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story.lead_photo.caption Meredith Pinkston leaps the stream of water while doing the Sprinkler Race. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Arkansas children are experiencing summer's traditional transition to fewer academic responsibilities but, due to the pandemic, with fewer social activities to replace schoolwork. This puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of parents as we seek to keep our kids engaged and active while ensuring social distancing and safety above all else.

This week, I'll present a few tips to achieve this feat and will also introduce an activity that fits nicely into the family exercise category.

Family physical activity can be tricky, depending on the age and condition of each family member. Some kids are too young to be out in the heat, and some parents have health complications that prevent them from running around. If we assume everyone is in relatively good health, there are lots of fun summertime favorites that fit into the category of "active" while remaining safe.

The first step is finding something that everyone can do.

Neighborhood bike rides are great, as most kids older than 5 can ride alongside their parents. Biking gets everyone outdoors to enjoy some fresh air while waving to the neighbors. All in all, the neighborhood bike ride is one of my favorite family exercise options.

Fishing is another great way to enjoy the beautiful Arkansas landscape with loved ones. It might not be particularly active, but it gets everyone out of the house and aligned with the same mission. As many parents know, this is easier said than done with children of different ages.

Fishing lets you be together while taking a much-needed break from technology. It's another win-win in my book.

Once the weather really gets hot, outdoor activity can be a little more challenging. But this week's exercise easily overcomes that challenge with the use of an old favorite — the yard sprinkler. The Sprinkler Race is a fun way to stay cool, get those little hearts pumping and enjoy some family time.

1. Set up a yard sprinkler at the end of a hose (or turn on the yard sprinkler system and select one sprinkler head to use).

2. The goal is to make six "laps" back and forth from one end of the yard to the other while clearing the main sprinkler stream each time.

3. The first three laps must be cleared by jumping over the stream and the final three laps must be cleared while crawling under it.

4. Best time wins, and a 5-second penalty applies if you take a direct hit by the sprinkler stream.

5. One participant keeps the time while the other races.

I love this activity because it is impossible not to smile. No matter what age you are, running through sprinklers will never not be fun. It costs nothing. For those looking for a wholesome family activity that doesn't require a lot of setup or equipment, look no further. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

vballtop@aol.com

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