Weight Gain Goes Up When School is Out
The study followed a large group of kindergarten-age kids through second grade. Data collected showed that rates of obesity and being overweight rose from 8.0% to 11.5% and from 23.3% to 28.7%, respectively. Most important was the observation that all the weight gain occurred in the summer months, during vacation time from school. On average, rates of obesity rose by 0.1 percentile points during each summer month.
The lead author, Paul T. von Hippel suggested that parental education was crucial in helping to intercept this trend. He further suggested that teaching parents about nutrition and reducing screen time especially during the months when kids have loads of free time is critical to intercepting this weight trend. He also recommended further research looking specifically at the impact of summer camp on weight trends.
Parents may assume that the summer months allow for more physical activity and in hotter months kids might tend to eat less. Clearly the opposite seems to hold true. It appears that if kids are left to their own devices, they will likely graze and munch all day long and gain weight – especially if highly processed foods and treats are in ample supply. Kids will also spend much of their time on tech devices – smartphones, computers, video games, and social media will be the main “course” they engage with daily. Kids need structure especially if we want them to increase physical activity during the daytime. If kids are on left on their own at home, parents should stock the fridge with cut up fruits and vegetables, yogurt, beans, hard-boiled eggs, milk and water and whole grain breads and cereals should be the available grub in the pantry.
In fact, the summer months should mimic the weekend habits and activities that are typical during the school year. Weekends are a time of organized sports games, outdoor free play time and family outings. It’s also the best time to plan menus for the week, shop and prep food and engage with your kids. Those same opportunities should be the foundation of your kids’ summer months. Pulling this off may require extra planning and some creative thought, especially if finances are tight and camp or certain summer activities are not feasible. Buddying up with other moms and creating a rotation schedule for activities can really help working mothers. Even stay-at-home moms need support and time off, so consider reaching out to other moms and create a rotation of “home camp groups” with specific activities planned.