There is a large push across our country to promote reading during the summer months. If a child stops reading when school gets out in May or June, and does not read again until school starts, they will intellectually be months behind their classmates when school starts again. This creates issues for children and teachers alike. Teachers must teach children that are in the same class, the same material, but one child is reading at a grade level lower than their classmates. It is called the “summer slide”. The summer slide is relevant not only in reading, but also physical activity.
Decreases in physical activity can lead to lethargic behavior and weight gain. During the school year, children are on a very routine physical activity schedule. Physical education classes, school sponsored sports, and after school activities help keep kids remain on a regular physical activity routine. Summer vacation eliminates those routines and can lead to sedentary behavior. The best way to keep your children active during the school year is to establish physical activity norms. Here are a few tips to keep your children active this summer.
Device and screen time should be limited. Instead of telling your children that they are not allowed to sit in front of their television, phone, or tablet, try setting a schedule when screen time is available. Some children are very attached to their devices and might struggle with the notion of not having their device in their hands at all times. As a parent, try to model this behavior as much as possible. Children are very impressionable. If they see you playing on your phone all day, they will think that this is acceptable.
Family exercise is a great way of keeping your child active. Exercising is another impressionable behavior that can have a huge impact on a child. Family hikes, bike rides, kayaking, or visiting a local playground can be a great way to spend physically active time with your children. Visiting museums, zoos, or state parks are also a great way to keep moving. Community pools are a great place for your kids to be active. Swimming is one of the best total body exercises that you can do.
Summer chores and/or yard work are great activities that benefit the entire family. For the parents its free labor, and for the kids it is a great opportunity to spend some time outside.
For those entrepreneurial kids who would rather get paid for their efforts, there are plenty of summer jobs to keep them active. Farms, construction crews, and landscaping companies are always looking for help during the busy summer season.
Unstructured play time is necessary. Even though staying on a regular schedule is important for children, they must have time to explore and make decisions on their own. Creativity and personal expression is fostered when kids have the ability to choose how to spend some of their time.
The last tip to keep you children active is very simple. Be present. Summer time is a wonderful time for parents to make up for lost family time during the school year. One extra hour of quality physical activity time spent with you children per day, adds up to almost three full days by the end of the summer. An hour might not seem like much to you, but it could mean the world to your child.