The summer holidays are within us.
These could be very long, lazy holidays which are the stuff of idyllic childhood memories. While in the past those hot summers may have been taken up climbing trees, building dams and playing in the woods, or travelling, these days children on school holidays are more likely to spend their time glued to an electronic device, be it a mobile phone or an iPad or watching television.
Experts have warned that children’s physical fitness significantly drops over the course of the school holidays. In a recent study by scientists at the UK Active health charity and the University of Essex reveals pupils return to lessons in September overweight and with significantly lower cardiorespiratory fitness.
All these could be avoided by talking and persuading Little Johnny or Miss Shona to do a little bit of exercising or engaging in activities that are productive and useful for their well-being. It could also be helpful through finding things to occupy the little ones by taking them out of their comfort zones and engaging them in other more challenging activities.
‘There’s a growing class divide around fitness levels due to the summer holidays and the government must urgently address these Victorian-style health inequalities to give every child a fair chance of a healthy start in life.
Our research suggests deprived children are being plonked in front of screens for hours on end, while their more affluent peers are able to maintain their fitness levels through summer camps and other activities.’
AMAZING ACTIVITIES TO OCCUPY CHILDREN
- A family outing at the local or nearby museum. What about having a go at curating at a local gallery or offering to help. Many galleries offer teens the chance to curate or help put exhibitions together.
- Plan a family weekend trip somewhere far/near. Take a road trip to a nearby city. Spend the night if you can or just make it a day trip. If you have teenage children let them do the planning based on:
- Where to go
- How to get there
- What to do
- Where to stay
- Where to eat.
- Record a song. This must be tuneful, lyrical and good.
- Find a new place to play. This may be clearing out the basement or garage or building a tree house.
- Read a chapter book aloud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.
- Listen to a classic as an audiobook. Or try any of the newer audiobooks.
- Teach the kids a game you haven’t played since you were a kid.
- Make play dough creations. Then rip them up and do it again.
- Make paper airplanes. See whose goes the farthest.
- Keep a sketch diary. Write in a journal. At the end of the summer share selections with each other about the highlights of the season.
- Go Fishing. Get hold of a fishing rod and head off to a local stream, river or lake for the day.
- Visit a local farmers market and feast on the fruits and veggies of the season. What about visiting a PYO (Pick Your Own) place near you?
- Take a long walk. Walk somewhere with a group of friends for a day (bring a picnic and drinks), see how far you can go.
- Help on a nearby farm or stables. Get down and muck on the farm or at the stables and have a bit of fun.
- Use bikes as a mode of transit. Show the kids the way to the store or a friend’s. Take bike rides for fun. Either leave from your own house or cycle through biking trails.
- Have a garage sale. Kids can earn spending money by selling their old stuff.
- Provide art supplies: Art projects can be as simple as a collage made from old magazines or can involve complex crafts like sewing a new outfit.
- Encourage your teen to write songs, draw pictures, and create poetry.
- Encourage household activities: There are always things that can be done around the house. Let your teen clean out the garage. Challenge them to show you that they can be responsible.
- Clear out your room: Not only will you make your parents extremely happy but you will find all those lost cds/books/must have items that are buried under the heap.
- Redecorate your room: Try a new colour if parents will allow. If not, try a furniture rearrange and appropriate some small furnishings from elsewhere in the house.
- Learn to cook three new meals well.
- You can have a car boot sale/sale of work/garage sale to get rid of the non-essential non-teen stuff you no longer want and make yourself some cash at the same time.
- Go ice skating or roller skating: Skating is fun and you get to exercise at the same time without realising. If you’ve never skated before, go and learn how.
- Create/Put together a memory book. This could be about a special time during your life or about primary/junior school if you’re heading to high school.
- Make a summer playlist: create a playlist of the best ever summer songs.
- Create family challenges: Establish a weekly contest, such as who can build the highest card tower or the best sand castle.
- Enjoy some quiet time together: Go on a family picnic and spend an afternoon watching the clouds.
- Hold an old-fashioned family board game night at home, or play chess, trivial pursuit or monopoly.
