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Home Family Parenting Advice Staying Active in the Winter—Good Parenting

Staying Active in the Winter—Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

After two weeks into the new year, I’m failing on my resolution to have the whole family be more active and to shed my pandemic pounds.

I recently had the kids all day on a Saturday by myself. On a weekday, my husband, my mom, and I tag team to manage the kids (1st and 3rd grade) around telecommuting for two of the grown-ups. Saturday was way too loose with only me on kid duty. I wanted us to just have fun and spend quality time together. We had a morning of too many videos. I was hoping to get them outside to go bike riding after lunch. Long story short, the only exercise our bodies got that day was from our lungs.

Weekends Wear Me Out

Dear WWMO,

You have admirable goals but your plan lacks direction. As I’m sure you realize, with weekdays spent online for work and school, screen time is not the best way to spend the weekend. Start with a family meeting, getting input from everyone about choices of physically active activities, possibly with friends, for the coming weekend. Everyone will have responsibilities in carrying out the plans. Once this becomes your family’s weekly habit, screen time might be reduced even further as your family finds out how much fun exercise can be!

Family Meeting

It may be tough during a busy week to schedule a family meeting, but it’s helpful to work it into the family’s routine. Dinnertime works if everyone is present. Mid-week might be best for planning the upcoming weekend, pending the weather prediction as Saturday approaches.

It is important to involve everyone in a family meeting even though the adults are in charge of the family’s health. Adults enforce, and model, healthy habits such as eating vegetables, brushing teeth, and yes, physical activity. Discussion of whether or not there will be any physical activity is unnecessary. It’s just what happens.

Input Supports Buy-In

Gather all the relevant information for making the weekend’s plans – errands that need to be run, household chores that need attention, work or other outside commitments that anyone has, special events (in-person or online) that occur at a particular time, etc. Create a list of “fun stuff to do” from all the family members for the times that everyone can spend together. You can also plan times to do things with subsets of the family. For example, one adult and one child could plan a bread baking time; one adult and one child could plan a trip to the hardware store. Be ready with specific options that are physical activities, such as bike riding, in case no one else has any to offer.

Much like vegetables, physical activity is a necessary ingredient for the family’s health. The children can help to choose which activities they want the family to do. And as they do with the vegetables, adults are in charge of working the physical activities into the mix of the weekend plans, sometimes disguising it as just plain fun, to make sure it happens.

Weather Options

With winter upon us, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast on Thursday or Friday before making firm plans. Outdoor activities could include exploring one of the many parks in the area, biking a portion of the B & A Trail , swinging and sliding at a neighborhood playground, ice skating at the municipal building in Glen Burnie, or collecting seashells at Sandy Point Park. If the family includes a dog, check out your choices of parks that welcome canines. By the way, snow on the ground and sunshine in the sky is a great combination for outdoor play in appropriate clothing.

Indoor activities can include a dance party, follow the leader on an obstacle course through the house, yoga moves or calisthenics (if you don’t have a routine memorized, use a book, website, or video), or a few vigorously executed household chores.

Optional Friends

Your children are at an age when time with friends is very important, however the pandemic poses serious risks for getting together in person, especially indoors. So plan an outdoor “stay apart” get together at a park or playground. The Mayo Clinic advises washing or sanitizing hands after playing on playground equipment but notes that there is minimal exposure to germs in the fresh air of the great outdoors. If you are planning outdoor activities, you and the friends’ families should still wear masks and stay physically spaced. This is the perfect time to try out walkie-talkies to see just how far apart two friends can get and still talk on the radios.

Assigned Jobs

One more tip for getting cooperation for your family’s journey to physical fitness is to be sure everyone has a role in carrying out the weekend’s plans. Divvy up the tasks such as filling the water bottles and packing the dog, the Frisbee, the hand sanitizer, the field guide of native birds, or anything else required for your outing. For your indoor activity, take turns to move the furniture, pick the music, or lead the moves.

If you worry that the announcement of even a fifteen minute bike ride around the block will be met with groans of opposition, assign one child the task of setting your cell phone’s timer so they don’t have to be out there a moment longer. This works for a session of calisthenics indoors as well. The nice thing about physical fitness, actually, is that exercise improves your mood and gives you energy. One trip around the block might just turn into two, then three, then training for a marathon.

Take charge of this ship. Set the course, with input from the crew, adding a social component if you can. Make sure everyone has a role to play for moving full steam ahead to fitness.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Register for parenting workshops on Zoom starting Tuesday, January 19.

Read more of her Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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