Choosing the Best Sports For Your Child

Children of all ages can benefit from participating in sports and engaging in physical activity. As a parent, you may want to consider your child’s age, personality, interests, and abilities when signing them up to participate in sports and activities. It may be useful to implement a phased approach with your child for sports participation—start with non-competitive, free-play activities and gradually move to more competitive, organized sports. For example, for toddlers and preschoolers (ages 2 to 5 years), sports should be less structured and competitive and focused on having fun and helping your child develop their social skills while being active. As your child grows and advances in their skill level, they may develop the physical, mental, and social skills required for organized sports, and they may gravitate towards a specific team (e.g., basketball) and/or individual sports activities (e.g., swimming). Consider the information below as you evaluate your child’s readiness for a sports program and choose a suitable sport activity.

Benefits of Sports

  • Promotes healthy behaviors.
  • Teaches new skills that contribute to your child’s overall development.
  • Encourages social play, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
  • Expands the family’s circle of support.
  • Improves physical and mental health.
  • Develops relationships with parents and other authority figures.
  • Helps children maintain focus.
  • Offers opportunities for fun and exploration.
  • Encourages children to build friendships.
  • Develops leadership skills.
  • Boosts your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Helps teach the value of balancing successes and failures.

“First” Sports

Instead of choosing sports that emphasize competition, choose sports geared toward having fun and being active. Some good sport activities for children to learn first are activities such as running, tumbling, and swimming because the focus is basic skill development through active play, and these activities do not require organized rules (, 2019). These activities can improve your child’s coordination, help your child develop body awareness, increase social skills if your child plays and interacts with others, and teach your child skills that can prepare them for more organized activities. First sports also offer your child an opportunity to have fun with the entire family.

Physical Activity Based on Your Child’s Age and Development

Age Child’s Behaviors Activity Characteristics Example Sports and Activities
Birth to 1 year
  • Developing motor skills
  • Awareness of sights and sounds
  • Requires hands-on support
  • Stranger and separation anxiety
  • Practice basic skill development
  • Requires hands-on parental guidance
  • Child-led
  • Unstructured
  • Developed during daily routines
  • Pretend play
  • Tummy time
  • Roll over
  • Sit up
  • Kick
  • Bounce
  • Crawl
  • Pull up
  • Walk
  • Jump
2 to 5 years
  • Basic motor skills
  • Developing balance
  • Short attention span
  • Sharp vision
  • Follow a show-and-tell format
  • Noncompetitive
  • Limited instruction
  • Feels like playtime
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Tumbling
  • Throwing
  • Playing catch
  • T-ball
6 to 9 years
  • Mature motor skills
  • Developing hand-eye coordination
  • Developing understanding of teamwork and rules of the game
  • Simple and organized
  • Flexible rules
  • Teaching new skills
  • Less focus on winning
  • Modified game times and equipment
  • Soccer
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Skiing
  • Surfing
  • Rock climbing
10 to 12 years
  • Advanced motor skills
  • High visual and mental sharpness
  • Understanding of strategy and teamwork
  • Starting puberty
  • Complex sports
  • Focus on skill development
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Comparable to your child’s physical size and ability
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Skateboarding
  • Wrestling
  • Track & Field
  • Cheerleading
  • Rowing

How to Choose the “Right” Sport for Your Child

  • Understand your child’s age, interests, and abilities, and seek compatible activities.
  • Pay attention to skills your child has mastered and those they continue to develop.
  • Consider enrolling your child in a variety of team sports (e.g., field hockey, lacrosse, softball) and individual sports (e.g., karate, fencing, dancing).
  • Discuss your child’s interests with them and plan together for their participation in the sports of their choice.
  • Monitor your child’s sports participation and take action if it becomes a negative experience.
  • Ensure your child is enjoying the game and not developing a “win at all costs” mentality.
  • Avoid coaches and sports environments that are hostile and/or abusive toward your child.

Is Your Child Not Interested in Organized Sports?

Your child may not be interested in organized sports; this is fine, and there are many ways they can become and stay physically fit and active. You may want to encourage your child to explore activities such as bicycling, jogging, hiking, riding bikes, yoga, exercising at the gym, or playing tag with family and friends. Many of these activities (e.g., jogging, hiking) can involve your child and one parent, a friend, or multiple family members.

