Kids need exercise and physical activity year-round, though getting the required 60 minutes during the winter months requires more creativity. Here, get ideas for fun indoor activities and tips on enjoying the great outdoors despite the cold.
Physical activity is essential to a healthy lifestyle for both children and adults. While many are aware of its health benefits—controlling weight, reducing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of diseases such as diabetes—regular physical activity has also been shown to improve self-confidence, emotional wellbeing, and academic achievement.
Though the importance of keeping active year-round may be clear, many parents find it difficult to get their children up and moving when the temperature drops. Christopher Soi, the Village of Ossining’s Superintendent of Recreation, weighs in below with his top tips for keeping kids active in the cold winter months.
What are a few good indoor activities to keep kids active?
Indoor activities can be quite varied depending on the indoor space you are utilizing. Everything from a gymnasium to your family room can function as an indoor activity space. The focus really should be on movement and fun. Be creative!
At home, games such as Simon Says and Freeze Dance can get the blood flowing. Quieter activities like stretching and “sitting exercises” can assist in relaxation while also keeping the child moving. Outside of the house, look to your local recreational resources such as a municipal recreation department, youth sports leagues, dance centers, health and fitness centers, etc.
Activities do not have to be part of a highly structured/organized program. Simply getting off the couch and into a space that promotes movement, fun, interaction, and play will allow families to access the benefits that come with participation in regular physical activity.
Any ideas for winter-friendly outdoor activities for the whole family?
Of course your traditional outdoor winter activities like sledding, ice skating, skiing, and
snowboarding are fantastic activities, but don’t be limited to activities that you associate only with winter. Almost all outdoor activities can be enjoyed in the winter…you just have to dress for them! Put together a “winter activity outfit” for each person in the family. It’s not just the heavy coat and gloves, but appropriate layering of clothing that allows for a comfortable wintertime experience in the outdoors. Go to the parks, go to the playgrounds, and walk on the trails—go play! You will find many outdoor spaces quieter and more tranquil during the winter, which results in more quality time spent with your family.
How much physical activity do kids need per day?
The American Heart Association standard for children ages 2 and older is “at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.” This can be achieved in one 60-minute session, two 30-minute sessions, or four 15-minute sessions.
Do you have any tips for keeping exercise fun, particularly during the colder months?
I think the battle really lies in overcoming the inconvenience/discomfort most people have in being outside in colder weather. Again, appropriate dress is essential. Being cold, wet, and uncomfortable will bring kids (and parents!) running inside looking for that cup of hot chocolate.
Dress appropriately by layering your clothing with an initial light layer and then adding increasingly heavier layers of clothing as appropriate. This also allows you to take layers off as you start to move outdoors and your body heats up. You would be surprised by how warm you get when exercising outside in the cold weather.
Also, you do not need to be outfitted with the most expensive gear—there are plenty of affordable options out there.
If the weather outside is truly frightful, then turn off the TV and other electronic devices and play games…any game! Remember, exercise is attained by simple physical activity.
If you are moving you are exercising. The “Let’s Move” initiative has put together a great website to access information and resources regarding children and exercise: letsmove.gov.
What types of resources/indoor facilities should parents and kids check out during the colder months?
Look to your local municipal recreation and parks department-operated parks and facilities, county-operated parks and facilities, and New York State-operated parks and facilities for winter programming and access to facilities. Also, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, JCCs, and private fitness and health clubs offer a wide variety of programs over the winter months.
Christopher Soi is the Superintendent of Recreation for the Village of Ossining. He is certified as a Park and Recreation Professional and Youth Sports Administrator by the National Recreation and Parks Association and National Association of Youth Sports respectively. For more information on the Ossining Recreation and Parks Department, visit www.villageofossining.org, www.facebook.com/Ossining.Recreation, or call 914-941-3189.