After a busy summer of camps, vacations and preseason sports practice, it's easy for September to sneak up on families. Starting school again can be a tough transition for kids and teens, who become accustomed to the later bedtimes and unstructured play of summertime. With the beginning of the school year a few days away, the YMCA of Greater New York wanted to share some tips to help families stay fit, eat right and get organized in time for the first period bell.
Getting in Shape
1. Rethink exercise: Encourage kids and teens to pursue individual sports that don't require much equipment -- such as running, yoga, swimming or biking -- or find creative ways to exercise as a family, including a trip to the playground, a race around the block, walking together to school, a dance session at home, or even yard work! Keep workouts ideas handy in your pocket with fitness apps and websites like 7-Minute Workout, Runkeeper, Pocket Yoga, Nike Training Club, Zamzee and others.
2. Team sports: For kids, organized sports are not just a means to stay active -- being part of a team teaches them how to handle losses (and be a gracious winner), how to work with others, and the importance of being organized and on time. Most schools offer a variety of sports teams to join, but also check listings for community leagues for additional options.
3. Work out during your child's sports practice: Parents will spend a lot of time hanging out on the sidelines at their children's sports practices and games during the school year. Why not use this time to perform your own workout routine? Pack your sneakers or a bike and take a loop around the field while cheering on your child.
4. Breakfast of champions: In the scramble of getting your children ready in the morning, it's easy to forget or skip breakfast. Make time for your family to eat a simple, healthy breakfast such as oatmeal, whole grain toast or cereal. Avoid the sugary cereals that cater to one's sweet tooth. There are a number of delicious granola- and bran-based cereals available and you can always add fresh fruit for extra sweetness.
5. The participatory lunchbox: Involve your child in his or her school lunch preparation, talking through the week's worth of meal options and the pros and cons of making certain food choices. Farmers markets are in full swing across the nation right now, providing wonderful opportunities to encourage healthier lunch choices.
6. Become a meal planner: Having dinners -- or at least dinner ideas -- ready in advance eliminates some end-of-day empty-fridge stress that can lead to unhealthy options like fast food take-out dinners. Create a strategy for school lunches, too, checking the school menu but also including healthy lunch snacks on your shopping list.
7. Create a family calendar: To keep track of appointments, assignments, music lessons, sports practices and special occasions, compile everything into a family calendar. This could be a physical document that hangs on your wall, or a digital version (e.g., Google Calendar) to update online, helping the family avoid last-minute scheduling surprises.
8. Extracurriculars -- quality, not quantity: Chances are that your child's school offers a wide array of extracurricular activities -- but students benefit most from one or two fun and educational activities to which they can dedicate themselves. Piling on more to-dos can become too stressful for both kids and parents to manage.
9. Don't make excuses: Perhaps the most important tip, and the one that informs all the others -- families shouldn't allow busy lifestyles and the stresses of juggling home, work and school responsibilities to keep people from eating healthy food and making smart fitness choices. Take a breath, make a schedule, set shared goals and stick to them.
While most children and teens don't look forward to the end of summer, the structure the school year provides can be a positive thing for families. It is certainly challenging to eat right, be physically active and find enough time to spend together as a family, but the YMCA is here to help parents meet these goals. Capitalize on these last few weeks of summer to take control of your new routine and set the tone for the rest of the school year.
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