July 1, 2012
By Tracey L. Chavous, CHHC
Healthy and Wellness Writer
With many area schools completing the school year in June, parents and caregivers are wondering what to do with their children during the summer. For many kids who have working parents, heading to day camps, daycare and sports camps for most or part of the day is the norm. However, many more children spend a good portion of their summer days inside, playing video games and watching television, which are poor habits that can carry over into the school year. In an effort to maintain some structure in your kid’s life and health over the course of nine weeks (which is as long as a grading period), some smart planning and research is key.
Camps come in all shapes and sizes from traditional day camps and sports themed camps to specialty camps and even day travel and sleepaways. Factor in your child’s age, interests and your wallet to see where you can find a positive experience for them. If you have more than one child, consider your work schedule along with routes and the support system for pick-ups. Many camps offer sibling discounts if you enroll more than one child, and some offer scholarships if you’re experiencing a financial hardship. In these cases, research is important and the earlier the better.
There is a cornucopia of specialty camps with long standing reputations for safe all out fun. Camp Sonshine in Montgomery County, Maryland (Silver Spring and Germantown) reaches well beyond the Beltway when it comes to enrollment with their bustling campgrounds and infamous blue bus transportation. Camp Sonshine has locations globally. Their camp ensures that children appreciate the many wonders of the world while fostering Christian values like forgiveness and purpose. http://www.campsonshine.org Here are examples of the work at Camp Sonshine. http://vimeo.com/20023156
The YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club
The YMCA has been offering summer camp fun for over 160 years throughout the United States. It is home to many camp options for kids of all ages. Visit their website for more details at http://www.ymca.org. Another well-known place for children of all ages to grow and learn from life enhancing programs is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America which has been around for over 150 years. The Boys and Girls Clubs not only offer daycare type programs at reasonable costs, but also summer programs on an average of about $100-$125 weekly. For a branch closest to your neighborhood, visit http://www.bgca.org.
Many areas have Departments of Parks and Recreation Centers that provide structured programs for children at reduced costs in addition to aquatic centers for lessons and water fun. Short term as well as long term memberships can be purchased for families or individuals with proper identification and proof of residency.
Many of these sites can be found in the yellow pages or online within your state’s government website.
Washington, D.C.: http://dpr.dc.gov/DC/DPR
Physical Activities and Fun
Even if your child does not participate in a camp experience this summer, there are other “camp like” things that can be done during the week or weekend. Hop over to a neighborhood pool for a swim and picnic on a hot day or set up a sprinkler or make water balloons and have a splash party of your own. Dust off the bikes and head out for a bike trail or ride in the neighborhood. These are excellent ways to incorporate physical activity and quality time in your fun without spending a lot of money. Be sure to take plenty of water and a piece of fruit, in case you need to stop and take a break. Some areas have biking groups that meet up at various locations for bike hikes that include children.
Work within a Schedule
Create a schedule to put on the refrigerator that helps to maintain a routine if you’re working but want to make sure the kids are being productive in your absence. Add a few chores, along with some well portioned snacks or meals (fruit, yogurt, boiled eggs, oatmeal, and pasta with veggies) that can be easily prepared. A couple of interesting books for summer reading is always a plus. If you belong to a gym, ask management about the possibility of having your child join for the summer months in an effort to maintain their physical activity levels.
On off days or days with shortened hours or particularly when the weather is too hot outdoors, day trips can prove to be educational and fun in the summer. For 43 years, the Smithsonian has offered camps. From art to zoo animals, the Smithsonian museums and sites have something for everyone. With many of these free venues, you are afforded some of the greatest resources and tourist sites in the nation’s capital area. A packed lunch and a ride on the metro provide endless possibilities. Visit the Smithsonian’s website for kids at http://www.si.edu/Kids. Also visit the Smithsonian’s website for camps at https://smithsonianassociates.org/camp/Default.aspx?utm_source=SI-KidVisits&utm_medium=SIWeb&utm_content=SIWeb-Kids-Camp&utm_campaign=2012FY-SI-Kids-pages&tmssource=186270 or call 202-633-3030 (9 am-5 pm)
Media can be an asset for a child, however, too much screen time of any sort can contribute to many problems including neglecting homework, reading, interacting with friends and family, which, as a result, impedes healthy social and physical development. Therefore, structured and limited interaction with television shows with specific TV ratings should be enforced regularly. Offer other kinds of activities to distract tweens and teens from overuse of cell phones and the social media sources like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Set up a game night with family or friends and play board games once weekly. Organizing tournaments encourages kids’ participation and dedication to game nights. Some video game systems have active games like Wii and Xbox 360, where families can enjoy similar game nights interactively.
If time is limited or you want to incorporate some at-home activities, consider ageless ideas like having a cooking contest, making a family cookbook, creating a photo calendar, coloring or dancing. Find more ideas like these, visit http://www.education.com/slideshow/family-activities/family-folk-art/?cid=80.
First Lady Michelle Obama helped to develop a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving childhood obesity within a generation. This campaign has provided resources for families and care providers to “Move Outside.” The initiative encourages the maximum 60 minutes of exercise and physical activity that children need in order to maintain a healthy weight, stronger immunity and better bone health, not to mention a better attitude toward fitness. Many of the resources are in your own backyards, local parks and school fields. If you value fitness, your children will value it as well, but most of all, have fun!
Other resources available this summer:
- YMCA Thingamagig Invention Convention July 26, 2012, Upper Marlboro, MD http://www.ymcadc.org/specialEvents.cfm#Thingamajig
- Kids FREE at Newseum, Washington, D.C., July 1-September 3 http://www.newseum.org/news/2012/06/summer-fun-deal.html
- FREE bowling for kids, AMF Bowling-Summer through September 3 https://freebowling.amf.com/