5 Tips for Making Going Outside a Habit

Guest Post by Rachel Thomas

ImageSince my children were very small we have made it a habit to spend as much time outside as possible, but it’s not always easy.

Our schedules are hectic and technology is such that most of us hardly even think about going outside. It seems our attention is either on our computers, our phones, or the television when we are home. Our children’s health and our health as a country is deteriorating and we really need to start making it a habit to spend more time out-of-doors as a family. Here are few ideas that for getting your kids outside that have worked for me.

1. Play Outside Every Day When my kids were small, we made a point of playing in the yard every day. We would swing, play catch, or they would ride around the driveway on their tricycles or get some sidewalk chalk and do some art work. I even taught them the art of making mud pies which was one of my favorite pastimes when I was small. Momma would set me on a towel and we would dig up some dirt, mix it with water, and make pretend pies in mom’s old pie tins. Sometimes we had an old box that we used as an oven and baked our pies for supper. Momma was always thinking of ways to get us involved in outdoor activities and since I loved to help her in the kitchen she knew I would enjoy this activity.

2. Plant a garden
Every year we would plant a garden and momma would let us pick out one vegetable we wanted to grow. It was so much fun planting and watering our vegetable and even more fun when it grew and started producing. It is a wondrous thing for a young child to watch plants as they grow. Even if you have never gardened, it is still something you and your kids can have fun learning together. I will never forget my first vegetable, which was corn; I planted it and watched it grow so tall and strong. There is nothing like eating something that you grew yourself. My children wanted to grow their own trees so that is what we started with. We planted a peach, pear and a kumquat tree and the children were so thrilled when their trees started to fruit. This takes a bit longer than a vegetable garden but it is very rewarding when the trees fruit and you actually get to taste it.

3. Ride a bike or take a walk 
Many days when my kids get home from school and have a quick snack we take a walk or ride our bikes. After school is a great time to get into the habit of going outdoors before everyone gets settled in front of video games, television, or computers. We either walk or ride to the local park or to the bayou to look for tadpoles. My children love to hike and look for interesting leaves, rocks, plants, moss, and trees. My mom bought my son a small blunt axe so he could chop up the dead logs we found. He really thought he was all grown up using that axe. We’d bring home our finds and use them for craft projects later. I also found that doing craft projects outside makes it easier when it is time to clean up as well.

4. Play with your kids
Doing things as a family is the easiest way to get your children active and outdoors, when the kids see mom and dad getting out and having fun it makes it fun for them as well. If it becomes a lifestyle for the entire family then it usually becomes a lifestyle that sticks. We have a badminton net set up in the yard, and even though my daughter sometimes doesn’t want to play, she always has a great time after she gets going. I have found that even less active children can get excited about being active if the adult with them makes it fun. Just being out-of-doors in the sunshine is a step in the right direction.

5. Go Camping 
Going camping was a new adventure for me when my kids were young, I was a little hesitant, but I knew that my children would love it. We started out camping in the back yard. After that my kids wanted to go to a real camping park. There are so many state parks around the country so it is easy to find one not too far away. Most state parks have lakes for swimming and fishing and trails for hiking. Plus, they are safe for families. I remember the first park we went to in Texas. We were setting up camp and my son wanted to go see the lake so I let my daughter take him. Within a few minutes, they were back and my daughter had a panicked look on her face. She told me that there were alligators on the banks of the lake! We talked to the rangers and they assured us that if we did not mess with the alligators they would not mess with us. I was just glad we did not pick one of the campsites that were on the bank of the lake!

It was such an adventure for the kids to sleep in a tent. We saw so much wildlife that we would not have seen at home. We learned quickly that you cannot leave food outside or inside the tent. One night a bag of cookies got inside the tent and was up underneath a sleeping bag near the edge of the tent – but no one knew how, of course. All night long something was scratching at the tent, even after I ran outside and tried to scare it off. In the morning we had a tiny hole in the tent and found the cookies. The next night we made sure there was no food in the tent and we had a better night sleep!

