It seems safe to assume that winter weather finally has left us behind.
Winter habits when it comes to kids? That’s another matter.
Before much longer, almost all parents – not just those with kids in college – will hear the familiar summertime refrain: “I’m bored.” They’ll also ponder how to help get their children away from the television or video screen when an often bright world outside their doors beckons from all corners of Western New York.
How can you get them moving? Let us count some of the ways – but first, let us embrace why it’s important.
“When a child keeps on moving, they’re developing their brains as well as their bodies,” said Alexia Buono, a doctoral student who works with toddlers and preschoolers in the University at Buffalo Early Childhood Research Center. “It’s kind of this full body development that’s occurring.”
The center in recent weeks prepared its children for summer by teaching them yoga and creative movement.
For families looking to gear up in other ways, here are some ideas to beat the summertime boredom blues:
1. Move your feet
A brisk walk can be as healthy as a run, recent research suggests. “As little as seven or eight minutes a session can be considered beneficial to your health, with the idea of accumulating 30 minutes a day,” said Philip L. Haberstro, executive director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.
Looking for a fun family walk this summer that takes you away from your familiar neighborhood but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Consider starting your trek on Goat Island at Niagara Falls State Park. Head north along Prospect Point to the Rainbow Bridge, cross the bridge to Canada – it only costs 50 cents per person – head south to Table Rock in Niagara Falls, Ont., then back. You can soak in the view and the mist along the way. (Remember your passports or other border documents.) Other prospects include the Bird Island Pier, which crawls under the Peace Bridge, the Ellicott Creek Trailway in Amherst and Panama Rocks in the Southern Tier.
An Erie County parks walking series also is an option. The nonprofit Wellness Institute and county Department of Health will host the park walks, which start today at the Chestnut Ridge Park Casino in Orchard Park. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and walks set out at 9:40. Other walks take place the same time May 31 at Akron Falls Park Cummings Lodge; June 7 at Emery Park Field House; June 14 at Sprague Brook Park Casino; June 21 at Como Lake Park; and June 28 at Isleview Park Casino.
Find family regional hiking opportunities at wnyhikes.com and a state park campsite at nysparks.com/camping. One camping prospect for later this month: the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage May 30-31 at Allegany State Park. The weekend includes birding, nature walks, tent programs and more. To register or for more info, visit alleganynaturepilgrimage.com.
2. Spin your wheels
Some of the favorite hiking trails in the region are also great for bikers, said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo, the region’s nonprofit bicycling advocacy group.
“Biking means time together as a family,” Booth said. “It’s a healthy behavior that’s great to instill in kids. It’s one of those positive activities, and gives kids an opportunity to experience a neighborhood in a different way.”
GObike Buffalo helped pave the way in recent years for more bike racks on Buffalo sidewalks and bike lanes on city streets, including stretches of Delaware, Fillmore, Porter and South Park avenues. This will make it easier this summer to pedal to places that include the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, the city skate park and the Martin Luther King Jr. Park splash pad.
On Friday, GObike and the city also announced plans to connect Canalside and the Outer Harbor by trail before next summer. The group’s website, GObikeBuffalo.org, includes a calendar of bike-related special events and safety tips. Parks & Trails New York has a list of bike trails in the region at ptny.org.
To see a fairly complete list of running and bike races, along with other physical activities in the region, and beyond, visit active.com and type “Buffalo, NY” into the top search box.
3. Move on the water
The waters across the region play host to a variety of healthy outdoor fun, including at Beaver Island, and Niagara Falls and Lake Erie state parks (see a complete list of regional state parks at nysparks.com).
This also looks like an ideal summer to learn how to kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard.
“On the weekends already, we’re seeing a lot more families coming out,” said Christine Baer, owner of Paths, Peaks & Paddles. The business, along Ellicott Creek in the Town of Tonawanda, touts several paddling events for families throughout the summer, including this weekend. For more info, visit pathspeakspaddles.com.
The Buffalo waterfront also promises to be a big draw this summer. Buffalo Harbor Kayak this weekend will launch another season on the east end of Canalside,and cruises will operate out of downtown’s burgeoning tourist attraction. For more info, visit canalsidebuffalo.com.
The Outer Harbor will flex some new muscle designed to draw families. Wilkeson Pointe Park, one of a string of waterfront parks in the Old First Ward, will celebrate its first full season. City of Light Fitness has moved its stand-up paddleboarding business out to Seven Seas Sailing Center, which is offering a kids sailing camp and other activities. See sailing.buffalo.com for details. And WNY Adaptive Water Sports – which makes water sports available to everyone, including those with disabilities – looks to make a splash at Seven Seas.
“We do sailing, fishing, kayaking, scuba and water skiing,” said Tom Nowak, president of the nonprofit Great Lakes Water Sport Institute. “We reach out to disadvantaged youth who may never get the opportunity any other way, and both youth and adults with developmental and/or physical disabilities.” Learn more at wnyadaptivewatersports.org.
4. Move your mind
The region abounds in summer activities designed to combine fun and education, and key players aren’t waiting for the end of the school year to pitch their ideas.
The Explore & More Children’s Museum in East Aurora will start from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, with its fifth annual Touch-A-Truck. Families are welcome to get a closer look and feel of 40 construction trucks, emergency vehicles and more, including a limousine, Zamboni and trolley in the museum parking lot. The cost is $5 per person. Read more on the museum’s summer itinerary at exploreandmore.org .
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Museum of Science hosts the Mummies of the World exhibit, and boasts a new Bite Size Science Kitchen Lab. The hands-on kitchen focuses on the science of food production and value of healthy foods. Workshops this month and in June are geared toward children and teens. Register at sciencebuff.org.
Another fun upcoming stop: Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart, 3366 Union Road, at Walden Avenue, in Cheektowaga, where an Estes Model Rocket Children’s Workshop takes place next Saturday. See niagarahobby.com for more info.
On the Web: Learn more about creative child movement at video.buffalonews.com
Related stories: See tips for choosing the right summer camp. Page 10