SkiThe scent of pumpkin spice lattes at your favorite coffee shop may be telling you that autumn has finally arrived, but to me it means one thing: time to prepare for the long winter ahead.

When you’re a parent, especially of younger children, that requires more than having the kids try on their snow pants and jacket to see if they can squeeze one more season out of them. It means laying the groundwork now so your children can have an active and fun season even when the weather turns cold and the daylight hours shrink.

Here are some things you can do now to ensure cabin fever doesn’t sneak up on you and your kids and leave you scrambling to find a way to get them off the couch once the mercury takes a dive:

Prepare to hit the slopes
If you live in an area where skiing or snowboarding is an option, and you want to introduce your children to the thrill of cutting through the powder, early fall is the time to get your kids outfitted for this thrilling experience. Since children grow so quickly, you’ll want to rent equipment from an area ski shop. The earlier in the pre-season you rent, often the bigger the discount you’ll get on complete winter packages. Some stores will also throw in coupons for free or discounted lift tickets to area mountains for “juniors” to encourage parents to take them out more often.

Take a summer sport indoors
The outdoor pool may be drained, but gyms or clubs with indoor pools or a YMCA/YWCA in your area is the perfect place for children to brush up on their strokes or take those first lessons so they have mastered the basics before next summer. As for me, since the local baseball diamonds and soccer pitches will be frostbitten soon enough, I found an indoor racquet club where I could sign my youngest up for winter tennis lessons—a great individual sport that he’ll be able to play recreationally for years after he’s hung up his mitt and cleats. In recent years, the U.S. Tennis Association has made great efforts to encourage youth play with softer balls and smaller courts that allow kids of all ages and abilities to learn the basic skills.

Get up and dance
Okay, if your kids are going to be stuck inside with their video games for a spell this winter, make sure they are ones that get them up and moving. If you have a gaming system, this is a good time to comb through the used bin of your local computer game shop (or the used tab on Amazon.com) and pick up older versions of popular games such as Just Dance or Dance Central before the holiday rush raises prices. And keep a lookout. Gamemaker Majesco is set to release a new line of Zumba fitness video games this November.

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