Beebe Healthcare offers tips for Family Fun Month

Date Published: 
August 19, 2016

August is National Family Fun Month, so here are some ideas of free or low-cost activities brought to you from Beacon Pediatrics and Beebe Healthcare, to keep your family healthy, safe and active for the rest of summer!

First of all, some of the most popular places to have fun as a family are our famous beaches! From jumping the waves to collecting shells to burying each other in the sand, it’s a great way to get active and enjoy each other’s company without breaking the bank.

The most important thing to do, other than have a great time, is to plan ahead. For example, I recommend you put sunscreen on everyone before you leave the house. SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB), is recommended. Any brand or type is fine, though I do suggest avoiding spray-ons, since no one knows if it is dangerous to breathe them in.

Bring extra sunscreen with you, because you’re going to need to reapply every two hours, and after you get out of the water and/or towel off. (Keep in mind, however, that sunscreen is not recommended for infants younger than 6 months; if you have one that little, only come to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, if at all, to prevent your baby from overheating).

Pack up a cooler with ice packs and healthy foods, such as fresh fruit and veggies (pre-cut), sandwiches (wraps work well at the beach, as they are easy to hold) and bring plenty of water. This will help limit the temptation to give in to the mouthwatering smells coming from the boardwalk — at least a little.

And stay hydrated! Dehydration causes symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, extreme thirst and more. Water is the best way to rehydrate. Sports drinks usually contain a lot of sugar and generally are not necessary.

Swimming safety is essential. Drowning is a leading cause of death among children. Swim lessons are great but do not protect a child from drowning. Stay within arm’s length of infants or toddlers, even if they are just in a few inches of water in a kiddie pool.

And an adult should always be watching older children when they are swimming. If there is more than one adult present, you should make sure one of you is assigned to watch the kids at all times. It is very important to minimize distractions, such as cell phones and socializing, when it is your turn to watch.

If you’ve already had your fill of the beach (or pool), there are plenty of other things to do as a family. Go to a farmers’ market and try a new fruit or vegetable together. Or go on a walk or a bicycle ride together. The local state parks have some wonderful trails to explore, or you could just ride around your neighborhood.

I must remind you, however, that everyone needs to be wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle — including adults! You need to protect your brain so that you can protect theirs; you are your child’s role model, and actions speak much louder than words.

So you say you just want to stay close to home? There’s plenty to do right in your back yard! Run through a sprinkler, have a water-balloon fight or a toy hoop twirling contest, or play a game of kickball or flying disc. Even make your own obstacle course — then compete with each other to see who can do it the fastest, or the smoothest, or the silliest!

Another fun (and low-cost) idea to do as a family is to make up your own scavenger hunt, with a prize for whoever finds all the items first. Or how about putting on your own talent show (with as much or as little planning as you like)? Making a backyard fort? Or camping outside overnight?

That brings me to an important topic: insect repellent. There are Lyme disease-carrying ticks in this area, and mosquitos can transmit a number of infections. I recommend using a repellent that contains no more than 30 percent DEET or whose active ingredient is Picaridin. DEET is considered safe in concentrations of 30 percent or less.

The natural essential oil-based repellents (e.g. citronella or eucalyptus oil) do not work well and are not recommended. Neither are the wristbands or backyard bug zappers. And repellents that contain Permethrin should only be used on clothing or equipment, not on skin. Insect repellents should only be used in infants or children older than 2 months and should be applied no more than twice a day.

If it is just too hot outside and you and your little ones are melting, get out of the heat and do something indoors. For example, go bowling, to the YMCA, the movies, or to a local museum. Enjoy a free kid’s workshop at your local big-box hardware store. Go to the library; most public libraries have fun activities throughout the summer, such as story times and movie nights. Or even consider going to see a children’s theater show.

August is a great time to reconnect as a family, try new things, have a lot of fun, and reinforce healthy habits. I hope you have a safe and healthy rest of your summer!

Dr. Stacey Fox, MD, FAAP, is a general pediatrician Beacon Pediatrics in Rehoboth Beach. Beacon Pediatrics is affiliated with Beebe Healthcare and offers primary care for children from birth through 18. Beacon Pediatrics is now accepting new patients and is also available for scheduled urgent appointments for children who are visiting the area. Call (302) 645-8212 or go to www.beaconpediatrics.net for more information or to schedule an appointment.