Summer is quickly approaching and now is a good time to start planning activities to keep your kids active, healthy and busy during their break from school. Be sure to encourage your children to warm up properly and stretch before each activity and teach them never to play through any type of pain or make winning the reason for playing any sport. Let them choose the activity and keep the focus on having fun.
SOCCER: This highly active game involving both agility and teamwork has grown increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years. To keep kids injury free, be sure they're geared up in appropriate protective equipment, such as shin guards, prior to every practice and game. Soccer players should also wear shoes with cleats or ribbed soles to prevent slipping.
MARTIAL ARTS: With a variety of forms to choose from, martial arts are a great way to get kids involved in a sport that involves strength, coordination and mental discipline. Proper training and equipment to prevent injury are a must.
BIKE RIDING: Bicycle riding is a fun activity for the whole family. Experts suggest children ride on sidewalks and paths until they are at least 10 years old, show good riding skills and are able to follow the rules of the road. Helmets, of course, are a necessity for both children and adults.
SWIMMING: Nothing beats splashing around a pool with friends, and swimming offers the benefits of a full-body workout for both young and old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children ages 4 and up, although classes are available for babies and toddlers as well.
BASKETBALL: Basketball is ideal for developing hand/eye coordination and teamwork. Encourage children under the age of 7 to use a smaller foam or rubber ball, and lower the height of the basket if possible.
OBSTACLE COURSES: Challenge kids to use a variety of different skills by setting up an obstacle course at the park using playground equipment or other items, such as jump ropes, balls and cones.
DANCING: Whether your kids like ballet or hip-hop, dancing encourages them to be creative and move their bodies freely.
BOARD SPORTS: Whether snowboarding in the winter, surfing in the summer, or skateboarding year-round, kids love to be on the board. Injury risk, however, is higher for these sports. For both snowboarding and skateboarding, kids should wear helmets to prevent head injuries, and surfers and boogie-boarders should always be accompanied by an adult.
JUMPING ROPE: Jumping rope is still a favorite on most playgrounds. Whether alone or in a group, jumping rope challenges both coordination and stamina.
ICE-SKATING/INLINE SKATING: Ice-skating, inline-skating and hockey can be both fun and safe as long as appropriate protective gear such as a helmet, wrist guards and kneepads are worn. Hockey players should wear a helmet with foam lining and a full-face mask, a mouth guard, pads for shoulders, knees, elbows and shins, as well as gloves.