For many, summer is an exciting time of sun and fun. For some though, summer can be a letdown. In school, children have unparalleled structure, a myriad of activities, and a community of friends. Once school is out, everything changes. Long days, late nights, junk food, and inactivity can have serious effects on the physical wellness and mental health of a child. But, with a heightened focus on the body and mind, summer can go from boring to soaring in no time.
Our brains are complex and dynamic, and children’s minds are a grand central station of activity. However, over the summer, fewer trains come through the station, which decreases excitement, engagement, and enjoyment. Mentally stimulating activities are a must for school-aged kids during summer months to curb depression and keep them motivated and happy, as well as uphold their mental health.
Though children may want to believe Cheetos, gummy bears, and root beer are dietary staples, they are decidedly not. Along with exercise and brain boosting, the road to good summer health is paved with great nutrition. So, pick up an apple and let’s get summer started positively!
Children need to feel engaged—one of the best ways to engage the brain is to move the body. Engaging in moderate exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, has been shown to improve self-esteem, reduce stress, increase energy levels and improve sleep. Exercise has been proven to help treat mild to moderate depression. Exercise is one of the best ways to stay physically and mentally fit!
Alleviate ‘I’m bored, I’m hungry, I’m sad’ this summer with a few fun ideas:
The world is full of excitement. Summer school kids may need a push to feel this. When the proverbial, “I’m bored” comes, use these ideas to help them quell their need for mental engagement:
- Collect stones and paint them.
- Pick up an arrangement of leaves and petals and press them for laminated bookmarks.
- Write a story in a self-created book.
- Children can scavenger hunt their own homes for materials to re-purpose and create something new. It’s amazing what can be done with paper towels rolls or pool noodles!
Hop on the Google and Pinterest bandwagons and help children engage their minds through crafts and creative projects.
While nutrition is paramount for a growing body and active mind, it often goes by the wayside when poolside or out at the park. Young minds are dramatically healthier when eating nutritious foods. Feed the body; feed the brain.
Don’t know where to start? Children love choices—when they are a part of choosing food and making meals, they are significantly more likely to eat healthier options. Farmers’ markets are a fun, engaging way to select new fruits and vegetables to incorporate into snack and mealtimes. At the grocery store, shop the perimeter. Have you ever noticed all the ‘good stuff’ is along the outside of the store? Veggies, lean meats, eggs, dairy, and fruit reside on the outside.
A few fun summer food ideas:
- Fruit kebabs—skewer kid-chosen fruit on a stick with cubed cheese and pretzels for some fun crunch.
- Frozen shaped yogurt—pick up a flexible fun-shaped mold at a garage-sale or online and freeze your kiddo’s favorite brand of yogurt. Pair it with some blueberries or strawberries for some brain food—presto!
- Cookie cutter sandwich—use whole grain bread, a protein, a veggie, and some cheese with a fun-shaped cookie cutter to press out a healthy summer sandwich.
Depression can flare during unstructured summer days. School friends are on vacay, junk food is more prevalent, and Minecraft becomes a lifestyle. It’s vital for children to adopt a healthy summer routine that involves physical movement and activity. While it improves their physical health, it also triggers endorphins that support mental health and overall wellbeing.
- Grab an empty 2L soda bottle and puncture it. Attach it to a hose and enjoy the summer sprinkles.
- Pick up some dollar store sponges. Mark each one with a letter of the alphabet, and throw them in the pool. The sponges will float and your kids will have a blast playing pool Scrabble.
- Hula hoop down the block. As a family. Winner gets a special prize!
If you’d like to learn more about supporting children’s healthy summer habits, and other topics, be sure to take a look at some of our other interesting blog topics. If you have any questions, please call Community Reach Center (303) 853-3500, Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.
Need more ideas? Check out these great sources that were used to write this blog: