Oh, January. Quite possibly the most despondent month of the year. The post-Christmas come down has left everyone feeling deflated after all the excitement. No one has any money. The weather is, quite frankly, awful, and we are all feeling the aftereffects of the Christmas splurge. Faced with all of the above in combination with darker mornings and evenings, it’s tempting to get the whole family to curl up on the sofa and hide under a blanket until spring arrives.
However, the NHS recommends that children get an average of 60-minutes of “moderate intensity physical activity” each day. Before you panic and get them running a 10K every day, you should be aware that the NHS includes a brisk walk to school in this type of activity, along with running around a playground at breaktime, and using playground equipment. It also doesn’t have to be a 60-minute block but can instead be spread out throughout the day. But, still, even if you do walk to school each day, it can be very easy for children to become less active during the winter months.
Benefits of Exercise for Children
You might be thinking, well, does it really matter? After all, your child seems fit and healthy. Regular exercise has lots of benefits for your child, with research indicating that inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults, with all the health conditions that this can lead to. What’s more, exercise in children has been demonstrated to not only improve their physical health, but also to increase concentration and improve their academic ability, as well as improve their mental wellbeing.
Tips For Getting Your Child Active In Winter
If your child is becoming a bit of a couch potato with an addiction to screen time, then the start of the New Year is a great opportunity to start a healthier lifestyle and you can get the whole family involved. Here are some ways that you can incorporate exercise for the kids into your day.
1. Use A Challenge Jar
This could easily become part of your daily routine, perhaps by leaving it on the dining table and using it before you serve up dinner. Get a large jar or biscuit tin and fill it with slips of paper. Each slip should have something written on it that encourages movement. A few examples include: “show your best dance move”, “pretend to be a lion stalking some prey” and “how many times can you jump on the spot in one minute?”. Every day your child can pull one out at random and complete the challenge.
2. Create an Obstacle Course Around the House
One for when you really just can’t face getting outside, this activity is one that you can come back to again and again, with plenty of ways to mix it up each time. Use cushions as items to jump over. Tape a ribbon between a door frame as something that your child has to crawl under. Have them walk between two obstacles whilst balancing a book on their head. Use masking tape on the floor to mark places where they have to hop on the spot, spin around, touch their toes, etc. Encourage your child to come up with their own ideas to get them more engaged with the activity.
3. Have A Dance Party
Liven up January with some funky disco tunes. Invite some of your child’s friends over for a Saturday afternoon party (and maybe try and convince the other parents to do the same over the next few weeks as a sort of “babysitting swap”). Close the curtains, turn on the night lights, give the kids some glow sticks /go/amazon-glow-sticks/ and put on some music. Have some prizes available for the best dancer to encourage the kids to keep moving.
4. Make Use of YouTube
YouTube has some great free content that is aimed at children that will get them moving. We love Cosmic Kids Yoga here at Mumblog as it combines story-telling sessions with yoga, and is particularly good for younger children. Exercise guru, The Body Coach, has released a series of videos especially aimed at children and there are plenty of other videos available. This workout from Anna Saccone is designed to get both parent and child moving together , whilst Change4Life has a dance routine that your child could attempt to learn each day. Of course, there’s always the old favourite, Baby Shark, with all the accompanying actions.
5. Go To A Soft Play Centre
Yes, we appreciate that they are the seventh circle of hell but there are ways you can make them work for you. Go early, preferably arriving at opening time. There’s a good chance you will get around an hour’s worth of play before the place starts filling up and you have to then watch out for that one child who delights in taking an elbow to your child’s face. Choose one with Wi-Fi so you can catch up on some work whilst the kids run around. If they start getting bored, challenge them to complete the course in a time frame and see how fast they can go.
If you really can’t stomach a soft play centre, then consider other indoor activity centres, such as trampolining, bowling, ice skating, or laser quest.
6. Have an Indoor Treasure Hunt
Get your children moving around the house by creating a treasure hunt with clues to follow that will lead them from room to room. For primary school children, you could incorporate some maths in the clues, for example, “the next clue is hidden in a book with the answer to the sum 2 x 5 in the title.” The more clues you have, the longer your children will be up and on their feet walking through the house.
7. Get Hula-Hooping
You don’t need a lot of space to use a hula hoop, and this is even an activity your child can do whilst watching their favourite cartoon. Challenge them to see if they can hold the hula-hoop up on their waists for the time it takes for one episode of Go-Jetters to be screened.
8. Play Balloon Keepie-Uppie
The great thing about balloons is that they can be thrown around the house with very little possibility of them knocking anything over and causing damage. Kids love balloons, and they are very cheap to buy. This activity is particularly good for toddlers who tend to go a bit mad for some balloon action. See how long they can keep it in the air and off the floor. Give them a prize if they manage to do it for five-minutes.
9. Play Active Board Games
Twister is an oldie but a goodie. Spin the wheel and place your hand or foot on the mat as directed. Contort into different poses and try not to fall over. It’s a fun way of incorporating a little core strength training into your child’s day.
Board games are seeing a bit of a resurgence at the moment and there are several on the market that are designed to get your kids active. Charades For Kids will get your children up and moving about as they try and act out the topic from a large pile of cards. There are picture cards that mean that younger children who are not yet readers can also join in with the fun. Ultra Dash provides an easy way to create an obstacle course in your home. Coloured targets are placed around the room and when the tagger flashes the player has to get to the corresponding colour as fast as possible.
10. Go Out Anyway
Beat the cabin fever by wrapping up warm and going outside anyway. Keep your kids warm by using layers rather than one thick coat. Thermal baselayers are widely available for children and don’t cost the earth. They can double up as pyjamas and are normally very soft and comfortable. If using wellies, make sure your child is wearing thick socks to keep their feet warm as wellies can be cold for the feet! Use a snood rather than a scarf so that it’s less likely for your child to lose it, and always take a spare pair of gloves or two for the inevitable moment that they get wet or go missing.
You could go for a kick about in the park and accept that your child is going to get muddy. It’s all part of the fun after all. Or, perhaps join in with a junior park run. Alternatively, set them a challenge of finding as many leaves as they can within a five-minute time slot. Reward them for their efforts with a hot chocolate afterwards.