As temperatures dip and daylight hours dwindle, keeping kids physically active can seem like a challenge. Even for a family like ours, who loves both winter and outdoor play, the temptation to head directly indoors after the kids get home from school is high. Unlike other families, we don’t have extracurricular sports to keep us on the go, so I find as a parent I need be creative in finding affordable and fun ways to keep our muscles moving and out hearts pumping.
The great news is that winter (love it or loathe it) naturally lends itself to fun activities that can help boost your kids’ physical literacy. Here are my four favourite ways to embrace the cooler temperatures and enjoy active outdoor after school fun with my children.
1. Have an old fashioned snowball fight
As soon as my kids see snow on the ground, their first question is, “Is it sticky snow?” And if it is, they are quick to pull on their coats and boots and start stockpiling snowballs for a good, old-fashioned snowball fight. Not a fan of snowball fights, but would still like to help your children improve their throwing skills? Try having your kids toss their snowballs at a target, such as a brightly coloured basket or spray coloured circles in the snow with environmentally-friendly paints. You can buy snow paint at most toy stores, but you can also make your own by mixing a generous amount of food colour and water in squirt bottles.
2. Light up your winter nights
One of the biggest reasons our family used to head indoors was that it was too dark to play outside in the evening (one of the downsides of living in a rural area without streetlights). Rather than turning on lights inside, we turned on the lights OUTSIDE, using headlamps and small hand held flashlights. Not only will your kids get a kick out of having their own headlamp, but it also increases their visibility to oncoming traffic. Consider investing in reflective vests to put over their winter coats to help make outdoor play safer.
3. Try a new winter sport
While hockey is one of our country’s favourite winter past times, it is certainly not the only one. As a family of non-hockey players, we hit the trails rather than the rink. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are accessible winter sports in our rural neighbourhood, but this winter we hope to give curling and snowboarding a try. The low-cost SnowPass program helps offset the cost of hitting the slopes after school and neighbourhood curling rinks often offer youth leagues that introduce kids to the sport.
4. Play your favourite summer games in the snow
Some games, like tag, dodgeball, and capture the flag, are just as much fun in the snow as they are in the sun. For soccer, instead of regulation-size white soccer balls, try a larger, brightly-coloured balance ball to up the fun factor. Remember the coloured snow paint you made for snowball tossing? Paint hopscotch squares and encourage your children to practice their jumping skills. In fact, many of our physical literacy activities can be adapted for snowy conditions.
Warm and waterproof winter gear and a little bit of creativity are all you need to help your child to continue to stay active. Before you know it, spring will be here and along with it, your children’s flourishing physical literacy skills and confidence in their abilities.