Summertime Activities to Get Kids Moving
The vision of children spending summer break splashing in the lake or playing outdoors for hours seems to have been replaced by a more common scene: school-aged kids lounging in air conditioning and glued to a screen for much of their vacation. Of course, staying active over the summer isn't just a nostalgic ideal. It's important for your child's overall health. Plus, by encouraging a mix of high-energy exercise, games, and family outings, you can keep kids active while avoiding the "I'm bored" moaning and groaning. Try these creative ideas to get your child moving.
Host the "Moderate- to Vigorous- Intensity Physical Exercise Olympics"
Well, hopefully you can come up with a better name for your event, but you get the idea: Help your child plan an Olympic-style competition for the neighborhood kids, and get them all moving more.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children ages 6 to 17 partake in moderate or vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. These activities should incorporate aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-building elements. You can integrate activities that meet those goals while hosting your own fun competition. You'll need to set up a space for the athletes and provide necessary equipment (and healthy snacks), but you can leave the bulk of the planning to the kids while suggesting activities such as:
- Bicycle races
- Running, potato sack, or three-legged races
- Hula hoop competitions
- Jumping rope
- Rope or tree climbing
- Basketball (or a sink-the-shot competition)
If sports aren't your child's thing, turn your end-of-summer event into a dance competition, neighborhood treasure hunt, or silly obstacle course with physical challenges such as carrying buckets of water or crawling through a tunnel.
Teach Traditional Backyard Games
From hopscotch to Man Hunt, search your memory for the games you played when you were your child's age, and teach him the rules. You can also search for online videos and tutorials of classic outdoor games such as:
- Freeze Tag
- Sprinkler Tag
- Capture the Flag
- Red Light, Green Light
- Red Rover
- Four Square Ball
Enjoy Family Outings
Not all activity needs to raise your child's heart rate in order to be beneficial. Those that keep kids in constant motion, even at low intensity, can also boost health. Combine those outings with quality family time and you double the payoff.
Keep each activity simple and make it feel spontaneous (even if you've been planning it for weeks) and you'll entice reluctant teens and tweens to join in, too.
Consider these simple outings:
- Pick-your-own farms. You may only be a short ride away from a farm where a wealth of fresh, healthy produce can be picked by the public. Depending on your region, look for in-season summer favorites including: blueberries, cantaloupe,cherries,corn, lettuce,peaches, strawberries, watermelon,zucchini,blackberries,cucumbers, green beans, raspberries, summer squash, and tomatoes.
- Gardening. You don't have to have your own garden or even a yard. Many neighborhoods sponsor community gardens where kids and parents can volunteer to pull weeds, water flowers, and provide general maintenance.
- Running chores. A trip to the grocery store may seem dull, but you can make it interesting by leaving the car behind and inviting your child to help you. Walk or bike around town to do simple chores, allowing time to explore new neighborhoods and venture off the planned path.
"Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. n.d. Web. June 201, 2012. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/
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