Every June as the school year comes to an end, my kids start asking about our library’s summer reading club. They can’t wait to sign up for the program and receive their goodie bags filled with a reading log, bookmark, stickers, and activity tracker. Summer reading clubs are a great way of preventing the “summer slide,” a well-known phenomenon where children lose gains in academic skills over the summer break. Typically the “summer slide” refers to a loss of reading, writing, and math skills, but there’s another very important skill that can “slide backwards” during the summer break: physical literacy.
Kids are less active during the summer
Perhaps, like me, your first thought was, “Aren’t kids more physically active during the summer break? There’s so much free time for being active.” It’s true. Summer provides plenty of time and opportunity to be active. If I think back on my own childhood, summers were filled with hours of outdoor play with the neighbourhood kids. We ran through the sprinkler, climbed trees, and played Capture the Flag until dark. While an active summer might have been the norm several decades ago, that’s not the case for many kids today.
It may be surprising to learn that many children are less active during the summer break. A recent study of Slovenian children ages six to nine showed that their physical activity dropped overall by 30% over the summer break (moderate physical activity dropped by 53%!) which caused a “summer slide” in their physical literacy.
Some blame this drop in physical activity to the lack of regular routine, a break in scheduled sports, an increased use of screens, or extreme weather events. Whatever the reason, a “summer slide” in physical literacy can be serious business.
The importance of physical literacy
Physical literacy might not get as much attention as reading and writing but it’s just as important. In a nutshell, physical literacy is when kids develop the skills, confidence, and love of movement to be physically active for life. Research consistently shows that children who develop physical literacy are more likely to be physically active and, therefore, happier, healthier and smarter in their childhood and later life. It’s that important!
An active summer for all kids
Keeping our kids active during the summer months can be fun, affordable, and easy. By using similar strategies from summer reading clubs like making a goal, tracking daily successes, and celebrating milestones, kids can approach an active summer with excitement and anticipation. Kids can enjoy their very own Active Summer Club! Below you’ll find several helpful printables to help your child enjoy an active summer: an activity tracker, a list of summer ACTIVE-ities to try out, and some other tips and ideas.
This activity tracker [PDF] is a tool to help your child keep track of their daily physical activity throughout the summer break. The tracker is very easy to use. The first step is to help your child decide on a daily activity goal. According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, kids between the ages of five to 17 get at least 60 minutes of heart pumping active time AND several hours of light physical activity each day. That’s a great goal to have, but what’s more important is that your child makes a daily active goal that is realistic and achievable. Once your child has decided on a daily active goal, write it at the bottom of the Active Summer Club activity tracker.
Next, place the activity tracker in an easy-to-spot location. That could be on the refrigerator, bedroom wall, or bathroom mirror. Finally, have your child fill in a circle on the tracker for each active day throughout the summer break. The activity tracker has eight weeks or 56 days of circles to fill in with mini-milestones marked after every seven days on the chart.
30 summer ACTIVE-ities
To help your child get active and practice a range of skills this summer try some of these fun summer ACTIVE-ities [PDF]. Your child could even make a goal of trying every activity on the list! Feel free to simplify or level up these activities based on your child’s age and physical abilities.
More tips and ideas for an active summer
The Active Summer Club is a fun way to motivate kids to stay active throughout the summer, though there are a few other things that can help prevent a physical literacy “summer slide.”
Get friends involved
My first tip for an active summer is to get your child’s friends involved. Research suggests that kids tend to be more physically active when surrounded by peers who are active. I’ve seen this reality play out with my own children time and time again. My kids always play longer and harder when friends are around. A play date at the park, a nature walk with friends, or sprinkler fun with buddies are all great ways of encouraging physical activity with friends during summer break. Your child could even invite friends to join the Active Summer Club—after all, a club is always better with friends!
Have a daily summer routine
Like most parents and kids, I embrace the slower-paced days of summer. However, I’ve noticed that the novelty of no schedules or routines fades fast. By the second week of summer break, my kids get restless and there’s more bickering between siblings. A summer routine doesn’t need to be a strict schedule, but it can be a gentle guideline that sets aside time for outdoor play each day.
Be sun safe
My final tip for an active summer is about safety. Summer weather can be hot! Make sure to protect your child from sunburn and overheating by encouraging outdoor play during the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening) or in a shady spot, providing plenty of fluids to drink, and insisting on covering up with UV-protective clothing and sunscreen. And if you need some ideas on cooling down while having fun at the same time, try this list.
If you have more ideas for keeping kids active during the summer break, please share your ideas in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing your tips and suggestions.
Have a wonderfully active summer break!