Healthy, active holidays for families

With the holiday and celebration season upon us, it’s sometimes hard to find the balance between healthy food and tempting treats. Sometimes food, activity and inactivity as our lives change with holidays, visitors and many temptations. Given the festive season, our lives may seem busy yet inactive, with lots of indulgences thrown in for good measure.

The good news is that there are plenty of easy, fun activity ideas for children of all ages, and great tips on making healthy, delicious food and snacks—and they’ll save you money as well.

Getting children active

Young children love it when adults join in with their play. This supports extended periods of play. There are many simple ways to encourage activity. Start by making enthusiastic suggestions and getting children to move around in different ways. For example: ‘Let’s walk sideways or backwards’, ‘I will hold your hand while you walk and balance on the wall’, ‘Let’s run to the yellow flowers’, ‘I am going to chase you to the front door!’, etc. Or try the following:

  • Spread out short spurts of activity throughout the day. Play ‘I Spy’ in the backyard or local park, or create a ‘treasure hunt’ using items from nature, or toys.
  • Have a ‘dance party’, playing their favourite songs and music.
  • For Christmas, gift them toys or games that involve outdoor play—swimming floats, sand buckets, ball games, quoits, etc.

Plan outings that involve being in nature together—a day at the beach, picnic in a local park, bushwalk in a national park, bike ride in a safe area. Through your local council website, find out what holiday activities are planned in your area. Here are some more links to help get your family active and outdoors:

  • Download Nature Play Australia’s brilliant app: Nature Play Passport to an Amazing Childhood. It is designed to get children aged between three and 12 years (and older) outside to run, jump, climb, splash, invent, imagine, play and be a free-range kid (and you can join in). 
  • If you live in WA, SA, ACT or Qld., visit the Nature Play website to join your nearest Nature Play partner activities.  
  • Check out this Active Travel Charter for Children, which lists 18 ways to increase children’s active travel. 
  • Families in NSW can apply for an ‘active kids voucher’ of $100 for every child enrolled in school, aged four and a half onwards. It’s to help pay for active sporting and fitness activities, registrations with teams and clubs, swimming lessons, etc. 

Healthy food and snacks

Preparing healthy food can be turned into a fun activity if you involve children in helping you make these tasty snacks. Here’s a fantastic range of ‘child friendly’ recipes, with suggestions of tasks so the children can help you cook them:

The healthiest food is also the least expensive—fresh fruit and vegetables. Instead of sugary processed snacks, artery these ideas for homemade tasty treats: Fruit kebabs; rockmelon ‘smiles’; fruit set in jelly; make an apple slinky with a vegie peeler; mini-pizzas using low fat cheese and plenty of vegetables; low fat yoghurt parfaits with fruit and muesli; spiral sandwiches; un-iced carrot cake.

On a hot day, try frozen fruit snacks instead of store-bought ice cream or cordial ice-pops. Grapes and berries can be frozen as they are, oranges can be sliced into thin wedges, and watermelon, rockmelon or honeydew can be cut into bite-sized pieces. As a treat, frozen bananas make for a great popsicle or delicious smoothie with juice or any type of milk. 

For more healthy food options, try the following:

HEALTH TIP: Make water your every day and every meal drink. Add ice cubes or frozen fruit to make it fresh and novel.

Make celebration craft together

Making things together is a great way to bond with your children and teach them your family traditions. Glitter is under the spotlight because it’s made of tiny pieces of plastic that can harm sea life when it gets into our water ways.  Here’s a great resource that explains why glitter is a problem and offers nature-safe alternatives like coloured sand, wattle and bottlebrush petals.

Here are more tips for natural alternatives to glitter.

Here are some more craft ideas across cultures: