Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation to Rush Past Childhood Obesity with New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas

Partnership aims to decrease “screen-time” and increase physical activity both during school and after school with quality PE programming and community events

SPARK™, provider of the world’s most-researched physical education programs, is partnering with ICAN Foundation to make an immediate impact on the lives of students in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. SPARK and ICAN Foundation will work together to help schools and community centers raise funds or apply for and win grants in order to implement SPARK’s high-quality physical education curricula or afterschool program.

SHAPE America recommends that school-aged children receive at least 60-minutes of physical activity per day. This is hard to achieve if students spend most of the eight-hour school day sitting behind desks. SPARK fights this sedentary school model by making classroom instruction, PE classes and after school programs more physically active. Similarly, the increased amount of time youth spend using electronics is impeding on physical activity after school and on the weekends. Through its community programs and initiatives, ICAN Foundation is helping create more active lifestyles to demonstrate how being active can be fun and rewarding.

“After learning about the similarities of our organizations and the fact that SPARK is the number-one research-based health organization in our country, I knew a partnership was necessary,” said Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back and founder of ICAN Foundation. “This will be a great opportunity for everyone involved, especially the students.”

“Working with ICAN Foundation is the perfect marriage of ideas for SPARK,” said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. “With the foundation’s deep community connections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, and SPARK’s 25 years of experience in schools nationwide, we make a great team. With a joint goal of increasing the amount of physical activity youth receive every day, we know that together we can make an impact on those communities.”

How Can You Help?
Together, ICAN and SPARK will implement research-based programing to help combat childhood obesity in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Your support, partnership, or donation can assist us in our efforts. Please contact us to learn more and support the effort to combat childhood obesity.

Dr. Kymm Ballard
SPARK Partnership Development Manager
(336) 263-3646
kymm.ballard@sparkpe.org

Vincent Calabrese
ICAN Foundation
(312) 285-9384
calabresevm@gmail.com

About ICAN Foundation
ICAN Foundation was founded by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back, in response to the ongoing problem with childhood obesity. ICAN Foundation was established to prevent and educate the children and their parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity in the United States. www.believeican.org

About SPARK
SPARK is a collection of research-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs for educators serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide. SPARK also helps educators find physical education grants. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org or email spark@sparkpe.org or call 1-800-SPARK-PE.

ICAN Foundation-1

Healthy Back to School Lunches

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Beyond PB & J: 5 Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education.kids_lunch

If you feel stuck in the peanut-butter-and-jelly school lunch rut, take a look at these healthy options instead.

Homemade “Lunchables”

Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:

  • Lean protein, like turkey pepperoni or even strips of baked chicken from dinner the night before
  • Low-fat cheese, like mozzarella
  • 100% whole grain crackers
  • A healthy dip, like hummus

You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:

  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Chicken breast
  • Lots of veggies, like carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic, peas, and tomatoes
  • 100% whole grain noodles in fun shapes

Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.

Burritos and Wraps

If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!

Chicken “Nuggets”

Chicken nuggets: as much as kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, their ingredients and preparation are often questionable. Even pre-made frozen nuggets are not always better than the fast-food version. Why not make some delicious homemade chicken nuggets that are far more wholesome than either of these options—and still pretty easy? We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.

Pizza

Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.

Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Friday, September 19th, 2014

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness MonthSeptember is known for back-to-school festivities and the transition into fall, but did you know that it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) four years ago, brings awareness and recognition to this devastating epidemic among the American youth in the hopes of ending a very real threat to the future health of millions of American children. Let’s look at some facts and some ways you can get involved.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Facts

We are grateful for this month-long promotion of awareness and action for childhood obesity, but this pressing issue should really take the spotlight all 12 months of the year.

Check out the facts:

  • More than 23 million American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight.
  • More than 1/3 of American children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  • Other obesity-related risks include heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
  • Childhood obesity is a completely preventable disease!

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was created to educate and inspire the public to take action against the childhood obesity epidemic.

