As the seasons change and the temperature plummets, many people struggle to stay active, and kids are no exception. Ensuring their kids’ physical fitness is already a priority for many parents, but cold weather and darkness make it harder. Impromptu games of kickball, long bike rides, and afternoons spent in the pool disappear along with the summer sunshine.
If you’re reading this, you might be at a loss for ideas on how to keep your kids active in the wintertime. Here are a few methods of doing just that.
Gamify Their Activities
One way to help kids keep on the move is to gamify their experience. Gamification is the practice of structuring a task by providing clear objectives and rewarding the completion of those objectives. For example, an objective could be to take 10,000 steps every day. This objective is identifiable, trackable, and can easily be subdivided into 1,000-step increments. The final component of gamification is to construct a point system that rewards your child for completing their goal.
Providing satisfying and meaningful rewards is the most important part of any gamification system. If you do this properly, the brain will release dopamine, a feel-good hormone that encourages your child to repeat the action or activity. One style of reward system is to use a point-tracking chart that hangs on the fridge in the kitchen. Every time your child reaches the 10,000-step goal, award them a sticker they can place proudly on their chart. When they reach a certain amount of stickers, say 10, give them a reward like a toy or meal of their choosing.
It can be difficult for kids to stay motivated to complete long-term goals. This is especially true of goals like staying active, which may seem unimportant to them. Gamification will give your child tangible goals that will naturally encourage them to seek out movement. You can even go digital and use a smart watch for kids, which comes with these gamified systems built in. Gamification is an amazing way to help your kids stay motivated all year long, even in the less hospitable winter months.
Enroll Them In Social Activities
It’s no secret that children love to socialize. But winter can be tough for them because it’s much harder to play with their friends during dark, cold days. Think back to when you were a child, and remember how eternally long time used to feel. It’s no wonder that kids can become demotivated and stagnant in the depths of winter. So a great way to boost their spirits and keep them moving is to enroll them in social activities.
Every child is different and thus will have different preferences, so think of your child’s likes and dislikes. Does your child love to play games outside, or are they more of a bookworm? Do they like activities with lots of structure, or do they prefer to go with the flow? Depending on your child’s individual preferences, search for different movement-oriented activities that align with them.
For example, if your child likes structure and heavy physical play, team sports might be excellent for them. While many sports are warm-weather activities, there are tons that have their main season during the winter. Basketball, hockey, squash, swimming, and, of course, alpine sports are just a few options. On the other hand, if your child likes to express their more creative side, you could sign them up for dance or theater classes. When in doubt, ask what kinds of activities their friends are participating in so they can join, too.
Make Screen Time Count
If encouraging your kids to engage in physical activity is a struggle, consider what might be demotivating them in the first place. One of the biggest wintertime traps for everyone is overindulgence in screen time. It’s easy to remain glued to the couch for another round of your new game or episode of your favorite show. And again, kids are no exception, especially when it’s dark, windy, and cold outside.
Before issuing screen time limits out of nowhere, have a conversation with your kids. Explain to them the importance of balancing screen time with other activities. Discuss how to stay fit throughout life, even during winter, and why it might be challenging. Ask what they like about using screens and how much time each day they think is appropriate. While you have the final say as the parent, they will feel more respected when you involve them in this conversation.
Rather than eliminating screen time altogether, think of ways to make it count. Take a look at the programs and games your kids are watching and playing and see whether there’s a more active alternative. For example, if your child watches a lot of shows, are there kids’ exercise programs they — and even you — might enjoy? Or if your child likes to play games, playing virtual reality or exercise games could get them up and moving. The best part about this balanced mentality is that your children can be active while still enjoying their screen time.
Making Movement Rewarding
Winter can be hard for everyone, and keeping your kids moving during these months can be challenging. But by changing your frame of mind, you can start to imagine opportunities that might exist right in front of you. People love games, and that goes double for children. Create fun, rewarding opportunities for your kids to be active, and they may be motivated to want more movement in their lives.