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5 great almost-sports for the semi-athletic family

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Be the ball, Danny … 

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter, Viva, who loves rocking her hot pink soccer cleats, but wouldn’t play soccer if you paid her.

Between the brutality of Chicago winters, the stagnifying force of post-industrial civilization and the atrophying power of aging, you’re probably finding yourself moving less and less. Sitting, texting, decaying — you’re rapidly lignifying into the tree trunk your child will inevitably cut down to build a boat out of and sail away. As for those children of yours, they may be decaying right along with you. Some children are more athletic than others, and the information age has created even more “indoor children” than had existed previously. Perhaps your child, too, would rather Minecraft than Park District? It’s summertime, and you are doing yourselves a disservice if you don’t get out, move those limbs, and stew in your own perspiration. If full-out sporting isn’t for you, here are five sort-of sports that will still get the blood pressure up and let you bond with your child over something that doesn’t involve screens.

Mini Golf

Golf is like a sport if you consider walking a sport. Actually, you ride in a little car, so it’s more like Go-Karting, except really slow. So, it’s more like baseball — if the ball just sat there before you hit it. Maybe it’s like basketball, if no one were defending the basket. There you go, golf is slowly riding to a non-moving ball and hitting it into an unguarded hole. Your non-athletic kid would love this, except golf courses aren’t really a place for kids — they’re more a place for aging affluent people in moisture-wicking polos. Luckily there is mini-golf! An even less intense novelty form of golf dripping with mid-century kitsch. Instead of business deals, there are fiberglass clown heads. Instead of cocktails in the clubhouse, there are bomb pops in the arcade. Pictured above is my daughter, Viva, at the reasonably-priced Skokie Park District Adventure Golf course on Oakton Street in Skokie, where kids can climb all over tunnels and slides while you work on your short game — which is nice. You can find more courses in and around the city here!

Paintball

Paintball is less like playing a sport and more like hunting a human for sport. The minimum age at Dundee’s Paintball Explosion is 10, but your ten-year-old is going to love the apocalyptic setting and thrilling faux-combat. And if re-enacting Red Dawn with blobs of pigment isn’t your thing, Santa’s Village AZoosment Park is literally adjacent to the arena.

Laser tag

If your child is too young for Paintball, Dundee is too far or the whole affair is a little too intense for your sensibilities — or if it’s raining — there’s always Laser tag. (Including at Paintball Explosion.) Less “Red Dawn” and more “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future,” Laser tag is a great ability leveler for a family of mixed sport prowess and mixed ages that still makes the heart race. It is a space-flavored, black-lit good time, and if you’re feeling down on your physical ability, scoring points by raining down pretend destruction on a six-year-old’s birthday party will help you build confidence. There are a lot of great places to play, but my daughter and I recently got our space combat on at Play and Spin in Niles.

Go-Karts

It may seem counterintuitive to drive your very fast, full-sized car somewhere to pay money to drive a smaller, slower car, but go-karting is, nonetheless, extremely fun. It also allows you to live out all your fantasies of being a Shriner in a parade (minus throwing candy). Be advised that there’s go-karting and there’s go-karting: If you’ve got a wee child, you might want to stick with the fairly slow, parent-driven carts somewhere like Play and Spin, but if your child is over four feet tall, there’s high speed racing for thrill seekers at places like Addison’s K1 Speed Center. 

Zip lining

Here’s a fantastic outdoor activity that make you feel like Indiana Jones whilst secretly enjoying the safety of a foolproof harness. Head into the trees to climb and zipline — an activity that gives you a feeling of accomplishment even though it borders on being a ride. For Father’s Day I discussed adventure activities and included Go Ape in Western Springs, which has both a junior and a more grown-up option based on height. Put on some bug spray and give this a shot at your earliest opportunity. 

You and your kids might not quite be jocks, but you’ll get exercise and thrills, and embrace your latent physicality through some of the pseudo-sports above. Now put down that iPad and get out there. 

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