By Kayla Cook.
The battle against childhood obesity is at its height in the summer months. In fact, kids gain weight more than twice as fast during the summer as they do during the regular school year due to a lack of scheduled meals, snacks, and time for physical activity. Luckily, there are a lot of fun ways, right here in Chico to keep them healthy and active throughout the summer months. Help your kids be healthy and beat the “summer slump” with these five simple tips.
1. Enjoy the outdoors. Summer in Chico can be hot, but do not let the heat slow you down. Playing outdoors can help kids be fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems, and have more active imaginations. Limit screen time (TV, computers, and video games) to two hours or less each day. Plan fun activities, like a scavenger hunt, a healthy picnic, or a game of baseball. Bring sidewalk chalk and create a four-square game, hopscotch, or just let kids draw. Many activities you can do outside are free. If it is a really hot day, encourage kids to run through the sprinklers or go to one of the local swimming spots. Chico has a lot of fun, outdoor activities such as: biking, hiking, or camping.
2. Look to the community for ideas. One of the best ways to get kids active is to enroll them in a summer activity program. These programs provide a safe place for children to get scheduled play and snacks. The Chico Area Recreation and Park District, YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and Chico State all offer summer camps for kids. Also, take advantage of all of the great kid-friendly parks in the area, such as Caper Acres, Wildwood Park, and Degarmo Park that have playgrounds and space for outdoor games.
3. Be a good role model. Stay active and eat healthy with your kids. Kids are more likely to make healthy choices if they see you doing it. Go for family walks, ride bikes together, or play at the park. Plan at least one activity together every week. The extra daylight during the summer makes it much easier to do something active after dinner, such as walk the dog or play catch. Another fun summer activity is planting a family garden and eating what you grow. Gardening is great exercise and helps kids make half their plate fruits and vegetables at every meal.
4. Get creative. Find new ways to eat healthy and be active so kids don’t get bored. Set up an obstacle course or play fun games like freeze dance or hide-and-seek. Use cookie cutters to make shapes out of fruits and vegetables. Yoga is also a fun way to get daily physical activity. If it is too hot to play outside, encourage indoor play. Dancing, hula-hooping, or cheerleading can get them moving.
5. Don’t forget to hydrate. Make sure kids drink enough water while being active in the heat. Have them drink water instead of sugary drinks when they are thirsty. If you are going to the park or taking a hike, bring bottles of water to quench your thirst throughout the day.
Eating healthy and being active is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. Kids need at least 60 minutes of play each and every day. Combining this with healthy eating can help lower their future risk of diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. This summer, help your kids build healthy habits for every season.