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Think about summer, and images of children riding bikes, swimming and playing basketball come to mind. But a more accurate picture for some children might be sitting at home, watching TV and snacking. Recent studies have found that children increased body mass index (BMI) almost twice as fast during summer vacation as during the school year. Children gain weight as they grow, but these studies involving thousands of children found that they gained weight two or three times faster during the summer than during the months they were in school.
The structured environment of school and summer programs can be the most healthful environment for children, since they have supervised learning activities, nutritious meals and regular physical activity.
School’s Out Washington (SOWA) is calling for heightened attention to the value of summer programs for children. A brief will be released soon. Besides advocating additional public support so that more children can participate in summer programs, SOWA recommends the following to improve the quality of programs:
But there is a shortage of affordable summer programs for kids. “Summer programs offered by school districts are often the last to be funded and the first to be cut,” according to SOWA Communication and Grants Manager Danielle Baer.
A 2009 survey of parents in Shoreline, Tacoma and Yakima by SOWA found that there are not enough after-school and summer programs for children in Washington. In 2010, the national organization Afterschool Alliance polled nearly 600 households about out-of-school programming. While 21% of parents had children enrolled in summer programs, almost 50% were still interested in enrollment.
The 2009 survey found that, if working parents do not find quality out-of school offerings for their children, they are more inclined to allow their child to stay at home alone. More than 100,000 children aged 9 to 14 years are in “self care” each year in the state. SOWA and other organizations call for outreach to parents about existing programs, investment in infrastructure and expansion of quality programs with diverse and well-trained staff.
Featured: June 2011