Minimize screen time and maximize active fun this season.
The weather is so nice this time of year, it seems it would be easy to have active kids during summer break, but that is not always the case. As the temperatures rise, sometimes it is easier to just stay in the air-conditioned house in front of a television, computer or video game.
But a day of sitting in front of a screen is not healthy for kids. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of screen time.
So what to do all day? Get moving! I recommend that my patients and their families spend at least an hour a day getting sweaty! Unfortunately, a majority of kids do not get this much-needed exercise. I say much-needed because as little as 30 minutes a day can boost brain function and improve cardiovascular health. It also decreases the risk of obesity and diabetes. This is a very important hour in the day, and it is up to parents to ensure their kids stay active.
Here are four ways to have physically and mentally active kids:
1. Play with your children.
As parents, we have to model the behavior we want our kids to have. That means getting out and moving with them when we can. It isn’t enough to tell them to “go play.” This family time together is priceless and will help create active kids. Dust off those bikes, go for a hike or play ball in the backyard.
2. Summer camps virtually guarantee active kids.
We are fortunate in the Nashville area to have numerous choices, so if this is an option for your family, go for it! (Note: While it’s possible to find some open spots at Nashville-area day camps in early summer, most programs register participants in the spring. If there’s a camp your child wants to attend next summer, be sure to mark your calendar next spring to figure out which camps are best for your child.)
3. Parks and pools offer plenty of fun for children.
The Nashville area boasts many public parks, hiking and biking trails and places to play in the water. If you want to stay home, invest in a Slip ‘N Slide. Get out early or late in the day to avoid the heat and sun – don’t forget to apply your sunscreen and drink plenty of water!
4. Libraries typically offer free summer activities.
Children can sign up for a summer reading program or just take regular trips to the library for books. The Nashville Public Library system runs free activities and programs for families all summer. It’s also a source for e-books, books on CDs, movies and music.
Many of these ideas require some planning. If you don’t, it is way too easy to fall back on just lying around the house all day. Research and write down on a calendar when things are happening around town, or make a summer “bucket list.” Fill in the gaps with the pool, park or backyard. It is work, but worth it. It will help you avoid the “I’m bored!” refrain that drives us parents crazy.
As a working mom, I understand the time restraints on families, but I suspect we can all find an hour to unplug and play with our kids. Take a walk or shoot basketball with your child. Or just watch him do those things. If you had an exhausting day, tell your child and let him know that you would love to just sit outside and watch him shoot basketball or see how fast he can run.
No matter their age, children enjoy our attention. Have a safe and active summer!
This post was written by Tara Huss, a general pediatrician with the University Pediatrics practice at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks. She enjoys running with friends and running after her three boys.