Did you know that kids are actually LESS active during the summer?
Imagine that! They spend nearly 40 fewer hours per week sitting
at a desk in their classroom (not to mention the sedentary time
they spend doing homework after school) and they STILL get less
exercise! With the rising rates of childhood obesity and all the
complications that can come along with it, we all know that this is not
good for them.

So, what’s so different than the “dog days of summer” when we grew
up spending hours upon hours roaming our neighborhood, playing
capture the flag, tag, and running through the sprinkler?
It’s not too difficult to figure out. We live in a world that features
children’s programming on television twenty-four hours a day, as
well as limitless resources for social networking without ever having
to leave one’s couch. Facebook, YouTube, Playstation, text messaging
and ‘IMing” cry out to our children at all hours of the day and night.
So the question must be asked; How can parents entice their children
to take advantage of ever coveted summer freedom?

Start by setting some rules. Limit the amount of “screen time” that
your children have available each day. This time should include
their combined usage of TV, computer, PSP, Xbox, Wii, and whatever
other video gadget your kid may own. A good rule of thumb is two
hours per day. Give them the freedom to decide when they use their
time, but find a way to keep track. Keep a chart for kids to mark off
themselves or, if you work, consider putting a password on your
computer so you are know when your child is “plugging in”. Don’t
forget about other parental controls that are available to keep your
kids safe on the net!

Another good idea is to retain some “regular” activities in your child’s
long summer days. Routine is good for kids and it keeps them from
getting bored. In addition to davening, regular meal and snack times,
try encouraging your child to practice their guitar (or whatever
instrument they may pay) on a daily basis. Schedule reading and
learning time each day. Daily chores work well in our house over
the summer break, as well as during the school year. As much as
they might fight the idea, most kids thrive in an environment that is
structured and requires them to take responsibility for their house
and fellow family members!

Make sure your kids get enough sleep. If children are exhausted they
typically won’t have the energy or motivation to be active during the
day. Schedule nap times for younger children, and make sure your
teens are not staying up all night instant messaging or playing video
games. Teens actually need more sleep than adults, so make sure
they get it or they will want to lie around all day watching TV.

Don’t settle for the “but it’s hot outside!” line. It’s not good for your
kids to be cooped up inside all summer. You need to encourage them
to get outside. At least one hour per day of activity is considered
to be healthy for them, and more is even better! To prevent
dehydration and heat exhaustion, make sure they take plenty of
water breaks and concentrate their indoor time when the sun is at
it’s hottest (in the middle of the day).

Don’t catch yourself unarmed with a ton of suggestions the first time
your son or daughter says “I’M BORED!” Here are a few to start with:

• Go for a hike together.

• Bike around the neighborhood.

• If they’re interested, sign your kids up for a summer sports
league or a camp.

• Have them wash your car!

• Get a part-time job (for teens).

• Bust a move! Turn on your favorite music and dance with

• Camp out. Collect firewood. Hike. Put up the tent. Explore!

• Hoola hoop.

• Jump rope.

• Have a water gun fight.

• Have a water balloon fight.

• Play tag.

• Play red rover.

• Do chores together.

• Be a good role model. Schedule exercise into your own day.

• Go swimming.

• Hunt for shells on the beach.

• Walk your dog or borrow the neighbor’s dog.

• Walk to the makolet for a popsicle.

• Race a friend to the end of the block.

• Meet a friend at the park.

• Start a neighborhood soccer, football, kickball, or baseball

• Ask an elderly neighbor if you can help her with some chores
or errands.

• See how many jumping jacks you can do (or sit-ups or push

• Do an exercise video tape or game.

• Go bowling.

• Play tennis with a friend.

• Play Frisbee with friends.

• Have them invent a fun obstacle course for themselves and
race their friends.

• Walk to the library and check out a book.

• Offer them extra chores to earn money.

• Play hide and seek.

• Play catch with a ball in the yard.

• Shoot some hoops.

• Clean up the park.

• Walk to the makolet to buy ingredients for dinner.

• Start a neighborhood service to earn some money (mow lawns,
water flowers, collects recycling).

• Plant something.

• Color the sidewalk with chalk.

• Capture the flag.

• Play kick the can (or rock or bottle).

• Have a nature scavenger hunt.

• Have a three-legged race.

• Clean the windows.

• Go on an “I spy” nature walk.

• Fly a kite.

• Go fishing.

• Have a relay race.

• Go skateboarding.

• Plan active vacations.

• Build a fort.

• Have a jumping contest.

• Hunt for ladybugs.

• Freeze tag.

• Go canoeing.

• Camp out in the back yard.

• Build a sandcastle.

• Play dodge ball.

• Go to a stream or pond and hunt for critters.

• Play fetch with your dog.

• Take the baby for a walk in the stroller.

• Go GEOCACHING as a family. Geocaching is a real-world
outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden
containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and
then share their experiences online. It’s fun for everyone and
it provides a purpose for (and challenge to) your hikes beyond
exercise. Visit to find out more about this fun
family activity. There are over 600 geocaches in Israel, believe
it or not.

Hope this helps you start thinking about how you can help your kids
stay healthy and happy this summer!

Tzipi Morris, MD, is the Director of the Efrat Women’s Health Center and is a Board Certified Family Medicine Specialist, with 7 years experience caring for patients in the US. The Efrat Women’s Health Center aims to deliver warm, compassionate, inspiring care, dedicated to the highest medical standards, to the Women of Gush Etzion and surrounding communities. For an appointment,            054-236-3130       or email

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