Fun indoor activities to keep kids moving all winter

young kids doing Zumba

Altered image. Lori Yerdon, USAG Humphreys Public Affairs, Flickr. CC license.

Much like adults, children need regular physical activity, an hour a day, to reap numerous health benefits including improved cardiovascular health, strong bones and muscles, positive self-image, decreased stress levels, and improved sleep. Achieving an hour of exercise in the winter time can be a challenge due to the cold weather and shorter days. Here are some ideas and tips to keep kids moving all winter long.

Use what you have and what your child enjoys

Board games, puzzles, balls, arts and crafts all can be used as motivation to perform exercises. A familiar position we use as therapist is tall kneel and one-half kneel. These are great positions because they strengthen the hips and core muscles while working on balance, coordination and endurance. Once the child is in either position, he or she can play a board game, draw a picture, or play catch with a sibling, friend or family member.

tall kneel, one-half kneel


Yoga is for everyone and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home. Simply do an internet search for “storytime yoga” to locate kid friendly stories and themed yoga poses to go along with the stories. There are YouTube videos to follow along with or once you get the hang of it you can make up your own yoga poses to go along with some of your child’s favorite books. Ask your child to make up yoga poses as well. It’s great opportunity to be creative and silly. There are also kid friendly yoga pose cards that you can purchase or make your own from Pinterest. Take turns picking cards and performing the selected pose. Mix them up and create a yoga flow.

Play tag in a small space to improve agility

Do you have an area in your house that is pretty open, maybe a basement or play room? Create a “Tag Court” by sectioning off a small space, approximately 10′x10′ (smaller or larger if you choose), with use of masking tape. Play with two players at time and players cannot go outside the taped lines. Use stickers or football flags, if they are handy, to create a game of tag and keep track. This game is great fun and works on speed and agility. You will be surprised how quick this game gets your heart rate up. Variations of this game can also be used such as jump tag, playing tag while jumping, playing tag while crab walking, bear crawl tag and so on.

Have a dance party!

Time to be creative with your moves and get your heart rate up. Pick songs that your child enjoys, clear a space and have fun. You can keep it simple or decorate by putting up streamers, having balloons, different colored lights, flash lights, and microphones for singing. Invite friends over to work on dance routines and have a recital or just have fun. Want to change it up? Try a “freeze dance,” where dancers must freeze the music stops playing. This is a great activity to improve agility and direction following. You may want a theme dance: dance like your favorite underwater creature, favorite animal, cartoon character, etc. Try a dance in the dark with flashlights or incorporate instruments.

Turn screen time into activity time

Have you heard of Go Noodle? It’s an interactive website designed to get kids moving. Many classrooms are using this site and children are responding positively with improved attention and test scores. Sign up for the home version for free at There are limitless fun and catchy songs that incorporate academic content. There is also a section of mindfulness with calming activities.

I hope this gives you some more ideas on how to have fun and sneak in some exercise when stuck indoors over the winter. Imaginative play is limitless. Keep moving to stay healthy and stay warm!

– Christina Paniccia, pediatric physical therapist and pediatric supervisor at the Beaumont Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe, Mich.

Family fun fitness

woman and young girl doing yoga

image credit: Airman 1st Class Heather M. Forrest, U.S. Air Force.

Challenge: Bring the family together and having fun with fitness activities on a regular basis, while enjoying the people you love.

Wow, that’s a huge challenge! With children of different ages and interests, and parents with varied work schedules, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Stressful jobs that may or may not include sitting for long periods, school schedules that vary, and perhaps even sports activities for various members of your family. What makes sense for you?

May I suggest yoga?

Yoga is a format that includes stress relief; stretching exercises to minimize injuries in other sports or strenuous work; natural movements and breath integration for a thorough workout; mindful integration of the mind, body and spirit; and constant reminders to be in the present without regrets for the past and/or worries for the future. It’s a healthy lifestyle of movement and breath, along with integration of techniques for breathing and positive mindfulness.

When could this happen for your family and how? Perhaps 30 to 45 minutes of yoga before dinner. Or before work/school (I know that sounds crazy difficult, but it’s well worth it). Alternately, pick a time after dinner later in the evening (at least an hour after dinner and before bed). It’s the difficult challenges that build character and pull families together and make them a strong unit. Making it fun will be the ultimate goal!

A newborn in your midst? No problem, there’s yoga to include newborns (at least 6 weeks old) with parents as a part of baby yoga. There are also poses for parents to stretch and tone. Several yoga studios will cater to your needs along with personal trainers who would be happy to get you (and possibly your group) started. Crawl and roll your baby into this awesome way to health and calmness.

Where do I find yoga for families? Well, of course, you can go online and find yoga flows; maybe that can be part of the fun. Give each person in the family a chance to find a flow that they want to share then put it up on the TV or laptop. Then take turns giving another person the challenge of finding a theme or quote for the flow. Maybe you join a yoga studio together and become part of their family of yoga activities. Getting a yoga family instructor to come to your home can also work wonders to get the flows going. Whatever you decide, be creative and make it fun. Make it a family decision.

If yoga is not your thing, take the initiative to find another venue to do something together that is creative and active for all of you and make it a part of each week. If you love it, you’ll find yourself doing these activities alone, at work, and even suggesting this to other families. If you don’t love it, start it anyway, and find something in it that brings a sparkle to your eye and a lift to your step. Bring your passion to it and see what happens after a few months. Re-evaluate, revise, and keep it going.

Give yourself an incentive. OK, now we’re talking! Everyone loves a prize at the end of a challenge, be it a paycheck, an award, a certificate, a diploma, etc… What will your family smile for? Try to make it an activity, rather than a material thing. Maybe add a friend to the activity or invite another family to come to join you and have dinner together afterwards. Or make a video of your family doing yoga. Add music to the activity and have different family members make a musical flow or just all join in and make the playlist together and name it after your family.

Food is key! While working on fitness, find a healthy nutrition program and start some new recipes to bring the family around to a healthy foods lifestyle. There are several programs out there that are ready-made. Or you can research on your own to bring about this change. Getting away from processed food, going vegetarian or vegan, and eating less meat and lots of fruit and vegetables, can add healthy years to your life.

Whatever you do, make it non-regimented fun, something that makes you giggle, laugh, hug, look into each other’s eyes, and feel grateful that you’re together.

Namaste (my soul greets your soul).

– Marie Demres is a yoga teacher (RYT200) and Parenting Program volunteer.

Raising healthy girls through sports

two girl soccer friends

As the mother of two daughters, a prime focus of mine is raising them to become strong, confident women. One way to encourage this is through sports.

Even for those not athletically inclined, introducing sports from a young age encourages development of physical strength and confidence, which helps create a healthy body image and increased self-esteem. Sports can be introduced in the form of individual sports or team sports.

Fostering a love for individual sports, such as running or swimming, can provide a later groundwork for future stress relief. If you and your child share that individual sport, it is a great way to bond with your child and sharing a lifelong love of a similar activity can be beneficial later in life as a constant to bond over.

Team sports can also provide a lot of benefits for girls by encouraging teamwork and facilitating positive social interactions. Sports also help to teach discipline, which can positively impact behavior at home and in school. Introducing sports from a young age can help girls to appreciate their bodies for their strengths and not just their beauty as many stereotypes focus upon.

Getting started

Introducing young girls to sports is easy even if you aren’t passionate about sports yourself. Many individual sports such as running can be practiced at home or in a nearby park. It can be fun to use a timer to track a child’s pace, help her achieve her goals, and monitor progress.

Most team sports start as young as age 3, but it isn’t necessary to wait until kids are preschool age if you’re able to join them for some parent/daughter bonding time. Once kids are about 18 months, there are many parent and child classes offered in the surrounding communities. Some common early-organized sports available to young girls are soccer, t-ball, dance, basketball and tennis. Once girls are preschool age, many of these organized sports are offered in a team setting through local YMCAs, community centers, and studios. Public schools also are a great resource as their varsity and JV teams sometimes have outreach programs offered to introduce school-age children to their corresponding sport. And, if you’re like me when introducing something new, a great place to visit is the library. After watching a few innings of a local elementary school softball game last summer, my daughter happily checked out several books on softball and baseball.

There are also many low-cost ways to introduce your daughters to sports with minimal equipment. Many local school playgrounds are open to the public during after-school hours and in the summer. There are often basketball hoops, soccer goals and baseball diamonds available at these schools. Investing in some kid-safe equipment and joining your daughters in practicing sports can build confidence and can be a fun bonding experience. In addition, some good sidewalk chalk can go a long way in creating a baseball diamond at home, although encouraging a younger brother to run to second base may still pose a challenge!

Above all, what is most important when introducing sports to young girls is to help foster a healthy appreciation of sports. By instilling this healthy habit, girls can increase their confidence through strength and positive social interactions, which in turn can help them to become strong, confident women.

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three young children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.

