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Columbus Day

  • The theme is exploration, so pile the family into the car and head someplace you've never been. When you get there -- whether it's a small town that's new to you, a garden, playground, or museum -- make it everyone's job to learn fun facts about the place.
  • Why not explore a new food, too? Pick a theme, maybe bread, then see how many kinds the family can sample. Think pita from the Middle East, French baguettes, chapati from India, and Mexican tortillas to start.   

Thanksgiving

  • Of course you want to enjoy traditional favorites on this holiday, but bump things up a notch and replace one so-so dish with something new. Make it a healthy family activity by replacing a fattening dish with a healthier version.

Maybe retire the green beans in exchange for orange slices with cinnamon, golden raisins, and champagne vinegar. Or brighten the winter table with the most colorful salad creative minds can conjure, think strawberries, snow peas, julienned carrots, and spinach.

  • Before every major meal during the holidays plan a walk, even if it's just a casual stroll around the block. Or better yet, throw a ball or Frisbee in the park to build up appetites, then on the walk home talk about what your thankful for, focusing on your neighborhood, neighbors, family, or friends.

Winter Holidays

  • Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, there's lots of physical fun to be had during winter holidays, even when the ground is snow-covered and the air crisp. Try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding. Or play a silly round of golf in the park, using bright orange golf balls and inexpensive clubs you pick up at a thrift store.
  • Volunteer as a family to shovel the walkways of elderly neighbors, then make time for a snowball fight or two.
  • Since the New Year is on its way, plan to do something new as a family. Join the Y and take a class together -- maybe scale the climbing wall, take up kickboxing, or make a splash in the indoor pool.
  • You can also sign up for fun food-related courses at the community college, maybe learn how to bake, make Thai food, or craft your own cheeses.  

Memorial Day

  • Memorial Day is another great time for family fun with a service twist. A traditional Memorial Day act of service is to place flags on the graves of military personnel; you can boost the physical activity quotient by tidying up the cemetery during your visit. Or maybe head to your city's downtown and visit the memorials there, even tiny towns usually have one or more.

Need something a bit more upbeat? Revisit the neighborhood cleanup idea. Walk to the closest park, with one family member carrying sandwiches and drinks, while the others bring along a plastic bag with the goal of filling the bag before reaching the park.

  • Farmers markets are in full swing about now; spend a weekend day visiting one or two near you. Encourage everyone to pick out a new fruit or veggie they've never tried before. All the better if you have a theme: think pizza toppings, burrito fillings, or cool stuff to blend and make into ice pops.
  • As the days warm up, start experimenting with fun iced teas to make for when the weather's scorching. Most tea aisles have some eye-opening flavors, like coconut-mango, licorice, or chocolate mint.
  • Don't forget to forage for local fruits as they come into season, from blueberries and blackberries, to pears, plums, peaches.

It's easy to make time for family, fun, and good food all year. Let these tips get you started, then branch off with even more holidays and fun ideas of your own.