Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Outdoor Activities Vary Widely Across Our Country- How Do We Keep Youngsters Moving In Colder Climates?

OK~ I just returned from a long week-end in St. Augustine, Florida. The one thing I noticed while I was in the area was that families were out and about exercising. This made me think about how we are limited to our outdoor activities here in North Iowa. Sure, we can take to the cross country ski trails, hit a local sledding hill, but the biggest challenge is to have the right amount of snow and temperatures that our bodies can withstand.

I came across a local skate boarding park with a small playground for younger kids at one end of the park. I thought to myself, this is a fantastic concept. Moms and Dads were with the younger kids and the older kids were skate boarding at the other end. A few miles down the road I came across a park packed with families. Several volleyball games in the sand were happening, kids were on swings, parents were pulling kids in wagons, and every picnic table had a family gathered around it. And the cool thing about all of these activities was the fact that they were free and available all year long.

Of course my mind began to wander back home to Iowa. I have no doubt that kids in St. Augustine, Florida, do like to play video games and complain about their weather too. After all, it does rain in Florida. Our challenge in North Iowa is complex. I began to think about what we have for our kids to do for the five months out of the year, that make it hard to enjoy the outdoors. We do have a nice YMCA, a roller skating rink, a bowling alley, and active church youth groups. So, there are opportunities to get out of the house and exercise. Transportation issues keep many kids from getting out of the house, as Moms and Dads are working. I'm not sure how we combat that issue, we definitely need to work on that as a community.

Our indoor activities in North Iowa often cost money and usually within a couple hours the activity ends and everyone goes back home. The advantage kids have in warmer climates is the fact that they can stay outdoors all afternoon. From riding bicycles, walking the beach, playing volleyball, visiting the local playground, skate boarding, to fishing- warmer climates offer more enjoyable outdoor year around activities.

For approximately 7 months out of the year here in North Iowa we have ice and snow free sidewalks and roads, which make it easier to get out and about. We also need more family friendly trails for bicycles, which I do believe our community is working on.

Families as a whole are trying to eat healthier and exercise more, and one of our biggest challenges here in North Iowa is how to harness the momentum to keep moving when the cold hits! It's easy to hunker down and not venture anywhere. Somehow, someway, we need to change our mentality. We need to find ways that invite families to get outdoors 365 days of the year and keep moving!

If you reside in a cooler climate, how do you keep your family motivated to keep moving year around? For those of you that live in a warmer climate, how do you keep your kids motivated to get away from the tv 24/7? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. It was an eye opener for me, as I see too many families that are attached to their gadgets 24 hours a day. By offering opportunities to get outdoors, I think we can put a dent in the inactivity of many of our youngsters. After All, It's All In a Mom's Day, Right?

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