Summer elicits fond memories of time spent soaking up the sun, taking vacations and creating moments with friends and family that last a lifetime. As parents, you also know that summer brings the stress of finding ways to keep kids occupied and active for the next three months, and that stress is valid. Studies show that children’s activity levels significantly decline in the summer, leading to weight gain and increased BMI’s. What’s even more concerning is that even if kids are regularly active during the school year, they can reverse their fitness levels during the few months of summer. These are certainly some scary findings, especially considering the challenges that come with trying to keep kids active over the summer.
Most parents will agree that when summer weather is upon us, they’ll try anything to avoid having their kids sit in front of a TV all day. But how do you avoid the dreaded, “I’m bored” whines we are all too familiar with? Add in the additional challenges many of us face, like living in a community with limited parks and sidewalks, expensive summer day camps, and closed-for-the-summer school playgrounds and gyms, and the solution becomes even more difficult. So, what’s the answer? It’s likely a different combination of actions for every state, city, neighborhood and family, but there is one thing that everyone can do—become an advocate for children’s out-of-school physical activity opportunities.
You may be thinking you know nothing about politics, but the good news is you don’t have to be an expert politician to be an advocate. Being an advocate means you spread awareness about the issues you are passionate about and fight for solutions for change. Parents can unite as one voice to bring awareness to local officials about the struggles they are facing. Don’t go thinking that your voice doesn’t matter! When officials (governmental, academic or nonprofit) hear messages that are concise, repeated frequently and come from several individuals it helps them identify the important priorities in their community.
And speaking of priorities, we can all agree that keeping kids active and fighting the growing obesity epidemic is worthy of a lot of attention. But what is the best way to approach officials about these concerns? One thing we know for certain is that if you’re approaching officials with a problem, you need to come prepared with a solution. Here are a few examples of how this can work:
Problem: Summer youth activity programs are too expensive.
Solution: Ask your Representative and Senators to co-sponsor the PHIT Act (H.R. 1267/S. 482), which would allow you to use your Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account for physical activity related expenses like sports league fees, required uniforms and equipment, day camps, swim lessons, dance classes, etc. Go here to act now.
Problem: My child’s school doesn’t allow them to use the playground or gymnasium during the summer months.
Solution: Talk to your local government and school officials about adopting and implementing shared use agreements. See our Position Statement on Activity in Communities for language on how to help advance public policies regarding shared use in your community.
Problem: My neighborhood has limited sidewalks and no bike lanes.
Solution: Transportation officials are often tasked with developing environments that are conducive to walkers, cyclists and drivers. Contact your local city transportation experts to discuss areas that could benefit from more trails, sidewalks or bike lanes. Learn more about these types of initiatives here.
At ACE, we advocate for policy issues that create affordable and accessible opportunities to engage in physical activity for everyone. To learn more or get involved in our advocacy work contact firstname.lastname@example.org.