Summer is the ideal time for kids to get up, get out and explore, but for some kids, exposure to activities that stimulate the body and mind ends with the school year. In fact, research shows that kids are more prone to gain weight and fall behind academically over the summer months.
Today, according to the National Summer Learning Association, parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do. Without easy access to a stimulating environment, whether it be math or P.E. class, many kids spend their time watching TV or sitting in front of a computer instead of exercising their minds and bodies.
A team at Johns Hopkins University found that while students made similar academic progress during the school year, regardless of economic status, those with access to summer learning opportunities like enrichment programs, camps or even vacations continued to make progress during the summer, but students without these opportunities fell behind. The summer slide accumulated over time, and by ninth grade, "summer learning loss could be blamed for roughly two-thirds of the achievement gap separating income groups," the study reports.
Here in Kansas City, kids of any economic background have access to programs that aim to keep the mind and body active during summer break. The city offers a plethora of parks, museums and summer programs to engage children while keeping them in safe, nurturing environments.
Area libraries are sponsoring the Dream Big READ! summer reading program to let children journey to new worlds during the break. This free program is open to all kids of all ages, and it offers tons of events throughout the summer to keep kids engaged and away from the TV screen. For more information on summer reading programs in your area, visit: Kansas City Public Library, Kansas Public Library, Johnson County Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, Olathe Public Library
Taking kids to great museums like the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or the American Jazz Museum is a great way to teach kids about the world while they're out of the classroom. Places like these serve as great learning experience as well as fun places for kids--as they view and read about various exhibits, they won't even know that they're learning!
The YMCA of Greater Kansas City offers sports that keep kids active. As they focus on teamwork (and have fun), they will build skills, endurance and confidence. The Y also hosts a monthly Kids Night Out, where kids can enjoy games, a healthy dinner and more.
Swimming is also fun and great exercise for all ages. Your local Y offers swim lessons this summer to teach children strokes, diving and safety in the water. Many area Y's also offer Swim Club for kids who ready for a fun challenge.
It is crucial to kick-start physical activity and learning for your kids throughout the summer, and there is no better time than now to begin developing a routine that helps kids be healthier and sharper for when the next school year begins.