What are your children doing this summer? Taking time off from school is fun and often highly anticipated, but it’s important that they stay productively engaged during this down time. Keeping them mentally and physically strong will help benefit them in the long run, especially when it’s time to return to school in August.
Sixty minutes of physical movement for children each day is the goal, and this can easily be done when prioritizing time outside and trying new activities.
Kids often get to participate in camps centered around sports and other hobbies. If you know they aren’t going to be physically active while away, plan exercise before or after their camp day. If feasible, try walking or riding bikes with them to their summer activities.
On free days, opt for less screen time and go out to explore nature. There are so many options in north central Pennsylvania, like hiking, camping, kayaking, etc.
Although the sun feels good, its ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn whenever you’re out in the sun too long. Even with gradual exposure, tanning may be the skin’s response to sun damage and is not necessarily healthier. UV rays can cause serious diseases, such as skin cancer and damage to eyes.
Use the following tips to help protect children from the sun:
- Avoid the midday rays (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when they are the strongest.
- Keep infants under six months in the shade. Babies and young children have thinner skin than adults and are more susceptible to burns and skin damage. Sunscreen is also not advised on infants under six months.
- Dress children in loose, dry, lightweight, light-colored, cotton clothing. Include a hat and sunglasses with UV protection to protect the eyes.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors as it needs time to work on the skin. Use waterproof sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and is labeled for UVA and UVB rays.
- Be sure to use sunscreen on cloudy days, in the shade and in winter, too.
- Offer plenty of water to children, even if they’re not thirsty.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion: dizziness, nausea, weakness, headache or stomach cramps. Remove a child from the sun if he is experiencing any of these symptoms. Provide rest and plenty of fluids.
If your child gets sunburn resulting in pain, blistering or fever, contact your pediatrician.
There are a countless number of kid-friendly recipes that will teach your children healthy habits. Fruits and vegetables will be at their peak this season, so be sure to include them in these recipes as well. Getting your children involved with meal prep this summer is also a way to also spend time together.
Make sure your children drink plenty of water to keep them healthy and hydrated in the summer heat. Water helps your body function by keeping it at a stable temperature and helping to lubricate joints. Instead of choosing sugary soda or juices for hydration, try adding fresh fruit to cold water to give it a hint of flavor. Another way to make drinking water fun is to have a special, reusable water bottle to take along to camps and other summer activities.
As your child ascends into a new grade, new responsibilities can also be introduced this summer. Giving them age-appropriate tasks to help around the house can teach them valuable skills while developing their self-esteem. Allowing space to let them make decisions that are also age-appropriate contributes to their sense of self as well. Be sure to reassure them and show appreciation for chores and tasks that have been done well.
It’s normal to have routines and sleep schedules go awry during your children’s summer break. To help avoid this and the unwanted side effects of irregular sleep such as the possible development of obesity, poor mental health, attention or behavior problems, and more, a few tips may help.
- Creating a bedtime routine can help kids prepare for sleep. Taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story before bed helps to signal that it’s time to relax and get ready for sleep.
- Lowering the lights around the house and not using screens about an hour before bed helps to ease the mind and signal that it’s time to sleep.
- Avoid eating large amounts and caffeine before bed.
- Ensuring that kids are active throughout the day helps them tire their bodies and induce sleep later on to help recover and provide the rest that is needed for growing children.
If you have any concerns about your children’s physical health, nutrition, or emotional well-being, do not hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician.
Ashley Pence, D.O., is with UPMC Pediatrics and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport, 700 High St., Williamsport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Pence, call 570-321-2810. For more information, visit UPMC.com/PediatricsNCPA.