Now that the summer months and all that came with them—family pool days, outdoor play and time spent in the sun—are distant memories, the urge to hibernate and spend more time indoors becomes real. While gathering indoors means an increase in all things pumpkin spice, it also means less physical activity and a decrease in movement.
Did you know that staying active during the colder months is as important during this time of the year as it is during the spring and summer? As hard as it may be for you to get up and get your children moving when snuggling in feels like a better option, the choice to make some moves ends up being a win-win for both of you.
What can you do to get your children moving during the colder months? For starters, you can go outside. The options throughout Baltimore and the surrounding counties are plentiful, and many are free. Incorporate the element of competition into fun activities and get ready to crown a winner. And open yourself up to using technology as a way to get your children moving.
Kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 4 1/2 hours a day watching TV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kids get in at least 60 minutes of physical movement each day. The benefits of physical activity are all about heart health, brain development and the prevention of a host of diseases. Plus, physical activity releases happy hormones called endorphins that fight stress and depression. And for all that children have endured over the last 18 months, any increase in “happy hormones” is a good thing.
Spending time outside during the colder months may seem like an oxymoron, but consider this point. Much of the fun you can have when temperatures are warmer is possible November through March. Bundle up, bring water and carry a positive attitude to whatever you’ve planned for an adventure.
As a busy Howard County mom of two children, Maria Alcoke knows it is definitely harder to come up with activities for her girls during colder weather. One activity she does is “take advantage of the amazing playgrounds and parks in the area, (being sure to take her girls’ bike and scooter along). Parks and trails in Baltimore County and City have fitness equipment to use, and that is great.”
During the height of the pandemic, Alcoke made it nonnegotiable to get outside during the colder months to get her 6- and 2 ½-year-old children moving.
Depending on the age and interests of your child, they may likely chip away at getting in 60 minutes of daily physical activity during recess, as part of physical education class or through an extracurricular activity.
If you find your child not getting in this time regularly, here’s where your creativity can shine in helping them move their bodies.
Research walking trails and local parks and make a plan to visit at least one each month from November through March. Walk, jog, ride bikes or scooters. Plus, plan to participate in The Y Turkey Trot.
“Mini trot races are available for children (as is the incorporation) of hula hoops, cones, jump ropes and lots of fun,” says Ikeia Prince, senior executive director of youth development at the Y in Central Maryland.
Don’t forget to visit the Y for additional activities that will help strengthen the physical and familial connection.
Creativity + technology = family fun
Imagine how your children would feel if everyone in the household participated in something together. Prince suggests hosting the “‘Mini Olympics,’ which presents a myriad of sports to choose from within a theme.” Family members can refamiliarize themselves with the sports by watching video clips. “Then ask children what Olympic sports the family will participate in and get your medals ready!” Local dollar stores or overnight delivery can help with affordable prizes.
While reducing screen time may be important to you, consider how you can incorporate technology while also getting a move on. Look up videos that are all about movement, such as GoNoodle, and instead of watching, follow along with the movements. Let your children cue up their favorite songs for a family dance break or a dance competition.
Alcoke knows all too well how much her daughters really enjoy something if she calls it a competition. Is your child into yoga? Prince suggests trying chair yoga, which “allows an intergenerational indoor experience” everyone can participate in. Let your child select a video and get ready to relax.
Both Alcoke and Prince recommend tapping into your children’s creativity by having them come up with ideas.
“Start with their interests, affirm them as the leader and be ready to participate,” says Prince. Alcoke suggests starting an idea jar where children write—or you transcribe—ideas they have for movement, such as going for a walk, having a pushup competition or hosting a dance party.