Finding ways to be active in winter good for children, too

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At Cafe N Play in Naperville, kids can be physically active in the enclosed "play town" even when the weather is inclement. | Submitted

Winter fit tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these tips for parents:

Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself.

Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together.

Make physical activity fun. Fun activities can be anything your child enjoys, either structured or non-structured. Activities can range from team sports or individual sports to recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities or free-time play.

Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun activities to do on their own or with friends and family.


On the web

To learn more about Café N Play, visit

To learn more about Stretch-n-Grow, visit

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Winter brings an array of winter sports: sledding, skiing and outdoor skating are all good forms of exercise. But when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, it’s not an excuse to hibernate.

Experts agree, when temperatures fall, parents need to rise to the challenge of keeping kids physically active.

“Exercise helps energy levels overall,” said Dr. Elias Shaheen, a family practice physician with Edward Medical Group in Naperville. “Just 30-minutes a day, three to four days a week, has been shown to increase your energy level throughout the day. For kids that’s important, because their energy level is part of the way they absorb their school material and have the energy to do their homework later on in the day.”

Shaheen said parents need to lead by example when it comes to being active.

“I start by asking parents what they do themselves (because) they have to be good role models,” the doctor said. “Join the YMCA or a local gym, play volleyball, indoor soccer or indoor swimming; there are a lot of physical activities that can be done in the winter, but you are going to have to do your homework to find them.”

Dr. Cathy Subber, owner of Café N Play in Naperville, did some homework for local parents.

“Moms are looking for ways for their kids to be active,” said Subber, who opened Café N Play in April. “When I started thinking about Café N Play, I wanted to promote healthy play: imaginary play and active play. My main goal is to provide opportunities for kids to keep them active and healthy.”

At Café N Play, youngsters have ample opportunity to burn energy and stay fit in the 1,800-square-foot enclosed play area. The facility also offers a variety of dance classes, and they recently added Jump Bunch, a sports and fitness class that meets weekly.

“I have purposely left all (children’s) electronics out of Café N Play,” Subber said. “It’s all about using your imagination, running around and being active.”

Keeping kids active is a priority for Michelle Leedham, executive director at St. Mark’s Preschool in Aurora.

“We all know the (problems associated with) inactivity for kids,” Leedham said. “It’s really important to provide as many gross motor movements as we can, and the weather this time of year is not the most conducive for getting kids outside and moving.”

So when it’s cold outside, Leedham turns to Stretch-N-Grow, an early childhood physical education program as a way to offer parents another fitness option.

Stretch-n-Grow brings the fitness session right to the Aurora preschool, making it convenient for busy parents and fun for the kids.

“Stretch–n-Grow is not only fun but its educational,” Leedham said. “They have very intentional movement, and it’s a really good all-around fitness exercise program.”

Stretch-n-Grow franchise owner Marcia Gilbreth, who services the Aurora and Naperville areas, said it’s important to make exercise a way of life at an early age.

“We really want them to gain is an enjoyment of exercise,” said Gilbreth, an early childhood teacher and former preschool director. “It is a lifelong process, and if they learn to enjoy it when they are young, they will do it when they are older.”

Gilbreth said her staff arrives on location with everything to offer an educational and fun 30-minute session. From props and sports equipment to music, they have what they need to build the foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

“We want to show them that it’s fun, it is not a chore, and the way we do that is we take them on an adventure.”

When exercise is an adventure, that’s something kids and parents can warm up to.