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Winter Activities for Kids: How to Keep Kids Active During Winter

While daytime is shorter, colder and wetter in winter, it’s still important to keep kids active with plenty of fun things every day. However, we understand there are fewer opportunities to get young children outside and moving than in summer.

That’s why we’ve put together some tips and fun winter activities that will help you to keep your kids active.

How active kids should be each day – including in winter

Exercise is essential, no matter the season.

According to NHS guidelines, kids aged between 5 and 18 should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity every day. This activity should break up time spent not moving and be varied in types and intensities.   

Participating in regular physical activities not only gets kids moving, it helps kids maintain strong muscles and bones, builds cardiovascular strength, reduces the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and improves mental health.

Whether it’s creative games, activities inside or fun outside time also boosts self-esteem, social skills, and athletic ability.

In recent years, especially with the pandemic and lockdowns, making physical activity part of the daily routine for young people and their families has become increasingly important. Our survey about child wellbeing found that during lockdowns, 82% of children fell short of the recommended hour of exercise a day.

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Tips for improving children’s physical activity in the cold months

While it’s so cold outside, playing video games or spending hours watching TV with a hot chocolate can be more appealing to children than playing sports or doing some winter activities.

Whatever your child’s age, here are some top tips on how to stay active during winter:

  • Rather than telling kids they can’t watch TV, encourage them to do jumping jacks or balancing exercises in the ad breaks, or set a timer for fitness breaks.
  • Don’t feel pressured to block off a full hour for exercise.  If you’ve got a busy schedule, aim for several 15-20 minute bursts of movement throughout the day.
  • Encourage a positive attitude towards sports and fitness by keeping physical activity fun. Remember that most kids enjoy exercise more when it is part of play.
  • Children learn from their role models. If they regularly observe their parents or other adults keeping physically active as part of family life, they’re more likely to get involved and create the same healthy habits.
  • Make plans with their friends that encourage them to all get active while having fun. This could be a team sport such as basketball, or simply regular outdoor physical activity.
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Fun winter activities for kids

To help your kids avoid excessive, couch-bound screen time during the cold winter months and bad weather, look for physical activity that will help make movement a part of their everyday routine.

Want to know how to stay active in winter? Here are nine kids’ winter activities to help keep them moving:

1. Jive bunnies

Based on the hand jive dances from the ’50s, the jive bunnies activity is a fun way to get your child dancing.

First, choose a suitable song such as Rock Around the Clock or Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Then, it’s time to teach your child the different hand jive moves. We’d suggest introducing the moves one by one and then combining them all together at the end.

Here are some basic hand jive moves you can use to create the dance sequence:

  • Slap your thighs twice then clap your hands twice.
  • Criss cross your hands four times, with your right hand underneath twice, then swap to your left hand underneath twice (hands should not touch).
  • Make hands into fists and position as if you are grabbing a pole. Right fist at the top, knock them together twice, then swap to the left hand at the top and knock together twice.
  • Give a thumbs up with both hands. Sway to the right and point your thumb over your shoulder twice, then sway to the left and point your thumb over your shoulder twice.

Once your child has put them all together, they can try dancing with a partner to music or adding their own start and ending pose to the dance sequence.

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2. Leaping frogs

Leaping frogs is a reliable way to get children engaged and out of breath. All you will need is something to mark out the course on the floor; whether that’s with masking tape, hula hoops or coloured plastic cups.

Start by setting up a course for leaping frogs. Every player now takes turns to leap their way from one side of the course to the other, only stepping on the areas of the floor where they’re allowed to.

If they touch the ground they’re not meant to, that child goes to the back of the queue to have another try.

To make this activity different each time, you can change the course layout or send children across the course in pairs and have them leapfrog each other all the way across. It’s a brilliant way to build strong muscles and improve balance.

3. Mindful dancing

A slightly different dancing activity, mindful dancing is a variation on the classic game of musical statues and is ideal for a rainy day.

Choose or create a playlist of upbeat pop music that your kids can easily dance to. Before you start, explain to the kids that everyone can move and dance however they feel but need to freeze when the music stops.

However, how this differs from the original game is that nobody is eliminated and each time they freeze, there may be a prompt.

After the first freeze, say: “next time you freeze, try to…” and choose a prompt. Prompts may include:

  • Make the shape of the first letter of your name
  • Lift one foot off the floor and stand on one leg
  • Choose a pose that reflects how the song makes you feel
  • Carry on dancing – but as slowly as possible

After playing the game, take time to ask them how they felt and what they noticed whilst playing.

