Beat Boredom and Stay Active with Your Family
Keeping your family active can tax your imagination, but it doesn’t need to stress your budget. Vacations, museum and zoo visits, movie nights and craft sessions all have their place in your schedule—but lively playtime has the added benefit of being healthy for everyone. The idea is to have fun, keep moving and spend time together. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Make time for creative fun.
With so many opportunities for children to participate in organized sports and events, it’s important to allow time for unstructured fun. Perhaps the easiest way to keep your family active is to take them to a playground; walk there if possible for a little extra exercise. Teach children to use the equipment safely, and encourage them to stretch their skills under your supervision. Play ball with your kids if they ask you to—but if they’re happy playing tag, Red Rover or any other active game (real or imagined) with other kids, let them make their own fun.
Hit the open road on two wheels.
Bicycling is a sport that kids and adults can enjoy together most months of the year. Begin by supplying your entire family with well-fitting helmets, then go over the rules of the road and good biking etiquette before heading out. You might also consider starting on bike paths and streets that are closed to traffic before venturing out onto the road. Make your first few rides short, and plan for frequent breaks to suit riders of all skill levels.
Bring on the construction projects.
Kids love to build things and the bigger, the better! Constructing forts is an activity that works indoors or out, but taking it outside gives you and your budding architects more scope. And not only does building forts foster problem-solving skills, it fuels the imagination as well. All the items you need can be found around the house: blankets, chairs, old rugs, leftover plywood or cardboard boxes. If you have a clothesline, you’ve already got a head start, as it will make a great frame for draping blankets.
Go out on the hunt.
Stage a scavenger hunt for the whole family. You can make your list of common items for players to find from things found within your house and yard, or expand the game to encompass treasures found throughout the neighborhood. For a neighborhood hunt, alert your neighbors or invite them to join the fun to make it a family competition. Team the youngest players with adults for safety.
Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best—and are often right outside your door. On a warm day, set up the lawn sprinkler or an inexpensive water slide, get everyone into swimsuits and let the fun begin. It doesn’t take much to create a fun family memory to share with the entire group.
Host a backyard Olympics.
Organize a backyard track meet and get the neighborhood involved if you can—or plan an Olympic-style day in a nearby park. Use talcum powder to set up race lanes in the grass and place flags at your start and finish lines to make it feel even more official. For a sillier take on the theme, run sack races and three-legged races, pairing older and younger participants so that everyone has an equal chance to win. Or set up a measuring stick and see who can jump the highest and the farthest. If you have a set of horseshoes, see who can toss them the farthest; use flags to mark everyone’s best try.
Teach your kids to make their big entrance.
If building a fort isn’t up your child’s alley, how about a backyard theater instead? Children love dressing up and pretending, so why not give them the chance to act out their favorite stories? Let everyone—even the youngest actor—get involved in planning the storyline and finding elements to use for props and costumes. Your backdrop can be as unfussy as a blanket hung from a clothesline, or as creative as a canvas painted with scenery.
Get all washed up.
Give the family a chore that’s also fun, such as a car wash. Pull out all the vehicles—even the little red wagon if it’s a bit dusty—grab the hose and fill buckets with soapy water. Even toddlers can wash the lower panels of a car or the tires. Encourage safe water fights but make sure that everyone gets a turn with the hose! Hand around car towels to buff everything to a squeaky-clean shine.
Take a hike.
Walk a nature trail at a local or state park. Have your child spot unusual plants (don’t allow them to touch them unless you’re sure they’re safe, and never allow your children to pull up plants or flowers). See what animals you can find and identify. Bring a field guide to birds, a pair of binoculars and a camera to record your success. Take along some compact refreshments to keep everyone quiet and focused on the task, but be sure to hang onto all disposables until you get home.
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