Healthy Summer Fun for the Family from Dr. James Keffer

Healthy Summer Fun for the Family from Dr. James Keffer

Summertime is a wonderful time to reset your family, consider reinforcing good habits, or to add healthier habits. The kids have been in school since last August. Between early morning wake ups, making sure they have their books, packing homework in heavy backpacks, school sports, and perhaps music lessons, there has been a lot going on.

During the summer, there may be camps or prepping for college. However, don’t forget that your child’s schedule being open is a great time to spend more time with them. Check in on how they are doing. Plan some walks in the community. Go to the park. Grab an ice cream cone. It doesn’t have to be structured time, just time when neither of you have an electronic device occupying your attention.

Physical Activity During the Summer

If your family is like mine, the devices can be a default activity when you don’t have anything to do. Consider pulling back on your electronic use. Add an extra day to your exercise plan for the week. Then, encourage your kids to do likewise. A few summers ago, my wife told the kids that they couldn’t get their phones or other electronic devices until they had ran a mile each day. They weren’t super excited about it, but running was a means to an end.

Perhaps your neighborhood isn’t running-friendly, or your kids are too young to send out on the roads themselves. Find a local park to walk or run in. If you need fitness inspiration, check out the links here and here.

Don’t Forget About the Library

Another great resource that shouldn’t be overlooked is the local library.  If your child doesn’t have a book series that they enjoy reading, walk with them through the kids or young adult section to help them choose a book to read. Try reading some of the books along with them. It is always good to know what media the kids are consuming so that we can help discuss how people treat each other in the story. Follow this link for parent resources from the Nashville public library.

Summertime Nutrition

Nutrition is something else that can suffer during the summer. Your older child may be home all day while the caregivers are at work. If their days are spent on screens, they may get in the habit of mindless snacking. We know that we eat significantly more while watching videos, hence those ginormous popcorn buckets at the movie theaters.

Kids may just be eating because they are bored. One of the best ways to help your kids is to only purchase healthy snacks. Consider getting those pre-cut carrots, broccoli, or apples that many grocery stores carry. If these are too pricey, then take some time on the weekend to cut up some fruits and veggies ahead of time. Remember, the kids aren’t going to pick healthy options if you don’t model the same behavior.

Consider taking the kids with you to the store to plan out meals. If you have more than one child, this may seem like a recipe for disaster. In that case, have the kids take turns planning out meals.  Years ago in our house, we set up a rotating schedule so that the child who was responsible for keeping the kitchen clean was also in charge of planning a meal. Let the kids take turns.

This activity also helped our children learn the joys of planning out a meal, going to the store to get the supplies needed, preparing the meal (with your help), and then hearing the family groan at the meal’s lack of appeal. One of the kids tried to pull the “give me your credit card and I’ll order us a pizza”, but we told them they’d have to use their own money to order food. They quickly changed their mind and we headed to Publix.

In summary, remember that vacation is time away from school and perhaps a lighter season at work. Make it about quality time with the family, instead of finding ways to fill the days before the next school year.