group of 5-6 year old happy kids running in the woods

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” -Dr. Suess, Horton Hears a Who!

This month, we are focusing on family and some important topics and issues surrounding it. School is getting out for most children, and schedules are hopefully more free and less hectic. Don’t let summer pass by too quickly, this is a time in your child’s life that you will never get back. Cherish it! Children are so important, and so is their health and wellbeing. So, how can you be more intentional as a parent to involve your children in activities that increase holistic health? Let’s touch on three main areas: physical, mental, and spiritual.

1. Physical: It is important to keep your children active during the summer. For one thing, promoting physical activity in children at an early age helps them develop the habits and skills needed to remain active throughout their entire lives. I just helped an older lady in my complex carry some boxes from her condo down two flights to the stairs. She is a very sweet woman, but she is also a heavy smoker, has weak muscles, a slumped back, and poor circulation in her legs. After I carried down the boxes, I said, “Do you need anything else?” She said, “A new pair of lungs and legs.” Your child’s activity levels in their early stages effect them for the rest of their lives; develop fun and healthy habits now! Physical activity also influences a child’s perception of themselves as healthy, which promotes increased self-esteem.

-Eat Healthy- One other thing to add is that eating healthy can be challenging during the summer months, but this too effect’s your child’s self-perception and energy level; make healthy food choices!

-Local Eventss/Activities: There is so much going on in Denver this summer, and many events that are completely free of charge. Check out http://scfd.org/p/free-days-calendar.html for a complete calendar of all the free days at various locations around the city.

-“Family Fitness Night” Choose nights throughout the summer where everyone in the family takes turn choosing a fun, active form of exercise (i.e. hiking, biking, swimming, Wii-fit, tennis, yoga). This is a great way to work out together and make fitness more fun and engaging.

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2. Mental: Mental fitness is crucial to your child’s development and success in many areas of life! Summer may even be a good time to pursue counseling for your child, away from the business and drama that often comes with school. Mental health needs to be a family priority. Familyshare.com has a great list of 12 ideas to keep your kids mentally fit this summer, check it out:

Read- Join a community book club (many libraries have them) or start your own. Joining a book club gives you and your kids a deadline for reading the chosen book and provides your kids with a forum to discuss what they’ve read. This helps with comprehension and retention.
Another idea to get your kids reading is to participate in a reading contest to see who can read the most books. Barnes and Noble sponsors a summer reading program. If your child reads a certain number of books, he or she gets a free book at the end of the summer.

Daily study time- This may not be popular with the kids, but they could use some quiet time inside away from any screen. They can spend the time reading, writing in a journal, drawing, doing work books, doing puzzles or building with blocks. Ideally, your child should be able to participate in these activities without your help- giving you both some needed down time. This will be good for everyone’s mental health.

-Cooking math- Letting your kids help you in the kitchen will help them brush up on their math skills. Your kids will be practicing fractions, measurements, time and temperature. They’ll also love to eating their homework.

-Kitchen science experiments- Kids are naturally curious and science with everyday items is a great way to mix learning and fun (and sometimes treats). There are a number of different books available with great ideas, like the Usborne Book of Science Activities. You can also find experiments on the web.

-Waterworks- Appeal to your little engineer or builder by letting her build a car wash or water fountain in your backyard. With some sponges, pvc pipe and perhaps a kiddie pool, your kids can create a way to keep themselves cool all day. Drill any holes needed in the PVC pipe, but after that resist the urge to create it for your kids. Lining things up, putting them together, taking them apart and figuring out what works is half of the fun and all of the learning.

– Learn a new skill- Is there something your child has always wanted to try or a skill you haven’t had the time to pass down? Take the summer free time to let your kids learn a new skill. From whittling to knitting to gardening, learning something new will help keep their minds in shape.

Yard art- Get the kids’ creative juices flowing. Your yard is their canvas. Beyond chalk art, your kids may enjoy designing garden embellishments pressing setting pebbles, buttons or other trinkets into a mosaic in the soil. You can also let them paint the fence red (or blue, or green) with washable spray paint. All you’ll need is cornstarch, warm water, food coloring and a spray bottle. You can find the recipe online (http://mothersniche.com/diy-washable-spray-paint-kids-cash-giveaway/)

-Museums- Take advantage of the museums in your area or plan a daytrip. Don’t be afraid to ask at the front desk for learning aids. See the link above for days when the Museums in Denver is free of charge!

-Go to the zoo- When you visit, talk about the animals’ characteristics, habitats, diets and more. You can get as basic or complex as you want depending on the age of your children.

-Volunteer- Spend some time helping others. This will help your kids keep up their work ethic and focus. Often volunteer work also provides opportunities to learn a new skill. Volunteering on a weekly basis can help kids stay on some kind of schedule.

-Take a community class- Most schools and communities offer summer classes in a variety of subjects for your kids. They usually only last a few weeks. Check out your city’s offerings online or at the local library.

-Current events collage- Keep track of the summer’s major events with a collage. From headlines to family reunions, let your kids collect ticket stubs, pictures and newspaper clippings and glue them onto a summer collage page. It will keep them aware of the world around them during those summer months.

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3. Spiritual: Keep your children spiritually engaged this summer! Act to engage your child in spiritual growth activities that not only strengthen them, but increase the spiritual intimacy and connectedness of your family. You will hopefully see them: fight less, engage in honoring and respectful behavior, and show love their friends, family, and peers. You will be more united as a family. 

-Pray together- Normalize prayer in your home. Invite your child to invite God into their daily routine! Pray before meals, before bed, when someone gets hurt, when there is a celebration, when an apology is needed, out in public… pray everywhere. 

– Family devotionals- Try doing this together, even if it is something you have never tried. Meal times are great times to do this. Check out Family Christian Bookstore, Mardel’s, or Barnes and Noble for Family Devotional books.

-Go to church together- Make a priority, if you can, to take you children to church every week where they can be a part of community, grow, learn, and have love poured into them! They will begin experiencing the love of Jesus in unique ways that only the church can provide. 

-Look for Teaching moments- You can use many different activities as opportunities to teach your children about Christ-like behavior, lessons, and perspectives: gardening, sports, trivia, clubs, hikes, camping, museums, art galleries, outreaches, volunteering, or visitors and friends in your home. Art projects are another great way to visualize the gospel and to learn about stories and events in the Bible. “Teaching moments” are such a great and practical way to instill and develop traits and characteristics in your children that are in line with their identity in Christ (no matter how young or old they are). Here is a great resource from Focus on the Family that answers the question: “What can I do to foster and encourage positive spiritual growth in my children?

Do not neglect the importance of holistic health in your kids as the summer approaches. They will take better care of you in the future, if you invest time and energy into developing them into healthy and happy people right now. Concerned about your child? Cornerstone offers a range of holistic child counseling services, including animal assisted therapy and play therapy.

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