By Colleen Rhattigan-Henckels, “Super Mom” & Adventure to Fitness advisor
When I daydream about the ideal summer for my children, lots of things come to mind. I envision them spending endless hours outdoors, getting their hands dirty (digging for salamanders and catching toads), making new friends, playing games that I grew up playing (like sharks and minnows, red-rover, etc.), swimming, fishing, picking and eating blueberries until their tummies hurt, and having fun. Lots of fun! And learning a thing or two.
Just as some background, I live in Brooklyn, New York and have two children under the age of 8. My husband and I both happen to be big believers in finding at least one or two things our children love and enabling them to pursue those passions. Yes, while they may not become the soccer star, prodigy pianist, or chess grandmaster that you we had envisioned, they will become confident and happy people pursuing their God-given gifts. Having said that, most children need to be exposed to lots of things before their true likes shine through, so we’re always mixing things up a bit and trying an Irish dance class here and a kids theatre class there.
So when it comes to summer, I believe it’s the best time to let children try new things as they also enjoy their traditional activities. And of course, we know that all children need to engage their bodies and their minds. Engaging in physical activity helps children's brains process things more clearly and with better focus. And it’s also proven to elevate their moods. So getting kids moving daily during the summer break is a must!
Depending on your budget, availability, and preference, there are lots of great summertime options. Local parks offer many free summer activities for kids, such as swimming classes, tennis, arts and crafts, and gardening. YMCA camps are both affordable and flexible for working parents and provide plenty of physical engagement to keep kids moving. You can also opt for a less-scheduled and more spontaneous approach. Perhaps designate a prime activity by day and let the rest flow. For instance, picnic and park Monday, tennis Tuesday, swimming Wednesday, biking Thursday and fun Friday. Mornings can be active and afternoons left for reading, crafting and experimenting with some healthy recipes from Adventure to Fitness!
If you have a bigger budget for summer, there are plenty of camp opportunities that focus on specific interests: everything from baseball, soccer, dance, theatre, science, and surfing, to foreign languages.
You can also head off to a destination and enroll your child in activities that may be unique to the given location. We did just that last summer. I discovered a special little place in the Pocono Mountains called Lake Naomi. With its pristine natural setting, Lake Naomi offers something for all ages, with an emphasis on family. We enrolled our children in their camp program, which provided them the opportunity to learn and explore nature and also participate in more traditional camp games and play. They were active, social, and learning new things. And we also carved out plenty of family time for bike rides, cookouts and relaxing too!
1) Active. Keeping kids moving throughout the summer is key. Whether indoors or outdoors, they need to be physically engaged.
2) Variety. Exposing your child to something new, be it sports, arts, languages, is always a good thing. Perhaps they will find a new passion?
3) Family focused. During the school year, it’s often challenging to carve out family time given homework requirements, after-school activities, work commitments, etc. But during the summer, when things loosen up a bit, it’s important to spend time as a family. Have a BBQ, go for a bike ride and picnic, pick summer fruits and make jam or bake, or even get in a family group workout with an Adventure to Fitness video as part of their Summer Adventure Challenge!
Whatever you plan for the upcoming summer, keep it active, varied and family-focused. And take lots of pictures, so you can all look back on your fabulous summer fun!
Colleen Rhattigan-Henckels is a former consumer products executive and advisor to Adventure to Fitness. Her major focus these days are her two active sons. She’s a president of the parent association for one son’s school, class mom for the other, soccer coach, taxi driver, and in-home curriculum czar. Mrs. Henckels has an undergraduate degree from Saint Mary’s College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.