Cabin Fever. Winter Blues. We all get a little restless when the weather outside forces us to stay inside for longer lengths of time. There are times when bundling the kids up and letting them play in the snow is a great way to burn off some energy. When freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures, or heavy winds make even short outside time impossible, how do we as parents and caregivers encourage active play inside?

In the “We Choose Health” training series, we lead you through assessing and improving the healthy lifestyle standards you’re providing the children within your care. Together, we explore outdoor and indoor activities like these, that introduce kids to a lifetime of healthy habits:

  1. Turn on some tunes and get dancing! Use your phone, radio, TV…whatever you have. Find something with a beat and show your kids your best dance moves (they won’t judge). Depending on the number and ages of your children, you can also incorporate stop-and-go dancing, taking turns, or loud and soft dancing. Even children with physical limitations can enjoy dancing using their hands, bodies or heads.
  2. (Board) Games gone WILD! Traditional games like Twister, hide and seek, Simon says, follow the leader or hop scotch are obviously great ways to get your kids moving. Be Twistercreative and don’t stop there. Chutes & Ladders (or any variations of the game that are out there) can be played with “climbing-up-ladder” movements and “hands-in-the-air” sliding as the game progresses. Memory games can be made more challenging for older children by requiring players to switch places every time a match is made.
  3. Be the “cool mom.” One day, while I was matching and folding a large pile of socks, fresh from the laundry, I tossed a rolled “ball” of socks into the empty laundry basket on the other side of the room, much to the delight of my two boys. They spent over an hour taking turns making “baskets” with the socks. Not only are socks soft (they won’t damage walls or other kids), but other than the giggles and cheering it’s a relatively quiet activity.
  4. Be clean freaks. Kids who want to clean and organize their rooms or pick up their clothes are few and far between. Have you tried making it a race? You’d be amazed at the power of “On your mark. Get set. Go.” And I’ve found that handing my kids some cleaning wipes and asking them to scrub clean the bottoms of my lower cabinets or the baseboards is always met with fist-pumping excitement. Be creative and delegate safe cleaning projects, like dusting with a feather duster or wiping woodwork with or a rag wet with vinegar and water to some energetic kids. You may be surprised for their enthusiasm for the detail-work that you never seem to have time for.
  5. Know your neighborhood. Is there a family gym or a community play center near you? Many in our area have low-cost days for those times when you just REALLY need to get yourself and your kids out of the house for some play. In our area, the Rockford Park District’s Sapora Playworld offers $3 days, twice a week; and local gyms and the YMCA offer kids Zumba classes.
  6. When nothing else is working…turn on the TV. Seems contrary to the theme of this post, but sometimes you can manipulate screen time to serve the greater good. For my kids fitness videokids, it’s exercise videos or Yoga and Aerobics OnDemand. (Dust off and) Turn on an old exercise video and watch as your kids run in place, do jumping jacks, and otherwise practice following directions and moving their bodies. Sweatbands optional.

Snuggling up on the couch with some hot chocolate and a good book can still be cherished activities during the colder months. Everyone, child to adult, will find a healthier and happier winter by incorporating physical play into our daily indoor routine. Simple, daily lifestyle changes like these build healthy habits that last a lifetime.