How to keep your family active and healthy this summer

Writer and mum of three Kat Storr shares some of the ways that you can keep your children active and healthy over the summer holidays.

An image of a mother reading to her child as they sit on a picnic blanket surrounded by other Ladybird books and healthy snacks included apple slices and carrot. There is a Ladybird logo sticker on the bowl of apple slices

The summer holidays are upon us and after a busy school year, I'm sure lots of you are in need of a break from the routine and schoolwork. But September can feel like a long way off. Six weeks, or more, is a lot of time to fill with children who have bundles of energy and curious minds.

So, here are some suggestions to help you fill your days with inexpensive and healthy activities which I hope will be fun for the whole family. And of course, when leaving the house feels like too much, curling up with a book or two is always a perfect holiday activity.

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Garden play

Your garden, or a friend’s garden, can be a perfect place for burning off energy and having some fun at the same time. Children often don’t need any help when it comes to finding games to play when outside. Hide and seek, tag or ball sports are all easy to play and can keep them occupied for hours. If your children are younger or need a bit more guidance when it comes to playing, there are plenty of options for activities you can try.

Create an obstacle course

Children of all ages will love having a go at an obstacle course in your garden. It doesn’t need to be complicated but can involve things like hoops, bean bags and tunnels or whatever else you have to hand. Older children might want to be timed for completing the course which will add a competitive element. This is a great activity for improving gross motor skills and concentration and encouraging teamwork.

A scavenger hunt

Giving children something to search for is a fun way to help them develop patience and curiosity. A scavenger hunt requires very little preparation – all you have to do is make a list of things they can safely find in your garden, such as sticks, leaves, petals or things you’ve hidden for them to find. Writing out a list they have to read and tick off gives the activity an additional educational angle and helps children learn about reaching an end goal. And while all of this is going on, you'll hopefully be able to sit back and relax with a cup of tea.

Water play

There’s nothing better when it’s hot than cooling off in a paddling pool or with a sprinkler. Playing in water is a free activity that will keep children active and happy. Using jugs, buckets and other toys will encourage fine motor skills and help children learn about cause and effect. Adding all kinds of toys to the water such as fish, trucks, balls or squirty creatures will make things even more fun. Remember though, NEVER leave children unsupervised in, or near, water.

A photo that shows a little boy running away from sprinkler laughing
Image: Mi Pham on Unsplash

Day trips

It can be nice to plan a few day trips to break the holiday up and take the opportunity to explore some different environments or neighbourhoods. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It could involve a scooter, bike ride or walk to a new park or playground you’ve not been to before. Or perhaps you could pack a picnic and jump on a bus or train to a new area.

Beaches, parks and forests are also wonderful places to get some fresh air and stay active. Pack a bat and ball, bucket and spade, frisbee and your swimming stuff and you’ll be busy all day. Building a den, climbing trees or collecting items to make a collage at home are all fantastic forest activities for families. While you’re out in nature try making a list of the birds, plants and trees you see and take photographs too if you can. When you get home, why not try drawing or painting the things you’ve seen?

A trip to the swimming pool is also a fun and healthy activity for the summer holidays. Many council-run pools have family swim sessions and may even have slots which involve inflatables or other pool toys. Take a look at what’s happening in your local area and perhaps see if you can go with some friends to make it a really great day out.

If you’re taking a picnic with you on your trip, try to involve your children when buying the food and preparing and packing it. This will make them feel excited about the day ahead, improve their fine motor skills and help build a healthy relationship with food.

Healthy food

Children’s appetites can really change when the weather is hot, and you might find that they’re less interested in their usual favourite foods. You can make mealtimes a bit more exciting by eating in the garden or by having a grazing platter of healthy foods instead of a hot meal. This could be hummus, pita, carrots, cucumber, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, cold meats and fruit like grapes or berries.

If you’re worried about your child becoming dehydrated in the hot weather, nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed says there are lots of foods you can give them which will increase their fluid intake. Her list includes fruit and vegetables which are great for taking on picnics or trips to the beach such as watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes and strawberries.

Smoothies can also be a great way of getting more fluid into your children, and for including healthy ingredients such as spinach, carrots and seeds. If your children are anything like mine, they will expect an ice lolly at least once a day when the weather is hot. This can not only be expensive but also lead to them consuming more sugar than you’d like. A great alternative is homemade lollies. Adults know exactly what’s in them and making them can be a fun activity to do with your kids. Recipes can include strawberries, plain yoghurt and coconut cream or watermelon and kiwi for a hit of vitamin C. Try lots of different flavours and see which is your favourite!

An image of a young girl licking a fruity ice lolly
Image: Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

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