Toddler in sweater by a Christmas tree.

How to pick Christmas gifts that keep kids moving

When planning what Christmas gift to give the kids in your life, think about toys or games that will motivate them to put down the video game controller and get them up and moving and burning off some of their never-ending energy.

“Movement is a great way to keep kids active and to have fun,” said Meghan Kingdon, a registered and licensed pediatric occupational therapist at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “You won’t hear the ‘I’m bored’ comments from kids. Getting them involved in something active can make the long winter days bearable and help kids better transition back into school following the holiday break.”

Meghan recommends looking for things kids can do by themselves or with a sibling, friend or parent. “Get everyone moving and active,” she said.

Traditional standbys

There are some traditional items that could find their way under the Christmas tree, such as a:

  • Bicycle or tricycle
  • Scooter
  • Jump rope
  • Frisbee
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Hula hoop

Meghan said these traditional standbys are great options because they last a long time and never go out of style.

“Something as simple as a basketball can really get kids moving and they can experience how fun it is to stay active,” she said. “Or something like a jump rope – they can learn new tricks and skills to pump up their activity level.”

A contemporary spin

Much like the traditional game of Twister, today there are a number of toys on the market that are designed to get participants moving.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Ribbon Wands, or dance ribbons, are a fun alternative to a hoola hoop. Kids can use them in gymnastic and dancing routines. The colorful ribbons encourage kids to keep the movement gracefully flowing by.
  • Mother and daughter working out togetherWiggle Box, a little box of fun, wiggly movements for kids, contains 80 activities for kids that use both fine and gross motor skills along with balance, flexibility, memorization and more. Kids select a coin that contains a movement on it, such as, “Pretend you’re a boxer. Box fast, then slow, then crazy.”
  • Fitivities, The Game that Moves With You, is an exercise game for small or large groups that can be played indoors or outdoors. The game involves simultaneous active play featuring 20 exercises for kids and their families.
  • Fitness Dice are designed to make fitness fun. One dice has activities on each side, such as leg lifts or sit ups. The other has numbers on it. Roll the dice and perform the exercise the number of times shown on the top of the dice.
  • Balance beams, six balance logs connected by nylon rope, are great for younger children.
  • Hopscotch, comes with 10, 11-inch rings and 15 attachments that can be snapped together in any configuration. This is great for indoor or outdoor play.

Winter break fun

Staying active really doesn’t need to involve much, other than your imagination, Meghan said.

“Make a winter, Christmas break bucket list and use your imagination to come up with things,” she said. “Kids can make tunnels and tents to crawl through and climb over. They can set up obstacle courses with chairs, pillows, cushions and masking tape to create lines on the floor. They can even learn to do yoga.”

Whatever you do, make it a family affair.

Take a nature walk, go to the park for a scavenger hunt, have a jumping jacks competition, blow bubbles and take turns chasing them, play hide-and-seek or Mother May I, and if there’s snow, build a snowman or go sledding. Even things as seemingly un-fun as putting away holiday decorations, cleaning the house or shoveling snow are great ways to stay active.

“Staying active is a great way to burn off energy and keep our kids healthy physically, cognitively and emotionally,” Meghan said.