How to Get Involved

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or part of the community, there’s something you can do to help. Check out these ideas:

  • It all starts at home:
    • Educate yourself about the food and drink you consume. Encourage your own family to become more physically active and to develop better eating habits.
    • Expand at the community level:
      • Host an event where families can engage in fun active activities and learn about both the dangers of childhood obesity and how to prevent it.
      • Post flyers in public areas.
      • Tweet and use Facebook to promote activities and awareness.
      • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper encouraging community leaders to become involved.
      • Volunteer to host a presentation on childhood obesity and ways to prevent it at a local school or community center.
      • Approach community groups like scouts, 4H, boys and girls clubs, churches, and other religious communities about hosting an event, presentation, or activity to spread awareness of childhood obesity.
      • Encourage PSAs on local television and radio.
      • Sponsor ads in local media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.
      • Partner with other agencies and organizations to hold a large, free to the public event.
      • Get involved with the government
        • Lobby your state legislature, surgeon general, school boards, governor, other state leaders, and even the First Lady/First Gentleman to host events, presentations, activities, and to make childhood health a priority.
        • Lobby for better, healthier school lunch and snack programs.
        • Petition for better funding for physical education programs in schools, improved community recreational facilities, and public health programs to end obesity at all ages.
        • Lobby for better and more funding for state parks and museums to encourage families to become more active.
        • Lobby for changes in state-funded food aid programs to eliminate access to processed foods, foods high in sugar and fat, and soft drinks.

Childhood Obesity need not rob millions of Americans of good health and good living. It can be stopped. It can be reversed. But it will take interested individuals to take action and become involved. The future of our country is at stake. The children of America need you, and while Childhood Obesity Awareness only lasts through September, it is a cause we all need to rally behind every month of the year.

8 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Friday, August 29th, 2014

8 Essential Back to School Tips for Parents

With a well-rounded summer vacation ending, parents spend a lot of time getting their kids ready for school. New school supplies, haircuts, and special end-of-summer outings all play into the back-to-school routine. There are some other things that parents can do for themselves and their kids to ensure a smooth transition into the school year, too. Take a look below at few ways to get this year off to a great start in your house.

Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance. If possible, it’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.

Get to know new teachers. There will be open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options at the beginning of the school year, but none will give you the chance to spend some quality time getting to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. At the very least, send an introductory email that includes how you can help during the school year, however big or small.

Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.

Organize clothing. Of course you will need to donate or otherwise get rid of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins.

Set up a staging area. Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, upcoming outfits, and a dry erase calendar with family schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you can find what you need, when you need it—and quickly. Have the kids help you stock it with school-related items and keep it clean and functional. Find some inspiration here.

Update medical records. Most schools will let you know if your shot records are out of date, but why not go beyond that? Make sure teachers and administrators have a complete list of any medical concerns regarding your kids, including allergies. You will also want to be sure that all emergency contacts are up to date.

Talk to your kids about bullying. Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your kids understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied.

Ask your kids about their concerns. The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.

SPARK celebrates 25! Reflection from Dr. Jim Sallis

Monday, July 21st, 2014

SPARK celebrates 25!

By Jim Sallis

It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.

The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.

At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.

As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.

Jim Sallis

http://sallis.ucsd.edu

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,

Division of Behavioral Medicine. http://behavioralmedicine.ucsd.edu/

University of California, San Diego

SPARK Staff at ATM Dinner

SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014

5 Tips for a Healthy, Well-Rounded Summer Vacation

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Summer break is a great time to recharge before the upcoming school year, but can also cause some problems if it isn’t approached with a plan in mind. Research has found that kids gain weight twice as quickly during the summer than the school year, and some academic regression can also take place while on that blissful summer break.

Planning activities such as exercising, to keep your kids physically, mentally and emotionally sharp over summer break will make those months that much more enjoyable for your family, and will really make a positive difference when the school year comes back around.

Here are a few ways to have your most active, fulfilling summer break yet:

  • Hit up the local library. Summer is the best time of the year to visit your neighborhood library and take advantage of its many free resources. In addition to summer reading programs, libraries usually plan special activities for kids who are out of school. Some libraries even offer low-cost or completely free kids’ fitness classes too.
  • Take a daily walk. The cooler weather in the evening coupled with longer hours of sunlight provide the perfect opportunity to get out and explore the neighborhood. Make a habit of heading out into the community as soon as the dinner dishes are washed—and continue it for as long as the weather permits.
  • Train for an event. There is no shortage of active events that take place in the summer months, from 5k road races to family fun days with classics like three-legged and potato sack races. Find an event or two in your area and then prepare by training as a family!
  • Volunteer. Use some of your family free time for good by spending some of it with a local organization. Look for a charity or non-profit with values that are important to your family, and explain the importance of what you are doing to your kids. You can even allow each kid to pick out the charity of their choice and then go as a family to volunteer.
  • Keep learning. The “summer slide” refers to the regression kids experience when they have too much time away from school. Whether you print off worksheets from your computer, enroll them in a science-centric camp or simply read together each day, find simple ways to keep the learning process moving forward in the summer months.

