The sun is shining and the kids are enjoying their newfound freedom. It could only mean one thing—summer is here! While you might think that means your kid will be running around and playing all the time, their fitness gains can actually begin to diminish throughout the summer months. “Summer slide” doesn’t just affect your child’s academics—it can impact the 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity that they should be getting.
The challenge for parents then becomes how to keep their children engaged in physical activities in a safe and supportive environment. As you begin to plan out your child’s daily activities, take into account a few important factors:
- The time of day for the type of activity
- Ensuring supervision at all times
- Hydration during the hot summer months
- Selecting activities that are age appropriate and fun
For some kids, participating in traditional sports programs offers a fun and exciting way to stay active during the summer, but for others, finding activities that they are interested in means looking at options outside of organized sports. Stuck on where to begin? Below are some ideas to get you started.
Look for community-based summer programs that offer a variety of physical activities.
Many local organizations offer activities that can be of minimal or no cost to residents. The most popular activities offered through these programs are usually traditional sports, such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and tennis, but there are lots of other activities, too. Swimming, martial arts, geocaching, rock climbing, disc sports, fencing, horseback riding, bowling, and dancing are just a few activities to explore.
If your child is interested in a particular type of activity that is not offered by the program, feel free to meet with the program director and see if that activity can be added to their rotation. In most cases, these directors will be glad to add new activities, as it enhances their program as well. Community-based programs or camps have supervision at all times, so you know your kid is in good hands! It’s a great option for working parents, as it will likely allow them to drop off their kids in the mornings and pick them up at the end of the workday.
Play outside with friends.
Nothing beats the power of kids playing in your own backyard! Not only is it great physical activity, but the unstructured play also helps kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills. Let your kids experience creative play and make up games so that they get to explore new and innovative opportunities while having fun. Invite some friends over to join in the fun!
Parent groups can work together and take turns hosting play dates, which further promotes building social skills, confidence, problem-solving skills, and self-efficacy in kids. Parents can help set up activities like scavenger hunts around the outside of the house or walking to a local park. Kids can plan their own activities through simple tag games, rope jumping, playing Frisbee, hula hooping, or even using sidewalk chalk to play hopscotch, twister, target games, or four square. Riding bicycles, skating, and skateboarding are other fun outdoor activities.
Be active as a family.
Parents can serve as role models to their children in helping to make physical activity a lifelong habit. Get moving with the whole family so it becomes part of the daily routine. Not only will this encourage your children to maintain good health, but it also helps them see how physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, but a normal, fun part of daily life.
Try taking brisk walks around the neighborhood, in parks, hiking trails, or at the beach either in the mornings, after dinner, or on family vacations. Bicycle riding as a family, swimming, kayaking and other water sports are also fun summer activities that give you all a good workout and adds more family time into the day. For those really hot, humid days, try fun indoor family activities like skating at the local rink, bowling, active video games, or doing yoga or dance classes. Miniature golf, fishing, and gardening are other activities that families can do together that get you moving around during those hot summer days.
If not all of your family members enjoy the same activities, take turns having family members select activities. Families should set aside a specific time each day to get moving together.
Give sports and activity equipment as gifts.
Whether it’s birthdays, holidays, or reward time, equipment is a great gift for kids that’s fun and promotes physical activity. As you select age-appropriate items for your children, consider bikes, balls of various types and sizes, hula hoops, jump ropes, inline skates, skateboards, Velcro-type games, resistance bands, exercise balls, and even backyard inflatable items such as water slides, hockey rinks and other fun items. And these items don’t have to be expensive and new—try secondhand stores or local garage sales to find some of these items on the cheap. Having this type of equipment around will encourage your kids and their friends to be physically active!
Don’t forget about safety.
Although having fun is the most important factor for kids to stay physically active, parents must also look for those activities that are safe for their child. Regardless of whether the activity is indoors or outdoors, kids need adult supervision, especially when trying more challenging or complicated activities. Any program that you enroll your child in should ensure that the kids are supervised by an adult.
When kids are running around outside, don’t forget the sunscreen! And since the weather is hot and humid, hydrate frequently! Kids need to understand the importance of drinking water throughout the day, and that starts with you. Additionally, since many programs provide some time in a swimming pool during the summer, it's important to teach your child to swim! If your child is a non-swimmer, alert that camp or program director so your child is more closely monitored in the shallow end of the pool if they go into the water.
And lastly, don’t forget nutrition! Kids who are moving get hungry. Keep lots of fresh fruit, healthy snacks, and water around for those morning and afternoon snack urges.
Summertime has plenty of opportunities for fun activities that keep kids happy and moving. It’s up to parents to help them find them!