Family Fun on Little-Known Holidays

June 5 — National Trails Day

According to the American Hiking Society*, which created this holiday, National Trail Day exists to "bring the next generation outside and into the wonder of the natural world." It's a great day to celebrate your family and the beauty of God's creation.

Hiking with small children, however, can be challenging. Many parents find the thought daunting. The key to a successful family nature walk is to make it child-friendly, say Mark and Amy Reif, avid hikers and parents of three young children. They've been taking to the trails across the country since their oldest was still in a backpack. As early as age 2, their children have enjoyed hikes of a mile or more. "We try to make it exciting for them," the Reifs said, "like letting them play in a stream, or climb a tree. Sometimes even just looking for the color trail markers keeps the kids going."

Frequent breaks are encouraged. "We stay flexible about time," they add. "Our kids are free to stop and touch things. We let them investigate. Sometimes we just stand and listen to sounds — or hear the lack of sounds."

Combining the Reifs' wisdom with advice from the American Hiking Society, here are tips on making your family hiking experience a great one:

Be prepared — take with you plenty of water and snacks for when kids tire. If you're hiking while on vacation, look at some books in advance about the area in which you'll walk. That will help your children know what to look for. Or try bringing along a small field guide on birds or wildflowers.

Be reasonable — don't tackle too much too soon. That doesn't necessarily mean flat trails; a short climb over rocks or a stroll around a pond might be just the right length.

Be flexible — be off the clock as much as possible. Allow for distractions. Let your kids control the pace and, at times, the direction. The goal is exploration, not getting there and back in the expected time.

Be safe — keep your children in sight at all times. Trails with beautiful vistas can have dangerous drops. Also, a child can get lost very quickly if he wanders off the trail. Teach them that if they do get lost, they need to stay put until you come to them.

Ready to hit the woods? To add a creative edge, turn your time outdoors into a Scavenger Hike or Town Treasure Hunt.

Happy Trails!


June 8 — First Commercial Ice Cream

Ah, the creamy sweetness of a spoonful of ice cream. The delicious chill, the smooth glide down the throat — it's just the thing for a hot summer night. What would summer be without ice cream? It's the perfect match.

In fact, the whole of July is set aside as National Ice Cream Month. But we'll celebrate it this day, the anniversary of the first commercially made and advertised ice cream in America. In 1786, a Mr. Hall of Chatham Street in New York City put an ad in the newspaper to tell customers that he was now in the business of selling ice cream.

Not that ice cream was a new thing. Here are some highlights of ice-cream history:

  • No business like snow business: Emperor Nero in Rome has runners bring down high mountain snow to flavor with fruit juices
  • But could they make a freezer pop?: The Chinese, also inventors of fireworks, create a treat much like today's sherbet. Marco Polo brings the recipe back to Europe.
  • He had to table this idea: William Bladen, governor of Maryland, becomes the first person in America known to have served ice cream. He likes it “with the Strawberries and Milk.”
  • No wonder he needed wooden teeth: In one summer alone, George Washington runs up a $200 tab buying ice cream in New York City.
  • Writing the Declaration of Independence took less time: Thomas Jefferson makes his own recipe for ice cream, which includes 18 steps.
  • That's what it's all about: By 1900, street vendors of ice cream are called "hokey-pokey men."
  • Don't waffle, who did it? Two different men invent the ice-cream cone around 1903. Who gets credit?*
  • Hey, let's not get personal, bud: By the 1920s, soda fountains in drug stores are wildly popular, selling carbonated ice-cream drinks served by "soda jerks."

Soda jerks created their own language for the orders they'd call out. See if you can match the food with the wacky name they gave it.

Soda Jerk Term What Was Ordered
Cow juice Glass of milk
Fly cake Raisin cake
Dog biscuit Cracker
Mug of murk Coffee
Barrel of red mud Strawberry milkshake
House boat Banana split
Dog soup Water

Other words for water: chaser of "Adam's ale," "city juice" and "tin roof" (as in "on the house")

Which leads to today's activity for your family. Like many imagination exercises, this starts with a "what if" question. What if Mr. Hall had not been a New York businessman? What if instead of stopping in the big city, he went out into the wilderness to perfect his recipes?

What if his first ad was for Mountain Man Ice Cream?

Think of the strange names he would have for ice cream and toppings! On second thought, let me think of some. Use my

Mountain Man Ice-Cream Menu to get your kids to place orders for an ice-cream sundae adventure. They may have no idea what they're getting. That's the fun of it! Here's the translation, so you know what they're ordering.

Mountain Man Menu Item Actual Topping
Oil slick Chocolate syrup
Tree sap Butterscotch syrup
Beetle shells Peanuts
Boiled tree roots (sliced) Bananas
Ants Brown sprinkles (jimmies)
Coal dust Crushed chocolate cookies
Hot-spring swamp bottom Hot fudge
Cave slime Peanut butter
Sun-baked mud drops Chocoloate chips
Pebbles M&M's®
Creek foam Whipped cream
Twigs Pretzel sticks

If you don't have all these ingredients, don't worry. Just tell them you're out of that item right now. Tell them you've just sent Jed out to dig up some more. If you have something else in the fridge or cabinet that might work, just make up a "natural" name for it and hand-write it on the menu. Also, you may want to limit the number of choices your kids can make.

Have a few minutes on a hot summer night? Then dish up some family fun!