The summer is a wonderfully magical time filled with long days and short nights, making way for hours of play time.
But those months are nearing an end, with many students starting school in the not-so-distant future.
If your kids are anything like mine, when they wake up each day during the summer, the first thing that comes out of their mouths is, “Can I go outside?” Or, “Can we go swimming.” And then there's the always-present, “Can I play with (insert friend's name here)?” They then spend the day in-and-out of the house, playing and running around until they finally crash at night, making getting them to sleep hassle-free.
For many parents of young children, keeping them active during the summer is not a challenge. However, all of that changes with the start of the school year. Instead of playing all day, they are spending a good chunk of their day sitting at desks, with only short breaks in between where they are able to be active. Not only that, but they are sent home with hours of homework each night, making it even more difficult for them to be physically active.
The exhaustion that came from long days of playing is now replaced with the mental exhaustion that comes from long hours of school and homework, making it even more difficult to get them out and moving.
This is not a bad thing. As a teacher, and one who is also married to a teacher, education is of utmost importance to my family. It does prove challenging, though, to find time to maintain the active lifestyle that is so easily managed during the summer throughout the school year.
Here are some tips and ideas on how to keep your children active during the school months:
1. Allow for play time right after school. I know many parents don't have play time until homework is finished. If that works for you, fine. However, I have found that if I give my kids a good 30 minutes to an hour of outside or active play time right when they get home, they are able to get those wiggles out that have been stifled all day. Then, when homework time rolls around, they are more apt to get it done without a fight.
2. Limit television and video game time. Technology definitely has its place in today's society, and it is important to allow our children to have time and exposure to it. However, overexposure lends itself to a sedentary way of being. By simply turning screens off, you will force your children to do something else. And often that “something else” requires them to move and be active.
3. Get them involved in a team sport or other scheduled activity. There are many options ranging from recreational and club leagues to dance and gymnastics classes. Parents can choose an activity that fits within their budget as well as their schedule. Having scheduled activities is a great way to make sure that your children have adequate time for physical activity.
4. If team or organized sports are not your child's thing, make time each day to go for a family walk or bike ride. Often, just before dinner, we will take the kids for a family walk around the block while dinner is cooking. This will give them at least 30 minutes of physical activity for the day, and it will help them to work up a good appetite and wear them out enough that bedtime is a breeze.
By taking these steps to help your children maintain adequate physical activity during the school months, you will find that they will be healthier and happier, and they may just perform better in school.
Arianne Brown is a graduate of SUU, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to her blog at timetofititin.com