6 sports to keep active this winter

child defending football goal

Colder weather doesn’t mean we have to hibernate, as Tiffany Brown explains.

Getting active with winter sport can help children maintain strong muscles and bones, build cardiovascular strength, promote immunity, reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and improve their mental health.


Hockey New Zealand runs a programme for children called Small Sticks, which includes four modules and is designed to introduce kids to the game in a fun, safe environment. 5-6 year olds begin with the Fun Sticks module to develop fundamental movement and introduce basic hockey skills. At age 7-8 budding hockey players move to the Mini Sticks programme, playing a six-a-side version of the game as they continue to develop their skills and learn to play as part of a team. At this level, children can opt for either the development or standard competition stream, allowing kids to enter the sport at their appropriate level of experience. At age 9 children progress to Kiwi Sticks, and then to Kwik Sticks, before moving into secondary hockey at around 12 years old.


Kids aged 5-7 can get started with netball through the Fun Ferns programme from Netball New Zealand, which aims to develop basic motor skills while teaching passing and movement. At 8-10, children step up to the Future Ferns programme which develops a wider range of skills and knowledge about the game as the players rotate through all seven positions. From age 11, secondary netball programmes focus on the full game as played by seniors. While netball is increasingly played on indoor courts, most school- age games are still played on outdoor courts.

Snow sports

The New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance offers a FUNdamentals programme for children’s education in skiing and snowboarding. The programme involves six levels of progressing for developing balance, movement and performance skills in a variety of terrain and situations, and is offered at various ski resorts. Auckland’s Snowplanet offers private and group lessons, as well as one-off coaching sessions for all ages.

Ice sports

Ice hockey, ice skating, curling and speed skating are offered through facilities such as Paradice Ice Skating on both term-time and holiday programmes. For more seasoned players, New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation runs a Bantam league for players under the age of 15 in Auckland, Canterbury, Queenstown and Dunedin.


The New Zealand Rugby Union hosts the Small Blacks programme for children through to senior level, as well as Rippa Rugby, both of which modify elements of the game to provide a safer environment to learn this popular contact sport. Progressing through various numbers of players per side, the programmes seek to develop the skills of young players through plenty of involvement and scoring.

Football (soccer) & futsal

The McDonald’s Football Juniors programme run by New Zealand Football provides opportunities for kids aged 4-12 years to learn the fundamentals of football and futsal while having fun and increasing their passion for the game. Three programmes offer basics to 4-6 year olds with First Kicks, then ‘Fun’ for 7-8 years and ‘Mini’ Football & Futsal for ages 9-12. Futsal is a game growing in popularity that differs from traditional football as being a more intense, fast-paced game, usually played on a hard, indoor surface.

Winter sport for disabled children

Halberg Active

Halberg Active is a programme from the Halberg Foundation which aims to enhance the lives of physically disabled Kiwis by enabling their participation in sport and recreation. Offering an advisory service, inclusion training for adapting sports to disabilities, and a grants fund to help overcome financial barriers, it also hosts programmes and events like the Halberg Games, a national three-day sports competition.  

Snow Sports New Zealand

Snow Sports New Zealand offers opportunities for adaptive snow sports, including visually-impaired skiing, standing or sit-skiing, and para-snowboard cross.  

Special Olympics New Zealand

Special Olympics New Zealand offers year-round training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Sports include alpine skiing, snowboarding and football. See a full list of sports, resources and event calendar at specialolympics.org.nz.

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