Help Your Kids Be Active This Summer
Summer is a favorite time of year for many children. There’s no school to keep them from doing what it is they really want to do. This probably includes sleeping in late, staying up late, playing on their phones and computers, and doing whatever they want. You may have to help your kids be active this summer. Whether they like it or not.
That’s right. You’re Mom or Dad. Destroyer of plans for a completely lazy summer in front of the computer and television screens. Evil laugh needed here.
Not all kids want to laze around the house all summer, but it’s easy for that to happen. They have so much more time to watch favorite shows and play favorite games that they don’t really think about what else they could be doing. That’s where planning for the summer comes in.
Make sure you involve your kids appropriately in your plans for their summer. The older they are, the more effort they should be putting into figuring these things out. You want summer activities to be fun for the kids without running you completely ragged.
1. Turn Off The TV And Computer
This is the easiest way to get the kids doing something more than watching TV or playing on the computer. Tell them it’s time for the machines to be off. Include any relevant laptop or handheld electronic devices.
Tell them to find something else to do. You don’t have to order them outside – I personally have no problem with my kids deciding to go read a book when I say “screens off,” so long as they’re still spending enough other time being active or doing things.
There are some exceptions even when it’s time for screens to be off. If they’re working on a project and need instructions from a video, they can turn that on. They just need to keep doing the project rather than simply staring at a screen.
Time away from screens is a great way to encourage your kids to be creative. While there are ways to be creative in front of a computer (just look at all the things kids make in Minecraft and similar games), doing things away from the computer will help them think in other ways.
2. Enroll Them In Activities They Enjoy
Not all activities have to be organized team sports. Let’s face it, that doesn’t suit everyone. My kids have tried a variety of sports, but currently aren’t doing any of them.
However, enrolling the kids in activities helps them to find what really interests them. It’s hard to know what you like to do if you’ve never actually tried it. It’s a big help in getting kids to be active during the summer.
It takes time out of your day to take kids to activities when they’re too young to get themselves places, but it’s worth it. You’re helping them to develop interests that they may keep for a lifetime or drop in a couple of months. Either way, you’re helping your kids figure out what they love to do.
The hard part is when kids want to drop an activity part way through when you’ve paid for the whole thing. You have to think about how you’re going to deal with that. Is it acceptable to you?
Sometimes it should be. Sometimes it shouldn’t. Pay attention to the situation and decide which way it should go. Is the better lesson to push on despite problems or is it to find something your child truly loves?
For us, swimming lessons are a must each and every summer, at least until the kids are sufficiently competent swimmers. Relatives have pools even though we don’t, as do various friends. I want my kids as safe as possible when they’re swimming anywhere. If you can afford swimming lessons in your area, I highly recommend them.
If you don’t have the budget to do much, don’t worry! Most areas have a variety of free or cheap activities families can do over the summer. You can even help your kids come up with ideas for things to learn or do yourself.
3. Where Are The Neighborhood Kids?
My kids love to play with the neighborhood kids. They run out just about every day to see who’s free to play. I won’t tell you how often the answer is “no one.” It gets kind of depressing at times.
It’s wonderful for kids to have friends all around the neighborhood to play with. Get to know the families in your area. See who is willing to have your kids over or send theirs over to you. Agree that playtime is not TV time.
Playing with other kids is great for social development. I don’t worry too much about if play with neighborhood kids is active or sitting around playing with toys or just talking. It leans toward active so far, but a big point of it is that the kids are interacting with each other.
The great part about getting to know the neighborhood kids is that it means they’re all safer to play out front, where they can have more space to roam. So many parents have exaggerated fears of kidnapping, but a group of kids is safer than a solitary child out playing… and that solitary child is very safe in most areas.
Judge by where you live, of course, as some places are less safe than others. But don’t let the media tell you to be afraid to let your kids do things you probably did yourself and that were mostly safe. It’s amazingly good for their confidence to do things without adults hovering.
Of course, if their friends aren’t in the neighborhood, you may need to make plans with other parents to get the kids together. That’s good too.
Not sure about letting your kids go out on their own? Try reading books such as Free Range Kids or Last Child In The Woods. Kids need the independence many of us took for granted during our own childhoods.
4. Be Active Yourself
If all you do is sit in front of a screen all day, why should your kids be any different? Get active yourself and involve the kids. Go on family walks and hikes. Kick or throw a ball around. Play tag.
Not only is this setting a great example for the kids, but it’s a good break for you. If you work at home, you need time away from your work. It refreshes your mind and may help you to be more productive.
Besides, so many of us mope about wanting to be more active. Get your kids expecting you to play with them and you won’t have much of a choice.
One of the things we do is exercise after sunset as a family. When daytime temperatures break 100 degrees F, it’s no fun exercising during the day, as our equipment is set up in the nice, hot garage. Wait until the sun has set, however, and it’s much easier to get everyone moving, including yourself.
5. Plan Family Fun In The Evenings
I’ve said it before. It’s too hot to be active during summer during the day. This is why my family loves planning activities during summer nights and evenings. It’s a lot more fun that way.
Look into what’s available at night in your area, as well as things your family can do on your own. Camp in your own backyard if you have the space, barbeque, or even just roast marshmallows. You don’t have to spend a lot to make it fun.
One thing I will say is keep it safe and keep it legal. There aren’t many illegal things you’re likely to do as a family at night, but I live in an area where fireworks are illegal. This means nothing to many people, and fireworks are shot off by individuals throughout the summer. If you enjoy setting fireworks off as a family, make sure you do so in a place where it’s legal and that you know how to use them safely. You don’t want anyone in your family injured, and you certainly don’t want to start a fire.