The peak season for the Christmas cookie and candy cane sugar high is here, school has let out for the holidays and, for some, organized sports have called it quits until January. Parents everywhere, already stressed by the holiday season, will panic, wondering how they are going to keep their children, especially the younger ones, entertained and burning off all that extra energy.
I am always looking for ways to keep my kids physically active, and not just because I want them to fall into their beds exhausted for naps and bedtime. I try hard to model and encourage an active, healthy lifestyle, but that isn't always easy in the winter, especially during the holidays.
In some places you might have the option to sled, ski, and snowshoe, or build a snow man. But if the season isn't forecast to be white and it's just plain cold outside, it's nice to have some options. There is always your child's favorite fast food restaurant, but going to one means you will have to avoid the temptation to super size and brave the unidentified sticky stuff inside the tubes and slides.
I wanted an alternative, so I came up with some fun, simple, holiday-themed indoor activities to help my kids burn off energy on cold winter days. The best part is that I can join in and get a bit of exercise myself. Sure it may be ten minutes here and five minutes there, but it all adds up.
So here are some holiday games to play with your kids.
Santa may be plump, but even he has to get ready for Christmas Eve. Every morning, you and your child can join Santa in his jolly routine. Make sure you let your child know why each exercise is so important for Santa. Play it up, get creative, and have a lot of fun.
- Run in place for two minutes. Running helps build up Santa's endurance. He's got to make it all the way around the world, after all. As you run you and your child can list some of the countries and states Santa will be visiting.
- 10 frog jumps. Santa squats down low and jumps as high as he can. It's good practice for jumping over snow drifts.
- Run in place for two more minutes. Santa has to be ready for the dogs that chase him while he's delivering presents. Have your child pick up the pace and keep his knees high as he runs.
- 5-10 push ups. Santa needs to have strong arms to lift all those bags of presents. Make sure you ask to see your child's muscles.
- 10-20 step ups alternating legs, stepping up onto a chair or stool. This is really important so Santa can climb up all those steep, icy roofs.
After you have led your child through the exercises, let your kids lead and come up with their own workout. They will have you doing all sorts of silly, active things.
Get Santa Dressed Race
Santa overslept and he needs to hurry to get ready for his big night.
- Set up a starting line on one side of the house and a finish line on the other. You can even put the finish line upstairs. Just make sure your child walks down the stairs and holds onto the railing, and that you have cleared the race course of toys or objects on which he might slip.
- To play, your child runs from the start to the finish line where he puts on one article of clothing, say a red shirt or baggy black pants. Then he runs back, tags up at the starting line, and races back to the finish for his next article of clothing, say a Santa hat, beard made of cotton balls, some jingle bells, or a pillow-case filled with presents.
- Each child playing will need their own set of clothing and accessories.
- The first child completely dressed like Santa wins. If a single child is playing you can time them. Encourage them try to best their time.
- If your family celebrates Christmas, your child can also dress up like Joseph, Mary, the angel or one of the Wise Men.
- Set up an obstacle course symbolic of Santa's Christmas Eve trip. Your child can run around the kitchen counter, up the stairs, jump over five stuffed animals, climb under the table and run back to the start.
- Along the way, set up stations that are pretend houses. Your little Santa has to stop at each house and deliver a present from his sack (a pillow case works well for a sack.)
- You can time your child or have your children race each other to see who can deliver his or her presents first.
- Again, if you celebrate Christmas in your house, your child can also be a wise man following the star to its final resting place over Bethlehem. Instead of dropping off presents he can pick them up on his way to see Jesus.
In this game Santa doesn't just say HO, HO, HO. Santa says works just like Simon says. Your child will have a great time following your directions and won't have a clue that they are getting exercise while they are at it.
- It goes something like this: Santa says touch your toes, Santa says do 5 push ups, Santa says hop on one foot. Run around the counter......Oops, Santa didn't say to run around the counter.
- After a while let your child is Santa. He'll have fun being in charge.
Dancer, Prancer, Rudolf
This game is simply duck, duck goose in disguise, and works best played by several children at a time. If it's just you and your child you can always have stuffed animals stand in to complete the circle, and you'll get to do a lot more running. One person is "It" and walks around the circle tapping each child, or animal on the head. Each time they name off one of Santa's reindeer. When a child is tapped and Rudolf's name is called out, that child must jump up and chase the person who is "It" around the circle. If they don't catch the tapper before he or she slides into the vacant seat then the child becomes "It" and play continues.
This is my personal favorite. Crank up the Christmas music and dance like no ones watching.
If your kids are older and it's not too cold, you can walk instead of driving to see Christmas lights in your neighborhood.
- If it's cold, you might want to plan a route out ahead of time in the car.
For lots of families the holidays aren't complete without some caroling. You and your child can spread Christmas cheer and get some exercise walking while you're at it. If you are ambitious, and want to stay warm, you can always run between houses.
You can do more than just keep your kids active. Holiday time is full of teaching opportunities. In many cases your kids will take the lead. We recently went to a pancake breakfast with Santa, and when we got home my son made the observation that Santa wasn'tall that fat. I told him that, after Santa ate cookies at every house on Christmas Eve, he'd look plenty plump! My son, very concerned for Santa's health, said he needed to go back so he could tell Santa not to eat too many cookies! We decided we'd only leave one cookie for Santa along with something healthy, like a pear. Hmmmm . Maybe along with the pear we should leave Santa my list of games so he and his elves can get in shape!
This year you can get your family moving and start a new healthy holiday tradition. Why wait until the New Year to set a new tone for your family.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Erin Mirabella is a two-time Olympic track cyclist, mother of three, and MomsTeam's track cycling expert. Her children's books, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race are available online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, velogear.com, at The Olympic Training Centers and select stores. For more information visit www.erinmirabella.com.