Kids & Summer:

🕔May 22, 2008

The final school bell of the year has rung and our neighbourhoods and living rooms are once again filled with children. If left entirely to their own devices, many children would simply spend their time this summer watching TV or playing video games. So, what can we do this summer to make our children’s summer vacation a more productive and positive experience?
Getting out and moving around is a great way for both adults and children to get or stay healthy. Children not only discover nature’s wonders in a unique way during each outing, but it is also a great way for them to avoid obesity and other health issues which come from lack of movement. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips or other unhealthy snack and watching TV, help your kids get in the habit of wanting to get out and make things happen outside in the lap of nature. It’s likely that they’ll want to share the great outdoors with their own kids one day.
How can parents make it more interesting for their kids to get out and get active?

Lead by example. If you are truly interested in the outdoors, then half the battle is won. Just be yourself: get out and enjoy nature. Children will sense your enjoyment and adventure and will naturally follow. Pretty soon, your children will be pulling YOU off the couch to jog on the moss-bedded forest path, jump from rock to rock along the stream, or simply look and listen to the sights and sounds of the surroundings while taking the daily family walk.
Make reading books about nature exploration part of your regular reading routine to your children. Let your child choose his or her favourite book character—be it a boy, girl, or animal. Discuss that character’s discoveries in nature and compare them to those you and your child make. Your goals or discussions don’t always have to be serious or scientific—it’s about having fun and bonding.

Offer habit as well as variety. Children love ritual. So take those walks along the same path, but change it too. Take a bike ride on a new path or go for a swim in a different lake; ride a pony with your children. Your children will continue to feel the warmth of the better-known “home” path, but an occasional change of pace will help expand their horizons and wake their curiosity even more. Don’t forget to challenge their imagination!

Include other children. Bring the neighbours’ kids along. Children usually love their parents, but when children see that other children are also interested in climbing trees in the woods and playing hide-and-seek in the yard, they will be that much more motivated to get out. Inspire them to do whatever most interests them.

Grow through growing. Gardening is a great way to spend productive time with your children and to teach them some important concepts. No matter the size: gardening will teach you about soil, climate, insects, water, and our reliance on nature. Choosing a space, the plants, caring for them and watching them grow, and finally the harvest, can all be exhilarating. You will be surprised at how much children will get involved in the whole process when it is THEIR tomato plant that ripens & produces a crop!

Shared Recreational Activities. Spending time with family is important. We often get so wrapped up in our day-to-day life that we sometimes forget about the most important things. Pull out the bats and balls and find an empty lot; play a game of softball, kick a soccer ball or throw a Frisbee. Grab the bikes, the hiking shoes, or the fishing rods…you are only limited by your imagination.

Consider day-long field trips. Some of our most memorable experiences are when we have taken field trips as a family. We learn a lot by visiting the local planetarium, aquarium, museum, zoo or other attractions. These can be great fun for all. Combine with a picnic and some fun family games.

Don’t Forget Day Camps and Summer Recreation Programs. During the summer, there are many community organizations that offer reasonably priced summer day camps or programs for kids to participate in. They can learn a new sport or play one they’re familiar with. Consult your local Community Recreation Guide for a list of day camps and programs in your area.
Remember, summer vacation is an opportunity for a break from the regimented world of the school year. By balancing the need for a little down-time with a focus on a productive summer, families can make the most of this great time of year. Bond with your children by enjoying the great outdoors together this summer!