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Top 5 Ways to Keep Kids Active During Winter!

Revive students' energy and keep them motivated to learn with these get-active ideas.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Tested by teachers like you, each of these suggestions will get your students moving, learning, and having fun!

Curricular Olympics

Submitted by Lindsey Haan, Trinity Lutheran School, CO

One indoor activity that I like to do during the wintertime is to have students spell out words and then to act out the corresponding actions. I'll select 15 words for my 15 students. The student thinks of an action for his or her word, then we say the word together, spell it, and say it again together while doing the action. For example, if a spelling word were "jump," a student might choose to do jumping jacks for the action. We would do one jumping jack to say the word "jump," another to say the letter "j", another to say the letter "u", another to say the letter "m", another to say the letter "p", and one last jumping jack to say the word "jump" again. Then, the student would put the word in a sentence. The kids love it and it helps them remember the words well, especially if the action corresponds with the word meaning.

Another especially active activity that my students like to play is Line Tag. This is a particularly useful activity during indoor recess when it is snowy or muddy outside. The game involves two chasers who are "it." Like traditional tag, the chasers chase the rest of the students, but the catch is that all students must  run on the lines of the gym floor without jumping lines or going off the lines. (Of course they won't be perfectly on the lines the whole time, but as long as they aren't purposely breaking the rules I let it go.) When someone gets tagged, they have to stay put as a "roadblock" and only the chasers can go around them. When all are tagged but two, they are the new chasers.

I also like the following math games that get the kids out of their seats:

Team Tag

  • Divide the students into two groups and have students form two single-file lines facing forward. The first student should be about 10 feet from the front of the room.
  • Put two equal stacks of flash cards on a desk at the front of the room. When the game starts, the first person in line races to the desk, takes the first card in his or her pile, holds it up, announces the answer to the class, places the card in a discard pile, and then races to tag the next person in line.
  • If the student does not know the answer or gives the wrong answer, he or she puts the card on the bottom of the pile and selects the next card. This student keeps selecting cards until he or she knows the answer to one or until five cards have been selected.
  • The two teams play simultaneously. The first team to correctly give the answers to all the cards in its pile wins.

Addition/Subtraction Bombardment

  • First, spread several paper plates out on the floor. Then, write problems on index cards (or use flashcards) and place them upside down on the plates.
  • Students will then throw beanbags or paper airplanes at the plates, turn over the card, and say the answer.
  • If correct, the player keeps the card and it is replaced with a new card. If wrong, the player must turn the card back over for another player to try to hit. The player with the most correct "hits" when the cards are out (or time is up) wins.

Math Bowling

  • Every student should have their own set of flash cards. Choose 10 students to be the bowling pins. These students stand in a pyramid shape. The rest of the students make a line facing the "pins."
  • The first student in the line is the bowler. This student points to the "head pin," who then shows that student shows a flash card. The bowler has to say the correct answer before the "pin" silently counts to 5.
  • If the bowler gets the answer correct, the pin is "knocked down" and that student sits down. The bowler then points to another "pin" and play continues until the student misses a flash card.
  • The goal is to get a strike, or as many pins knocked down as possible.
  • After that bowler finishes, the last person in the pin pyramid gets up, writes the bowler's score on the board, and goes to the end of the line.
  • The bowler then moves to the head pin position while everyone else rotates.
  • Students are not bored in line waiting because they have their flash cards to practice, or they are trying to do the problems themselves. They want to bowl a strike when it is their turn!

Break My Eggs

  • Write numbers at the bottom of egg cartons. Then, put two manipulatives in the egg carton.
  • Close the lid and have the students shake the carton and add the two numbers together.
  • They can play as teams and keep score.

Facts Baseball

  • Set up a baseball diamond complete with 3 "bases" and "home base." 
  • When a student is "up at bat," show him or her a flash card. If he or she gets the answer right, he or she goes to first base, and so on. But if he or she gets the answer wrong, he or she is "out."
  • If a student makes it all the way around to home base, the team scores.

Hot Chocolate Dashes

Submitted by Cyndi Johnson, Acorn Children Center, OK

I find that the "old-fashioned" ways of keeping active during winter are the most effective. When it is too cold to just go outside and play, my students do dashes to the fence and back for a few minutes and then go back inside.

Sometimes, I'll turn these dashes into a contest by putting blocks along the fence line and having the students run back-and-forth, collecting as many blocks as possible. The students who picks up three blocks (or whatever number I decide is appropriate for that day) "wins" a prize. Of course, everyone "wins" and they are encouraged to help each other. My favorite time to do this contest is before we are going to have hot chocolate for snack and the prize they win is a cup of hot chocolate!

Dance Breaks

Submitted by Andrea Moffat, General Wayne Elementary School, PA

Keeping kids active isn't just a matter of exercise. While exercise is certainly important, I view an active environment as one in which children are learning.

In my 1st grade classroom, I have stockpiled fun CDs. Some are kid's CDs that contain songs with directions to follow and games to play. Others are just popular songs that make you want to get up and dance. Between lessons, I use the songs as both a re-energizer and a transitional tool. The kids know that by the end of the song, they should have danced to their spot.

Besides keeping them awake and alert, I love that our songs build community by rallying all members of our learning community around common goals and experiences.

Indoor Camping

Submitted by Laura Hoyt, Hoyt Home School, TX

The best way to keep children active and happy in the winter is to just let them pretend, indoors or out. I allow children to gather items in their bags to take outside. They find a nice place where they can unpack their goods. This is their secret camp. Then they continue to pretend they are doing certain things like working, hunting, and fishing. They run, jump, and laugh, always returning to the secret camp. They always have a new adventure. When children are allowed to use their imaginations, they stay active longer and the fun never ends.

Pop Goes the Answer 

Lisa Carney, McFadden Elementary School, TN

During rainy or winter days when students cannot get outdoors, I try to keep things moving in the classroom. One activity that I like to do with my kids — and that they love! — is called "Pop Goes the Answer." When we are reviewing a lesson or unit, students must pop up out of their seat to give the answer to the question asked, rather than raising their hands. The first student to stand gets to answer the question. If their answer is correct, they are awarded a ticket that is placed in a jar for a weekly drawing for a treat.

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