By Curtis Thill, M.D.
Ready to have a great summer with your kids? When it comes to enjoying life, many can remember their fathers or mothers saying, “Health is your greatest wealth.” As a long-time practicing physician in the area, I know that if you are blessed with good health, your options are many, including having summer fun.
Since I see them in my practice, I think a lot about the kids in our area. Many different choices lie before them, especially the choices that promote good health. Here are some basic principles that can promote a great summer.
Summer is time for spontaneity, for surprise, for discovery and immersion into something special, a time for play and to have fun. Our young children and teenagers learn important lessons in this time: how to get along with others, to be a team, to share, to create and experience special days, including day camps or summer camps, and in the family vacation.
Sound health is key to enjoying all of them.
How can your child have a fun, safe, and healthy summer?
Sound sleep is fundamental
Here’s a surprise: number one on our list is good sleep. Set your child up for good and active days by helping them get a good night’s sleep, night after night.
It takes planning, especially with daily work schedules, but keeping up a routine that features meals with healthy food and good snacks can give a child’s body the necessary nutrition to grow while they are pushing the limits of flat-out daylight to dusk high-energy activities.
For many families, ensuring good nutrition can be challenging from both time and financial perspectives, especially in an era of rising food costs. Perfection is not the goal, but where possible, making a good, sustained effort is.
Eat healthy where possible
I know from experience that a child’s idea of a meal is often a double cheeseburger with a side of hot dog, washed down with a chocolate shake or mega-sized sugary drink. With a little planning, we as parents can substitute more healthy options, like yogurt with fruit for breakfast; a lunch with lean meat on good whole-grain bread (hold the chips), and some raw carrots or celery; and a dinner with plenty of vegetables and protein like fish, chicken (without the skin) or other lean options (including a bean dish). Think about having healthy snacks like unsalted nuts or seeds available in between meals to satisfy cravings (depending on their age, children can need anywhere from 1,200 to 3,200 calories a day).
Drink plenty of water
Related to good nutrition is a key point from the sports gurus: hydration. An important foundation of good health is drinking plenty of water (not sugar-dense sodas or over-sweetened fruit drinks). Encourage their children to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning and remind them to keep hydrated throughout the day.
Stay active and have fun!
Summer is the time to be active! Turn off the TV and the cell phone and go outside. Go swimming, grab a ball and mitt, shoot some hoops, jump on a bike or skateboard, or take some old sheets and cardboard boxes and build a castle!
The point? Summer is a time to get plenty of sunshine and fresh air where possible.
Sometimes during summer activities children can sprain an ankle or suffer an injury. Other times children can catch a summer cold. If that happens, always take advantage of the quality healthcare that’s available in our area.
Have a great, safe, and healthy summer!
A board-certified family physician, Dr. Curtis Thill has been practicing in the Crawford County region for more than 30 years.