Summer represents a time of freedom for children. School’s out, their responsibilities are few, and they have more opportunities to do the things they love, which can include playing video games, watching television, and snacking incessantly. If you’re concerned about the unintended consequences of all this freedom and bliss, check out this list of tactics you can use to keep your kids healthy and fit.
Stay on the Move
Image via Flickr by MoBikeFed
Summer is an ideal time for kids to get outside and get moving. Encourage exercise by planning a family outing on bicycles, going for a walk together, or hiking in a scenic area. If your family has a competitive streak, set up a friendly game of badminton, basketball, or croquet. Other simple, inexpensive outdoor activities include hopscotch, freeze tag, or hide-and-seek.
Another fun idea is to buy each family member a pedometer. Create a weekly contest to see who walks the most, and award a small prize. Then, offer a larger gift for whoever has the most steps at the end of the summer. This an excellent way for kids and adults to monitor and increase their physical activity.
Prepare Healthy Food and Drinks
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Whip up fun and nutritious summer meals with your children. As you prepare the food, explain to your kids why certain ingredients are healthy, and how the nutrients in the food helps their bodies. For example, you can tell them dairy products have a lot of calcium, which helps bones grow and makes them strong. Teaching your children about different foods and their benefits helps them appreciate the importance of making healthy choices.
Because there are a lot of delicious fruits in season, summer is an ideal time for making smoothies. Use plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and a no-sugar-added fruit juice. Then, blend in the fruit of your choice. Your children will enjoy dropping in the fruit and watching it liquefy. They’ll appreciate drinking this delicious, healthy snack since they helped make it.
Due to the heat, summer is a time when kids need access to cool water. Central water filtration systems remove the unpleasant taste and smell of chlorine from tap water, making it taste better. If your kids haven’t been big water drinkers in the past, using one of these systems could enhance the taste and make tap water more appealing to your kids.
Incorporate Physical Activity Into Vacation
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Many families go on vacation during the summer. Wherever you go, incorporate physical activity into your itinerary. Walking around a theme park, playing volleyball or tossing a Frisbee on the beach, and swimming in the ocean, lake, or pool are all excellent vacation activities that involve physical exertion.
Be proactive in planning healthy meals. One effective strategy is to pack a cooler of healthy snacks when you go on a road trip. This reduces the chance you’ll buy unhealthy food along the way.
Enforce Bed Time
Even if you make bed time a bit later than it is during the school year, try to keep your children on a regular sleeping schedule. They’ll be less cranky and will feel better. They’ll also have more energy to engage in physical activity during the day.
Group Activities for the Whole Family
Instead of having your kids doing individual activities all over town, let the whole family take karate or tae kwon do. Other fun group activities that promote fitness include 5k races, aerobics classes, and "mommy and me" swimming lessons.
Take Safety Precautions
Image via Flickr by John Tann
An important part of keeping kids healthy is protecting them from injury. Ensure that when your kids engage in a physical activity, they wear the appropriate size and type of safety gear. Tell your kids that helmets and pads for biking and skateboarding are mandatory. Going swimming means applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that’s also water-resistant, and re-applying it at the recommended intervals.
If your kids are going to play in a wooded area or a field with tall grass, use a mosquito repellent that’s approved for use on children. Be sure to check your kids for ticks after they come inside.
Share some of your favorite strategies for ensuring your children stay active and eat nutritious food during the summer.