As winter approaches, it is the perfect time to add some fun and excitement to your Physical Education classes. Taking your students outdoors to learn and have fun is an incredibly effective way of inspiring movement, engagement, and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, not all educators are able to bring this invaluable experience into their curriculum for a variety of reasons. Despite the limitations of being confined indoors, teachers can still be inventive and adapt winter-themed games and activities for their students to enjoy in any indoor gym or learning center. With a little creativity, you can keep your students engaged during even the coldest days!
An array of engaging winter-inspired games and activities await you, ready to be modified for your indoor teaching sessions. In this blog post, I will provide 10 great ideas for getting your students active and moving during the colder months. Many of these activities can be modified to be used with any grade level, making them perfect for schools, churches and community centers alike! Plus, they are a lot of fun!
Why include winter-themed activities and games in your indoor PE lessons?
Including winter-themed stations, games and activities in your PE curriculum is important as it helps to bring physical education to life. It can be difficult for students to stay motivated during the winter months, but these activities will help them become engaged with their PE lessons.
This is an ideal opportunity to shake up the tediousness of typical indoor physical education units and activities that occur during this time of year. It inspires students to be inventive and expressive with their physical activity and movement. Additionally, winter-themed games and activities allow for teachers to introduce their students to some winter-themed Olympic events, such as curling, luge/skeleton, skiing/snowboarding, speed skating, bobsleighing, and more!
Including winter-themed activities, stations, and games indoors is an awesome way to help you and your students reach SHAPE America Standard 5 which states: The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.*
10 tips for setting up the winter physical education activities
Making winter activities and games work in indoor PE classes requires some pre-planning and preparation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
When choosing activities for your students, their age and abilities should be taken into careful consideration. Ensure that the tasks you select are appropriate to your learners' developmental level so that your kids learn more efficiently.
Make sure you have all of the necessary materials for each game or activity. This includes any props, equipment, or materials that are needed.
Before starting class, take the time to organize and prepare your games and activities.
Enhance the student experience by incorporating festive and/or Olympic-related music while they engage in activities.
Make sure that the directions for each game or activity are straightforward and easy to understand. Showing or having students show others how to do it will help them grasp what is expected of them, so there's no misunderstanding!
Incorporate a Winter Olympics (Olympic Games) discussion into your lesson. Decorate your playing area with Olympic rings and get the kids involved in the celebration.
Videos by Eric Turrill: Round Hill P.E. - @RHEPE1
Make sure to have a clear plan on how you will move between different movement experiences in order to make your lesson flow smoothly with minimal pauses or interruptions.
At the end of every lesson, review and highlight some of the most important take-aways that your students have gained.
So that the next class can start on time, reset the equipment. Assign this task to your current class so you don't have to do it yourself.
10 Active and Engaging Winter-Themed Indoor Ideas for PE
To ensure your physical education classes are filled with zest and enthusiasm throughout the colder winter months, try these 10 exhilarating winter-themed movement experiences in your learning area!
1- Paper Plate Activate- Winter Style
A great way to start off a winter-themed PE lesson!
Students move from laminated plate to plate every 30 seconds to perform winter sports and winter games fitness-skill movements. This is a GREAT warm-up fitness activity to tie in Olympic activities for kids.
Laminate several plates with exercises that relate to Winter Olympic activities (i.e. Luge- Leg lifts, skeleton- plank hold, curling- lunge jumps, downhill skiing- squats etc.)
Scatter the plates around the playing area face up
Evenly distribute the students at the laminated winter Olympic plates
Provide your students with instructions for the activity. Turn on some upbeat music. Set a timer for 30 seconds and play your favorite music to get in the zone. The students will do the exercise or movement for 30 seconds. After the music stops, have the kids rotate and choose any other plate. They can only go to a plate they have not been to before. Continue this pattern for 4 to 6 minutes
Bobsled is a winter sport in which teams of two or four people make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled.
Students take turns winding their way through an obstacle course on folded mats perched atop scooter boards.
