It might be unconventional, but we’re recommending the first stop be a check-up at the doctor’s office. Beyond the obvious physical benefits of preventative care, doctors are getting involved in overall lifestyle enrichment for their young patients. They have some great ideas to up the ante of summer fun for kids.
Your pediatrician may be participating in Reach Out and Read. Though the program is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, you may not have heard of it. It’s a grassroots movement of doctors who encourage parents and kids to read together, and it’s now serving nearly 5 million children a year. How does it work? At each visit, doctors talk to parents about the developmental importance of reading aloud to young children. Children living in poverty—which is one in 5 kids in the U.S.*--often don’t have books. This is a stark contrast to the average, non-poverty-level parent of a preschooler who spends 35 minutes a day reading to their child**. Reach Out and Read doctors “prescribe” the reading behavior and provide a free book for the family to take home. If your child already has a full bookshelf and a healthy love of reading, you can help other families in your community by donating to the nonprofit on a local level.
Or, this summer your doctor might recommend putting down the Xbox controller and going outside to play. Doctors participating in Park Rx America evangelize for the holistic, not just physical, benefits of being in nature: appreciation for the environment, happiness, and mental healthfulness. Our YouthBeat data shows that 52% of kids and 34% of tweens play outside on regularly^, but not every family knows where to go to take in some green space—especially if they live in an urban setting. Park Rx America provides doctors with an app they can use to look up parks and other outdoor areas that will be accessible to their patients, so they can “prescribe” getting in tune with nature.
Teens or parents interested in the health benefits of being outdoors may want to visit the magazine Outside’s website. They explain the phenomena of positive consequences of exposure to nature in an article called The Nature Cure. And, they offer a boatload of free resources, from articles on how to teach your child to fly-fish, to the best gear for your chosen activity, to bucket lists of trails and adventures you can plan and enjoy together.
On the surface, YouthBeat’s advice for a fantastic summer might sound boring: go to the doctor, read a book, and go to the park. But trust us, if you follow it, you’ll be happier, healthier, and more mindful of how wonderful your summer is every day. We’d love to hear about your fun summer experiences! Just reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll post a few great ones on our Twitter account, @YouthBeatSpeaks.
*Source: National Center for Children in Poverty
**Source: YouthBeat, Jr., March 2019
^Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2018 (Parent data)