mother-and-her-children-playing-in-a-picnicHaving a tech-savvy family can be a lot of fun, but if it was up to my boys, summer vacation would be spent with the shades drawn and everyone vegetating in front of their display of choice. Here are a few ways I’ve discovered to encourage kids to stay physically active without shoving them out the door.

1. Set expectations early on

The very beginning of summer vacation is the best time to lay down the ground rules for what your kids can expect. Trying to correct bad habits or assign chores a month into the summer will be a lot more challenging. The biggest obstacle to kids staying active over the summer is the abundance of sedentary activities they can choose—so set boundaries for how much time kids can spend online or watching TV. Long-standing, consistent boundaries are the easiest for kids to get used to.

2. Check out your local rec center

Especially for teenagers who aren’t interested in sports, investing in a rec center pass can be worth every penny. Your local center may offer classes in swimming, dance, martial arts, and weight training—just check at the front desk. It may help to offer your child a few options, instead of a yes-or-no choice: rather than saying, “would you like to learn how to dance?” ask “would you be more interested in swimming, dance, or art classes?”

3. Look for age-appropriate sports

Summer sports are a great way for kids to learn social and physical skills in a less intimidating environment than public school teams. Also, don’t forget individual sports like tennis, swimming, track, and wrestling. If none of those sound like fun to your child, you can even look for off-beat activities like fencing or tai chi. My oldest doesn’t like team sports, but fell in love with fencing after taking a course offered by a local university club. The earlier you start with a sport, the more comfortable children will feel about their skill level and the social demands of being on a team.

4. Take in local culture

If the major concern is just getting out of the house, consider looking for cultural activities in town. Your local chamber of commerce should have information on free museums and local concerts that are worth checking out. Larger universities offer planetarium shows, children’s museums, plays, and performances for under $5 per person. It can be a bit of a gamble to find local art that is really enjoyable, but one can almost always find something worth seeing with a little effort.

5. Get involved in community projects

With a little research, you can find kid-friendly projects to beautify and improve your local community, whether it be reading to the elderly, cleaning up roadside trash, repainting park benches, or  tending a community garden. Whether you live in a rural area or a dense city, there’s work to be done that will give you and your kids a sense of ownership, and an opportunity to bond. While most teens may not seem very “community-minded” when it’s time to take out the garbage or mow the lawn, you’ll be surprised at how helpful they can be when they find a project they believe in.

Tara Wagner is a staff writer for TechBreach. She has worked from home for over a decade, and loves sharing news and advice with fellow telecommuting moms and dads. She’s fascinated by new tech and new ideas; and when she finds time to unplug, she enjoys long hikes in the mountains near her home. She lives in Denver.

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