Guest Blog: Winter Activities for Kids
With the arrival of cold weather, we’ve been thinking a lot about what winter means for families trying to stay active. While our fitness videos for kids allow them to go on adventures that get them moving, learning, and having fun right in their living rooms, we don’t claim to have the only working mousetrap for winter exercise. Check out our favorite healthy winter activities for kids, and tips on how to stay safe.
Outdoor Activities: It’s important to understand what activities are appropriate for your child’s age group, and how to keep kids warm and safe doing them.
- Age 0-2: skiing between your legs in an isolated area with limited-to-no slope, playing in the snow.
- Age 3: sledding in your lap. Avoid this for younger kids. They often will cling to you, lay on their stomach, or sit in a way that is more conducive to injury in a tumble.
- Age 4-6: skiing alone, sledding alone, ice-skating, igloo/snow-fort building (great for working fine-motor and problem-solving skills!). Provide supervision as required.
- Age 5-8: ice hockey, snowball fights (that are playful and kind!), snowboarding.
Be conscious of temperature limits and how to handle them. Anything below 20 degrees is the red zone. The red zone means stay indoors – no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Above 30 degrees, however, kids can usually play outside safely. Just use common sense and bundle with hats, mittens, coats, and sweaters. Also, keep an eye out for signs of chill or frost-nip, a precursor to frostbite that includes tingling in the extremities and bluish lips.
If the temperature falls between 20 and 30 degrees, kids can still play outside, but there are rules. Add an extra layer on top of what you think is necessary. Give plenty of room-temperature water to stay hydrated, as this helps regulate body temperature. If your child is shivering but says she feels warm, bring her inside. This is not normal and can signal the first signs of hypothermia. Require indoor warming breaks often, about every 20 to 30 minutes.
Indoor Activities: There will be times during the winter when your family just can’t get outside. When it comes to very young children, you should err on the side of caution when in doubt about weather conditions. Here are some ideas to help kids get their energy out while indoors.
- Dance parties: Have your child create the playlist to stimulate her imagination. Or, these free just dance for kids videos on YouTube make it a really easy activity.
- Kids’ yoga: Kids enjoy centering their xi as much as adults. Work some of that cold out of kiddos’ muscles with yoga videos for kids online, like these.
- Create an obstacle course: Got a finished basement or extra room? Lucky you! Use that open space to set up a (fun and safe) obstacle course. Break out the stopwatch and challenge your kid(s) and their friends to put up their best time trials.
- Active screen time: Limit screen time; potentially use it as a reward (for example, 30 minutes of TV for 60 minutes of learning). If your kids are going to watch TV, which we know they likely will, try to make sure it’s educational. The whole premise of our program is to teach kids and actually get them moving, while they’re watching. We believe that we can use children’s love for cartoons in a positive way, to teach them and get them fit!
Additional Activities: Some days your family will be inactive. It’s okay, and it’s important not to beat yourself up. Part of living a healthy life is being realistic. Just remember that these days should be the exception and not the rule, even in winter. Here are a few ideas to exercise the mind.
- Reading or storytelling together: If your child has a sibling, perfect. Get them both reading a story together, taking turns every few pages. Or, have them make up a story together – switching off who’s telling the story every 30 seconds and picking up where the last left off. If your child doesn’t have a sibling, this is a fun way for you to get involved!
- Puzzles: Break out a puzzle and challenge your child to finish it, maybe even in a certain period of time for older kids. For a group of kids, give each a puzzle with equal pieces and see who can finish first.
- Art: Put out a bucket of art supplies. Depending on the ages, include crayons, pastels, drawing pencils, markers, paint, and lots of paper. Put out some old magazines to cut up for collaging. Put down lots of newspaper to make cleanup easy, and then let your kids go wild! Giving them free reign to create is a wonderful way to stimulate their imaginations.
- Apps: We don’t advocate giving children less than 2 years old significant screen time (the AMA and CDC recommend ZERO time). With that said, the landscape of educational apps is growing and creating higher quality resources, particularly for older kids. One of our favorites is Oceanhouse Media, who produce apps to help teach kids literacy.
- Cooking together: Have your child help you prepare fresh ingredients for a healthy meal or snack. Heart-healthy meals include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Studies show that when kids are involved in the meal’s preparation, they are more likely to eat it. Additionally, families that engage in family dinner time make healthier food choices on the whole.
Think about new ways to get your family moving this winter. If YOUR mind is in the right place, THEIR behavior will follow. Finally, since winter is gift-giving season, if you’re looking for gift ideas that are healthy and educational, check out our favorite healthy gifts for kids. Keep it moving!
Michael Rhattigan is CEO of Adventure to Fitness, used by up to 10 million kids weekly to exercise, learn, and have fun – both in school and at home.