Hispanic girl relaxing in kiddie pool

As summer approaches, many parents might be tempted to let their children indulge in prolonged screen time, giving them a break from the structured routines of the school year. Chad Vercio, MD, Division Chief of General Pediatrics at Loma Linda University Health, cautions against this approach, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balanced and active lifestyle for children during the summer months.

"Summer is a great time for kids to relax, but it's important they don't spend excessive time on screens," Vercio said. "Excessive screen time can impair sleep, which is essential for growth and recovery."

To counter the negative impacts of too much screen time, Vercio recommends parents encourage physical activities. "Parents should find ways to keep their kids active. This can include going to the park in the evenings, hiking, swimming, or any other outdoor activities. These promote physical health and provide opportunities for family bonding."

In addition to physical activities, Vercio suggests using the summer break to foster healthy eating habits. "With more time at home, it's a perfect opportunity to focus on a balanced diet.” He says to teach children about the importance of nutrition and involve them in meal preparation. “This can set the foundation for healthier eating habits once they return to school."

Vercio also highlights the importance of maintaining a routine. "While it's tempting to let kids stay up late and sleep in, maintaining a regular schedule helps ensure they get enough sleep and are mentally prepared for the upcoming school year."

He believes it’s beneficial to encourage children to help with household tasks. “It's important for kids to feel they contribute to the family's success. Simple chores like taking out the trash or helping with laundry can instill a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.'"

Social interaction is another key component of a healthy summer. "Ensure your kids have opportunities to interact with friends and family,” Vercio says. “This helps them develop social skills and prevents feelings of isolation."

Vercio suggests educational games, reading, and learning new skills to keep children mentally stimulated. "The internet offers endless possibilities for learning. Whether it's a new instrument or a craft, there are countless ways to keep their minds engaged."

As the summer winds down, he suggests parents to transition back to school routines gradually. "Maintaining some semblance of a schedule throughout the summer can make the return to school smoother. Reinforce the idea that learning is important year-round, not just during the school year."

Learn more at LLUCH.org