Many kids look forward to the summer as an opportunity to take a break from studying and just have fun. The summer is a great time for a change of pace and the new school year seems a world away.
However, more reports show that when children stop eating healthy and learning over the summer they are behind when school starts again – this is also known as a “summer slump.”
Reality Check #1: Numbers show that children gain weight 2-3 times faster over the summer and they can lose up to two months of reading skills.
Not only are kids at risk for gaining weight this summer, but the 20.6 million low-income children who receive free or reduced meals during the school year will be without access to quality and nutritious food to help them with their healthy growth.
Reality Check #2: Keeping your kids healthy and engaged this summer doesn’t have to be expensive.
Between summer camps and local nonprofit organizations, there are many options to help your kids to stay involved, active and healthy this summer.
Avoiding the summer slump or summer “brain drain” is an issue that I am passionate about as it essential to the healthy development and future success of our nation’s kids. That’s why I’m excited to say that I’m working with the Walmart Foundation who announced more than $20 million in grants last week to six nonprofits that are helping to fight the summer “brain drain” with healthy meals, learning programs and jobs for kids this summer. Just this week, I was on CNN Headline News, spoke with USA Today and talked with numerous bloggers to help spread the message about how these next three months can jeopardize our kids learning and health!
With a little more insight and planning, parents and caregivers can take an active role in helping children this summer. Here are five tips that I think will help all families:
Five Tips for Summer Activities
1. Look for organizations in your community that offer free programs for children of all ages.
YMCA and National Recreation and Park Association are trustworthy organizations that may offer summer programs in your neighborhood.
2. Contact community colleges and local universities to find employment training programs for your older kids.
For students, especially in high school, now is the time to get ready for a summer job, or even a full-time job. Organizations in your area may offer programs to help teach students the best way to search and apply for jobs, and some may even offer skills training courses.
3. Go to your local library.
Libraries are amazing resources for summer learning, with everything from books and book clubs, to online programs. You might want to let your child make his own book selections. Studies show that kids are more likely to read when they choose!
Also, set a time when everyone in your family “Drops Everything And Read” (call it your “DEAR” time). The daily reading set time helps kids get into the routine of reading, and they’ll also see you reading!
4. Check your newspaper for events that are kid-friendly.
Everything from movie screenings in a park to a small auto show can offer opportunities for engagement. Come up with questions for kids to research about the event – before, during or after – to help them think about the experience in a more meaningful way. “Before heading to that auto show, let’s find out about Henry Ford.” Or “Let’s go to the kite-flying competition at the park this weekend. I bet the Internet has interesting facts about where kites originated and when. I betting it was in China and a long time ago, what do you think?”
5. Plan and make healthy meals with your kids every week.
Ask your kids to help get involved in planning and making healthy meals together – find ways to make it fun! Also, visit your farmers market to point out those”veggies” and “fruits” or if yore close enough, visit a local farm. This give kids the opportunity to have direct access to understand where food comes from.
These nonprofits are also great resources for you to check out for programs for your kids this summer and they were awarded funding from Walmart for their great efforts in helping children succeed every day: YMCA, National Recreation and Park Association, National Summer Learning Association, BELL Summer, Innovations in Civic Participation and Brandeis University.
Our kids are the future of our country. It is critical that every child is given an opportunity to success and the resources required to do so. Let’s raise smart, caring, and healthy kids all year round!