School has now been out of session for a week or more now for my family and has just started this past week for most of the U.S. I thought now was a good time to talk about or ask how it is going for 1. Meal planning for families 2. Your new schedule of fitting in fitness 3. The kid's food choices during the day, but also before and after summer sessions/camps/Grandma's house, etc., etc.
Let me first start out with a shout out to all moms, grandparents and caregivers that are with children under the age of 18 most of the day in the summer. Can I get an 'Amen'? There is a delicate dance between summer camps, projects and entertainment at home and keeping the peace. Here's the deal: I personally work at a few different gigs, but most is in the morning hours, evenings or on weekends in the summer. I spend the bulk of the day with kids (my own and others—both for work and play)!!
One of the gigs I have been leading since before I had my own kids is this: Fit4AllKids program....a program I partner with All Children's Hospital and the Y's (Not YMCA anymore if you didn't catch that) of my area. You can read more about it here (www.allkids.org). But here are a few quick take-aways I see first-hand with families and I admit that I am challenged in my own home in the long summer season:
1. Non-productive butt-time. If you are a caregiver of children, you know what I am talking about. At Fit4Allkids we challenge kids to have 2 hours or less a day. Your choice: computer, tablets, movies, television---whatever. You choose. The real challenge is what to do for the remaining 8-10 hours they are awake. I am so glad you asked! Personally, in my home it is a challenge for the 11-year-old: if not with friends or in a camp, he is driven to a tablet. I give him projects, we go to parks, we swim, we clean the house, we clean out the chicken coop, we rake leaves...there is always something that needs attention—and I either assign it or we do it together.
2. Cooking has always been an activity I view as a non-eating activity---eat before you cook is my motto. Tasting is not eating. That is different—taste as you cook, but don't eat. When I cook with my kids, they are not starving. Are you with me? Summer is a fantastic time to cook with children. Big projects like making jam with fresh berries, preserving watermelon rinds or grilling fish they caught---yes, please! This is the time of year for these time-consuming projects. They will remember it for life and if you are lucky: children will start to request making meals, snacks or preserving foods because they remember how much fun they had last year. Here's my tear of joy in my house. I learned this week that my kids crave one-on-one time with me in the kitchen instead of "the group of kids"....wow! That speaks volumes to me as a mother and as a cooking leader!
3. Fitness for the leader of the home. My schedule shifts in the summer months. I personally get up a bit earlier (NOT EASY FOR ME) before my husband leaves for work, so I can get a quick 20-30 minute walk or inline-skate it. THIS IS MY TIME: my mental release, my prayer time and it gets me going for the crazy long day ahead. Guess what? It does energize me for the day—even when I have to lead a 6p.m. class to others....or when I take my own children to a park, beach or whatever......it's all to keep them off their butts.
Here's the bottom line: I have seen kids use their time in the summer for the best and become healthier: no competition with school peers, more time for fitness and creative nutritious eating.
I also know that the opposite can occur. Especially kids age 11-16 that are old enough to stay at home by themselves, are too old for a few day camps, may be too young for consistent jobs and may have no meal-time schedule. Pair this with full access to whatever is in a home: non-productive screen time and any kinds of foods. As parents and caregivers, we can mentor and guide our youth for the former: providing nutritious foods to them with "a slightly scheduled meal and snack time" and with plenty of fitness and active projects so they learn their value and will stay healthy in the long-run. Summers can be short to some and long for others....how we spend our time with youth can change their lives---I focus on 'for the better'!