With its relaxed days and warm nights, summer is a perfect time to inaugurate a few family customs and enhance a healthy lifestyle. Celebrate each holiday with activities that keep the family together and promote kids’ physical development. Approach the activities with a healthy spin, and you’ll plant the seeds for a lifetime of good, fit fun.
MEMORIAL DAY GARDEN
Indulge kids’ love of digging in the dirt by helping them plant a vegetable garden. This healthy hobby not only encourages the value of hard work, but it also teaches kids nutrition essentials-remember, you are what you eat. Ask a local nursery what will grow best in your area. Then plant and care for the selected veggies with your kids. Make the family garden special by identifying seedlings with colorful signs. Tape the seed label or a magazine photo of the plant onto cardboard, then cover with clear shelf liner to make it waterproof. Glue a stick to the back, then poke it into the ground. When the garden blooms, celebrate the harvest by cooking together.
FOURTH OF JULY CAMPOUT
Try it in your own backyard. Help kids clear any sticks or rocks that are uncomfortable to lie on, and pitch a tent while there’s still daylight. It’s not an easy task, but it helps kids develop hand-eye coordination. At dusk, walk around with flashlights, enjoying the moon and stars. If you’re lucky, you might even see some fireworks in the distance.
MIDSUMMER BEACH BASH
Getting a little weight-bearing physical activity, even if it’s just running around in the sand, helps kids build strong bones and muscles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be ready to go when the sun shines by assembling the Ultimate Beach Kit in advance: waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, hats, sunglasses, towels, a beach umbrella, beach balls, your sandcastle building essentials (sand molds, spray bottles, spoons for carving, flags and shells for decorating) and a camera. Then all you have to do is pack a cooler with healthy snacks like chilled fruit, chicken tenders and water or 100% juice.
FLAG DAY FAMILY HIKE
Hiking is a fun way to get fit as a family. Whether you’re on a trail in a nearby park or exploring new terrain, the trick is to tailor the hike to your kids’ needs and speeds. Pack plenty of water or juice, energy snacks like dried fruit and nuts, sunscreen, bug repellent and a small first-aid kit, and consider these hiking how-tos.
Choose a doable, fun location
Climbing to the top of a mountain-no matter how wonderful the view-is not going to engender enthusiasm. Instead, choose a relatively short hike that ends with an adventure, like fishing or swimming at a hilltop lake.
Take your time
Go at your child’s pace and allow double the time the hike would take you alone. Bring a small magnifying glass with you to look at bugs along the way. A compass and a trail map will engage older kids.
Break it up
If you sense your children’s energy is flagging, have a seat, some nuts and a few gulps of water or juice. Give them a pep talk about how far they’ve come. Be sure to stop for a relaxing lunch and some playtime at your turnaround point.
Prepare for the journey back
Have a few surprise snacks on hand, such as oatmeal-raisin cookies and granola bars. Increase the fun factor by creating a scavenger hunt. Either the kids can make up the lists for each other, or you can quietly create one on the way in (think along the lines of a red leaf, a feather and so on). Make sure at least one item can be sighted only near the car, and you’ll keep your kids hunting right to the finish.
LABOR DAY BLOCK PARTY
The end of summer is the perfect time to gather the neighbors for a potluck block party. Get a permit from your city council to close off your street, then let the planning begin. Have one parent organize the kids to create activities, such as sidewalk chalk drawing, face painting, races and relays. Make sure there is an award ceremony and small prizes for every child. For a good selection of healthy dishes, assign salads, entrées and fruit to different families. Finally, end the evening with a good old-fashioned hoedown in the street-who said exercise couldn’t be fun? Your farewell to summer may just be the beginning of a long-standing community builder.