Spending time outdoors is good for both physical and mental health, and summer vacation offers the perfect opportunity for kids to get outside and enjoy countless hours of fun in the sun. But what if your kids would rather be indoors, watching TV or playing video games, than outside making the most of nature? If you play your cards right, you won’t need to threaten or cajole to get up and go outside. Just follow some of these suggestions for helping your kids (and you) enjoy a happy and healthy summer.
– Send them to camp: Summer camp provides a great opportunity for kids to meet new friends and learn new skills, all in a safe, exciting environment. If you think camp is too expensive, think again. There are many types of camps in a variety of price ranges, and many even offer full or partial scholarships to families in need. You could also choose a day camp, which are usually closer to home and less costly than sleep away camps.
– Plan a family camping trip: Instead of, or in addition to, sending you child to camp on his or her own, you could also plan a family camping tip. There are many ways to, from rustic, tent-only trips that feel like true a wilderness experience, to car camping at a state park, to RVing at a large family campground with a swimming area and activities for kids, or renting a cabin in the mountains. No matter what your speed is, just about everyone can enjoy spending a few days and nights enjoying Mother Nature as a family.
– Get them involved in a sport: Whether it’s little league, soccer, volleyball, peewee football, track and field, swimming, golf, or some other activity, sports have always been a great way to keep kids active and get them outside.
– Start a garden together: Gardening is not only a great reason to spend time outdoors, it also educates kids on the life cycle, encourages healthy eating, and can save your family money on groceries.
– Go hiking together: Hiking is a great way to get some exercise while having fun. If you hike with your kids, you’ll be instilling a lifelong love of the outdoors. Go to the library beforehand and pick up some field guides so you can identify various birds, trees, flowers, and other plants. Make a game of it; see who can spot and name the most species over the course of a trip. Or take up a hobby like geocaching or letterboxing and head out in search of hidden treasures.
– Go to the beach (or lake) together: If slathering on the bug spray and bushwhacking through the forest doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, then grab the sunscreen, roll up a few straw mats and head to your local beach or lakeside park for a day of fun in the sun. Kids can swim, play games, fly kites, build sandcastles, and more, while you catch up on your summer reading.
– Go fishing: Grab your rod and reel and head out for a relaxing day on the water together.
– Encourage imaginative play: If your kids are young, be sure to have plenty of dress-up clothes, costumes, and props available so your kids can invent story lines for creative outdoor play. Whether that old pool raft becomes a pirate ship, or the storage shed a dragon’s lair (just make sure there’s nothing sharp or dangerous in there), imagination is the key to getting, and keeping, kids active.
No matter what you and your kids do outdoors, the important part is to be a good role model by showing that you enjoy healthy, wholesome outdoor activities, too. Though it may not always seems like it, kids are affected by, and learn to model, their parents’ behavior, and patterns you set when they’re young are likely to become lifelong habits.