Sensational Summer

by Katie Martin, Healthy Learning Paths Instructor, Summer Kid at Heart

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid anticipating summer?  I do!  Summer was camping, bikes, friends, skinned knees, chalk, sprinklers, and not coming home until dark.  What does summer look like for kids today?

With more options on television and video games, are your kids experiencing the excitement of playing outside?  School will soon be out and with summer, kids have opportunities to move more and sit less.  It’s time to make a plan.  Let’s make it a healthy and happy one this summer.  Summer brings its opportunities for fun, and its challenges from heat and sun.

One way to get kids outside is checking out local recreation centers and pools. Many recreation centers offer fun outdoor activities for kids during a busy parent’s work day. When you have time off, plan outdoor activities such as walks, bike rides, visiting parks and, zoos, backyard forts, or even a game of tag at your neighborhood school’s playground.

When playing outdoors in Colorado, here are steps to protect kids from the sun:

  • Apply sunscreen that has at least SPF 30 labeled “broad spectrum” meaning it covers both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • Look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients as they are less irritating for sensitive skin and eyes.
  • It is best to apply sunscreen indoors before putting on clothing, at least 15-30 minutes before going outside. Apply about an ounce, which is the size of a shot
  • Reapply every one to two hours or more often after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. Read the label for recommended reapplication as most sunscreens have 40-80 minutes reapplication times.
  • Active ingredients in sunscreens offer great skin protection, but problems for the lungs. Therefore, spray sunscreens are not recommended for children.
  • Use sunscreen even on cloudy days, as the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds.
  • Wear wide brimmed hats, light colored loose clothing, and sunglasses.

So you have sunburns covered, what else is important for summer fun?  Are your kids drinking water throughout the day?  It’s easy for kids to forget about drinking water, so it’s our job to remind them.  Fill those water bottles with cool, refreshing water, and leave the sugar and caffeine out.

Did you know that sugar and caffeine can actually lead to dehydration?  That’s right, those sugary drinks and caffeinated culprits tell the kidneys to let go of more water.  How much water is a frequent question?  It’s all in the pee.  Look at the color of the pee, and teach kids that it should be pale yellow to clear.  Dark yellow pee is one sign of not enough water or dehydration.

Here are some tips to coach your child to stay hydrated:

  • Teach them to keep a water bottle clean and filled.
  • Add fruit, veggies, or even mint to water for fabulous flavors.
  • Snack on whole fruits and veggies such as melons, oranges, berries, carrots, celery, and others that naturally have high water content.
  • Teach kids to puree fresh fruit to freeze as popsicles for a cool summer treat.
  • Remind kids and ask the kids to remind you to drink water throughout the day.

During summer, plan to avoid emergency room visits by practicing these safety tips:

  • Wear helmets for biking, skating, skateboards, and other wheeled activities.  Brains have to last a lifetime!
  • Practice street safety and help children understand street signs.
  • Accompany your child to the pool and teach safe pool rules.
  • Have your child wear a life jacket when enjoying water sports and swimming, but stay within arm’s reach if they cannot swim.
  • Never leave children alone in cars as this can quickly lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.

What about summer schedules?  For a healthy and happy child, keeping a summer routine is golden!  If you keep a summer schedule both you and your child will be well rewarded when school starts again in just a few months.

  • Practice regular bedtime routines and wake up routines.
  • Have a few chores for your child as a way to help the family.
  • Summer is great to teach children to plan meals, cook, and clean with your help.
  • Enjoy family meals together and at regular times.
  • Practice reading, art, music, science, math, history, and other activities to keep young minds engaged and curious about the wonderful world of learning!

Enjoy your children and the time you share this summer.  Explore the outdoors, experience new adventures, and create lasting memories for the entire family.  Don’t blink or you may miss it.  Summer flies by way too fast, so be sure to make your summer sensational!