The following healthy activities all have some things in common: they are nature-based, active and good for the mind, body and spirit!

Here are some of my favorite things to do with my children in Southwest Florida.

Eat right. Food & Thought is an organic general store, grocery and café in Naples. You will receive a welcome, family vibe with the best outdoor courtyard dining in town. At Food & Thought, there are no strangers, only friends who have yet to meet! The food and lifestyle and garden shop is “militant vegan”, so you can shop in peace. There are healthy snacks, smoothies and meals to delight everyone’s tastes.

Get Outside. Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the CREW Trust Bird Rookery Swamp. The Audubon Sanctuary is one of our nations great conservation successes. An oasis of 14,000 acres and protected 500 year old pristine wilderness and North America’s largest old growth Bald Cypress trees. Walk the 2.25 mile boardwalk to see owls, otters, alligators, raptors, wading birds and more. You might get lucky and see a bear or a panther at The Bird Rookery, as well! I have seen gators, turtles and snakes. Bird Rookery is land that has been restored and maintained. There are eleven miles of wide trails for walking, biking and photo ops for your family.

Human-powered water sports. I am admittedly biased on this one. We love Stand Up Paddle boarding as a family-friendly activity and have paddled local waters for more than three years. Wellfit Institute specializes in paddle board yoga, private parties and unique group and family adventures. There are many places to rent boards in SWFL. Know the waters, basic safety and technique and laws before heading out with little ones.

Ride Bikes! Teach your kids to ride their bikes and go places with them. There are urban and rural trails that can suit most any skill level. Bird Rookery has some nice trail riding, as does the Fakahatchee Strand and Collier-Seminole Bike and Hike Trail. Naples Pathway Coalition is a local non-profit that advocates for a safe network of biking and walking in Naples. Bike Walk Lee is doing similar work in Lee County.

Fun Runs and Kids Triathlons. There are many local organized running races that have a shorter fun run for kids! Get your kids involved and bring them on race day. Encourage them to walk or run the shorter distance or train with you to run their own race. Make fitness a family affair! Fort Myers Track Club and Gulf Coast Runners are great local organizations to contact for more details on getting your family running.

Play, Learn and Dream. The Golisano’s Children’s Museum of Naples is the first green museum in Collier County. Its mission is to provide a healthy, exciting environment for families to play, learn and dream together. With 30,000 square feet, your children will certainly burn off some energy! While you’re there, you can walk, run or bike around North Collier Regional Park trails.

Serve others. Discuss your favorite causes as a family and set aside some time to get involved. Helping serve at a soup kitchen, cleaning up the beaches and volunteering at fundraising events and races are just a few ideas! Investing in your local community is a healthy message to teach your children. It also feels good to give!

Beach walks, shelling and picnics. Some of the best things to do in Southwest Florida are free. Take time to pack a healthy, homemade lunch, head to the beach with a cooler and an umbrella and follow your children’s lead for a day of play at the beach. Repeat often.

Try yoga. Yoga is another opportunity to make fitness and wellness part of a family lifestyle. Bala Vinyasa Yoga in Naples offers children’s, tweens and teen classes at the same time adult classes are offered so you can all go together. The Naples Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to be outside. They have a children’s garden and offer yoga in season on Sundays.

Protect our environment. “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” –Baba Dioum, African Conservationist. Visit nearby State Parks, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Preserve. Take the naturalist tours, read the interpretive information and understand how precious our natural lands are so we raise children inspired to protect and care for what we have!

Published by Jill Wheeler

Jill Wheeler is a professional counselor, leadership consultant, writer, yoga instructor, adventurer and athlete who specializes in creating transformational and empowerment experiences for individuals, groups and communities.