With summer coming to an end and kids going back to school, whether in person or virtually, many are looking for ways to make the most of the remaining summer days. The pandemic takes a lot of the usual options off the table, but spending time outdoors in your family unit is always a safe and fun option and will create memories to last a lifetime.
I can still tell you about when I caught my first fish at 5 years old. I remember exactly where I was standing on the shore of my uncle’s pond and what my father said to me, “I think it’s a boot.” It turned out to be the tiniest little bluegill I have ever seen to this day.
The usual walks and trips to the parks where kids may or may not be able to enjoy the playgrounds get boring, and not everyone enjoys fishing as much as my family. Step outside of the box and try out some new activities to end your summer and explore together. This post will cover 5 ways to stay active with your family to make the most of the summer we have left.
Biking and Rollerblading
Little legs can tire fast on foot. Add a bike, and you can cover more miles together and explore new places! Customer Heather Caudill loves taking her kids on bike rides and out rollerblading, whether in her neighborhood or out at local parks. They help develop balance and coordination and are just plain fun for all ages.
Paths at local parks can provide miles of paved paths to travel. Make sure to consult the park’s rules before leaving and always make sure everyone has well-fitting helmets. Take breaks to examine wildlife, rest, talk, and enjoy the scenery together.
If you get really brave, take the family on a mountain bike ride on your local trails! Some parks, like Turkey Run, have places to practice mountain biking, but always be mindful of other trail users. Brush up on tips and best practices if you’re rusty or new to the sport with guides like this one from Bicycling.com.
Hiking and Creek Walking
Local trails are also a great place for a hike or even a creek walk. Use an app like AllTrails or your local parks and recreation website to find trails near you. We’re blessed in Louisville with trails near city center and longer, more challenging trails in nearby national and state forests. You can create a scavenger hunt for your trip or make a game out of identifying the various flora and fauna you encounter. A field guide like the gold standard ones from the National Audubon Society or an app like Leafsnap or FlowerChecker will help you identify tricky or unfamiliar plants.
Many nature centers and parks, like the Louisville Nature Center, have bird blinds and/or bird sanctuary areas to observe many species in their natural habitats. Before you go, visit the nature center or park’s website to see what features you can take advantage of. And take binoculars to see action from far away.
On a hot day, wear shoes that can get wet and step into the creeks to explore the creatures that make them their home. Bring along a jar to scoop up some water for kids to examine. Just make sure to empty it back out and not take any new friends home.
For a less traditional outing, go on a kayaking adventure. Social distancing doesn’t get much easier than when in a kayak. Even if you don’t have your own, kayak rentals abound, and it can be easy to try out. Many local lakes offer kayaking tours where they will provide all equipment and teach you what you need to know. If you are experienced but without a kayak of your own, you can take the non-guided route and borrow or rent one.
Just make sure to have the bare minimum safety equipment including a personal flotation device that fits. Again, do your research. Articles like this overview from REI can help you figure out how to get started and what you need.
Customer Carrie Lynn Owens loves the Parklands system for kayaking with her kids this summer, using the money that would have gone to summer camp. Going from Turkey Run to Broad Run is definitely a feeling of accomplishment.
In many places, pools and splash pads are closed, but that doesn’t mean swimming is cancelled. With distance being the issue and not the activity itself, lake swimming is a fantastic option. You can use all of the same pool toys and floats and have plenty of space. Your dog can join you too, unlike at a public pool!
Make it fun and keep an eye on little ones. All of the same swim safety rules apply. Use pool noodles, floaties, and puddle jumpers for new/anxious swimmers, and know who is in the water at all times. Since it’s often hard to see to the bottom and depth varies, swim safety takes on even more importance in a lake setting. Lake safety resources like this tip sheet from the American Red Cross can help you feel prepared.
Whether you’re swimming from a dock, shore, or boat, make sure to be aware of nearby obstacles when ducking beneath and back on top of the water. Stay away from areas where people are fishing, and you should be set to have fun.
Combine this with any of the above options for a whole weekend of fun. While the usual vacations aren’t the best idea right now, visiting a campground in your state can be a perfect way to both support your state’s economy and have a safe and fun weekend out in nature. Make a reservation, do your shopping before you go, and just load up the car.
When you pick a place to camp, make sure you know what amenities and hookups are available. You don’t want to show up with your camper and have no access to hookups or be surprised there are no bathroom facilities. Do your research like you would for any hotel and pick the one that suits your needs and situation. If you’ve never been camping before, consult guides like this one from takeoutdoors.com.
Customer Delana Kennedy describes the wonders of camping perfectly. She spent a week this summer at Barren River Lake where she has so many childhood memories. “I am excited to pass down the fun to my stepdaughters!,” said Delana. “A huge bonus was that our swimming spot was right next to a bald eagle's nest, so we got to see around 4 to 5 eagles every day.”
No matter what you choose to do with your family, keep moving and keep connected. Staying active and healthy together is the best gift you can give your family, and the memories are truly precious.
What are your favorite ways to stay active with your family? What are you planning to do with the summer we have left? Let us know in the comments below.