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Keeping kids mentally and physically healthy this summer

By Dr. Arif Khan, Consultant Pediatric Neurologist and Epileptologist and Head of Children’s Services at the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology

 

It’s that time of the year when teachers bid farewell to their students, hoping that children don’t forget everything that they have learned during the past school year. It’s also that time of the year when parents take on the challenge of keeping their children both physically busy and mentally active during the holidays.  Ironically, a lot of parents resort to technology to keep their children out of trouble; however are unknowingly feeding to an unhealthy addiction that can lead to behavioral problems.

School holidays provide a break from school work and a chance to refresh for the new academic year. It is also the perfect opportunity to develop a “summer plan” for the whole family to follow. As parents, it is important to find the right balance between entertainment and creative engagement.

Keeping kids engaged both physically and mentally during the summer holidays can improve their performance ahead of the next academic year. Being active strengthens their muscles and bones and ensures that their bodies are capable of running day-to-day activities. It is also important to remember that children’s activity levels in their early stages can have an effect on them for the rest of their lives.   Several studies have indicated that physically active children have better mental health, with higher self-esteem and levels of alertness than inactive children.

Dr Arif Khan, Consultant Pediatric Neurologist and Epileptologist and Head of Children’s Services at the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology shares five tips to help parents keep their kids physically and mental healthy this summer

1)      Structure the day or week with activities – Create a schedule each day or week so your child knows what to expect.  For example, 9 – 10 a.m.: Bike riding or dog walk to the park. This type of structure works particularly well with children who have a lot of energy.  By creating plenty of activities in advance, you will reduce distractions, impulses, boredom, and ultimately depression and accidents.

2)      Encourage children to track their activity – For the kids that spend countless hours in front of a computer or TV screen, activity trackers might be the motivator they need to get moving. Activity trackers, such as iBitz or the TupeloLife offer an 8 week after school program where children can track their steps and learn about the importance of being active every day.

3)      Keep children active and take advantage of summer camps – With so many different summer camps available for children during the school holidays, enrolling your child in a camp based on their preference, skills and interest is an option that can be very rewarding.  Summer camps can help children build self-confidence and self-esteem by removing the kind of academic, athletic and social competition that shapes their lives at school. Summer camps also provide a stable routine and environment that is usually different than the daily routine that children are used to. You can chose a camp that’s focused on a sport or a special interest one that covers a broad spectrum of activities including arts and crafts, social aspects and team games, encouraging children to socialize.

4)      Exercise their minds and get involved – Introducing children to creative activities that they might not necessarily have the time to do during the school year can be equally rewarding. From reading to cooking, here are some activities that can be explored by children and parents:

  1. a.      Engage in Kitchen fun: From baking a cake to flipping a pizza, kitchen activities can teaching your child the nutritional aspects of health and what goes into making a well-balanced meal;
  1. b.      Set-up free play games – Set up games that kids and adults can play together, such as monopoly or scrabble. These type of games challenges and sparks a child’s imagination
  1. c.       Organize family activity days – For the families that can’t afford to send their children to summer camps can opt for family indoor and outdoor activities. Family activity days can be both fun and engaging for the entire household.  Deciding how much money to spend, or what resources to use and helping your child research events and activities that are of interest, can provide a sense of responsibility and can keep a child both engaged and entertained.  Some activities including karaoke nights, or fishing trips, arts and craft workshops, a trip to the museum

5)      Set a bedtime.  Setting a bedtime will help keep your child on a consistent schedule and ensure proper rest. Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on a child’s learning, as well as their ability to grasp and understand things during the day.  A child can become quite fidgety, hyperactive and can also resort to excessive eating if they chronically lack sleep leading to obesity, social isolation and other healthcare issues.

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