When we think of summer, we often picture the lazy days of our childhood where we played with friends, watched television, or laid in the grass watching the clouds. In today’s world, our children have even more options for the “lazy” aspect of summer. With video games, social media, television, and other entertainment options available to them, children can easily relax the summer days away. With all these entertainment choices, however, children’s physical activity may take a nosedive during the summer break. How can we ensure our children’s need for physical activity is met during those long summer days? Luckily, the summer months provide almost endless opportunities for ways to stay active while having fun.
The Challenge of Keeping Children Active
Although we all know that children need to stay physically active, the lack of structure and organized activities during the summer sometimes means that lying on the couch becomes the norm for children’s summer days. Studies that assess children’s summer activities back this up. One study found that children’s physical activity dropped by 53 percent during the summer months. This lack of activity can, of course, have significant health implications. With less physical activity, children are at risk of gaining weight or becoming obese. Research indicates that children’s body mass index tends to increase over the summer. This puts children at risk of other health problems such as diabetes or poor cardiovascular health. In addition to physical health, staying active helps support children’s mental health as well. Children who are consistently physically active are at a lower risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Plus, being active may even help children focus and concentrate better when school starts up again.
Ideas for a Fun and Active Summer
With warmer weather and a wide variety of outdoor activities available, helping children stay active is a bit easier during the summer. For many parents who work outside the home, keeping track of their child’s physical activity can be challenging. One approach is to set up clear expectations and structure for children’s daily activities. For example, most health providers suggest that children need at least one hour of physical activity per day (usually more). With this guideline in mind, parents can provide a list of options for children’s physically active time. Additionally, limiting children’s screen time can also help foster more active play during the day. Here are a few fun and easy ideas to keep children active:
Toys or Spaces that Foster Activity: There’s no need to purchase a lot of extra toys or items for summertime fun. Many of the items you probably have around your home can foster physical activity in children. Toys like balls, kites, jump ropes, or hula hoops all encourage children to play in fun and active ways. Keep items like these out and available for children to use when the whim strikes them.
Look around your area or neighborhood to find any local parks, playgrounds, ponds, or nature trails. All these outdoor spaces can be great places for children to gather with peers and burn off some energy. Depending on your child’s age and knowledge of the area, they might be able to explore your neighborhood on a bike or scooter.
Water Play: The summer opens up countless water play opportunities. These provide an extra fun way for children to stay active. Children can play with water balloons, run through sprinklers, play games with water-soaked sponges and, of course, go swimming. Water play can be especially enjoyable for young children, for whom it is a novel experience. They can not only have fun but learn about the interesting properties of water. Pouring, splashing, and floating will help keep them active and cool during the summer.
Adventures with Friends: One of the most enjoyable aspects of summer for many children is the free time to play with friends. Without the constraints of school or many structured activities, children have the freedom to explore with friends. Depending on your area or neighborhood, children may be able to meet up with friends at each other’s houses or at a park or community center. Older children, especially, often find many more active pursuits to try when they are with friends than when they are alone. With peers, children might be able to ride bikes, go skateboarding, explore nature, or simply go for a walk to a nearby market or shopping area. With the encouragement of friends, children might even try new activities like sports or active hobbies like hiking or fishing.
Outdoor Stewardship: The term “outdoor stewardship” might sound intimidating, but it really is not. Many children have a strong sense of purpose when it comes to caring for our planet. The summer can be a perfect time to put that passion into action. One obvious way to do this is through gardening. Gardening is not only a wonderful physical activity for children, but it offers them a way to contribute to the well-being of the earth and the nature environment. Even if your family does not have a large outdoor space, a simple garden can be set up using pots on a windowsill or patio. Children love checking their plants to see how much they have grown.
In addition to gardening, outdoor stewardship can also include clearing up litter in parks or nature trails, recycling, or composting. All these active pursuits help children learn about the nature world in a hands-on way.
Plan for an Active and Fun Summer
Encouraging children to put aside their electronic devices and enjoy being physically active doesn’t have to feel like a chore during the summer. With a wide variety of activities to choose from, children have the chance to pursue many different interests while being active and staying fit. You can help your child stay healthy this summer by making physical activity a family priority.
Preview Blurb: Are you worried that your child will spend the lazy days of summer on the couch watching television or playing video games? While we all know it’s important for children to stay physically active during the summer, it can be challenging to keep them motivated. Read on to find fun, engaging ways to encourage children to stay physically fit this summer.
The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagn