As the new year arrives, many parents resolve to encourage their children to be more active indoors and out despite the colder, shorter days of winter. Even though it can be a major challenge to keep children engaged in physical activity, exercise keeps kids’ minds sharp and ready to learn, reduces stress, keeps kids healthy, and builds healthy lifestyle habits for the future. Here are some suggestions for keeping kids motivated and moving this winter:
- Play in the snow. Take the whole family outside to go sledding, build a snowman, build a snow fort or just go for a walk and enjoy the white world around you.
- Interested in outdoor sports? Now is the time to try snow-shoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing. If you don’t have equipment and are willing to rent, check with a local recreation department, school or ski resort for prices and availability. Or, ask friends and family if they have older equipment you and your kids could borrow.
- Also, check out the nonprofit Winter Kids at www.winterkids.org. WinterKids aims to get kids active by trying outdoor winter activities. A WinterKids Passport offers Maine children in grades 5, 6 and 7 opportunities to learn and enjoy winter sports, with free and discounted ski tickets, lessons and rentals at more than 50 outdoor recreation areas across the state.
- Find indoor recreation. Check out the options for open gym times from local recreation departments or the local YMCA. Also, look for indoor pools, ice rinks, indoor tennis or soccer opportunities nearby. – Do you have a new baby or toddler? Do you need to get out of the house and worry that the weather is too cold for the babies? Put the little ones in the stroller and take a walk around the local mall; you can still be active and the little ones get a change of scenery.
- For young children, get them dancing or create a parade route through your home.
- Look for group activities; find sports that interest your children to keep them interested in staying physically active this winter.
Kate Yerxa is a nutrition and physical activity educator at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.