I haven’t yet been blessed with little rugrats of my own, but I am lucky in that I get to have little people (that belong to my friends) visit me on a fairly regular basis, and for right now that’s a perfectly ideal situation for me.
On the weekend after school ended, I was lucky enough to have my ‘niece’ and ‘nephew’ here for a visit. Usually we’d have been out doing all sorts of super fun things like fishing and playground hopping (which is way more fun than bar hopping in my opinion), but it was unseasonably cold and rainy. Since I’m a firm believer that an active lifestyle makes for happy and healthy (and sometimes even tired!) kids, I took to the internet to search for ideas on what we could do to keep ourselves entertained and occupied without camping out in front of the TV.
What I found while I was looking actually spurred the idea for this article. Below I’m going to list a variety of ways that you can keep your kids healthy and happy over this summer holiday.
Before we start, let me be very clear in saying that except in rare circumstances, I’m not an advocate for putting your child on any type of diet (it causes more problems than it solves). I’m of the mindset that kids should be kids. That said, I don’t think that you should be filling your children with cake and cookies and letting them sit in front of the TV playing video games for 16 hours a day. Just like adults, kids should be able to enjoy a treat every now and again. Everything in moderation.
It Starts With You
As the parental and/or adult influence in a child’s life, you’re responsible for making good choices. That/those kid(s) look up to you – If they see you eating nothing but junk, what exactly do you think they’re going to want? They’re going to want whatever you’re having. They look up to you for everything, from style advice to food. It’s a lot more than just making sure that they don’t run into traffic while you’re in a parking lot.
If you want your kids to eat healthy, you’re going to have to start eating healthy yourself. On the plus side, there’s no better time of the year for it – Fresh, wonderful produce is available at any farmers market! Alternatively, you could consider joining a CSA farm (some of them will even deliver your share of the bounty right to your front door!). If all else fails and you just don’t have the time, energy, or resources, there’s always your local grocery store (just remember to buy organic at least when it comes to the dirty dozen).
Keep Your Kids Happy And Healthy All Summer Long By….
Ditching The Feeding Schedule
Society has come a long way in the past couple of decades. Once upon a time, women were told that they should only be feeding their newborn baby on a schedule of every four hours. We now know that babies should be fed on demand (this ensures better digestion, more bonding time, and probably a far less cranky baby). But on-demand feeding shouldn’t stop there. By feeding your child when they’re hungry as opposed to telling them they need to wait for dinner, they’ll be less likely to overeat when you do finally place their plate in front of them.
Does that mean that you should hand your kid a candy bar or a bag of chips every time they say they’re hungry? Of course not.
Making Snack Time Fun
So now that we’ve established that snacking in between meals isn’t necessarily going to make your child’s waist line expand, we can talk about what kinds of snacks are appropriate. Here’s what you want to steer clear of:
And other various junk foods.
Instead, feed those little growing bodies with fruits, veggies, and complete proteins. Not only is this better for their health overall, but it will help replenish their energy throughout the day. And remember that a snack is a snack, not a meal – You don’t have to fill a dinner plate to the brim to satiate the hunger bug, a few bites of this and that and those little ones will be back up and running around in almost no time at all.
If you’re feeling exceptionally crafty one day, there are tons of ideas on Pinterest that allow you to take your snacks and meals and turn them into complete works of art (feel free to post your creations in the comments section below if you do decide to do this – We’d love to see them! I’m just not that artsy).
Paying Careful Attention To Nutrition Labels
I’ve said it 100 times before, and I’ll probably say it at least 100 more – Every time you see something labelled as ‘low fat’ or ‘low sugar’, you should just read that label as ‘chemical wasteland of things we added so that it still kind of tastes like food”. These types of things aren’t all that great for your body, much less that of your growing child.
I’m a pretty big fan of making everything from scratch so that I always know exactly what’s in my food, but I get the luxury of working from home where I can make the time to do such things. I’m aware that this isn’t practical for everyone (specifically busy working parents); if you absolutely have to buy pre-made products at the grocery store, please make sure that you’re carefully reading the label. If what you’re holding has less than five ingredients in it and you’re able to pronounce all of them, you’re off to a pretty decent start.
Monitoring What They’re Ingesting
I’m not saying that you need to watch your kid(s) like a hawk every single time they step toward the kitchen, but you should at least be keeping track of when and what they’re eating.