Additional Resources

The United States Department of Health and Human Services developed the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition to provide information that helps families make healthy choices. The guidelines can be found here:

Nemours KidsHealth offers practical tips for families with children who are not interested in traditional sports at:

Find physical activity recommendations and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at: offers sports and activity ideas for children of all ages. Find a list of activities in the following resources:

Related Blog Posts:


Anzilotti, A.W. (2019, February). Signing kids up for sports. Nemours KidsHealth.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, September 26). Developmental milestones matter. (2019, October 8). Is your child ready for sports?

James, W.S. (2023, June 22). What is the best first sport for kids?

Stricker, P. R. (2019, October 7). Sports physiology.

Exercising Intelligence: How Physical Activity Nurtures Brain Development in Children

While many parents and caregivers acknowledge that being physically active can produce significant health advantages for children, the full impact of engaging in physical activity on learning and one’s overall well-being might not be entirely evident. Motor-skill development can have a profound effect on children’s social, cognitive, and psychological domains. Below are some examples of how motor-skill development can intertwine with cognitive growth.

Neurological Connection: Neural pathways in the brain connect motor and cognitive functions. When children participate in activities that challenge their motor skills, such as balancing or coordination exercises, they activate brain regions that are responsible for cognitive processes like planning, decision-making, and problem-solving (Best, 2010; Shi et al., 2022; Veldman et al., 2019).

  • What we see: Dale is learning to rollerblade. He moves his arms and legs to maintain balance, move forward, and make adaptations, so he can stay upright as the contours of the sidewalk change.
  • What we don’t see: Dale’s brain is forming connections between the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex—key regions for motor and cognitive functions (Shi et al., 2022). As he encounters environmental cues like bumps and obstacles, his brain swiftly adjusts to maintain balance. This activity improves Dale’s agility, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness and strengthens his cognitive processes, such as attentiveness and perception.

Cognitive Engagement: Cognition is the mental process of acquiring, processing, and storing information, which includes perception, memory, thinking, and imagination (Shi et al., 2022). Acquiring and developing cognitive abilities are essential for survival and development. When children participate in motor activities that require coordination, precision, and goal-directed action, they refine their cognitive skills as they plan, strategize, and adjust their movements to achieve desired outcomes (Gibb et al., 2021; Pesce et al., 2016).

  • What we see: Ella and Nellie are playing a game of “Red Light, Green Light.” Ella moves forward when Nellie says, “green light,” and she stops when Nellie says “red light.” Occasionally, Nellie tries to deceive Ella by saying similar-sounding words.
  • What we don’t see: Ella’s brain is actively involved in various cognitive
    processes, such as comprehending instructions, responding to verbal cues, and suppressing impulsive reactions. Beyond refining her physical coordination, Ella’s brain is exercising her working memory, inhibitory control, and flexibility as she strategically plans and executes actions in pursuit of specific objectives.

Whole-Body Integration: Motor activities often involve the integration of various sensory inputs and whole-body movements. When children engage in activities that require coordination of multiple sensory systems, such as balancing or spatial-awareness tasks, they can refine their attention and concentration skills (Beck, 2022; Bergland, 2015; Cook et al., 2019).

  • What we see: A group of children are playing a game of Hide and Seek. They run, sneak, crawl, hide, and navigate through various hiding spots. Simultaneously, they monitor their surroundings and the movements of other players.
  • What we don’t see: As the children maneuver, they integrate their sensory inputs—vision, hearing, and proprioception (awareness of body position)—to coordinate their movements effectively. Their heightened awareness of the environment and anticipation of others’ actions helps them to adjust and refine their physical coordination, agility, attention, and spatial awareness. In addition, they develop multitasking skills as they simultaneously keep track of various elements.

Skill Transfer: Skills acquired through motor activities can benefit an individual’s cognitive abilities. When children engage in activities like balancing or climbing, they use spatial awareness and planning skills, and these skills can transfer to cognitive tasks such as problem-solving (Bergland, 2015; Shi et al., 2022).

  • What we see: Rajan and Ian are exploring a playground climber. They are pretending the ground is covered with lava and must navigate the climber without touching the ground. They climb up the slide tunnel, grab and travel along the monkey bars, run across a swinging bridge, and slide down a curvy pole.
  • What we don’t see: As Rajan and Ian encounter various obstacles, they challenge their brains to problem-solve in real time. As they balance and coordinate their movements, they utilize spatial reasoning, which enables them to overcome challenges and reach their goal. This process enhances their physical abilities, sharpens their cognitive skills, and fosters adaptability and decision-making. Further, their imaginative play adds an element of creativity and exploration to their experience.

Social Interaction: Participating in physical activities can create opportunities for children to interact with peers and practice social skills, like cooperation. These experiences may promote teamwork and communication skills and can help strengthen bonds and friendships among children (Khan et al., 2023; Shi et al., 2022).

  • What we see: LaShante is playing a game of basketball. As she runs up and down the court, she communicates with her teammates about offense strategies and defense tactics.
  • What we don’t see: LaShante’s involvement in physical activity facilitates her connection with peers. She is developing teamwork skills and learning to coordinate and collaborate within a group. When the team faces challenges, they do so together, which instills respect for each other’s contributions and creates a network of support. Even in defeat, the team’s unity can strengthen, which nurtures a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Psychological Benefits: Motor development can impact a child’s sense of self-esteem and self-confidence as they master new skills and overcome challenges (Fong Yan et al., 2024). Physical activities trigger the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that are associated with positive emotions. Positivity can contribute to stress reduction and improved mental health (Li et al., 2022; Martín-Rodríguez et al., 2024).

  • What we see: Feliks is participating in gymnastics after school. He somersaults and cartwheels on the mat, pulls himself up on the rings, swings on the bars, and performs choreographed routines on a padded floor.
  • What we don’t see: Feliks has found an avenue for self-expression and is able to channel his energy and enthusiasm into dynamic movement. As he immerses himself in different activities, he encounters a shift in neural activity, which leads to a surge of positivity that permeates his psyche. Furthermore, each new skill he learns becomes a source of pride and accomplishment. When he shares his triumphs with his family and friends, he builds confidence and nurtures a strong belief in his capabilities.

Encouraging physical activity and motor-skill development through purposeful play can support children’s physical and cognitive growth. When children engage in activities that challenge their motor skills, these activities can promote growth across a variety of learning domains. For further information and suggestions on integrating physical activity into your child’s daily schedule, please refer to the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

Moving to Thrive

5210: Definitions and recommendations

5210: Quick physical activity breaks

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans


Beck, C. (2022, June 11). Tag games to develop motor skills. The OT Toolbox.,Proprioception

Bergland, C. (2015, July). Want to improve your cognitive abilities? Go climb a tree! Psychology Today.

Best, J. (2010, December). Effects of physical activity on children’s executive function: Contributions of experimental research on aerobic exercise. Developmental Review, 30(4), 331-351.

Cook, C. J., Howard, S. J., Scerif, G., Twine, R., Kahn, K., Norris, S. A., & Draper, C. E. (2019, September). Associations of physical activity and gross motor skills with executive function in preschool children from low-income South African settings. Developmental Science, 22, e12820.

Fong Yan, A., Nicholson, L. L., Ward, R. E., Hiller, C. E., Dovey, K., Parker, H. M., Low, L., Moyle, G., & Chan, C.(2024, January). The effectiveness of dance interventions on psychological and cognitive health outcomes compared with other forms of physical activity: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine.

Gibb, R., Coelho, L., Van Rootselaar, N. A., Halliwell, C., MacKinnon, M., Plomp, I., & Gonzalez, C. L. R. (2021, December). Promoting executive function skills in preschoolers using a play-based program. Frontiers in Psychology12, 720225.

Khan, A., Werner-Seidler, A., Hidajat, T., Feng, J., Huang, W., & Rosenbaum, S. (2023, December). Association between sports participation and psychosocial wellbeing of Australian children: An 8-year longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 73(6)1117-1124.

Li, J., Huang, Z., Si, W., & Shao, T. (2022, November). The effects of physical activity on positive emotions in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(21).