How do you keep your family from falling into unhealthy habits during summer break?

Physical Activity School Score: PASS it on!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Physical Activity School Score (PASS)

Why it’s Important that School Programs Provide and Promote Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is extremely important for children’s growth, motor skill and physical fitness development, and current and future health. Being physically active in childhood also provides a solid base for continuing to be physically active in adulthood. The 2008 National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity daily, with at least three days per week providing muscle and bone strengthening activities. Unfortunately many children do not meet these national physical activity recommendations–especially on school days.

Physical education and recess (at elementary schools) typically provide some opportunities for physical activity at school, but they are often not scheduled frequently enough or facilitated in ways that fully engage all children. Many elementary schools in the USA do not have certified instructors to teach PE, and sometimes schools offer no structured physical education at all. Even in classes taught by PE specialists, research shows that children are sometimes active only about one-third of PE lesson time. As well, not all schools provide recess daily and sometimes children are kept from recess periods for academic or disciplinary reasons. Thus, in addition to the need for quality physical education and recess, other opportunities for physical activity should be made available throughout the day (e.g., classroom activity breaks, before and after school programs, and opportunities to walk, bike, and skate to and from school)

PASS: A Tool to Assess Physical Activity Opportunities at School

Many parents, School Board and PTA members, and school administrators have never been educated about the need for children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and they are frequently unaware what quality physical activity programs at schools look like. Meanwhile, numerous research studies have identified specific evidence-based practices that are more likely engage children in physical activity at schools. To help advocate for physical activity programs at schools and provide information about these evidence-based practices to elementary school administrators, teachers and parents, Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored us to create an on-line, interactive educational tool. To do so, we developed the Physical Activity School Score (PASS).

PASS is an 8-item questionnaire that allows respondents to assess various aspects of the main sources of physical activity at an elementary school. PASS increases awareness of evidence-based practices by providing feedback immediately after a response is made to each item. Following the last item, respondents are provided with an overall school score, and an opportunity to see how their school compares to other schools on each item and overall. PASS also provides easy links to online information to evidence-based school physical activity practices.

How Well Does Your School Score?

PASS takes about five minutes to complete. We hope that you get in the PASSing zone and try it out to see how well your school scores compared to the research-based criteria. Additionally, we hope you will deliver information about PASS to your friends, school board members, the PTA, and the parents of all he kids you want to help become active.

To learn more about PASS and to evaluate an elementary school near you go to:

http://activelivingresearch.org/physical-activity-school-score-pass

Here you can:

- See how PASS works

- Use PASS to assess an individual elementary school

- Download the “Pass  Background and Technical Manual”

Thom McKenzie, PHD, Professor Emeritus, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University

Monica Lounsbery, PHD, Associate-Vice Provost, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[INFOGRAPHIC] SPARK 25 Years of Success! Countering Childhood Obesity Since 1989

Monday, June 16th, 2014

For 25 years, SPARK has made it our commitment to reduce childhood obesity. Follow us on our journey back to where it all began. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you for all the support you have provided to help us achieve our dreams!

SPARK PEs 25th Anniversary Infographic

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Take a Hike: How to Start Hiking With Your Family

