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Fun ways to get your family out and active this summer

Athlete and mum-of-two Jo Pavey is inspiring parents to embrace healthy fun. Lisa Salmon finds out more

Outdoor games: a family enjoys playing football
Outdoor games: a family enjoys playing football
Jo Pavey

By Lisa Salmon

Despite most children longing for time off school, the long summer holidays all too often lead rapidly to cries of: "I'm bored!"

Sound familiar? As a mum-of-two, Olympic athlete Jo Pavey knows this scenario first-hand. But she's keen to highlight how keeping kids entertained over summer can also be a great opportunity to encourage them to be more active, along with the rest of the family too - something Pavey and her husband Gavin consider central to family life.

"As a parent, it's great to aim to be a good role model for your children by being active yourself. I enjoy showing my children that it's fun to be active, and I feel it helps them associate being active with having a happy and healthy life," says Pavey (45), who has joined forces with Simplyhealth to inspire families to get on board with the idea.

"Getting active together as a family is so much fun. It's such a great way to spend some quality family time together, while keeping fit and healthy," adds the athlete, mum to Jacob (9) and five-year-old Emily.

Of course, no one can be active all the time - so Deena Billings, head of childcare at Busy Bees nurseries, has joined the campaign too, with additional suggestions for keeping youngsters entertained all summer.

Here are nine ideas from Pavey and Billings...

1. Get the whole family active

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"When I head out running, instead of going alone, we regularly go to beautiful locations as a family. My husband and I run, and our son and daughter love whizzing along on their bikes," says Pavey. "They'll often do a little bit of running as well. We make it part of a fun day out by taking a picnic and staying around after to mess around on bikes or in the play park, and we often head down to the beach too."

2. Keep it fun

Pavey stresses that if parents want children to get active, it's vital for them to be having a good time. "It's so important that they don't think of being active as a chore, otherwise they could find exercising a negative experience. Whether you're all active together as a family or they're doing a club, it's important for them to be taking part in something they enjoy," she says.

3. Tell them how well they're doing

"Always give praise when your child has made a good choice for their health and fitness, like being keen to take part in activity, and when they've been enthusiastic," adds Pavey. "It's important for them to understand that the main thing you're interested in is that they're enjoying themselves."

4. Enter an event together

"Taking part in something together is great fun and good for family bonding," says Pavey. "We recently took part in the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Family Run. Our kids absolutely loved it, they really seemed to soak up the positive atmosphere. It was uplifting to see so many families running together and enjoying the experience."

5. Get creative

Pavey says it's lovely to enjoy activities in the garden or local park together, like ball games, tag or frisbee. Another fun idea is to make up obstacle courses or treasure hunts.

6. Get the kids involved

Ask the children what they're interested in and if there are any new activities they'd like to try. "Ask them to suggest activities that the family could do together," Pavey urges. "It's nice for children to feel like they're contributing to making decisions on ways that the family can enjoy being active."

7. Make time to rest

Billings points out that downtime is as important as physical activity. "Fun and games are exciting for children, but it can often leave them feeling tired and grumpy at the end of the day. Where possible, try making time for a midday nap, or even try bringing bedtime forwards," she says. "If your child still uses a pushchair, they can nap on the go and you can still enjoy any plans you have later in the day, while ensuring they get all the time-out they need."

8. Stop tummies rumbling

Consistency is key in keeping children content, but it's easy for this to falter over the summer, particularly on holiday.

"Keeping them fed, rested and in line with home routines whenever possible will make life easier for everyone, especially with younger children," says Billings.

"Trying to get them out when they would normally be tucking into their lunch is going to make them irritable. By sticking to your routine schedule for meals, you'll help curb tantrums triggered by hunger."

9. Plan activities

For a stress-free experience, it's a good idea to plan and organise activities ahead of time.

"There's nothing worse than young children getting excited about a day trip, only to be disappointed when the tickets are all sold out," says Billings.

Creating a simple schedule also means you can organise a mix of fun-filled and more relaxed days, which will help keep everyone in good spirits.

Why not do some research online together, so your child can see pictures of where they'll be visiting?

Ask them to point out things they recognise when you get there, and when you return you can make a scrapbook together with the photos you've taken or souvenirs they've collected.

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