Family Activities

7 Fun Ways to Keep Kids Fit This Winter

Fight cabin fever with these winter boredom busters.

By Susan Magsamen on January 25th, 2017

2 boys sledding in snow
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The winter can be a tough time to stay healthy and active. Besides all the yummy comfort foods, being stuck inside on frigid days can lead to little or no daily physical activity. During the school week, it can be worse, as many kids often don't get enough exercise no matter the season. Nevertheless, it's important that you and your kids remain active throughout the winter months.

According to a study in The Future of Children, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and toddlers are recommended to have at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity per day. Experts recommend planning a physical activity for kids in 15-20 minute increments. And, of course, parents should set a good example in order to motivate their children. These requirements are easily met in the summer when kids are outside running around anyway, but in the winter, finding fun and physically challenging activities is not so easy.

One way of tackling this challenge is to encourage exercise in the house. Having children run around indoors, potentially breaking valued items isn't ideal, so I recommend making a "fun zone," where they can jump around and play at their leisure. This can be the kids' playroom, but another idea is to clear out part of the living room (removing breakable items) and encourage your kids to play movement games. If cabin fever sets in, but it's still too cold to go out, there are solutions for that too.

Check out this list of indoor and outdoor winter exercise ideas for inspiration!

1. Have a Dance Party
Get everyone involved. Turn up the music and dance away for 30 minutes.

2. Jumping Jacks Contest
Have your kids count how many jumping jacks they can do in a row. I like to make a fun competition with the kids and me: whoever does the most gets to pick dessert!

3. Musical Chairs
Set chairs up in a row, with one chair less than the number of players. Turn the music on and have the kids walk around the chairs. When the music stops, the kids race to sit in the chairs. Whoever is left standing is out. Have kids stand again, remove another chair. Repeat until only one person remains.

4. Twister
Yes, Twister! For the money, you can't find a better activity to help kids stretch and move. The referee spins the spinner, then calls out the body part and the color that the arrow points to. Standing on the Twister mat, each player must try to place the correct body part on a vacant circle of the correct color. The first one to fall down is out.

5. Indoor Play Centers
If cabin fever sets in and you don't mind paying a little money, drop-in play centers are an option. Kids can bounce, jump, and play at these indoor fun centers. Some even feature perks for parents such as coffee and free Wi-Fi. Your local YMCA or The Little Gym branch may offer weekly classes as a drop-in alternative.

6. Mall Playground
If your local shopping mall has an indoor play area, this is a great option. The benefits are that it's free, includes a variety of activities, and are often enclosed spaces with comfortable seating for parents. There's no time limit either, so little ones are free to stay and play until they're tuckered out.

7. Sledding
When it snows out, but it's not too cold, sledding is an option for classic winter fun. Even the smallest of hills can provide hours of exercise for little ones that enjoy snow play. If driving to a big, local sledding spot isn't possible, look around the neighborhood for safe inclines, or pull the kids around the backyard or sidewalks on their sled. Parents will get plenty of exercise too!

In addition to keeping kids occupied and out of trouble, physical activity is linked to incredible health and behavioral benefits for toddlers, children, and adults too. Physical activity is an essential way to encourage brain function and the formation of cognitive abilities, and a constant routine of movement will help maintain a healthy body weight and boost self-confidence. Even on the chilliest of days, it's important to remember that we all must get in some exercise.

Tell us on Facebook what you do to keep your kids moving in the winter?

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