Let's Get Moving!

When it's cold, kids need creative ways to burn calories. Try these ideas.

The importance of kids staying physically active does not diminish in the winter, but it gets difficult with cold weather, fewer sunlight hours for outdoor play and the demands of homework.

According to Aimee Smith, Director of Activate America at the YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity, kids typically eat more in the winter, yet burn half as many calories compared to summer months.

Experts agree that all kids older than age 2 should be active for at least an hour a day. But it doesn’t have to be all at once, says Mary L. Gavin, MD, a pediatrician and medical editor for Wilmington, DE-based KidsHealth.org. “It can accumulate throughout the day.”

What Kids Need

Winter Play Tips

  • Make it fun. “If they enjoy it, they’re more likely to stick with it,” says Kidzercise’s Sybil Pratt.
  • Let kids take the lead. “Getting them involved helps keep them vested,” says yoga teacher Denise Orsulak, of All Kids Yoga in Phoenixville, PA. Kids won’t get bored if they’re making the decisions about what to do next.
  • Do it together as a family activity. Set a good example and get some exercise yourself by being active together. “Interaction with the family is better than exercise done in isolation,” says Orsulak.
  • Clear some space. Make a space where kids can move around without knocking over lamps or running into furniture.

Whatever you choose to do, safety comes first. “Make sure you are closely supervising your children,” advises John Geraci, owner of Fun Bus in Gloucester County, NJ. From jump rope to free weights, make sure all exercise equipment is age-appropriate.

In addition to one hour of structured exercise, kids should have at least one more hour of unstructured playtime. Ideally, kids should get the following three kinds of exercise during the course of a week:

  • Aerobic activity, such as a brisk walk or bike riding
  • Muscle-strengthening exercise, like gymnastics or push-ups
  • Bone-strengthening exercise, such as jumping rope or running.

“Make sure they’re doing something, and not just sitting there,” says Sybil Pratt, owner of Kidzercise, a fitness enter in Sicklerville, NJ. “Kids need to move their bodies.”

Ideas To Get Started

Even if the weather outside is frightful, avoid cabin fever by getting the kids outside for some fresh air. Dress them warmly in layers, then encourage them to play outside or go for a walk.

If road conditions aren’t bad, you often can find nearby indoor sports (basketball, volleyball), skills classes (soccer, tumbling) or individual activities such as swimming.

If you would rather have the kids stay close to home, here are some ideas for indoor exercise that won’t wreck the house or break the bank.

Toddlers & Preschoolers

  • Play games with movements, such as Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes; Ring Around the Rosie; or I’m a Little Teapot.
  • Listen to music and dance. Try a freeze-dance.
  • Play with toys like hula-hoops, soft balls and scarves.

 School Age & Tweens

  • Find a soft place for tumbling.
  • Set up an obstacle course.
  • Create a scavenger hunt.


  • Strength training with weights.
  • Home gym equipment like treadmills or elliptical machines.
  • Find a good yoga or aerobics video.

Props to Inspire
Healthy Movement

  • Jump rope
  • Soft ball
  • Hula hoop
  • Bean bags
  • Maracas

Make sure weight and gym equipment is size-appropriate, and that teens are properly trained and supervised.

Anything that encourages physical activity will work, just be creative! “The key is to keep it fun,” says KidsHealth’s Mary Gavin. “Let them choose what they want to do, but send a clear message that they need to do something.” Winter weather is no excuse!

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

Categories: Play