Health & Science

Obstacle Courses, Dance Parties and More: Getting Your Kids the Exercise They Need When the Cold Keeps You In

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids ages 6 through 17 get one hour of vigorous exercise per day, and any parent would certainly attest to how important daily movement is, even for kids as young toddlers or preschoolers. But how in the world does that work for families in cold winter months when the sun starts to set at 4:00 pm?

Ready for a parenting hack that tires out the kiddos and gets the house cleaned up, too? Read on for that and other ideas for keeping kids of all ages busy during the coldest months of the year.

Obstacle course

Use whatever you have around the house to create an obstacle course. Pillows to jump over, blankets to roll in, a couch to run around — anything fairly break-proof is fair game. Depending on the size of your space, you can run time trials so that kids get in enough laps to make it a workout. 

If your kids are too little to get the hang of an obstacle course, you can simplify. Set up blocks or smaller stuffed animals on one side of the room and put a basket some distance away. Then, have your kids run a relay race from the pile to the basket and back again. Bonus points if this gets your place cleaned up a bit, too!

Outdoor fun

Shoveling snow burns a ton of calories and is a great exercise for kids at any age. Sledding is also a good way to keep moving, and getting back up the hill takes much more work than going down. Try something new like snowshoes or cross-country skiing to spark your child’s interest; they won’t even know they’re even getting a workout.

Even little ones can get in on the shoveling fun. While you’re outside shoveling, give younger children a big plastic bowl, or even a spoon depending on their size. Let them scoop out the snow to “help” you clear the sidewalk. They might not make much of a dent in your path, but all of that bending and scooping will keep their little muscles warm. 

Dance party

It’s almost always a good time for a dance party, except maybe during naptime. When the energy in the house is going down, turn on some music and get everyone moving. Find fun ways to keep everyone going: conga lines, line dances, square dancing, whatever you can think of will work!

Little ones especially love movement and rhythm. And, if your kiddo is too young to dance, claim them as your dance partner for an arm workout for yourself!

Workout videos

Give everyone a chance to find a workout on YouTube for the family to try. Make sure you’ve got parental controls set on YouTube or switch to You Tube Kids and let your kids look for a fitness routine to lead with the family. They’ll get plenty of exercise figuring out what they like best. From classic workouts geared towards kids to Frozen-themed yoga to sports conditioning for young athletes, challenge your kids to find something they want to teach the rest of the family. 

There are also plenty of fitness videos geared at little ones, but you might want to try some of these sweet ones for both of you: Mommy and Me dance cardio class or this sweet Mommy and Me yoga

Cleaning games

Chores around the house are always a great way to keep everyone moving — the challenge is motivating your kids to jump in. 

Make everything a game to get kids involved: Who can pick up the most blocks? Who can fold laundry the neatest? Who can sweep up the biggest pile of dirt?

Picking up or pushing laundry baskets full of clothes, making beds, going up and down the stairs to put things away, washing floors or walls — there are lots of ways to incorporate movement while getting the house clean. An hour of active cleaning on a Saturday morning can count for exercise and result in a clean house.

Even little ones can get in on the action — running from laundry pile to laundry hamper or being the delivery person for clean towels or dirty dishes are fun ways to get them involved. Simple tasks like dusting can keep little hands busy too.

No matter what you decide to do, incorporating movement and fitness in your family’s lifestyle brings huge benefits for you and your kids. Getting active and staying active during the cold months is the perfect cure for the winter blues.

And be sure to check us out on Instagram for even more ideas!

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -