Summer is just around the corner, which means that kids will be out of school. It’s tempting for kids to want to hide out watching the TV, playing video games, and texting all day. Since summer vacations are typically 10-12 weeks long, it’s important to resist this temptation and to keep kids both mentally and physically engaged in various activities during this time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, which should include aerobic and muscle strengthening activities. Here are some ideas of ways to keep children active in the summer time:
- Sign them up for local recreational sport programs. Many community centers, schools, and recreational facilities offer summer programs for kids. The community swim team or baseball organization can keep kids moving their muscles while also enabling them to interact with their peers.
- Go for a walk, hike, jog, or bike ride with you child. Scheduling these activities in the early morning or evening – outside of adult work hours – allows for cooler outdoor exercise temperatures. To get you started, here is a link for some recommended hikes in the Austin area.
- Check out the local swimming pool to beat the heat. Wading, swimming, diving, or playing classic favorite games like ‘Marco Polo’ can get both kids and the rest of the family moving. This link describes some fun games for the pool. How many have you played?
- The park allows for a variety of games and sports to be played for free! Many parks have Par Courses or individual pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. Or simply use some grassy space to throw a ball, play tag, or to do some yoga or stretching moves. This article describes a variety of outdoor games that could be fun to try with your family or another group.
Even when kids are completing the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity each day, that leaves plenty of time to spare. Here are some ideas to keep your child’s electronic usage to a minimum for the other hours of the day:
- Set a maximum amount of ‘screen time’ for each 24-hour period. Screen time may include TV, social media, video games, and/or apps on a phone.
- Make reading a daily habit. The local libraries offer summer book clubs and publish suggested summer reading lists for different age groups. Your child’s school has also likely put together a recommended summer reading list. Try having each family member read the same book and then discuss it over dinner when you’re through. Here is a link to the Austin Public Library book club options. The local Austin bookseller, Book People, offers this summer reading list. Or click here for the Austin Independent School District’s 2016 Summer Reading selections.
- Use time spent in front of the TV or computer screen to your advantage. Try to show educational programs such as National Geographic, Animal Planet, and selections from the Discovery Channel. Or check out this list of educational websites and apps for kids.
- Commit to learning a new skill. Kids love to cook and bake. Simple sewing projects are another option that can teach useful skills or create fun crafts. Local retail stores are sometimes a resource for free or low-cost activities that get kids involved in useful projects. Here are some options from the Chop Chop Cooking Club, Joann’s, and the Home Depot.
We hope that you and your family are looking forward to lots of summer fun!