By Andrea Hartzell, PT, MHS
Andrea Hartzell, PT is a pediatric physical therapist with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.
It’s that time of year when many of us want to go into hibernation mode and settle inside with our cozy blankets, sipping hot cocoa. The days are shorter, the air colder and our motivation to go outside is dwindling. When we get into our hibernation mode, our children often end up following suit and the world of technology tends to overtake the waking hours. With the rate of childhood obesity on the rise and the need to keep children active on a daily basis, it is important that parents help find activities to keep kids moving so they do not end up couch potatoes for the winter months. Here are some suggestions to keep kids interested, motivated and warm during these colder winter months.
Indoor play zones/games
Have your children help create a safe indoor play zone for active games such as crab soccer, balloon volleyball, or obstacle courses set up with the use of pillows and other home furniture for them to crawl over, under and move around. A little creativity can go a long way and children can help in the creation of activities (with parental approval, of course!) Having a scavenger hunt with clues and activities to be done at each location is another way to keep them both thinking and moving. The internet is also a good place to find creative ideas and games to keep them entertained at home. There are also many games that keep you moving as well, such as Twister, charades, games by Cranium and technology games like Wii Fit and X-BOX Kinex.
I am always a fan of getting children involved in household activities such as cooking, cleaning and laundry (playing sock basketball or having them help with planning a meal makes it more fun and keeps them engaged). This will help keep them moving, teach them responsibility and create family bonds.
Find 14 more great indoor activities in this Raising Fit Kids slideshow.
Local indoor play resources
There has been an increase in the number of local resources that offer indoor play for children. Local rec centers often have indoor play times for younger children where they can play with balls and riding toys and practice their gross motor skills such jumping, running, balance and coordination. If you have a gym membership, such as the YMCA, they may also have times during their day where they have open gym times for children. Indoor pools offer another great form of physical activity for children during the winter months. If your child plays sports during the other seasons of the year but has the winter months off, the YMCA and rec centers also have a variety of sports and activities to keep their skills sharp or learn new ones in other areas. Many shopping centers also have play areas for young children, and for the older ones, mall walking with their parents or friends can be a way to keep them on their feet. Some local museums are free or offer discounted yearly membership packages, offering kids an opportunity to learn something while keeping warm!
Outdoor play time
There is nothing better than some fresh air and vitamin D to keep us feeling invigorated, so when the temps aren’t dangerously low, make sure the children are dressed appropriately and send them out and to do the activities they enjoy doing. In the South, parks are open year round and most activities can continue during the winter months. Where white covers the ground for several months, sledding, skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating and building snow forts and having snowball fights can keep kids entertained for hours.
For more cold-weather outdoor activities for kids, view this slideshow.
Rewards for being active
One way to keep kids motivated is to offer incentives for being active. Keep a log or chart for staying active during the weeks and have them work towards a reward at the end of the month. This helps kids practice planning (kids can help pick out what activities they want to do during the week) and gives them a goal to work towards. It can be a special family game night or an outing to an ice skating or roller rink. Keeping the rewards active will help reinforce the importance of being active and remind them that being active can be a lot of fun!
How do you keep your kids moving in the winter months? Share your tips below or in our Raising FIT Kids community.