Fit in child's play when planning the summer

It’s summer vacation, and resisting the TV’s pull may take some thought

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter


photoGabrielle Briggs, 7, beats Ian York, 9, to the ball during soccer drills at a mini sports camp Thursday at Marshall Park in Vancouver. National physical activity guidelines recommend children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day.

(/The Columbian)

Physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents

Children and adolescents should get one hour or more of physical activity daily.

Aerobic: Most of the 60 minutes a day should be aerobic activity of at least a moderate intensity, at which a person will sweat and the heart will beat faster. The intensity should reach a vigorous level at least three days a week.

Muscle-strengthening: At least three days a week, the activity should include something to strengthen muscles — lifting, pushing or pulling weight, including the body.

Bone-strengthening: At least three days a week, the activity should include something to strengthen bones — skipping, hopping, jumping or running, for instance.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

photoChildren participate in soccer drills during a mini sports camp at Marshall Park on Thursday.

(/The Columbian)

School is out. The sun is shining. But more and more, kids aren't leaving the couch.

The structured physical activities offered in schools -- through physical education classes and, for younger kids, recess -- keep kids active during the school year, said Tricia Mortell, program manager at Clark County Public Health.

But when the bell rings for the final time in June, some kids are left to their own devices. And that can mean more time in front of the TV or computer, she said.

"Outside of school, some kids are very active," said Dr. Valerie Weiss, a pediatrician at The Vancouver Clinic. "Some kids don't get any physical activity time."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents should get one hour or more of physical activity every day.

The goal, Weiss said, is for kids to get in 60 minutes of moderate activity -- causing them to sweat and their heart rates to rise -- every day. That hour of activity doesn't need to be all at once, she said, just 60 minutes total throughout the day.

But research shows American kids aren't meeting those goals.

New research from the National Institutes of Health found only about half of U.S. adolescents -- kids ages 11 to 16 -- are active five or more days per week. Local numbers mirror the national findings.

In Clark County, about 50 percent of 10th-graders and 55 percent of 12th-graders do not meet physical activity recommendations, according to the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey, an anonymous survey administered to students across the state.

Younger kids appear to be somewhat more active. Only about 39 percent of sixth-graders and 45 percent of eighth-graders did not meet the guidelines, according to the survey.

While the goal is 60 minutes of moderate activity, Weiss said any activity is great. Walking instead of watching TV, for example, is a positive step, she said.

Kids who are more sedentary will need to work up to the goal of 60 minutes, Weiss said. They may start with 20 minutes a couple days a week and build up, she said.

"We don't want to overwhelm them or feel that it's too much for them," Weiss said. "We want kids to succeed."

Physical activity has numerous benefits for children and adults.

"Everyone, including children, need a certain amount of physical activity to maintain a healthy weight," Mortell said.

Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk for obesity-related issues, such as joint pain, diabetes and heart disease, Weiss said.

Exercise also has some added benefits for kids. In addition to weight management, physical activity can promote creativity and imagination and improve social skills when involving other kids, Weiss said. It also improves sleep quality and physical strength, reduces stress and anxiety, and is great for the heart, she said.

Weiss encourages families to move together, making the activity more fun and extending the benefits of exercise to the adults.

Family activities can include going to the zoo or taking advantage of area parks, many of which don't charge admission. Walking through a farmers market and selecting fresh fruits and vegetables with the kids is another healthy family outing, Weiss said. Just going for an evening walk around the neighborhood after dinner gets the whole family moving, Mortell said.

In addition, many area parks departments offer free drop-in programs for kids and low-cost youth sports camps. The Marshall Community Center currently offers free family swims on Saturdays, and summer concerts in the park get toes tapping outdoors.

"It doesn't always have to be an expense to families to be active," Mortell said. "It can be fun and healthy."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;

Places to move

Here is a partial list of free and low-cost summer activities taking place in Clark County.


More information on parks programs, free swim and sports camps: Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation,

• Playtime in the Parks: Free drop-in program for kids ages 5 to 11. Program runs July 1 to Aug. 16 (no events July 4). Games, sports, water play, playground time, crafts. Free lunch first 15 minutes of program.

Oakbrook Park, 3101 N.E. 99th Ave., 12:30-3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Hearthwood Park, 801 N.E. Hearthwood Blvd., 12:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

John Ball Park, West 23rd Street and Kauffman Avenue, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Jaggy Road Park, 4500 N.E. 72nd Ave., 12:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Summer Playground Program: Free program. Pre-registration required. 360-487-7100.

Evergreen Park, 3500 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Families must live within the Roosevelt Elementary School boundaries.

Orchards Park, 9800 N.E. 54th St., 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Families must live within the Orchards Elementary boundaries.

• Free Family Swim: Free family swim at Marshall Community Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., 4:45-6:30 p.m. every Saturday.

• Mini Sports Camps: Weeklong sports camps for kids ages 3 to 11. Sports include soccer, T-ball, flag football, basketball, track and field, and all sport. Most camps cost $37.

• Vancouver Summer Adventure: Summer activities aimed at helping kids and families eat smart, play hard, experience nature, learn and serve. Pick up passports full of summer activities at Marshall Center, Vancouver Community Library and Sterling Bank, 3301 Fourth Plain Blvd.

• Trail Team Walk: Join the Arc of Southwest Washington and the Vancouver Watershed Alliance for a walk along Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. Meet at the Arc, 6511 N.E. 18th St., 4 p.m. Mondays through September.


More information on sports camps and Family Fun Fridays: Camas Parks & Recreation,

• Family Fun Fridays: 12-1 p.m. in Crown Park, 120 N.E. 17th Ave. Free.

Aug. 2: Water Carnival. Camas Fire Department fire engine water display, water games.

Aug. 16: Circus Skills with Shireen. Hoops, hand-held stilts, juggling.

Aug. 30: Recycleman & the Dumpster Divers Band. Recycle relay game, activities.

• Youth Sports: Various camps for kids ages 4 to 16, including lessons in kung fu and golf. Cost from $40 per month and up.

Battle Ground

More information: City of Battle Ground,

• Summer Playground Program: Free, drop-in program for kids ages 4-10. Program runs through Aug. 29. Arts, crafts and games.

Kiwanis Park, 422 S.W. Second Ave., 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays.

Horsethief Park, Southwest 12th Avenue and Southwest 11th Street, 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays.

Florence Robison Park, 1900 N.W. Ninth St., 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays.

Cresap Park, 1911 S.E. Second Place, 2-4 p.m. Thursdays.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;