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Health Tips for Parents

2006 Issues

What’s the best way for my child to spend summer vacation?

Children may actually best enjoy the carefree days of summer when some structure is maintained in their daily activities and sleep routines, advises Fred Frankel, Ph.D., professor of medical psychology at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. This, combined with appropriate activities and opportunities to socialize with friends, is a recipe for a successful summer experience.

Involve children in the planning of family vacations or outings, choosing summer camps, and making regular play dates with friends. Marking the activities clearly on a calendar can help children visualize the rhythm of their summer schedule.

Keep a routine
Stick to a routine at home. Bedtimes and wake up times should be set and followed. Bad habits, such as sleeping in and skipping meals, are hard to break once school is back in session.

Many schools provide children with a summer reading list. “Parents should continue to read with their children every day — year round,” Dr. Frankel observes. Summer is a great time for children to read, and with no pressure of school they will begin reading for the sake of enjoyment.

Play dates
According to Dr. Frankel, the most important summer activity for gradeschool- age children is a play date with a good friend. “Play dates help children develop and improve their social skills,” says Dr. Frankel, who is author of A Good Friend is Hard to Find.

Parents should actively network with other parents and arrange oneon- one time for the children. “Play dates are the single best way for children to get to know each other without intrusion,” Dr. Frankel notes. Children gradually develop a reciprocal relationship with each other and consider themselves equals.

Many parents prefer to enroll their child in organized activities, such as day camp. For working parents, organized activities are often a must. Dr. Frankel suggests a few guidelines to help parents select from a huge array of available options.

Summer camp
According to Dr. Frankel, day camp is a good way for children to meet new children and play with friends from school. Day camps usually offer a variety of activities throughout the day — including outdoor sports and indoor projects — to keep children stimulated. Day camp fosters group play and provides space for children to develop new friendships.

Specialty camps — such as sports camps or camps for art or computers — may be a good idea for children in the fourth grade or older. “These types of camps may help promote friendships among children with similar interests,” Dr. Frankel says.

Dr. Frankel cautions parents of grade-school-age children about sleep-away camp. “There’s no advantage to sleep-away camp for children at this age,” Dr. Frankel advises. “Children who have a hard time adjusting to new situations or who are shy will only have these problems exacerbated by sleep-away camp.” According to Dr. Frankel, sleepaway camp is typically most appropriate for children in middle school.

Summer school
“Summer time should be fun and unless a child is incredibly interested in a particular topic, summer school is not a great idea,” Dr. Frankel says. However, children with certain disabilities, who may forget what they have learned during the school year, may benefit from the added enrichment that summer school provides.

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. UCLA Healthcare pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles. Additional information can be found on the UCLA Healthcare web site at www.healthcare.ucla.edu or by calling 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631).

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