TeacherLists Blog

Winter Exercise Ideas for the Family

by Elizabeth S. Leaver


It’s recommended that children get an hour of exercise a day, and a growing body of research suggests that regular exercise may be linked to improved performance in school. Most kids don’t get enough exercise during the school week—particularly during the winter months, when bad weather can ruin good intentions.

On top of that, we’re facing the problem of too many hours spent sitting in front of screens because of remote and hybrid schooling, and our children are getting even less exercise than before.

But there are still lots of ways for kids and families to stay active and get exercise during the colder months. We’ve put together some fun winter exercise activities to get everyone moving—some for inside the house, some for outdoors, and some you can do around town.

In Your Home

Family dance party: Get everyone to work up a sweat by cranking the tunes and letting loose in your basement, living room, or any space that works. You can use a video game like Dance Dance Revolution (for the Wii), or simply ask everyone to choose a few favorite songs and dance it out together. You might even try the latest TikTok dance challenge and post your own version.

Timed stations: Designate spots for some simple exercise stations like jump rope, jumping jacks, running in place, and sit-ups. Have family members go through the stations a set number of times, and time them with a stopwatch each time they go through. Encourage them to try to better their own time with each pass.

Color walk: Lay down pieces of colored paper in a path all through the house. (To keep from slipping, you can tape down the paper with painter’s or masking tape, which won’t damage your floors.) Keep colors separate (to avoid, for example, three blue sheets in a row), and then challenge participants to walk from one room to the next by stepping only on a certain color. Make the game more adult-appropriate by spacing the paper farther apart.

Parachute popcorn: This favorite field day activity has been reimagined for indoor play and younger kids love it. As few as two people can hold the “parachute” (a sheet or tarp) and toss lightweight balls on top. Tell the children to start making waves with the parachute to make the balls pop up in the air. Add more balls throughout the game to see how many can stay in before any fall out.

Activity jar: Build your own mini indoor field day by filling a jar with movement ideas like “7 jump-ups” or “run around the house twice” and let the kids choose their next activity.

In the Neighborhood

Snow play: If the ground is covered with snow, think of it as a great time to get the heart pumping. A snowball fight gets everyone running, throwing, and laughing, as well. And when everyone is done running around, have a snowball tossing contest—have a pair of players toss a snowball back and forth until it falls apart.

Snow-building: If you have enough snow, building in it can be a fun and effective workout for everyone. If you’re feeling ambitious, create an igloo or snow village together. But even making a family of snow “people” will get everyone moving—and, no doubt, smiling!

Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing is a relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance way to get some exercise. Once you purchase (or rent) snowshoes, there really are no rules. Just strap them on your boots and head outside, whether just around your yard or into the woods.

Winter walks: Bundling up to brave the cold can seem daunting, but once you get past that hurdle, a fun and rewarding family activity awaits. In addition to being good exercise, walks offer a great way to see some of winter’s beauty up close together.

Tug of War: Find an old rope and split into two teams. Pull until one team pulls the other across a center line. This cold-weather version has the losing team landing in snow rather than mud so clean-up is a breeze!

Find more ideas for active play in Field Day Games—At-Home Edition on our sister site, PTOtoday.com.

In the Community

Family bowling: Bowling is an indoor activity almost anyone can enjoy. It may not have the intensity of some sports, but it still gets everybody active and involved. As a bonus, it gives your kids a fun way to practice math skills by serving as scorekeepers. (If you want the fun without having to leave the house, set up a few empty bottles or plastic pins in the kitchen or basement and let the good times roll.)

Lesson or class: Winter is a great time to try something new as a family. Many gyms offer specific in-person and online fitness classes geared toward families. Other options include martial arts lessons or rock climbing at a gym or indoor rock-climbing facility.

Swim dates: Lots of gyms or high school fitness centers offer times for family swimming. Try to pick a consistent time or two each week when everyone is free, and mark it on the calendar. You’re more likely to stick with it that way.

Ice-skating: Skating at a rink or nearby pond is a classic winter activity. Since rinks are maintained, they can be a safer bet for recreational skaters. Plus, most offer lessons for those who are less experienced or looking to improve their skating skills.

Fitness night at school: Find out whether your school has an open gym night or a family fitness night. Those events can get kids and families moving and put a positive emphasis on physical activity. Typically held in a school gym or similar space, a fitness night can be run as a “sports sampler” that offers kids the chance to try out different sports, or with stations for activities like using Hula-Hoops or jumping rope.

Originally posted 2021

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