How to enjoy the 2012 Summer Olympics as a family

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How to enjoy the 2012 Summer Olympics as a family

The Summer Olympics in London are just around the corner. We know you'll be watching, but if you're looking for ways to get your family into the spirit of the Olympic Games there are fun options for every level of athlete.

We turned to Arlene Stein, program director at Evergreen Brickworks, for some pointers. Evergreen Brickworks is a hub that provides families with active adventures including cycling, ice-skating and other activities that embody the Olympic motto: Faster, higher, stronger.

The following tips show you how you can make use of this motto to fuel your family's challenge to get healthy and active outdoors this summer.

1. Eat like an Olympian
Get inspired to take on a healthy lifestyle challenge and change the way your family eats for the better.

Whether you try to eat locally and seasonally for a week or two or start your own vegetable garden in the backyard, your efforts for best health will rely on the natural environment.

"We encourage parents and kids to learn about the full cycle of food from seedling in the greenhouse to planting, growing, watering and tending to cooking together and sharing meals and then recycling and composting," says Stein.

Summer is the time when we feel the most inspired by Canada's vibrant natural landscape, and learning about the full cycle of food will result in a greater appreciation for it and a better understanding of natural health. This summer, take a family trip to a local farm to go berry picking or head to a community garden for veggies. You'll leave stocked up on vitamin-rich foods in their purest form and inspired to put your bounty to good use in the kitchen.

2. Get sporty with your kids for the Summer Olympics
Get into the Olympic spirit by expanding your comfort zone by exploring the great outdoors. "When parents spend time in natural environments with their kids it helps to build curiosity, understanding and a sense of wonderment," says Stein.

Take advantage of the beautiful weather to introduce your kids to an outdoor sport they've never played before, she suggests. The sunshine will enhance their experience of the sport and afford some great memories. Playing volleyball on the beach, tennis at the park or joining a handball league can be great ways to warm up to a variety of different sports while also checking out new places in your community.

You don't need a pool to partake in Olympic-worthy water sports, either. Head to the lake and rent a canoe for a paddling day trip or visit your community pool and consider taking a synchronized swimming class or workshop.

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3. Go on a bike adventure with your family
Cycling is one of the most fast-paced, thrilling sports in the Summer Olympics, with many variations on the theme.

Start your family fleet off with an endurance-building voyage through the neighbourhood, extending your distance little by little as you build strength and stamina.

"Teaching people to be confident on the roads needs to start at a young age," says Stein. "If kids learn to bike and feel safe then they will encourage their parents to come along. Riding through trail systems on a beautiful sunny day is such an easy, fun and active way families can spend time together, without much cost."

Once your crew is confident on the roads, kick up your exploration to mountain biking. Navigating rocky trails can be one of the most rewarding summer activities a family can do. Canada has so much to offer in terms of varied terrain and something for every skill level.

4. Practise team-building with something-from-nothing crafts
Think like an Olympic coach and find some fun ways to bring your family "team" together. Building with raw materials is one surefire way of sparking resourceful thinking and building the confidence needed to make up a strong team. It's also a fun way to get outside and get creative with found materials as a family.

"Kids enjoy the opportunity to build and challenge themselves," says Stein. "It allows them to problem-solve, practise teamwork and develop their intuition about how projects come together. These are life skills that are essential to us all."

Every team has different ways of creating solidarity. Make yours creative. Create a new family game made from found materials, build a fort to keep your sporting equipment in or make a raft to take to the cottage.

Challenging yourselves and channelling your inner athlete as a family will not only get you geared up for the world's biggest sports event, it will also strengthen your family bond. By making the effort to eat healthy, be active and expand your comfort zone, your family will be ready to take on any Olympic-size challenge.

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How to enjoy the 2012 Summer Olympics as a family