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Winter Fitness: Warming Up Together

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Snow days aside, when winter weather strikes it’s easy to want to grab a blanket and cozy up in front of the TV. (I, for instance, want nothing more at this moment than to be snuggled up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and a bowl of chili.) But after you get yourself and the fam bundled up, outside and playing, we doubt anyone will regret braving the chill. Need more reasons to move everyone from the loveseat to the great outdoors? Read on for information from PBS Parents!

Reason Numero Uno: Kids Need to Get Their Wiggles O-U-T.

What, you’re a parent and you didn’t know this? I know, I crack myself up. We all know this one isn’t a shock. (Particularly if you have a game of chase-the-sibling going on about your feet as you’re cooking dinner.)

But, outdoor physical play is incredibly important – and not always something most kids have a lot of time for at school. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that all children have at least 60 minutes of outdoor unstructured play every day. So, moms, it’s the perfect time to repeat that sage, old phrase we’ve all heard our entire lives: “Kids, go outside and play.”

And leave them to it – this is that mysterious period we enjoyed in our former lives known as “alone time.”

However, if you already have enough of that in your life right now – and if you do, I seriously want your secret - feel free to break up those 60 minutes fun, family activities. You can watch the clouds race, have leaf piling competitions, make up drills for your kiddos’ favorite sports or any other fun activity you can think of.

Number 2 Reason for Outdoor Winter Fun? The Family that Plays Together, Stays Together.

Shared activities are lessons in family bonding – think back to your own childhood, and what fun times do you remember?
I can still remember our gang out on the backyard swing set. A quick ride on the glider, and we’d taken a flight to a new country – China, Russia or whatever fair clime we’d seen on “Nature” that week.

As soon as my sister and I stepped off, we’d tell Mama and Daddy what animals were around (pet kittens became panda bears and Siberian tigers) and tromp off to the playhouse to make noodles and beet soup (borscht wasn’t really in our vocabulary at the time). Even though nothing fancy was involved, I can’t recall those memories without smiling.

Of course, imaginary trips around the world aren’t your only options. Take a family vote to choose an activity and challenge each other to test your comfort zones’ limits! From bike rides to new games, family activities can be a fun way to try new things.

Another Plus? Wherever you live, playing outside is free.

Whether you’re in a rural or urban area, you and your kiddos can always find something to do together outside. From neighborhood “safaris” to building a (miniature) statue from the wintery mix on your stoop, to being an archaeologist and seeing what’s trapped in the thin layer of ice in a puddle, the great outdoors offers a good imagination thousands of options. Star gazing comes early – and is easier with all of the trees missing their leaves. And when all of those options run out, outdoor chores can make for fabulous contests. Who can pile the most sticks up first? Don’t tell us helping little hands can’t be fun!

Number 4: Playing Outside Is Fabulous Stress Release – For Parents and Kiddos Alike

Try this and see if it works – will the chilun’s get ready faster if you promise them 15 minutes of outside time before school starts? Or how about this one? How quickly will an inter-sibling argument dissipate when you announce “I’ll meet you outside for a game of tag!” ? By suggesting an outdoor activity kids love, you’ll note only help them be healthier physically, you can also help decrease the stress in everyone’s life.  Hello, family time AND healthy choices!

Number 5 – Outdoor Play Naturally Encourages Us to Be More Active.

When we’re cold, it’s our natural instinct to move around and warm up – and that movement gets our heart rate going. Plus, in the winter especially, outside time can brighten our mood and fight high blood pressure. Ask friends about their favorite winter sports and try something new together as a family. Learn the rules for hockey (the street version might be more practical in these warmer climes), try ice skating if a rink is available, or think further outside the box!

Reason No. 6 – Enjoy the Seasonal Beauty.

There’s a certain special stillness associated with winter. Take the kids outside and enjoy it together. You can start by pointing things out to your wee ones – different animal tracks, creatures’ winter nesting and hibernation set-ups, etc – but we imagine, with their help, you’ll see things from a different perspective, too! Create an “explorer pack” with a backpack, magnifying glass and whatever other equipment you see fit and set out on a family adventure. You’d be surprised what you can learn! Find more ideas from the National Wildlife Federation here.

Finally, no cold weather problem is unsolvable. Just strap on another layer or two.

We’ve all seen “A Christmas Story,” and that’s a fate we wish on no one. But being a few sweaters short of the Michelin Man is perfectly acceptable. So break out the hats and mittens, moms and dads! We all have some winter weather to enjoy!    


For further information and game inspiration, visit PBS Parents on the PBS website.