Parents and Kids

10 Ideas to Keep Kids Active Over Summer Break

Trying to figure out something new for your child to do over the summer? We have a few ideas that might help.

Jul. 6, 2023

A young Black girl rides on her dad's shoulders while walking in the forest

As the first couple weeks of summer are falling into place, kids sometimes begin to fade into summer boredom. Without the daily schedule of school, it can be difficult to find things to keep a child’s attention.

For parents, keeping a routine over the summer can be hard to do, but a structured environment helps children to develop a sense of security, adds stability, and creates an atmosphere in which they feel safe to grow and thrive. Finding activities to fill that time can be challenging for parents and caregivers.

To come up with a few suggestions on ways to keep children’s minds and bodies active, we turned to Rochester Regional Health pediatrician Andrea Hernady, MD.

1. Meet up with a friend

Research shows planning, organizing, cooperation, and emotional regulation skills all improve as children play with one another more often.

Whether meeting up at someone’s house, a park, or another location, having kids socialize together is a great way to spend time and create memories.

2. Nature walks

Finding a park or nature preserve to wander through trails or pathways can be exciting! Children are often eager to take a new path they haven’t seen before or look closer at a plant, animal, or insect they have never seen before.

Science backs the importance of being outdoors in nature, pointing to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety for those who spend more time in nature.

3. Pack a picnic

You might be able to combine a nature walk with this idea: packing a meal to eat while you are out!

Get the kids involved in what everyone will eat by asking them to choose a food or drink they want to bring with them on your outdoor eating adventure. Summer is a great time of the year to visit a local farmer’s market and pick out something new.

4. Keep screen time active

Watching more movies or TV than during the school year is something many children do during the summer months. But that doesn’t mean getting physical activity can’t be part of it!

There are plenty of videos that incorporate interactive movement into their content. Channels such as Generation Healthy, GoNoodle, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo have fun, interactive videos that encourage kids to move and play while watching.

“While we still recommend limiting screen time, we understand that this can be more difficult in the summer when kids have a lot more down time. These YouTube channels can be an alternative way to allow your children to have some screen time while getting their bodies moving,” Dr. Hernady said. “Many parents are mindful of how much time their child is spending in front of a screen and this can be a happy medium.”

5. Ride bicycles

Few outdoor activities say summer like riding a bicycle.

Whether it’s getting the training wheels set for a little one or finding a good route to ride for a few miles, getting onto a bike and riding down a road, sidewalk, or trail is a great way to spend time as a family. Riding a bike helps to improve physical and mental health for people of all ages – from children all the way up to adults in their 70s and 80s.

6. Swim lessons

Learning to swim is a lifelong skill. Research suggests water survival skills gained through swimming lessons can help lessen the risk of drowning for children between ages 1-4.

Many town recreation centers and YMCA branches offer swim lessons at pools for children as young as 1. It’s a great way for young kids to cool down and socialize at the same time.

7. Gardening and outdoor work

Kids love getting their hands dirty, so why not have them help with some gardening? Whether it’s a vegetable garden or a flower garden, encouraging your child to help take responsibility for plants is a great way to make them feel included in a more grown-up activity.

This applies to other yard work in the summer, such as raking grass clippings, helping to put in mulch or potting soil, watering plants, or mowing the lawn – depending on the age and maturity of your children.

8. Classic games and board games

For younger children, games such as Duck, Duck, Goose, Simon Says, Follow the Leader, or just plain old Tag can be fun ways to get moving and have something to do. Simple games help kids to follow basic directions and learn to be play cooperatively.

As children are able to follow more complex directions, board games can become a great way to spend time. Family rivalries over games like Monopoly or Battleship often become fun stories to tell for years to come.

9. Scavenger hunt

Searching for hidden items around your house or yard can be a fun way to break up a slow summer day. Stash stuffed animals, snack items, books, or other things that can be collected in different places for your kids to find.

If you have created more than a couple of these for your children, ask them to put one together for you. You might be surprised at how creative they can be in coming up with ideas.

10. Visit a library

Libraries are local treasures. In addition to books, audiobooks, and e-books that patrons can check out, libraries often have summer programs with story time, book clubs, and special guests – and play rooms for kids to let their imaginations run free.

Some libraries in New York allow card holders to check out an Empire Pass, which gives free entry to all New York State parks.

“If you have a scheduled appointment with your pediatrician coming up, chat with them about ideas for summer activities for your children,” Dr. Hernady said. “Some parents feel like they may have exhausted all of their options, but sometimes an idea might come up that ends up working well for you and your family.”

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Andrea H. Hernady, MD
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