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The onset of winter can be a challenge for parents.  When the temperatures plummet and the heavens open, it is often harder to think of ideas for keeping children active.

Experts all agree that movement is essential for a child’s healthy development, delivering a range of benefits for their physical and their emotional wellbeing.  Physical play also contributes to a child’s success in school and beyond, helping with their academic performance, building their fine and gross motor skills, improving their social skills and inspiring a love of learning.  But what if it’s wet and gloomy outside and slouching on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate is the most appealing option?

Don’t despair.  There are plenty of fun ways of keeping your child physically active in winter and most of these are simple and easy to organise.  Many of these activities are free and can be done either at home or in your close neighbourhood - so it’s easy to do something on the spur of the moment when you spot a break in the wintry weather.

Even though the experts recommend that children spend a certain amount of time doing physical activities every day, it’s worth remembering that your children don’t need to do all of it at once.  It can be broken up into manageable pieces - and they’ll still get all the benefits. 

And in case you are wondering what the recommendations actually are....the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that children aged 2-4 have at least three hours of physical activity a day, including energetic play and those aged between 5 and 17 have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity a day.

Here are some fun ideas for indoor activities in winter:

  • Tape a hopscotch grid onto a floor.   Remember to use the appropriate type of tape for the floor surface.
  • Use tape to create different shapes on a floor (eg square, rectangle and circle).  You can then direct the children to move from shape to shape using different types of movement eg slither like a snake, jump like a frog, crawl like a crab.
  • Create a series of parallel lines using tape on the floor.  Children can then try different activities like jumping between the lines on one foot, long jump, crawling on all fours through the spaces without touching the lines and so on.
  • Make an indoor bowling rink.  A corner of a garage can be a great indoor playspace.  Use empty plastic bottles as the targets and use a soft ball or a rolled up pair of socks to knock them over.
  • Have a dance-off to a favourite song.
  • Stick some coloured sticky notes on the back of a door and get the children to throw a small beanbag at the different colours.
  • Balloons are a great resource for indoor play.  You can get the children to try and punch the balloon so that it doesn’t fall to the ground.  Children can put a balloon between their legs and follow the leader without dropping it.  The choices are endless but remember that a burst balloon can be a choking hazard so take care to pick up all the pieces.
  • Play ‘mirror-mirror’.  Get your child to copy your movements (for example star jumps, sitting on the ground and jumping up) and then reverse the roles.
  • When you have a quiet moment, it’s really worthwhile taking the time to research different activities (you’ll find loads of inspiring ideas on the internet), write them up on slips of paper and create a movement jar.  You’ll never be stuck for ideas again!

And for some outdoor winter fun, try these activities:

  • Go for a walk in the neighbourhood or your local park
  • Play tag, have some races, throw a ball or beanbag or fly a kite
  • Do a puddle jump game (don’t be afraid of getting a bit damp and grubby!)
  • Make a big pile of fallen leaves and sticks in the park
  • Have target practice by throwing sticks or stones at a tree trunk (just make sure it’s safe for everyone around you!)
  • Visit the local playground

Yes, winter may be chilly and the short days can be a bit gloomy but with a little imagination, there are so many ways of keeping your little ones active.   Physical activities are also a great way of spending quality family time together and strengthening sibling bonds. 

The importance of physical activity is a cornerstone of daily life at Treasured Tots childcare centres in Mandurah, Bibra Lake and Fremantle where significant focus is placed on encouraging the children’s physical movement with activities such as yoga, dance, nature play and sport.  This focus continues through rain and shine because the educators know just how important regular movement is for a child’s healthy development.

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