Ah, summer: sunshine, lazy afternoons, family vacations and crickets chirping in the cool evening air. This year, take advantage of all the season has to offer: let the luscious taste of in-season berries dance on your tongue, dig your hands into the dark, sweet earth in your garden or snuggle into a sleeping bag and watch the constellations in the night sky. Here are 101 ways to captivate and nourish mind, body and spirit this summer.
1. Strap on a helmet and knee and elbow pads and ask your children to teach you how to in-line skate. You'll tone your inner and outer thighs, says Jared Lloyd, a certified fitness consultant at Haldimand Hills Spa in Grafton, Ont., and have a few laughs with your kids.
2. Find a local tennis court (or the side of a building, such as a school) and practise hitting balls.
3. Start your own neighbourhood walking group.
4. Start training for a fall five- or 10-kilometre race.
5. Help your kids enjoy being active. When 11-year-old Louis Savard of Ottawa found out that a good friend enrolled in a summer hockey camp, his mom, Marianne, helped him sign up, too.
6. Add muscle-toning intensity to regular brisk outdoor walks with light ankle and wrist weights. With each step, lift from your knees and swing your arms.
7. Involve children in chores. Mowing the lawn, painting a fence and rearranging furniture are more fun if you do them together, and you'll all get some physical activity, too.
8. Set activity goals with your children, such as “We will bike, walk or swim at the local pool for at least 30 minutes every weekday this summer.”
9. Explore different leash-free parks –- you and your dog get a walk and a change of scenery.
10. Leave the car at home whenever you can. Walk or bike instead –- and tell your kids what you've done. Active parents usually have active kids.
11. Burn some calories with your kids in a game of Frisbee.
12. Order a free copy of Canada's Physical Activity Guides for Children and Youth by calling 1-888-334-9769 or visiting www.healthcanada.ca/paguide.
13. Equip everyone's bike with panniers so you can carry groceries and other items instead of taking the car. (Be sure each bike has a lock, too.)
14. When your son or daughter asks you to drive them somewhere, suggest that you walk together instead.
15. Prevent golfer's elbow by strengthening your forearms every day. Squeeze a tennis ball firmly in your hand for three seconds, then relax. Repeat until your muscles get tired (up to five minutes), then repeat on the other side.
16. Warm up before any activity. For gardening: do shoulder circles, trunk rotations and heel-toe rolls.
17. After bending over and pulling weeds in the garden, stand up and arch backward to counteract the strain on your back.
18. Keep neck and upper back muscles from tensing up when you cycle with this quick stretch. Do a chin tuck, then look down and tip your ear toward your shoulder. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
19. Eat more potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, especially orange ones (such as papayas, peaches and sweet potatoes) and bananas –- studies show that we need more potassium in our diets. And relish all the disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals you're getting in the process.
20. Grow your own vegetables in containers or a garden and get the whole family to pitch in planting, weeding and picking. It's a great way to teach children how food grows –- and just wait until they taste tomatoes fresh off the vine.
21. Take the kids to a local farmer's market and let them choose the food they want to eat. It's fun, and they'll gain a better understanding of where food comes from, says Jayne Thirsk, regional executive director of Dietitians of Canada in the Alberta and territories region. Do an Internet search to find farmer's markets and farmers in your area.
22. Cut down on junk-food snacking during road trips by bringing ready-to-eat fresh vegetables and fruit in an airtight container.
23. Take advantage of ripe seasonal fruit. At their scrumptious peak through July and August: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, pears and peaches.
25. Log on to the Dietitians of Canada website at www.dietitians.ca for information on healthy eating and physical activity.
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Handle food safely
26. Before you prepare and eat food, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water to kill germs that can make you and your family sick. Alcohol-based hand-washing gels (sometimes called sanitizers) and hand wipes remove germs just as well when you're away from a sink.
27. Barbecue a healthy, easy meal. Choose lean meats, heat the grill for five to 10 minutes before adding food to kill any bacteria, and remove any charred parts after cooking (they have been associated with cancer).
28. Don't pierce meat, poultry or fish when you marinate it –- piercing can transfer bacteria from the outside to the inside, where it will take longer to kill through cooking. For more food safety and preparation tips, phone 1-800-892-8333 or visit www.foodsafetyline.org .
29. Keep pick-your-own fruit and vegetables fresh in a cooler with ice packs. Remember to pack the cooler in the air-conditioned part of your car (not the trunk) until you get home.
30. Stay hydrated when you work out by drinking water, especially when it's hot. The guideline: 250 to 500 millilitres (one to two cups) 15 minutes before exercise; then about 250 millilitres every 15 minutes during your workout.
31. Carry a water bottle so you'll remember to drink water more often. Remember to wash all bottles with soap and hot water before you refill them to keep them bacteria-free.
32. Freeze a bottle of water the night before you go on a picnic to use as an ice pack in your cooler. It will be thawed out but still deliciously cold by the afternoon for drinking.
