Blog by Dr. Chambers
The end of the school year and the beginning of summer is just around the corner. That can mean only one thing in most households – the dreaded declaration every parent hates to hear will soon echo throughout every home. “I’m bored!” Children have come to equate their very existence with constant activity and excitement. The days of being satisfied with making paper dolls and mud pies are a bygone era. Today’s parent has so much to keep up with, including the provision of stimulating activities for their children that are both educational and fulfilling. In a recent article by The American Academy of Pediatrics, these startling statistics were provided:
- Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day
- Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity
- Children and teens spend more than 7 hours on their phones and other electronic devices, including computers and watching TV for entertainment purposes
- About 1 out of 3 children in the U.S. is considered obese or overweight
- Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults
Here are some ideas you can use this summer to help your child stay active and engaged.
1. Start planning early. If you’re considering a summer camp for your child, begin researching potential camps in advance. Most summer camps fill up fast. Many of them require the child to have a physical performed by their physician prior to registration. Consider whether your child would do best in a day camp or a sleepaway camp depending on your child’s ability to feel comfortable away from home for a week or more.
2. Plan some fun arts and crafts. If your child enjoys crafts, plan some fun craft sessions ahead of time. Pinterest, Etsy, Nick Jr, Disney and even Martha Stewart have creative craft ideas on their websites that you can use to keep your child occupied for hours.
3. Volunteer. Consider volunteer opportunities in your community and abroad. There are always opportunities to get involved in your community – whether at the homeless shelter, your local animal shelter, local nursing home or retirement center. You and your child can also decide to bake cakes or cookies together or have a lemonade stand with contributions donated to a worthy cause.
4. Stay active. Devote time for exercise – take walks together at the park, ride bicycles together, participate in a local 5K race, take swimming or karate lessons, play a game of pick-up basketball together, or join your local youth sport teams.
5. Fuel your active lifestyle. Summer’s downtime can lead to consumption of unhealthy snacks. Make sure your child has plenty of healthy snacks to choose from while they are home for the summer. Provide plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for when they want something to snack on between meals. Rid the pantry of sugary drinks, sodas and high calorie juices.
6. Unplug. Limit your child’s screen time during the summer. This may mean turning the TV off for several hours during the day. Limit their use of electronic devices, video games and cell phones. Devote time to conversations with your children about their aspirations for the future, their emotions and values. You can find tips for conversation starters on many websites, including verywellfamily.com and happyyouhappyfamily.com.
7. Take in the arts. Many communities have festivals and carnivals during the summer that your family can participate in. Also, consider attending your local theater for upcoming productions. If your child is interested in the theater, sign them up for acting classes or let them try out for a role in your local theater production. Take time to visit your local museum or art gallery.
These are just a few ideas you can use to make sure your child stays active during the summer. Start planning activities with your child in advance and allow them to participate in the process. You do not have to spend a lot of money to have a productive summer. It just takes planning ahead and being open to trying new ideas. The most important thing is to stay active together and enjoy time together as a family. Your children will enjoy the time spent and will treasure the memories you make together for a lifetime.
Kids and teens can find fun ways to stay active at the UT Health Olympic Centers. They offer swim lessons for all ages and a youth fitness program, GenFit, that helps kids 11-17 develop healthy lifestyle habits. Call 903-596-3233 or visit https://uthealtheasttexas.com/medical-fitness-programs to learn more.