Monday, May 12th, 2014
Hiking can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family, with nature, and with your exercise program, too. Day hikes are the best way to start hiking, and this article will show you how to get out there on that first trail.
Strap on your pack and lace up your shoes—it’s time to take a hike!
Shoes
Day hikes may sound like a walk in the park, and for some trails, you can get away with just your walking or everyday athletic shoes.
For others, you’ll want a pair of sturdy hiking or trail shoes. What to look for:
Ankle support
Arch support
Proper fit—not too small or too big
Breathability
Waterproof materials
Solid traction
Clothes
Think in layers, especially if starting in the early morning. Avoid cotton and go for light, breathable materials that wick away sweat. Wool or performance athletic socks keep your feet comfortable and dry all day.
A hat is an excellent addition to your hike and can prevent sunburns.
Packs
An ordinary, run-of-the-mill backpack off the rack of the discount store certainly works (as long as it’s comfortable). Start with what you have and work up from there. Make sure that the straps don’t rub and irritate arms and shoulders.
For a day hike, common items to keep in the pack include:
Lunch and snacks
Water
Trail map, compass, and other on-trail guides
First aid kit
Sunscreen
Lip balm with sunscreen
Bug spray
Allergy medicine, if necessary
Your phone may or may not be a good thing to bring, depending on service in your hiking area
Camera
Binoculars
Multitool
Journal and pen
Extra socks
Trails
You can find day hike trails at regional, state, and national parks, which are scattered all across the United States. You can also find trails near just about any location using an online service like trails.com or everytrail.com.
The American Hiking Society can help you find trails and hiking events in your area and sponsors National Trails Day each year with many parks, trails, and hiking groups across the country. It’s usually held in early June.
Food and water
A day on the trail is thirsty business and works up quite an appetite, too. For a day hike, you can pack a “sack lunch”—just avoid anything with mayonnaise or other foods prone to spoilage. Sure, you could cool it with a cold pack, but only if you don’t mind the extra weight.
Pack something salty, like nuts or pretzels, as a way of replenishing your body’s salts. Pack some sweet fruit or fresh veggies, too, to help add to your water intake.
Avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks, milk, or caffeinated drinks. That pretty much leaves you with the hiker’s friend, water. You’ll need at least 1 liter per person, two if the weather is hot and dry. Most adults will most likely need two, regardless of the weather. It really depends on the severity or difficulty of the trail, the length of your hike, how strenuously you are hoofing it down the trail, and the temperature of the day. It’s better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you think you might need, rather than be caught thirsty and dry on the trail.
Trail Etiquette
Enjoying the protected spaces in our beautiful country comes with responsibility. There are some common-sense rules all hikers must follow to keep the trail in good condition and be conscientious of others—and that includes the plants and animals.
Leave only footprints and take only pictures and journal notes—not rocks, flowers, or critters. Likewise, pack it in, pack it out—leave no trace that you were there.
Keep to the right. Just as on the road, when approaching another group of hikers, keep to the right side of the trail to allow everyone room to pass. In narrow areas where passing is impossible, the group closest to, or in, the narrow passage has the right-of-way.
Stay together.
Stay on the trail. Never venture off the marked trail very far. Not only can you get lost easier, but the trail is there for a reason. It was put where it is to allow us to enjoy the space without eroding it.
Obey all signs and warnings. Keep your eyes up and stay aware of any signage on the trial.
Day hiking is a rewarding, enjoyable, and healthy experience, especially with your family in tow! One word of caution: Once you hit the trail, you may discover a family activity that is highly addictive.
Go take a hike!

Hiking can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family, with nature, and with your exercise program, too. Day hikes are the best way to start hiking, and this article will show you how to get out there on that first trail.

Strap on your pack and lace up your shoes—it’s time to take a hike!

Shoes

Day hikes may sound like a walk in the park, and for some trails, you can get away with just your walking or everyday athletic shoes.

For others, you’ll want a pair of sturdy hiking or trail shoes. What to look for:

  • Ankle support
  • Arch support
  • Proper fit—not too small or too big
  • Breathability
  • Waterproof materials
  • Solid traction

Clothes

Think in layers, especially if starting in the early morning. Avoid cotton and go for light, breathable materials that wick away sweat. Wool or performance athletic socks keep your feet comfortable and dry all day.

A hat is an excellent addition to your hike and can prevent sunburns.

Packs

An ordinary, run-of-the-mill backpack off the rack of the discount store certainly works (as long as it’s comfortable). Start with what you have and work up from there. Make sure that the straps don’t rub and irritate arms and shoulders.

For a day hike, common items to keep in the pack include:

  • Lunch and snacks
  • Water
  • Trail map, compass, and other on-trail guides
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Allergy medicine, if necessary
  • Your phone may or may not be a good thing to bring, depending on service in your hiking area
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Multitool
  • Journal and pen
  • Extra socks

Trails

You can find day hike trails at regional, state, and national parks, which are scattered all across the United States. You can also find trails near just about any location using an online service like trails.com or everytrail.com.

The American Hiking Society can help you find trails and hiking events in your area and sponsors National Trails Day each year with many parks, trails, and hiking groups across the country. It’s usually held in early June.

