Is your teen in the running for the “Laziest Kid on the Planet” award?
Are sightings of your teen largely limited to fleeting glances of a skulking, bleary-eyed, pajama-clad figure on a nightly run to the fridge for pudding cups and energy drinks? Have you had to take your child to the ER to safely pry a smartphone from a hand that had seemingly curled permanently around it? Have you found yourself wondering, perhaps around noon time, if your sleeping child could have lapsed into a coma?
Don’t make space on that trophy shelf just yet. Science says that your teen has a lot of competition for that Laziest Kid award, and stiff competition at that.
In a study that will surprise exactly zero parents, teenagers were found to be at exceptionally high risk of leading a far too sedentary lifestyle. One particularly gasp-worthy finding was that sixty-year-olds and nineteen-year-olds get about the same amount of exercise, and that amount could fairly be described as “little to none.”
The good news is that you can take action to ensure that the empty space on your mantle waiting for that “Laziest Kid” trophy remains unoccupied. Help your teen buck the trend by choosing one or more of these suggestions to get them moving this summer.
Summer jobs (paid)
Forget retail and fast food. Lounging behind a cash register at the mall isn’t going to help much. Fried temptations at their fingertips at a quick service restaurant are often counter-productive, as well. Though it would seem like lifeguarding is a good option, a great deal of time is spent the same way teens often spend time at home: sitting.
Instead, encourage your teen to pursue employment that demands physical activity. Schlepping groceries or working as stock clerks are great for teens who want to get fit or want to develop their physical strength. Landscaping and yard mowing not only get them outdoors, but provide a lot of valuable cardio over the course of a shift. Running after children as a babysitter or camp counselor may be more up your teen’s alley, and can be a good source of physical activity as well.
Dog walking, car washing, swim instruction – even a gig as a shopping cart rounder-upper at the local Wally World or home improvement store can mean that your teen is meeting or beating the CDC’s recommendation of 60 minutes a day of moderate to strenuous physical activity. As an extra bonus, your teen will have more money in his or her pocket to blow on that $150 pair of jeans, the purchase of which they believe is the only move that can possibly save them from a tragic fate as an instant social pariah.
Unsure of your state’s laws regarding at what age kids are allowed to work or what permits he may require? You can find the scoop on ages, paperwork, and other work-related information specific to teens at the Department of Labor’s website here.
Summer jobs (unpaid)
As much as they claim to loathe it, working around the house during the summer is not deadly, nor does it mean your child will be doomed to a life of indentured servitude. Summer projects around the house can actually be fun and fruitful.
Choose something for which your teen actually derives a benefit. It’s up to you whether that benefit is monetary (i.e., you literally pay them) or non-monetary. Whether they get cash for it or not, you’ll have an easier time selling this idea to your teen if they can easily see that they will derive a personal, direct, quick benefit from it.
Does your teen want to use the car? Try an hour-for-hour trade of car-related (even loosely related) duties for time they may spend using the car. If they clock two hours cleaning the garage, that’s two hours’ worth of time they can have the car for their own purposes. Wash and wax Mom’s truck for an hour, get an hour of truck use in exchange.
Does your teen complain about a boring room or lack of privacy? Get them a bucket of paint in the color of their choosing and have them paint their own room. Have a particularly ambitious teen with some woodworking skills? Offer partial “ownership” of a backyard shed they build themselves over the summer. Here are some drool-worthy examples for inspiration. Once completed, let your teen use it as a space for band practice, a private getaway from the siblings, or safe storage for their stuff if they’re soon leaving for college.
Participation in organized sports offer a number of benefits, but its ability to get teens moving is one of the most important. Practices have set times, and failure to perform has set consequences. For kids with a competitive spirit, sports can provide the perfect way to channel it.
Some teens flounder over the summer due largely to the season’s stark lack of structure. During the school year, there is literally a reason for teens to get up in the morning and a reason to get to bed at a reasonable hour at night. Over the summer, the structure of the school day and the associated academic demands disappear. Including team practices in a teen’s summer schedule can give them the structure they need to not only to get themselves moving, but to manage their time from a more general standpoint.
Community “rec” teams are a possibility for some younger teens, but those tend to disappear quickly as a teen gets older and sports become more intense and more serious. If rec teams aren’t really an option in your area, consider encouraging your teen to volunteer as an assistant coach, trainer, or referee for younger kids’ teams.
Summer hobbies and volunteering
For kids who are either too young to work or are not well-suited for a structured employment environment, cultivating an interest in active hobbies may be just the ticket. Active hobbies include can include anything from community volunteering to training for a 5k to fun apps for gamers that get players out of the house and moving.
Habitat for Humanity, for example, sponsors a youth program that provides volunteering opportunities for kids aged five and up. Houses of worship of nearly every faith regularly offer summer programing for young children for which they actively seek teenage chaperones/volunteers. The United Way offers yet another source for parents seeking active volunteering opportunities for teenagers.
Teens who are tightly tethered to their devices may balk the idea of being separated from their precious [insert Gollum-esque growl here]. Even these teens can be coaxed, but you might need to be sneaky about it.
Consider suggesting activities or apps that encourage device-dependent teens to get outdoors and get moving. Geocaching, an activity that has recently seen a massive increase in numbers of devoted adherents, is one such activity. Teens can use their phone’s GPS to search for caches. It’s fun, it’s educational (shh – maybe don’t mention that bit), and it demands plenty of walking. Triple win.
Gamer teens might enjoy apps like Pokemon Go. While very clearly a game, it also requires, by its very nature, a great deal of walking. As an extra bonus, teens can explore parts of their communities they might otherwise never visit. Other games based on the Pokemon Go concept include Ingress (by Niantic, the same company that delivered Pokemon Go), Temple Treasure Hunt, and Resources.
A treasured rite of passage, you can’t beat summer camp for motivating teens to get outdoors and get active. Younger teens will enjoy their time as campers and older teens can take advantage of (often paid) opportunities to serve as counselors. The variety of camp types available boggles the mind. If kids and teens have an interest in it, there’s probably a camp devoted to it.
Whether your kid is into music, basketball, horses, or just plain old friendship, finding a camp to suit his or her interests is often a Google search away. In addition to having fun and getting moving, participating in summer camp also gives kids a chance to form lifelong bonds with children from outside their usual social spheres (school, church, or neighborhood).
Bonding with peers is an important part of adolescence, but family bonding is crucial during this developmental phase as well. Consider some activities your teen might enjoy doing with you, your spouse, his or her siblings, or even the entire family.
Is your teen developing an interest in cooking or has she decided to explore veganism? How about making a family project of creating a backyard vegetable garden? Plenty of outdoor gardening time plus fresh vegetables at your fingertips is a winning combination. The sense of accomplishment for a teen serving up a meal she literally created from start to finish is unmatched.
Consider investing in fitness trackers for the whole family, and set a family goal of collectively achieving a certain number of steps by summer’s end. Plan an extra special celebration or purchase of a mutually appealing item for the whole family to enjoy (e.g., weekend trip to an amusement park, a pool table, a trampoline) if you achieve your goal.
Whether via a job, volunteer opportunity, hobbies, camps, or family projects, today’s teens needn’t be saddled with the health problems that accompany a sedentary lifestyle. By modeling healthy levels of activity yourself and encouraging your teen to pursue an active lifestyle, you are setting your teen up to develop lifelong, life-extending habits. Mark this summer as the one when you took action to ensure your mantle never sports a “World’s Laziest Kid” trophy.