15 ways to get the family outside during the summer holidays
It's not just the kids who can go stir crazy during the holidays, so why not use the time to increase your activity, as well as theirs? Alex Meehan has a few ideas to get everyone moving
Wouldn't it be nice to have the summer holidays fly by, rather than drag? Getting your kids away from their games consoles and out in the sunshine can be a difficult task, but the summer holidays should be all about getting outdoors and enjoying the natural world.
At the same time, it's important for you to make sure you're a good role model and let your kids see that activity is a natural and important part of life. Here are 15 ways to keep the kids, and you, fit and healthy for the next two months by increasing the variety and amount of activity in your daily life.
1. Take a family walk
The cheapest and perhaps original way to get the family moving is to emulate our continental cousins and get in the habit of a daily family walk, perhaps after dinner as an alternative to slumping in front of the TV. It's a lot harder to get motivated to do a daily walk when it's cold and dark out, so make the most of the summer and get moving. Twenty to 30 minutes a day adds up over the course of a week, is good for you on almost every level and is a great opportunity to chat out the events of the day.
2. Go rock pooling
The beauty of living in Northern Ireland is that it's hard to get more than a couple of hours drive from the sea and for many people the sea shore is right on their doorstep. Take advantage and take the kids to explore our beaches to see what they can find. Some light research online on seaweeds, shell fish and seashore life can turn a basic trip to the seaside into a science expedition.
3. Do a housework marathon
No, seriously, hear us out. While it's unlikely to win fans amongst the kids, doing housework can really work up a sweat. To make it more interesting, fix a goal that involves moving (and cleaning underneath) furniture or tidying away clutter so that it really feels like you've made a difference afterwards. And let them choose a soundtrack.
4. Take a hill walk
Studies show that children with active parents are five times more likely to turn into active adults, so making exercise a routine part of your family's life is a no-brainer. Hill walking is a great activity to foster this kind of attitude - and it can become the centre point of family holidays and trips away. Get a decent walking guide to your own home county and set about ticking off scenic walks in your area.
5. Go indoor climbing
An activity that probably wasn't around when you were a kid, there is a growing network of climbing centres locally where families can go to blow off steam, face their fear of heights and engage in a fun activity that's as old as the hills, if you'll pardon the pun. Climbing builds strength, dexterity and reduces stress in a workout that combines cardio with a fun activity that will get the adrenaline pumping.
6. Do some family yoga
Yoga is one of the oldest of human activities with a history that reportedly dates back 5,000 years, and it's an ideal family pastime. You can, of course, sign up for a class, but there are plenty of tutorial videos on YouTube, not to mention books and DVDs out there that can get you started. One of the best ways to get kids involved is to put together a story or song that includes yoga poses related to the plot.
7. Wash the car
A traditional way for kids to earn some pocket money and a physically demanding chore in its own right, washing the car is a great way to get some exercise and have some fun on a hot day. It teaches children the value of hard work while also getting them outdoors and letting them get wet and have fun with the hose.
8. Try a martial art
There are plenty of martial arts clubs here, whether it's a taekwondo club in a school hall or a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym. This is an excellent way to teach your kid the value of discipline and how to be assertive while also getting them out of the house to burn off some energy. You can also take the step of joining your kid's martial arts school with them. You're never too old to take up a new sport.
9. Get gardening
The summer is a great time to whip the back garden into shape; getting the lawnmower and rake out are ideal ways to work up a sweat while introducing your kids to biology and the natural world. Grow herbs from seed, explain how photosynthesis works, teach the kids the difference between plants and weeds, and show them how waste can be turned into compost and put to good use. Alternatively, pick up some cheap lumber at your local DIY store and build a treehouse. There are endless possibilities.
10. Take a nature walk
Northern Ireland is overrun with areas of great natural beauty, so the odds are you either have one in your immediate vicinity or within a bus or car drive away. Find inspiration at Walkni.com which has short, medium and long trails here as well as guide to the Ulster Way. Everywhere from the Causeway Coast to the Glens and little known bogs are ripe for exploring. Family nature walks enable you to spot birds, identify trees and put a name to flowers as you get some exercise and make memories with your kids.
11. Give out pedometer prizes
There are a growing range of personal devices out there that count steps and keep track of your physical activity, from Fitbits to smart watches and phones. Keeping track of daily exercise can easily become a healthy kind of addiction, and if you and your kids happen to have a device that records daily steps, then setting a daily or weekly target that's linked to a prize of some kind is a creative way to encourage and reward activity. See your kids happily walk to the shops and get off the bus a stop early to make their targets.
12. Head out on a photography scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts - where participants have to tick off items they find from a list - are an age old way to fill time, and for older kids, adding a camera to the mix can be a great way to get them off the sofa and away from the games console. Be creative and put together a list of items that need to be snapped and run a competition that will keep kids occupied for hours.
13. Pick up a racquet
With Wimbledon on TV, the summer is a great time to get your kids interested in a new sport and tennis combines the fun of a ball game with a skilful pastime. Lessons can usually be organised at local tennis clubs here. Get online and track down those closest to you. Alternatively, explain to them the basics and let them run their own Wimbledon tournament at home.
14. Learn to dance
There are few activities that delight the very young and the very old as much as dancing, and taking a dance class with your kids is a great way to have some fun while working on a social skill that everyone should have. Whether it's samba, hip hop, ballroom or disco, dancing raises your heart rate, gets you moving and puts a smile on your face. Give it a try.
15. Go underground
While not every part of the province has access to cave networks, there is a growing network of caving enthusiasts who will take interested amateurs and guide them on their first steps in this adventure sport. It's an unusual way of getting in touch with the natural world, and one which allows you to combine the thrill of climbing with exploring parts of the country few people get to see. Check out outdoorni.com/activities/caving/events.