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Top 5 Winter Sports for Children

Winter is the perfect time to explore cold-weather sports and introduce children to fun activities they can do individually or with a group.    Being outdoors has been known to decrease anxiety, stimulate the senses, and improve concentration. Not only will these winter sports help beat the winter blues, they will also help build strong muscles and bones.

Top 5 Winter Sports for Kids:

  1. Snowshoeing-Easy to learn, with little risk of injury, and relatively inexpensive, snowshoeing has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is a great cardiovascular exercise, and hiking through the snow burns more calories than regular hiking. The resistance provided by the snow and the balance required to walk will strengthen core and leg muscles. There are different types of snowshoes based on skill level and terrain.
  2. Skiing-Both cross-country skiing and downhill skiing have many health benefits.  Downhill skiing uses short bouts of energy and cross-country skiing is more of an endurance sport. Both types of skiing work our major core muscles and large muscle groups including the abdominals, the glutes, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and biceps/triceps. Skiing also improves our balance skills on variable terrain and helps train our postural muscles.
  3. Skating-Skating is a sport that provides something for everyone. Between speed skating, recreational skating, and figure skating, this is an activity that one can participate in as an individual or group. Skating is a low-impact exercise that trains balance, agility, speed, muscle endurance, lower body strength, and flexibility. It teaches kids about weight-shifting, grading their movements, and the stability required to balance on one foot, which is important in their gross motor development.
  4. Snowboarding-In a sense, snowboarding is like surfing on snow.  It requires snowboarders to use their quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles to steer the board and use their abdominals to control their balance.  Getting up and down from the snow is an exercise in itself for young children. Snowboarding is a great core exercise and kids become more aware of their body mechanics as they advance their skills on challenging terrain.
  5. Hockey-Ice hockey is a high-intensity sport that builds teamwork, strength, coordination, balance, endurance, and agility. It challenges little bodies and minds by incorporating skating skills with running skills and hand-eye coordination tasks. Click here to read about more benefits of hockey!

So bundle up, put on protective gear, and head outside for some fresh air. Winter sports are healthy, fun, and promote quality time outdoors for you and your family.


Why Downhill Skiing is a Great Gross Motor Activity for Children

As I stated in my previous blog, many sporting events are not only enjoyable to watch for entertainment purposes, but they can also child skiingbe a perfect gross motor and extracurricular activity to get your child involved in with his peers. Both individualized and team sports incorporate many different skill sets that help your child to follow the guidance and leadership of another adult (i.e. the coach; an instructor).

Below are some examples of skills that downhill skiing could address for your child:

  • Balance:  Downhill skiing requires a significant amount of balance in order to efficiently set-up the boots and skis (e.g. clicking ski boots into skis), safely get onto a tow rope and/or a ‘magic carpet’ ski lift and prevent themselves falling down the ski hill.  Downhill skiing requires the child to maintain a relaxed posture going down the
    hill, rather than a stiff posture. A relaxed posture provides the child a reduced chance of falling. It can also better maintain his/her center of gravity.
  • Bilateral skills:  Using both sides of his/her body, including his hands and feet, in order to control and utilize the skis and ski poles.  Also, when getting onto the chair lift, a child is required to place one hand onto the back of the chair lift and use the other hand to hold the ski poles, therefore, the child utilizes both hands at once for different purposes in order to have the greatest success.
  • Timing and sequencing:  Being able to anticipate how often to complete turns when going down the ski hill in order to slow oneself down and remain in control. He/She will also need to understand where the other skiers are on the ski hill and move accordingly.  Similarly, when getting on and off of the chair lift, a child must use the correct timing and sequencing in order to prevent missing the chair lift and/or not getting off the chair lift in time.
  • Safety awareness and body awareness:  Being able to avoid crashing into another skier and being mindful of where your body is in space, so that you remain in control and make it easier for other skiers to know where you are going.  In addition, being mindful of where your ski poles are so that they don’t poke another skier and/or so you don’t drop them while on the chair lift or halfway down the ski hill.

As you can see, downhill skiing is not only a great form of exercise and a way for your child to learn a new hobby, it also helps your child improve many skills that are needed throughout daily life.  Similarly, the earlier your child learns how to ski, the easier it will be as learning a novel task as an adult can be more challenging. This is due to the fact that adults tend to be more cautious and over-analyze the task at hand. Feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher, occupational therapist or physical therapist to see if downhill skiing or other gross motor activities will be best for your child.  See you on the slopes!