Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Long Summer Days Doesn’t Mean Sit Around Indoors

By: Patrick Tate, MD

The days are about as long as they’ll get, which means summer is here. Plenty of time spent at swimming pools, area parks, backyards and the great outdoors should be on the agenda for physically active families (and remember if you do these things, tell us about them so we can check them off from the #100ChoosyIdeas summer list!).

Unfortunately, for many children, a large amount of their time will be spent sitting even in those outdoor spaces.  Technology that encourages inactivity is an enormous barrier to getting the recommended daily amount of physical activity per day in children. From tablets to phones, video game systems to good old TV, there are a lot of reasons to stay in your seat after a long day…or all day. Especially since many of these options are now mobile. “Go get some fresh air” may be taken literally – with the tablet or phone enjoying some rays alongside your child.

Outdoor Play

The current recommendation is for at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily; with a limit on screen time to 2 hours or less per day. This includes homework, summer school, TV, smartphone use, computer time and video games. Yes, there are ways to be physically active that may incorporate a screen (dancing games, exercise games), but generally, physical activity and “screen time” don’t mix.  Furthermore, I believe that exploring and interacting with one’s physical environment is of incredible value to childhood development.

Perhaps it’s a simple walk outside after dinner, or a daily nature walk, making a collection of items from your neighborhood or local park. Maybe you routinely visit playgrounds and encourage well supervised free-play. No matter what outdoor activity you choose, children of all ages and stages exercise their mind and hone their motor skills when challenged to engage the world we live in. For our climate it’s especially important to “jump” on these opportunities when we can, because for many families, a portion of our year demands a focus on more indoor activities.

Long Summer Days

Equally important is for the parent to nurture a child’s inherent spirit of adventure by modeling one with an emphasis on activity outdoors. Although more organized outdoor activities such as swim lessons, scouting trips, and sports are important components of a child’s physical and social development, a family that makes a daily practice of engaging their children in outdoor free play will enjoy a more balanced and healthy lifestyle overall.

So get out there and play with your kids! What is your favorite thing to do outside with your children?

About the Author: Dr. Tate is a Pediatrician for Children’s Community Pediatrics –South Hills Pediatric Associates, and he is currently accepting new patients. South Hills Pediatric Associates has been providing pediatric care for over 40 years, and has a new office in Monongahela, PA. This office is in addition to locations in Jefferson Hills, PA, and Brentwood, PA. For more information about our walk-in hours, same day sick appointments, and other questions please call 412-882-7747.

38 comments :

  1. This is why I am sometimes glad my kids go to summer camp, since if I was home with them all day I dont know if I would be able to come up with enough ideas to keep them active while getting done what I need to do!

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    1. By having your children make memories and have experiences without you, they are learning to be independent and to also trust another adult. All good things!

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  2. The days are definitely long during the summer. My oldest, luckily, goes to summer school, and one of his classes is outdoors doing sports. I try to take my twins to the playground or park often, and I want to get them swimming too.

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    1. Yes, summer days are much longer and it seems like we jam so much into the season as we can but having routines sure does help everyone.

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  3. I wish we had our own little yard for our son to play in. He has special needs, so he would need a fenced yard to play in. I would also love a little outside space to use too!

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    1. Do you have a park nearby? Maybe a YMCA or another facility like it? Take a stroll around because I am sure there is something outdoors that can work for you and your child.

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  4. It is so hot here in FL, it is really hard to stay outside for too long. Going in the pool definitely helps as does doing activities inside that encouragement movement.

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    1. Swimming is awesome and great fun! Are there any indoor facilities that have places for the kids to run around and blow off their energy? Whatever works!

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  5. I'm definitely needing to get my kids moving more. We do a lot of Wiggles dance breaks, but they don't get nearly the amount of fresh air they should.

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    1. It can be hard for families that work or have children of multiple ages/stages, weather, environment, etc. But what we need to remember is that fresh air and sunshine benefits everyone. So even if it is just a couple minutes every couple of hours, at least you are outside and off the couch :)

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  6. I agree this is something we should all take note of. Kids should be active during the summer, to keep them from unlearning the things they learned at school. Aside from that, keeping them physically active is very good for their health. These are good pointers!

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    1. Children can learn so much from being outside that they can relate back to things they learn in a formal school environment. Hands on activities are great!

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  7. This really is important. It gets super hot here but it's still a good idea to spend some time outside.

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    1. Sometimes a couple minutes each hour is great. Try doing some activities in a shaded area and if it gets too hot, then head back inside to cool off or to the pool :)

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  8. Now that my boy's a teen already, I get to jog with him around the village in the morning.

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    1. That is WONDERFUL! Family time + exercise = greatness!

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  9. My son loves playing at our backyard. He likes water balloon fight and hide n seek.

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    1. Those are really fun activities. Did you check out Choosy's 100 summer idea list? There's a lot of outdoor fun things on there too! Share with us when you check anything off.

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  10. Nice post! I will share this to my step children. they definitely need to be out in summer.

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  11. I love getting my kids outdoors. They actually really like to be outside too. We've got some fun things for them to do outside, so it's not like they can't have fun out there!

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    1. And even if you don't have "toys", children have wonderful imaginations so they can really blossom outside.

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  12. I love going to the park in the early morning when it is less crowded. and head home for lunch. and then out again when it isn't too hot out. We also go to the local pool to cool off.

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    1. Yes! That is a great idea, especially if you children are morning people. Why waste the time when the weather is prime!

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  13. Awesome post. We wake up in the morning and go for a morning jog unless its raining then we do one of the numerous YouTube Fitness exercises all for free! By the time we cool down, have some breakfast and get a shower each its past 10am. I let them have a lie in surely its their holiday time. We then can do some fun indoor stuff or they go visit with some friends...They are big enough to do so! Summer time Is also my chance to get a load of content created! So I dont sweat things!

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    1. Sounds like you have a great routine and schedule for your family. Whatever works for you and your family is best!

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  14. We do not sit indoors otherwise my kids would go nuts. I try to take them out at least once a day to do some kind of physical activity. We do a lot of playgrounds and swimming.

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    1. A lot of children go nuts inside...and can run free outside in most areas!

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  15. We have mornings out and afternoons in. We are always finding some way to burn some energy. If not, then my 3.5 year old starts to get a bit stir crazy.

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    1. That is a tough age but getting them outside will surely help with the energy burning!

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  16. I totally agree with this. We have been limiting screen time. We spend most of our team me swimming.

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    1. Swimming is a great family/outside exercise. Good job!

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  17. I'm all about the outdoor play!!!! This is the first year I haven't had to force it with my daughter and I love it!!!!

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    1. Isn't it awesome when kids finally realize how great it is outside?

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  18. My son is in summer camp since I work full time. He gets to swim and run around and I am glad it gets him away from technology for most of the day!

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    1. That is awesome! Whatever works best for your family!

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  19. My kids would love outdoor activities, and swimming is their favorite

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  20. My daughter loves playing with the neighbors kids outside. They ride bikes and scooters.

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