As the weather gets warmer and days grow longer, the playground buzzes with talk of summer break. While kids might be excited for school-free days, the start of summer can be anxiety-inducing for parents. Many worry about how they will keep their children off electronic devices and get them outside. After all, physical activity is essential for a child’s health and development.
While playing outdoors is important, planning an entire summer’s worth of activities can feel overwhelming. To help you get started, consider the following ideas.
1. Use Tech to Your Advantage
From video games to texting with friends, kids love tech. Depriving them of something they enjoy can make playing outdoors feel like a punishment. So why not use technology to make playing outside more fun?
Tools like smartwatches for kids make it easy for children to take technology outside and encourage them to keep moving. Interactive apps like Pokémon Go make the outdoors feel like an adventure, rewarding them for exploring the neighborhood. By letting your kids bring technology outside, you’re meeting them halfway, enticing them to exercise more.
2. Start a Garden
Looking for an activity that fosters your child’s love for the outdoors and encourages a healthy diet? Then gardening may be perfect for your family. Having your kids dig in the dirt does two important things for their health. It gets them outside, and it helps them develop an enthusiasm for fresh produce. They’ll soon see that tomatoes taste better when you grow them yourself!
If you don’t have a big backyard, that doesn’t mean you can’t take part. There are many ways to grow food outside without a large garden plot. For small backyards, consider using a raised garden bed. If you live in a condo or apartment, your balcony can be a lovely place for an urban farm. Simply get a few pots that can accommodate smaller plants and herbs like peppers and basil.
3. Sign Them Up for Summer Camp
Sometimes getting away from home is exactly what kids need to prompt their excitement for the outdoors. Summer camp lets kids make friends and connect with nature in new ways. While most parents remember their days at summer camp fondly, many are nervous that their child won’t have fun. By picking the right camp, parents can ensure they choose a program their kids will enjoy.
First off, you need to decide whether your child will go to a day camp or a sleepaway camp. Sleepaway camps can help children develop independence, but they might not be a great option for younger kids. If you have young children or children with specific health needs, consider a day camp instead.
Next, think about what your child likes to do. Perhaps your kid’s a soccer fanatic, or maybe they prefer more individual pursuits. From team sports to horseback riding to hiking, camps offer a variety of activities that can spark your child’s interest.
4. Adopt a Dog
If your kids have been begging for a furry friend, consider adopting a dog this summer. A 2010 U.K. study found that children who had dogs recorded more daily movement than children without them. This comes as no surprise, since a healthy dog requires daily walks and exercise.
While dog ownership can be extremely rewarding, it’s also a huge responsibility. Before bringing home a canine companion, talk through the decision with your family. If everyone agrees that it’s a good idea, discuss which responsibilities each family member will shoulder. This will ensure your pup integrates into its new pack as smoothly as possible.
5. Plan a Scavenger Hunt
From thunderstorms to extreme heat, occasional bad summer weather is inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean the kids have to sit in front of a screen all day. Instead, put together an interactive indoor activity, like a scavenger hunt. Indoor scavenger hunts are easy to plan and don’t require many supplies, making them a great activity for busy parents.
To create a scavenger hunt, write a list of items on a piece of paper. Next, have your kids search the house for them, checking each of the items off the list as they find them. If you have older children, try writing riddles or clues instead of stating outright the objects they’re seeking. This adds a level of complexity that can make the game more fun.
6. Be a Role Model
It’s no secret that children’s brains are like a sponge. Whatever they see their parents do, they’re likely to repeat it. This concept also applies to staying active. A recent study found that young children are more likely to be physically active if they have physically active parents. So if you want your kids to get off the couch this summer, lead by example and move more.
If you’ve been inactive, exercising can feel overwhelming. A good place to start is with activities you and your family enjoy. This can be as simple as a walk to the park or a game of catch. You don’t need to be a CrossFit junkie to encourage your kids to move. You just need to show them physical activity is something your family values.
Daily exercise is essential for your children’s mental and physical development. With a few simple hacks, you can keep your kids off the computer and on the go all summer long.
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