THE GORGEOUS DAYS OF SUMMER ARE HERE, so put away the video games, get your kids off the couch and get them outside! Easier said than done, right? Just try to keep the activities exciting, engaging their minds and their busy bodies at the same time. Here are 10 fun ideas to help you get your kids outside this summer.

1. Grab a swimsuit, some sunblock and a hat and go to one of Calgary’s outdoor pools. Check out calgaryarea.com for outdoor pool listings. Just make sure that the sunscreen you use on the kids is waterproof, and that they stay well-hydrated to prevent heat exhaustion.

2. Cycling is also fantastic; it allows kids to be active while having a blast.
Calgary’s many bike paths make great options, but the many paved and unpaved ones in Kananaskis offer a bit more of a challenge, and much more to look at. Crossing the path of a deer (or five!) isn’t out of the ordinary, and there are several great spots to stop and have lunch, or dip your feet in a chilly creek.

3. Explore the bike and walking paths that Calgary’s many parks have to offer.

There’s an adventure around every corner! While you’re out, stop by one of your favorite ice cream shops or refreshment stands. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch and bring the puppies – they like to walk too! Just be sure to bring Spot a supply of water so he can stay cool too.

4. While you’re at it, why not make a difference?

There are a ton of great volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. Try planting trees, picking up trash or working with animals; visit volunteercalgary.ab.ca for openings. Volunteering is an awesome way for kids to spend their time as it gives them a sense of responsibility and satisfaction to know that they are helping out.

5. Take advantage of the beautiful mountains we live so close to and go hiking! A great spot for families with kids of any age: Grassi Lakes trail in Canmore (near the Nordic Centre). It is a medium difficulty hike with some amazing viewpoints, beautiful varieties of birds and a stunning array of wildflowers. At the end of the hike, there are two breathtaking turquoise lakes and some perfect spots to sit down and have lunch.

6. Plant a garden! It’s a good way for kids to get their hands dirty and be a part of something beautiful. It also will require a lot of attention, love and care (sort of like a pet, but without the cleanup!), and it’ll provide the kids with a tangible result. If you don’t have a yard, or a spot for a garden, grab some pots and put them on a patio or windowsill.

7. Go for a picnic in the park! Pack up a cooler with the following: some sandwiches, cut up fruits and veggies, juice, water and a yummy treat (like homemade cupcakes – yummm…). Bring a nice big blanket, an umbrella (and some SPF!), a ball or Frisbee and you’re set! Pick a park near home, or another city park (Riley Park is a favorite!), or even head out of town for the day.

8. Next time you go for a walk with your child, try playing Nature Bingo. Make bingo cards with different things the kids can look for in the various bingo squares. If your child gets a bingo line, have a prize ready for them – but just something simple like some stickers or a cool pencil.

9. Try painting a picture plein air. Plein air painting (painting outside, on location) is not as common as it used to be, but it’s a fun way for kids to really absorb their surroundings while being creative. Water color paints are probably the least messy, but if you don’t mind a bit of work, acrylics are the most fun, as it allows kids more flexibility to make their own colors; also, they’re quite a bit more vivid than water colors.

10. If your family craves a little more adventure, rent a raft (at the U of C Outdoor Centre) and go for a float down the Bow. For more rapids, check out one of the many adventure companies based in Banff or Canmore (see raftbanff.com and canmoreraftingcentre.com). Most of the trips here in Alberta are suitable for virtually any age, and the rapids provide just enough excitement without being terrifying! As a bonus, most trips provide a meal/snack and partial transportation.

Of course, Alberta weather is unpredictable at best, so going outside is not always an option. When you can’t go out, bring the outdoors in. In your living room or den, set up sleeping bags, or even a tent if you’re up to it. Use flashlights instead of regular lights, keep the TV and radio off and make some s’mores in the microwave. It can be the perfect camping experience without the damp mornings, bugs and weather dependency.