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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wheels of Fortune! 10 Benefits of Biking for the Whole Family

Photo by Jonny Hunter (Flickr)

One of my co-workers loves to ride her bike, affectionately named "Wheels of Fortune," to work every day. This year, I joined her for National Bike to Work Day on May 18. My girls also decided to celebrate National Bike Month with a commitment to ride our bikes as a family at least once a week this year. I'm glad they enjoy riding and support their endeavor because cycling provides many benefits for the whole family.

Improves Cardiovascular Fitness

During our most recent family bike ride, we tackled a trail with hills. That ride was tough, but it gave us a new appreciation for how cycling improves our cardiovascular health. In fact, riding a bike can reduce our risk for developing high blood pressure by 31 percent, an important reason to ride often.

Furnishes Low-Impact Exercise

My mom suffers from arthritis in her knees and can't jog, but her doctor did suggest that she ride her bike. Cycling is a low-impact exercise that's easy on our joints and ideal for riders of any fitness level.

Develops Core Strength

Bike-riding strengthens our core and improves our balance, coordination, and flexibility. That means we reduce our risk of strains, injuries, and falls every time we cycle.

Produces a Full-Body Workout

We exercise more than our legs as we pedal a bike. Cycling works out every muscle group in our body, a good reason to take a ride every day.

Fights Obesity

Obesity affects one in three adults and one in six children. As a family, we can ride our bikes regularly and burn calories, boost our metabolism, and lower our risk of obesity.

Promotes Healthy Habits for a Lifetime

Physical fitness is important to me, and I want my girls to value staying active, too. This is one reason we ride our bikes together. Now that my girls know how to ride a bike with confidence, they can enjoy cycling and all of its benefits for the rest of their lives.

Boosts Mental Health

Sometimes, when I notice that my girls are anxious, stressed, or down in the dumps, we'll take a bike ride. Cycling regulates our mood, reduces anxiety, and gives us a mental health boost that helps us cope successfully with life.

Provides Cheap Exercise

I love that we don't need special equipment to get a workout on our bikes. We just grab our helmets and go for a ride. I even found our bikes at a yard sale, making this form of exercise even more affordable.

Reduces Vehicle Emissions

Vehicle emissions affect our lungs and damage our planet. Instead of driving to work, school, or local shops, let's ride our bikes. Cycling cuts our pollution exposure, improves our health, and helps us save money on fuel and vehicle maintenance.

Offers Fun Entertainment

The thrill of enjoying the great outdoors, spending time together, and seeing beauty around our neighborhood makes my girls and I smile. Every ride offers us a new, fun adventure.

Cycling provides families with 10 benefits that enrich our lives now and into the future. Please join us in celebrating National Bike Month all year. What's your favorite way to maximize your "wheels of fortune" and enjoy biking as a family?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, May 17, 2018

30 Quotes to Inspire You to Make the Most of Summer!

Photo by Roderick Eime (Flickr)

Daytime temperatures soared into the 90s recently weekend, a sure sign that means summer's right around the corner. My girls and I can't wait! They've already started a summer bucket list and plan to read books in our hammock, take hikes on local trails, and spend time with their friends around the pool. Their enthusiasm motivated me to find quotes that will inspire us and your family to make the most of this season.

  1. "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  2. "One benefit of summer was that each day, we had more light to read by." (Jeanette Walls)
  3. "Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you're not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don't have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out." (Deb Caletti)
  4. "One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the middle of winter." (Henry David Thoreau)
  5. "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." (Rachel Carson)
  6. "If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  7. "To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." (Helen Keller)
  8. "In the long dusks of summer, we walked the suburban streets through scents of maple and cut grass, waiting for something to happen." (Steven Millhauser)
  9. "Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August." (Jenny Han)
  10. "In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible." (Sarah Dessen)
  11. "I never before knew the full value of trees. Under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company." (Thomas Jefferson)
  12. "As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature's patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem-solving, and creativity." (Deb Matthews Hensley)
  13. "Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral." (John Burroughs)
  14. "Children learn best through their everyday experiences with the people they love and trust and when the learning is fun. And the best place for these experiences is outdoors, in the natural world." (Center for Families, Communities, Schools, and Children's Learning)
  15. "In the woods, we return to reason and faith." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  16. "A weed is no more than a flower in disguise." (James Russell Lowell)
  17. "Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." (John Lubbock)
  18. "To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, an eternity in an hour." (William Blake)
  19. "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature." (Anne Frank)
  20. "The forests are the flags of nature. They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten. It may be that sometime an immortal pine will be the flag of a united and peaceful world." (Enos A. Mills)
  21. "Children the world over have a right to a childhood filled with beauty, joy, adventure, and companionship. They will grow toward ecological literacy if the soil they are nurtured in is rich with experience, love, and good examples." (Alan Dyer)
  22. "Children have a natural affinity towards nature. Dirt, water, plants, and small animals attract and hold children's attention for hours, days, even a lifetime." (Robin C. Moore and Herb H Wong)
  23. "At these times, the things that troubled her seemed far away and unimportant: All that mattered was the hum of the bees and the chirp of birdsong, the way the sun gleamed on the edge of a blue wildflower, the distant bleat and clink of grazing goats." (Alison Croggon)
  24. "Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives." (Thomas Berry)
  25. "One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use is the gardener's own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race." (Wendell Berry)
  26. "The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration." (Claude Monet)
  27. "The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do." (Galileo)
  28. "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." (Frank Lloyd Wright)
  29. "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." (Gandhi)
  30. "Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed and as beautiful as life." (John Muir)

