An active lifestyle is key to preventing and counteracting childhood obesity. Movement and exercise also are essential to a child’s healthy physical and psychological development. The trick is to devise fun, creative projects for children that don’t seem like work. Here is a week’s worth of activities that not only will keep your kids moving and exercising now that school is out, but also will keep their hands and minds busy and sharp throughout the summer.
Monday: Make a summer collage place mat
Give each child a few magazines and a pair of child-sized scissors and ask them to cut out images that remind them of summer. Glue the pictures onto a piece of white paper and color around them — adding hand-drawn flowers, family members or pets. Add other interesting material such as doilies, old postcards or scraps of wrapping paper. Place the collage between two pieces of clear contact paper for waterproofing, or put the collage between two pieces of wax paper, place a towel over it, and iron until the wax paper melts together. Make a place mat for every member of the family. Then, set your table in style.
Tuesday: Obstacle course
Turn your living room or backyard into an obstacle course. Start by putting two chairs together with a blanket draped over them to make a tunnel to crawl through. Next, lay several sticks on the ground to be jumped or hopped over. Then put a sheet or beach towel down for rolling or somersaulting. Place a few feet of masking tape on the ground and have them walk heel-to-toe along the length of it, like a balance beam. Add a spot for cartwheels or jumping jacks. Finally, have your child crab-walk or wheelbarrow with another child to the finish line. Time the kids as they go through and give simple prizes for the fastest, neatest, youngest, etc. Encourage the kids to invent their own additions and videotape the results.
Everyone loves bubbles. Make your own solution (2 tablespoons of dish soap to every cup of water — Dawn works best), or get some from the store. Have your kids take turns blowing bubbles. Anyone who’s not blowing can try to catch as many bubbles as they can before they pop. Count and keep score. Pour some bubble solution in a shallow bowl or pan. What else can they use to blow bubbles? A rubber band? A twist tie? Encourage them to experiment.
Thursday: Water painting
Take a page from Tom Sawyer and have your kids paint your house, garage or sidewalk, with water. Give them a bucket and an old paintbrush and take them outside to paint. The darker color that the water temporarily gives will convince them they’re doing a wonderful job. The sidewalk or any stone foundations work well too. It’s a good way to get your outdoor furniture cleaned as well.
Friday: Hot potato
Have the kids sit in a circle with their friends. Take a ball and pretend it’s the “hot potato” and try to get rid of it as fast as possible by tossing or passing to anyone else in the circle. See how many passes they can make without dropping it. Now have them try it standing up. Which was easier? Try it with different sizes of balls, from a tennis ball to a basketball. Try it with different toys, a stuffed animal, a koosh ball, a bean bag, even a real potato. Keep track and see what type of things are easiest to catch, and which are hardest. Finally, have them line up and pass the “potato” back over their head, and down between their knees in alternate passes. Take pictures or video tape the fun.
Cathy Strasser is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience working in the school system. She lives in Sugar Hill, N.H., with her husband. Visit her website at www.cathystrasser.com .