dashing through the snow…and rain

IMG_2502This winter challenge your family to brave the cold and stay active all season. Use these tips to prevent boredom outdoors.

When my oldest son was about 6 months old I began a morning ritual of opening the blinds to check the weather (mostly for his benefit, because in Vancouver you can almost guarantee that it’s raining). I decided that the only way he’ll learn to appreciate and even enjoy the rain, is if I appreciate and enjoy the rain, so I began to cheer whenever we looked out the window and saw drizzling skies. Well, now he’s 6 years old, and this summer, on a typical rainy day, he blurted “Yay, it’s raining! It’s perfect weather for radishes!”

How often do you hear parents say, “no you can’t play outside, it’s raining”? When on earth did this become a normal thing to say? OK, maybe if you live in Xiamen where the acid rain is corroding buildings. But Canada? If you’re scared of the rain or snow, your kids will be too. And they’ll be hard pressed to meet the minimum 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity recommended for Canadian kids. According to Statistics Canada, only 7% of Canadian children met the 60 minute guidelines from 2007 to 2009. It’s time to challenge yourself to embrace the elements. And, for goodness sake, go out and get some waterproof coats and boots, and do whatever you normally do outside, anyway!

Bored of jumping in puddles and building snowpeople? Here’s a list of other outdoor activities to try in the cold:

  • Start a collection. Of anything. Kids love to run around and see how many rocks, leaves, sticks, snowballs etc. they can find in a specific amount of time. The bonus here is that they now have ingredients for mud soup.
  • Stop at a playground right before or after school. Otherwise you “don’t have time” or “it’s not convenient”. Kids who play outdoors after school get an average of 2000 more steps (that’s like walking an extra 2 km per day!) than kids who don’t. Playgrounds are often deserted once snow hits the ground but, so long as you’re careful not to slip on icy play-structures, they can offer a whole new and wonderful landscape to explore.
  • Make a family goal of tracking how often, & how far, you walk … to school, to work or to grocery shop. Compete with one another for most miles traveled!
  • Go old-school: Play tag, hide and seek, what time is it Mr. Wolf?, family soccer or other well-known games to get everyone running around. Make sure that everyone gets a turn choosing which game will be next. Many of these are extra fun and challenging in the pouring rain or driving snow!
  • Visit a park with an obstacle course and do it three times together (your preschooler might need help with the chin-ups). Just make sure no one licks the bars.
  • Go to the beach to run near the waves (or frozen water!) and make snowy sandcastles. For real – try it!
  • Try a wintery picnic. Pack thermoses of warm drinks and some healthy treats, then hike into the woods (or a local park) to look for the perfect spot. Try looking for birds or anything frozen; ponds, leaves and berries look magical when they’re sparkling with ice.
  • Enlist the help of your little ones to rake leaves, shovel the driveway, and carry groceries. This is possible – just act like it’s normal and expected that everyone is part of the team.

When you’ve exhausted outdoor options, or just want to play inside, then there’s always jumping on the bed, playing hide and seek and building blanket forts. Coloring, reading and playing board games are certainly enriching, but make sure you balance these with physical activities.

14 ways to get moving this winter

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When was the last time you saw glorious rays of sun? While I find fall and winter to be an opportune time to teach my kids about the color grey, I also remind myself that little minds don’t yet see grey (or even, gasp, rainy!) skies as a reason to hibernate.

You don’t need a ginormous backyard with extravagant toys. An old bucket, measuring cups, sticks, mud, rocks and leaves are the perfect tools to appeal to your child’s natural desire to make a mess, explore and invent.

Here are some tips to help your adventurer reach the recommended 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day:

  • Visit a playground or park right before or after school and stay for 20-30 minutes. Otherwise it’s “I don’t have time” or “it’s not convenient”. Kids who play outdoors after school get an average of 2000 more steps (aka walking an extra 2km per day), than kids who don’t.
  • Ever heard of a coat? Bundle up and go outside together! Do what you’d do if it was spring, just dress for the weather.
  • Play games like tag, hide and seek, freeze tag, “what time is it Mr. Wolf”, soccer etc. These games get everyone running around and before you realize it, you’re exercising together. As opposed to sipping your tall vanilla latte on a bench while Max climbs a tree. Hey at least it’s non-fat.
  • Frequent a park with an obstacle course and do it 3 times together. It’s highly amusing to watch a preschooler attempt chin-ups.
  • Puddle hopping! There are no shortage of these where I come from.
  • Get to school any other way aside from driving.
  • Sign your child up for indoor sports like martial arts or swimming if you have rainophobia.
  • Visit your therapist about said rainophobia.
  • Walk/run for a cause. Research upcoming walks or runs in your community that raise money for non-profit organizations and join in.
  • Go to the beach and chase the waves (wear rubber boots of course).
  • Get a jump rope and time your child how long he or she can jump. Compare each week to see how they have improved. The foundation of bone mass is laid down during childhood and early adolescence, and when kids do high impact activities (like jumping) their bones get stronger. Osteoporosis prevention anyone?
  • Less than 10% of kids meet Canadian physical activity guidelines. Less than 10%?? How atrocious. What’s the family doing after work/school? Make a plan. Get the family involved. Stick with it.
  • Get kids to rake leaves, shovel snow or carry groceries. This is possible. I’ve got my 2-year-old schlepping bags for me all the time.
  • Some indoor “rainy day acitivities” get the blood pumping (hide and seek, jumping on the couch, indoor sports, treasure hunts) but most are sedentary. By all means paint, bake and read, just balance it with energetic movement.

Any other ideas? What’s your favorite outdoor activity?