The whole family benefits from getting into the habit of getting active outside. I have found that it really clears the mind and helps the attitude when we all get off of the technology and do something active.

Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments at rachelthomas.author@gmail.com.


Tips on Fishing with Kids: Plus 6 Midwest Fishing Hotspots

images-1By Joe Laing, guest author

Looking to reel the kids out of the house? Fishing is a great way to get them away from the computer and bond with them in the great outdoors. The Midwest is full of incredible spots for your family to cast their lines. Here are some tips and places to check out that will get your children hooked in no time.

1) Keep your hooks sharp
A dull hook can mean a dull day on the water. Nothing will make your kids enjoy fishing more than experiencing the thrill of the catch, and nothing will turn them away from it faster than the repeated frustration of losing fish after fish. You can test to see if your hook is sharp enough by dragging it across your fingernail. If it doesn’t scratch it, you need to sharpen or replace your hook. Make sure your children are careful handling the hooks and don’t catch their finger instead of a fish. Always have a first aid kit, just in case.

2) Be sure about your lure
You have five different types of lures to choose from: spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastics, topwaters and jigs. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are good if you’re going to be moving around a lot or if the bottom is rocky. Topwaters are best for shallow water. For jigs and plastics, you move the rod tip to retrieve the bait instead of reeling in like all other lures.

3) Know where to look
If you’re fishing in a river or lake, find where the water turns from shallow to deep as well as mossy areas. Fish tend to gather in these areas to look for food. Make sure the kids don’t splash around too much. You don’t want to scare away your potential catches!

Places to fish

Beautiful Lake Mendota offers great urban fishing.

Beautiful Lake Mendota offers great urban fishing.

Lake Mendota- Wisconsin
Of the four lakes near Madison, this is the largest. Almost 10,000 acres of water reach depths of up to 83 feet, which is pretty deep by Wisconsin lake standards. It’s one of the best places in Wisconsin to catch walleye fish, since the Department of Natural Resources has been heavily stocking the species. There is a minimum size of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of three fish. Other fish that are abundant here include smallmouth bass and northern pike.

Saint Germain Lake- Wisconsin
This 1,617-square acre lake in Vilas County is full of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, and walleye. You’ll most likely be catching a lot of muskies, and big ones at that — Saint German Lake is known for its trophy-class muskies. The Bayview Resort is a great place to stay nearby to keep the kids entertained, with a game room, boats, canoes and a swim raft.

Lake Jacksonville-Illinois
There’s no better place in Illinois to fish for bass than Lake Jacksonville. The nearly 500-acre lake in Morgan County has garnered attention from the likes of Field and Stream magazine and it doesn’t take long to figure out why — it’s not uncommon to hook 15-inch bass (and larger). Keep in mind, there is a three-fish daily creel limit for Lake Jacksonville. If you plan to stay for a weekend or a few days, there is excellent camping nearby at the Buena Vista Resort and at the Crazy Horse Campground, which includes its own stocked fishing ponds and a disc golf course.

Trout Run Creek-Minnesota
Trout Run Creek is 12 miles of fish bliss riddled with pools, pockets and, of course, trout! The large brown trout are abundant and it’s a great spot for fly fishing. An important state regulation to be aware of is that all trout from 12″-16″ must be released right away. This gorgeous location in Lanesboro is a long-time favorite and a productive place to teach children the ropes of casting a fly line. The creek runs through Whitewater State Park, which features 47 sites with full electric RV hook-ups.

Buckeye Lake in Ohio offers great fishing.

Buckeye Lake in Ohio offers great fishing.

Buckeye Lake- Ohio
3,600 acres of water that’s only about 120 miles from Cincinnati and Cleveland makes Buckeye Lake one of Ohio’s most popular fishing destinations. You’re bound to catch a healthy haul of crappie – use jigs cast around docks to catch them. The best time of day for catching crappie is high noon, so make sure you put plenty of sun block on the little ones. For campers that like all of the amenities, the 40-acre Buckeye Lake KOA campground has plenty of room to spread out and settle down for a week.

Ackerman Lake- Michigan
Being the state with the most fresh water access, Michigan is filled with great fishing. Salmon are abundant in the state and Ackerman Lake in Alger County is no exception. In the spring, however, the fish are constantly on the move because of changing water temperatures, although finding a honey hole during summer can be very productive.

When fishing with kids, remember that removing the hook can get ugly if a fish swallows the bat, so don’t do it in front of your kids if they are younger. Seeing even a bit of fish flesh removed with the hook can scare children away from the fish fry you’d been planning for dinner.

Fishing with the family can be a memorable dream vacation or daytrip for both parents and children. Do you have any suggestions for taking the kids out on the water?

Need help get getting started? 
Here are some links to Angler Education Programs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. Not see your state? Just Google the DNR in your state.

About the Author

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, your nationwide source for RV rentals. El Monte RV also sells used motorhomes through eight different locations across the United States.

Top Outdoor Spring Break Adventures that all Kids will love!

UnknownGuest Post by Ken Myers

Spring Break is a great time to take the kids and have an adventure. The trick is to find a vacation that everyone will like. I know because I have two children that are total opposites. Here are some suggestions for Spring Break adventures that will please everyone and create memories to last a lifetime.

images-1The Beach

When you have two, three, or more personalities in one family there is always something for each of them at the beach: building sand castles, beach combing for shells and driftwood, or reading a book while listening to the waves roll in for the laid back family members. And for those with a desire for high adventure there is surfing, body surfing, sailing, windsurfing for the older kids, snorkeling, and much more. My son loves to body surf, make sand castles, and find fiddler crabs. My daughter is more of the reader and beach comber. We are all happy when we are at the beach. Even just long walks down the beach can be great exercise. Be sure to put on lots of sunscreen and reapply frequently to avoid sunburn. It is easy for small children to get overheated and exhausted at the beach, so make sure you take lots of breaks. Most beach towns also have outdoor amusement parks for activities during the night. Boardwalks and gift shops are a fun way to get your kids out and about all week.


This is also a way to make multiple personalities happy. I know that some people do not like to rough it, but for those people there are recreational vehicles which you can rent. These vehicles have all the conveniences of home on wheels or pulled behind wheels. We like to camp near the lake which has boating, fishing, skiing, and swimming. You can also take nature walks and go hiking. There is so much fun to be had cooking and singing around the camp fire at night and it can be such a bonding experience for the whole family. There is usually so much wildlife to see when you are out in the woods as well. If your family does biking then many parks offer hike and bike trails that give a new adventurous spin on bikers familiar only with smooth city streets. Kids love skidding through the mud puddles and getting down and dirty with it.

waterparkWater Parks

There are great water parks in many cities or within driving distance from most cities around the country. Cold weather states have indoor parks. I have yet to meet a child that does not like to take a trip to the water park. From winding rivers, crashing waves, slides of all sizes, inner tubes, to kiddy pools there is something for everyone at a water park. Many of the parks let you bring in a picnic lunch while some require that you buy your food on the premises. They generally have grassy areas and lounge chairs for relaxing and picnic tables for eating. Lots of cold treats such as ice cream, ices, and cold drinks are offered all through the parks. The great thing about water parks is that they keep kids moving all day long. Swimming, climbing ladders and just playing around in the water burn off tons of energy while being exciting and fun. If a water park is too busy for your style then try tubing down a river. There are many areas that have smooth sailing for floaters and more active participants. Kids will love to paddle along the shallow water and see the sights of nature. They can make new friends and splash around. For more adventurous types you can also do water sports like white water rafting and canoeing or kayaking.

dudeDude Ranches

For the families that yearn for the old west experience there are many parts of the country that offer dude ranches as your destination. Riding horseback, learning to rope, and eating off the chuck wagon are treats for city folks. The rustic surroundings and the country life can be good for relaxing those strained city nerves. The sounds of coyotes, crickets, and owls serenading you to sleep at night can be just what the doctor ordered, along with the old cow poke strumming on his guitar and singing songs about the old west. Being able to see the stars in all their glory is a special treat as well for those of us who live in constant light pollution. Early to bed, early to rise and hard work all day might not sound like fun, but your kids will love it and learn a lot.

Ski-Tips-for-KidsSnow Skiing

Even if you are not a veteran skier there are the bunny slopes. For those that grow up in the snow this is a natural pastime but for those who live in places where they seldom see snow this could be the adventure of their lifetime. Snowboarding and sledding are some other activities that children and adults alike can enjoy. Spring break is the perfect time to visit before all the snow melts.

These are just a few of the many adventures you can take your kids on during their spring break. Take this opportunity to make memories together as a family that will last a life time. Remember that being active and involved can make even the most reluctant child enjoy their vacation. Have fun!

Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

Making Fitness Fun for Kids: Get ’em Outside

by Heather Smith, guest contributor

How many kids do you see working out at the gym every day? Probably not any. That’s because even though childhood obesity is a hot topic and rising problem, getting kids to work out at a gym falls along the same lines of making them go to the dentist – kids don’t want to lift weights, they want to have fun! That’s why it’s important to find ways to make getting fit a fun activity, not a chore. So how do you get kids in shape while still making it a fun, and voluntary, activity? Get them outside of course!

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Guest Post: Tips for Getting Your Family Active

Physical Activity: the Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle
Tips for Getting Your Family Active

Guest Post by Emily Patterson of Primrose Schools 

Experts suggest that young children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  Unfortunately, many children are not nearly as active as they need to be.  It is clear that along with poor diet, physical inactivity has contributed to the large increase in childhood obesity in the United States in the past 20 years.  The following statistics are unsettling:

  • Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese nationwide. (Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
  • The percentage of obese or overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states. (Source: Trust for America’s Health)

Research has shown that children who develop basic motor skills such as throwing, catching, kicking, are more likely to grow into healthy active adults.  Whether the activity be at home with their parents or at their child care facility with their friends, studies have shown that daily physical activity helps children academically as well. Dr. Stephen Sanders (director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida and member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board), says that children do not necessarily learn physical skills on their own.  He has found they need guidance and assistance from adults, challenging activities, and opportunities to practice and refine physical skills. So, what can parents do to teach their children about the importance of being physically active and help them learn these necessary skills?  Trying the tips below will help you and your family create a fun environment for physical activity and will contribute to everyone’s physical health.

Getting Your Family Active: Be active with your children:

Don’t just send your children outside to play–be a role model!  Go outside with them and participate in games and other activities that require physical exertion!

  • Use sidewalk chalk to create your own four-square or hopscotch grids; blow bubbles then chase them around the yard to see who can catch them; go on a walk around the neighborhood or through a park as a family; play music and dance inside or outside; and when the weather is nice put on your bathing suits and run through the sprinklers.
  • Promote a feeling of success when you play with your child.  If your child is not yet able to successfully throw and hit a target, encourage them to move a little closer so they can be successful.  Skills are acquired incrementally.  Children who do not experience success have a tendency to quit and not practice.
  • Acknowledge their efforts with specific comments.  No matter what your child’s skill level is, be a supportive coach.  They will benefit from your encouragement.

When children come into the world, physical activity is at the very center of their lives.  They have a mission to learn to crawl, walk, run, throw, catch, and kick.  If they are going to enjoy participating in physical activities now and as adults, they need to build on that foundation of success and enjoyment that begins in infancy.  So, grab a ball, badminton racket, or jump rope and set aside time each day to play with your child!