A recent article from Canadian Press looked at the benefits of giving kids free time outdoors to explore nature and use their imaginations to come up with active games rather than just being involved many organized sports. The long summer break is a perfect opportunity to give kids time to learn how to occupy themselves outdoors with nothing but time!
But how to get them motivated to get out there?
If your kids are anything like mine, none of them will wake up and say “lets go to the park and play tennis” although the park is within walking distance and they love being on the tennis court goofing around. However, if I suggest a trip to the court, get the racquets at the front door, and put on my own running shoes, it is to the tennis courts we go. Sometimes the best way to get kids outdoors and active is to persuasively suggest the days plan and sometimes, you tag along too.
For independent play, have a wide selection of inexpensive outdoor toys such as balls, ropes, catch games, nets and chalk available and then create your own “Activity Jars” and put all their favourite games and activities in it on different pieces of paper. When kids say they are bored, have them pull out an idea and help them get organized. Then sit back and watch their imagination take over.
Here are a few active idea’s to get you started that the whole family can participate in. Whats good for the kids is good for the family!
10 Ideas to Keep Kids Active This Summer
Everywhere. Everyone. Get the whole family bikes at local garage sales and see if you can keep the car parked for a whole day, a whole weekend, a whole week. Bike to the store, to friends, to get ice cream.
Encourage your kids to run. Take them to the local high school track and see if they can go all the way around, teach them some skills for running distance, go for family run/walks to see if you can go 1km without stopping, maybe 2 or work your way up to 3km. Use sidewalk chalk to mark a finish line and set up races with the neighbourhood kids.
If you have a pool, get in it with the kids. Invest in inexpensive pool toys like water balls, rings and diving sticks to encourage active play. Find neighbours and friends with pools or look into a summer pass at a local community pool to keep the kids cool, wet and outside on hot summer days.
Kids love wheels and roller blades provide not only a challenge, but can keep the kids going when plain or running and biking has gotten boring. Be sure to do up the protective gear including helmets – especially for beginners. Maybe try blading yourself – it might prove to be a bit more of a workout than you remember from your roller skating days!
School yards are empty all summer and basketball hoops are ready for a little 1 on 1. Bring your own ball and head to an open court with friends or dust off the neighbourhood driveway hoop and get the kids and parents out for some dribbling fun.
A soccer ball is just a few dollars and provides endless possibilities for fun. Use hoola hoops to make obstacles or skipping ropes for goal lines and practice your fancy foot work. Get the dog out if you need a defensive partner and see if you get one past Mom or Dad in net!
Good old fashioned skipping rope should be in everyones summer activity box. So many skipping games and rhymes will keep the kids engaged while trying not to get tripped up. Who doesn’t remember ‘blue bells, cockle shells’? Teach the kids some of your old favourites and then look on line for more skipping games.
Plan a different hike every week to a new local trail, waterfall, park or start a new family adventure with Geocaching (an app that shows you hidden treasures around you or anywhere around the world). This not only gets the family out, it also shows the kids that there is so much to explore in their own neighbourhood and may foster a love of the outdoors. Take fishing nets with you and look for frogs, count chipmunks or do some bird watching. Make sure to pack some healthy snacks and drinks, you might find the kids don’t want to go home.
Often we don’t think of tennis for a pick up game for kids, but many community parks have free tennis courts and even without lessons, kids can swing a racket get good at the sport fairly easily with a little practice. It improves hand/eye co-ordination and all those balls flying everywhere will have everyone running all over the court.
Hours of fun provided safety netting is up and not too many kids are bouncing at once. If you haven’t been on a trampoline in a while, take a 5 minute turn jumping and see if your legs don’t turn rubbery! Great activity for kids to burn some energy. Find some neighbours with a backyard trampoline or take a family outing to an indoor jumping facility.
The possible outdoor activities are endless, but sometime kids need a little nudging and don’t be afraid to join them from time to time. Have some inexpensive outdoor toys available such as beach balls, hoola hoops, plastic throwing darts, horseshoes, baseball mitts and tennis balls. Add a few kids, some homemade popsicles and a little sidewalk chalk and you have yourself the perfect mix for outdoor summer fun.