Ah, summer: sun-kissed months of freedom for school-aged children. Summer provides all of us with beautiful weather, great friends, and so many opportunities to roam and explore. At least, those were the summers of a simpler time. Now, television, video games, texting, and Minecraft often overwhelm the call of the great outdoors. Sometimes, it’s hard to even get your kids out of the door to the backyard, and when you do, they would rather text on their iPhones than (safely) climb a tree or go for a swim.
A sluggish, inactive summer is not only physically unhealthy; it can be mentally corrosive as well. Sure, playing video games and watching television are relatively harmless activities in moderation, but it’s important to encourage our children to stay active – both in mind and body.
Here are some fun suggestions to help keep your children’s minds and bodies active this summer!
Young people are best able to retain the knowledge accumulated during their school year when their minds remain engaged throughout the summer months. A century’s worth of research shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Here are a few surefire ways to ensure learning retention:
- Make reading part of your daily routine! Take your kids to the bookstore or the library and let them choose books about topics they find interesting. Once they’ve found their favorites, set aside at least 20 minutes each day for “reading time.” Reading the same book with your child (either together or separately) and discussing it afterwards is a great way to encourage critical thinking.
- Use TV as a teaching tool! PBS, National Geographic, and Animal Planet offer entertaining, educational programming that most children really enjoy. Netflix also has a ton of documentaries on a wide range of subjects. Check your local listings or scan your queue for options. Keep you kids engaged by drawing parallels between what they’re watching and how it affects our environment, society, and relationships.
- Take advantage of the web! Learn anything. The Internet is more than just kitten videos and Buzzfeed quizzes. Websites like Khanacademy.org offer stimulating educational resources for all ages (including adults) on a variety of subjects. Hop online and discover a wealth of material that interests your child.
- Play board games! Board games are a great resource to keep your kids interacting with the world on a more tangible level. Checkers, chess, and backgammon are super fun strategy games that will encourage your children to think critically. If those are a bit advanced for your kiddos, Monopoly, Clue, and even Candy Land are stimulating games that challenge children to engage with abstract concepts in a fun way!
According to the CDC, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to keep their bodies in shape. Unfortunately, on average, children gain weight three times faster during the summer months than they do during the school year, so it’s important to keep them active to lower the risk of childhood obesity. Here are some options for keeping kids physically fit:
- California, and Marin County especially, has any number of amazing outdoor recreational activities for the whole family. Check out https://www.visitmarin.org/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/ and plan a day trip to a beach, a morning hiking, or an overnight camping excursion.
- Enroll your child in a regular summer enrichment activity, such as baseball or Tae-Kwon-Do. These activities create a degree of structure in their routine without too much rigidity. Plus, it allows for regular, planned exercise time. MarinMommies lists a number of terrific camps in our area. Check them out!
- Outdoor toys are the best. Keep a stash of balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, and other outdoor-friendly toys to make sure your child always has a way to keep active, even when they think there is nothing to do.
- Friends are great. Get the kids together with their buddies as often as possible. Keep them away from the television, the computer, and the Xbox, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they will create games that get them moving.
- Exercise together. Go for a family bike ride, walk through the neighborhood, or even take the dog for a run. Teach your kids how to swim or skateboard. Like anything else as a parent, modeling healthy behavior encourages your children to follow suit.
What are your favorite summer activities to get active and moving and that keep your mind engaged? Share them below!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, April 2). Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html
Von Hippel, P.T., Powell, B., Downey D.B., & Rowland, N. (2007). The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during summer vacation. American Journal of Public Health 97(4), 796-802.