Summer Survival Guide for Parents
by Aleza Freeman
School is out, and summer is in full swing. But if your home is anything like ours, your kids (and you) may be getting restless.
We all think of summer as a time of year for more outdoor fun in the sun. It is. But for busy parents it also begs the question, “How am I going to keep my kids entertained everyday for the next few months?”
“How am I going to survive the remaining days of summer with my sanity still intact?”
No need to start a back-to-school countdown. We’ve got you covered with some fun (and healthy tips) to help you and your family make the most of your summer vacation.
Healthy Food Habits
When kids are out of school they’re at a higher risk for unhealthy eating and obesity. So summer is the ideal time to tweak your family’s food habits. You can’t necessarily control what your kids put in their bodies when they’re out, but you can control the food you provide at home.
Take stock of what’s in your pantry and refrigerator, and replace high-sodium and high-fat processed snacks with healthier options like fruits and veggies, which are packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants.
Here are some more easy ways to instill some healthy eating habits this summer:
Your pick: Take a family trip to a local farmer’s market or orchard to pick out (or pick) fresh produce and other locally-crafted delicacies. Use this website to find orchards near you.
Just grow with it: Develop healthy roots at home by planting an herb and/or vegetable garden. One report shows that kids who garden not only eat more fruits and vegetables but usually practice lifelong healthy eating habits (plus many other fruitful benefits).
If you’re limited on space, plant an indoor garden or sign-up for a plot in a community garden. You can use this website to find which herbs and vegetables are the best to plant this time of year based on where you live.
Chef’s choice: Cooking together is another fun way to bond, and it doesn’t have to cause a catastrophe in the kitchen (though there will be spills). There are plenty of kid-friendly and age-appropriate recipes that are both healthy and delicious. These Healthy Otter Pops are made with hydrating fruits like pineapple, strawberries and bananas.
Creative, high-energy kids will smile wide with these no-bake Veggie Faces from Two Healthy Kitchens. They’re practically an edible art project.
Basket case: Plan a family picnic at the park or even in your own backyard. Have the kids help you pack the picnic basket with healthy food choices. Skip the high-fat foods like coleslaw and potato salad, and opt for a salad of greens and veggies drizzled with a little olive oil and vinegar; make veggie kabobs instead of sandwiches. Sliced fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe are healthy dessert alternatives that are also high in water content (hello, hydration!).
Conversation starter: Eat meals as a family as much as possible in a calm and friendly environment. This will create positive feelings around food and mealtimes.
Get your kids involved in the meal planning process by giving them age-appropriate tasks like pouring drinks or setting the table. Encourage conversation at the table (just don’t talk with your mouth full). Here are some conversation starters from Aha! Parenting.
We-get-it Tip: Ok, we get it. There’s no replacement for eating ice cream on a hot summer day. Celery sticks will likely never rival the satisfying crunch you get from eating potato chips. And veggies in general will never be the negotiating tool that candy or chocolates afford with your kids. However, it’s the little things over time that can make a big difference when it comes to good health for you and your family.
With the kids being home all summer, try placing pre-cut fruits and veggies and other healthy snacks at your kid’s eye level, whether in the refrigerator and or your pantry. By moving the other not-so-healthy snacks out of reach and out of sight, your kids may not even thing to ask for them.
The inviting weather and extra time off make summer vacation a perfect time for the family to get active together. The suggested amount of daily activity for children varies by age. KidsHealth.org recommends an hour of active play daily for toddlers and two hours daily for preschoolers. The site also suggests that young children not be inactive for longer than one hour; two hours for school-age children.
Along with burning off all that extra energy, exercise will improve their sleeping habits and their ability to handle physical and emotional challenges.
Summer is the perfect time of year to repackage exercise as fun with family and friends, whether heading to the mountains to hike, walking the dog (use the seven second rule to make sure the pavement isn’t too hot) or enjoying games in your own backyard.
More fun ways to get active together:
Host a family game night: We’re not talking about board games (though those are fun too). We’re talking about physical games like Hide and Seek or Tag. You could even have a sack race or toss around a Frisbee. Turn it into your own family field day. Wellness Mama, provides details for a fun Family Nerf Fight; exercise disguised as a game.
Run for it: If you prefer something less competitive, do some good while feeling good by participating in a fun-run or charity walk. Your children will be extra hyped if they get to wear a cape or tutu (pretty much standard attire at these events).
