Taking the Kids: First Lady Talks Summer Vacations

Q. We know the Junior Ranger program that engages and enables kids to get a kids-eye-view of the national parks has incorporated some Let's Move! activities in the national parks. Why should families include a national park in their vacation plans?

A. Our national parks are so beautiful and offer an amazing diversity of experiences. And Junior Rangers makes it extra fun for kids to visit national parks, which are already such great places for families to get active and spend time together. From hiking to biking to swimming and canoeing, our country's national parks offer a wide variety of family-friendly activities.

And if you're a military family, you can also get free passes to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

(Note: The Let's Move Outside Junior Ranger program encourages kids and their families to engage in outdoor activity that will get hearts pumping and bodies moving during visits to national parks. Kids who complete at least one physical activity in pursuit of their Junior Ranger badge receive a sticker that designates them as a Let's Move Outside Junior Ranger.)

Q. Do you have a favorite national park your family has visited?

A. We are blessed to live in a country that has so many unique national parks, and each one has so much to offer. We have gorgeous, awe-inspiring parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, which I actually went to for the very first time as first lady. It was amazing. But the thing I love to remind people is you don't have to go far to find a national park. There are national parks all around the country — some may be even in your own backyard — that are there for families to enjoy year-round.

Q. We all think vacation is a time to kick back, relax and indulge, especially when it comes to food. How can we do that and still eat healthier on vacation?

A. It's OK to indulge. I do it myself. The key is balance. I've always told my girls that if you're eating healthy 90 percent of the time, then you don't have to worry about watching what you eat on special occasions. I would also say that vacations are a great time to try something that you haven't before and expand your kids' food horizons. Maybe a local dish with ingredients from the town you're staying in, such as locally grown fruits or vegetables, or the "catch of the day." As for me, I'll have some homemade ice cream for dessert — after that bike ride.

For more ideas on where to get active on vacation, check out the Taking the Kids Very Best Family Summer Vacation Ideas and Eileen's new kid's guides to Washington, D.C., Orlando and NYC from Globe Pequot Press. You can also follow "taking the kids" on Facebook and Twitter where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

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