The thermometer reading may be rather low this winter, but that is no excuse for low physical activity levels. Children need to be physically active, even in the winter months. Fewer sunlight hours and for the more northern folk, snow and cold, can make it hard to find a time and place for kids to be physically active. But children, by nature, want to move and moving keeps you warm.
Here are a few fun colder weather activities to raise the heart rate and maintain physically activity:
- Sled ride—take advantage of even a little snow and a small hill get be hours of fun for kids. Most kids won’t even realize they are getting ‘exercise’ when pulling their sled, disk or toboggan up the hill. They are so focused on the ride down.
- Snow Art—make the traditional snow man with a carrot nose or take it avant garde and make a snow castle or patio snow mural that kids can see from the second floor.
- Family Flag Football Game—get a few handkerchiefs or rags and put them in your pocket and have a pick-up game in the backyard or at the local park. Give your teams funny names and create a cheering section—something a kid will never forget. Soccer works too!
- Ice Skating—more and more localities have small ice rinks and rent skates at a reasonable cost. You are already wearing your warm sweater and cool scarf!
- Family Hike—pack on the parka and snow pants and check a trail or park. You’ll be amazed how tall trees will protect you on a blustery day and how the scenery changes in the winter season.
- Snow Angels—just lie down and do a little kicking and flapping, voila!
Finish outdoor fun with a perennial kid and family pleaser—hot chocolate. Hot chocolate (or hot cocoa) is a great treat and a tradition that has brought families together for centuries. Try the traditional recipe or easily modify to be sugar-free, lactose-free vegetarian or a Spicy Mayan version to fit your family’s needs.
Traditional American Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in large mug. Heat milk in microwave at HIGH (100%) 1-1/2 minutes or until hot. Gradually add hot milk to cocoa mixture in mug, stirring until well blended. Stir in vanilla. 1 serving.
[Calories 194, Fat 0.5g, Sat Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 40g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 37g, Sodium 219mg]
Sugar Free: Omit sugar. Combine cocoa and salt. Add milk. Stir in vanilla and sugar substitute (Stevia works well) with sweetening equivalence of 2 tablespoons sugar
[Calories 96, Fat 0.5g, Sat Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 17g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 12g, Sodium 219mg]
Vegetarian/Lactose Free: Omit dairy milk, Use plain or vanilla lite soy milk
[Calories 73, Fat 2g, Sat Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 3g, Sodium 221mg] (using sugar substitute)
Rich Spicy Mayan Cocoa: Increase cocoa to 2 tablespoons; add cayenne pepper, cinnamon and/or nutmeg with cocoa powder follow recipe above.
[Calories 204, Fat 1g, Sat Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 43g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 37g, Sodium 219mg]
Hot Holiday Chocolate: Add a Candy Cane or other Peppermint to your hot chocolate.
[One Candy Cane adds: Calories 60, Fat 0g, Sat Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 15g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 10g, Sodium 5mg]
Debra Miller, PhD is Director of Public Policy Development, Nutrition, Health & Food Safety at The Hershey Company, a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The Hershey Company believes that well-being is a matter of balance, the ability to make informed choices and enjoying the goodness of every day moments.