Friday, March 16, 2012

Fly a Kite

 When I think March, I always think kites. Where I live, March is one of the windiest times of the year. Kite flying is a good spring activity. I get spring fever and am itching to get outdoors, but there's still too much snow in the mountains for hiking or picnicking. It's warming up in the valley's though and getting out and flying kites with the kids is a lot of fun.
 You don't have to buy a fancy kite. The cheap big box store ones will work just fine. It's really about finding a good spot and knowing a few tricks. We have a couple of nice kites, but we also buy the kids cheap ones to crash and get stuck in trees.
 The first thing to do is find a good place to fly. A local park, school yard, or baseball or soccer fields will usually meet the requirements. You want a flat open field. The further away you are from buildings and trees the better. You'll get a smoother wind. Hilly places can also have choppy winds. Beaches are generally the best places to fly kites, but we don't all have the luxury of beach living. has a list of great places to fly a kite by state.
 You need to have the right winds to fly your kite. The amount of wind you need can vary by the shape and size of your kite. Newer, lighter kite materials mean less wind is needed. A good rule of thumb is if your kite starts looping and diving uncontrollably, there's too much wind -- if you can't get your kite up, there's not enough wind. The more times you get out and fly your kite, you'll start to be able to recognize when the wind is perfect for you. Keep your kite in the car so you can fly on the fly.
 Running with your kite is not the best way to get it up in the air. In fact, it's the hardest way. The easiest way to get your kite in the air is to fly with a friend. One person holds the kite about 80 feet downwind and lets go when it catches the wind. The person holding the string gives the string a tug when the kite is let go. If you're flying by yourself, stand with your back to the wind and hold up your kite. When it catches a gust let it go and release line slowly as it climbs.
 Some fun variations on plain old kites are line laundry and line climbers. Line laundry is colorful streamers or other fun things attached to the line that wave in the wind. Line climbers are shuttles designed to move up and down the kite line.
 So give in to your spring fever and make the most of the wind. Go fly a kite!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Make it a Habit

I've talked before about switching healthy food for unhealthy ones. We also need to replace sedintary habits with active ones.

We are creatures of habit. When my first child was born I stopped working outside the home. Even though I no longer had a "schedule" I found myself naturally settling into patterns. I ate at the same time, cleaned at the same time, wrote at the same time, and put my daughter down for a nap and watched tv at the same time. Unless I went to visit a friend, it was pretty much the same everyday.

Once we create a healthy habit, doing it requires little effort. It's almost automatic. Here are some healthy habits that can get your family moving.

  • Instead of coming straight home from school, have your children play for 20 min on the playground or stop at the park on the way home. If they're bussed send them straight to the yard after their snack.
  • End running errands with a stop at the park.
  • Take walk after dinner instead of turning on the tv
  • Do somthing outdoors or active as a family every weekend. 
  • Sign up for a class. (pay for help in developing a habit)
  • Make it a habit to go outside with your kids when they go out to play. You can sit and read, sunbathe, or do some gardening. Even if you're not playing with them, your presence tells them this is the best place to be.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekend Romps: Snow Games

Just because there's snow in the backyard, doesn't mean you can't use it. My kids definitely get a little stir-crazy in the winter. Here are some fun backyard games to play in the snow.

  • Snowman Wars -- This is a combo of steal the flag, and a snowball fight. Each team builds a snowman and the object of the game is to steal the hat off the other team's snowman. If you get hit by a snowball you're in jail.
  • Natural Bridges -- Pack snow into snow arches (you may need to use some water to melt out the middle). Roll or kick a ball through the arches for a variation on croquet. If the arches are big enough kids can crawl through for a snow obstacle course.
  • Tug the Scarf -- Just like tug the rope, but with a scarf and a softer landing. With your boots stomp a shallow trench in the snow. Divide into two teams and pull on the scarf. One team tries to pull the other over the trench.
  • Abominable Snowman tracker -- Give one kid a headstart, then the other kids try to track him. The first one to find the Abominable Snowman is the next one to hide.

