School is back in session and weather is starting to cool down a little. Of course, in South GA it never seems to cool down much! With everyone’s busy schedule it is important to still make it a priority for doing things as a family.
David Marshall, M.D., medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta recommends that families should map out and plan time for activities to ensure they are added to the daily routine. Here are some simple suggestions to make the most of your family time, while adding some healthy activities. Also, use this time to have conversation with your children about their day. Family bonding can increase while having some fun.
- Family walks -- lasting 20-30 minutes will provide the daily recommended 20-30 minutes of moderate physical aerobic activity. It may simply be around your neighborhood or area. On a weekend, in our area you might walk on the beach, go to a park or visit somewhere you haven’t been before. Walking is a great way to see new things, get some exercise, learn more about your family and simply bond. You might give a few choices of places to walk and let your child be the one to choose the location. Of course, only provide choices of places you are willing to go! Make sure everyone has the proper shoes on for walking and that you take some water with you.
Walking is one of the things you can do with little or no expenses involved.
- Biking -- has similar benefits to walking. This does require equipment and make sure you always wear a helmet. Set the example for your children, so safety comes first. Sometimes a safety vest is also a good idea or a bright colored shirt.
- Hiking -- has similar benefits to walking and biking. I really enjoy walking on trails and taking a trip to new places. Just make sure you plan your time for a hike so you are back before it gets dark. It can be a fun adventure for you and your children.
- Soccer -- provides aerobic activity and gives personal satisfaction of acquiring and improving on new skills (i.e. running, jumping, kicking, throwing, etc.). This will also begin to teach the young athlete teamwork and sportsmanship.
- Gardening -- is a fun way to teach the importance of daily care/maintenance and learn about healthy eating. In addition, the family can get satisfaction in eating the harvest. A container garden is a great way to start, especially if your yard space is limited.
Studies show that kids who spend time outdoors are more psychologically healthy, mentally alert and physically fit. A few studies have documented a rise in test scores after students spent time doing research outdoors in environmental topics. Others have shown that kids who are indoors more tend to be overweight, and have a higher incidence of psychological problems. Other things you might want to include for family activities:
Check Out the Local Farmers Market. If you haven't visited your local farmers market, you're probably missing out on some of the best produce around. On top of fresh produce, farmers markets are more than just fruits and veggies! You can often find artisan cheeses, baked goods, beautiful flowers and crafts. Letting children help pick out a fruit or vegetable will encourage them to try it when prepared. One idea is to let the children pick a new fruit or vegetable during a visit or help plan what might go with that item in preparing a family meal.
Plan a Family Picnic
Picnics don't have to be fancy — even taking your lunch to a park is a great start. Keep a blanket in the trunk of your car to be picnic-ready anytime, or simply put your dinner on paper plates, grab a blanket and bring the feast outside. One of my favorite spots to spend time is at my picnic table in my back yard. You will usually find me there in the mornings before heading to work and even in the afternoons with a book. You might even have a picnic for dinner and do homework outside.
To make a truly memorable family affair, select a local park that's new to you a week in advance — this gives more time for anticipation. Pick up a few special food items at the grocery store, such as string cheese, grapes, granola bars or yogurt-covered raisins. Tuck these into a basket with sandwiches and drinks and you’re good to go.
Catch a Sunrise Or Sunset
A sunrise or sunset is one of the most beautiful natural sights in the world and does miracles for rejuvenating spirits. Sit at the beach, stroll to the park or watch from your own yard.
Scavenge the Neighborhood
It’s easy to come up with a scavenger hunt. Simply write out a list of items available in your area at that time of year. Include easy items such as a stick, a flower, a garden tool, a ball, a garden glove, an acorn and a pebble. Also include more challenging items such as a rock with a fossil, a feather, a shell or a key. (You’ll probably have to plant some items in advance.) Give your kids a bucket to carry their finds and they’re off. A hug makes a great prize, or perhaps the winner could get an extra story at bedtime.
Creating memories and family stories strengthens family bonds. Children with strong, happy, loving family connections are better equipped to handle daily stressors. Traveling, interacting with new people, and connecting with nature all help children to expand their imaginations. A sense of wonder parlays into inspired learning, creating, seeking, and living.
Remember fun doesn’t have to be expensive — spending time together is the best thing you can do for your family.