Summertime offers the perfect opportunity to get outside as a family and make exercise a fun experience. By taking part in physical activity together, you will be helping your children learn that fitness is about doing what you enjoy and doesn’t have to be a chore or involve a lot of time, expense and fancy equipment. Here are a few ideas to try:
Take a family walk. Put the little ones in the stroller or wagon and drag the older kids away from the video games and TV for a little fresh air. A walk after dinner aids in digestion and will help everyone sleep better. Promise the kids it will be just 15-20 minutes (the minimum time recommended by experts for cardiovascular exercise). Start out with just one or two walks each week and add more days when you can.
Don’t be afraid to get wet. Rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboat or inner tube and get a little exercise while you enjoy your community’s lake, river or other body of water. If there’s nothing nearby, simply head to the local pool or the kiddie pool in your back yard. Bring your swimsuit too so that you can join in the fun (i.e. don’t spend the day in a chair reading).
Sign up for an adventure. There are so many exciting sports and activities to try while the weather is nice. Rock climbing, rappelling, white water rafting, mountain biking, zip lines and other adventurous sports are becoming more mainstream. You don’t have to be ultra-fit either—just bring a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new. Most places that offer such fare have programs designed for kids and families. If you have very young children or babies, arrange for a babysitter or ensure that an adult or older teen can watch them while you take turns at the activity. If your community doesn’t offer anything particularly adventurous, perhaps you can plan your next vacation near a place that does.
Take it old school. Introduce your children to the simple outdoor activities you loved as a child—hula hoop, baton twirling, hopscotch, jump rope, tag, sack races, three-legged races, roller skating, or just climbing trees or running through the sprinkler. Join in and bring back memories of summers long past.
Join a gym or YMCA. Gyms are following the lead of the “Y” and becoming more family-friendly. Many offer month-by-month memberships or special rates during the summer when business is slower. Often they will have classes for teens and elementary school-age children, and some gym child care facilities include indoor playgrounds and activities for toddlers.
Head to the park. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner along with bats, balls, Frisbees etc. You might want to invite a few neighbors or friends as well and ask them to bring their outdoor fitness equipment. Dump it all in a pile and see who can make up the most fun way to use all or some of it in a new game. Of course, you can just start up several traditional games and rotate the players so everyone can join in.
Make up an obstacle course. Use cones, jump ropes, balls, hula hoops and other outdoor equipment to construct an obstacle course in your back yard. For example, jump rope five times, do a cartwheel or somersault, throw the ball up in the air, then spin around and catch it before it drops, run zigzag through the cones, then spin the hula hoop on one arm while you balance on one leg. You get the idea. After one trip through the obstacle course, your kids will beg you to let them try to make one up on their own, and the video games will be long forgotten (for a while, at least!).