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Fun ways to keep your kids active during winter

The pull of TV and video games is strong year-round for kids, but throw in some bitterly cold weather, piles of snow and wind chills that need to stand on a ladder to see zero, and it makes getting kids up and around during wintertime a Herculean task.

But it can be done. And, better yet, it can be fun!

Outdoor activities

As long as the proper precautions are taken — in other words, bundling up like Ralphie’s kid brother in A Christmas Story — cold weather doesn’t mean your child can’t play outside. Hats, coats, gloves, scarves, snow pants and boots are essential for making sure everybody stays safe. And maybe the best part is, that big cup of hot cocoa you’ll have waiting for them when they get back inside will taste even better after they’ve gotten a little chilly.

Here are some outdoor winter activities to keep kids up and moving:

  • Building a snowman: Don’t forget the corncob, button (or carrot, if you prefer), and two pieces of coal!
  • Sledding: Make sure the hill isn’t too steep or icy, and doesn’t end near ponds, trees, fences, a street or parking lot. Also, check local laws and ordinances to make sure sledding is allowed in your area.
  • Snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, hockey: All of these activities require specific equipment (helmets, wrist guards, fitted boots, etc.) and skill sets, so make a checklist, and if your child is a beginner, have him or her sign up for some lessons.
  • Snowball fights: Make sure all participants know to use snow and not ice, and nobody should ever aim for the face.
  • Shoveling: Granted, this sounds more like work than play, but it is great exercise. Just remember to lift with the legs and not the back, and bend the knees and lift the shovel in one fluid motion.

Indoor activities

Being inside doesn’t have to mean being inactive. Even those devices often seen as the biggest detractors from physical activity (TVs, portable tablets) can be useful allies.

Here are some indoor activities to help keep kids’ blood pumping in the wintertime:

  • Dance party: Put on some of your child’s favorite tunes and get to grooving.
  • Exercise: If you’ve got a new gym membership this year, or if you’re looking into getting one, see what the facility has available for youth. You can find anything from martial arts, swimming, yoga, basketball and plenty of other options.
  • Video games: Wait, video games? As you might be aware, there is a lot of technology these days that includes physical activity as part of the interface. Games for the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect systems are designed to make the actions of the characters onscreen correspond with the players’ movements. Everything from dancing to sports, it’s a way to keep your kids active while doing something they enjoy.
  • House cleaning: Like shoveling, this might qualify more as a chore, but it is something that has to be done, whether it’s cleaning their room, dusting the shelves or even folding laundry. Plus, when families do it together, it can make for some quality bonding time.