Q&A: Getting apartment-dwelling kids enough exercise

Jesse writes:

"My husband and our two active kids (4,7) live in a small, yardless apartment in Vienna.  The kids share a reasonably sized bedroom.  Of course, we have daily trips outside, to parks, hiking, and plenty of activity.  We have a minimum of toys, including legos, duplos, toy cars, action figures, blocks, some board games, plenty of art supplies and we really try to keep the TV off, except for a 20 minute program each day.

But, I really think my kids are getting BORED and I need a break sometimes.  They fight with each other because they do not know what to play, and they are whining to us all of the time that there is nothing to do. I feel like we need some new stuff, ideas, playthings that can be enjoyed for more than just a few minutes. When I was their age, we went outside to build forts in the woods or play kick the can, but that is not an option living in the city.  I love much of the greatness that we have being citydwellers in a cozy apartment, but I find myself dreaming about a home with a yard (which is not even an option for us).  Sometimes, I would just love to have a lazy Sunday morning at home, but where the kids have something to do."

Oh, girl. I feel your pain. The two boys (and two cats) and I are in an 850-square foot 2-bedroom fourth-floor walk-up. We do have a park really close to us, but to get outside we still have to get fully dressed and walk down three flights and the few blocks to the park. This evening my older one was talking about wishing we lived in a house with a yard so he could go outside whenever he wanted to. It breaks my heart.

This is going to sound like a cop-out (because I'm clearly pro video game), but if you can afford it, get a Wii or an xbox360 with the new Kinect system. It will let your kids play really active games together (with each other or with you and your husband or all four of you) inside. Both of my kids are far better than I am at tennis, golf, bowling, baseball, and boxing, and they've worked off a ton of energy on the Wii. It's also an activity they can do together, even at these ages.

Other than that, maybe allow yourself the space to think about what it would mean to leave your apartment and go someplace you could have a yard. I know you say it's not an option, but let yourself fantasize about doing it. How radical a change would you have to make? If you let yourself go there emotionally, the confines of where you are won't feel so confining because it'll be a deliberate choice.

I also think this problem is going to get easier as your kids get older. They'll probably be playing organized sports anyway, and they'll be able to control themselves and do more quiet activities at home, so it won't be such a problem.

Does anyone else have any idea for managing kids who need large-muscle movement with living in a small, yardless apartment?