One of the best ways to fight childhood obesity- or adult obesity, for that matter- is to encourage time outdoors. And now that school’s back in, it’s easier than ever for kids to find excuses not to go outside. There’s homework to do, friends to call, video games to play. And, as schools cut back on physical activity to concentrate more on STEAM subjects, lots of us worry about how kids are going to stay physically fit. Especially here in the Valley, where obesity and diabetes are such major topics, it’s important that we all stay moving- particularly kids who often need a little incentive to get them off the bed or sofa. Here are some ideas for getting them up and out- and for creating wholesome family memories they’ll remember fondly.
1. McAllen Nature Center has a month’s worth of standing programs, and some special ones, too. Every Monday there’s a morning program at 9:30 called nature for Kids, and every Monday evening at 6:30 kids can let off some steam at the Run in the Woods.
2. The Nature Center also offers a Youth Bird & Nature Club Saturday, September 17 at 9 am. This club, lasting 1 ½ hours, is free, and offers opportunities for parents to discover nature’s wonder along with the kids. All ages are welcome, but the program is targeted for ages 6-16. September’s program is all about butterflies. (The Valley is the country’s very best butterfly destination- did you know?) This program free.
3. Don’t forget your pet when planning outdoor activities. McAllen’s Dog Park can offer great exercise for not only your dog but also the kids. Let them play a rousing game of catch at Tamarack Avenue and North 5th Street. The park is divided into large and smaller dog sizes and there’s no charge.
4. Quinta Mazatlan has Saturday programs for children called Discovery Saturdays. Topics vary each week and include dragonflies, frogs, birds, butterflies, and alligator gar, and participants actually get hands-on experience exploring a pond with nets and seines. Cost is $3.
5. Make memories by taking the kids kayaking without leaving town. McAllen’s Fireman’s Park has low-cost kayak rentals every weekend.
6. Here’s a really cool event, targeted to the littlest nature lover. It’s a stroller-friendly nature program called Songbirds, Stories and Strollers. There’s a pause mid-program for a short children’s nature story. Held sporadically from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, it’s cooled off a bit by then and also held at the McAllen Nature Center. It’s open to all ages and free to participate. Check the website for dates.
7. Here’s a good one for staying cool- Swimming at the Municipal Pool. Classes vary depending on the age of the child or youth, so check with the Parks and Recreation Department for details. There is a cost to participate.
8. McAllen also has two splash parks- check with the Parks and Recreation Department for locations and hours.
9. For loads of more ideas, visit http://www.mcallen.net/parks-recreation/home and http://texaschildreninnature.org.