Martín-Rodríguez, A., Gostian-Ropotin, L. A., Beltrán-Velasco, A. I., Belando-Pedreño, N., Simón, J. A., López-Mora, C., Navarro-Jiménez, E., Tornero-Aguilera, J. F., & Clemente-Suárez, V. J. (2024, January). Sporting mind: The interplay of physical activity and psychological health. Sports (Basel)12(1), 37.

Pesce, C., Masci, I., Marchetti, R., Vazou, S., Sääkslahti, A., & Tomporowski, P. D. (2016, March 10). Deliberate play and preparation jointly benefit motor and cognitive development: Mediated and moderated effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 349.

Shi, P., & Feng, X. (2022, November 20). Motor skills and cognitive benefits in children and adolescents: Relationship, mechanism and perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology13, 1017825.

Veldman, S., Santos, R., Jones, R., Sousa-Sa, E., & Okely, A. (2019, May). Associations between gross motor skills and cognitive development in toddlers. Early Human Development, 132, 39-44.

United in Resolution: How Your Family Can Make the Most of the New Year

A new year is upon us, and it may bring with it promises of beginnings and opportunities for positive change. The start of the New Year is not just a marker of time, but it can also be a symbolic moment to reflect on the past and envision a brighter future. In addition, the New Year can be a time when you and your family create your special individual and family New Year’s resolutions. Developing an annual tradition in which all family members think about positivity can foster a sense of personal growth, for children and adults, and may encourage family bonding and improve goal-setting skills. Let’s discuss some strategies for setting New Year’s resolutions individually and within the family context and ideas for implementing practical approaches that can make this activity a meaningful experience for every family member.

Why set New Year’s resolutions with children

When parents or caregivers involve their children in setting New Year’s resolutions, they are modeling positive behaviors and offering children opportunities to learn how to set goals for themselves and begin to understand the value of personal development. Participating in goal setting can teach children responsibility and perseverance and can give them an opportunity to feel joy as they achieve something meaningful. By involving your children in this process, you empower them and strengthen the family bond as you work towards meeting shared objectives and create a tradition to look forward to every year.

The SMART way to set goals

Consider using the SMART goal framework to set your New Year’s resolutions. SMART goals provide a clear roadmap for success and are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Establishing SMART goals can ensure that resolutions set by family members are well defined, realistic, and attainable within a designated time frame.

Let’s break down the components of SMART goals with some examples:

  • Specific: Specify exactly what you want to achieve.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Exercise more.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Take a family walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner.”
  • Measurable: Establish a way to track your progress, and determine when you have met your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Read more books.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Read one book each month, and discuss it with the family.”
  • Achievable: Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new instrument.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Practice the guitar for 15 minutes every day.”
  • Realistic: Set goals that are reasonable and within your capabilities.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Get all A’s in school.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Improve my grades by dedicating 1 hour to homework each school night.”
  • Timely: Define a time frame for accomplishing your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new language.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Complete an online language course by June.”

Start small and build up

Start small, and set goals that can be easily achieved. Using this approach can increase opportunities for positive feedback, prevent feelings of discouragement, and foster a positive and empowering mindset for all family members. When goals are within one’s grasp, the individual is more likely to stay motivated and committed. Starting small and reaching these goals allow individuals, especially children, a chance to experience the satisfaction of progress and success. Their confidence can also be improved by reaching milestones, and they may find ways to build on those accomplishments! By striving to keep goals attainable, families can set themselves up for a journey filled with achievable milestones, continuous growth, and fun.

Set family resolutions

In addition to each family member setting individual SMART goals, families can set resolutions (or goals) they want to achieve together. These shared objectives can strengthen familial bonds and encourage collective growth. When families set resolutions together, they foster an environment of collaboration and support in which each member plays a vital role in achieving shared aspirations. Listed below are some examples of family resolutions, resolutions for younger children, and resolutions for adolescents and teens.

Weekly Family Meals:

  • SMART Goal: “Have a family meal together once a week and be together at least 30 minutes with no phones at the table.”

Exercise Routine:

  • SMART Goal: “Engage in 30 minutes of family exercise each day and allow each family member the opportunity to choose an activity to engage in that week (e.g., dancing, walking the dog, going to the park).”

