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Great Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Winter

Posted In U & Ur Grand Child - By KidsMug On Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 With 0 Comments


Outdoor fun needn’t fade when the temperatures dip below freezing. Staying active is something you can do with your grandchildren all year round. While snow-related activities, such as alpine skiing, can get pricey, there are plenty of options on your home turf that won’t break the bank. The key is to think outside the sandbox, and transfer the fun and games to frosty terrain.

Dress the Part
Playing outside isn’t fun if noses and fingers are numb and frozen. The first rule is to dress for the weather. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” said Mike Logsdon, executive director of the Adventuresports Institute of Garrett College in McHenry, Md. “Our goal is to keep children engaged, which won’t happen if they’re cold.”

For suiting up, David Gallahue, former dean of Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, recommends a first and second layer of moisture-wicking polypropylene, followed by a third layer of fleece and a waterproof outer layer. And be sure everybody stays hydrated, preferably with warm fluids, all the better for maintaining body heat.

Give It a Name — Make It a Game
Sports aside, there are plenty of activities that can transform a winter wonderland into an outdoor playground. Gallahue’s approach to capturing a child’s imagination is simple: give it a name — make it a game.

“A stroll through a winter landscape becomes an adventure when you’re hunting for animal tracks or identifying winter birds,” he said. “Give your activity a name and a purpose to make it exciting.” If you have a stream on your property, go on a “creek hike” to find fossils or geodes. Look for the biggest trees, compare bark and measure how many arms it takes to wrap around the trunks. Older children can use a map, compass or GPS to find landmarks along the way. One New York City grandma who lacks nature’s gifts in her urban neighborhood takes a walk with her granddaughter and does what she calls “snow writing.” She and her granddaughter use their gloved fingers to write happy winter greetings in the snow accumulated on parked cars.

It’s important to keep moving in the cold, which means that team games, like kickball, might need adapting to prevent kids from standing around. “Change up the rules to engage all the players,” said Gallahue.

Hot Winter Sports
Once snow is in the picture, the playing field gets even more exciting. Building snowmen, having snowball fights, making angels, building snow sculptures, seeing who can build and climb up the biggest snow pile becomes a good-natured competition.

But even when equipment is involved, a child as young as 3 or 4 can get moving. Snowshoeing in a snow-blanketed backyard is a great activity for all skill levels, because if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Cross-country takes a little more practice, but both offer a terrific aerobic workout. Frequent breaks, including a stop for hot chocolate, add to the fun.

When a grandchild is learning a new activity, it’s important to offer both guidance and supervision. “I’ve found that muscles learn fast but decision-making develops,” said Logsdon. “I wouldn’t just assume that a young person has the mental capability to weigh all factors. They may be extremely equipment-savvy, but it takes experience to build judgment.”

Not all kids are at the same fitness level, so make it a practice to encourage every step of the way. “Encouragement isn’t just praise. Say something positive, incorporating an instructional comment, and end on another positive note,” said Gallahue.

Spending time outdoors has a positive affect on a child’s physical well-being, and adds to his emotional growth and development. “We find that young people become better environmental stewards when they’re outdoors a lot,” said Logsdon. “They see for themselves that resources are limited, and they learn to respect the environment on a more meaningful level.”

Start Young
Starting young is the best way to get children used to outdoor activities. Just remember to consider your grandchild’s physical abilities before embarking.

Ages 4 and older
> Outdoor exploring and hiking
> Snowshoeing
> Ice skating
> Downhill skiing (the bunny slopes)
> Cross-country skiing

Ages 5 and older
> Ice hockey
> Snowboarding
Ages 8 and older
> Ice climbing (kids have be experienced in rock climbing before they hit the ice)

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