Physical activity during winter months, indoors and out

Physical activity ideas for toddlers indoors or out when winter months allow.

What are the benefits of young children being active every day? The National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi lists the following benefits: Development of muscle strength and endurance, building self-esteem, increasing stability, enhancing control skills, motor skills and thinking skills. Active children are less likely to become overweight, which in turn decreases the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels. Active children tend to have a positive outlook on life, sleep better and may handle challenges that come their way more easily.

The American Heart Association recommends all children age two and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day. Those 60 minutes are to be spread throughout a day in 10-15 minute increments. Young children need a balance of active and quiet times throughout the day. Activities should be fun and developmentally appropriate. If you’re concerned that you may not have space for indoor activities, visit the Penn State Better Kid Care website for ideas even the smallest of houses, apartments or centers can accommodate.

Winter months can be a challenge for daily physical activity as the need doesn’t go away since we may not be able to get outside every day. Parents and caregivers can ensure their little ones are moving and developing their muscles by providing large muscle play opportunities. Action rhymes are a great way to get kids (and adults) moving. What are action rhymes? These are songs or poems set to motion that tell a story, they are also called fingerplays. Some classic action rhymes include “Row your boat,” “Ring around the Rosies” and “Head and shoulder, knees and toes.” All three can be a great workout for a toddler body.

When winter weather will permit, walking in the snow is a work out in its self; make it more interesting by searching for animal tracks. Pretending to be those animals takes on a whole new aspect when there is snow on the ground. Old-time favorite activities like creating a snow angel, dancing the “Hokey Pokey” or playing the game “Duck, duck Goose” are also a work-outs in the snow. Throwing snowballs at a target (a red circle in the snow using food coloring) will satisfy the throwing urge and no one gets hurt. Follow the leader or marching in a circle lifting those little legs as high as they can go and swinging little arms gets many muscles working and may insure a quiet rest time when you go back inside.

Michigan State University Extension challenges adults to challenge their children to come up with fun, healthy activities, especially during the winter months. Adult’s role model healthy (or unhealthy) lifestyles; parents, care givers and children all win by participating in physical activities every day of the year.

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