Helping your child recover from a sports injury

soccer injury

Kids will be kids. That’s what they say, right? Unfortunately with kids playing sports at the level they do today, we have to deal with cuts, scrapes and bruises, but now also orthopedic sports injuries. Some of these require emergency room (ER) visits and doctor follow ups, but many of them can be healed at home with proper immediate care and a good recovery plan.

In this article, we talk about home recovery from mild sports injuries. It’s important to note that anytime there is concern about a broken bone, uncontrolled bleeding, head injury, or infection (such as tetanus), you should see a doctor right away, often at your local ER or urgent care center.

The first step is calming the pain and inflammation after injury. When the body is injured, swelling occurs from the inflammatory process the body elicits to prevent further damage to tissues; when swelling is high, pain usually follows quickly. We use the R.I.C.E. protocol to reduce and control this process, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Usually the rest, ice and elevation all happen together—for example stopping soccer practice to place ice on your ankle while elevating it above your heart. The elevation above the heart level, which usually requires lying down, allows gravity to help move the swelling back toward the heart, doubling the effect.

Compression (e.g., wrapping an ACE bandage around the ankle) occurs after the icing and prevents more swelling from occurring. Icing should be done no more than 10–15 minutes at a time and always with a barrier between ice and skin. Fun fact: Ice can burn the skin as easily as heat! Anti-inflammatory medication is also an option to reduce inflammation, but always at the recommendation of a physician to ensure the proper dosing and safety for your child.

After the swelling and pain are reduced, your child may be itching to return to his or her sport, but it’s important to have a slow return back to full performance to allow for greatest potential of no reoccurrence or reinjury. This may be participating in only practice with the ability to take a break if pain returns, staying away completely and doing exercises at home, and/or coming to physical therapy in addition to return to sport. Teachers and coaches must be made aware of the injury and should be accommodating to your child during recovery. If your child is too young to understand his limits or her coach is pressuring without accommodating, then you, as a parent, must take charge of your child’s recovery and keep away from the sport for extra time. When our muscles are working at only 50 or 60 percent, they are more susceptible to additional injuries from overworking or incorrect form. Taking extra time away and addressing the targeted area allows muscles to recover fully before being asked to perform at a high level.

So how do I know what to do for my child? For a complex injury or if you really are clueless, that is what your local physical therapist is for! Depending on the severity of the injury, your child may need to see a specialized sports medicine doctor, but we can evaluate your child and create a specific exercise program in just a few sessions. Sometimes three or four sessions to watch the healing and learn some exercises is all it takes. However if we identify fundamental issues that may have contributed to the injury, therapy may continue for a while. Remember, often kids listen better to instruction coming from someone other than mom or dad.

A good start on a minor injury is to exercise that body part starting with non-weight-bearing (called open-chain in rehab world) and progressing to weight-bearing (called closed-chain). For hand and upper extremity injuries, children should start with no weight and slowly add weight or resistance. Please keep in mind that pre-pubescent children should never perform heavy or repeated weight lifting, due to the integrity of growth plates.

So now that your child is ready to return to her activity, remember slow and steady wins the race! The hardest thing to do is hold back, but often times injuries feel fine with day-to-day work and we aren’t truly sure of where our healing is until it is tested. Not to mention, after a break from working out, everything is a little rusty and just like we need to work back up slowly to full strength, so do our children.

For any other questions or if you feel your child needs a skilled evaluation for his injury, give us a call at any of our Center for Children’s Rehabilitation locations in Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak, Macomb, and West Bloomfield.

– Lauren Sofen, PT, DPT, PCS, Physical Therapist, Beaumont Health Center/Neighborhood Club

Safety on the slopes

Boy sledding wearing a helmet

Sledding is a great way to stay active during the time of year that most people tend to stay indoors. In order to keep safe on the slopes, review tips before you head out the door.

  • Bundle up! Here are some tips on how to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Encourage taking some breaks to warm up and also stay hydrated.
  • Choose a designated sledding hill that is free of trees and away from busy roads.
  • Helmets should be worn by all children under the age of 12. Ideally this would be a helmet specifically designed for winter sports, but a bicycle helmet could be used as well.
  • Discourage riding head first on a sled. Always have your child sit forward facing.
  • Teach kids to keep their arms and legs inside the sled and if they should fall out, move out of the path of others.
  • Never use a motorized vehicle to pull a sled. The most severe sledding injuries we’ve seen at our trauma center were caused by this mechanism.
  • Make sure someone has a cell phone if there is a need to call for help. If your older children are going alone, talk to them about situations that would warrant calling 911, for example a neck injury requiring immobilization of the spine.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System