Food and water

A day on the trail is thirsty business and works up quite an appetite, too. For a day hike, you can pack a “sack lunch”—just avoid anything with mayonnaise or other foods prone to spoilage. Sure, you could cool it with a cold pack, but only if you don’t mind the extra weight.

Pack something salty, like nuts or pretzels, as a way of replenishing your body’s salts. Pack some sweet fruit or fresh veggies, too, to help add to your water intake.

Avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks, milk, or caffeinated drinks. That pretty much leaves you with the hiker’s friend, water. You’ll need at least 1 liter per person, two if the weather is hot and dry. Most adults will most likely need two, regardless of the weather. It really depends on the severity or difficulty of the trail, the length of your hike, how strenuously you are hoofing it down the trail, and the temperature of the day. It’s better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you think you might need, rather than be caught thirsty and dry on the trail.

Trail Etiquette

Enjoying the protected spaces in our beautiful country comes with responsibility. There are some common-sense rules all hikers must follow to keep the trail in good condition and be conscientious of others—and that includes the plants and animals.

Leave only footprints and take only pictures and journal notes—not rocks, flowers, or critters. Likewise, pack it in, pack it out—leave no trace that you were there.

Keep to the right. Just as on the road, when approaching another group of hikers, keep to the right side of the trail to allow everyone room to pass. In narrow areas where passing is impossible, the group closest to, or in, the narrow passage has the right-of-way.

Stay together.

Stay on the trail. Never venture off the marked trail very far. Not only can you get lost easier, but the trail is there for a reason. It was put where it is to allow us to enjoy the space without eroding it.

Obey all signs and warnings. Keep your eyes up and stay aware of any signage on the trial.

Day hiking is a rewarding, enjoyable, and healthy experience, especially with your family in tow! One word of caution: Once you hit the trail, you may discover a family activity that is highly addictive.

Go take a hike!

Springtime Family Fun

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Spring is finally here and with it comes many opportunities to enjoy all the season has to offer. Here is our list of favorite kid-approved springtime activities to get you up and moving whether you’re enjoying April showers or May flowers.

Spring in the Great Outdoors
1) Make the ground your canvas – Grab a bucket of chalk and head for the sidewalk. This creative activity is perfect for everyone—toddlers to grandparents! It’s also a great way to temporarily decorate the driveway or stoop for spring.
2) Take a nature walk – Slip on your walking shoes and head out of doors for a taste of spring in all her natural glory. Be on the lookout for spring flowers, nesting birds, bumblebees and butterflies in the garden, rainbows in the sky, and four-leaf clovers in the grass. Nature walks are a fabulous way to spend time together as a family, learn about the beautiful world around you, and improve everyone’s powers of attention and observation.
3) Visit the local farmers’ market – A trip to your local farmers’ market brings the freshest, yummiest produce around right to your reusable shopping bags. Support your local farmers and experience the joys of food and community. It’s healthy all around!
Spring in the Kitchen
1) Fix a spring dinner of salmon, new peas, and baby potatoes – Cooking seasonal, fresh foods helps you make the most of their nutrients and your grocery budget.
2) Enjoy some strawberries – Spring is berry season, and there’s nothing better than a juicy, sweet berry in season. Toss them in a spinach or fruit salad or just munch ‘em whole as a snack. Vitamin C and other antioxidants put a spring in your step.
3) Roast asparagus – The closer your asparagus is to the garden, the better it will be, in all ways. And roasting it is a sure way to bring out its sweetness without losing the crunch. Yum!
An Old-Fashioned Spring
1) Fly a kite – Kite flying is another great activity that can include just about the entire family. Look for a good open space on a nice, breezy day. Try your hand at homemade kites for a day of old-fashioned fun.
2) Plant a garden – The best way to celebrate spring is with dirt under your nails and sweat on your brow. Whether you prefer vegetables or violets, planting a garden is a good way to ensure plenty of time in the outdoors moving and investing in time in overall health—mentally and physically. It can also teach children responsibility and stewardship, as plants need weeding, pruning, watering, harvesting, and other care.
3) Visit a pond – Duck pond, lake, reservoir—it really doesn’t matter, but spring is the best time to visit. Baby ducks and geese, the peeping of newly hatched frogs, song birds and dragonflies flitting about, and perhaps even tadpoles and minnows to watch along the shoreline make these seemingly simple bodies of water wondrous eco systems for all to explore (treading lightly). Make an underwater viewer from a milk carton and a piece of plastic wrap. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Soggy Springtime
1) Rainy Day Out – Put on your slicker and boots and head out for a walk the next time a gentle rain starts falling. Jump in puddles, dance in the rain, catch raindrops on your tongue. Don’t let days of endless soggy springtime weather keep you cooped up inside, or from taking your daily walks. Walk in the rain, for your health, for the heck of it, for the sheer delight it can bring.
2) Rainy Day In – Play board games. Plan a marathon of Oscar-winning films. Have an afternoon tea. Spend time reading stories aloud. Put come classical music on. Turn it off and listen to the rain on the roof, on the windows, on the pavement outside. Play dress up, or put on a play for family members (don’t forget to record it for grandpa and grandma). Making the most of rainy days helps every family member learn that there is no such thing as boredom. Each day is what you make of it.
Springtime is the perfect time for spending time with your family. Enjoy the season!

