Most schools are officially out for summer break and that means the kids are free. No homework, no test, no bedtime, no alarm to wake up to – almost no responsibilities and nothing to do all day, every day for the next three or so months.
As a parent, you are now tasked to figure out summer plans for your child. While summer school is an option for some, it only lasts a few weeks and then you are stuck with figuring out what to do with your child during the day once it’s over. Whether you have to have a nanny or babysitter or you can stay at home with your kid, there are plenty of ways to keep them active and their minds engaged while they aren’t sitting at their desk.
The CDC recommends that children do three types of physical activity: aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening activity and bone-strengthening activity. Aerobic activity should be moderate to vigorous in intensity and should make up the majority of your child’s physical activity each day. Then, at least three days a week should be dedicated to muscle or bone-strengthening exercises. These exercises can consist of gymnastics, jumping rope or running.
If your child is not yet of elementary school age, then an hour of normal play time should be considered their exercise for the day. Since it is play and not a structured fitness activity stick with doing things like going for a long walk or hike in a park, riding a bike or playing on playground equipment at the park. Once they grow up, slowly begin incorporating more technical activities like rock climbing that not only make their bodies work harder, but their minds.
Another great way to make exercising something your child wants to do when they are off school for the summer is to offer rewards for hitting certain milestones. Perhaps if they ride their bike or go for a walk with mom or dad or the babysitter every day for a week they get to choose what to eat for dinner one night or spend a day with a friend. The key is to make exercising enjoyable and entertaining to do, it shouldn’t feel like a chore.
If going to the gym is a regular part of your routine as a parent, why not bring your mini-me with you for a few sweat sessions? Most gyms are kid-friendly and going to the gym together can be a great time to bond and learn together.
Getting into the habit of going to the gym with your child shows them how important it is to focus on their physical fitness. Children will be more likely to keep their health a priority and go to the gym when they are older because they saw mom or dad going. Going to the gym will also help your child develop basic athletic skills and help increase self-esteem by working out around other people.
If you choose to take your child to the gym, teach them exercise and how to stay safe around equipment. Establishing rules like never using a piece of equipment alone can go a long way in helping prevent accidental injury.
Although some sports are seasonal, summer is usually the time when you can find a local team for your kiddo to play on, whether it be softball, baseball, tee-ball, soccer or something else outdoors. These are all fun activities that will not only allow your child to play with others his or her age, but learn how to commit to something.
Group sports can have many dynamics with them, but for the most part they consist of practices and game nights. As a parent, you can bond even more with your child by offering to coach their sports team. It’s a plus if the group sport you or your child chooses to play is something you played as a kid and enjoyed because again, you want to encourage your child to be active but make it fun and feel like play.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle for your children is important so that they develop health habits at a young age. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), exercise can help children do better in school, improve their behavior in the classroom and beyond and they are more likely to stay active as young adults. However, before you begin any type of exercise program for the summer be sure you talk with your child’s physician to figure out if it is going to be safe and effective.
Be sure to keep up with your regular exercise even during the summer months. Focusing on your fitness during summer along with your child’s can also help you stay on track with your own fitness goals too.