretch, and Partner. There are clear instructions on each colorful jumbo card and up to 5 drawings that break down the pose.
Make it fun and have your kids blindly pick a card or two that you all have to perform to clear your minds before bed, to refresh in the morning, or to take a breather after lunch. It’s a fun and healthy way to teach the basics of yoga and how to calm down their bodies, which is a highly effective skill to have at any age.
Pair this high-quality card set with a Gaiam Kids Yoga Mat to stir up additional excitement.
ThinkFun Yoga Spinner Game (age 5-15)
Another highly-rated option to introduce yoga to kids is the ThinkFun Yoga Spinner Game. The object of the game is simple: be the first to collect a card of each color by performing specific yoga poses for 10 seconds. If you wobble and come out of the pose, you don’t win the card. This game had our kid tester’s not only practicing their flexibility, balance and strength, but also laughing like crazy! The poses are clearly illustrated on each card, and some include partner work for added amusement. We also love how the cards all fit nicely inside the spinner for easy clean-up and portability. Your kids will be down-dogging their way through your next snow day instead of bouncing off the walls.
Ever thought you’d let your kids play a game of hockey inside? Neither did we, until we tried out the Franklin NHL Indoor Hockey/Knee Hockey 2-in-1 set which shrinks everything down to just the right size for fun and safe indoor play. The set includes 2 goals, 2 mini sticks for knee hockey (or the perfect “full” size for toddlers!), 2 height-adjustable street-hockey sticks, and balls for play indoors and out.
You don’t need much space for a great game, and we found that the light-weight nets can easily double as indoor soccer goals and be incorporated into imaginative play (hello forts!).
Boochie (age 8+ but younger kids can easily play with direction from older kids/adults)
We had a ball testing out Boochie, a fast-moving game that is a far cry from your average sit-down board game. To start play, you throw the soft 12-sided Boochie target, and then each player (who get a ball, ring and wrist-tracker) tries to land their ball and ring as close to it as possible. You use the wrist-tracker to keep score (a big hit with the kids), and it gives you silly instructions on how to throw the ball like “toss between your legs” “with your eyes closed” and “while making a sound effect”.
Each game lasts about 15 minutes, a perfect length to keep kids interested, but our tester’s were having so much fun that they kept wanting to play “just one more”. All the game items fit into the included storage bag, and it’s a great one to take outside when the weather warms up.
Spikeball (age 9+)
Spikeball is described as “the result if volleyball and foursquare had a baby” - it’s a fast-paced game that is really gaining steam with the older tween/teen crowd (editor’s note: we saw these all summer long at the beach being played by groups of kids…we wondered what all the fuss was about, but soon realized the immense fun once we gave it a try!). The game doesn’t require a ton of room, just enough to place the hula-hoop sized net on the ground, and for 2 teams of 2 to stand around it. You play by hitting the ball down onto the net with your palm so it bounces back up at the other team. They then have up to 3 hits between them to bounce it back. If they aren’t successful, the other team gets the point. Get to 21 points first to win.
This game gets intense pretty quickly, and requires a good deal of hand-eye coordination and agility, but they’ll soon be hooked…and you may be too!
What's your favorite indoor toy that helps your kids blow off some steam? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.
And don't head off without checking out the other extensive gift guides in our 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides For Kids series:
- The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
- The Best Vehicle Toys For Cars, Trucks for Construction Lovers
- The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
- The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- NOW LIVE! The Best Gift Ideas For Super Hero & Star Wars Lovers
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren't Junk!)
And we're currently working on even more guides, including:
- The Best Personalized Gifts for Kids
- NOW LIVE! The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
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This ultimate guide includes 6 parts:
- Non-Toy Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
- Non-Toy Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination & Special Interests
- Non-Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non-Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non-Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
- The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)