One of our favorite family traditions is to create a summer bucket list of fun activities to complete between the last day of the old school year and the first day of the new one. We love to take advantage of the extra free time and extra long days. By writing down a list of activities and posting it in a common area, we have a visual reminder of things to do. The kids really enjoy checking things off the list as we go. This summer, your family might try a new spin on the conventional bucket list and develop a list of healthy habits to incorporate into your daily routine. I’ve started with a list of five goals for a healthy summer.
Goal #1: Eat more fruits and vegetables
Summer is the perfect time to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into daily meals and snacks. Get started by visiting a local farm or the farmer’s market to give your kids the “farm-to-table” experience. You can even take it a step further and grow your own garden. If you do not have a green thumb, start small with potted herbs or vegetables in containers. Also, have the kids participate in the meal planning and preparation. They will be more likely to eat foods they have grown, chosen, or cooked. Finally, find new ways to prepare fruits and vegetables. Try roasting vegetables and then putting them on pizza for a new twist on a classic favorite. Grilling fruits, like peaches, pineapples, or strawberries, brings out their natural sugars and can be served as a healthy dessert or sweet salad topping.
Goal #2: Drink more water
If your children are not accustomed to drinking much water, summer is a great time to start this habit as the rising temperatures make them crave hydration. To encourage water consumption, keep labeled or color-coded cups for each child in an easy to reach area. They can use the same cup all day, so it will cut down on dishes. You may also try keeping some slices of citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumbers, or sprigs of mint to add fresh flavor to water. Another alternative is to freeze these items into ice cubes that will both chill and flavor the water.
Goal #3: Get adequate sleep
As the school year routine relaxes during summer, bedtimes tend to be more relaxed as well. However, it is still important for children to get adequate sleep during summer. The amount of time that a child sleeps is important, but the actual bedtime and wake time is important as well. Try not to deviate more than an hour from their typical bedtime and wake time. This may mean going to bed while the sun is still up. As the first day of school approaches, start to get back to your school year sleep schedule to make the transition smooth.
Goal #4: Exercise more
Getting exercise by playing outside is undoubtedly one of the best parts of summer. Unfortunately, these days, playing outside has to compete with the various forms of media available to kids. To combat this, enforce “no media” times when your kids are not allowed to watch television, use the computer, play on their tablet, etcetera, etcetera. You might create a specific list of outdoor activities for them to do for those times when they dare utter, “I’m bored.” I’ll start with a few ideas.
- Go on a river walk.
- Hula hoop.
- Run through the sprinkler.
- Play hopscotch.
- Pull weeds in the garden.
- Play tag.
- Have a scavenger hunt.
- Jump rope.
- Host field day at your house for the neighborhood kids.
The possibilities are really endless. Just remember to be safe and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Goal #5: Learn something
Summer learning loss is defined by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) as “the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer”. To help your kids retain more knowledge, keep their minds active. One of the best ways to stay on track is to set aside a specific time for reading each day or pick one day each week to visit the library. Older kids might consider starting a neighborhood book club. If your children have challenges in specific areas, talk with their teacher before school lets out about what would benefit them most this summer. Extra hours during summer time might also be a good opportunity to tackle a new hobby or begin learning a musical instrument.
These five goals are just a starting point. Think about some other healthy habits your family would like to accomplish and create your own personalized bucket list. Be sure to participate with your kids and remember to have fun!