When school lets out for the summer, the first thing that comes to mind for many is children running and playing outdoors, taking advantage of the warm weather and the extra free time.
While this seems idyllic, it often isn’t the reality today. In fact, freed from the relative structure imposed by the school day — and with plenty of entertainment options vying for their attention — kids often spend summertime in ways that lead to excess weight gain.
This is especially true given the number of activities children are involved in that are sedentary and revolve around the screen of a television, computer, or smartphone.
The good news is that you don’t have to resign yourself to this trend. Summer is a great opportunity to get your children active, and it’s also a chance to get them involved in activities that help them learn about health and fitness while making new friends.
Dozens of activities can help children and their families celebrate the joys of summer together while promoting healthy eating and exercise habits at the same time. Explore them as a family or as summer activities for kids to try in their own play.
Summer Activity #1: Camping
Summer camps have several important benefits for children of all ages. They provide structure to the day, make it necessary and cool to get away from a screen and spend time outdoors, and offer a series of goal-oriented activities that give a sense of learning and achievement along with the fun.
Summer camps can instill a love of the outdoors and push children out of comfort zones they didn’t even know they had, and even if they don’t become lifelong hikers or boaters, they will always have those experiences to look back on as models of fun and fitness. Camping events are always great summer activities for kids.
How to Pick the Right Summer Camp for Your Kids
Picking the right camp for your child can be a bit tricky. Not everyone takes easily to the idea of being away from home for a week or more at a time, so day camps can be a useful way to ease your child into temporary separation while getting them accustomed to being part of a community outside the family.
Kids who’ve had some experience at day camps are generally ready for overnight camps by at least the age of 12.
To find the best camps, look for camps with the following qualities:
- An established reputation
- A coherent philosophy about education and community that’s integrated into programs
- Well-trained and accredited staff
- Elements of choice in activities that give your child a feeling of agency in how they’re engaging with the camp, counselors, and each other
Summer Activity #2: Sports
Local recreation and community centers, churches, parks, and neighborhood schools often offer summertime sporting leagues, providing another great way to keep kips active.
These kinds of summer activities help children make friends, build social skills and confidence, and learn the fundamentals of teamwork in addition to getting necessary exercise.
Contact your local recreation or leisure center, community centers, churches or parks to find out what kinds of summer sporting activities they support.
Summer Activity #3: Geocaching
If you’ve never heard of it before, geocaching is the world’s largest treasure hunt. It’s coordinated with GPS units and revolves around finding hidden “caches” around the neighborhood or in nature.
The caches don’t necessarily contain anything valuable; most often they hold a logbook to prove you were there, but the thrill and challenge of the search is the point.
Geocaching with your kids provides a novel twist on everything from neighborhood walks to hiking and exploration all across the nation. You don’t have to spend a great deal to start on this hobby with your family; you can find smartphone apps that let you participate in this past time.
Other Fun Summer Activities for Kids
If you don’t want to make a commitment to a specific activity for the entire summer, you can still encourage activity in your children.
Here are other fun ways to add movement to your summer.
- A trip to the farmer’s market. What better way for kids to learn healthy eating habits than to get a chance to join you in shopping for some fresh produce?
- Day excursions. Change up the family routine with a drive to a nearby town, an all-new playground or an unfamiliar hiking trail.
- Get your kids involved in a yard project. It could be anything from picking fruit on the tree in the backyard to planting a garden, painting a fence, or building a tree fort. It’s a great way to keep the kids active and enjoy a sense of accomplishment as a family
Whatever you choose, making it a priority to stay active and encourage the same habit in your children will be a boon your family’s health all year.