Soccer, baseball and football take a backseat during the winter months. But that doesn’t mean kids’ physical activity has to sit the winter season out. Here are some great lesser-known winter sports kids — and their parents — can look to for fun, physical activity when the mercury dips and the snow starts to fall.
Ice skating — Many kids who enjoy roller skating in the summer like to ice skate in the winter. Before skating outdoors, make sure the surface is safe by reviewing posted signs and warnings.
And whether they’re skating indoors or out, all children should wear a helmet approved for skating (many rink pro shops can offer guidance about fitting helmets). Gloves and knee and elbow pads are also helpful for beginners.
Cross country skiing — Explore your neighborhood, park or outlying region without the hills. This form of skiing is often more of a workout than gliding up and down rolling hills. But it may be a good fit for those who are not high adventure seekers.
Dog sledding — While it’s a bit unusual in the lower 48 states, this exhilarating activity is loads of fun for kids to participate in. Many winter resorts and regions offer beginner musher lessons and dog sled tours for kids to learn to work as a team with the dogs while racing down a path. Dog sledding can also teach children leadership and communication skills.
Ice fishing — Why leave the stories of “The One That Got Away” to summertime? Many ice fishermen experience the same thrill of waiting for the “big one” while fishing through an open hole in the ice. Avid ice fishermen often fish in a heated shelter, or “shanty,” to make the experience more pleasurable. Ice fishing in the United States is also a social activity, so this could be an excellent time to catch up with Grandpa and see what’s new!
Curling — This sport is perhaps most known as a winter Olympic event. However, curling is great fun for kids who are not athletically inclined but love a good strategy competition. Akin to shuffleboard on ice, curling is often also compared to chess because it’s as much of a mental game as it is physical. To play, each player slides stones down a sheet of ice to reach a targeted bull’s eye. In its simplest of terms, the goal is to score the highest with the eight stones in play.
Skiing and snowboarding — If you live within driving distance of a mountainous region, take the kids for a trip down the bunny hill. Swooshing down the hill with the wind in their face can be exhilarating. Those who are more creative may want to pursue freestyle skiing, which embodies a variety of skiing disciplines.
Snowshoeing — For those who like to hike in the summertime, snowshoeing is a great winter alternative. Snowshoeing can take place on groomed trails or on fresh undisturbed snow. It is great core workout and, if your child can walk, he can pretty much snowshoe. With just a little bit of special equipment (snowshoes, poles for balance and appropriate winter clothing), kids can experience a whole new perspective of the natural world while “hiking” on snow. National park staff at many locations make it even easier for parents by providing the equipment and snow shoe instruction while escorting kids and parents on guided, scenic snowshoe hikes each winter season.
Ice biking — Older kids will love this opportunity to get off-road with their bikes in the winter time. Ice/snow bikers typically share trails with snowmobilers. Parts of the country that have access to frozen lakes, rivers or other wetlands may find they have access to areas otherwise inaccessible in warmer months. Some states even offer races on frozen lakes.
Tubing — Along with sledding and tobogganing, tubing is an excellent way to get some cardio exercise and have fun with friends and family. Many communities have hills that are designated for sledding in the winter time, and kids love the thrill of racing down the hill as fast as they can then running back to the top of the hill. Tubes are lighter than a traditional sled, making it easier for little ones to manage. And inner tubes are very cheap, making this an affordable activity children also find fun because of the hilarity of riding a car inner tube down a snowy hill.
No matter which winter sport your child wants to try, it’s important he dresses for the elements to stay warm and safe. Make sure he goes outside wearing appropriate clothing like water-proof and insulated footwear, helmets, gloves and, of course, outerwear rated for temperatures your child will be subjected to.