Provide some hot chocolate and maybe a space heater on the patio and let your kids enjoy the fresh crisp air.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


In sports when a player isn't working, the coach takes him out. We need to do the same thing in our lives. In the book "Switch" I read about a nutritional experiment where families where asked to change one thing in their diets. They were asked to buy skim milk instead of whole milk. That one switch made a big difference. Participants lost weight. Most often, after we've made one healthy switch in our lives, we'll go on to make others. Making healthy substitutions one at a time makes change seem less formidable.

I made the switch to skim milk. It's now just become habit and I never think of buying anything else anymore. Now I've moved on. Bye-Bye white bread. It's nothing but whole grain now.

You can make other healthy substitutions in your day as well. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or ride with your kids to school.

So pick one thing today you can substitute with something healthier. Once that's become a habit, move on to something else.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cross Country 101

Cross Country Skiing is a sport the whole family can enjoy and spring is the perfect time to go. There is still plenty of snow in the mountains, but the trails are less crowded and the weather is usually good.
 Anyone can cross country ski. I've seen three year-olds and ninety year-olds on the slope. And it's never too late to be a beginner. When my daughter and I went for the first time last year, she caught on much faster than I did. My biggest problem was stopping without falling. She lapped me on the loop we were skiing. I did catch on eventually though. You can teach an old mom new tricks!
 There are resorts with groomed cross country trails, there are also groomed trails in many national forests. Some public golf courses also allow cross-country skiing in the winter.
 The basic things to remember are keep your knees and ankles bent and keep your weight forward. Stop using the snowplow or pizza method, just don't get your skiis crossed. When you fall down, which for me is inevitable, turn your skis so you’re sideways to the slope, kneel on your skis and using your hands on your thighs stand up one knee first, and then the other.
 To turn yourself on cross-country skis, move each ski a little at a time toward the direction you want to go. You’ll make a “star pattern” in the snow.
 Going forward on cross country skis is the easy part. The boot heel is not attached to the ski, so basically you’re just half step, half sliding forward.
 Cross country skiing is a great activity for kids. It gets them outside enjoying nature, its good exercise, and something the whole family can enjoy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Choosing the Right Sport

Sports teach kids important qualities like hard work, diligence, cooperation and sportsmanship. I think finding a sport your kids likes can help them become active their whole life. The best way to find what they like, it to let them try different things.

Look at the offerings at your community rec center and sign them up for something. Also ask around to see what their friends are participating in. Do an internet search for kids activities in your area.

One of my children is a peace lover. There's not a bone of aggression in her little body. That's great -- except when you're playing sports. Couple this lack of aggression with so - so eye hand coordination, and sports with balls are not for her. That's how it is with some kids. This doesn't mean they aren't athletic and can't be active. If this is your child, think outside the box and try some sports without balls -- like rock climbing, running, skating, swimming, dance -- if you look around there are more than you think. It can give your kid a boost of confidence and he/she may find something she can get lifelong enjoyment from.

Team sports are good for learning to work together and work hard, but some kids struggle with the team dynamic and coaches and parents can get a little intense sometimes. All kids sports leagues are not alike. City Rec leagues are often less intense than competition leagues, but if you child is really good they may get frustrated with the lack of skill of their team mates.

If your child gets frustrated with team mates in sports like soccer or basketball but you still want the social interaction of being on a team, try tennis, swimming, track, or gymnastics. You're kid is still on team, but the emphasis is more on their individual performance.

Family bike rides are one of our favorites. My kids also ride to and from school, church activities, and friend's houses. It's great for them to have their own form of transportation. One of my daughters put running, swimming and biking together in a kid's triathalon.

Martial arts is a favorite for many families. Besides getting exercise, your kids will learn self control. The cross patterns of martial arts movement have been shown to stimulate brain activity.

All kids are unique, so don't be afraid to try something nontraditional when looking for ways to keep them happy and active.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Winter is halfway over and my kids and I are yearning to go outside in the sunshine. The temperature is warmer, but there is some snow on the ground, especially in the canyons. This is perfect snowshoeing weather.

Snowshoeing is a great activity for kids because anyone can do it. It's basically walking with big things on your feet, so it's easy to catch on. Our son went on this first snowshoe hike when he was three years old and had a blast. It's also great for uncoordinated moms who can't ski. (Me).

Snowshoeing is a lot less expensive than skiing. We rent our kids snowshoes at REI for less than $10 a pair. You avoid paying for a lift pass -- your feet do the climbing.

Where do you snowshoe? Go to a local summer hiking trail and snowshoe there. A great place to snowshoe with kids is in campgrounds and picnic areas that are snowed in for the winter. You'll have a nice wide path, there's usually somewhere to park, and if you're lucky there's an open bathroom.

Another good place to snowshoe is on golf courses. You will need to call the golf course before hand and check availability. Many cross-country skiing areas allow snowshoers on their trails as well.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get out in nature in the winter. The scenery is transformed so your favorite summer spots will seem brand new. Trails are also less crowded in the winter and you'll feel a refreshing peacefulness.

My kids love finding big hills to slide down, feet in the air, slick snow pants making the trail.

Make sure everyone has boots, gloves and hats. I usually pack some hot chocolate too. As for any outdoor activity, bring water, a first aid kit, and make sure everyone sticks together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Free Winter Fun

There are lots of ways you can help kids get a little exercise in the winter without spending a lot of money.

If you’re looking for something your kids can do every day, clean out the garage. It’s completely enclosed so warmer than outside, but you have a barrier from the kids’ noise and there’s not much they can break in there. Put hazardous materials up high, sweep the floor, park the cars outside and you have a wide open space with the hard floor. Your kids may need to wear jackets, but don't use a gas heater to make things warmer. The fumes are dangerous.

Here’s a list of things our kids have done in the garage in the winter:
Jump rope
Play ball on a small basketball hoop
Ride scooters
Hit a tennis ball against the wall
Play soccer
Slide on a small slide
Jump on a mini trampoline
I’m sure your kids will think of even more fun things to do.

If you want to get out, restaurant play places are totally free. If you don’t want to get lunch, just get some drinks. My kids don’t stay at the table long enough to eat anyway when there’s a play place around.
Go to a restaurant that is kept clean all around. If everything else is cleaned on a regular schedule it's likely the play place is too. Bring some hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes if you want to do your own spot cleaning.
Bring a book and let your kids play until they seem tired. If you have a time limit, tell them beforehand. “We’ll stay for half an hour and then I don’t want any complaining when we leave.” After that, give them a five minute warning. This will help minimize whining when you leave.

Most malls also have an indoor play area. No purchase is required. Again, bring a book and plan on staying a while. Also bring snacks and a drink.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Indoor Rock Wall

An Australian study showed that children who are active during the day fall asleep much faster and stay asleep longer than children who are sedentary. That makes a lot of sense. If your children are having trouble sleeping, wear them out before putting them to bed.

When it’s cold outside, it’s harder for your kids to get the exercise they need. They’re probably not spending as much time in the back yard and may no longer be walking home from school. Sometimes recess is even cancelled. Now is the time to look for recreational activities indoors.

There are a lot of indoor rock climbing places and kids are naturals at this sport. (They climb all the time on chairs, tables, railings, trees, etc...) They have a great upper body strength to weight ratio. Some places even have special wall areas just for kids. If you're adventurous you can get on the wall with your kids. 

Besides traditional indoor climbing venues, you can often find indoor rock walls in gyms, fun centers, and large sporting goods stores.

