Park leaders stress importance of keeping kids active this summer

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 10:27 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Summertime for many kids means a break from school and a chance to be at home but park leaders say keeping your kids active throughout the summer will improve their mental health.

Dozens of people are out at Nicolas Conservatory and Gardens Tuesday night enjoying the warmer weather, ‘Food Truck Tuesday’ and a walk along the riverfront. Some parents say this is just one way to keep their kids active once school’s out.

Clinton Polk and his wife have two kids with a third on the way. He says nights like Tuesday are a chance to get their kids outside and away from the technology.

“Health and wellness is like the key to success,” says Polk. “A lot of young kids now they deal with mental illness because they’re so caught up in the screen and not in touch with reality.”

Clinton says he already knows what the family will do to keep their kids busy to enhance their quality of life.

“We’d like to get them involved in the activities and take them to the YMCA, swimming pools, swim and stuff like that.”

Rockford Park District leaders say families like the Polk’s have the right idea, which fits into the district’s plan to highlight the power of play through activities at local parks and recreational facilities.

“The park district we’re here to help people enjoy life. We also have a focus on youth,” says Rockford Park District Superintendent of Operations Laurie Anderson.

Anderson says having kids participate in a summer activity can allow them to try something new and maybe make a lifelong friend along the way.

“They find new hobbies interests and some of those kids like to bring that home and then you’re creating family fun experiences.”

“I never spent a lot of time outside during summer but knowing what I know now I would have tried out some sports or tried out something during the summer for my mental health and social skills,” says parent Phillip Rodriguez.

Phillip Rodriguez hopes to create some of those memories with his one-year-old daughter.

“Trying to see what piques her interest and try to help her and guide her in the right way kind of what I wish I had at her age.”

The Rockford Park District also offers a fee assistance program to help out qualifying families pay for their kids to participate in a summer activity.

Anderson recommends kids spend between one and three hours per day outside or participating in some sort of activity, like a class or a camp.