Summer break is here! Though you may be stuck in the end-of-the-year flurry of graduations, banquets, and parties, and chauffeuring are just around the corner. We all may cheer for the hazier, lazier days of summer, but the carefree season isn’t always good for your kid’s health. While it’s true that children benefit from down time, research also links summer vacation with unhealthy rates of weight gain and losses in reading skills. How can you keep your children happy, healthy, and engaged throughout the coming break? It’s easier than you think.
- Allow Plenty of Time for Physical Play – and Limit Screen Time
Kids need time to be kids – and this means plenty of physical activity and unstructured playtime, no matter the age. Navigating playground equipment, for example, helps aid in a child’s gross motor development and helps develop sensory skills. Even something as simple as crawling on their hands and knees can help develop the hand muscles necessary to grip a pencil. At the simplest level, physical play helps kids remain active and mitigates the risk of unhealthy weight gain during the summer months. So allow your tots and young kids plenty of outdoor playtime, and make sure older kids get out and expend energy, too.
One of the easiest ways to get your kids moving is to limit screen time. Children who spend too much time on tablets, in front of TVs, or using other digital devices are at higher risk of sleep disturbance, obesity, and tend to score lower on developmental screenings. The evidence against screen time is so compelling that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their recommendations to no screen time for kids under the age of 2, 1 hour of high-quality programming for kids between 2 and 5, and 2 hours or fewer for everyone else. If your kids have trouble disconnecting from technology, work together as a family to create a media use plan.
- Rethink Your Summer Picnic
Summer break is a great time to roll out the grill, start the campfire, and arrange for meals outdoors. Unfortunately, typical “picnic foods” are loaded with sodium, processed and partially hydrogenated fats, and refined starches and sugars. Calories from these foods can add up quickly and do little to nourish your children’s developing bodies and minds. Simple swaps, however, can help make foods healthier and introduce your kids to new tastes and textures:
- For barbecue foods like burgers and hot dogs, use whole grain buns and swap out regular ketchup for slices of tomato or a lower-sugar version. Grass-fed beef adds an extra dose of Omega-3 fatty acids to burgers or hot dogs. Choose uncured, minimally processed versions of hot dogs, or try swapping the dog altogether for a marinated carrot dog.
- Ditch the bagged chips and add baby potatoes or corn on the cob to your grill menu.
- Fresh slices of watermelon or other fruit can replace sugary desserts. For a sweet treat, drizzle or dip them in melted dark chocolate.
- Water is the best way to keep your child hydrated in the summer months. Avoid fruit juices, sports drinks, and other beverages with added sugar, which are correlated with tooth decay, obesity, and even higher rates of respiratory disease and asthma.
- Prevent Summer-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Freedom and physical activity is great for developing kids, but parental supervision is necessary to prevent accidents, illnesses, and other injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight some of the leading causes of unintentional injury in children under the age of 18:
- Drowning is the leading cause of death by injury in children aged 1-4. Never let children swim unsupervised, even in backyard kiddie pools. On open water, all children should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Children who are not strong swimmers should also wear USCG life jackets in pools, not water wings.
- More than 300 children report to emergency departments across the U.S. each day for burns. Prevent scalding burns by placing all pot handles towards the back of the stove and away from curious toddlers. Parents can easily prevent first and second-degree sunburn with a thorough application of sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF. Reapply every few hours or playing in the water.
- Falls are a part of being a kid, but they’re also the leading cause of non-fatal injury in kids under 18. Always provide appropriate supervision of children on playground equipment or on trampolines.
We hope you have a safe and healthy summer. If an unexpected injury or illness puts a damper on the festivities, the professionals at Michigan Urgent Care are here to help. Contact us or reserve an appointment time for immediate care.