If a kid has full access to the fridge and kitchen cupboards and they know that no one’s watching them, they’re going to eat everything they can and in massive amounts because in their head, they’re simply starving to death.
You get to be the bearer of bad news – That bag of chips might feel filling at the time, but they’re just going to be hungry again in a half hour. It might take a little while and a bit of persistence, but soon enough your child(ren) will be reaching for healthier alternatives.
Encouraging Them To Be Active
Sure, it’s nice to know that your kids are safe and sound in their individual rooms playing video games or watching videos on their tablets, but they’ll have plenty of time to do things like that when there’s four feet of snow on the ground and it’s too cold to go out and play.
This. Is. Summertime!
There’s no better time to get outside and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. Swimming is the first thing that comes to mind (because the beach is where I spent the majority of my childhood), but you certainly don’t need to have water around in order to have a good time!
Go to a park and let them run around; or If you don’t happen to have one around you, invest in a couple of baseball gloves and teach them to play catch! On a budget? That’s why the dollar store exists – There are tons of toys and activities you can purchase to keep your kids running around outside until the sun goes down.
…Even When They’re Inside
Obviously not every day all summer long is going to be sunny and warm. There are going to be days where it’s gray and it seems like the rain is never going to end. Having a cuddle up on the couch movie day or tackling a new art project isn’t a bad idea every once in a while, but what are you going to do if it ends up torrential downpouring for a week strait?
For days like this, you’re going to want to make sure that you have things on hand that will keep your kids active and entertained. No, I’m not suggesting that you let them bring their gloves and balls inside for a game of baseball in the family room.
A mini trampoline takes up almost no space at all and can be hours of fun for creative kids (and if you do have one or go out and get one for your children, click here to see all the benefits that that mini trampoline can also provide you with).
Don’t have any of these things around and the weather is too brutal to go and pick anything up? Use that creativity we were talking about earlier – Gather everyone up and create your own game. At worst you’ll get an afternoon of fun out of it, at best you’ll be creating fun for multiple afternoons to come. Either way, you get to be the cool parent that makes up games. Win win!
Scheduling A Family Day
Whether it’s once a week or once a month, you should be able to put away a block that’s specifically going to be dedicated to a family outing.
Go biking, hiking, boating, or simply go to the park and play on the swings together. I’m sure that at one time or another you’ve heard the saying “monkey see, monkey do”, right? Well it’s true – If your kids only ever see you sitting down, you can’t expect them to want to do anything but that themselves.
And Keeping An Eye On The Time
Since school’s out now, a lot of parents end up letting their kids stay up later than they usually would (after all, they don’t have to get up for school in the morning so you might as well let them stay up a little later. That means that they might actually sleep in a little longer, right?!). Here’s why that’s not necessarily such a good idea.
You know how when you stay up late, not only do you end up eating more (while you’re binge watching your favourite show on Netflix), but you also end up craving carbs and sugar the next day? That’s because your body wants energy.
Your kids are no different. They’re far more likely to make bad food choices when they’re tired. Also, sleep is an incredibly important factor when it comes to brain development. The whole family should be getting a good night’s rest every single day. Your kids need more sleep than you do, so make sure that they’re going to bed at a decent hour every night.
Bonus: Keeping them on a regular schedule now will make for much less of a fight when September rolls around – It comes faster than you think!
Please Keep In Mind
If none of these methods are working for you or if you’re seriously concerned about your child’s weight, please make an appointment with your medical professional before putting your child on any kind of diet. In order for kids to develop properly, they need food. A lot of diet recommendations that are perfectly fine for a full grown adult to follow could actually be detrimental to a child’s health (specifically if that diet restricts certain foods – like fruit – that are actually pretty good for you in the right amounts).
Ultimately what it comes down to is that if you’re eating primarily whole foods and making sure that you’re regularly active, everything else will fall into place. You signed on to be a role model the second you found out you were going to be a parent, and that responsibility is a lifelong one. Building great habits now will carry on into further generations (because they’ll be able to teach their kids how to eat well and be active too). Ultimately, it all starts with you. This is far from the hardest struggle you’ll have as a parent though; in fact you’ll probably have a whole lot more fun than you think! Now get out there show those kids of yours what happy and healthy is all about!
What sorts of things do you do with your kids to help build good habits and healthy lifestyles? What are your ‘tricks’ for getting through summer break without pulling all of your hair out? We’d love to hear what you have to say so let us know in the comments section below!
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