Place a folded mat on 4 to 6 scooters
Set up cones and poly spots to represent the ski hill bobsled course
Create an ending area that participants turn around to go back to the starting line
In small groups, students take turns pushing and riding the bobsled course. Use stopwatches to time each run or race against other teams. Stress safety while pushing and riding. The bobsleds must stay inside the course or the team is disqualified. Alternative: Connect 2 to 4 scooters together and do the above mentioned activity without the mat.
3- Winter Biathlon
The Winter Olympic event of Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, providing a unique challenge for athletes.
Students take turns gliding across the gym floor to a shooting station where they take 3 shots at a target.
Set up several relay lines using poly spot makers and cones. Keep the lines short (3 or 4 students per line)
Put laminated plates and pool noodles at the start of each relay line
Place 3 frisbees at the end of the course
Have a shooting area and a target for each line. It could be a wall target or a ball sitting on a cone
The students, in small relay lines of 3 or 4 students, use laminated paper plates or carpet squares and pool noodles as ski poles, to cross country ski from a starting line to a shooting area. At the shooting area, they will pick up a Frisbee and attempt to hit a target on the wall or a small ball off of a cone. They get 3 shots and then cross country ski back to the start line. The next person in line repeats the action. Alternative: use a ball instead of a Frisbee to shoot with.
4- Hockey Shooting
Hockey is an exciting sport in which two teams compete against each other, attempting to score goals by maneuvering a ball or puck into the opposing goal with their hockey stick.
Students take turns stick-handling a ball or puck down the gym floor and shooting on a goal past a goalie.
Set up several relay lines using poly spot makers and cones. Keep the lines short (3 or 4 students per line)
Place a goal at the end of each line. The goal could be a regular hockey or small soccer goal or 2 cones a few feet apart from each other
Place a ball and hockey stick (or pool noodle) at the start of of the shooting area
Put a market down that designates where a shot must be taken form (for safety)
The students, in small relay lines of 3 or 4 students, take turns stick-handling a soft ball and shooting on a goal. A goalie is placed in front of the goal for each line. Only 1 shot can be taken at a time (no rebounds). A shot must be taken at a designated line or marker. After they shoot, students become the goalie and the goalie brings the ball back to the next person in line. Alternative: students use hockey sticks and a small nerf ball to play a 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 game.
5- Ski Jumping
Ski Jumping is a thrilling Nordic skiing activity that challenges athletes to launch off of an inclined ramp and soar through the air, flying as far away as they can.
Students run down a path and jump as far as they can off a mat or springboard. .
Place a cone or polyspot as a starting line for this activity
Set up a running path with a mat, mini tramp or springboard at the end
Secure a crashmat beyond the takeoff implement for added safety
The students, in small relay lines of 3 or 4, run down a straight course and jump off of a spring board or folded mat (using 2 feet) and fly in the air on to a crash mat or another flat mat. Measurements can be taken and marked after each jump. Alternative: use a 1 foot takeoff for the ski jump.
6- Snowball Target Throw
A PE lesson during winter is incomplete without a classic snowball throw!
Students take turns throwing yarn or fleece balls at several targets in a station area.
Create, print and laminate some wall targets to throw at
Set up several throwing lines and targets in a set area of the gym
Place yarn balls out on the throwing lines
Targets could include a wall target, open cone on a chair, upright hula hoop, bowling pin(s), etc.
Organizing into small groups, the students put their hand-eye coordination and athletic ability to the test by taking turns throwing soft yarn or fleece balls in an effort to hit targets, knock down pins, throw through hula hoops, or land them inside cones. Alternative: partners or trios can play catch throwing the yarn balls back and forth to each other.
Curling is a beloved winter sport, where players strategically slide stones on an icy surface towards a target area composed of four circles.
Two students take turns sliding 2 Frisbees toward a target created with tape or chalk.
