Schools out! The daily commute is over, no more late nights packing lunches and evenings filled with math and science projects. But suddenly your house is feeling a little fuller, and the days seem to last quite a bit longer… the biggest summer struggle for parents is upon you: dealing with the restlessness and boredom that comes with summer!
Parents are busy, and entertaining is not easy. The couch is an easy alternative to appease the jitters of summer agitation and boredom. Clicking the remote, and passing babysitting off to an episode of Sponge Bob is certainly the easier route. Unfortunately, most parents know all to well that the advent of technology has already turned many children into couch potatoes. Occupying bored minds, providing creative entertainment, and keeping children active in a technological world is becoming increasingly difficult.
Children are susceptible to face numerous health risks as couch potatoes. Sitting for six hours a day will make you prone to developing issues such as weight gain, insulin resistance and high cholesterol. Children also have an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes when living on the couch. The American Journal of Public Health revealed in a 2007 study, that over 5,000 kindergarteners and first graders saw their body mass indexes nearly double while at home over summer breaks.
There is no need for your children to suffer from a sedentary lifestyle or boredom this summer. Life can be filled with fun for kids and adults alike. Below are 15 ideas of ways to keep your children exploring their minds, and off the couch during these next few months!
#1 – Check out your local parks
A playground is one of simplest methods of outdoor entertainment. No equipment is required, all that is necessary is supervision!
There are likely a multitude of playgrounds and parks within a five-mile radius of your community. Keep a list, and explore new options.
Grab a picnic basket, frisbee and ball, and make an afternoon of it. Between climbing up into a fort, and swinging on a swing set, your kids will be entertained for hours!
TIP: Consider involving a healthy level of competition in the day by creating an obstacle course. Time each child as they make their way through the monkey bars and down the slide, then compare their new score to their previous!
#2 – Embrace some old-fashioned fun
Show your kids that “out with the old, and in with the new” does not always apply. Teach them some of the games that occupied your time as a child.
- Jump rope
- Hula hoops
- Capture the flag
#3 – Schedule time with their friends
Keep your kids engaged and having fun by scheduling a play date. Make plans with other mom’s in advance to have their children over. Your kids will be distracted and occupied, and in turn you will be rewarded with some quiet time! An added bonus, other parents just might reciprocate.
#4 – Experiment with outdoor art
Art is therapeutic, developmental, and entertaining. Expose your kids to a variety of art forms by breaking out the sidewalk chalk or paint this summer.
TIP: Experiment with a new activity and try out ice chalk on a hot day! Frozen chalk is a great sensory, art and science experience rolled into one.
#5 – Take a trip to the library
Utilize the library as a resource and take the kids on a trip this summer! Libraries often offer scheduled story times and programs for kids throughout the week as well.
The effects of reading on children are profound:
- Improved vocabulary: As children read, they are exposed to new ideas, words and concepts, and by default, their vocabulary improves.
- Advanced speech: Reading helps kids to uses words correctly and improves their grammar.
- Enhanced writing skills:Children who read tend to develop better writing skills. They are generally able to express themselves more candidly through their words.
#6 – Attend a local sporting event
Who wouldn’t enjoy a trip to the ball park and freshly popped popcorn? Consider taking your children to a local sporting event. This does not have to be an expensive, major-league experience. Minor leagues or high school games are a great option. Your kids will enjoy the outing regardless!
#7 – Check out your local museums
Spending time in a museum is a great way to expose your children to history, and it is a great teaching experience as well! Whether it is an art museum, historic, military, science, or local museum, it is bound to be an interactive activity. Be prepared to have lively dinner table conversations following!
#8 – Sign your kids up for local programs
Whether it is a week long camp, arts and drama program, or community center activity, signing your child up for a local program is an excellent way to expose them to new hobbies and activities.
TIP: Many local churches offer free programs for children such as Vacation Bible School and Music Camp during the summer. Check out their online listings for opportunities to plug your kids in.
#9 – Design a scavenger hunt
This can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it! Either way, it will be a fun and dynamic activity. You could create a list of household items for your child to gather – a cup, a sock, a blue hat… Or you could choose to hid a series of clues and puzzles, leading from one to another until the end is reached.
TIP: Consider included a small prize (a handful of M&M’s, or a popsicle) at the finish line!
#10 – Engage with your community
Helping others is one of the best ways for children develop empathy, compassion and strong morals. Instill a respect and appreciation for others, while making the world a better place by volunteering with your kids. Whether your kids are 2 or 12, there are plenty of ways to engage within your community and give back.
- Visit a nursing home or retirement community
- Participate in a community clean-up day
- Serve meals at a homeless shelter
- Hold a bake sale for a cause
- Volunteer at a food drive
- Walk to fight disease
- Donate to a food pantry
#11 – Camp in your own backyard
The whole camping experience may seem too daunting. Instead, consider bringing the camp home! Use blankets, sheets and clothespins to create an indoor fort, or go all out and set up a tent with sleeping bags in the backyard, and roast marshmallow over a fire pit. Either way, this will be a fan favorite amongst the kiddos!
#12 – Hold a dance party
Enjoy the giggles and memories made grooving to some oldies or playing the latest pop tunes. This is excellent opportunity to engage the whole family in a movement-based activity. Turn on some music and have everyone showcase their favorites move! Utilize this time to expose your kids to new types of music or teach them routine dance moves.
- Cha-Cha Slide
- Cuban Shuffle
- Electric Slide
#13 – Play with your pets
If your family shares a pet, encourage your children to have a daily play-time with their animal. Pets need physical activity just as much as we do. Play hide-and-go-seek, fetch, tag, or take them on neighborhood walks.
#14 – Track your steps
Healthy competition and goals are a great motivator for children. Consider the inexpensive option of a pedometer to track their fitness level and steps. Set a goal for the family to achieve a certain number of steps per day or week and track your progress. As the count increases and you have achieved your goal, continue setting new goals. You will notice an increase in both your children’s and your activity!
- TIP: Do not have your children compete against each other using the fitness trackers. Instead, have them compete with themselves for daily improvement
#15 – Take a Walk
Incorporate movement into your children’s day by forgoing the car, and instead walking to your regular stops. If they are within a reasonable distance, consider walking to the grocery store, park, or a friend’s house. The kids will enjoy the change of pace, and encounter with nature.
I would also encourage you to regularly visit your cities website for calendars and promotions for upcoming events. Most will advertise family friendly activities such as movies in the park, library readings, fun runs, bounce house festivals and more on a regular basis.
Summer can be overwhelming for parents, but it does not have to be. Fill your days with new experiences and activities that will teach, grow and bond your family. Most importantly, lead by example, and get your kids off the couch!
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