It’s winter, the thermometer is dropping, and the sidewalk is icing over. Activities like skiing, sledding, and ice skating are excellent ways to enjoy exercise with your family, but what happens on days when it is too cold or wet to play outside? When cabin fever sets in, I choose some of these indoor “winter” activities to do with my family. They keep my children active and entertained and allow them to expel some of their pent up energy, preventing them from spinning around my house like the frenetic snowflakes outside my window. They are tried and true ways of getting the heart pumping, the body moving, and the entire household laughing even on the dreariest of days!
Activity #1: Dog Sled
One child (or adult) sits in a laundry basket (“sled”). They are the “musher.” The other child (or adult) takes a jump rope, loops it through the basket and holds the rope in two hands. They are the “dog.” The “dog” pulls the “musher” in the basket around the house while the “musher” shouts, “Mush!” This exercise is great for upper body, core, and leg strength. The “dog” can pull the “sled” behind so they are running forwards, or they can turn and face the “sled” so they are pulling backwards to activate different muscle groups. To raise the difficulty of this activity and make the “musher” an active participant, the “musher” can hold the rope (instead of tying it to the basket). Then the “musher” must activate their core to stabilize themselves and use their arm strength to be pulled over the “snow.”
Activity #2: Snowball Fight
This is a great activity for laundry day. The participants fold pairs of socks or gloves into “snowballs.” An imaginary line is drawn across the room (we use sofa pillows in my house) and the participants divide into teams on either side of the line. A timer is set for 1 minute. The object is to have as many snowballs as possible on the opposing team’s side when the timer goes off. We play 10 rounds with 30 second rests between rounds. This game works on endurance, power, agility, and coordination. A word of warning: choose a room free of breakable objects and sharp corners as this game can get fairly rowdy!
Activity #3: Freeze Dance
This is an old favorite. Crank up the tunes and let the music move you! Have one person play the role of DJ. When the DJ stops the music, you have to freeze in place. You may only move again once the music resumes. Experiment with various types and tempos of music to encourage different body movements. This activity promotes balance, coordination, strength, endurance, flexibility, rhythm, and self-expression.
Maureen Suhr is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist, and is the assistant section manager at CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion, Hospital for Special Surgery. She has volunteered with the Foundation for Orthopedics and Complex Spine and traveled to Ghana in November 2008 to assist in the rehabilitation of children and adults following joint replacement and spine surgery.