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Support your child’s physical and mental health through winter

With the nights drawing in, it’s tempting to curl up and hibernate until the spring. But being active is a great way to support mental health all year round. 

Physical activity has been shown to support mental health in both children and adults. Increased resilience, improved self-esteem, greater confidence, enhanced learning and development and more positive moods are just some of the benefits. But as the weather begins to turn, and options for activity seem to disappear, it can be difficult to keep active.

However, there’s always opportunities to keep moving. And we’ve got some top tips for you and your kids this winter.

Young children

child in autumn leaves

Outdoor activities

Small children love to move. They discover the world through interacting with it, so give them as much opportunity as possible!

Wrap up warm, grab a brolly and your wellies, and head out to the park in search of acorns, conkers and leaves of all colours to create an autumn collage.

Try a wildlife safari and see how many birds and animals you can spot getting ready for winter. Make up stories together about what they’re up to as you walk around. And, of course, be sure to splash in lots of muddy puddles!

Indoor activities

For those days when the weather is just a little too fierce, try some ‘island hopping’ in your living room; cover the floor with cushions and jump from one to the other, but don’t fall into the ‘water’!

Add in some learning and cut out different shapes and stick them around the room. Arm your child with stickers. Ask your children to run to the correct shape when you call them out and put a sticker on it, and the shape with the most at the end wins!

Older children

Older children playing in the woods

Outdoor activities

Older children are learning more about who they are and how to express themselves. Pack up a thermos of hot chocolate and some tasty snacks and take a long walk together. Talk to them about their interests, their hopes, and their worries. Being distracted by moving and being in a neutral environment means they may open up to you more than usual.  For older children looking to improve their fitness, we’ve got some top tips to get started and stay motived.

Look for ways to give them added responsibilities or a challenge; can they help walk the dog? Can they run the length of the garden 10 times in 30 seconds? Can they get past you with a football?

Indoor activities

When the days are just a bit too grey, brighten them up with a mini disco. Put on your child’s favourite songs, get dressed up in your favourite outfits, and have a party in your kitchen. Maybe even teach them the Macarena!

While screen time is often not great for physical activity, there are plenty of options now to get your child up off the sofa. From dancing games to fitness and sports to virtual reality, there’s loads to explore to keep them moving while they play.

Help them find a new hobby with online exercise videos. Joe Wicks is a great place to start, but they can try yoga, dance, and lots of other new activities all in the comfort of their room. Together Active has loads of recommendations here. 

Mental health support and resources

Dog on the beach with a ball

It’s important for all of us to look after ourselves and each other. But sometimes we all need a helping hand. And when we do, there’s plenty of people who want to be there for us.

If you want to know more about supporting children’s mental health, these organisations can help.