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Ask the Doctor

Vivian Rider, MD, Pediatrician

Stellis Health - Monticello Clinic

Encouraging Children to be Active During the Summer Months

Question: My kids are getting ready for summer vacation. What are some ways I can keep them physically active during the summer?

Answer: When I moved to Minnesota in the summer of 1989, one of the first things I noticed about Minnesotans was that they were always outside, walking, running, biking, dining on patios, fishing, boating, playing in parks.  Then November came and everybody went into their houses for six months.  I know that there are people who adore Minnesota winter weather and participate in all kinds of activities, but I don’t see many of them as I’m wrapped in my blanket by the fireplace.  By the next Spring, I too was out in shorts in 40 degree weather anticipating the miracle of Summer. 

For our kids, this miracle is more than gorgeous weather, it’s freedom!  Freedom to play, explore, create and build friendships.  Unfortunately, there are forces and circumstances that can change the potential days of fun, physical activity and learning into hours of sedentary boredom.

Summertime can be a challenging time for working parents if their children are not in programs that keep them active.  And kids’ attraction to media is a challenge for almost all parents.   It is recommended that children’s screen time (television, video games, phones, computers) be limited to two hours per day, and one hour per day for children up to age 5.   Screen time has a powerful attraction to most kids in our culture, and in the summer with less structure there’s a risk of it getting out of control.

So, how to keep kids exercising their whole bodies, not just their thumbs on video controllers?  My first suggestion is to place limits on screen time and don’t give in just because it’s summer.  Parents need to limit their screen time as well.  The good news is that parents and kids have more time to do things together when the TV is off! 

It is recommended that children get a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to strenuous physical activity.  Organized sports are a good way to make sure children are getting activity and socializing during the summer.   Some sports are more active than others so keep this in mind.  Watching butterflies in the outfield isn’t considered cardio.

Another thing that I noticed when I moved to Minnesota, and that still amazes me, is the natural beauty of the state and abundance of parks and outdoor activities.   Possibilities abound for hiking, camping, swimming and playing.  Check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for some new ideas such as geocaching, using GPS devices to locate caches of treasure in state parks.  There are also free classes about a variety of subjects.

Parents should keep play fun.  Make exercise a reward, rather than a chore.  Say things like “After you pick up your toys, we’ll go to the park.”   We could all use a little more exercise, and we could all use a little more fun!  My prescription for a perfect summer-- sunshine, fresh air, sneakers, laughter, and a moderate amount of sweat! Have a fun, active and safe summer!

CentraCare Health - Monticello

1013 Hart Boulevard, Suite 1
Monticello, MN 55362
Phone: 763-295-2945
Business Office: 800-835-6618
Monticello Medical Group: 763-271-2200
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