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August is Family Fun Month
August is National Family Fun Month! Here are some ideas of free or low-cost activities to enjoy this month and into the fall.
1. Beaches. We live close to the Delaware Bay, Inland Bays, and the Atlantic Ocean, so planning a trip to the beach is a fun and easy way to enjoy family time. From jumping into the waves to collecting shells to burying each other in the sand, it’s a great way to get active and enjoy each other’s company without breaking the bank.
The most important thing to do, other than have a great time, is to plan ahead. For example, I recommend you put sunscreen on everyone before you leave the house: SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) is recommended. Any brand or type is fine, though I do suggest avoiding spray-ons, since no one knows if it is dangerous to breathe them in. Bring extra sunscreen with you because you’re going to need to reapply every two hours, and after you get out of the water and/or towel off. (Keep in mind, however, that sunscreen is not recommended for infants less than six months; if you have one that little, only come to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, if at all, to prevent your baby from overheating).
Pack up a cooler with ice packs and healthy foods like fresh fruit and veggies (pre-cut), sandwiches (wraps work well at the beach as they are easy to hold) and bring plenty of water. This will help limit the temptation to give in to the mouthwatering smells coming from the boardwalk—at least a little. And stay hydrated! Dehydration causes symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, extreme thirst, and more. Water is the best way to rehydrate. Sports drinks usually contain a lot of sugar and generally are not necessary.
Swimming safety is essential. Drowning is a leading cause of death among children. Swim lessons are great but do not protect a child from drowning. Stay within arm’s length of infants or toddlers, even if they are just in a few inches of water in a kiddie pool. And an adult should always be watching older children when they are swimming. If there is more than one adult present, you should make sure one of you is assigned to watch the kids at all times. It is very important to minimize distractions such as cell phones and socializing when it is your turn to watch.
If you’ve already had your fill of the beach (or pool), there are plenty of other things to do as a family.
2. Markets and state parks. Getting outdoors as a family is a great way to enjoy new experiences. There are many local farmers markets where you can encourage your kids to try out a new fruit or vegetable. They might be more likely to try something new if they get to pick it!
Another option is to walk, hike, or bike together. The local state parks have some wonderful trails to explore or you could just ride around your neighborhood. I must remind you, however, that everyone needs to be wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle—including adults! You need to protect your brain! You are your child’s role model and actions speak much louder than words.
3. Make your backyard the place to be. So, you say you just want to stay close to home? There’s plenty to do right in your backyard! Run through a sprinkler, have a water balloon fight or a hula-hoop contest, or play a game of kickball or Frisbee. You could even make your own obstacle course, then compete with each other to see who can do it the fastest, or the smoothest--or the silliest! Another fun (and low-cost) idea to do as a family is to make up your own scavenger hunt with a prize for whoever finds all the items first. Or, how about putting on your own talent show (with as much or as little planning as you like)? Making a backyard fort? Or camping outside overnight?
That brings me to an important topic: insect repellent. There are Lyme disease-carrying ticks in this area, and mosquitos can transmit a number of infections. I recommend using a repellent that contains no more than 30% DEET or whose active ingredient is Picaridin. DEET is considered safe in concentrations of 30% or less. The natural essential oil-based repellents (e.g. citronella or eucalyptus oil) do not work well and are not recommended. Neither are the wristbands or backyard bug zappers. And repellents that contain Permethrin should only be used on clothing or equipment, not on skin. Insect repellents should only be used in infants or children over 2 months of age, and should be applied no more than twice a day.
If it is just too hot outside and you and your little ones are melting, get out of the heat and do something indoors. For example, go bowling, to the YMCA, the movies, or to a local museum. Enjoy a free kid’s workshop at your local big box hardware store. Go to the library - most public libraries have fun activities throughout the summer, such as story times and movie nights. Or, even consider going to see a children’s theater show.
August is a great time to reconnect as a family, try new things, have a lot of fun, and reinforce healthy habits. I hope you have a safe and healthy rest of your summer!
Stacey G. Fox, MD, FAAP, is a general pediatrician in private practice at Beacon Pediatrics, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Beacon Pediatrics, affiliated with Beebe Healthcare, is now accepting new patients and is also available for scheduled urgent appointments for children who are visiting the area. Call or see their website for more information and to schedule an appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, call (302) 645-8212 or go to www.beaconpediatrics.net.