Tap into your animal instincts: Check out your local zoo. Expect to do a lot of heart-healthy walking while you’re ogling the animals.
Jump for joy: Go to an indoor gym or trampoline park where you can literally bounce off the walls. The is a fun way to burn off some energy and escape the heat.
Go wild: Choose your own photo safari by exploring a nearby state or national park. Look up some scenic lookout points ahead of time and turn finding them into a scavenger hunt for your kids to help keep them engaged and entertained.
Not only will you get tons of family photo opportunities, but it’s good for your health. New research from the University of East Anglia shows that exposure to the great outdoors reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress and high blood pressure.
Summer is mostly for fun in the sun, but the hot weather can bring some safety concerns. So, we put together a checklist of supplies you’ll want to have at home. Our summer safety checklist:
Safety first: Make sure your first aid kit is fully-stocked. Skinned knees and bumped heads are a given for kids in the summer. Take a few minutes to evaluate the first aid kit in your home and make sure you have plenty of adhesive bandages and antiseptic ointment or spray on hand. Instant ice packs (the kind that don’t need to be in the freezer) will also come in handy.
Pro tip: With the possibility of road-tripping adventures on the horizon, be proactive (better safe than sorry) and keep a first aid kit in your vehicle too. Check out this list of First Aid Kit supplies for a family of four from The Red Cross.
Bug spray: If you live in an area that’s prone to mosquito-infestations and other summer pests, you may want to stock up on bug spray. The Environmental Protection Agency has a search tool to find out which one is best for you and your kids.
Sunscreen: Whether you’re spending a significant amount of time outdoors or simply sprinting from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned building (we get it, it’s hot out there), don’t forget the sunscreen this summer. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects from both UVA and UVB rays) that is water-resistant with an SPF 30 or higher.
Pro tip: As long as you’re busy restocking for summer, double- check the expiration date on your home fire extinguisher. It might be time for a replacement.
Water safety: It’s pool season, so there’s lots of swimming (and sadly, drowning risks). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds that drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4. Never leave your child unattended in or near a body of water. In most locations, it’s required that home pools are fenced off, but that may not be enough. We recommend getting a lock to ensure curious kids can’t access the pool on their own.
Stay hydrated: It’s easy to get dehydrated in the summer. Even mild dehydration can cause health and cognitive problems. Practice the 20-minute rule this summer. Have a sip or two every 20 minutes.
Pro tip: Are you struggling to get your kids to drink enough water? Try these healthy and hydrating recipes to help your kids up their H2O intake.
Don’t neglect yourself
Between wiping noses, making snacks and shuttling kids around town, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. In fact, the average mom only gets 17 minutes of alone time a day, according to a poll.
We understand that you’re responsible for raising little humans, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself.
Self-care is not only good for your mental health, it’s also good for your kids. The better you feel, the more equipped you’ll be to help your family create happy, healthy memories all summer long.
Here are a few ways to squeeze a little extra me-time into your day:
Rise to the occasion: The early bird gets the worm, or in this case a little alone time. Wake up a half-hour earlier than the rest of the family, and take a nice morning walk around the block. Or, use this time as a chance to catch your breath, tend to the garden and meditate on the day ahead. Not sure where to start? Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace make it super simple for moms to practice mindfulness.
Soak it in: Lock yourself in the bathroom for some hydrotherapy in a nice, warm bath. Think of it as a spa day (or hour) at-home. From heart health to muscle and joint relief, the benefits of baths have been scientifically proven. Light a candle for some added ambiance and put relaxing, scented bath salts or bubbles in the water.
Be social: Schedule a date night with your significant other or enjoy a night out with friends. Social time without children will do wonders for your mind and your vocabulary. Try checking groupon to see deals on what's happening nearby. You can also use it to find discounts on fitness classes (mentioned below.)
Get moving: Attend a fitness class that you enjoy whether it be Zumba, boxing, boot camp or even yoga with goats (yes that’s a thing).
Try something new: Find a hobby or learn a new skill that sparks your curiosity. Whether its an old passion or a new idea, you’re never too old to grow and expand your mind.
Bonus Tip: Just looking for an easy way to feel good right now? Here are 10 things you can do to help instantly boost your mood.
Looks Like You Need a Pick Me Up
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