For thousands of years, humans have recognized the soul-calming effect of time spent in nature. But between the lure of screen time and frenzied schedules packed with organized sports and other activities, it can be difficult to get kids outside to just be.
Only 51 percent of preschool kids go out outside once a day to walk or play, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends outdoor playtime in its recent report titled “The Power of Play.” Even short periods of outdoor time can help kids get more active, reduce anxiety, improve mood and concentration, and sleep better at night.
For a pediatrician from California, Wisconsin winters are one thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. If your family does decide to venture out into the cold, here are a few important things to keep in mind.
Keep your infants and children warm by dressing them in layers. How do you know if your baby is warm enough? Generally, a good rule of thumb for older babies and children is to dress in one more layer than what an adult would need for adequate warmth.
A recent study out of Scotland found that after the age of 7, activity levels go down for both boys and girls. When Randy Clark, manager of the Pediatric Fitness Clinic read about it, he wasn’t at all surprised.
“Finding ways to engage kids in physical activity is a huge challenge I face as a parent and in my work at the Pediatric Fitness Clinic,” he says. Clark, whose children are 12 and 14 years old, shares that part of the problem, in his opinion, is the increasing time we spend looking at screens. He shares that as part of the ‘baby boomer outside generation’, fun included wiffle ball, touch football, capture the flag, kick-the-can and skating at the local rink. Now kids are growing up in a very different world filled with cell phones, iPods, personal computers and hand held devices. For him, while they are wonderful advancements in technology, they have led to an increasing amount of sedentary screen time.”
Many high school athletes have already returned to sports camps in preparation for the fall season. The challenge is that during July, August and even September, we can experience some of the hottest days of the year. With the high temps, athletes need to be aware of how environmental factors like heat and humidity can affect their health and athletic performance.
How Heat Affects the Body
As heat and humidity rise our body has to work harder to cool off. Our bodies cool primarily through the evaporation of sweat. When temperatures rise, we produce more sweat to cool the body. As the humidity rises, it becomes more difficult for the sweat to evaporate hampering the ability of the body to cool off. It is one reason why it is important for athletes to drink fluids during the day and at practice to stay adequately hydrated, and to modify practice routines based on weather conditions.
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We know that children are little mimics – they will copy behaviors that they observe and repeat words that they hear (nearly every parent can attest to this with stories of awkward situations involving particular word choices not appropriate for 5-year-olds to utter). So if mom and dad relax in front of the TV after dinner, chances are that’s going to be the preference for the kids as well. But, if mom and dad instead say it’s time to do something fun together after dinner, that helps create an environment where activity is normal and encouraged.
While it can be hard with busy lifestyle – whether it’s work, or scheduled activities like music lessons or sports – you really have to make the time, otherwise it’s too easy to put things off until the next day. Block time on the weekend – whether it’s an hour or half the day – and do something fun as a family. Go for a hike, go for a bike ride on a trail, go geocaching, discover a new park – just go. Do something. You can even let the kids decide – chose between a hike or bike ride. Go for a walk after dinner. Just get out together.