As a mother of four, each academic school year for the past twenty-one years has been very busy. Shuttling kids to sports practice, games, meets, play rehearsals and performances, plus homework makes for a very full week and weekend. Summer is the chance to relax the intense routine and to ideally create days of activity that are both fun and active.
My family and I live in Southwest Florida and the heat and humidity in the summer is really oppressive. Through this experience we discovered that committing to swim team was the summer sport that was actually doable in the heat. I encourage parents to seriously consider encouraging their children to participate on their local swim team. Even kids who typically don’t enjoy sports or competition can gain self-confidence and esteem as they improve and beat their personal best times and strive for continued excellence. When my oldest daughter was 14, she told me – with no embellishment for the sake of the story - “Thank you for making me do swim team. I was able to start on my varsity high school team and be in great shape because of it.” I almost fell over at hearing this, because the day-to-day effort of going to swim team was not smooth. I knew my kids may appreciate it when they were thirty but the day to day discussion, and even argument at times, was not always fun.
Of course, water sports, and just plain fun games in the pool, are great ways to beat the heat during the summer, regardless of where you live.
For an amazing vacation option, I can’t recommend Adventure Cycling highly enough. Last year, my husband and I, along with three of our children, biked the Paul Bunyan Trail in Minnesota. Adventure Cycling fully supported us along every step of the trip, meaning meals were provided and they carried our tents and luggage. We biked 30-40 miles per day for a total of 140 miles over six days on paved bike trails, camped in camp sites and swam in beautiful pristine glacial lakes. Perfect for an active vacation! My eight year old son had not done too much outdoor cycling prior to the trip and did very well regardless. We liked it so much, we have signed up for their bike trip in Idaho later this year. In your area, look for paved bike trails and see if campsites exist on the way for a fun one or two day active adventure the whole family can enjoy.
Summer is the time for farmer’s markets! Go with your children and have them help you pick out the freshest summer produce. Even better, have your children search for recipes with you for meals they would like to make. Even picky eaters will eat vegetables that they have invested themselves in – they picked them out, helped peel and cook them and then what do you know, they actually taste pretty good! Over the years of working with families who have a child or teen struggling with weight problems, I have found that investing the child or teen in the decisions and meal prep really adds to success in developing healthy eating habits. For all families, strive for one new vegetable or fruit color a week to search for and bring home and eat- green, purple, pink, red, blue, yellow, orange, white and brown.
Creating a summer that is manageable, relaxing and healthy is easier than you think! Use your imagination and even ask your kids for their ideas to gauge what activities your family would be interested in. I highly suggest being active with your family, your children will appreciate the time spent together. Summer activities created some of the best moments and memories for my family and the can for your family too!