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Building an active, healthy lifestyle foundation for your children

January 30, 2015 | Emily Moeschler

Healthy lifestyles start early, and they’re FUN!

  We know that eating right and getting exercise is good for our mind, body and soul, but it’s easy to forget that kids need this as much as adults.

  Children today spend a shocking amount of time looking at electronic devices.  Statistics show that kids between 2 and 8 years old spend almost 3 hours a day looking at screens – and these numbers are increasing.  Wow!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes a day of physical activity for kids AND adults.

So, how do we build an active, healthy lifestyle foundation for our kids, you ask?

Making an activity fun is the key to engaging kids and having them want to participate.  Children are naturally curious, so why not take advantage of that behavior and explore local recreation spots.

In both Colorado and California, we’re fortunate to be able to be outside the majority of the year, and hiking and biking are two fantastic activities to enjoy.  These are activities that kids of all ages and skill levels can do.

State parks allow you to explore, learn and discover and are worth investigating for hiking and biking.  With a little research beforehand, you can learn about distances, conditions and facilities in order to plan for the best experience for your family’s needs and skills.

If you’re in Colorado . . .

Visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife site to search for state parks, activities and resources.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Denver’s Cherry Creek State Park offers 12 miles of paved trails and 35 miles of multi-use trails for bikers to enjoy.  Easy, rolling terrain awaits hikers on more than 15 trails.  You’ll forget how close to the city you are courtesy of the natural prairie environment.

While no bikes are allowed in Roxborough’s own Roxborough State Park, 14 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging are waiting for you to conquer.  Incredible views, dramatic red-rock formations, and wildlife will delight kids of all ages.

Golden is home to beautiful Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which offers more than 19 miles of multi-use trails for biking and 35 miles of hiking trails.  Whether you’re hiking or biking, the scenery is gorgeous.  Panorama Point offers spectacular views of the Continental Divide and 4 Colorado 14ers.

Outside of Boulder in Eldorado Springs is the hidden gem of Eldorado Canyon State Park.  Trails of varying difficulty are waiting for both hikers and bikers to discover.  Spend the day gazing at sandstone cliffs or wandering by the South Boulder Creek . . . and making memories!

If you’re in California . . .

The California Department of Parks and Recreation site helps you find local parks, plan your day and inspire you to get outdoors.  A few suggestions are:

Año Nuevo State Park in Pescadero is an elephant seal breeding colony and protects those animals as well as otters, California sea lions, and more.  Year-round viewing, as well as hiking trails for all abilities, makes for an exciting family adventure!  No bikes are allowed though.

Just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, more than 50 miles of hiking and biking trails in Mount Tamalpais State Park connect to a larger 200-mile long trail system.  Visitors enjoy stunning redwood groves and oak woodlands, as well as breathtaking views of San Francisco and the bay, Marin County hills, and Mount Diablo to name a few, from Mount Tamalpais.

Awesome hiking and biking trails are found at Mount Diablo State Park in Clayton.  If natural wildlife, fossils, large sandstone formations and small caves sound interesting, you’ve got your choice!  The overlooks, observation deck and summits are bound to capture your spirit.

Nestled in a canyon in La Honda, you’ll find 18 miles of hiking trails through redwoods, firs and live oaks in gorgeous Portola Redwoods State Park.  This natural basin is known for being quiet, and no bikes are allowed.  Take the Old Tree Trail and find peace, as well as a 1200-year old redwood at the end of your hike.

No matter where you decide to go, come up with activities that are fun to do together.  Encourage your kids to learn and try new things, and remember that you’re building a framework for a lifetime of healthy habits.  Sometimes, we all need a reminder that healthy lifestyles lead to fun experiences, improved health and better moods – and, when your family gets involved, quality time spent together.

Watch for our upcoming “Tips & tricks for getting your family outdoors” post!  Learn how to pack a backpack, what to include, how to make hiking fun for children, and outdoor games for kids of all ages.

Summer camp contributes to a healthy lifestyle, learn about our day camps and overnight camps.

About the Author: Lynne Marsala Basche spent most of her career on the island of Manhattan at two New York publishing companies.  A multi-year Avid4 Adventure mom and a new contributor to the Avid4 Adventure website, Lynne’s writing adventures also take her to championing volunteerism and regional recreation stories as a staff writer for the Castle Pines Connection newspaper, as well as supporting separate large corporate communications programs.  By trying to keep pace with her mountain biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, lacrosse playing, unicycling, tae kwon do-loving 11-year old son, she, like most Avid4 parents, loves sharing the value of outdoor recreation and its positive influence on children’s health and confidence development.  Lynne lives in Castle Pines, Colorado and regularly immerses herself in outdoor activities with her family where she also runs her freelance writing company, Blue Spruce Creative

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