The end of the school year and the start of summer vacation is a time of joy and fun for most children. No more getting up early in the morning to prepare for the school day. No more homework in the afternoon and evening. No more regimented schedule of school and after-school activities.
Because the school schedule no longer applies, summer vacation can have a detrimental effect on children’s health. Sleep patterns become irregular. Daily exercising may disappear altogether. Meal times become less structured, and snacking becomes more prevalent. In fact, studies suggest that the break between school years contributes toward more sedentary behavior, less structured sleep, and increased screen time, all of which contribute toward an increase in body-mass-index (BMI) gain.
Furthermore, the long summer break between the standard 9-month school years has been found to contribute to a loss in learning equal to one month of formal schooling. This loss in educational retention is most pronounced in regard to math concepts and spelling, and emphasizes the need to keep children mentally – educationally – healthy during the summer.
Eating Healthy During the Summer
One of the primary ways to promote children’s health during the summer is through meals and nutrition. Without the more structured meal schedule inherent with the school year, children are more prone to snacking, often with less healthy foods such as chips or sweets. Providing set meal times and snack times can offset this while also making it easier to schedule activities during the day.
A great way to make sure that your children are eating healthy is to be involved in their meal preparations, and to get them involved, as well. Left to their own devices, children are more likely to pick what is the easiest and tastiest, regardless of nutrition; instead, show them better choices for meals and snacks. Instead of chips and soda, offer fruits, nuts, and water. Sweet carrot sticks with a light ranch or yogurt dip is a terrific and tasty snack. Whole-wheat toasted pita bread and hummus is a much better alternative to tortilla chips and cheese dip. Apples, pears, oranges, or raisins are a great snack on the go.
Make these healthier snacks easily accessible, as well. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop. Keep fruits and vegetables accessible on a lower shelf of the refrigerator. Make it as convenient as possible for children to get to healthy snacks.
Get your children involved in grocery shopping and cooking. When shopping, let them pick out what fruits and vegetables they would like, and help them by letting them know what kinds of recipes can be made from their choices. When cooking, let them help with the washing and preparing of foods – it’s also a good way for them to try new fruits and vegetables, as they sample food during preparation.
Of course, make sure that during the hot summer weather, that your children are staying properly hydrated. Cut out the sugary juices and sodas, and instead provide lots of clean and refreshing Multipure filtered water, with the occasional sports drink or no-sugar-added fruit juice.
Establish and Maintain a Routine
As mentioned regarding healthier eating, a regular schedule is a benefit during the summer months. Establish a set time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with an additional time for a small snack. Let your family know that these are the times to eat, and make sure that everyone eats enough to curb any desire to snack outside the schedule.
Just because there is no school during the summer does not mean that children should be waking up late and going to bed late. Establish a time for the children to wake up and get ready for the day, and start the day with a good, healthy breakfast. Set and enforce a bedtime to make sure that even when class is out of session, that everyone gets a good night’s sleep.
As part of the daily routine, set limits on screen time – television, computers, tablets, and phones. Part of what makes summer vacation so unhealthy for children is a tendency for kids to stay inside staring at screens all day, especially when it is too hot to play outside comfortably.
To promote healthier activities, schedule time for kids to be active. This can be taking hikes, going for a swim, riding bikes, playing sports with friends, or even just playing in the backyard. If the heat outside is too much, try instead to keep children’s minds sharp through activities like reading books, playing boardgames, or working on crafts. Encourage activities that can spark creativity and imagination.
The key to keeping kids healthy during the summer is being aware of the pitfalls of summer vacation – more sedentary lifestyles, lax eating habits, and lack of daily structure. Eating right and maintaining a healthy schedule and routine are a good start to a healthier summer. Parents and families need to understanding the importance of keeping kids active, both physically and mentally, and should lead by example toward a healthier summer life.
- Alli, Renee. “Keep Your Kids Healthy This Summer.” WebMD. May 3, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/move/healthy-summer-kids
- Anderson, Kate. “Could Summer Holidays Have an Adverse Impact on Kids’ Health?” News Medical. December 12, 2019. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20191212/Could-summer-holidays-have-an-adverse-impact-on-kids-health.aspx
- Cooper, Harris. “Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions.” LD Online. Last accessed June 3, 2021. http://www.ldonline.org/article/8057/
- “10 Healthy Family-Fun Activities for Summer.” Frederick Health. July 1, 2019. https://www.frederickhealth.org/news/2019/july/10-healthy-family-fun-activities-for-summer/
- Hutton, R., and M.J. Sepúlveda, eds. “Shaping Summertime Experiences: Opportunities to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being for Children and Youth.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. September 26, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK552668/