Fight obesity and keep children active during winter

It’s really hard sometimes to figure out a way for your child to get all his “wiggles” out during the cold, windy months of winter but we still need to keep those little bodies active; for our sake and for theirs!

Children in America are spending way too many hours a day in front of a screen and the obesity level for young children is at the highest it has ever been; which in turn will cause diseases such as diabetes and heart disease at very young ages. We want our children to live long healthy lives, so here are a few activities you can do with them to keep them active:

Video Time – Children love to play video games so buy some active games for your WII (such as WII dance, bowling; workout, etc.; these are fun and will keep them moving for sure; you may want to join in so you keep your heart rate moving too and it can be some great family fun!

Limit TV time – If you’re committed to keeping your kids active, be committed to turning off that television. If you are consistent about time limits regarding the TV, kids will expect it and not cry about it. By limiting TV time, it’s one less passive distraction in the house. Without it, kids will look for other ways to keep occupied.

Encourage snow play – Kids love snow, so encourage as much snow play as possible. Even if you have to travel to get some snow during the winter, the many hours of sledding, snowball fights, and creating snow forts and snowmen will make the trip worth it. But remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that younger kids will experience ill-effects sooner than older kids, so watch them carefully. Make sure scarves, hats and gloves stay dry and in-place to protect their young skin. And remember, if it’s too cold for you when you’re all bundled up, it’s definitely too cold for your kids.

Go to your local community center Most cities have community centers where kids can play indoors. Community centers may offer basketball courts, heated swimming pools or even classes where kids can be active, such as karate or tumbling. In Marshalltown, the Y offers many activities that kids can do indoors and at a reasonable rate.

Chores – You can’t go wrong with old-fashioned chores. Even younger children can help clean up by picking up dishes and toys. Older children my love to dust, wash mirrors, etc., but keep the cleaner away from the little ones.

Ice skating – Ice skating is a wonderful, exhaustive physical activity for kids. If you give them an hour on the rink in the evening, they won’t argue when it’s time for bed.

Dance Almost all children love to dance, especially little ones. Turn on some loud music and get the kids grooving. Kids also love it if mom or dad join in for the fun, and it’s good exercise for you too.

Play hide and seek – Kids this age love hide and seek. Let them be the active ones by seeking you while you hide around the house. Even a 2-year-old can have a blast with this one.

Find an indoor playground – Whether it be a play place at a fast food restaurant or a structured playground facility, kids can have a lot of fun climbing and sliding down playground equipment. Even if you don’t eat a lot of fast food, you can take the kids to McDonald’s for ice cream just so they can play.

Scavenger hunt You can also use this to practice math and keep your kids active. You may tell your little boy that you have 10 cars hidden in the living room, and he will hunt every last one of them down. You can use a variety of items for them to search for; and going from room to room keeps them moving.

Walk at the store – Keep your preschooler out of the stroller/cart and have him or her walk next to you. Kids love to hold onto the cart and pretend to push it for you; but yes, if they are younger they may also want to run away from you; doing this in small segments of time may work better for them.

These are all tips that can help keep preschoolers active during the winter. These will make the transition to hours of outdoor play easier once spring finally arrives. And also get mom and dad up moving too!

Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit