Activate Your Family

Did You Know?

Time spent eating at home is a better predictor of academic success and emotional adjustment for kids than school, homework, athletics, arts or religious participation. Plus teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week) are more likely to report having excellent relationships with their both their mother and their father.

Conclusion: Bring back the family dinner!

  1. Make the Most of the TV and Computer – There are lots of good, simple exercise videos available for free or cheaply online and on DVD. Search YouTube or visit your public library. These can range from 10 minutes of low-impact to 30 minutes of high intensity. Try things that are good for the whole family, like Zumba or Instant Recess.
  2. It’s As Easy as Riding a Bike – Like the expression says, once you learn, you never forget. So dust off your bicycle, or borrow one from a neighbor, and go for a spin. If you have kids, join them for a family ride. Maybe you are a cyclist and your kids don’t like to exercise? Slow it down and take a leisurely sunset or weekend ride. Remember, everyone should wear helmets, and have lights if you ride after dark.
  3. I Spy: Creatures and Animals – Most kids love learning about creepy crawlies, birds, furry animals, and pretty plants. Take out a nature book or wildlife guide from your local library, or even print a local key from the Internet, and head out to a park or just an open space for walking. See how many plants and animals you can spot. Your local Audubon is a great resource.
  4. Shop the Farm – There are more great ways to get fresh fruits and veggies than you might think. In the summer, kids (and adults) love visiting “U-Pick” farms for berries. Stop at roadside farm stands. Visit your local farmers market (locate them here) – many accept SNAP EBT cards (“Food Stamps”). Sign up for Community Supported Agriculture, where you get a weekly box from a farm. And at the very least, shop the perimeter of the supermarket, where most of the fresh food is.
  5. Junior Chefs – Even very young kids can begin to cook. Teach your kids how to cook one simple, healthy dish.  Flip through cookbooks or magazines or search online together for a recipe for one of their favorite foods. Learn together how to prepare it, and if they are old enough, let them cook it themselves once a week! Check out these kid-designed recipes from all 50 states, some of which were served at the White House! Here is a nice California cookbook for kids, and another one that’s bilingual, both with many of the recipes not requiring the stove. Disney Family and Cooking with Kids are two other great resources.


    For more “Activate Your Family tips focused on mealtime and eating,  click here

  6. Take a Hike – Getting outside is a great way to exercise and spend quality time with your dog, partner, friends, and family. A walk around the block or a local park is great, as is a longer hike. Want to find a route or track how far you have gone? Try MapMyWalkGMap Pedometer; Heart Association Find a Walking Path, or Locally, check out Santa Barbara HikesMeet other families doing outdoor things through the Children in Nature Network.
  7. Mighty Massage – Who doesn’t like a back rub? Studies have shown that massage can ward off stress, increase positive serotonin and dopamine levels, increase healing blood flow to muscles, ease pain from fibromyalgia, and reduce PMS symptoms. Some health insurance includes massage benefits. But it doesn’t have to be with a  pro; trade massages with your spouse, partner, roommate, or a friend. Be gentle and enjoy.
  8. Secret  Valentine – Packing your kids’ lunchboxes? Maybe your spouse’s or partner’s? Write a quick one-line note with a positive message or something you love about them. The act of writing and the surprise finding will make everyone’s day a bit brighter.
  9. Dance Party – we

     are sitting on average 9.3 hours a day – even more than we spend sleeping. Being too sedentary (not in motion) has all kinds of negative health impacts. So try one of the simplest and oldest forms of exercise – dance! Right at home, you can crank up some music and have a family dance party. The only rule: keep moving. If you are more adventurous, sign up for a couples dance class at a local community center or dance studio, or join a dance troupe for a parade or festival.

Further Reading

California Champions for Change: parents speaking up for family health, and choosing good foods and active lifestyle. Includes activity tips and recipes

Disney Family: great resources for activities, crafts, eating.