Healthy Summer Living for Kids

Written by: UTK Dietetic Intern, Phoebe Waller

Healthy Summer Living for Kids

Summer is finally here! Warm weather, sunshine, and quality time with friends and family make summer a blast. Though it can be tempting to spend the hot days inside on the couch watching television, summer is a great time to improve health and wellness for all ages, especially kids. School-aged children have a break from the classroom and routine of school, which opens the door for adopting a healthy lifestyle full of delicious, in-season produce, playing and exploring, and many opportunities to try new things. Here are a few of ways to create a healthy summer lifestyle for your kids with optimal health and safety:


Buy Fresh, In-Season Produce

Some of the most kid-loving fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer, meaning that they are at peak freshness. Some of these fruits include apples, bananas, blueberries, cherries, watermelons and peaches. There is also a variety of vegetables that kids typically enjoy like celery, corn, cucumbers, lima beans and tomatoes. The summer is a great time to introduce these fruits and vegetables. In season, they are at their best flavor and nutritional value, not only making them taste better than the off season, but also better for you. There are many ways to prepare these fruits and vegetables, including pairing raw produce with dips, like hummus or yogurt, roasting vegetables with salt, pepper, and oil, and one of the many great summer traditions, grilling! Did you know some fruits, like pineapple and peaches, are delicious on the grill as well? Creating many variations of produce allows children to try different preparations of the same ingredients, increasing the likelihood that they find something they enjoy.

Popsicles are a nostalgic treat that cools you off on a hot summer day. Though popsicles are considered dessert, there are many combinations of ingredients that can create a healthy sweet treat. Below are some fresh and fun combinations of healthy summer popsicles using in-season produce:

  •  Watermelon Lime
    • Recommended base: coconut water, lemonade or limeade
  • Banana Peanut Butter
    • Recommended base: yogurt, almond milk, or regular milk
  • Mixed Berry (blackberry, blueberry, strawberry)
    • Recommended base: any fruit juice, coconut water, or regular water
  • Strawberry Banana
    • Recommended base: yogurt, almond milk, regular milk, or coconut milk
  • Raspberry Honeydew
    • Recommended base: any fruit juice, coconut water, or regular water
  • Blueberry Lemon
    • Recommended base: yogurt, almond milk, lemonade or coconut milk

All of these can be blended together with some sort of base: any kind of fruit juice, coconut milk, regular milk, coconut water, lemon or limeade, almond milk, or yogurt. You can also use a creamy base and leave the fruit whole in the popsicle molds. If you do not have popsicle molds, you can use a cup, plastic wrap and a popsicle stick. Freeze these pops 6-12 hours and enjoy your fresh sweet treat!


Drink Plenty of Water

Hydration is a vital part of health and wellness. In children, being hydrated shows benefits to concentration, energy, and helps with weight maintenance into adulthood. Drinking water is even more important during hot weather. The heat causes you to sweat and release more energy, requiring more water to stay hydrated. Children ages 4-8 need about 4 cups of water per day, while children 9 and up need 7-8 cups per day. In extreme heat or high activity, water consumption should increase.

It can be a challenge for children to drink water when there are so many sugar-filled, fun drinks on the market. Here are some tips to increase water consumption that will make kids actually want water:

  • Keep only water and milk in the household
  • Start will flavored water that is 0 calories and 0 grams of sugar
  • Have a competition between the family on who can get to their water goal first
  • Have a special water bottle chosen or decorated by each child
  • Freeze fresh produce to be used for ice in the water
  • Add natural flavorings, like lemon and lime
  • Have reusable straws on hand. They help you drink faster!


Move Your Body

Without an 8-hour school day, adults have to take up the challenge of tiring energetic children. Luckily, summer presents many opportunities to increase overall physical activity. Furthermore, the weather allows for more time to be spent outside. Time in the sunshine helps increase vitamin D absorption, which is important for growth and keeping children from getting sick. Outside also opens the door for creativity and problem solving, skills that are vital to learn at a young age.3 Many activities that are kid-friendly are also liked by adults and allow for healthy movement and quality time.

Children ages 6-17 should have at least 60 minutes of active play per day, integrating aerobics, anything that increases heart rate, and muscle and bone strengthening, engaging your whole body and making you stronger. These types of physical activity should be done 3 days a week.4 Here are some ideas for summer friendly physical activity:

  • Aerobic
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Brisk Walking
  • Playing in sprinklers
  • Muscle Strengthening
  • Playing at the park
  • Sports
  • Swinging
  • Climbing
  • Bone Strengthening
  • Jumping rope
  • Skipping
  • Running
  • Relay races


Stay Safe!

In order to have the best healthy summer, it is imperative to take many precautions. There are a few safety concerns that are important to keep in mind when creating healthy summer living. Staying on top of these safety precautions will not only keep your children safe, but also allow for the fun to never stop.

  • Sun Protection- ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun can cause damage to body tissue
    • Sunburns not only cause discomfort in the moment but can have long term damage to the skin. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, is vital that children wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, reapplied every 2 hours.
    • UV rays can also damage eye tissue and can cause problems down the road. According to health and fitness journalist Kathleen Doheny and Dr. Laura J. Martin, MD of WebMD, children should wear sunglasses when in sunny areas for long periods of time, especially from the hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Head Protection-
    • Helmets decrease the odds of head trauma during high likelihood injury activities, like biking or scootering. The best way to enforce helmet wearing is to lead by example.7
  • Insect Protection-
    • Insect bites and stings can not only be painful, itchy, and annoying, but they can also lead to illnesses with long-lasting effects on children.8 When applying insect repellent, only add to exposed skin and apply in open areas so that children will not breathe in the fumes.8 If bug sprays or lotions do not work for your family, insect-repelling clip-ons and bracelets, candles, and even some plants can help keep insects away from your kids


1. USDA. Seasonal Produce Guide. SNAP Education Connection. Accessed June 22, 2021.

2. Rethy J. Choose Water for Healthy Hydration. Published 2020. Accessed June 22, 2021.

3. Claire McCarthy MD. 6 reasons children need to play outside. Harvard Health. Published October 27, 2020. Accessed June 22, 2021.

4. Developer US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. SNAP Education Connection. Published 2018. Accessed June 22, 2021.

5. Sun Safety and Protection Tips. Published 2018. Accessed June 22, 2021.

6. Doheny K. More People — Even Kids — Need to Wear Sunglasses. WebMD. Published May 17, 2012. Accessed June 22, 2021.

7. Goodman DM, Lynm C, Livingston EH. Summer Safety for Kids. JAMA. 2013;309(23):2505. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5165

8. Choosing an Insect Repellent for Your Child. Published 2018. Accessed June 22, 2021