5 Tips: Promote Healthy Habits This Summer
5 Tips: Promote Healthy Habits This Summer
Summer break can be pretty unstructured compared to the school year for many students. While many students use their summer vacation time to play outside with friends and family or participate in physical activities, others may not be getting the exercise they normally would during the school year. Research also shows that children lose the fitness gains made during the school year. The break from the usual school routine can also offset a number of other things, like a regular sleeping schedule, eating habits, and gauging screen time.
Read on for five tips on how to help the children in your life have a fun, active, and nutritious summer and build positive habits that will continue to pay dividends in the future!
1. Talk about nutrition
Food is fuel for our bodies and our minds, and having a nutritious diet is an important part of a healthy and active lifestyle. However, its important when talking about nutrition to make sure that the focus stays away from labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and avoid discussing weight gain or loss. Instead, help children develop a healthy relationship with food by focusing on how different foods fuel our bodies in different ways, letting them dictate portion sizes, allow them to help out with cooking and meal planning, and providing a variety of nutritious options during mealtimes.
2. Aim for 60 active minutes per day
The CDC recommends that children ages 3 through 5 should aim to be active throughout the day and children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 should be active for 60 minutes every day. This may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t need to feel difficult by exercising a little creativity. Jumping, running and walking, and climbing are all great ways for younger children to move and be active, and they could all be accomplished during a game of tag with friends, a trip to the neighborhood park, or visit to an indoor obstacle course.
For older children, getting active could be as simple as taking a family bike ride on a local trail, exploring a new park or nature preserve, playing with jump ropes or toy hoops, or trying a water activity like paddleboarding. There are also numerous summer camps for children who are interested in trying a sport or particular outdoor activity—your local YMCA or park board is a great place to start your search for a camp.
3. Get good sleep
During the summertime, it’s easy for a regular sleep schedule to derail a little bit. Traveling and vacationing, staying up late, sleeping in, and even skipping naps can all throw off a sleep schedule and make it harder to adjust back to a “normal” bedtime routine when the school year starts back up. But just because there’s no school to rush off to in the morning doesn’t mean that getting a good night’s rest is any less important. Getting an adequate amount of sleep has been shown to improve attention, learning, behavior, and overall physical and mental health in children.
The occasional late-night movie party won’t hurt, but try to maintain good sleep habits by helping your children establish a healthy bedtime routine that allows them to wind down and relax and that ensures that they are going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Be sure to also turn off and stow away screens at least an hour before lights out.
4. Become a health role model
Children pay closer attention to the adults around them than we often realize. If children watch the adults in their life engage in different healthy forms of exercise and activity; use body-positive language; and enjoy a variety of fresh, nutritious foods, that behavior will be the norm for them. In turn, they will be that much more likely to pick up similar healthful habits themselves.
It’s hard to get totally away from screens. They are ever-present in today’s world, and when used thoughtfully and appropriately, they can help us learn new things, connect with friends and family, and so much more. Still, adults are and children alike can easily get wrapped up in games, videos, TV, and social media on their computers and mobile devices for hours on end.
It’s important to develop healthy boundaries when it comes to screentime, especially for young children. You can start by having a family discussion about how “too much” screentime can take away from other fun activities and what kind of realistic expectations you can set together about media consumption at home. Maybe family movie night becomes family game night every other week. Maybe all phones go in another room during meals. If you notice that you or your children are having a day with too much screentime, direct everyone toward a different activity that gets them up, moving, and away from a screen—after all, isn’t being active what summer break is about?
Looking for resources on how to get your students and children thinking about healthy habits this summer? Check out these engaging Edmentum activities that celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and that teach children about the importance of healthful food choices!
This post was originally published June 2016 by Sarah Cornelius and has been updated.