Keep Them Safe
A little caution goes a long way toward a great, safe summer.
- Drowning, Dry and Wet: Drowning typically occurs quietly and with little commotion. A child can simply slip under the water and not come back. Also, drowning can occur hours after the initial scare; this is usually referred to as "dry" or "secondary" drowning. If you notice that your child is coughing, has chest pain or difficulty breathing, is fatigued, or is acting strange, consider secondary drowning and call your doctor, 911, or go to the Emergency Room. For more information on drowning or secondary drowning, see my post, or this WebMD article.
- Sunburn: Sun damage, especially sun burns, in childhood increase the risk for skin cancer later. Sun damage can be prevented with a few steps. Use an adequate amount of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher with "broad spectrum" protection (UVB protection as well as UVA), and be sure your sunscreen is not expired. Apply at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapply frequently (time depends on the product). Experts recommend staying out of the sun between 10 and 3, and wearing protective clothing and UV blocking sunglasses when you are in the sun.
- Hydrate: It's pretty easy to get behind on fluids, especially when you're a kid on the run in the sun. Be sure your children always have a water bottle them, and figure out a way to make sure they drink from it even when you're not around. Push fluids first thing in the morning, and whenever you have the opportunity. We do lose electrolytes through sweat, so be sure to replenish these too. However, you do not have to use major brand name sports drinks (they are high in sugar, and contain high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients I don't love). Coconut water, miso soup, vegetable and chicken or beef broth all have great electrolytes. You can simmer carrot or celery chunks in water for 30 minutes to make your own electrolyte rich vegetable broth. Finally, there are some natural products on the market that you can buy (effervescent tablets or packets, and liquids); just be sure you read the labels!
- Concussions: Obviously this is one to think about all year long. Anytime a child is on any sort of moving vehicle, whether it's a bike, a balance bike, a scooter, or a skateboard, he needs a helmet, fastened, at all times. Of course, concussions can happen any time; with a simple fall, or an injury sustained despite the helmet, or while playing sports. If your child sustains a head injury, even if it seems minor, go see the doctor. Concussions can be very serious, and education is very important.
- More summer safety articles can be found on MedicineNet, Baby Center, and Parents.
Keep Them Moving
Not everyone gets extra time off over the summer. This can mean the kids are at home while parents are at work. It can be challenging to keep the kids stimulated while you're concentrating on work just as much as ever. As a result, many kids actually gain weight over the summer. I firmly believe in the importance of keeping kids active and intellectually stimulated (see "Keep Them Learning," below) throughout the summer. One of the best solutions here is to sign up for summer camps. Parent Map has a good list of camps; I especially like the "Camps In a Class By Themselves." Seattle Parks and Recreation also offers a wide range of camps, as does the YMCA. Other solutions are to exercise or play as a family after work and on weekends, to start a "get moving" program in the family, and to limit access to screens and cars or buses. Fortunately, most day cares and summer camps do include physical activity in their programming, but if the kids are home with a nanny, be sure you set the expectation for physical activity with the nanny.
Keep Them Learning
We know that all kids who do not participate in educational activities over the summer experience the "Summer Slide;" they lose math and reading skills, and perform more poorly on standardized tests at the end of the summer. Kids from lower socioeconomic brackets experience even more of a slide than those from the upper brackets (another volunteer opportunity). So be sure you continue your daily routine of reading with your kids every day throughout the summer. And find some time to add in museums, summer camps (see links in "Keep Them Moving," above), and visits to the library. (The Seattle Public Library has great summer reading and education programs).
Keep Them Eating
Unfortunately, summer is a time of hunger for countless children. Some of the free meal programs are not available over the summer. If your family is more fortunate, you can benefit greatly by volunteering. Volunteering brings family together, strengthens family bonds, and exposes kids to other socioeconomic groups, along with empowering them to instigate change. So, why not find a place to volunteer this summer? Make it part of your weekly routine. Here's a great Seattle's Child article with more information including volunteer opportunities, and how to access summer eating programs for your own family.
Happy summer! Be safe, and have fun!
I have no affiliations to disclose. This post does not constitute medical advice. If you have medical questions or concerns, call your doctor or 911.