It’s here! It’s time for summer break, and whether that fact makes you cheer or cringe, it means you have some important choices to make. When your child goes back to school in the fall, will he or she say “I watched TV”?
With school-based organized sports on hiatus, it can be a challenge to motivate summer-vacation-mode kids to get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to fight childhood obesity, offers the following tips for encouraging kids to have active summer fun.
- Everyone in the family needs to set (and adhere to) a screen time (TV, internet, DVDs, video games, etc.) limit. Yes, parents, that means you, too. Make sure the limits you set are reasonable and set a good example by sticking to your own limit.
- Don’t use screen time to reward to punish children. Doing so can make screen time seem even more important than it really is.
- Help your children find healthy alternatives to screen time. Take them to the park, play outside with them, or help them learn a new sport.
- Don’t allow TVs or computers in your kids’ bedrooms. Children with TVs in their bedrooms watch as much as 1 ½ hours more TV than other kids.
The key according to KidsHealth.org is to help your kids find a physical activity they enjoy – anything from inline skating to bike riding, tennis, or swimming:
When kids find an activity that’s fun, they’ll do it a lot, get better at it, feel accomplished, and want to do it even more. Likewise, if they’re pushed into activities they don’t like, they’re unlikely to want to participate and will end up feeling frustrated.
So, what kinds of activities might your child enjoy this summer?
Ages 6 – 8:
KidsHealth says at this age, most kids are still mastering the fundamentals (kicking, jumping, throwing, etc.), so keep the focus on having fun. Throw a ball around, play tag, shoot some hoops, or play an informal volleyball game over a low fence. Do your best not to over-schedule; let your kids decide what activity they’d like to do.
Ages 9 – 12:
This group has typically developed a little more coordination and can easily grasp the rules of the game. Work on perfecting your kid’s free throw or the finer points of hitting a baseball. Try combining skills like catching and throwing in a fluid motion. This is also a great time to talk to kids about having fun whether they win or lose a competitive game.
Find Their Niche
Think about your child’s interests, abilities and body type. For example, if you have a high-energy kid, he or she might not have the patience for ballet, but might love something more fast-paced like soccer. If your child is small for his or her age, try baseball or an individual sport like swimming, track, or cross-country.
Whatever your child’s abilities, it’s important to recognize when he or she just isn’t enjoying an activity. When it gets frustrating and no longer fun, it might be time to try something different. It can be a challenge, but encourage your kids to see moving on to another activity as an opportunity – not admitting failure.
By keeping screen time under control and encouraging the right kinds of physical activity, you’ll be well on your way to creating some great memories your kids can share when they finally go back to school.