I live in the Pacific Northwest. We, of course, are known for our notorious Fall and Winter rainfall. September and October this year were beautiful, with record breaking temperatures and historically low levels of rainfall. We are making up for it in November. Day after day, it's been nothing but rain. And I am not talking the occasional sprinkle or light shower. That cold, beating rain that comes with wind occasionally.
I have lived here most my life, except when I attended graduate school in New York City. So, I am used to the rain. I actually like the rain, love rain walks, and love the beautiful landscape that surrounds us in this part of the country.
But now that I have three children, the rain does present challenges when it comes to this time of year and long stretches of vacation. Right now, we are nearing the end of a 9 day Thanksgiving break. When vacations during the school year come around, I am well-prepared. I keep them up on their studies, we do extra reading and workbook pages, and have extra fun activities like game night or holiday shopping. But all of you parents out there know, the bottom line, at the end of the day, is that children need regular, everyday EXERCISE!!
We have all heard of the recommendation that children get 1 hour of play/exercise per day. That's pretty easy to accomplish for my children while in school and with Fall activities. They have school, do soccer, have dance class, and have crisp Fall days to ride bikes and play outside. But then the rain and vacation comes. Suddenly, I am struggling to get them the activity they need!
Why is it so important? Of course, regular exercise is good for growing children's muscles, hearts, and to keep them fit. But let us now forget their brains! Recent studies show that exercise fosters a better attention span, better memory retention, learning, and a reduction in hyperactivity.
I think we can all agree that exercise is thus important for children. But the trick (especially this time of year) is coming up with creative ways to get that for your children. Below are some ways I have found to make it work:
1. Playgrounds At School. Most schools at least have part of their playgrounds under cover. Often, the basketball hoops, hopscotch grids and even some playground equipment is under an awning. After school hours and during vacation breaks, these areas are open to the public. It's a great burn off some energy!
2. A Walk In the Rain. Don't underestimate the good ol' fashioned walk in the rain. As long as your children have a good raincoat and rain boots, they are ready for a good rain walk. They have free reign of every puddle they come across. You can eve play games along the way: the "Find Something Red (or color of your choice) Game" or "Find Anything That You Can Drive". Come up with your own game. The kids will have a blast
3. Breaks In the Weather. There will be those days when the rain is just too torrential and windy and you just can't be outside. So, stay tuned to those skies. Even a 10 minute break in the rain can work wonders for the kids. Quickly get outside with bikes, scooters, hula hoops, or the soccer ball and get a little energy burned off.
4. Indoor Play Areas. Although there is a nominal cost involved, there are many indoor options for kids. Jump gyms, children's gyms, roller skating rinks, ice skating rinks, and other similar venues can be a lifesaver for parents over Christmas vacation.
5. Dance Party. When you are stuck at home and need exercise, my kids love a good dance party! Click on a good dance station on Pandora and free up some space in the kitchen; dance along with your children. You can even add exercises to the "routine" like jumping jacks, jumping on one foot, the splits, push ups, etc. to make it fun! If you have a Wii of XBox, there are many fun dance games that you can buy or borrow from your local library.
6. Hit the Mall. Remember, a lot of walking, even in spurts, is great exercise! When my kids are bored and need exercise, we will often take a "field trip" to the mall. Stores like Pottery Barn Kids, the Apple Store, or the Lego store are like going to a museum for my kids. Malls are usually HUGE, so they get lots of walking. Many malls these days also have indoor play areas, which add to the exercise and activity. Best of all, unless you are actively shopping, it is FREE!