As summer weather is fading, many families consider taking advantage of the shorter lines at theme parks for one last family outing. A day at the theme park often involves miles of walking without kids or parents much noticing. What a fun way to have an active day! I have fond memories of these trips with my family – both as a child and as a dad.
Over the years I’ve learned some ways to make theme parks a more healthy (and happy) experience for the entire family. When we arrive at a park, I take the lead and figure out what is available – this includes attractions and food options. Food is especially important. We work at keeping everyone hydrated and ahead of energy drops that come from waiting too long to eat. By planning ahead we can select the healthiest food options available at the park.
I’m thrilled to see more and more bottled water, fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits, lean meat sandwiches and veggie-patty burgers offered at theme parks. After our initial discussions we take turns picking the next attraction for us all to enjoy together. This often leads to weaving our way back and forth across the park, so that we all get plenty of exercise and everyone gets to do at least some of his or her favorite things.
If there are any particularly activities that seem valuable for the body or mind, I pick them for my turn or rave about them in a way that kids will think they are cool. While waiting in lines we play games like 20 Questions or I Spy or Boticelli. If you can engage kids attention while waiting, time in line gives you a great time to connect. Finally, we don’t rush to see everything. The time together is far more important than getting in one or two additional attractions.