Cooking Together:

  • SMART Goal: “Make one evening ‘Family Cook Night’ where the entire family will prepare, cook, and eat a meal together. Each family member will get a chance to choose a meal they would like to prepare.”

Family Game Night:

  • SMART Goal: “Schedule a weekly family game night, and turn off screens to reconnect and enjoy quality time.”

For Younger Children:

  • Daily Chores:
    • SMART Goal: Complete morning routine: Get up, get dressed, make your bed, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth.
  • Reading Habits:
    • SMART Goal: “Read for 20 minutes a day either independently or with a family member.”

For Adolescents/Teens:

  • Screen-Free Time:
    • SMART Goal: Learn/practice a new skill that doesn’t involve the use of a screen.
  • Balanced Lifestyle:
    • SMART Goal: “Go outside for at least 1 hour a day to engage in physical activity like running, biking, tennis, or pickleball.”

Revisit resolutions and goals as needed

Adaptability can be key when it comes to setting goals. Allow flexibility for yourself and your child so you can adjust any pre-established goals throughout the year and encourage success. Kids grow and change rapidly, and their interests and capabilities will evolve. Adjusting goals, as needed, allows for a more realistic and encouraging approach and considers the developmental stage of your child and their priorities. Whether modifying learning objectives, altering extracurricular commitments, or pivoting to a new hobby, parents who can recognize and adapt to these changes can ensure children’s goals remain achievable and aligned with their needs and aspirations. Teaching children the value of flexibility in goal setting can equip them with essential life skills and can foster a resilient and positive attitude toward overcoming challenges.

Incorporating SMART goals into your family’s New Year’s resolutions can set the stage for a successful and fulfilling year. As you embark on this journey together, remember that your commitment to continuous improvement is vital. To further support your resolution-setting endeavors and make this process more rewarding for you and your children, explore the resources listed below. Here’s to a SMART and joyful New Year for your family!

Additional Resources

Cooking to Thrive

Moving to Thrive

Family Media Guidelines

Eating Together as a Family

5210 Tips for Families


Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush C, Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018, January). A randomized trial of SMART goal enhanced debriefing after simulation to promote educational actions. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 19(1), 112-120.

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879-904.

Nair, A., Nair, D., Girdhar, M., & Gugnani, A. (2021). Optimizing developmental outcomes by setting smart goals individualized home program for children with disabilities during COVID-19. International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research, 9(5), 4028–4034.

Taking Care of You

Welcoming a new baby into the home can be an exciting time that is probably filled with novel experiences, but it can also be a time that is filled with challenges, like adjusting to a new schedule and a parenting lifestyle. As you embark on your new parenting journey, remember to allow yourself time to restore and maintain your physical energy and replenish your mental and emotional resources by engaging in self-care strategies, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and thinking positively. The following video illustrates how incorporating self-care strategies into your daily life can improve your overall well-being and your ability to effectively care for your baby. Engaging in self-care strategies can also offer you opportunities to bond with your baby, connect with friends, or sustain a hobby or skill.

To learn more, watch the Taking Care of You mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster video modules are available at no cost to parents and caregivers at

Fact or Fiction: Cold Weather Makes You Sick

As cold weather arrives each year, many parents worry that their children may be at a higher risk for becoming ill. Worries are compounded as parents of toddlers and preschoolers struggle to convince children to keep hats, mittens, and jackets on their bodies while they’re outside. In addition, parents of school-age children and teens may fret about children who refuse to wear a coat or insist on wearing shorts in frigid temperatures. Are these concerns warranted? If so, what can parents do?

The Facts

A new study published by researchers at Northeastern University in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyhas determined that cold weather may, in fact, play a role in how likely you and your child are to succumb to sickness (Thomsen, 2022). However, this tendency may not really be due to exposed heads, arms, or legs. The researchers found that inhaling cool air (<40° Fahrenheit) through the nose in the winter season may impair the nose’s antiviral immune response function (Huang et al., 2022). This impairment makes individuals more susceptible to respiratory viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), influenza, and the common cold. Therefore, ensuring that your child keeps their nose warm may be the battle you must win.

In cold temperatures, the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, which can lead to other serious health problems, such as frostbite and hypothermia. When temperatures fall below 0° Fahrenheit, areas of the body that are prone to frostbite – nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin, and fingers – should remain covered in warm, dry clothing. Avoid spending time outdoors in temperatures or wind chills below -15° Fahrenheit (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2022).

Risks of frostbite and hypothermia may be prevented by limiting time spent outdoors in freezing temperatures; however, contracting respiratory illnesses may be more challenging to avoid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; CDC, 2022), there have been at least 15 million illnesses in the United States during the 2022 cold and flu season. Consider taking the following precautions to lower your family’s chances of contracting respiratory infections this winter.

Ways to Protect Your Family from Illness This Winter

Dress the Part. Wearing layers when outside in cold weather can help prevent physiological conditions that can increase the chance of contracting viruses or more severe illnesses and cold-weather-related conditions. Appropriate outdoor clothing may include wearing layers of light, warm clothing and the following: windproof coats, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.

Some children may need extra convincing to wear appropriate cold-weather attire. The Cleveland Clinic offers suggestions for parents of teens. Additional winter-safety tips to keep children warm are available from the AAP. Safety tips include using wearable blankets for infants during sleep time, ensuring children come indoors to “warm-up” during outside winter play, and dressing infants and children in layers rather than thick coats when traveling in vehicles.

Wash Hands Often. Germs are easily spread by handling or using community items (e.g., writing utensils, soap dispensers) and touching high-traffic surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches) and, then, touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth. To help protect against the spread of germs, individuals should wash their hands regularly by scrubbing their hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. Hand sanitizer can be used when soap and water are not available.

Get a Vaccine. According to the CDC, an annual flu vaccine may be the best way to protect against the seasonal flu (CDC, 2022). Receiving vaccinations can help your body repel infections and ease symptoms for those who do get vaccinated but still get sick with the flu. The CDC recommends that most people ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine annually.

Get Outside. Viruses can spread more easily through dry air. This is due to fewer water molecules being available to interfere with the droplets expelled through a sneeze or cough (Northwestern Medicine, 2022). The air inside homes tends to be dry in the winter because of heating, and this condition can increase one’s likelihood of contracting a virus. Therefore, take the whole family outside, and get fresh air. Time spent outdoors may also help maintain Vitamin D levels, which is important for overall immune system health (Aranow, 2011). When preparing to go outdoors with your child, check wind chill temperatures because these temperatures reflect actual “feels like” temperatures, and dress yourself and your child appropriately.

Wear a Mask. Masks can help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching other people, which is one of the ways germs are spread. A mask or other face covering can also keep the nose warm, which may help the nose to maintain its germ-fighting ability when exposed to cold air.

More enjoyable winter seasons can happen with your child by taking the appropriate steps! You may be able to prevent you and your child from catching and spreading viruses or experiencing more severe cold-weather-related health conditions – remember, keep your noses warm!

Additional Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Flu Activity & Surveillance

Need to Convince Your Teen to Wear a Coat? Here’s How

Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter

Tips to Keep Kids Warm All Winter

When and How to Wash Your Hands


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022, January 13). Cold weather safety for children. Healthy Children.

Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 59(6), 881-886.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 16). Weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report. FLUView.

Huang, D., Taha, M., Nocera, A., Workman, A., Amiji, M., & Bleier, B. (2022, December 6). Cold exposure impairs extracellular vesicle swarm–mediated nasal antiviral immunity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Advance online publication.

Northwestern Medicine. (2022). Can winter make you sick?. Healthy Tips.,Rajendram%2C%20MD

Thomsen, I. (2022, December 6). Northeastern researcher finds new way to prevent the common cold (and maybe Covid-19). News@Northeastern.

Healthy Habits

Part of being a parent means that you often put the needs of your child before your own. However, when a parent or caregiver ignores their own needs, they may become overwhelmed, and this situation could negatively impact their health or compromise their ability to care for a child. One way that parents can practice daily self-care is by developing habits that benefit their overall well-being.

Habits are behaviors that are routinely exhibited; are often performed automatically and without much, if any, conscious thought; and take minimal effort. Habits can be a regular part of your daily schedule – like making time every week for exercise, choosing nutritious food options at the grocery store, or driving home the same way after work each day. Good habits can create efficiency in your daily tasks and growth in your general well-being.

Many people have healthy and unhealthy habits, or behaviors, that they perform as part of their daily routines. Healthy habits are habits that can promote your well-being, increase your positive communication skills, or expand your personal growth and development. Healthy habits are an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and may include activities like getting an adequate amount of sleep each night or making it a priority to cook and eat healthy meals. Unhealthy habits, on the other hand, can negatively impact your health and even your relationships. Some examples of unhealthy habits may include overeating; smoking; drinking in excess; or, routinely, not getting enough rest.

Practicing healthy habits can help you feel better in the present and can promote long-term well-being benefits. Using healthy habits as a means of parental self-care can benefit you and your family over time. Furthermore, by maintaining healthy habits, you are modeling positive behaviors for your children. By consistently modeling these behaviors, you are showing your children that developing healthy habits is a good thing and having their own healthy habits will be important in their development and well-being.

Some examples of healthy habits are the following:

  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly
  • Exercising regularly
  • Setting aside time every day for mediation or self-reflection
  • Choosing to drink water over sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Attending regularly scheduled doctor visits

If you need help developing healthy habits, you can start by reviewing the following four stages of behavior change. According to the National Institute of Health, these changes need to take place in your life in order for you to create good or healthy habits:


This is the stage in which you decide that a change needs to take place and you decide that you want that change to take place. Sometimes, you realize that, in your life, something is wrong or that something could be improved. While you are in the contemplation stage you may not know how you are going to make this change, but you do understand a change is needed.

Example – You may realize that you are feeling low on energy every day because you are not getting enough sleep.


This is the stage in which you begin to think about how you want to or can bring the needed change to your life. During this phase, you will have decided to make changes, and you will begin to set goals for making those changes. You are laying the groundwork for the path to change and strategizing about ways to overcome the obstacles you may face. This is the stage right before you take action to change behaviors.

Example – After realizing you are not getting enough sleep, you start to think of ways you can fit more sleep into your schedule. Perhaps you decide to go to bed earlier or get up later, or, if there is time during the day, you decide to take a short nap.

Keep in mind the following questions as you prepare to create a healthy habit:

  • Are your goals reasonable and specific?
  • Is this something you would like friends or family to participate in?
  • Is your environment making it easy to accomplish your goals?

Example – If you would like to establish a healthier diet, have you removed junk food and replaced it with healthier options?


During this stage, you put your behavior change plan into motion. You are learning how to manage the needed changes in your routine and lifestyle, and you work to make these changes become part of your routine. You are also learning about what strategies you can use to effectively overcome the obstacles that may be preventing you from making positive behavior gains. Also, during this stage, the changed behaviors are becoming a more normalized and part of your routine and life, and you are, hopefully, beginning to see the fruits of your labor.

Example – You have decided on a plan to get more sleep. Maybe you are not watching television as late as you used to, or maybe you were able to find time in the afternoon to schedule a nap.


By now, your changed behavior feels like a more natural part of your life, and you may not even be giving it much thought. However, you need to make sure that you continue with the positive behavior changes. You may take a step back from time to time, this is normal, but it is important for you to get back on track and return to your new behaviors, so these behaviors can remain a normal part of your life.

Example – Now that you have been getting enough sleep and are consistently able to get adequate rest, you find you have more energy. However, sometimes you notice that for a couple of nights in a row you have watched an extra hour of television before bed. When you realize this is happening, you make an effort to get back to going to bed at an earlier time every night, so you reinforce your healthy habit and do not support an unhealthy habit.

Remember, breaking bad habits and making new ones can be very challenging. It is important to be patient with yourself and avoid becoming frustrated. Sometimes, mental health challenges can also get in the way of healthy habit development. If you feel like you may be experiencing some mental health concerns, be sure to meet with your healthcare professional so you can address any underlying challenges.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020, November). Changing your habits for better health.

Participating in Winter Sports

When it’s cold outside, many families find themselves spending more time indoors. Identifying outdoor winter activities for children can sometimes be challenging. Winter sports, like skiing, ice skating, or hockey, take skill and practice and are sometimes cost-prohibitive for families.

Because of the added equipment outdoor winter sports can be more expensive than those during summer. Before financially committing to signing your child up for a winter sport, find videos or websites to help gauge their interest level. Once you’ve identified a sport your child is excited about, encourage their participation and perseverance.

Participating in outdoor winter sports can also be fun adventures to explore as a family. Take skiing or ice skating, for example. Getting away for the day to visit a ski slope or community ice rink is a great way to spend time together and to see if your child shows interest in these types of activities.

If your child isn’t interested in participating in a cold-weather sport, remember some organized winter sports take place inside, for example, gymnastics, wrestling, dance, or basketball. These types of activities may be offered at no cost through public school systems, or available as a community opportunity.

Organized Sports



Snow Shoeing





Cross-country Skiing

Figure Skating








Family and Community Activities


Public Ice Skating

Winter Fun Fairs

Building a Snowman


Snow Tubing


Cross-country Skiing


It can be easy for children to become sedentary during the winter months. Getting them interested in activities during winter helps to increase enthusiasm and maintain an optimal level of fitness. Participating in organized winter competition sports may also increase your child’s confidence, discipline, positive self-image, and teamwork skills.

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256.

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14.

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5.

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


Fit Family: Being Active Together

Physical activity should be included in the daily lives of children, and parents should serve as active role models. Research indicates that multiple benefits of mental and overall physical health occur from being active (Moore, 2008).  A simple way to incorporate physical activity in our daily routine is to plan activities that include the entire family. Current recommendations state that toddlers (0-3 years of age) should engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, and children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise daily (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2018). Some activities are listed below.  Remember, sometimes, let your children come up with activities, and, sometimes, plan your activities together. Allowing your children to organize the activity supports their independence and individuality, and planning together allows your children to know you care about what they say and helps develop decision-making and responsibility skills.

Infant/toddler Activities could include the following:

  • Pull the string – Set the toy just out of reach, and encourage the child to pull a string to grasp the toy.
  • Make your own instruments – Use pots and pans as drums and pound on them with hands or wooden or plastic spoons to improve your child’s large and small motor coordination skills
  • Rattle shaking – Allow the infant to explore and play with a rattle. If it is easy to shake, put a sock over it to teach the baby hand-eye coordination.
  • Remix of Old Macdonald – Sing Old Macdonald using the baby’s name as Old Macdonald and body parts as the animals.
  • Play ball – Sit on the floor with your infant and roll a ball or multiple balls (i.e., how many balls depends on the child’s age and developmental stage) to him or her to encourage body movement and muscle control.
  • Busy board – Build a board full of objects that generate the use of sensory skills, such as attaching Velcro, sandpaper, or silk

Family Inclusive Activities could include the following:

  • Bicycling
  • Playing Tag
  • Swimming
  • Swinging
  • Hiking
  • Sledding
  • Walking
  • Cooking
  • Collecting leaves
  • Going to the park or zoo
  • Bowling
  • Dancing at home
  • Playing on a Jungle gym
  • Making an obstacle course
  • Playing Simon says


Additional Resources:


Moore, M., & Russ, S. W. (2008). Follow-up of a pretend play intervention: Effects on play, creativity, and emotional processes in children. Creativity Research Journal, 20(4), 427-436.

Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http:// guidelines/default.aspx

2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has released the updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The updated guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence that explains the benefits of daily physical activity.

The guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for improving health through increased physical activity. New aspects of the guidelines discuss the following:

  • Additional health benefits related to brain health, additional cancer sites, and fall-related injuries;
  • Immediate- and longer-term benefits for how people feel, function, and sleep;
  • Further benefits among older adults and people with additional chronic conditions;
  • Risks of sedentary behavior
  • Guidance for preschool children (ages 3 through 5 years);
  • Elimination of the requirement for physical activity of adults to occur in bouts of at least 10 minutes; and
  • Tested strategies that can be used to get the population more active.

You can download the updated Guidelines at



Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (November 18, 2018). Retrieved from