Kids love summer. The sunshine, the outdoors, the picnics, the pool parties, the barbecues oh, wait. Kids aren't doing that so much anymore, are they?

The truth is, kids these days are more likely to spend time refreshing their Facebook page and posting on Instagram than being outdoors.

So, it isn't surprising that children are gaining weight over the summer rather than losing it, according to a June 2014 study in the medical journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

During summer, children gain up to 3 times as much weight as they do during the school year.

It's a puzzling phenomenon with multiple explanations. Why are our kids putting on pounds during the summer? And what can parents do about it?

Here are some of the causes of summer weight gain in kids and how to prevent it.

Eating Wrong

Summer is full of sugary frozen treats, parties, and picnics that can pack on a significant number of calories. Additionally, since kids aren't in school, they're not really busy and may snack significantly more.

Children who use food as a source of comfort or distraction may particularly struggle here.

Lazy Days Of Summer

During the school year, most kids get physical activity in one way or another and don't even realize it.

Whether it's through gym class, lugging stuff around in their backpacks, or participating in after-school activities like drama or ballet, school keeps kids moving.

Summer gives kids a three-month hiatus from the chaos of school, and many take full advantage. They often get up later, spend the day indoors, and don't play organized sports as much.

Kids also spend a lot of time in front of screens, which compounds the problem because kids can crave the sugary foods they see on TV, warns the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Studies show that during summer vacation, kids lose fitness they gained during the school year.

This isn't to say your kids are lazy. They may be involved in all sorts of activities. But unless they're athletes, they're probably seeing a significant decrease in physical activity come summertime. And this can lead to summer weight gain.

Too Hot To Handle

You'd think the warm temperatures would encourage kids to be outside, right? Yes, but only to an extent.

Researchers have found that there's a “Goldilocks” temperature that encourages kids to get outside, according to Active Living. It can't be too cold or too hot. Summer's sweltering heat can sometimes cause kids to seek refuge indoors.

Think about it: On a hot, sticky summer day, are you rushing outside with a football or cranking up the air conditioning at home? Your kids will do the same.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

As a parent, it's important to be vigilant. Keeping your kids in shape is important not only for their physical health, but their mental health as well.

Overweight kids are more likely to have the following conditions or situations, according to the NLM:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Sleep apnea (stopping breathing during sleep), which leads to fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being teased and bullied
  • Have a harder time making friends

This may seem beyond your control, but you can actually prevent your child from gaining excess weight during the summer by doing simple things. And no, you don't have to watch everything they eat.

Take these simple steps known to slow or prevent weight gain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Keep your kid moving: Limit TV and computer time. Encourage them to go out, even if it's just walking around with friends or their pet.
  • Keep feeding them well: You don't need to ban ice cream or cotton candy, but make sure summer vacation doesn't mean a nutrition vacation. Limit fats and sugar, and fill them up with fruits, vegetables, and protein.
  • Lead by example: Try to get out with your kids to enjoy the summer. Playing sports or going for a hike on the weekend as a family will be good for your relationships as well as your health.

Keep your child healthy and happy over the summer. If your child is struggling with weight loss issues, make an appointment with a pediatrician or family practitioner to discuss options for getting back on the road to health.

Talk to A Doctor