Promote Activities That Will Keep Your Teen Physically Active
Physical activity can get you going when you are immobilized. Get action in your life, and don’t just talk about it. Get into the arena! – John Davidson
With fewer sports activities, summer vacation can lead some teens to become sedentary, which isn’t good for their health. Here’s how to prevent your teen from becoming a couch potato.
29. Encourage your teen to get active every day: If your teen doesn’t participate in organized sports during the summer months, encourage him/her to find ways to stay active. Challenge him/her to ride her bike five miles per day or to swim at the town pool several times a week.
30. Plan family activities that involve exercise: Go hiking as a family on the weekends or go for a walk every evening after dinner. Look for new activities you can try as a family, too. Whether you experiment with frisbee, golf or you take surfing lessons together, it all makes fitness fun.
31. Start a garden: Growing a garden, starting your own vegetable garden, or building a flower garden can give your child something to do all summer. From healthier eating habits, to improved psychological well-being, gardening offers children some surprise benefits.
AT SCHOOL BUT NOT REALLY . . .
The causes of obesity are varied and complex, but the lack of daily physical activity is an important factor – Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
Encourage Activities That Will Keep Your Teen Mentally Active
Summer brain drain can be a real problem, especially if your teen spends days playing video games. Encourage him to get involved in activities that will help him keep his mind sharp. Help him discover fun activities that encourage learning.
32. Think about the future: summer is a great time to encourage your teen to focus a little on the future. Visit a college together or help arrange for your teen to job shadow someone who works in a career that interests him.
33. Encourage your teen to read: take a weekly trip to the library and challenge your teen to read a new book each week. Encourage him to explore new genres or to start a book club with friends. Reading can help keep your teen’s brain active and it can turn him into a lifelong learner.
34. Use electronics in a healthy way: rather than staring at a screen, encourage your teen to build a website or learn graphic designing.
35. Do a summer course or camp: You might like to try out a course in something you might be interested in doing in college as a taster. There are lots of engineering / IT / animation / acting / language courses for teens at very reasonable price. Wowcher is a good starting point.
36. Do a First Aid Course: This is a good one if you’re planning to do some babysitting, to be able to tell prospective parents that you know first aid. St John’s Ambulance Brigade run first aid courses as well as Red Cross and there are lots of private organisations running them as well.
37. Read a classic: From old classics to new, all of them thought provoking and inspiring. You can also write your own super short story as a challenge.
38. Volunteer: Maybe you like animals. Or you are happy helping homeless people. You can do this through a local volunteer centre or at a local event or for a local charity, they always need people to help. (PS good for the resume/CV too!)
39. Write a play: Ever fancied yourself as a playwright? Summer holidays are the perfect time to get writing and create a cast of characters and have a bit of fun as well.
40. Create a cartoon or comic strip: There are lots of free online tools for helping you to create cartoons or comic strips.
41. Make a film: Decide on your film genre, broad story and characters and make a storyboard. You could film your neighbourhood, a day in your life or get friends to be characters in a fictional film.
42. Join/Create a summer reading club at your local library.
43. Learn to type – touch typing is a great skill to learn, not only will it stand you in good stead for your own computer skills but it also means you’ll get school projects done much quicker too.
44. Learn ten phrases of a new language: Pick a new language, such as Arabic or Mandarin (current on-trend languages to learn), and master ten phrases well.
By encouraging children to get up and exercise isn’t as simple as it used to be. However, research is showing that parents have a duty to persuade children to be active during the summer holidays. There is a real need for children to get off their mobile phones and venture outside – and it’s not just to prevent obesity. Scientist claim that teenagers are more likely to suffer regular bone fractures and breaks if they don’t stay active.
A Canadian study found that those who avoided the recommended daily activity had much weaker bones than their peers. Leigh Gabel, of the University of British Columbia, said: ‘We found that teens who are less active had weaker bones, and bone strength is critical for preventing fractures”.
Even if you’re ill, physical activity at a lower level will help you beat it – Jim Loehr