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Are your kiddos bouncing off the walls this winter? Or retreating to their rooms with devices? When it’s cold outside, it’s tempting to want to hunker down and camp out on the couch, but it’s so important for kids (and all of us) to stay active all winter long. From unstructured play to finding new sports, here are some tips for keeping kids moving when the thermometer drops.
What Are the Benefits of Keeping Kids Active in Winter?
Physical activity is essential for all kids, all year long and has benefits to both physical and mental health. While it tends to be easier to exercise during the warmer months, it’s just as important when it’s cold outside. According to the Center for Disease Control, preschoolers ages 3 to 5 should be active throughout the day, while children 6 to 17 should have at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Here are some of the most important benefits of wintertime activity:
- Childhood obesity is a big concern and staying active is an important part of staying fit.
- Physical activity gets children ready for sleep and can help make bedtimes easier and sleep habits better.
- Physical activity boosts your immune system and helps prevent infections and viruses like colds and flu.
- Physical activity helps mental health and helps kids feel happier, less frustrated and more focused.
How Can I Keep Activity Fun in Winter?
Winter is a terrific time to try a new sport or indoor class. Swimming at a local rec center is a terrific option for all ages, and there are classes and conditioning available from toddlers to teens. Some other great options include gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, futsal, dance, martial arts and yoga–there’s something for everyone. But remember not to go overboard on structured activities. Kids still need free-play time and downtime. Other options include fun drop-in activities like bowling, trampolines, rock climbing or roller skating. You can also take the whole family to a mall or other public space to walk and climb stairs.
How Can My Kids Stay Active at Home?
You don’t always have to leave the house to have fun and stay active. Here are some great activities by age group.
For older elementary-aged children and teens, good options include:
- Exercise videos on YouTube
- Using mom and dad’s home gym including exercise equipment like treadmills and stationary bikes
- Choosing video games that involve dance or other movement
For younger elementary-aged children, some ideas include:
- Dance parties with fun music
- Indoor games and obstacle courses
- Pretend play, including sword fighting and fort building
For preschoolers and toddlers, suggestions include:
- Setting up an indoor place space at home with a baby pool and balls
- Setting up sensory stations with fun, hands-on activities
- Active pretend play
Keeping Kids Active: Get Outside
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Kids can and should play outdoors in winter. Just make sure you have appropriate cold-weather clothing and gear and follow a few simple rules.
- Dress in layers and wear a hat, coat, mittens, warm socks and boots if it’s wet or snowy.
- In temperatures 30 degrees and above, children can play with occasional indoor breaks.
- Between 20 and 30 degrees, it’s fine to play outside. Keep a close eye on children and take indoor breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.
- Move play indoors if the temperature is less than 20 degrees.
Some favorite winter outdoor activities include:
- Playing and exploring even if there’s no snow. Winter nature walks are a great way to burn off energy and observe wildlife.
Where Can I Find Resources for Keeping My Child Active?
The winter doldrums are very real and affect kids and adults alike. At this time of year, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of physical activity and make a conscious effort to include it in your daily schedule. It may take a little more effort than a trip to the neighborhood park on a summer day, but the benefits are worth it. At Loudoun Pediatric Associates, we want to keep our young patients healthy and active all year long. If you’re not sure what to do about cabin fever, we have lots of resources and ideas to help. If you’re concerned about a lack of physical activity, too much screen time or issues involving sleep or focus, talk to your pediatrician and we’ll work together to find solutions.