Millions of Aussie kids are about to go on school holidays. If your child is one of them, you may be grappling for new ways to amuse them. Look no further.
Here are 7 ideas for healthy holiday activities, which might just be good for the whole family.
Get kids in the kitchen
Teaching children how to cook is an easy way to encourage them to eat healthily — well into adulthood. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that young adults (aged 18 to 23) with some cooking skills had better nutritional outcomes a decade later, such as eating more vegetables and consuming less fast food.
Find simple recipes that you can make together at the Dietitians Australia website.
Be active for at least 1 hour
There is some evidence that children can lose some fitness and increase their body mass index (BMI) during a summer break. So, children aged 5 and over should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.
Try incorporating activities that make kids 'puff', and build strength, into your day. For example, a few minutes of dancing before dinner, playing ‘chasey’ or ‘tip’, and scootering to the shops.
According to raisingchildren.net.au, busy work schedules, lack of space and screen time — on devices such as TVs and tablets — can get in the way of physical activity. If you can’t get out to a park, consider talking to neighbours with young children about sharing the supervision of play time outside or in a safe street.
If your child has a physical disability that makes it hard for them to be active, a physiotherapist or occupational therapist can help them find ways to be involved in games and sport and to incorporate strength-building activities into daily life.
Take them to the dentist
It may not be the most popular holiday activity, but it’s important. More than half of Australian 6-year-olds have some tooth decay.
Children need a dental check at least once a year from the age of 12 months, or within 6 months of their first tooth appearing. Medicare covers the cost of dental services for some children; you can check whether your child is eligible on the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) website. Some families use private health insurance to pay some or all of their dental costs.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, dentists, pharmacies and other health services near you.
Go on a geocaching adventure
Geocaching is a real-life, outdoor treasure hunt. You follow GPS (global positioning system) coordinates on your GPS-enabled device (such as a mobile phone) to find a ‘geocache’ (a container) hidden at that location.
Inside the geocache is a logbook and ‘treasure’, which might include inexpensive small toys, ornamental buttons, books or interesting coins. Your child can take one of the treasures and replace it with something of equal value.
To get started, register for free at Geocaching.com. Don’t forget: comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, a pen, water, healthy snacks and something to leave inside the geocache.
Schedule swim time
School holidays can be the perfect opportunity for kids to master their freestyle — or simply build their confidence in the water.
This is particularly important for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who are at greater risk of drowning than the general population. This is, says Austism Awareness Australia, because children with ASD are more likely to wander and be attracted to water.
Find a swimming instructor who’s specially trained in coaching kids with ASD at Autism Swim.
Let them sleep
Kids need more sleep than adults, which facilitates their growth, learning and development. Getting a solid night’s sleep can make your child happier, help them concentrate and improve their behaviour.
While it’s tempting to stay out later in the school holidays — and the odd late night for a special occasion is unlikely to cause harm — try to stick to their normal bedtime routine and encourage your child to get enough sleep for their age:
- Ages 3 to 5: 10 to 13 hours
- Ages 6 to 13: 9 to 11 hours
- Ages 14 to 17: 8 to 10 hours
Download the Sleep Health Foundation’s Sleep Clock activity to help your children get enough sleep. (It will also give them another thing to do in the holidays — a bonus.)
Let them be bored
You don’t need to amuse your kids every minute of the school holidays — boredom is good for children. By pushing through boredom and entertaining themselves, kids learn to think more creatively and hone their problem-solving skills.
They’re also able to choose activities that match their mood. If your child's feeling energetic, they’ll be physically active; if they’re tired, they may find a restful thing to do. Boredom also promotes resilience, as they learn to get through something that, to a child, can feel tough or stressful.
For more information
- For articles on kids’ health, click here.
- Learn more about raising children from birth to age 5 at Pregnancy Birth and Baby.
- For parenting advice, including relating to school-aged children, visit raisingchildren.net.au.
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