How can we keep our kids active over the summer? It’s great to celebrate the end of a school year and let the kids’ brains have a little change of pace, but most parents don’t want their kids to start up a new pattern that involves a lot of sitting in front of a screen. How can we encourage them to get some physical activity over the summer months without hearing the words “I’m bored?”
There are the traditional options--bike riding, roller skating, swimming, games that involve running, and passing a ball or hitting a tennis ball against a wall. However, here are some other ideas that might help you stretch into new territory:
Plant a garden. Your children may take interest and ownership in a few flowers or vegetable seeds planted in their own designated spot. In addition to watching the growth over the weeks, your young gardeners may find themselves enjoying outdoor time weeding plants, arranging rocks or twigs decoratively, watering, or even composting!
Paint or build. If you have the space, set your kids free with some paint and let them “decorate” the back of the shed, large rocks, or some other area on your property. You can also work together with some scrap materials to build something that they have designed. It doesn’t have to be perfect; the process of thinking and creating will strengthen important areas of their brain!
Walk the dog(s). If you have a dog you may already have your child walk it. However, if your neighbors or friends have dogs your child may be interested in getting some experience with them. This could even lead to a paying job in the future!
Host a neighborhood event. Whatever your child is already interested in, is there a way to turn it into a social event or a fun contest? Chalk drawings, scooter races, water balloon fights, art shows, or even a litter pick-up -- the possibilities vary widely based on your neighborhood and your family.
Hit the trails. There are many great hiking trails, some only half a mile and others longer. Some trails have sights such as a waterfall or old buildings to reward the diligent. (Here is a list of scenic hikes in Maryland. In the sidebar, current local events are listed.) Kids are great at finding “treasures” along the way. My daughter found a horseshoe and an empty turtle shell one year and they are still treasures in her bedroom. Check the weather ahead of time, pack some snacks, and plan a hike on a day that is going to be pleasant so the kids will want to do it again! (Remember to check for ticks afterward!)
Parks and libraries. There are also several parks which have playgrounds, fields for ball practice, batting cages, paved paths for biking, and perhaps good Pokemon scouting! Check the event listings of parks as well at your local library for activities.
Go Fishing. Liberty Reservoir and Piney Run Park are just two locations where Maryland residents can go fishing. There are smaller ponds in local areas, as well. Be sure to get a fishing license. It will last a year!
TV trainer. If it’s not a good day to go somewhere, keep an exercise DVD on hand. There are plenty at the library (and online) which are geared specifically for kids. Pilates, yoga, dance - one of these should get your kids moving! One of my not-so-active kids enjoys learning dance routines from videos on YouTube.
As parents, we can model being active -- not to mention a willingness to “try new things.” Even if you only do some of these things once and decide they are not for you, you can be proud of yourselves for trying something new -- and it may lead to a new friend, or idea, or a funny story to tell.