Winter is a tricky time of year. It’s cold but there’s no snow to play in, or you get a great snowfall, then in rains and everything is ice, or it’s -20 out and unsafe to do anything outside. But, there is always something you can do to get kids (and adults) active in the winter. And as a mother of 3 boys, I know it’s crucial to get outside to play!
One of our favorite activities is sledding. Even with an inch of snow and a slope of any kind, sledding can be fun. The thrill of racing down a huge hill might not happen in your yard, but try racing each other to see who gets down first, or who goes farthest. Go headfirst, feet first, on your knees, backwards, with a WILLING family dog…varying the position makes even a short hill more interesting. And, kids don’t even realize how much exercise they’re getting by dragging their sleds back up the hill!
Going for a walk in the snow is another favorite. Check for animal tracks and identify them; after a fresh snowfall, see how it transforms every branch or leaf that the snow is on. Try to walk in each other’s footprints, taking short steps, or really long strides. Just notice the sounds, or lack of them as you walk. Snowshoeing and skiing are fun, of course, but often with young kids, those aren’t as realistic of an activity.
As a child, our family played endless games of tag: We made a big circle track with connecting paths in the middle and the “fox” would try to catch the “mice” as we ran around, the main rule being you have to stay on the paths. Falling off a path into the snow was always a happy accident!
We can’t forget snow angels and building snow-people, of course! Again, even an inch of snow can be swished away to create a snow angel. It’s always fun to have a snowman greet you in the yard, and can be decorated with sticks or seedpods rather than hats and scarves. My 4 year old loves pretending to turn snow into “food” and serving it to me for an icy treat.
When it’s just too cold to go out (polar vortex?!) families can have fun inside with snowy day action rhymes. A simple one: Snowflakes on my mittens (hold up hands and shake around), snowflakes on my nose (point to nose), snowflakes swirl around me, from my head (wave arms around, then touch head), to my toes (reach down to toes, and stand back up). Try with mittens on for fun. Actions can be calm and gentle, or as active as can be. Or just mimic actions you’d be doing outside and see if your kids can imitate you, or take turns guessing what activity the other is doing. Throwing (or rolling) a soft ball around, batting a balloon and trying to keep it from touching the floor and simple yoga stretches happen are fun, and can be done at any age.
In Iowa, winter lasts a long time, but it always helps to be active and try to have fun along the way!
Author: Hallie Evans, NE IA Food & Fitness Early Childhood F2ECE Associate