Kids are harnessed and have a spotter at most indoor rock walls. Remember to wear closed toe shoes with good traction. Remind your children to never rock climb outside without the proper equipment and an adult to help them use it.

While you may find a free rock wall sometimes at a sporting goods store, this is mostly a pay by the hour activity. Your best price will probably be found at community rec centers. Some venues may have a pass that gives you a discount for purchasing multiple sessions. Some facilities charge separately for equipment rental.

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eat it Fresh, Drink it Pure

My children, just like everyone else's, should be eating more fruits and vegetables. and drinking more water. We have a hard time getting in the recommended 5 fruits and veggies and 8 glasses of water. Healthy eating and active living go hand in hand. Sometimes all it takes is a healthy, energy packed snack to avoid the afternoon meltdown. (Mine and theirs.)

Fresh fruits and veggies are particularly power packed. Let them snack on fresh grapes while watching TV or doing homework. You also cannot underestimate the value of drinking plain water. You fight off dehydration without all the sugar. And let's face it, they get plenty of sugar during the day.

Our family rule is when the kids get home from school, the first thing they eat must be a fresh fruit or veggie and the first thing they drink must be water. They're pretty hungry at this point so they'd probably eat about anything. Sure, they slather those baby carrots in ranch dressing, but at least their getting in one serving a day.

My friend's new book Kabobs for Kids has some great ideas for making fresh stuff fun. It also has some treats in there, but hey, everyone deserves a treat now and again. Balance the sugar with extra time outside some days.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ice Skating

Last winter we were buried waist deep in the white stuff. There was still snow in the mountains here until July. Well, I guess we got all our snow last spring because we have not been able to use the new sleds the kids got for Christmas.

So what do you with your kids on the weekend when it's cold, but there's no snow? Ice skating.

Except in places where hockey is a popular children's sport, interest in ice skating usually builds with the Olympics, then falls off again. Ice-skating is great exercise, pretty low cost, and something the whole family can do together. And maybe, you're kid does have the stuff to become an Olympic skater. You never know until you try!

Dress in layers. You'll be cold at first, but as you get moving you may want to take your coat off. Always bring gloves to protect those hands and fingers (especially if you fall a lot like me.) If you go to an outdoor rink, bring a hat. We lose a lot of our body heat through our heads and hands.

If you have a little kid who's a beginner, most rinks have something akin to a walker they can push around to stay balanced.

Many ice-skating venues offer clinics for beginners, so google local ice-rinks and peruse their website. My daughter and I did clinics one time at the Olympic Oval in Kearns and had a great time. We both did better than I thought we would.

One thing to remember is just have fun. There are plenty of people stumbling around the ice -- you're not going to feel out of place no matter what your skill level.

Find some ice near you at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Active Tips for a Healthy New Year

A healthy, active lifestyle is one of the best things you can give your family this year. Active kids focus better, sleep better, have fewer health problems and take that active lifestyle with them into adulthood. Applying the principal of kinetic energy to our bodies, the more active a lifestyle we have, the more energy we'll have and the better we'll feel.
If your New Years resolution includes getting your kids off the couch and away from the screen, here are some tips.

1. Establish a No Drive Zone around your house.
This is the distance you can easily walk or ride a bike or scooter -- even if you have to bundle up. It should be at least a few blocks, it could be up to a half mile. You'll get more exercise, save wear and tear on your car, and be kinder to the environment.

2. Sign-up.
Joining a sports team, signing up for a weekly yoga class, or joining a play group at the park will put an active lifestyle on your schedule. Look around your community for things that interest you, or start your own group. Moms in my neighborhood started a hiking group for moms with kids and loved getting outside to enjoy nature.

3. Swap it.
Swap fresh fruits or vegetables for one of your snacks each day. My kids know that after school they have to have some fruit before they have anything else.
Swap 1/2 hour of active time with your kids' after school t.v. habit. They'll be able to focus on chores and homework better and go to sleep more quickly at night.