33. Keep the picnic cooler out of the sun and cover it with a blanket or tarp to help keep food cold.
34. Make the most of a long, sunny afternoon and have a tea party in your garden with your friends or children.
35. Make your own Popsicles from fruit juice and eat them outdoors.
Be social, be happy
36. Organize a friendly community baseball game and invite neighbourhood parents and their kids.
37. Coordinate a day of hiking with friends or family. Elvia Picco of Calgary likes to invite her friends' friends as well -– the more the merrier!
38. Host a potluck barbecue and get to know your neighbours in a relaxed setting.
39. Find out when your community holds a litter clean-up day –- and volunteer as a family. Everyone will get a mental boost from cleaning up the neighbourhood.
40. Play miniature golf with friends and their kids.
41. Take family or friends to an outdoor concert or play for a taste of culture and a breath of fresh air. Try Shakespeare in the Park or a local music festival.
42. Garden. All that digging, planting and stretching is good for your body and your mind.
43. Stretch outside. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, says Judy Cline, a physiotherapist in St. Catharines, Ont., and lift up your rib cage as you stretch both arms overhead and reach up to the sky. Breathe in deeply, then exhale slowly with a long sigh as you lower your arms. Look into the distance and enjoy the moment.
44. For a total mind-body–and-nature experience, practise your favourite yoga posture outside or check yoga centres near you to see if they run outdoor classes.
45. With the kids home from school all summer, Shannon Corby of Ajax, Ont., says the day care at her fitness club is a sanity saver. Four-year-old Andrew and six-year-old Hannah have fun playing while she gets time alone to work out.
46. Take a deep breath to clear your mind. Eoin Finn, a yoga teacher in Vancouver, offers this exercise: close your eyes and take one long breath in (about 10 seconds) and out (about 10 seconds). Repeat three times.
47. Try fly fishing. Many enthusiasts say its lure is the peace and quiet that's only punctuated by the sound of the line hitting the water.
48. Help your kids balance their yin and yang in a Yoga for Kids class. It can help them relax when they're nervous or even help them sleep. Search online for “yoga for kids” to find videos or classes in your area.
Savour the moment
49. Share a good-for-the-soul moment with your kids: lie in the cool grass, study the clouds and share the different shapes that you find.
50. Skip stones on a calm lake.
51. For a little outdoor R&R, read or snooze away an afternoon in a hammock. There's no place like it!
52. Listen to the birds sing and get a healthy start to the day with an early breakfast of fruit and yogurt on the patio.
53. Sit outside and just listen. Wind chimes, a wooden screen door banging, birds splashing in the birdbath and crickets singing take you back to childhood summers and soothe your soul.
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54. Re-energize hot, tired feet with a soothing foot cream. Most contain mint, which feels cool and refreshing as you massage it in. Take a deep breath –- the aroma of mint helps you relax, too.
55. Bring the outdoors in: pick a bouquet of wildflowers for your table.
56. If your snazzy high-heel sandals make your feet ache, try Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Ball of Foot Cushions, which absorb shock at the ball of the foot to keep your feet comfortable longer. Available at drugstores for about $10.
Take a break
57. Buy a family membership to a local tourist attraction. The $135 annual fee at the Metro Toronto Zoo lets the Corby family of nearby Ajax, Ont., spend quality time together while learning about animals. Best of all, there's no pressure to see everything in one visit.
59. Stop and smell the roses -– literally, says Sue Augustine, author of 5-Minute Retreats for Women (Harvest House, 2001). Wander through your garden every morning and evening you can; deadhead a flower here, pull a weed there, admire the effect and soak up the peace.
60. On occasion, treat everyone to ice cream. (But remember that one scoop will do, says Thirsk.)
61. Pitch a tent in your yard and live outdoors for a week -– you'll get an inexpensive, convenient vacation from modern life (without having to use an outhouse). If you don't own any camping equipment, borrow a tent from friends or family. Click on www.campsource.ca for parks and other camping information.
62. Take field glasses and a bird book to the park -– you'll find birds, plus peace and tranquility.
63. Sip on a frosty glass of lemonade at an outdoor café, says Augustine.
64. Consider an RV vacation to relax and unwind. A study by a travel research firm showed that RV travellers could pay up to 70 per cent less for their vacations compared with those who used more-common modes of travel. You can even use it as a travelling guesthouse when you visit faraway cousins and grandparents.
65. Plan a vacation away from the house -– and the TV. When Alison Coates of Walkerton, Ont., rented a cottage in Port Elgin, Ont., with her two kids, they did activities that they didn't do together at home: they biked at a local provincial park, walked along the rocky shoreline and played mini-golf.
Don't get bitten
66. If you're exploring parklands, deep woods or other places where mosquitoes like to hang out, protect yourself from West Nile virus and itchy bites by wearing socks, shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Light colours are less likely to attract mosquitoes.
67. Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET (except on children under six months old, who should never use insect repellent). For children aged six months to two years in places where there are lots of mosquitoes or where West Nile virus warnings have been issued, use a repellent with 10 per cent DEET or less once a day. For children between two and 12, use a 10 per cent DEET product up to three times a day. For children over 12 and adults, use a 30 per cent DEET product (which provides 6.5 hours of protection) up to three times a day. Never apply mosquito repellent to children's faces or hands, and make sure everyone washes it off when they come inside.
