Do you ever notice how some families seem to be everywhere? Swimming one minute, hiking the next? The kids are skating and then they are skiing. It’s like they have super powers. How do these families do it?
Three words: planning, packing, and patience!
I used to get told a lot that being too active was a bad thing for my kids but now that they are tweens and seem programmed to sit on the couch for hours, I am glad they are used to being on the go. Being an active family does take a bit of extra effort, but with some pre-planning and a few tricks in your tool belt, you too can experience a adventurous lifestyle.
The younger the better. When the kids can walk they can start learning all kinds of great active sports. Start by going for hikes with babies in carriers, graduate to walking in the park and in the woods. Strap on double blades and teach them to skate, get a balance bike so they learn to cycle before they can reach pedals, and if you are brave, get them on skis. Kids ski free up until the age of six in most places. Sign up for kinder gymnastics, parent and tot swimming, or baby ballet. Teach kids young that being active is fun, do it with them, and encourage learning new skills.
Start early. In September kids are trying on skates, snow suits, ski boots, winter boots, hiking trax, hats, mitts and we are pulling out toboggans while looking ahead to a fun winter season. In the Spring make sure runners are in good shape for running, everyone’s bikes are sized right and tuned up, scooters haven’t shrunk and roller blades are expanded. Before the pool opens in the summer or the lessons start make sure everyone has labeled goggles, a good bathing suit, and towels.
In our house there is a bag permanently packed for every sport. A skating bag with 5 pairs of skates, helmets, drying towel, extra socks, and light mitts. There is a swimming bag with towels, bathing suits, goggles and shampoo for after swim showers. There is a hiking bin that travels to the ski hill with us since we hike after skiing that has our splash pants, spring coats, light mitts, and yak trax for grip on the hills. We even have a running bag that has 5 running hats, 5 belts for race bibs, a couple of water bottles and kids special socks to prevent blisters.
An active family is often out of the house all day, on the road travelling from one activity to another or even taking a longer drive for a weekend of outdoor activity. No need for the drive thru if you plan ahead with healthy snacks that travel well like these Chocolate Power Balls and pack your own lunch. A back pack or large lunch bag that fits lots of sandwiches, fruit, veggies, dip, yogurt and water bottles is essential for a day outdoors.
During the week family members are often going in all directions to after school activities or friends houses, so when you plan active family time make sure everyone is a part of it. Find a way to include even the youngest sibling. For our first family 5km fun run our youngest was only 4 years old so we took turns carrying her on our back or shoulders when her little legs got too tired. That 5km took us almost an hour to complete, but we crossed the finish line together as a family and now that she is nine, I am trying to keep up with HER! It may be tough at the beginning when kids are learning a new activity, but persevere and you will be rewarded in the long run.
It takes extra preparation and patience (and yes sometimes there is resistance or even a meltdowns or two) trying to maneuver an entire family through an active day, but these are the days that create the memories the kids will cherish. You are setting up an adventurous lifestyle and teaching your kids you are never too old or too young to try something exciting and new.
Our family thrives on our downtime and watching movies together, having games night, eating popcorn and just being still. We really do, but those moments are so much sweeter after a full day of active adventures.