by Judy Molland, author of Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future
You know it’s a whole lot easier to stay active with your kids in the summer, whether it’s walking to the park, going for bike rides, or kicking a ball around in the backyard.
But it’s important to get some exercise when the weather turns cold, even though you may have to push yourself and your children to get off the couch and start moving.
Here are nine ideas to stimulate your mind and body:
1. Have a snow day.
Think snow is just for skiers? Think again! It’s wonderful to enjoy snow with kids because snow truly is a wondrous natural phenomenon that few kids (or adults!) can resist. Head to the mountains if you’re near them or to a state park or other nearby snowy area and build igloos, snow caves, and forts, or go sledding or snow tubing. Older children can pull younger ones on sleds. Make snow angels, snow people, snow animals, or superheroes, or try snowshoeing—no lift tickets are required.
2. Plan an outside winter picnic.
Pack a lunch (in reusable containers to keep it waste-free) along with warm drinks in thermoses. Choose a picnic site that’s beautiful to look at and explore or that has a playground, and when you first arrive, play a warming game like leapfrog. Have your lunch and follow up with more active games. Be sure to bring blankets or thermal pads to sit on while you eat, or wear snow pants.
3. Wild animal safari.
Sneak outside on a cold day with as many stuffed animals as you can find and hide them in your yard: up trees, inside shrubs, behind bushes. Now tell your kids it’s time to go on a wild animal safari! They’ll have fun discovering their beloved creatures in such unfamiliar places.
4. Make bird feeders.
To help birds make it through the winter, make simple bird feeders. Try smothering pine cones in peanut butter, then rolling them in bird seed, before hanging them up. (Not where squirrels can get them!) Or cut oranges in half, eat the fruit, fill the peel with birdseed and hang from tree branches. Then watch the birds go crazy.
5. Become nature detectives.
Track animals in your neighborhood by finding prints of dogs, cats, squirrels, rabbits, and birds. Winter is a perfect time to do this, since it’s easier to spot those tracks in snow, dirt, and mud, and at the edges of puddles, ponds, and lakes. Get on your knees and look closely for animal signs: besides tracks, look for feathers, broken twigs, and bent grass where animals have trod or lain down.
6. Take a walk.
Yes, it may be chilly, but winter walks can be beautiful. Just be sure to dress warmly and take time to admire your favorite trees in their winter attire.
7. Don’t forget the ten essentials:
If you’re going for a longer hike, here are the Sierra Club’s Ten Essentials. Depending on your itinerary, you won’t need all of these every time you hike, but this is a great list to keep in mind.
1. Navigation tools (map, compass, GPS, whistles)
2. Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, hat)
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination (flashlight)
5. First-aid supplies (bandages, Tecnu, antiseptic ointment)
6. Fire (firestarter, matches)
7. Repair kit (penknife, duct tape)
8. Extra food
9. Extra water
10. Emergency shelter (space blanket, tarp)
8. Organize a family dance party.
If your crew won’t step outside because it’s raining, hailing, or blowing a gale, turn up the music and get everyone dancing! Once you make sure there is lots of floor space so no one gets hurt, this is a great way to have fun and get that heart rate up.
9. Organize a scavenger hunt.
Another tip for staying active indoors is to set up stations where each family member has to perform a task (ten jumping jacks, hula hoop for thirty seconds, hop on one foot for twenty seconds, etc.) before getting the next clue.
How do you and the kids in your life stay active during the winter? Leave a comment below to let us know.
Judy Molland, B.A. Hons., Dip. Ed., is an award-winning teacher and writer. She is Contributing Education Editor for Dominion Parenting Media (formerly
United Parenting Publications), the largest syndicate of parenting magazines in the United States, and has numerous articles featured on Parenthood.com. She has been writing about education for more than ten years.
Visit Judy’s Web site at www.judymolland.com.
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