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4. Volcanoes and craters

A competitive and inclusive activity, all you need is an open space and more plastic cups than players. Lay out the cups in the middle, half face up and half face down. Then, split the children into two teams.

Team 1 will aim to turn the cups face up (to make craters) and team 2 will try to turn the cups face down (to make volcanoes).

Set a timer and once it stops, count up the number of volcanoes and craters to find the winning team.

To make the games harder, introduce the rule that all players have to sidestep back to their team’s side after each cone they turn. And, if a team is constantly winning, mix up the players.

5. Animal dodges

Animal dodges is a great winter activity to improve concentration in space-limited areas. To prepare, have the children spaced out throughout the room and explain the rules of the game.

Quite simply, when you call out the name of an animal, they need to perform a dodge as though they were that animal dodging a ball.

You may wish to introduce your own animals, but we’d suggest starting with:

  • Kangaroo – jump up into the air, as if they’re jumping over something
  • Crab – sidestep quickly (but make sure they’re not bumping into anybody else)
  • Armadillo – duck into a ball, as low as they can go

Start with a warm-up by saying each animal and make sure the kids all understand the movements. Then, when they’re ready, start to mix up the animals so they can’t predict which is coming next.

6. Build a nest challenge

The cold weather doesn’t mean kids have to be stuck indoors getting cabin fever. Fun outdoor winter activities such as building nests gets them into the fresh air while thinking creatively and keeping active.

Start by taking a walk around your neighbourhood or local park, and collecting things birds might need to build their homes. Twigs, grass leaves, branches and feathers all make great building materials. Once you’ve collected enough, head back home as it’s time to start building.

Begin by weaving together the twigs and branches, bending them into the shape of a traditional bird nest until you have a sturdy base. Next up lodge the leaves and feathers around the nest walls to create a space that’s enclosed from the wind and rain.

You might be surprised by the challenge. Get your children to think about how difficult it might be for birds to make a nest without their hands!

7. Excavation with ice cubes

Outdoor activities are the only way to embrace the winter season. Ice cube excavation is the perfect opportunity to get creative with and engage children’s senses in a new way.

Place small toys or objects into an ice tray and top with water. Leave the tray in the freezer for a few hours or overnight and wait for the water to freeze completely.

Once frozen, take out and provide kids with different tools such as plastic spoons and spray bottles filled with warm water, to excavate the toys from the ice.

Their brains will be engaged as they figure out the quickest way of getting their toy free, experimenting with chipping away at the ice, melting it with water or discovering other solutions. Don’t forget gloves!

8. Balloon volleyball

Balloon volleyball is as straightforward as it sounds. Blow up a balloon and see how long your child can keep it up in the air.

It may be simple but it keeps kids moving and does so in a way that mindful your furniture and other keepsakes around the home.

Balloon volleyball can be played as a solo game, with your children focusing on their hand-eye coordination to keep the balloon off the ground. To up the ante, try adding more players and making it into a competition. Mark out two clear sides. Every time the balloon touches the ground one side of the court, the other team or player gets a point.

9. Winter scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt not only keeps children active during the winter months, but it’s one of those winter ideas that can keep kids occupied for hours if you want it to.

There’s no one right way of making a scavenger hunt, and depending on how much preparation you want to put in, it can look quite different. Here are two levels of scavenger hunt you can try:

A basic-level scavenger hunt

Go online and find some winter-themed objects that can be found around the house and garden. These might include:

  • A Christmas jumper
  • Something red
  • A pinecone
  • A book that mentions winter celebration

Print out the list and give it to your child so they can get to work finding the objects.

Take it up a notch

Instead of selecting items that are already in your home and garden, select specific items and hide them to make the scavenger hunt more of a challenge. If you really want to get your child’s brain working, write out clues for them to discover that will help them lead the way.

Make it harder still by getting them to complete a task to unlock the clue. The tasks could include:

  • Do 10 star jumps
  • Stand on one leg and hold your balance for 30 seconds
  • Run to the bottom of the garden and back

Make a fun family tradition by getting the whole family involved in the scavenger hunt. You can even involve family members who can’t be with you in person during the holiday season by having them read a clue over the phone.

How to Stay Active in Winter

For more winter break children’s activities, visit our Stay Active resources. Designed specifically to help keep your child physically and mentally active, our Stay Active resources are fuss-free and easy to integrate into your day in any home, from the family kitchen to the living room or garden. And, why not get inspired with these winter sports?