68. Clean up areas where mosquitoes like to breed -– standing water in old tires, barrels, pool covers and so on. Change the water in your birdbath weekly.
69. Eat one clove of raw garlic per day. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000 showed that individuals who ate garlic were less likely to be bitten by ticks, which can carry dangerous illnesses, such as Lyme disease.
Be sun safe
70. Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
71. Tuck a tube of high-SPF lip balm into your tennis, golf and walking gear. That will make it easy to reapply sunscreen to the delicate, easily burned skin on your lips.
72. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the cosmetics and medications you use will make your skin more sun sensitive (and therefore more prone to redness, sunburn and rashes). Cosmetics that contain retinoids, as well as some antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, diuretics and anti-acne medications, are on the list. Be extra careful to protect yourself from the sun if you're taking one.
73. Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
74. Buy broad-brimmed hats for everyone in the family to shade their heads, necks and ears from the sun.
75. Let kids choose cool sunglasses (that they'll wear) that block at least 98 per cent of harmful UV rays.
76. Wear tightly woven fabrics for extra protection from the sun. Choose lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants for the most coverage.
77. Remember the sunburn you got on the tops of your feet? Avoid getting another one by applying sunscreen to commonly neglected areas such as the feet and ears.
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78. Before you hit the beach, lake or pool, enrol your children in classes taught by certified swimming instructors (look for them at local community centres, pools or the Canadian Red Cross). It's fun to learn with other kids, and swimming is a vital summer skill.
79. Make an official family pact this summer (shake on it and sign your names in indelible ink) that no one ever swims alone.
80. Wear the right-size personal flotation device or life jacket every time you're in (or on) the water. You should be able to swim and manoeuvre easily in the water without it slipping around.
81. Outfit the whole family with bicycle helmets -– and make sure they fit properly. The Canada Safety Council says your CSA-approved helmet should be snug, not loose enough to slide forward or backward on your head. Wear it whether you're hopping on your bicycle, in-line skates, skateboard or scooter -– it can reduce the risk of serious head injury by up to 85 per cent.
82. Spring for a new CSA-approved bike helmet that's specifically designed for your preschooler. Look for the permanent yellow label that shows that the helmet is specially designed for cyclists and cycle passengers under the age of five. The helmets are designed to protect smaller, still-growing heads with extra cushioning at specific impact points.
Take care outdoors
83. Make sure everyone on a hike carries a whistle in case they get lost. Its shrill blasts carry farther than the human voice and can be heard above the sounds of the forest.
84. Don't stand under a tree if you're caught in a thunderstorm, says the Canada Safety Council. When lightning strikes, electricity runs down the trunk, through the roots and into the ground, giving a strong shock to anyone standing nearby. Seek cover in a building or your car.
85. For no-fuss care of cuts, keep Elastoplast Spray Bandage (which sprays on and covers wounds like a second skin and is 100 per cent waterproof) in your first-aid kit. A 40-application container costs about $12.99 at drugstores.
86. Check the air quality index in your community and tailor your activities accordingly; for example, on smog alert days, exercise indoors. For more info and tips, visit Environment Canada's Air Quality Services page.
87. Put up a backyard trampoline for some wacky, fun exercise. Make sure you post a sign that says “One at a time, no fancy flips and you must be over two years old.”
Inspire your kids
88. With help from other neighbourhood parents, teach kids the games you played as children: hide-and-seek, tag and hopscotch. Then watch them play –- and make sure you join in!
89. Fill a bag with low-cost activities from your local dollar store -– elastic jump ropes, soft Frisbees, balloons and sidewalk chalk –- and let your kids choose one to do every other day.
90. Keep your kids active and encourage them to make new friends at day camps and activities run by local community centres and municipal recreation departments, says Judith Moodie, director of the Alberta Centre for Active Living in Edmonton. Day camps are great for kids who don't want to be away from home for too long and easier on your pocketbook than overnight camps.
91. If school and organized sports are on hold for the summer, let kids try a noncompetitive activity, such as dancing, gymnastics or acting.
Have fun together
92. Make jam from fresh blueberries that you've picked with your kids.
93. Plan a picnic at a conservation area, complete with three-legged races and barbecued wieners.
94. Have family night at a drive-in: put the kids in their pyjamas and bring your own popcorn.
95. Play tourist in your own home town -– spend time with family and friends exploring familiar sights from a tourist's perspective.
96. Dance to an old favourite song with your children.
97. Be a kid again with your kids -– climb the play structure, build a sandcastle and have a water fight.
98. Lie on a blanket or snuggle in sleeping bags in the backyard to enjoy a clear starry night. Teach kids about the constellations.
99. Sit on the back porch and eat watermelon –- and have a seed-spitting contest with your kids.
100. Create a family activity jar. Encourage everyone to submit activities to do together, then pick one each week.
101. Make a campfire and introduce your kids to S'mores -– place pieces of a chocolate bar on a graham cracker, toast a marshmallow and place it on top of the chocolate, then put another graham cracker on top. Lick every gooey bit off your fingers.
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