Every Minute Counts

Parents can always use some fresh ideas, especially ones that do not involve electronic screens. If you still have a set of encyclopedia volumes around the place, try showing kids how to look for answers in there sometimes. Or if there is a special kind of food they like to eat and/or prepare, get hold of an actual cookbook. You never know what sort of odd thing will seize a child’s attention. Maybe the idea of consulting an actual book will grab their jaded, screen-adapted imagination and open up some new world.

The basic message here is, every moment spent by a child in some activity other than eating is a moment to be treasured. As in the previous post, some of these are CNN staffer Katia Hetter’s suggestions, and some are ideas inspired by hers.

The emphasis is on materials and equipment easy to find and inexpensive, although some things should not be improvised. For instance, face painting is a great idea, and you don’t want to be applying just any old goop to a child’s face, or your own, for that matter. It is probably best to spring for the commercial product, which has some kind of obligation to be safe. The feature of this idea is that neither the painter nor the paintee should be interested in eating while face decoration is in process.

The deeper factors

An interested parent could gently enforce such a standard, without making too big a deal out of it. The hope is that parents can lead by example, letting their behavior demonstrate the expected norm, while setting a standard that becomes part of the family “culture.” America has come to accept that every minute of the day is a food-optional zone, and reversing that trend will be a difficult, uphill battle.

By the way, face paint can also be used on hands, to create monstrous appendages. Even feet can be decorated, although it might be best to conduct that experiment outside, especially if there is a convenient hose to rinse off with. Speaking of which, Hetter also recommends the improvised water slide (but follow local water conservation rules!). A plastic dropcloth, which may be had for under $5, or even a few extra-large trash bags can supply some fun, especially in a backyard with sloping ground.

Again, food is incompatible with this kind of activity. Likewise, the water balloon fight. For someone who has never organized one of those before, there are answers to be found. If you’ve got five kids, they can easily use up at least 50 missiles in 10 minutes. It’s good to have an inflatable kiddie pool filled with water as the supply depot for the balloons that are filled and ready.

This article from Camp Beyond offers several creative variants, like dodgeball, volleyball and the water balloon piñata, that really sound fun.

And when the fun is over, of course, the kids stick around to help pick up the shattered balloon shreds and put everything away.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Summer is not completely canceled. Here are 100 things we can do with or without kids,” CNN.com, 07/23/20
Source: “How to Create an Epic Backyard Water Balloon Fight,” CampBeyond.com, 07/15/21
Image by Gail Hampshire/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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