Great Winter Sports to Try with Kids

From Parents Magazine

Looking for ways to keep your kids entertained when the temperature drops? Here are our favorite fun ways to spend winter days.

Try ice skating.

Inspired by the upcoming Winter Olympics? Lace up a pair of skates! Kids as young as age 4 can head out on the ice if they are steady walkers with good balance. Follow these tips for a fun, safe afternoon of skating:

  • Find a safe place to skate. You can either skate at an ice rink or outdoors. But before sliding out onto a local pond, check for signs posted by the local police or recreation department stating that the ice has been approved for skating. If there are no signs, call the police or rec department to see which areas are safe.
  • Go with the flow. Always skate in the same direction as the crowd.
  • Toss potential choking hazards. Make sure your kids throw out any gum or candy before hitting the ice.

Go sledding.

Sledding is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy. All you need is a snow-covered hill and a sturdy sled. When you head out for your first ride, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Choose your location carefully. Sled on an open area of packed snow—not ice. Make sure there are no rocks, tree limbs, stumps or other hazards hidden by the snow. And, make sure the bottom of the slope is a sufficient distance from traffic.
  • Use proper equipment. Choose a sled that is sturdy and doesn't have any sharp edges. Also, make sure the handles you'll hold onto are secure. Be sure to pick a sled that you can steer easily. 
  • Sit up. Always sled sitting up with your feet first. Lying flat increases your risk of injury.

Hit the slopes on skis or boards.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities for many families. Looking for a discount? Many community groups organize reasonably priced trips to ski resorts, so do some research before you go. Typically, children need to be a little older for snowboarding than for skiing (say, age 7 rather than a preschooler), but check with the ski/snowboard school at the resort to find out what lessons they offer each age group. To keep your family safe year after year, follow these guidelines:

  • Wear safety equipment. Always wear a helmet and goggles to protect your head and eyes.
  • Get pro help. Beginners should take at least one lesson to learn basic techniques and safety skills.
  • Ski or snowboard safely. Make sure your kids don't go too fast or lose control.
  • Stick to slopes you can handle. If you're a beginner, stay on beginner slopes until you feel comfortable moving up.

Play some ice hockey.

How can you tell if your child is ready to suit up for ice hockey? If kids are at least 6 years old, have good hand-eye coordination, are good at skating and can play well on a team, they may be ready. If your child decides to give it a try, be sure to follow these safety recommendations:

  • Always wear all the required safety equipment. Whether it's just practice or an actual game, make sure your child wears the necessary safety gear, including a helmet and face mask, gloves, mouth guard and pads for shoulders, knees, elbows and shins.
  • Get a good fit. Check your child's equipment regularly to make sure it fits well and is in good condition.
  • Avoid contact. Teach your child to avoid contact with the boards and with other players.
  • Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.
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