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Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, it’s becoming more and more important to get those kids off the couch. Like you need an excuse! Outdoor activities are oftentimes the most memorable, both for children and adults.

Outdoors, you’ll have experiences that engage all of the senses. The deep green of a pine forest, the sharp, bright scent of pine needles, the rugged texture of bark, the sweet yet bitter taste of cocoa from a thermos, the sound of rust-orange needles crunching beneath the feet…

There’s only so much a computer screen can teach kids. The rest – the unbidden lessons that engage the entire being – come from nature.

  1. Treasure hunting

treasuremap

    If you think about it, hunting for treasure is every kid’s dream. Ever seen The Goonies? That’s what I thought. Bury some fake doubloons and create your own map, pirate-style. Then set off on an adventure. Or, if you want to get official, there are metal detectors made for kids. Take them on a real hunt for coins, lost jewelry, and trinkets. A great educational exercise is to research the area first before you take them out. You’ll learn a great deal of history and geography. When you’re actually hunting, you’ll notice geographical features you never noticed before.

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    1. Surfing

    kidsurf

      This is another activity kids love, but for many, it’s just a pipe-dream. Why not change that for your child? Kids make for great surfers because it’s a high energy sport and kids have less fear than adults. To kids, surfers are just plain cool. Contrary to the typical image, surfing’s not all about twenty-foot waves and beach-bumming it. Start small. Consult surfing tips for beginners. Find a used board at least one foot taller than your child (and yourself, since you’ll be doing it too!). A wetsuit is important because you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water. Find a less crowded area. You might want to hire an instructor. Then go, and if your kid likes it, why no make it a regular thing?

      1. Camp

      kidscamp

        Yes, kids act like they don’t want to go to a camp. But you don’t always have to listen to the complaints – in this case, complaints stem from a fear of the unknown. Great memories come from camp, and the bad ones, well, they give your kid a story to tell and adversity to overcome. But it does help to put careful thought into which camp is right for your child. Consider tips on finding the right camp. There are over 11,000 camps in the U.S., so you’ll want to think about whether it should be co-ed, religious, sports-oriented, highly structured, lengthy, etc.

        1. Fishing

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        kidfish

          I don’t know what it is about fishing, but many a kid has a knack for it. The whole beginner’s luck cliché rings true. Kids don’t try too hard when they fish, and if you’ve ever been fishing before, you know trying too hard doesn’t work.  To get your kid interested in fishing, don’t overwhelm them with an intense, hard, long experience. Provide them with polarized glasses, which eliminate glare on the water. Take them out on a nice day, bring snacks, plan ahead, and if you’re fly-fishing, check out a Tenkara rod. They’re simple—rod, line, fly—the easiest fly rod to learn on.

          1. Fort-building

          fort

            A fort can be as big or little as you want, depending on how big or little your kid is. Do it in your backyard, or do it in the wilderness. The backyard fort is as simple as sheets over a lower branch or a clothesline. Or use scrap wood and nail together a basic hut. In the woods, gather branches and create a lean-to. Kids love forts so much because their imagination knows no bounds.

            1. Horseback riding

            horseback

              Whether your kid is old enough to hop on a horse, or at pony-riding age, this is an exciting activity for kids. Doubtless, you remember the connection you shared with animals as a child. Horseback riding takes that connection to the trail and gives them a chance to learn about these magnificent animals. Before you put them on a trail horse, consider lessons and whether or not they’re ready. Get professional input, and help them understand the sensitivities of horses. Once they’re ready, riding can help them build confidence, strength, coordination, and focus.

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              1. Canoeing

              canoe

                Find a river or lake, hopefully, one with an island, and take off on a canoe. This is the type of adventure any kid wants to experience. Time on the water with just you and your child is peak quality time. Make sure you bring life vests in case the unexpected happens. Also bring snacks, lunch, and basic survival supplies. Give your kid a chance to row. Especially if your child has never done this before, you won’t believe their enthusiasm.

                1. Building and flying a kite

                kite

                  The great thing about flying a kite is that it doesn’t take a lot to build one. Get a plastic bag, kite string, two sticks, scissors, and ribbon. Tie the sticks together like a cross, then cut the bag in a diamond shape to fit. Tie the bag to the frame. Tie the flying string onto the horizontal stick. On the end of the kite, tie ribbon for balance. Then, find a windy place and let it go! This actually takes a lot of practice and work with the wind, but it’s a blast.

                  1. Touring the zoo

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                  zoo

                    This is a great chance for kids to learn about different animals, and it’s a classic activity for kids. It’s also a great chance for you to let them make up their own mind on whether they agree with the idea of zoos, to begin with. At the end of the day, the zoo requires a lot of walking and a lot of observation. These are both good for kids.

                    1. Hiking

                    hike

                      Can’t forget this one! Hiking is fun for young and old. There are some fantastic destinations for hikes, such as Yosemite’s Valley Floor Loop, the Appalachian Trail, Jay Peak, and more. These can be the focal point of your next vacation. Find a hiking stick for yourself and your child, all the better if it’s a stick you whittle until it’s smooth. Get the supplies and set off to immerse yourself in nature, in the engagement of all your senses. You and your child will never forget the experiences you have on your hikes.

                      Featured photo credit: flickr.com via flickr.com

                      More by this author

                      Dan Matthews, CPRP

                      A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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                      Published on August 15, 2019

                      15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

                      15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

                      As an overwhelmed working mom, you get a lot of intelligent ideas from magazines, friends and the internet about how to manage work, children, and a household.

                      Unfortunately, you may still feel exhausted and insufficient at work and home despite the advice to organize, cook efficiently and pamper yourself .

                      How great would it be to wake up tomorrow knowing that you can begin to feel better without all of those overwhelmed feelings?

                      The sensation of feeling overwhelmed when you wear a lot of hats: mom, professional, household manager, partner, friend, etc. has its roots in reality. You are absolutely doing a lot of important jobs. But here’s the thing:

                      If feeling overwhelmed has become your knee-jerk or chronic reaction, this emotion is now literally a part of you that needs your attention so that you can move forward more confidently.

                      If helping yourself sounds too difficult, never fear. These tips come straight from therapy and neuroscience to hack into your nervous system. You will learn deeper ways to calm down and feel more confident about yourself, your life and your choices.

                      1. Breathe and Notice What Your Body Feels like Inside and Out

                      By using body-centered therapy techniques, you can better understand your overwhelmed feelings and offer accurate and practical help.

                      As you’ll learn, when you feel stressed out, your thinking brain is not your best resource. In fact, simply thinking about and bolstering your efforts to “get rid” of overwhelmed feelings might actually make them worse.

                      The first step to help when you feel overwhelmed is to simply slow down and breathe. This does not mean that you should suddenly take in huge gulps of air or breathe rapidly. That will send you into panic!

                      Breathe normally and naturally. Make your breath comfortably slow, extending the exhale. Count 5 to 10 breaths.

                      2. Get a Little Curious

                      Ask yourself: How do I know I’m overwhelmed? Close your eyes or soften your gaze if you are able. Imagine shifting your awareness from your outside world and sending it into your body along with your breath.

                      You might notice the signals right away. For example: My chest is tight, my heart is beating rapidly and there’s a sense of frustrated energy in my legs and arms. Or you might just hear some words like: I’m freaking out, failing or cannot do it!

                      If it’s possible, get a little curious about this sensation. Consider that while it may be a big feeling, you probably have other parts of you that feel differently.

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                      3. Offer Some Loving Care to Stressed-Out Parts of You

                      Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy defines our personalities as made up of sub-parts that interact within us. This explains why a “part” of you can feel one way and yet, you have another part that feels differently.[1]

                      Gently acknowledging the part of you that feels overwhelmed and offering it some support and compassion (as you would a frightened child) can soothe your body and mind. “I’ve got you,” is a great mantra to breathe in when you’re overwhelmed.

                      4. Get Smart About Your Wise Nervous System

                      You may have heard of the “gut” brain or “body” brain. The science of Polyvagal Theory shows that the entire nervous system impacts how you think and feel – not just your thinking mind.

                      In fact, did you know that your wise nervous system generally picks up information from your environment before your brain can interpret it?[2]

                      When you feel overwhelmed, just one tiny cue of “danger” felt in your nervous system is often the unconscious trigger that tips you from busy but competent to feeling freaked out and exhausted.

                      This cue could be as simple as a song on the radio that feels overly-stimulating, a child’s bad mood (even if it has nothing to do with you) or your spouse forgetting an unimportant errand.

                      5. Remind Yourself That a Feeling Can Just Be a Feeling

                      When you’re feeling agitated, your physical body is naturally on high alert. Any information or stimulation you receive at these times will feel overwhelming.

                      This is not your fault, but it is helpful to understand that usually, when you feel like you’re not good enough, it is not objectively true. Your mind may just be creating a reason for the signals of danger coming from your body.

                      Allow your body to feel without making a negative judgement about yourself or your life. This technique will help you break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, then creating negative thought about the feeling resulting in overwhelming yourself even more.

                      6. Learn Your Most Common Unconscious Responses to Stress

                      Why is this important? When you feel stressed, you probably respond unconsciously in the same ways throughout your life.

                      For some, too much stress will quickly create a numb, hopeless sensation. For others, the thought that life is just “too much” leads to bouts of panic or anger. Still, others might freeze completely, feeling highly anxious but not able to do much at all.

                      From a biological perspective, all of these experiences are pretty normal. When you recognize that your body’s reactions are not faulty or foolish, it’s much easier to reassure yourself and move forward confidently.

                      7. Exercise the Part of Your Nervous System That Provides Wellbeing and Social Connection

                      Did you know that you can actually tone your ventral vagal nerve, the nerve responsible for feelings of safety and social connection?[3]

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                      As often as you are able, allow yourself to linger on your favorite memories that invoke feelings of wellbeing, connection to loved ones, times of beauty in nature or your favorite memories of pets or places. Use all of your sense to really feel the experience in your body.

                      By doing this, you’re activating and toning your ventral vagus nerve as you might tone your muscles. Make a kind of “body bookmark” of these purely content sensations to which you can return when stressed.

                      This practice may feel silly, like an indulgence or even a fantasy. But it is supported by science and is important for you to create a strong and healthy response to stressors.

                      8. Give Baby Parts a Break

                      No part of you is trying to hurt you. But parts of us do feel extreme feelings and carry burdens from our past.

                      For example, if you are feeling overworked in the present, it may activate parts of your personality that felt similarly earlier in life. Deep anger, fear, resentment or sadness provide a signal to you that something from your past could benefit from your attention.

                      I know this may sound strange, but the next time you feel very overwhelmed, take a breath and notice if you feel like a child trying to do an adult’s job. If so, spend a moment calmly and compassionately reminding all of your inner child parts that you are indeed grown, capable and doing something appropriate.

                      9. Address Critical Messages You Give Yourself

                      What do you hear yourself saying to yourself when you feel overwhelmed? You may notice parts of you that sound critical or even cruel.

                      Statements like “I’ll never catch up,” “Why do I try,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are very common to hear when you’re under stress. Believe it or not, these inner messages are likely misguided protective parts of your personality.

                      These parts are normal and try to help you by “whipping you into shape” so you won’t fail, alerting you about scared feelings inside, or avoiding shock or disappointment by anticipating how others might criticize you.

                      If it’s possible, acknowledge these parts as protective. Maybe express a bit of gratitude. Notice how the critical voices inside you, even though they likely mean well, cause exhaustion and even more stress.

                      When you acknowledge these messages inside, letting them know they are part of you and you see their positive intention, the critical messages calm.

                      10. Take Small Moments to Express Gratitude

                      Everyone is talking about gratitude, I know. But there are good reasons for this trend.

                      More and more studies about gratitude show valid connections between gratitude and lowered stress and mental health. A 2018 multi-university research study concluded that gratitude not only has direct effects on quality of life, but also has indirect effects through perceived stress and mental health.[4]

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                      There are many reasons that gratitude impacts our nervous systems in positive ways, but the best way to discover this impact is to simply try it yourself.

                      Take a minute each day to write down one to three things for which you feel grateful. These can be large or small, important or trivial, but they must be true. Make this a habit and watch your stress-relief grow.

                      Or you can try some of these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

                      11. Play with Time

                      In Gay Hendrick’s 2010 book The Big Leap, he talks about the concept of Einstein time vs. Newtonian time.

                      Newtonian time is the clock time we all watch all day. Einstein time is more about what you make with your moments, realizing that your perception can slow or speed time up.

                      For example, if you are spending time with someone you love and doing something you enjoy, time moves very quickly. Conversely, if you are doing a miserable job in uncomfortable weather, each second can feel like an eternity.

                      The next time you feel stressed for time, take a slow breath and remind yourself that you make time. Time belongs to you. Then, enjoy the pace and do what you need to do. With practice, this little tool will become valuable for overcoming the mental pressure of time.

                      12. Don’t Be Tricked by Perfection

                      When you’re in the thick of raising children and working, sometimes nervous energy presents as perfectionism. In an effort to feel in control, you may make arbitrary but unreasonable goals for yourself that feel like they are necessary or true.

                      Make a quick inventory of every job you are expecting of yourself and your family. Now question it all. What is really important and what is just preferable? What jobs can be left to someone else’s discretion, done well-enough by the children or dropped completely?

                      Keep any jobs that give you joy and do them joyfully. Let go of jobs that feel like standards or expectations with little or no payoff. Save them for retirement if you like.

                      13. Give Yourself Credit for Quality Time with Your Kids

                      Think of the time you spend relaxing with and enjoying your children as a $100,000 per hour job. Very small amounts are still incredibly valuable.

                      Showing your children that they are important is just as likely to happen in a ten-minute game of catch as in a whole day at the water park. A shared snack time, a book before bed, a half hour away from your phone to allow loving eye contact with your babes adds up to a lifetime of security and wonderful memories.

                      Imagine your child someday saying, “Mom worked hard, but she always had time to hug me, to hear about my day, and to offer me guidance. I always knew that I mattered to her.”

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                      14. Meditate for One Minute a Day

                      Yes, you may do more. But if you can’t afford any more than one minute, go ahead and sit comfortably, breathe and be in your body for this time. It’s such a simple but powerful exercise and the kids can do it too.

                      While you meditate, notice your loving heart. What does it need from you today — patience, compassion, creativity, caring, play? Remember to show up for yourself and you will show up for your work and your family as well.

                      15. Guard and Celebrate Sleep

                      From tinies to teens, there are many unavoidable reasons that kids interrupt your sleep.

                      Here’s the thing: Unexpected sleeplessness due to childhood growth or illness is normal and not easy to control. If you are feeling overwhelmed, though, sleep is crucial.

                      There are two things you can do to improve your mindset toward sleep so that you set yourself up for confidence rather than collapse.

                      One, prioritize and protect your sleep time. If you tend to wait until the kids go to sleep to complete work or finally relax, that’s okay. But don’t let these activities cut into your sleep time.

                      Given the choice between another load of laundry, Words With Friends, binge watching Game of Thrones or eight hours of sleep, consistently choose sleep.

                      Two, appreciate and express gratitude for any sleep you get. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get seven or eight hours of sleep. However, allow yourself to enjoy any time when you are laying in a comfy space allowing your body to rest and repair.

                      When you wake up saying “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” you put your mind on alert that there is something lacking. This thinking alone can trigger feelings of overwhelm.

                      Set your nervous system up for success by appreciating any amount of rest.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Life as a working mom is not an easy one. Overwhelmed feelings are natural and normal but, they can take over and cause chronic stress and dissatisfaction.

                      Allow yourself just a few moments a day to reorganize your thoughts and feelings using the steps above. You’ll soon discover your calm and capable self.

                      Take a lesson from your growing children: small changes create big results now and in the future.

                      More for Working Moms

                      Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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