Fun exercise ideas to keep kids moving all season long

Winter brings shorter, colder days and, typically, much more indoor family time. But that doesn't mean you can't keep your kids moving and having fun. With a little planning and creativity, you can help your family stay physically active all year long – no matter what the weather is outside.

Why is it important for kids to stay active in winter?

Anna Lorenzi, MPH, Program Manager at Get Up & Go by Children's Health℠ supported by Kohl's Cares, encourages families to get at least one hour of physical activity each day.

Exercise is essential, no matter the season. It helps kids maintain strong muscles and bones, builds cardiovascular strength, reduces the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and improves mental health.

"It's important to keep a positive mindset about staying active, especially during the gray, colder days of winter," Lorenzi says.

How can families stay motivated to exercise during winter?

Don't feel pressured to block off a full hour for exercise, which can be difficult given families' busy schedules. Instead, aim for several 15-20 minute bursts of movement throughout the day – and keep it fun. Remember that most kids enjoy exercise more when it is part of a game.

"Keeping kids active doesn't mean they need to do sets of push-ups or crunches," explains Lorenzi. Instead, incorporate movement into games like hide-and-seek or indoor tag and relay races. "That way, they're squatting and jumping and moving under and around things, so they're getting bodyweight exercise through play," Lorenzi adds.

What are some fun winter activities to get kids moving?

To help your kids avoid excessive, couch-bound screen time this winter, look for fun, simple ways to make movement a part of their everyday routines. Opt for creative games or activities inside or grab your winter coat for some fun outside time. "In winter, kids can do most any activity they can in the summer, as long as they bundle up," says Lorenzi.

Indoor winter activities for kids

  • Make commercial time, exercise time. Have kids get up and do jumping jacks or duck walks around the living room during commercial breaks of their favorite shows. No commercials? Just set a timer for a break in the middle of the episode.
  • Play video games that incorporate movement. Host a family game night of Just Dance or Wii bowling – or similar games that get participants up and moving.
  • Incorporate small dance parties throughout the day. Put on a favorite song and have kids dance around the room. Or have them dance along to a video on sites like Go Noodle.
  • Do a clean-up sprint. Encourage kids to dust, vacuum or declutter as many rooms as they can in five or 10 minutes.
  • Build an indoor obstacle course. Use household or garage items to encourage kids to crawl, jump and wiggle their way to fun.
  • Hold a scavenger hunt. Get kids moving throughout the house on a race to find items on individualized search lists.

Outdoor winter activities for kids

  • Take family bike rides or walks. As long as you dress for the weather, there's no reason your family can't enjoy the outdoors all year long. Plan ahead and enjoy outdoor activity when the sun is out.
  • Make a nature collage. Have kids collect rocks, leaves and twigs in your yard or at a nearby park, then assemble them into a collage as a family.
  • Shoot baskets, throw a baseball, jump rope or scooter ride. Make a list of your child's favorite outdoor activities and allow them to choose which they'll enjoy during a set time.
  • Have backyard relay races. Time your family doing relays across the yard while dribbling a soccer ball, skipping or hopping.
  • Enjoy the snow. If you're lucky enough to have some snowy days, make the most of them. Build a snowman. Have a snowball throwing contest. Go for sled rides. Use spray bottles to "paint" the snow with food coloring and water. No snow in sight? Make a "snowman" out of household objects or use balls for a throwing contest.

How can kids stay safe while playing outdoors this winter?

Kids should wear sunscreen and stay hydrated when playing outdoors, even in winter.

When playing outside in cooler temperatures, kids should dress in layers to stay warm. Encourage kids to wear hats and gloves, especially when the temperature falls below 40 degrees, Lorenzi advises. When children are playing in wet, icy or snowy conditions, make sure they come in frequently to trade out wet clothes (especially socks!) and warm up.

While in the summer, it's best to avoid the outdoors during peak sun hours, consider doing the opposite during the winter months. The sun can help keep you warm even on chilly days and also help with visibility. If your children are outside as it gets dark, make sure they wear bright or reflective clothing.

Learn fun exercise ideas to keep kids moving all season long.