Keep kids active during the winter


With temperatures hovering in the 30s, outdoor play is a bit unrealistic.

Even without the cold weather keeping kids indoors, game consoles, TV shows and the computer are lures to an inactive lifestyle. But children need at least an hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some local options for keeping the kids active (and getting them out of your hair) during the winter months.

Community Centers. Newport News, James City County and Hampton all have facilities with programming geared toward kids of all ages (as well as adults). The indoor gyms, good for pickup basketball and volleyball games, and the indoor swimming pools are especially good options for vigorous activity.

These are some of the options: (For a complete list of community centers, visit your city's government Web site).

Midtown Community Center, Newport News. Kids can participate in open table tennis and basketball at scheduled times throughout the year. A daily pass for swimming costs $3.

On Jan. 23, the center is hosting a free Family Flashback Event, where kids can participate in basketball games, games on the Nintendo Wii, "Dance, Dance Revolution" and a movie. 570 McLawhorne Drive. 591-4853.

Beginning in February, the Newport News parks and recreation department is starting a Family Open Recreation program, which will allow participants to use some of the exercise and play equipment for free.

Riverview Gymnastics, Newport News. This facility focuses on organized classes, but there are several open gym opportunities. On Monday, kids can participate in the new Winter Gym activity, a two-hour, instructor-led session available to kids of all skill levels. The activity costs $10. There also is an open gym session on Saturday, Jan. 16. Kids can practice their gymnastics skills independently while an instructor supervises the play. The three-hour session costs $15. 125 City Farm Road. 886-2729.

James City/Williamsburg Community Center. The facility includes a parent-supervised play area, a gym for basketball or volleyball and a swimming pool. Residents can purchase a daily access card (valid for 24 months) for $10. There is an additional $8 fee for each visit (the youth fee is $2). Residents do not have to pay the fee if they visit 1-3 p.m. Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. Fridays or 2-5 p.m. Saturdays. 5301 Longhill Road. 259-4200.

Hampton Teen Center. Designed for Hampton high school students, the teen center is a hub of activity with programs ranging from kickboxing to art classes. Annual membership costs $25. Nonresidents can participate in some of the special events for a fee, as well. 300 Butler Farm Road, 766-1510.

Jumping Joey's. Walk through the door and let your kids go at Jumping Joey's indoor inflatable fun center. The facility houses six inflatables, including a bounce house, a large slide and several obstacle courses with slides. The facility caters to kids ages 10 and younger, but there also is a small arcade if you have a tween tagging along. For the teeny tiny tots, there is a small gated off play area. Parents may bring snacks and drinks for their children. The cost is $7 for all-day play on a weekday and $8 per child on the weekend. 124 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg. 565-5867.

My Gym. A bit more structured than Jumping Joey's, this gymnastics center caters to children aged 6 weeks to 13 years old. Children are enrolled in weekly classes that include everything from martial arts to tumbling. The gym also offers a drop-off program, winter camps and Parent Night's Out, to give parents a much-needed break on that rainy day. Locally, there is a My Gym at 188 Arthur Way in Newport News. 344-7123.

Children's museums. The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News is one of the best places to take your kids for a much-needed run-around. The wide open spaces, live animal exhibits and aquariums are the perfect solution to cold and rainy day. Admission can be pricey at $15 for adults if you plan to visit often, but the $60 yearly membership (which offers unlimited access) makes it a cost-effective deal. The Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton offers similar amenities, with plenty of climb and crawl spaces for young kids and exhibits designed to entertain the tweens. In Portsmouth, Andalo's Clubhouse serves as the temporary play area for kids while the Children's Museum of Virginia undergoes a 12,000-square-foot renovation. It's designed to let kids touch, climb and crawl, so don't worry about letting them explore freely. For more information visit:, and

Join a playgroup. Don't want to pay to play? Playgroups are the perfect place for interaction for both you and your child. There's a fairly comprehensive listing of local playgroups at The Hampton Healthy Families Partnership also hosts a weekly playgroup designed for kids 6 months to 4 years old. Call 727-1300 for more information.

MacArthur Mall food court. Though it's in Norfolk, the play area at MacArthur Mall is an excellent option for letting your kids run and shout while you sit back and watch. The play equipment has soft surfaces so even if your little one takes a tumble, there's no danger of serious injury. Be warned though: On rainy days, this play area is packed full of restless kids. If you need a quiet-time break, the Barnes & Noble inside of the mall has a great children's reading area, with tables and chairs just for the kids. Bring $2 cash for parking.

Chuck E. Cheese. Pizza and soda aren't too compatible with a kids' healthy outing, but Nicole Dell, a toddler teacher at the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center says she skips the food when she takes her kids to the indoor playground.

"Chuck E. Cheese is a great place to take kids, since it's free to enter and you don't really have to buy food," she says. "The overhead climber is free and so are a lot of things in the toddler area." On the Peninsula there is a Chuck E. Cheese location at 5 Towne Centre Way in Hampton. 827-9150.

Helping you to be healthier Every January our focus turns to improving our health and fitness in the new year so the Daily Press will be giving you tools to help you succeed in this endeavor. Every day this week, you will find a health or fitness story to help guide you: Today: We tell you about some great indoor play areas so you can encourage your children to stay active during the cold winter months. Monday: We talk with a dietition and give you tips for improving your nutrition. Tuesday: We tell you how to shop for a gym membership. Wednesday: We talk with a local retirement community chef about changing diet and eating habits as we age. Thursday: We will detail five ways to get fit at home. Saturday: We tell you about saunas and spas and their role in our well-being. LIVE CHAT. Also, as part of our Get Fit Week, dietitian Hiliary Williams and personal trainer Brian Cole will be chatting live with readers from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Go to to get your diet and exercise questions answered by the experts. ONLINE. And all month, go to and click on Health Key headlines for loads of tools and information for making the new year a healthier one for you and your family.

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