I pretty much hate being cold so when finally summer rolls around I try to spend as much time as possible outside soaking up the sun, getting my fill of Vitamin D and just making the most of longer days. My son, Zane practically lives outside in the summer months, so summer fun for us involves tapping into nature's best activities that are local to us and generally easy on time. No one wants to spend hours in the car when it’s 90 and sticky, particularly not fun with children, so we look to do things that are outside and near our doorstep. For us here in New England,that means heading down to the nearby beach and teaching Zane to swim, hiking in the woods close to our home, and one of Zane’s favorites – berry picking.
If you have never taken your children berry picking you should try it this summer. Watching their faces light up as they see a huge field full of strawberries and realize that they can pick (and eat) as many as they want is just heartwarming. It is also a great opportunity to start to teach your children about where their food comes from in a really easy and accessible way. I truly believe that exposing children to agriculture and talking about how food grows is a great way of encouraging thoughtful and healthy eating habits in later life, and it is so easy to do at a berry farm. The berries always taste so much better, and it is a great excuse to make a blueberry pie with the abundance you bring home!
On a similar note, summer always heralds the opening of our local farmers market. We like to go as a family and pick out fresh local vegetables for the week. Zane’s favorite stall is ‘Hot Chicks’, not what you would think! The vendor sells fresh pasture raised eggs that taste AMAZING, have more nutrition and bright orange yolks. Why I love these eggs is because only eggs that are pasture raised come from happy humanely treated hens that can come and go as they please and have enough room inside and outside to lead happy healthy lives. What attracts Zane is the hen she always brings to let the children pet. While they do that, she offers a rudimentary description on where the eggs their Mommy buys come from. At our market they also do free 30 minute yoga sessions open to kids and adults, which is pretty fun and you can do as little or as much as you want, depending on your kids' (or your!) attention span. So not only is the farmers' market another great learning experience, it alsoprovides us with local organically grown and affordable produce, a total summer winner.
Of course traveling is unavoidable and sometimes you want to take the opportunity to expose your children to new places and experiences that involve driving, or flying. This can be challenging, particularly if you want to keep to the diet you follow at home. Gas stations and airports are not the best places to find nutritionally rich foods. Zane has Autism and follows a particular diet so we always pack snacks when we travel. For us that means almonds, veggie sticks and an abundance of Happy Family pouches for all of us because that airplane food isn’t going to cut it! The trick is always to be prepared. And to wear Zane out before a long trip with as mch physical activity possible...we just got him a big trampoline that is perfect for this.
As a family it's often the simplest things that bring us joy in the summer, bouncing together on the trampoline, running around in the sprinkler, easy seasonal meals eaten outside and the chance to laugh under the stars. When we are surrounded by nature’s best show we all feel less of the grind and more of the simple beauty in life-- a great opportunity to take a moment to be thankful for what we have, and to revitalize for all the new starts in the fall.