This summer, my girls and I plan to enjoy every day to the fullest. These 30 quotes can also inspire you to maximize your summer. What summer activities are you and your kids looking forward to the most?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spring Into Adventure! 10 Tips for Spring Hiking With Children

Photo by Loren Kerns (Flickr)

While walking to school today, my girls and I spotted dozens of flowers poking up from their winter slumber, and we heard plenty of birds chirping from the trees. These sights and sounds of spring reminded me that's it's time to plan our first hiking adventure of the season. Whether you're a first-time hiker or veteran, consider using these 10 tips that help my family as we engage in safe, fun, and frequent spring hiking with our children.

Start Small

Although my girls can tackle longer hikes now, we only took short hikes when they were young. I researched trails to make sure they weren't too hard, and I tried to pick trails with a unique feature, like a wildflower patch, stream, or rocks. With a manageable and interesting trail, my girls successfully finished each hike and felt more excited about future hikes.

Focus on the Experience

Most kids don't care if they hike 20 miles or 20 yards because they're too busy enjoying the experience. I always try to slow down, let my girls set the pace, and enjoy the experiences of the great outdoors, like the colorful plants, different insects, and unique stones.

Pack the Right Supplies

On one of our first hikes, I forgot to pack water. We were so thirsty that we had to turn around early! Now, we each carry essential supplies:

  • Map and compass
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Insulation like a jacket, hat, and gloves
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid supplies, insect repellent, and prescription medications
  • Multi-tool, knife, and scissors
  • Dry foods such as energy bars, crackers, and trail mix
  • Water, at least one liter per person per hour
  • Camera and binoculars
  • Safety whistles

Dress Properly

Wearing layers keeps you comfortable while hiking and can protect your kids from cold or wet weather. Remember to wear hiking shoes that suit the terrain, too. I also learned to always toss an extra change of clothes in the car in case we get muddy or wet on the trail.

Prioritize Safety

One of our local trails stretches through a wooded area covered with boulders, and we hear reports every year of someone falling off of the rocks. I definitely want my girls to explore as we hike, but we also have to stay safe. Teach your kids to stay on the trail, be careful when navigating rocks and creeks, not touch animals, and know how to use a safety whistle.

Understand Basic First Aid Skills

Despite your best safety precautions, your kids may accidentally fall, trip, or get poked by a thorny plant. My girls and I take a basic first aid class each year. The class reminds us to exercise "safety first" and refreshes our first aid skills so that we can treat minor injuries without disrupting our hike.

Plan Frequent Breaks

Even short hikes can wear out young kids. Plan to stop often for a snack, drink, or rest. My girls often tell me that these energy stops help them stay motivated to keep walking.

Leave No Trace

To protect the outdoors for future generations, follow the guideline of "pack it in, pack it out." My younger daughter feels passionate about protecting the environment, so she picks up litter as we hike, too. In addition to not littering, leave nature alone and resist the temptation to disturb animals or plants along the trail.

Hike Often

Frequent hikes build endurance, and I know my girls feel empowered and excited about hiking as they accomplish harder and longer adventures. As often as possible, take your kids hiking on local park, forest, and neighborhood trails.

Make it Fun

When you make hikes fun for your kids, they will want to go hiking again. We play games, sing songs, count wildflower species, identify birds, and complete a scavenger hunt that requires us to find items of different colors, textures, and sizes. These activities help the time pass quickly and make our hikes fun and engaging.

Spring into adventure with your kids when you go hiking! I suggest these 10 tips that promote safe, fun, and frequent spring hiking with children. What other hiking tips do you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart