Winter doesn't have to mean cooped up, restless kids. Encourage your children to enjoy the great outdoors by getting them active in a number of winter sports. Pick winter sports for kids based on the kids' abilities, surroundings and how much time and money you want to invest in the sport. Whatever sport you choose, make sure the kids are properly dressed and have the right equipment and training to enjoy it.
Sledding is an easy sport that kids of all abilities. All kids need is a snowy hill and a sled. Kids can pick from the simplest disk sleds, which feature a round, plastic disk that often swirls in circles; an inflated circular tube; or a more advanced sled with runners or molded seats. You may want to pick a sled that has handles and a way to steer for greater safety. Some caveats for sledding are making sure there are no large trees, rocks or other debris in the way of the sledding route, picking a hill that has packed snow and a soft landing. Never choose a hill that ends in a creek or other water bed. Also ensure the child dresses properly. Snow boots, a winter jacket, mittens, hats and scarves are a must. Snow pants are optional and will help keep the kids warm and dry.
Ice skating is a sport that requires a bit of balance and skill. Skating, of course, requires a pair of ice skates that should be worn with thick socks and fit snugly. Make sure kids' ankles are stable so they don't get twisted. Ideal skating spots are shallow ponds or other smooth areas with thick slabs of ice. Never assume ice is safe without testing it first to make sure it can withstand an adult's weight and plenty of roughhousing. Some parks offer outdoor skating rinks which are even safer and usually monitored. Look for public areas specifically marked for ice skating. Skating should still be done in pairs just in case an emergency arises. In addition to ice skates, kids should bundle up in the usual winter jacket and accessories and can even consider knee pads or elbow pads for additional safety.
Both downhill and cross country skiing can be fun for kids as long as they have had some training and are physically able to handle it. By age 4 or 5, kids have enough motor skills and strength to start the sport, according to the Homeboy Ski website, but they may not be up to it prior to that age. Skiing lessons or working with a skilled adult can take care of the training, but kids should still be closely watched while engaging in this activity. Skiing requires a pair of skis, ski boots, ski poles and the usual winter jacket and other gear. Kids may also want to don goggles to protect their eyes. Make sure the equipment fits the child properly and opt for equipment especially made for kids. Downhill skiing can be fairly hazardous, so pick approved ski areas rather than random hillsides. Because it is slower and on less steep terrain, cross country skiing is less hazardous but it does take a lot of endurance. Make sure to pick a course both you and your kids can handle before you go too far.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.