School’s a distant thought during summertime…don’t let your child’s health be! Memories of summertime often involve family vacation, days at the pool, playing outside, reading inside and just plain exploring. But for too many kids, with the allure of video games and on-demand tv shows, those active days are a thing of the past.
When the final school bell rings, kids face risk of becoming inactive, eating poorly and suffering learning loss that can set them back developmentally and academically. The YMCA of Austin has some tips for you and your kids to make the summertime as enriching as the school year.
Staying Physically Active
Play Early— Nix the morning TV/video game ritual and plan outdoor activities in the early hours of the day when the sun and heat are less of a factor.
Break at Noon– Plan your lunch breaks close to noon and keep a regular nutrition and hydration schedule. Summer treats like ice cream and popsicles are okay as an occasional indulgence, but make water, fruit, and other nourishing natural foods your go-to choice on a daily basis.
Family Hikes –Load up the backpack with snacks and water and explore the Hill Country, parks, and watering holes in the surrounding areas such as Krause Springs, Enchanted Rock or the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Day Camps – Summer is a perfect time to explore new interests and cultivate existing passions. And for working parents, day camp is often a must in coordinating around busy schedules. Fortunately, hundreds of area organizations offer camps in every category imaginable. For example, the YMCA of Austin is offering 22 camps across Travis, Hays, and Bastrop Counties, including Kinder, Theme, Sports, and Adventure camps. All camps offer swimming, field trips, games, crafts, and character development activities and are open to kids ages 4-16. Parents can get more details or register their kids by calling (512) 236-YMCA or visiting www.AustinYMCA.org.
Neighborhood Fun – Sometimes the best summer days are those spent running amok with neighborhood friends. Having your child check in with you regularly and putting out signs notifying drivers of children in the area will reduce your stress level and ensure a safe-haven for your kids and their friends to play.
Pool Days – Pack plenty of SPF 30+ sunscreen, water, and toys for the days at the pool. Safety is a priority when it comes to water, so don’t allow your child to swim unless there is a lifeguard on duty, and always keep an eye on them even when lifeguards are present. For kids still learning to swim, the YMCA of Austin offers lessons for all ages and all skill levels, and financial assistance is available. Details are available at www.AustinYMCA.org.
Field Trips–School field trips are nowhere near as much fun as family field trips. Visit that waterpark or amusement park the kids have been dying to visit, or plan a day trip to a nearby town such as Wimberley or Bastrop, or visit a historical site like the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City.
Keeping Sharp Mentally
Read – Don’t let your child fall behind academically. Set aside20-30 minutes every day to enrich the mind and broaden vocabulary with a good book perhaps from the school reading list. The Austin Public Library offers a great summer reading program along with a full schedule of events. Find more details at library.austintexas.gov/.
Yoga and Stretching – Start the day with some post-breakfast bonding time. Keep your muscles limber so you can keep up with the kids in a game of one-on-one. Whether they play sports or not, it’s beneficial for children to keep their muscles engaged and flexible at an early age to prevent injury during their active lives.
Build indoor forts – No need to spend money; you already have all the materials needed: sheets, blankets, chairs, and pillows. Make a fort as big or as small as you want and live inside letting the imagination run wild. With the rainy El Nino summer upon us, this is a particularly good activity on stormy days.
Fun Chores (Fores) – Summer can be a great time to teach responsibility. And one practice that will set summer apart for kids is the list of chores that parents create for each day. Instead of delegating each member of the family to do separate chores, you can even turn chores into a game you can all do together. Race to see how fast you can get the house cleaned. Or else give a specific chore to a child and have them become an “expert” and teach the others, then rotate assignments.
Beneficial Projects – Thinking of others is a proven pathway to happiness and a philanthropic mindset. Help your kids plan and create a service project that they can enjoy every step of the way. Challenge your kids to build a club house in the back yard or help them organize a group activity with friends. Once it’s completed, everyone will benefit.
As parents, we have to remember that kids “follow the leader,” so it’s up to us to create a pathway for their success and set the right examples. When we do that, our kids will grow up healthy and happy.
Photos and article provided by YMCA of Austin.