Winter activities for children with cerebral palsy can present challenges for families. Due to varying levels of mobility, getting outside in the ice and snow is not always possible. However, children with cerebral palsy need to stay active year-round. Learn some fun ways to get your child involved in the holidays this year.
The Importance of Staying Active During the Winter
Many families around the United States live in climates with cold, icy, and snowy seasons, making it more difficult to be active during the winter. However, it is very important for you and your loved ones to stay active even during the colder months, especially if your child has cerebral palsy.
There are critical benefits of regular physical activity for children with CP, so it’s key to stay active all year long.
Benefits of regular exercise for children with CP include:
- Easing some cerebral palsy symptoms such as spasticity
- Helping with cognitive and behavioral development
- Improving overall mobility
- Keeping children engaged and less fussy
- Maintaining serotonin levels, keeping children happy
Another important reason for staying active during the winter months is that having a routine helps your child feel safe, secure, and organized. Routines can be especially important for children with co-occurring conditions that can intensify stressful situations, such as autism.
When developing a winter exercise or activities plan, it is important to note that any activity should be adapted to fit your child’s abilities. You should also contact your child’s health care provider to discuss safe and effective activities tailored to their individual needs.
Outdoor Winter Activities for Children With Cerebral Palsy
Outdoor winter activities are a great way to spend winter days, especially when it has snowed. Being outdoors allows children to interact with others. It also gives them a chance to get vitamin D.
Learn about some outdoor winter activities that can be tailored to your child’s abilities below.
Instead of encouraging snowball fights, which can be too aggressive or triggering for some children, you can throw snowballs at outdoor targets. These could be rocks, walls, or trees. Throwing snowballs at targets provides exercise and can also help improve steadiness and focused attention.
Use Snow as Sensory Tools
Encouraging your child to experiment with the cold and lightness of the snow can be a great sensory experience. Your child can also practice their vocabulary by naming winter-related words, such as frozen, cold, etc.
Sledding can be a great activity because it gets kids moving and socializing. If your child cannot safely sled on their own, you can attach a rope to a sled and pull them through the snow. Tobogganing is another option so your child is not on their own.
If you decide to go sledding, make sure to start on smaller hills first to avoid overwhelming your child or getting hurt.
Paint the Snow
Filling squirt bottles with paint or food coloring is a fun way to encourage creativity. Children who are hesitant to play in the cold snow may really enjoy the visual experience of painting it into bright colors.
Go Exploring in the Snow
Exploring in the snow can feel like an exciting adventure for your child. If they use a wheelchair, look into adding snow tires so they can still get outside and explore.
With a bit of creativity, families can adjust most activities as needed to adapt to their child’s abilities.
Indoor Winter Activities for Children With Cerebral Palsy
Sometimes snow days call for indoor fun without spending time in the cold. Children with CP may also prefer to stay indoors if they don’t do well in lower temperatures. Luckily, there are plenty of fun and cozy indoor activities as well.
Make a Fort
Get blankets, pillows, sheets, cardboard, and clothespins together, and let your child use their imagination. Forts can be built in couches or between chairs. Once the fort is built, bring your child their favorite games, books, and snacks for an indoor campout.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
Collect items and hide them around your house for your child to find. These can be things your child can play with that don’t require a lot of supervision, such as winter-themed puzzles, books, and sensory toys. Your child will have double the fun first by searching for the items and then playing with them.
Create an Indoor Obstacle Course
Set up an obstacle course under tables, around chairs, and through blanket tunnels. Navigating their way around obstacles can help your child with CP develop motor skills.
Just as you can cut snowflakes out of paper, you can also make edible ones by shaping cookie dough into snowflakes using a cookie cutter. You can even decorate them with blue frosting, candies, or sprinkles to make them look frozen.
Make a Winter Sensory Bag
Making a bag filled with winter-like sensory items is a great way to allow your child to experience the cold and snow without going outside. You can fill a sealable bag with clear hair gel and refrigerate it to make it cold for your child to squeeze.
Adding sparkly ingredients like glitter will give the illusion of ice. Marshmallows or cotton balls can also be added for extra squishiness.
Just as they can with outdoor activities, parents can also adjust any indoor activities to align with their child’s abilities.
Fun Winter Experiences to Enjoy With the Family
Sometimes it’s just more fun to venture beyond your own home or yard. Plan a trip with your child to make a winter’s day special.
Some fun ways to spend winter days include:
- Checking out a winter farmers’ market
- Driving around to admire holiday decorations and lights
- Gathering blankets or coats and donating them to local charities
- Going to see snow sculptures
- Helping out at a local food bank (be sure to follow COVID safety guidelines)
- Meeting friends at the local park
- Visiting the local ice skating rink
These experiences can help your child see things they usually wouldn’t see at home. This can help to open their eyes to new ideas and encourage creativity.
Whatever your child’s ability level, there are many ways to stay active year-round. With a bit of creativity and planning, winter activities for children with CP can be loads of fun for the whole family.