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As a new year begins, so do countless New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight, completing a degree, quitting an unhealthy habit and reducing household debt may be on several resolution lists. However, those are mainly geared toward adults. This year make a family resolution. Make a resolution to spend more time together doing healthy activities.

Get physical 

According to the Center for Disease Control, children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Whereas many fitness classes are set up for either adults or kids, check your local gyms, schools, and fitness centers to see if there is a pool. If so, find out the open swim times. Family swim time is an easy activity. Plus, you’ll get in a few laps together while burning some serious calories.

The YMCA of Metro Milwaukee facilities have family gym time. That is a time specifically set aside just for families to do various activities, including football, Frisbee, hula hooping and basketball. Additionally, children 13 years and older can participate in group classes with adults. There are also family-centered volunteer opportunities ranging from coaching a children’s sports team to garbage cleanup.

Get cooking

Ditch the fast food lines and over-processed foods. Sign up for a cooking class. It can be a fulfilling experience for both the mind and body.

Sur La Table in Bayshore Town Center in Glendale has cooking classes throughout the year, including family fun classes. Resident Chef Michael Solovey says the response has been great. “The kids are leading the parents. They are very involved.  Kids are so inquisitive and they want to know about this stuff.”

In his classes Solovey aims to foster an environment where participants can explore and understand the science of cooking. At Sur La Table families can also choose to have a private class where they can create their own cooking event. In that case, families will have a consultation with the chef, where the goal is to bridge the chef world with the reality of the family’s home life. Solovey hopes to inspire families to learn and grow together, and to get back to food being the hearthstone of the family.

Get wild

Animals and the outdoors make for an exciting combination. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when visiting a zoo.

Jennifer Diliberti-Shea, public relations coordinator for the Milwaukee County Zoo, says that 20 years of exit surveys show that the number one reason people visit the zoo is to spend time with their families. The zoo is a destination where families can get away from typical distractions. And Diliberti-Shea adds that generations spend time there. So as people grow up they bring their kids and their grandchildren back to the zoo.

The Milwaukee County Zoo boasts 200 acres of parkland in a serene, wooded setting, making it feel like you’re isolated from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The perimeter of the zoo is just over one mile of nicely paved walkways that include hills and straightaways, so by walking the grounds families can get lots of steps in. Families with younger children will appreciate the playground as well ­­­­­as the education stations throughout the grounds for hands-on learning.

Maybe your family has a full schedule, and you are unsure of what day to head to the zoo. No problem as it’s open 365 days a year! And over the course of a year, there are 20 special events as well six Family Free Days where all visitors get free admission.

Get outside

Rebecca P. Cohen is the author of "15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids" and the children’s series "PJ’s Backyard Adventures." She believes the benefits of outdoor family time include family connection and bonding. She says, “You’re going to love it, or have a story to tell. Families are good at being real. When people are grumpy, after a few minutes outside a fight can turn into an hour long walk.”

Cohen explains that getting the family outdoors can seem like a hurdle, and you have to consciously make the time for it. At any moment there is something that can get in the way, and you have to look for ways to fit that time into your schedule. It’s important to model the healthy choices you want your children to make. Try to make a practice of saying “yes” when children ask if you’ll join them for outdoor fun.

Need help motivating the kids to head outdoors? Cohen suggests having “outdoor props” in place. Conveniently place a soccer ball, Lacrosse stick or sidewalk chalk near the door as an unspoken invitation to get outdoors.

If you’re looking for an extensive list of outdoor activities, check out Cohen’s "50 Outdoor Activities for Busy Families" list on her website at beoutsideandgrow.com.

Get together at home

Choose a night to stay home, but make it true family time.

  • Make it a rule that everyone has to stay off electronic devices and participate in the fun.
  • Choose a theme. For example, you could choose to all wear summer gear to inspire warmth and fun. 
  • Put together a menu. Fruit and veggie kabobs are a good choice for the summer theme. 
  • Head to the store (together of course) to get all the necessary items.
  • Cook dinner together while dancing to fun music.
  • After eating, play a card game, an interactive Wii game or Twister. 

It’s safe to assume that most people believe that doing things as a family is important. But how often do we actually practice it? Choosing to take part in activities that engage the whole family could be a fun and healthy New Year’s resolution. Regardless of where families do it, it’s just important that they do it. That New Year’s resolution may turn out to be the best gift you ever gave your family.

Julie Davidson is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Her writing has been featured in Metroparent, mommymdguides.com, smoothmommydj.com and milwaukeemoms.com. She recently released her first book, "From Conception to Confusion."

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