Spring in the Great Outdoors

  1. Make the ground your canvas – Grab a bucket of chalk and head for the sidewalk. This creative activity is perfect for everyone—toddlers to grandparents! It’s also a great way to temporarily decorate the driveway or stoop for spring.
  2. Take a nature walk – Slip on your walking shoes and head out of doors for a taste of spring in all her natural glory. Be on the lookout for spring flowers, nesting birds, bumblebees and butterflies in the garden, rainbows in the sky, and four-leaf clovers in the grass. Nature walks are a fabulous way to spend time together as a family, learn about the beautiful world around you, and improve everyone’s powers of attention and observation.
  3. Visit the local farmers’ market – A trip to your local farmers’ market brings the freshest, yummiest produce around right to your reusable shopping bags. Support your local farmers and experience the joys of food and community. It’s healthy all around!

Spring in the Kitchen

  1. Fix a spring dinner of salmon, new peas, and baby potatoes - Cooking seasonal, fresh foods helps you make the most of their nutrients and your grocery budget.
  2. Enjoy some strawberries - Spring is berry season, and there’s nothing better than a juicy, sweet berry in season. Toss them in a spinach or fruit salad or just munch ‘em whole as a snack. Vitamin C and other antioxidants put a spring in your step.
  3. Roast asparagus – The closer your asparagus is to the garden, the better it will be, in all ways. And roasting it is a sure way to bring out its sweetness without losing the crunch. Yum!

An Old-Fashioned Spring

  1. Fly a kite – Kite flying is another great activity that can include just about the entire family. Look for a good open space on a nice, breezy day. Try your hand at homemade kites for a day of old-fashioned fun.
  2. Plant a garden – The best way to celebrate spring is with dirt under your nails and sweat on your brow. Whether you prefer vegetables or violets, planting a garden is a good way to ensure plenty of time in the outdoors moving and investing in time in overall health—mentally and physically. It can also teach children responsibility and stewardship, as plants need weeding, pruning, watering, harvesting, and other care.
  3. Visit a pond – Duck pond, lake, reservoir—it really doesn’t matter, but spring is the best time to visit. Baby ducks and geese, the peeping of newly hatched frogs, song birds and dragonflies flitting about, and perhaps even tadpoles and minnows to watch along the shoreline make these seemingly simple bodies of water wondrous eco systems for all to explore (treading lightly). Make an underwater viewer from a milk carton and a piece of plastic wrap. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

Soggy Springtime

  1. Rainy Day Out – Put on your slicker and boots and head out for a walk the next time a gentle rain starts falling. Jump in puddles, dance in the rain, catch raindrops on your tongue. Don’t let days of endless soggy springtime weather keep you cooped up inside, or from taking your daily walks. Walk in the rain, for your health, for the heck of it, for the sheer delight it can bring.
  2. Rainy Day In – Play board games. Plan a marathon of Oscar-winning films. Have an afternoon tea. Spend time reading stories aloud. Put come classical music on. Turn it off and listen to the rain on the roof, on the windows, on the pavement outside. Play dress up, or put on a play for family members (don’t forget to record it for grandpa and grandma). Making the most of rainy days helps every family member learn that there is no such thing as boredom. Each day is what you make of it.

Springtime is the perfect time for spending time with your family. Enjoy the season!