The time of year where kids are counting down the days is just around the corner—school’s almost over! And while summer is often filled with fun and leisure for kids, it can also be a time for indulgence in junk foods, late nights, and activities that may create significant imbalances. This can make the transition back to school much more dreaded and difficult.
Thankfully, there is a way to strike a balance, and allow your kids to enjoy the summer and make those lasting childhood memories, while still maintaining health. In fact, summer is a wonderful opportunity to instill positive habits that will last through the school year.
I recommend starting with these five simple practices rooted in the ancient science of Ayurveda, a form of holistic medicine and living with origins in ancient India:
1. Create a daily routine.
No, I don't mean having every minute of the day scheduled. We want to allow for spontaneity and freedom, which nurtures creativity and fun for our children. But having even just three practices that your kids do every day will help keep them balanced and grounded.
In Ayurveda, the tradition of dinacharya, or daily routine, is one of the most powerful tools for improving overall health and well-being.
So consider a set wake time and sleep time for most days, although it can be later than during the school year. Follow this with a morning routine like a yoga practice, and a fun but nutritious and leisurely breakfast. This will set the tone for the day. Or how about winding down in the evening with some quiet reading time?
Have your children choose three—any three—practices that outline their balanced but ideal summer day.
2. Teach your kids a mindfulness technique like meditation.
Your kids finally have some extra time on their hands—and what better way to occupy it than to instill mindfulness? Some easy techniques to teach children: So Hum meditation, or simple breathing practices (pranayama) like Nadi Shodhana. Try it for just five minutes. The centeredness your kids gain from this practice will be carried with them through the school year.
3. Encourage daily outside exercise.
If possible, summer is the time to play outdoors and be active. Far too often, because of a lack of options or encouragement, children spend their summers in front of the TV or in movie theaters. There's nothing wrong in a little screentime, but it’s all about balance.
I grew up doing yoga every morning (I was taught to do twelve sun salutations, or Surya Namaskar daily). If your child prefers a different practice, they can spend time riding their bikes with their friends, swimming in the neighborhood pool, or playing tennis. It doesn’t matter—just make it a regular part of their day.
4. Consider adding in herbs.
Chyawanprash is a classic Ayurvedic formulation that's a rejuvenative and a nourisher. It's also quite tasty and comes in the form of a jam. A spoonful with some milk is a quick and healthy start to the day.
Other Ayurvedic herbs and substances that are used for healthy growth in children include Ashwagandha, Shatavari, and organic clarified butter (ghee). Of course, talk to your pediatrician or health care practitioner before using any herbs with children.
5. Make cooking fun.
I find that younger children love to be in the kitchen, and often times they are more likely to eat something if they are part of the cooking process. It’s like their treat for their accomplishment!
The goal here is not to eat salads all day. Children need healthy forms of fats and building foods. Root vegetables (like baked sweet potato fries), milk shakes made with dates and warming spices like cardamom, or a baked potato with avocado and ghee and some vegetables are great alternatives to fast food hamburgers, chips and soda.
Enjoy the summer with your kids and set them up for a year of health and success!