5 Healthy Summer Practices To Try as a Family
Connect with nature and one another through these relaxing family routines.
There was a time when people followed the movements of the sun and the moon to predict seasons and schedule daily activities. Before humans had a modern understanding of mathematics and predictability, we relied on natural calendars for growing food, observing ceremonies, and knowing when to be more active or go inward and rest. We were connected through intuition to something larger and outside of ourselves that included each other and nature. With a little intention and effort, families can move toward incorporating these ancient rhythms into modern life.
Each year, as we navigate the erratic spring weather in Colorado, there is a glimpse of calm, sun, and ease that summer will bring. The following practices are ways your family can connect to the season through simple activities.
Grounding with breath—a basic yoga technique—is a useful foundation for emotional regulation and adoption of a less distracted perspective of the world. To try it, find a comfortable seat inside or outside where the warmth and light from the sun can touch your body. As you inhale, allow your body to lengthen and rise in your seat, then let out your exhale with your mouth open like you just drank a refreshing glass of water. Release your hands to the side so your fingertips touch the ground or the edges of your chair. Continue to breathe while keeping the mouth closed on the exhales. With tall inhales the belly expands; keep your height through the exhale and allow your mind to relax. Do this practice for at least a minute and introduce an expression of gratitude in your mind or out loud. A very Colorado thing to say is, “I live here” as you reflect on the gift we have with this state.
Practice Basic Yoga
Play and get creative with how you and your family want to move. Invite your kids to practice a sun salutation and ask what they know about yoga poses. You and your family can create a ritual of movement with the sun to start the day. Begin with a grounded stance. Keep feet hip-width apart, face the direction of the sun, and stand tall with arms hanging long down your sides or slightly in front with palms facing down. Spread your fingers to widen your hands and feel the force of the sun on the ground you are standing on.
Set a private or family intention here. The concept of setting an intention, common in yoga, is to make the purpose of your day or activity more efficient because the entire family knows what they are working toward. Having intention urges families to make the most of an opportunity, even if the goal is as simple as having fun.
Raise your hands up high as you look up in joy; then bring your hands to the heart. As a family you can do a prayer, hug yourself, or symbolically pull anything off your chest and release it into the world by flicking your hands away from you. Personalize your ritual according to what works for all the bodies in your home.
For families on the move, ritualize the process of preparing to go out on walks and hikes. If the kids are old enough, have them plan out what your family needs to pack for longer hikes or fill water bottles for shorter walks. Empower kids to be collaborators and stakeholders in your adventures. When you are out, find time to simply listen to your environment in silence. If you return to the same spaces again and again, make observations of how the vegetation grows and changes throughout the summer.
Celebrate the Sun
If your adventures take you camping or to a cabin, plan for something around the summer solstice (June 20, the longest day of the year) so your kids can gain greater awareness of time during the summer. Observe how the sun shifts, and compare its brightness at different times of day.
As a family, we love to run outside for the sunsets. If we are taking pictures, we aim for the “golden hour” when the light is flat on the horizon and the shadows are longer. It can also mean noticing how bright the sky is in comparison to the usual time we eat dinner. If you get in a habit of going outdoors at sunset, pay attention to how light transitions throughout the season. Play with your shadows, making shadow-puppet animals, letters, and other funny shapes with your hands.
Experiment with Growth
Make a place for nature to thrive with an outdoor or indoor garden. Colorado has a wide range of growing seasons between metro Denver and mountain towns like Nederland with a 2500-plus elevation difference, but something with short maturation like micro greens or lettuces can be grown almost anywhere by even the youngest hands. Consider the many metaphors relating seeds and plants to humans and our connections as we grow.
Demonstrate with your kids how a seed unfolds with water and light—two things that also nourish us. Moisten a paper towel so it is wet but not dripping. Fold the paper towel in half and place a bean seed inside. Lay the seed and towel on a saucer; place it in a sunny spot such as a window sill, and keep it moist. In about a week, you will see the seed germinate. A small plant will poke out of the seed, and you can see the early layers of the plant in one small space. Ask your kids to draw this process so they might tap into the magic of growth that is way beyond our control.
Making children aware of this phenomena of the summer season can carry over into their lives as they grow. If awareness of the seasons becomes lost during the busy distractions that happen as we age, there will be some point when they will remember the effort you made to slow your lives down. Or, at least, they’ll have an appreciation for a terrific sunset.