Keeping Children Busy — and Healthy! — During the Summer
– By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
After a year of home-schooling, summer vacation has never looked so good! Certainly spending quality time with your children is a high priority, but the “quality” of togetherness can become questionable after six hours in online classes and no extracurricular activities to relieve energy and stress.
With restrictions lifting and more opportunities to see their friends, the improvement to your children’s lives and demeanors (and yours!) has likely taken an upturn. But along with all that free time comes the question of how to occupy it.
For many, summer camps and outdoor activities like swimming, biking or playing ball keep your kids busy and out of the house. However, not all children are inspired to get up and out on a regular basis. Consider these statistics:
- Almost half (46 percent) of children between the ages of 13 and 18 play video games on a mobile device every day
- When they’re not playing video games, they’re looking at videos: kids between age 4 and 15 spend about 85 minutes a day watching YouTube videos and another 82 minutes watching TikTok
- In total, teens spend about five and a half hours per day on screen-related leisure time
- Teens sleep between nine and 11 hours a night
Further, these types of activities typically take place indoors and they do not require a great deal of physical exertion. That’s a problem.
Weight Gain in Children during the Summer Months
There is strong evidence to show that children gain weight while they are out of school for many of the reasons noted above. A study of more than 3,000 kindergarten children found that they lost weight during the school year and gained weight during the summer — and children who were overweight or had obesity were affected the most. These findings are consistent across different studies.
As the rate of obesity continues to rise in all age groups, summer weight gain in children is a reason for concern. First, the benefits of any fitness or obesity-prevention programs achieved during the school year can be undone during the short period away from school. Also, as noted in a previous blog there is a connection between parental obesity and children with obesity. This can be compounded by summertime gains.
Establish a Daily Structure to Maintain Weight
In addition to screen time and sleep, another major contributing factor to weight gain is the lack of a daily structure during the summer. Certainly you don’t want to wake a sleeping child at the crack of dawn, but scheduling daily activities and responsibilities provides consistency and reduces the behaviors that contribute to obesity. It’s a great time to plan volunteer hours to fulfill school service requirements, or to create opportunities or challenges in sports, gardening, car-washing, miles walked/biked/swum, helping take care of siblings (or grandparents) or other worthy areas of pursuit.
Summer should be fun and filled with great memories. With some planning and a few guidelines, you can help your children maintain their weight and maybe even find a new hobby or activity as a bonus!
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.