Active indoor and outdoor winter games for children

There are so many reasons to keep your child active throughout the year – to build strength, develop coordination, lower stress, and keep their bodies healthy! The colder months make it more challenging for many families to stay active, so we have put together some fun, winter games to inspire your family to keep moving this winter, both indoors and outdoors! 

Active Indoor Activities!

Snowball Games

Create pretend snowballs by rolling socks into a ball and use them to play snowball games!

  • Snowball Fight: Start an indoor snowball fight! Make cushion and blanket forts for each team.
  • Target Practice: Choose or create a target to throw your pretend snowballs. You can throw the snowballs into a bowl or box, or cut holes into a cardboard box as your target. 
  • Snowball Bowling: Line up plastic cups or recycled bottles and roll or toss a pretend snowball to knock them down.

Snowball Sweep & “Shovel”

A broom and dustpan can be fun tools to play a movement game with cotton snowballs! Use the broom to sweep or a dustpan to shovel the balls to the target. The target can be a corner, a bowl, or an area marked with paper or tape.

Can you do the Penguin Waddle? 

Place a ball or balloon between your knees and waddle like a penguin! Go across the room and back – see how far you can waddle without the ball falling to the ground.

Iceberg Hop (an icy twist on “don’t step in hot lava!”)

Make iceberg shapes out of pillows, cushions, blankets, and/or paper taped to the floor. Hop from iceberg to iceberg to stay out of the icy cold water!

Freeze Dance

Start a dance party with your favorite tunes and freeze when someone suddenly stops the music! (Or search “toddler freeze dance” youtube where the music stops automatically!)

Go Outside!

Getting outside into nature for even a short time can do so much good! Being outdoors in the winter is a unique and magical sensory experience for a child. Bundle up and try a few of these outdoor activities:

Nature Walk & Collection

What kind of nature can you collect in the winter? Pine cones, rocks, sticks! Bring a treasure box along on a backyard or neighborhood walk, or even visit one of many wonderful trails in the area. 

Eagle Watch

The Missouri Department of Conservation has information on the best places to view eagles in their natural habitats near the Missouri River, and hosting in-person and virtual Eagle Days events:

Play in the Snow

Playing with snow is an enriching sensory experience for your child! Make snowballs, snow angels, a snowman, snow tracks, or even go sledding! When you’re finished playing outside or it gets too cold, bring a container of snow inside to play! 

Bring the Outdoors In!

Snow Sensory Bin

There are so many ways to create a winter snow sensory bin for your child to play indoors! You can play with real snow, or you can make a homemade, non-toxic play snow sensory bin with materials from around the house. For taste-safe snow, you can use food products such as marshmallows, dry instant potato flakes, sugar, salt, baking soda, corn starch, flour, or shaved ice. For older children, you can use cotton balls, pom poms, tissue paper, or even shaving cream (play in the bathtub to contain the mess!). Be prepared to supervise your child during sensory play activities for safety.

To set up the snow sensory bin, fill the bottom of a bin or container with a layer of snow (real or play). To contain the mess, put down towels, a mat, or set up in a high chair or even the bathtub. You may even want to try a sensory bag where you put a layer of real or play snow inside a large zipper bag and seal shut. 

You can play in “snow” many different ways! Have your child draw or write in the snow with their fingers, make tracks in the snow with their hands/feet or animal/small people figures, drive through the snow with toy cars, or “shovel” snow using a spoon or craft stick. Let your child discover “snow” through their five senses!

Ice cube scoop and transfer

Set up a simple activity for your child using ice cubes and scoops, and you may be surprised at how much concentration and enjoyment your child can get out of such a simple activity. Another fun twist on this activity is to freeze a plastic toy in a container with water, pop it out, and let it thaw in the water. 

To set up the activity, put down a towel, tray, or mat to keep the floor from getting too wet. Fill one container with ice cubes and a separate container with some water. Have your child work on transferring the ice cubes between containers. Encourage your child to feel the water before and after adding the ice cubes and talk about temperature and texture of the water in liquid and solid form.