School’s out! The kids are ecstatic at the thought of lie-ins, no school uniform - or homework - and freedom! And parents are quietly nervous at how they can entertain their little darlings for 6 weeks.
But it seems like many of us are struggling with inspiration for holiday-time activities and, as a result, children (and adults) tend to resort to screen-based childcare, with our heads down and our thumbs getting the most exercise.
This is becoming a nation-wide epidemic with the Guardian stating that children are loosing up to 80% of their fitness gains made during the school year over the summer holidays.
In term time, children’s compulsory two hours of PE per week, combined with twice-daily playtimes, lunchtimes and walks to school all contribute to the physical fitness of your child. Often, children’s extra-curricular sports clubs also run during the school term, adding to the over-all improvement of children’s activity levels over the weekend.
As these opportunities for activity and movement are removed once school finishes, often children find themselves becoming far more sedentary unless their parents make a conscious effort to provide a (daily) opportunity for activity.
It is a hard predicament. When we think back to our school breaks, we often think of playing out in the street with our friends on our battered bikes and worn but much-loved trainers. But now, with the huge increase of cars on the roads and the safety fears modern-day parents now face, these active moments have to be planned in advance and are therefore less frequent than those moments years ago.
However, it is no less important to keep our children active now. The Telegraph states that a study of 8 and 9 year olds in the North West found that children could run 135m less in September than they could at the end of July (when school finishes). This in turn has resulted in an increase in Body Mass Index by the close of the summer holidays.
Both the Telegraph and the Guardian explain the negative effects on a child’s mental health. Some studies have found an increase in violence; others have found children harder to motivate and easier to distract. Either way, we all know that exercise is important for the brain and the body and so we should be making more of an effort to achieve the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 60 minutes of activity a day.
Although this sounds like a daunting task, it can be simple when broken down in chunks. This could be a few stints out in the garden playing swing ball or penalty shoot outs. Or it could be a long dog walk, playing at the local park or a swimming session. Not only will this contribute to your child's greater mental and physical health, but research has suggested that children use five times the amount of words outside than they do inside, helping to improve their cognitive abilities too.
Periods of activity shouldn’t become chores or
terrifying chunks of time that have to have the high levels of HIIT activity we all strive to achieve in our gym classes. Children are naturally full of energy and, given a bit of space and a companion, they could entertain themselves and easily wrack up 60 minutes of movement a day! As long as you and your children are having fun and making memories, you'll be sure to be clocking up those minutes! Time flies when you're having fun!