Winter is a time where we like to hibernate: we eat a lot over the holidays and then stay indoors and lounge in the cooler months. This can make it hard to stay active, especially for special needs children who might already be prone to a more relaxed pace of life. But there are many ways to get up and enjoy a little exercise, even in the colder weather. Below, we outline a few fun options that can get the whole family involved.
1 Go for walks after school
Going outdoors can be difficult in the cold, specifically when it involves dressing your child up in winter clothing. Special-needs children can be averse to the textures of certain heavier clothing, so it can be inconvenient to dress them up, head outdoors, and then remove all that clothing. But when you pick up your child from school, they are already dressed for the cold, so take advantage of that and drive home and, before heading indoors, take a quick lap around your street to get some steps in.
2 Commit to a year-round activity
Fitness doesn’t need to be a priority just in the winter — try getting your child involved in indoor, year-round sports like karate, rock climbing, or basketball. You can even reward them after going to a class with one of their favorite games or treats.
3 Dance indoors
Lots of parents make use of at-home videos or YouTube tutorials for Zumba or jazzercise, and you can encourage your child to join you! Don’t stress about making sure they follow the moves of the instructor: this is about movement and fun. Dance with them to show you’re involved and laugh and smile while spending active time together.
4 Make these habits consistent
The more your child can anticipate physical activity the less they will be surprised or reticent to participate when it comes up. Don’t let a new activity, especially one they may not be inclined to do, take them by shock: instead, make a calendar and/or verbally tell your child the sequence of events. “On Saturday mornings, we dance because it’s too cold to go outside and we’ll have lots of energy to release.” Or, “After school on Tuesdays, we go for a quick walk.” The more regular these become the easier they will be.
5 Join a special-needs league come spring
As we look toward warmer weather, you can plan ahead by joining leagues specific to special-needs children. Lots of options are out there: for soccer, there’s AYSO, which has a New Jersey team (#1089) in Leonia. For America’s favorite pastime, baseball, there are also a number of teams, including the Morris County Challenger Little League and the Miracle League, with teams in Mercer County and Camden County. Give these great organizations a call and get involved early!