Keep Kids Active this Summer

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Schools out! Kids cheer! Parents groan.

Playworks, a nonprofit devoted to improving children’s health and well-being through activity, wants to help ensure kids stay active this summer.

Throughout the school year, Playworks uses recess in low-income elementary schools to encourage “meaningful play” through activity and a four-component program that focuses on social and emotional skills.

Kristin Hathorn, executive director of Playworks North Carolina, wants to encourage families to stay active this summer, instead of gazing at the television or computer.

“Children are more likely to be in front of the computer or TV for a number of reasons. The biggest factor being here in the South is the heat. Kids are concerned about going outside and being hot,” Hathorn said.

North Carolina requires 30 minutes of physical activity daily during the school year for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Summer days don’t have specific activity time and some kids don’t have access to things like summer camp, so they resort to watching TV.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the CDC. Hathorn said even a slight increase in vigorous activity daily reduces a child’s likelihood to be obese later in life.

Along with physical benefits to activeness, children also experience cognitive, social and emotional benefits from active play.

“Societally, we’ve moved away from that focus on fun and play. That’s a problem because kids need to play. They need to learn the value of inclusiveness,” Hathorn said. “Play is not a negative word.”

Playworks suggested a few tips for parents and families to encourage play this summer:

  • Lead by example: Hathorn said behavior starts at home. Parents should make a priority to spend at least 30 minutes a day playing with their kids.

“As adults, they need to see us enjoying play and making it important in our lives,” she said.

  • Exercise doesn’t have to mean exercise: Incorporating more activity in a child’s day doesn’t have to mean push-ups and jumping jacks. Parents can use daily tasks as means to encourage children to be active. Taking out the trash or walking the dog can get kids off the couch. Hathorn suggests making a relay race out of cleanup time or turning on music to encourage kids to dance.
  • Include your child: Hathorn believes parents also could encourage students to stay active by including them in the their activities. Make walking the dog a fun family walk. Include your child in a pick-up basketball game in the driveway. Don’t have any ideas? Playworks offers a game library at www.playworks.org.

From The Charlotte Weekly on June 2016 by Courtney Schultz

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