Five ways to keep your family active in winter

We know we need to stay active even when the weather outside is frosty and frightful, but sometimes we run out of ideas.

Many of the activities you enjoy doing outdoors can be found indoors as well. Consider looking to your neighborhood recreation center for options such as indoor tennis, swimming or basketball. It might also be a good time to dabble and take an introductory lesson in something like pickle ball, which combines elements of badminton, tennis and ping pong. Or, embrace the outdoors: head out to an ice rink, or enjoy a horseback ride.

If you are trying to stay within a budget here are five fun ideas to get your family moving and tame the restless beasties in your children at the same time.

1. Furry friend hunt

Cara Day, a San Diego educational therapist, life coach, and mother of four, suggests collecting an assortment of small stuffed animals throughout your home and putting
them in a laundry basket or similar container for a furry hide-and-go-seek.

“Everyone covers their eyes while one person hides the furry friends around the house. After all of the animals have been hidden, the ‘finders’ begin their hunt,” says Day. She recommends counting the animals at the beginning to be sure all of them are collected at the end.

“This is how I taught my children how to count when they were very, very
little,” says Day. “I used Beanie Babies of every animal type and taught them about all different kinds of animals, too, from a peacock to a bull.”

As a variation outdoors, collect a basket of plastic toys, such as those from fast food restaurants, and take turns hiding those around the yard.

2. Indoor dance party

“Tiny tots have tons of energy to burn, so if the weather is keeping everyone indoors, turn on some age appropriate music and let them dance it out,” says Jennifer Chung, mom and co-founder of, an advice-sharing network for parents.

“Encourage them to boogie-woogie to high energy music, then find a seat when the music stops. This activity is great because unlike musical chairs, no one is left out,” says Chung.

Another variation on the indoor dance party, if you have the space, is musical freeze tag. “Once a child is tagged, he or she has to stand still until the music stops,” says Chung.

3. Build a castle

Chung also recommends building a castle with small empty boxes. “Kids love playing with boxes, so let them stack boxes of different shapes and sizes and supply colored chalk so they can decorate the outside of their castle,” says Chung. “The tots will love drawing bricks, windows, entryways and the beautiful princess and prince. They can even add flowers and grass to the bottom of the walls.”

As an outdoor variation on castle building, build forts a distance apart and then wage mock battles with snowballs or beanbags.

4. “Commercial-cize”

“I have my younger students commercial-cize throughout the school year,” says Len Saunders, children's health, fitness and wellness specialist, child-obesity motivational speaker, and author of “Keeping Kids Fit.”

“Studies show that many children watch between two to four hours of TV each night, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle,” says Saunders. “So if a family exercises during every commercial, that could add up to about 40 minutes of activity.” 

Saunders suggests incorporating simple activities at each break, such as pushups, curl-ups, jumping in place, running in place, hula hooping, jumping rope and other calisthenics. If weather permits, set up some exercise stations outdoors, or have one activity be, for example, “run to the streetlight and back,” if that is a safe activity.

5. Obstacle course

Who doesn’t love an obstacle course? Obstacle courses can be done outdoors or indoors. Saunders suggests creating an indoor obstacle course with different exercises at each spot.

“Have everyone run up the steps to the bedroom, do five pushups, run to the bathroom and jump in place five times, run down to the living room where they have to jump through hula hoops, and then shoot (wet, balled up) paper towels into the garbage can,” suggests Saunders. It is all about being creative and making exercise fun. 

— By Laura Strom, Tribune Brand Publishing

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