Use fun to beat summer weight gain

The first step toward health: Get off the couch.

By TERRI BRYCE REEVES, Times Staff Writer
Published August 5, 2007

Have you weighed your child lately?

You might be in for a surprise.

Many children are more likely to pack on the pounds at home during the summer than during the regular school year, says a study in April's American Journal of Public Health.

New Florida school requirements - 30 minutes of P.E. a day for elementary school children - may help. But there are things parents can do to make a meaningful difference: Limit TV and video games, stock up on healthy foods and get the kids moving.

Here are some ideas to add fun and fitness to their lives:

Attend the Publix Family Fitness Weekend

It will be at Fort De Soto Park on Aug. 18 and 19. It features a triathlon, duathlon, inline skate, 5K run/walk, open water swim and kids events. Visit www.familyfitnessweekend.com for more information.

Walk the dog

Put your child in charge of walking the dog. No dog? Rescue one from a local shelter and you'll be helping two lives at once.


Give children a patch of land in your yard for their own garden. Not only will they burn calories hoeing, weeding and planting, but fruits and veggies take on a new appeal when they are homegrown.


When was the last time the family visited a bowling alley? This lifetime sport can be learned on standard or shortened lanes or with bumpers.

Figure skate, play hockey, or just glide

It will be months before the mercury falls to a comfortable level. In the meantime, visit the local ice rink for some cool fun.

Teach fitness

Set a regular date and time for kids in the neighborhood to get together for a fitness class. Each one can take turns leading the group. With a multitude of children's videos on the market, kids can choose from aerobics, dance, yoga, hula or even martial arts. Or just play a CD and let them improvise.

Swim, bike and run

There are several kid-friendly triathlons in the Tampa Bay area and around the state. Visit www.active.com for dates and locations.


Plunge into some underwater adventures. Children 10 and up can be certified to become open water divers; younger children can enjoy snorkeling.

Hold a scavenger hunt - for litter

Provide plastic gloves and bags. Whoever picks up the most trash in the neighborhood, park or on the beach wins a prize. All that running and bending will be good for them and great for the environment.


Get in on the action and make children's sports a family affair. Coach, work at a concession, sell tickets or organize a car wash. Kids are more likely to stick with an activity if they know that Mom or Dad is involved. Plus, of course, the league will benefit.


Looking for a splashy sport? The Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team performs for free at 6 p.m. every Saturday at Tower Lake in Oldsmar, and the team is always looking for new members. Learn to ski, build a pyramid, and perform both difficult and entertaining acts. Visit the site at www.tampawaterski.com.


You don't need a fancy boat to enjoy Tampa Bay's water wonderland. Rent some canoes or kayaks and take the whole family out for a fun-filled journey.

Head for the beach

Grab the sunscreen, plastic buckets and trowels, and head for the beach. Create an artistic sand castle, play tag in the surf, troll for interesting seashells.


Look for activities at the YMCA, gym or local recreation center. Team sports aren't for everyone, and these facilities offer a wide selection of activities for various ages, abilities and interests.


Whether your child takes to tricycles or triathlons, trails are ideal places for bikers, hikers, walkers, joggers, and inline skaters to enjoy the great outdoors in a safe way. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/trailgd or www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks for trail maps and more information.


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Meal options 6 Immunizations 9
Bus safety 6 Uniform policies 9
Phone numbers 6 Volunteering 9