It’s that time of year. The days are shorter, the air is colder. And while snuggling up on your couch under a blanket may be all you want to do, the need for exercise doesn’t hibernate for the winter.
Thankfully, Rachel DeHaven, an exercise physiologist with the Healthy Weight Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has lots of ideas to help kids (and adults!) stay active through the winter, and all year long!
Outdoor winter activities
Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean your kids have to stay inside. Dress them warmly, in layers, with a hat, scarf, mittens or gloves — and boots if it’s snowy or muddy. (A good rule of thumb: Older babies and young children should wear one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear.)
- Go for a walk or a jog.
- Make a snowman, snow fort or snow maze on snowy days. Lie in the snow to make snow angels. Throw snowballs. Go sledding.
- Chase bubbles. If it’s cold enough, they will freeze.
- Try a winter sport, like skiing, skating or snowshoeing.
- Go to a playground, play tag or kick a soccer ball if the ground is dry. If it’s warm enough for bare hands, shoot baskets.
Around the house
Clear some space in your home for active play, so your children can enjoy moving around without risk of hurting themselves or breaking something.
- Put on music and dance. Try using glow sticks to make it extra fun!
- Play games that require movement. Twister is a great example. Simon Says and Charades require no special equipment, and you can make them as active as you like. Break out the Wii or Xbox Kinect. (Find more ideas in the article “Tips for Making Exercise Fun for Kids.”)
- Create a “move jar.” Fill it with slips of paper with words, phrases or drawings that call for movement. For example, animals or movements like “monster walk.” Have each child pick a movement for you to do together.
- Set up an obstacle course or jumping area with cushions and pillows for a young child.
- Engage in active play with toys your child enjoys, moving with toy cars and trucks around the house, or pushing a baby doll in a play stroller.
- Use tape to make a hopscotch pattern on the floor.
- Set up an indoor basketball hoop, if you have the space, or put out a tumbling mat. Bring out jump ropes, hula hoops or riding and push toys. Have hallway races.
- Install a pull-up bar or set up an area for weights for an older child. Try physical activity apps such as Nike Training Club and Sworkit.
Community play spaces and sports facilities
- Find out if there’s an indoor play space in your community for younger children.
- Check your local recreation center for classes and activities for older children. Look for a YMCA or other facility with a pool or gym open to kids.
- Go ice skating or roller skating.
- Go bowling.
- Visit an indoor rock-climbing center or trampoline park.
- Take a long walk inside the local mall.
A good way to make exercise part of your children’s weekly routine is to enroll them in a class. Help your child find a sport or activity to try out. Or consider improving their skills in a sport with instruction.
Winter classes or teams are available in many communities for a wide range of active sports, including swimming, yoga for kids, dance, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, indoor soccer, martial arts, fencing, skating, rock climbing and many more.
Your investment in a class this winter could lead to a lifelong love of a new sport or activity your child might not otherwise have tried.
All year long
No matter what the weather, following these three guidelines can make it easier to keep your kids active:
- Keep it positive and fun. Children have different interests and enthusiasms. Your goal as a parent is to suggest and enable activities that your child will enjoy. And that might mean different activities for different children in your home.
- Stick to a routine. Find the times for activity that work best for your family, and stick with them. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to give up on that running-around time when your child gets home from school. If that’s when your child has the most energy, keep it going. Just find new ways to be active if it’s not possible to play outside.
- It’s OK to break it up. The American Heart Association’s recommended 60 minutes of exercise daily doesn’t have to be in one stretch. Ten minutes here and 20 minutes there are just as effective for maintaining health.
Read more on this topic in a post on the Healthy Kids blog.