By Deb Lowther
School’s Out! While kids are jumping for joy, parents all over the neighbourhood are wondering what the heck are we going to do to keep the kids busy all summer! While summer camps are great, not all families choose all day camps and even if they do, there are still another 4-5 evening hours that kids are looking for something to do.
Being Active & Free Play
The benefits of kids being active range from stronger bones, muscles, improved balance and coordination to increased attention span and being all round happier kids. A recent article by Canadian Press looked at the overall benefits to kids that are afforded outdoor free play in addition to being a part of a team organized sports. Something as simple as getting dirty and chasing frogs can open a childs’ mind, inspire creativity and create a connection to nature while still benefiting from being active.
However, there is a fine line between giving kids hours of free time to be active and hearing the dreaded words “I’m bored” after the first week of summer break. What can parents do to help engage their children in free play and encourage kids to be active all summer long?
5 Tips to Keep Kids Active All Summer
Time to Play
If you have your kids running to arts camp, music lessons, grocery stores and grandma house they may not have enough down time to just be active in the yard, on the street or at the park. Give kids time each day or at least a few times a week where they have a couple hours to just play outside. If you give them suggested activities (digging for worms, building a outdoor fort, skipping rope tug of war) to get them started, it won’t be long before their imagination takes over.
Tools to Play
Kids are super creative, it won’t take much to inspire them to be active no expensive equipment required. A bin full of skipping ropes, hoola hoops, tennis rackets, butterfly or fishing nets, badminton rackets, a frisbee, soccer ball, basketball, volleyball, beach ball, and sidewalk chalk are just a few of our favorites. Kids will tie skipping ropes to hoola hoops, draw finish lines with chalk, catch dandelions with fishing nets and impress you with the games and activities they can invent.
Active Role Model
Be active yourself. If you are encouraging your kids to get outside from the other end of the couch, they are not likely to take you too seriously. Go for walks, get back on your bike, take up a new sport like roller blading, collect neighbourhood parents to create a fun volleyball league or re visit an old favorite like swimming lengths.
Having active friends can make a difference – find friends with pools, with trampolines, friends who love to bike to the park, who play soccer or have a basketball net in the driveway and just try and sit still inside!
Participate in Fun
I’m looking to You! Get outside WITH your kids. Show them who is hoola hoop King (or not!), challenge kids to a skipping contest, try hop scotch, play frisbee and see if you can still do a cartwheel. Get some running shoes and go explore neighbourhood parks and forests together and don’t be afraid to make a big splash the next time you are at the pool with the kids.