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Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy During Summer

Posted 4/29/2015 by UHBlog

Are you concerned about your child’s weight? The specialized team at Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight can help.

Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy During Summer

Summer. For kids, it means a long break from school and homework. For parents, it can create stress over how to keep your kids from spending the next two months sitting in front of a computer or TV screen.

Try these tips to make sure your child gets her dose of daily physical activity:

Embrace Technology – Technology isn’t going away, so why not embrace it, says Darryl Knight, MS, an exercise physiologist and program coordinator for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight program.

His suggestions include:

  • Look for active video games that include an exercise component, like dancing or track and field games. While it's best to limit screen time year round to two hours per day, Knight says active video games don’t count against screen time – giving kids incentive to try them out.
  • Download activity tracker apps onto smartphones or tablets that encourage children to keep moving. Fitness trackers can track your child’s steps, prompt them to kick it up a notch if they’ve been inactive and provide rewards for achieving goals.

“You can’t just move away from the digital age, so try to embrace it,” Knight says.

Choose the Right Kind of Play – Parents tend to think kids are more active in the summer, when the opposite is actually true. In the summer kids aren’t in school, so they tend to sleep more and want to stay in the house. For that reason, Knight says forget about structuring your child’s day around chores that will keep them indoors.

For younger kids, you need to think about making activities game-based.

“All younger kids want to do is play," he says. "Don’t plan structured activities. They'll become bored quickly. Younger kids like running around, playing on the playground, riding a bike or running around the house.”

For older age groups, structured activities like organized sports, camps or trips to the gym for group exercise classes or a pickup basketball game are ideal.

“Older kids should get involved in some type of sports camp or have a schedule similar to school,” Knight says. “Keeping that routine will make sure they are up and moving around.”

Use Rewards and Incentives – Rewards or incentives can be incredibly motivating for kids, giving them a goal and a sense of accomplishment. A trip to the mall, a new pair of shoes or even a new video game can be all the incentive your child needs to be active during the day.

Just don’t make those rewards food-based. And remove the temptation of junk food by not bringing it into the house to prevent eating out of boredom.

Give Them Power – Be sure to involve your kids in the process of scheduling their summer – as long as it’s limited decision-making power. Ask them what they want to do so you don’t sign your kids up for an arts and crafts camp only to find out they really wanted to go to soccer camp with their friends.

“Talk to them and figure out the things they like,” Knight says. “If you provide kids with incentives, non-food related, they’re more likely to be active.”

Darryl Knight, MS, is an exercise physiologist and program coordinator of Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Knight or any other University Hospitals health care provider online.

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