Keeping Your Kids on Track for a Balanced Summer Vacation

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Summer vacation is an iconic time in a child’s life – it’s an exciting few months filled with opportunities for adventure, vacations, and fun with friends. However, it’s important to remember that while there’s more time to play outside, there’s also more time available for some unhealthy habits to develop, like over-snacking or excessive screen time. Today, HSNT’s Dr. Crystal McLeod has some tips for parents to help ensure that their kids have a safe, fun, and balanced summer vacation.

Meals for Your Kids

The schedule of a school day helps to keep kids on track for eating proper meals, so how can we work around it when summer vacation removes that structure?

“A good place to start is to model the behavior we want for our kids,” says Dr. McLeod. “For example, buying fruits and vegetables that are on sale and placing them with other snacks in baggies with the proper portion sizes makes it easier to simply ‘grab and go.’ This also helps them to not overindulge on one thing or eat an entire bag of chips.  Also, get your kids involved! Meal prepping together and looking up healthier recipes online is a great way for children to see their parents making healthy choices, they will be more inclined to do so.”

Screen Time

There’s nothing wrong with sitting down to watch a show or play a video game, but the extra time kids get during the summer makes it that much easier to waste the day away on their phones or in front of the TV.

“Once again, modeling this behavior is important,” Dr. McLeod says. “If children see their parents taking breaks from their devices, having quiet time and time to be active, then they will be more inclined to do so themselves. I also think discussing healthy screen time limits for the entire family is important – once they understand that it is good for ‘their brains to rest and take a break’, and they see their parents doing the same, they will learn and how important it is for the future. Additionally, if parents are not able to supervise their children the entire day, many devices can be set on timers to shut off after a certain period.”

Sleeping vs. Staying Up

With how much energy kids seem to have, you’d think that they don’t need as much sleep as adults do. After all, why does bedtime always have to come right when you’re in the middle of something fun? But studies have consistently shown that kids need more sleep than we think, and for their developing bodies and brains it’s important they get the correct amount.

“I always discuss the importance of sleep, bedtimes and routines at my well child visits.  I often recommend sticking to as close as possible to their school-year bedtime during summer. Parents can vary this by 1 or 2 hours for older children who will be sleeping in during the mornings, but if your child attending summer school or a summer camp, their bedtimes should stay the same as during the school year. I think having that discussion with your child or teenager around the importance of healthy sleep habits is very important, too. A lack of sleep can affect your mood and ability to focus and concentrate the next day. And again, parents should model this behavior – if they get to bed on time, their children will more likely do this too!”

Establishing a Routine

After all of these recommendations, it’s important to note that it would be much easier to get your child to follow them if they have an established routine. Routine builds habit, which means your kids would be more likely to stick with this healthy behavior even without you around.

“I love using chore or daily charts!” Dr. McLeod says. “I think is a great way to keep children on schedule or at least have a visual aid to remember the things that they need to do.  I often advise that this be used during the school year so if this is done, it can be continued throughout the summer too. Put time for exercise/activity, chores, screen time and meals on there.  Children can use this visual aid to help them remember what they need to be doing and remember the importance of sticking to this daily schedule.”