Summer is finally here. If you are a parent, that is a blessing – and a curse.
While it’s great to have your children close to home for a few months, kids get bored fast. Summer vacation can soon seem like a jail sentence for a child with a lot of energy and no place to direct it.
Fortunately, you can plan plenty of summer activities that will keep your kids happy, and boost their short- and long-term health at the same time, says Mike May, spokesperson for PHIT America, an organization focused on promoting more physical activity in American life.
“Parents need to take the lead here by getting their children physically active,” he says.
Suggesting summer activities to kids
Dipping into your past is a great way to find ideas for getting your children off the couch.
“Some of the best activities for children during the summer are ones that their parents did while they were children,” May says.
Such activities might include:
- Riding bicycles around the neighborhood
- Playing games of whiffle ball in the backyard or at a nearby park
- Swimming in a private or public pool
- Playing basketball in the driveway
- Throwing a frisbee
- Jumping rope
- Playing on playground equipment
May says one of his favorite summer activities is kickball, which appeals to both boys and girls and allows them to play together.
Whichever ventures you plan or suggest, make sure not to micromanage things. Instead, let children fully enjoy themselves without “enforcing rules and providing instruction,” May says.
Planning family fun
Families also can be active together.
“The whole family benefits when children practice their team sports with their parents,” says Ashley Hunter, founder and executive director of The Fit Kids Foundation, which promotes fitness activities for underserved children.
For example, you can play catch with a baseball or try out new soccer moves in the yard or at a park, she says.
Other family activates that promote fitness might include:
- Bike rides
- Games of tennis
- Walking in nearby city, county, state or national parks
- Swimming together at a pool, or in a lake or ocean
- Family walks, runs or hikes anywhere
In fact, any kind of physical activity is better than sitting at home watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet.
“When medical and health professionals are saying that sitting is the ‘new smoking,’ it's vital to get and remain physically active every day,” May says.
Tips to get kids moving
Of course, some children might balk at leaving the comfort of their phone, computer or TV screen. If that happens, Mom and Dad need to step in.
For example, May says children are becoming especially attached to their cellphones “from the moment they wake up until they go to bed.”
“Parents need to step up and be parents by limiting their children's access to electronic devices, which have become electronic pacifiers,” May says.
Parents also need to lead by example and to become involved with their children after work and on weekends.
Finally, children will be more likely to become active during the summer if they are exercising and engaging in physical activity during the rest of the year.
For that reason, May encourages parents to “aggressively lobby” their local schools to reinstate daily physical education classes “so their children are taught the joys and benefits of being physically active.”
Hunter also believes in the importance of getting kids active from an early age, saying such activity provides a sense of accomplishment that offers psychological and emotional benefits.
“Physical activity starting at a young age helps instill good habits and puts children on a path toward long, healthy, happy, productive lives,” she says.