Q: Do you have any advice on summertime activities for my kids?
A: There are many fun, and free, activities for your kids to enjoy this summer. With a few resources and some safety basics, your family can enjoy a happy and healthy summer.
The city of Albuquerque has a number of indoor and outdoor pools that provide great ways to cool off and have some fun. A listing of pool locations, hours, and admission fees can be found at www.cabq.gov/parksandrecreation/recreation/swimming. The city also provides the Swim Pass Program which was created to keep youth from playing in the city’s deadly ditches and arroyos. Ditches and arroyos are NEVER a safe place for kids to play in water or skateboard as they may suddenly become filled with rushing water. Free swim passes will be available while supplies last through June 30 at the following locations: Albuquerque Police Substations, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Fire Stations and Mechanical Concepts.
While enjoying the pool there are some things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe. Never leave children unattended in or near the water. Even with lifeguards and other swimmers present, drowning can be quick. Make sure you are free of distractions such as reading or being on the phone. For swimmers under the age of five and for less experienced swimmers, it is wise to stay within arm’s length. Inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties” may help your child explore more of the pool, but can also give a false sense of security; children using these require the same amount of supervision. If you are lucky enough to enjoy New Mexico’s beautiful lakes, make sure to always use life jackets. And it is a good idea to never swim alone.
Don’t forget your sunscreen! This is actually sage advice for New Mexico residents year-round, but particularly important during the summer months. New Mexico’s UV index (the measurement of the effect of solar ultraviolet radiation on human skin) is in the moderate range during the winter months but enters the extreme range during the summer. This means that we are exposed to much higher levels of UV rays that can cause sunburn, skin damage, melanoma, cancers, and wrinkles. Tan skin is damaged skin. Remember, the clouds do not block the UV rays. Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen or higher every 2 hours, and after swimming or sweating. Most of us vastly under-apply sunscreen. An appropriate amount of sunscreen to apply for an adult would be 2 tablespoons (the amount in a shot glass). Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow full protection. There are products that can be applied directly to your clothes to give them SPF protection, as well as clothing containing SPF. Try to avoid sun exposure when UV rays are the strongest, from 10am to 4pm. Don’t forget a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Also, look for shady places for your kids to play. Sunscreen is not recommended for children under six months of age, so avoiding sun exposure is best.
I’m certain that mosquitoes must serve an important role in our ecosystem, but they can certainly ruin outdoor fun. It is best to stay indoors at dawn and dusk to avoid bites, but there are also some effective products that can prevent your kids from becoming mosquito food. Mosquito repellant containing DEET is the most effective and is safe to use down to two months of age. One good application, whether on clothing or on skin, is adequate. Wash off once you are indoors for the night.
Some good indoor fun can be found at your local library. The summer reading program has begun and runs through July 29. This is a great, and free, way to encourage your kids to keep up their reading skills, earn free prizes, and avoid too much screen time this summer. There are also many free events for the entire family to enjoy. Check out abqlibrary.org/home for more information.
Another great program is the Free Summer Meals program which provides free meals to all kids from 1 to 18 years old. Many locations provide both breakfast and lunch. A fantastic resource providing the Free Summer Meals location information, as well as many other useful resources for families, is https://pulltogether.org.
Melissa Mason is a general pediatrician with Journey Pediatrics in Albuquerque. Please send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org