For every station, draw a line to curl from and put two frisbees on it
Create a target on the floor away from the curling line using either tape or chalk
The students, in groups of 4 students (2 teams of 2), take turns sliding a Frisbee down to the other end where the target is. Scoring is as follows: 1 point when the Frisbee stops completely in the larger target area. 2 points when a Frisbee stops inside the inner circle or square. A game can be played to 15 points. Alternative: beanbags can be used to slide at the target for certain floor types.
8- Ice Fishing Fitness
Ice-fishing is an exciting and rewarding practice that entails catching fish with fishing lines, spears or hooks through a hole in the ice atop a frozen body of water.
Students take turns using a fishing rod to put over a mat and perform certain exercises based on what they catch.
Set up several fishing rods with a string on the end with a magnet on each
Write down exercises and repetitions on index cards (laminate them prior to use)
Put something on the cards that sticks to magnets
Groups some tumbling mats upright to represent a frozen lake or pond
The students take turns putting a line and pole over and in a group of mats (representing a frozen pond). The poles could be pool noodles with a string and magnet attached to the end. Inside the mat area, another student attaches an exercise card (with a magnet attached to the back of it) and when the fisherman pulls it up, they must do the exercise. For example, the exercise card could say to do 10 pushups or 10 sit ups. Students should switch roles after each fishing trip! Alternative: the cards could be manipulative skills vs fitness activities such as dribble a ball 10 times, toss and catch a beanbag, etc.
Skeleton is an adrenaline-filled winter activity in which a competitor straps into a small sled and hurtles headfirst down a frozen course at breakneck speeds.
Students take turns scooting on a scooter board, gliding through an obstacle course face down.
Establish cones and poly spots to replicate the ski hill skeleton track
Place a scooter board at the starting line of each track
Create an ending area that students turn around to go back to the starting line
In groups of three or four, students take turns scooting down an appointed track as they lie on their stomachs atop scooter boards. With only the power of their feet and arms driving them forward, they move as quickly as possible down the track and back! Races can be timed with stopwatches or pitted against competing groups. Alternative: add 2 scooter boards together to make the surface larger if needed.
10- Snowflake Fitness
A great full-class activity to use to get everyone moving and active. Great for a warm-up or class-ending activity.
Students perform a variety of locomotor movements and fitness-based exercises using snowflake cut-outs as task cards
Create some snowflake cards with exercises and reps/time added on them
You’ll need at least twice as many cards as students
Place the snowflake cards in the middle of the playing area, face down, to represent a Snowfall
Place 6 – 12 cones around the gym perimeter and group the students into small-group, even clusters, behind each cone to start Snowflake Fitness
On a teacher signal (preferably upbeat music), the first student in line runs (or uses a teacher-directed locomotor movement) to a card, flips it over, and performs the exercise listed, using the designated number of repetitions
The student perform the exercise out in the center & then returns to their line
After returning, the student then tags the hand of the next student in his/her line and that student moves out to find a new snowflake card in the middle and performs the exercise for the designated number for repetitions or set time
The process continues for a teacher-designated, set time such as 5 or 10 minutes
Alternative: use scooter boards to enter the card area.
Physical Education classes can reach a whole new level of excitement with the introduction of winter-themed activities, games and stations! Not only will they be engaging, but educational too - making them an ideal choice for PE teachers. A true gold medal performance and so much fun! Through modern Olympics-inspired activities, students can have the opportunity to discover and explore a wide range of previously unknown activities while learning more about some Olympic events.
In this post, I've shared ten helpful ideas for incorporating this topic into your physical education lessons. By incorporating these outdoor seasonal activities and sports into your indoor lessons, you will be sure to keep your students engaged and active during the winter months!
Even during the colder months, your students can stay active by participating in wintry physical activities outdoors at home or around their community. Urge them to get involved and enjoy themselves! To keep them away from digital devices while remaining physically fit, assign homework that involves some fun movement options!
What winter-themed physical education activities do you enjoy the most? Share your insights in the comments section below! Also, if this post has been beneficial to you in any way, please pass it along and share with fellow PE teachers and on social media. Thanks for reading!
*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author.
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