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Why have great basement toys?
A great indoor gross motor play area (in your basement or elsewhere) will help your kids grow their motor skills, increase balance and sports skills, help with sensory regulation, and allow you a bit of sanity. Below is a list of some of our favorite toys we keep in our basement. A lot of these toys were originally purchased for my oldest son who has Autism. They helped with his motor delays and sensory integration struggles but they have been equally successful and fun with his little brothers who are more neurotypical. One of the twins has hypotonia and a few of these toys were very helpful in him making progress on increasing his muscle tone.
The Basement Toys
Kids need to bounce. The motion and input are regulating to many kids and it will burn a lot of energy on rainy days. We love this 36 inch folding trampoline. I did not want a trampoline with a bar (I didn’t want to worry about one kid pushing another into it) but having seen my twins jump super high on this little tikes trampoline at their occupational therapist’s clinic there is definitely a lot to be said for having a removable bar. That’s a personal preference so I’ll leave both options here.
I love our ball pits. We started with what my husband calls our “sensibly sized” pop-up ball pit. We had this ball pit tent at our smaller town home. We kept it folded in the closet with the balls in a garbage bag and popped it up with my son needed to swim in the balls. Even if you don’t have a dedicated open space for your equipment lots of these toys can be stored in a closet and pulled out when you want them. Despite having a larger ball pit now we still pop this one out of the closet and use it all the time.
When we moved to the ‘burbs one of the upgrades was in ball pit size. We got the Fun and Function Air Lite Ball Pit. It was an expensive purchase but was absolutely worth it. This ball pit has been used countless hours for the last two years and has no no wear and tear on it. It has been used at a ball pit, a tent, a cave, a bounce house and more! I will warn you at one point or a few all the balls will end up out of the pit. Speaking of balls I have tested a few types and these packs of 200 are the best we’ve had.
If you aren’t familiar with crash mats they are basically giant pillows to crash into. You can jump on it, climb over it and wrestle on it. Climbing on and out from under our crash mat has greatly improved my twins’ muscle tone and balance and crashing into this mat is highly regulating for all my boys.
A giant ball has been a lot of fun. I originally meant to put it outside but it was given to us for the holidays so it went in the basement and hasn’t come out. The kids jump on it, roll on it and throw it at each other.
Do you remember scooter races in elementary school gym class? This is the type of scooters I’m talking about. The boys love scooting all over the place on these and they are great for their core strength and coordination.
Hopper Balls (Hippity Hop was the popular brand in the 80s) are another classic from my childhood that my kids are now starting to like as well. I particularly like the ones we got from Fun and Function and they have held up well.
The Ogo Sport is a fun toy that goes both inside and outside at our house depending on the weather. It is essentially two paddles (I like the ones with handles) and a squishy ball with a tail on it. It sounds a little weird but it’s a great toy for practicing eye hand coordination without smashing up your house too much.
Step 2 Train
I was actually not originally sold on this toy (it was a gift). Not because the step 2 train didn’t look fun but it really only does one thing: the train goes down the track. That said, I was wrong. The train does definitely only go down the track but the kids practice taking turns, ride on it together and it has helped my twin who has hypotonia’s muscle tone. When we got the train he was absolutely opposed to going down it. His core was not strong enough to make it comfortable to go down. We slowly worked on it and he gained the confidence to try it with support and now knows how to go down it.
We also have a mini slide in our basement. It was originally outside because our bigger play set was too big for one of the twins to comfortably used but I decided to test it out in our basement and it has been a success. If and how big a slide you want in your basement is a personal choice but having a small one allows the kids a chance to climb without a huge safety risk.
Buying floor mats was another large purchase but well worth it. We have this type from Amazon on a couple of the walls so the train can run into them and also on the floors. These have the right amount of firmness and squish to both be useful when the kids fall on them but also when my husband drops weights on the floor.
I hope this helps you decide on some great toys for your basement or other play area! Check out my article on great fine motor skill toys for more ideas to help your child develop great motor skills.