Remember the excitement of the last day of school? Kids would burst out of the doors of the school at the end of the day ready to receive the freedom from the confines of the classroom. After months of being stuck inside all day we could spend the next couple of homework free months doing the things that we wanted to do, namely play!
Having once been children ourselves, we appreciate the freedoms of summer, but as working parents we dread the “what are we going to do with the kids” that comes along with summer break. “Playing” has changed a lot in the past 20 -30 years. Gone are the days of kids running out of the house to play on a hot summer day, returning only for meals and when the sun went down.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of School Health suggests that kids eat more sugar, spend more time in front of a screen and eat fewer vegetables over summer vacation. While the study showed that high school students exercise more during the summer than during the school year, younger children exercised for about the same amount of time as they do during the school year.
So, what should you do with this information? Knowing is half the battle. Below are a few tips for managing some of the negatives that come along with summer break these days.
- If your kids are at home during the summer, you may need to keep sugary treats out of the house and have healthy alternatives readily available. In our experience, if it’s available they’ll eat/drink it (especially the bottomless pits commonly referred to as teenagers).
- When our children are younger, we often have to make arrangements for child care and summer programs. Make sure to check in with the providers on the types of beverages and snacks that they offer to kids.
- Even though keeping ice cream in the house may not be a good idea with kids at home over the summer, your children may turn on you if you withhold all treats, so make them work for it. Take the family for a walk to your local ice cream parlor. It’s a good way to work some movement into your day, spend time with your family, get out into the neighborhood, and to give the family a tasty treat.
- Regulating screen time while you are at work is going to be your biggest challenge. With landlines being a thing of the past, many families use cell phones exclusively. While a cell phone is often used for gaming and streaming video, it is also your channel for communicating with your children, so you can’t take it away entirely. Although it isn’t a foolproof solution, restricting wi-fi access is one way to put a damper on streaming video and online gaming. Also, many cell phone carriers offer controls that give parents the ability to cap data usage and restrict certain sites. When you are able to be home with the kids in the summer, set aside some screen free time for the kids, and consider following the rule yourself.