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For this family of 4, physical activity is a good thing that’s made even better when done together

Maria Shawback is a single, working mother with three kids — Garen, age 11, Ellia, age 9, and Roen, age 7. It would be easy to be overwhelmed by such a brood. But instead of heading for the couch after work, Maria makes getting out and playing every day the rule, rather than the exception for her family.

“It's very important to me that we do SOME kind of physical activity every day, preferably outside. I work and make it a point to get outside during my lunch break, and the kids have recess at school, but I want to be doing something outside, together, as a family,” Maria explained. “We're on the go most of the time, which helps us sleep better at night, for sure!”

To encourage family outings, Maria has figured out a way to make sure her kids have the right gear without breaking the bank. “We have an assortment of gear and things for our outdoor activities, but it doesn't necessarily have to be spendy. I've picked things up at thrift stores, at garage sales, and gotten them as hand-me-downs from friends,” she said. “I want my kids to feel comfortable outside, to know the right tools for the right activities, and to WANT to be outside and active, too!”

All of Maria’s kids are on gear bikes now, which make their bike rides longer and more fun and she’s making sure they’re self-sufficient. “The kids and I all went to a basic bike maintenance class so we could get an idea of what to do if something wasn't right,” she pointed out.

At night, we do good thing/bad thing as a brief recap of the day's events,
and more often the “good thing” is some physical activity we all got to do together.
And that is a good thing!

Maria Shawback

Another new family activity is geocaching, a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game in which players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices. According to Maria, geocaching is a great destination activity for the kids where “they get to hike AND find cool things!”

It’s a good thing Maria’s family is active. All of her children are participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge at Kasuun School in Anchorage. Maria shared other ideas with us. Here in her own words is her list for keeping her family enthusiastic about playing in Alaska’s great outdoors, even when it’s cold and dark:

“We have headlamps for the winter when it's dark at 4:30.
We have secondhand skis to ski around the field and the neighboring parks.
We have two sets of snow gear for when one gets sopping wet in the spring snow.
You can never have enough sleds.
We've had picnics in the snow.
We love our parks and rec department who hosts ‘Family Skate Day’ and other fun events (that's our fav, though).
We walk to friend's houses if we're going to visit (or ride our bikes, if it's summer).
We LOVE Alaska beaches.
I don't know HOW many hours of rock-skipping contests we've had!

And my kids know my rule: If it's sunny, you have to be outside!

“At night, we do good thing/bad thing as a brief recap of the day's events, and more often the ‘good thing’ is some physical activity we all got to do together. And that is a good thing!” said Maria.