HomeNewsOvercoming Cold Weather and Cooped Up Kids

Overcoming Cold Weather and Cooped Up Kids

-by Christin Konz, OTD, OTR/L, Orange City Area Health System Physical & Occupational Therapy With dropping temperatures, cold winds, and blowing snow kids are likely spending much more time indoors this time of year. Combine this with more sitting for school-age kids compared to summer months and many consequently end up with excess unused energy. As an occupational therapist working with the pediatric population, cold winter months can be a difficult time for both parents and kids – especially those who are movement and sensory seekers. It is estimated that children burn only half as many calories in the winter as they do in the summer. Decreased physical activity can have various effects including difficulty sleeping, decreased emotional regulation, and decreased attention particularly for learning. The American Heart Association (AHA) Standard for children ages 2 years and older is at least 60 minutes of moderately intense and developmentally appropriate physical activity per day. As many younger children are unable to participate in 60 consecutive minutes, the AHA encourages active movement for multiple intervals throughout the day. Incorporating even short amounts of movement throughout the day encourages strong bones and muscles, improved sleep, as well as sensory and emotional regulation. Physical activity during warmer months when children can be outside is much easier to foster than during these cold winter months. The following are a few ideas to incorporate active movement throughout the cold winter months: – Incorporate fitness activities: Have kids develop their own fitness routine. Encourage a variety of movements including traditional exercises like jumping jacks and push-ups to more creative movements like slithering like a snake or lying on their back while picking up stuffed animals with their feet and placing them in a basket. If children are watching television for short periods of time, turn commercials into fitness breaks by doing a different exercise during each commercial. – Encourage weight bearing movements. These kinds of movements are beneficial for strengthening bones and muscles while also providing great proprioceptive input and information about where our bodies are in space. Create forts and obstacle courses to crawl or slither through. Instead of walking from room to room or to the dinner table walk like an animal (crab, bear, or duck walk, frog jump, turtle crawl with a pillow balanced on their back). – Make chores around the house fun and active. Turn on music to dance to while doing chores. Complete the task in a novel way- standing on 1 foot, hopping on either 1 or 2 feet, balancing with a beanbag on their head, or with 1 hand behind their back. – Utilize sensory play through the senses of smell, touch, sound, vision, and movement. Fill water tables, buckets, or cake/cookie sheets with household items – noodles, rice, shaving cream, gel and then hide toys in them or allow them to draw in these mediums. Although this type of play is not always as actively vigorous, sensory play is known to contribute to emotional regulation for many children. – When safe temperatures allow – go outside and brave the snow! Snow provides good heavy work via shoveling, trudging through, and building forts and snowmen. As an adult, we can participate with children in these activities. Not only does it encourage children to move and be silly when they see us doing so, but it also keeps our bodies active as well!