For Maine children, summer is a time to bike around neighborhoods, catch bugs, tent in the backyard, swim in the lake and play night tag. It’s easy to be active in Vacationland, where tourists flock to enjoy ideal summer weather. Yet multiple studies suggest that children are more likely to gain unhealthy weight in the summer months when school is out of session.
In an effort to keep children active during school vacation, the Y, a national nonprofit, will celebrate “Healthy Kids Day” on Saturday, April 28, by holding events across the country. At these free events, families can learn about maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the summer, when their children aren’t eating portioned hot lunches, attending physical education classes, and engaging in school sports.
“It’s time to bring your family out and play and see what resources are out there — we’ll have them on hand,” said Jessica Montgomery, Child Care Director of Down East Family YMCA. For Healthy Kids Day, Montgomery has planned a morning of field activities, health talks and safety demonstrations at the Bryant E. Moore Community Center in Ellsworth.
“Last year, Healthy Kids Day fell on the weekend of Easter, so we had an Easter egg hunt that was just crazy nuts,” said Montgomery. “This year, however, I don’t know what the participation level will be. We’re looking at anything from 50-70 kids. A lot of Saturday events are happening in conjunction with healthy kids day in our area.”
The Y, which reaches 10,000 neighborhoods in the United States, predicts that more than half a million parents and kids will participate in celebrations at 1,900 Y associations across the country, including almost every Y organization in Maine.
“The Y is committed to youth development,” said Deb Boyd, executive director of the Piscataquis Regional YMCA. “Helping kids be healthy is a big part of that.”
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Children should exercise — or be engaged in “moderate-to-vigorous physical activity” — at least an hour every day, according to the “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008.
Healthy Kids Day is about showing children and their families how meeting that goal can be fun and easy.
“We’ll have a kids yoga course, superhero training, tee ball demonstration, relay races and obstacle courses,” said Boyd, listing only a few of the many activities planned at the Piscataquis Regional YMCA.
Nutrition will also be central to the day’s celebrations, said Montgomery, who rounded up Downeast Health Services, Healthy Acadia and Juice Plus+ to share information about healthy eating at the Down East Family YMCA event.
Each participating Y association will put their own spin on Healthy Kids Day. While Mount Desert Island YMCA will be focusing on bicycling, Kennebec Valley YMCA will have a scavenger hunt, fitness classes and face painting.
Participants should plan to learn about healthy snacking, summer camps, youth outdoor programs, active games for families, boating and biking safety, first aid, at-home exercises, traditional and nontraditional sports and nearby recreation areas.
I’ll be celebrating the day with the Bangor Y, where I will share information about family-friendly hiking trails, outdoor safety, area nature walks and the interactive BDN video blog, “Act Out with Aislinn,” which readers can view at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.
Here is an incomplete list of Y Healthy Kids Day events in the area:
• Piscataquis Regional YMCA will celebrate Kids Health Day 1-4 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at 48 Park St. in Dover-Foxcroft. Activities will include a kids fitness classes, relay races, obstacle courses, pool safety demonstrations, vegetable planting, oral health talks by a local dentist, face painting, a buffet of healthy snacks and community swimming. For information, call 564-7111.
• The Bangor Y celebration, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at 17 Second St. in Bangor. Activities include fire safety, face painting, bounce house, railroad safety, youth gardening, hip-hop dance party, kid’s health assessment, swimming, outdoor climbing wall, Internet safety, iris scans, healthy snacks and a bike raffle. Call 941-2808.
• Greater Waterville YMCA celebration, 3-5:30 p.m. Friday, April 27, at 126 North St. in Waterville. The event will include activities by 5210 Lets Go! and KidsPeace, as well as outdoor and indoor games. Call 873-0684.
• The Waldo County YMCA’s celebration, “Put Play in Your Day,” 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, April 28, at 157 Lincolnville Ave. in Belfast. The event features crafting, music, bike raffles, car seat safety checks, bike helmets for sale, bounce house, police cruiser, ambulance, firetruck, storytelling and healthy snack bags. Call 338-4598.
• Kennebec Valley YMCA celebration, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at 40 Granite Hill Road in Manchester. Families will enjoy a day of fun activities, including fitness classes, field games, a scavenger hunt, open swim, noodle races, open gym, book fair and face painting. Olympian Julia Clucky will be at the event leading a “Virtual Luge Experience.” The first 50 children to preregister will receive a free Healthy Kids Day T-shirt. Call 622-9622.
• The Penobscot Bay YMCA celebration, 10-2 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at 126 North St. in Rockport. Activities include yoga, ballet, hula hooping, open gym, gymnastics and a family obstacle course. The event also features lessons on healthy snacking and music, and information on many local organizations and businesses. Call 236-3375, and for a schedule, visit penbayymca.net.
• Central Lincoln County YMCA celebration, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at 525 Main St. in Damariscotta. Activities vary and may include exercise demonstrations, family fitness activities, health screenings, educational fun projects and nutritious food demonstrations. Call 563-3477.
• Down East Family YMCA celebration, 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 28, at the Bryant E. Moore Community Center at 125 State St. in Ellsworth. Various community organizations will participate to promote health and safety. From 9-10 a.m., an Ellsworth police officer will be teaching parents about fingerprinting kits. The event will also feature field activities and healthy snacks. Each child participating will get a prize and a Healthy Kids Day wristband. Call 667-3086.
• The Mount Desert Island YMCA celebration, 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 28, at 21 Park St. in Bar Harbor. The event will feature bicycle safety information, an obstacle course and indoor playtime. Children ages 18 and under will receive a free bike helmet. Bring your bike for a free bike safety check. Call 288-3511.
• Bath Area Family YMCA celebration, 4-7 p.m. Friday, April 27, at 303 Centre St. in Bath. The event will feature dodgeball, team handball, parachute games, youth swim, climbing wall, racquetball instruction, karate demonstration, dance, family yoga, kayak clinic, gymnastics and a boxing demo. Call 433-4112.
• Cumberland County YMCA celebration, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at all three of their branches. The Casco Bay branch is located at 12 Old South in Freeport. For information, call 865-9600. The Greater Portland branch is at 70 Forest Ave. in Portland. For information, call 874-1111. And the Pineland branch is located at 25 Campus Drive in New Gloucester. Call 688-2255.
For information about Healthy Kids Day, visit ymca.net or call your local YMCA association.