By Nora Heston Tarte Contributing Writer
Kirkman Group, Inc.
Winter weather can make heading outdoors difficult, especially with kids. Your usual playground or favorite hiking trail may be off limits as temperatures dip, and while chilly weather may send you running for the couch, where a cup of hot cocoa and warm blanket sound like better companions for your afternoon, kids still need exercise. Weather aside, kids with sensory sensitivities sometimes shy away from the unfamiliar. Gyms can be packed with loud noises, and new play structures offer unknowns that can overwhelm. When a trip outdoors is just too much to handle—for whatever reason—set up physical activities indoors to ensure your children are getting the exercise they need.
Sometimes large, open spaces are hard to come by inside your home, but if you have a hallway, you have the perfect facility for some fun, physical games. Red Light, Green Light requires no equipment and is suitable for any children able to move on their own. To play, simply start your child at one end of the hallway and call out, “green light!” With this command, they can run full speed ahead until you shout, “red light,” at which point they must stop. Add an element: Once your child has mastered the basics, add in a yellow light. With this command they must progress forward slowly.
Indoor bowling sets are easy to come by and are made from either light plastic or soft materials more akin to stuffed animals. Set up this game at one end of your hallway and instruct your child to stand at the other end. Between set-ups, take turns rolling the ball and knocking the pins down. Then, repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep score the same way you would in traditional bowling. Helpful tip: plastic pins against wood or tile floors can create a loud clatter. Opt for soft pins if your hallway isn’t carpeted.
Looking for more? Try hide-and-seek, Twister and hula hooping.
For adults and children, yoga is celebrated for its link to physical and emotional health.Not only does yoga work core muscles and build strength, the movements also develop motor skills. It’s one of the best ways to create a safe connection with your own body while building confidence in how you move. Also the breathing techniques and poses taught in yoga can be used to calm children when they feel uncomfortable, or their emotions are out of control.
Create an atmosphere in your home that mirrors a traditional yoga studio. Dim lights, soft music, smooth mats and quiet voices create a comfortable environment that can help ease sensitive nervous systems.
Make it extra fun: Take your children to the store to pick out yoga equipment. That way they can choose mats and other accessories (like yoga straps, socks and blocks) that feel comfortable to them and feature colors and designs they love.
Sometimes a quick workout session can help kids focus. In addition to utilizing brief exercises to introduce fitness into your child’s routine, use it as preparation for homework if your child struggles with concentration. First, choose a time limit (try starting with five 20-minute sessions per week) and pick a few activities to complete. Jumping jacks, running in place and dancing to music are all good options. Always start with a quick stretch to warm-up and avoid injury.
Helpful tip: If your child responds well to routine, craft a specific workout you can repeat daily (or even several times per day).
Just because you’re trying to stay indoors doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. Martial arts offer physical activity in a studio environment. Children can enjoy the predictability and structure that comes with learning martial arts, while also building their physical skills and self-esteem. Especially helpful may be the activity’s introduction to physical interaction with others.
Take it step-by-step: If your child isn’t
quite ready to participate in a class setting, start with one-on-one classes. It will give students an opportunity to become familiar with the gym, the activity and the instructor without the added pressures of socializing with peers. Then, as they adapt, move into a small class.
If your child has a favorite outdoor activity, try to adapt it for indoors. Many cities have indoor swimming pools, soccer gyms and basketball courts, making it easy to move your child’s favorite sport inside. When leaving the house isn’t an option, set up small soccer or hockey nets inside, and use soft equipment to play inside without danger of breaking objects in your house.