There was a question on Mamapedia
about how to keep kids from turning into video game/ screen junkies
over summer break. Well, as it turns out I've put a whole lot of
thought into this common modern mom dilemma.
when my children were babies (sunhats on head, pails and shovels in
hand) I'd drum up glorious images of summers to come. My kids would
skip home from school once that final bell rang, ready for three months
of fun in the sun. I'd greet them in the backyard with a badminton set
and a pitcher of lemonade. They'd play, I'd pour. That's it.
never considered that my vacationing charges might reach for video-game
joysticks over badminton racquets. Or that they'd want to spend their
lazy, hazy days surfing the net not the waves. It didn't cross my mind
that once those babies turned into kids (Braves hats on head, remote
controls and computer mice in hand), my blissful imagery of carefree
romping in the summer sun would give way to the SpongeBob Sizzling
Summer Marathon on Nickelodeon.
many summers and melted parental fantasies later I understand that I'm
not alone in my plight. In fact, the Institute for Social Research at
the University of Michigan reports that kids today spend half the time
playing outdoors than kids did two decades ago.
there is mounting concern over this generational shift from the
backyard to the couch. A recent broad-scale study featured in the
American Journal of Public Health reports that summertime sedentariness
among children has them packing on the pounds at twice the rate over
the summer than during the school-year. While a plethora of other
research links inactivity among modern kids with increased incidence of
childhood depression and anxiety and traditionally adult health
problems like cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.
also warn that the demise of traditional outdoor play could hinder
children's development. "Outdoor experience isn't just something nice
for kids to have," writes Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child
in the Woods, "They have to have it." Neuroscientists tap interaction
with the natural world as a primary player in children's sensory
development. Ditto for physical development, as running around outside
is critical in refining children's large and small motor skills and
achieving "full brain activation".
how can we ensure our kids remain happy, healthy and active during
their lengthy school siesta? We begin with strict rules and limitations
regarding screen time (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no
more than two hours daily of television, video games and computers
combined), and follow up with plenty of opportunity for child-oriented
fun in the sun.
following list of high-interest, low-maintenance, affordable outdoor
activities (some of which families can do together and others of which
kids can conquer on their own) promise to help keep your crew off the
couch and out the door - and your budget intact - all summer long.
Sporty Kids ·
Play Backyard Volleyball. Use a clothesline as a net (make sure it's
higher than the tallest child's head) and a lightweight beach ball or
balloon as a volleyball. · Make a Baseball
Splash. Fill a bucket with water balloons. Have kids take turns
pitching and batting - and getting drenched. · Have a Hula Hop. Spread
hula hoops around the backyard, varying the distance between them;
challenge children to jump from one to the next.
Sweaty Kids ·
Play Water Limbo. Use water from a garden hose instead of a stick;
players bend, crawl or slither under the stream to avoid getting wet.
Driest kid wins. · Build a Water Slide.
Secure plastic sheeting (available art hardware stores) with garden
stakes in a grassy inclined area; turn on the sprinkler and let kids
slide away. (Feet-first sliding only, adult supervision required.) · Play Splash Tag. In a
cool variation of the old standby, the player who's "it" uses a squirt
a spray bottle or throw a wet sponge to soak his targets; once
drenched, that player becomes the new "it".
Artsy Kids ·
Make a Backyard Mural. Soak an old sheet and hang it on a clothesline
or fence. Put out various tempera paints and applicators -- sponges,
paintbrushes, squirt bottles - and let kids go at it. · Create Natural Window
Decor. Go on a nature hike and pick some pretty summer flowers. Have
children arrange them on contact paper (sticky-side up) and seal the
deal with a second piece of contact paper (sticky-side down). Trim the
edges, punch a hole, and hang it in the window with ribbon. · Build Sandcastles. A
couple of bags of sand from the hardware store are all it takes to make
a bona fide backyard beach. Throw in some plastic pails and shovels and
let the creative construction begin.
Exploratory Kids ·
Search for Buried Treasures. As long as you've got a pile of sand in
the backyard, bury some inexpensive goodies (or even a bunch of
pennies) in it and let kids dig for the loot. · Go Geo-Caching. This
amazingly cool family activity is an outdoor treasure hunt in which the
participants use a GPS receiver (or GPS-activated cell phone) to hide
and seek containers (called "geocaches") hidden all over the world.
Find details at http://www.geocaching.com/ · Have an A-Z Scavenger
Hunt. Write the letters of the alphabet in a column on a piece of
paper. Take an urban hike and search out items that begin with each
Green Kids ·
Plant a Butterfly Garden. Summer is the ideal time for this beautiful
family project. Find out how to design and plant a kid-friendly
butterfly garden at http://www.amazingmoms.com/htm/childrensgardening2.htm · Make Bird Feeders.
Plaster a couple of pinecones with peanut butter. Roll them in bird
seed and hang them from a tree branch with yarn or ribbon. · Tap Your Resources.
Books like The Earth Book for Kids by Linda Schwartz offer oodles of
kid-friendly, environmentally-conscious activity ideas.
Helpful Kids · Have a Car Wash. Kids will love getting wet and sudsy, and they can donate the profits to a cause of their choice. · Dog Walk. Have children
lend a hand to an elderly neighbor or frazzled new mom by taking her
favorite four-legged friend on a walk. · Open a Refreshment
Stand. Help kids set up shop with some lemonade and cookies so they
can provide sweaty passers-by with cool, sweet treats.
SHARON DUKE ESTROFF
Duke Estroff is an award-winning educator and author of "Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House,
2007). Her parenting articles appear in over 100 publications including
Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Day. Her popular Undercover Mom Blog on Net Family News
gives digital immigrant parents timely, straightforward advice on raising digital native kids.