Looking for advice on how to keep your children active this summer?


Asia Kujawa, Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist; Erin Hanna, Play Specialist and Caroline Kermarrec, Senior Paediatric Occupational Therapist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in London are offering advice for families who might have children who have a long-term illness, are in hospital or unable to leave the house to help them keep active and engaged this summer.

Asia Kujawa - Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist

Why is it important for children to keep active during summer?

We all know that activity is recommended for every child in order to stay as fit and healthy as they can. This is particularly important in the summer period when children may be less active as they are not going to school or participating in physical education. Exercise has so many benefits for children of all ages.

The NHS recommends that children under the age of 5 years should only spend very short periods of time inactive unless asleep. They should spend at least 180 minutes a day being active. We know this promotes motor development, cognitive development, healthy weight and enhances bone and muscular development as well as supporting learning of social skills.

Children over 5 years should spend at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of vigorous activity a day. This should include a combination of strength, endurance activity. This provides benefits for cardiovascular health, bone health, maintain a healthy weight, improve self-confidence and develop social skills.

We know there are more health risks related to decreased activity and obesity therefore staying as active as possible is crucial for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

What sort of activities might you suggest for children who have been seeing a physiotherapist?

If a child is being seen by physiotherapy there may be specific exercises and advice given to the child and family. It is very important that you follow this advice as it will enable your child to improve their strength with a goal of improving participation and function.

There are many activities that children and families can participate it. It is worth investigating what is available in the local area. Swimming can often be a great form of activity and some swimming pools do have access for children with disabilities too. Being outdoors going to the park is an excellent way to stay active, as this could involve a brisk walk, riding a bike, playing football or tennis. For some children it may be difficult to participate in activities for a long time, so it’s important to pace activities, and have periods of rest in between.

Caroline Kermarrec - Senior Paediatric Occupational Therapist

What is occupational therapy and why is it important?

Occupational Therapists work with children who have difficulties carrying out every day activities due to illness or disability.  Each child and their family are supported to engage in activities that are important to them. Occupational Therapy involvement is important as it helps children to learn and develop new skills through play and become more independent with bathing, toileting and dressing. Families are encouraged to participate in the Occupational Therapy sessions by the Occupational Therapist.

Why is it important for all children, including those who may be in hospital or have mobility problems, to keep engaged and active during the summer holidays?

It is important for all children to keep routine and structure during long periods when not at school, such as during the summer holidays. Children need to keep their brains stimulated to encourage learning of new skills and to prepare them for their return to school.

Children who are in hospital or who have mobility problems may have weakness, fatigue and reduced bone density. It is particularly important for these children to play and be active to increase their muscle strength, bone density, balance and coordination and increase their mood.

What are your top tips for families this summer?

•             Plan how you will spend your days prior to the holidays starting. Compiling a timetable is a great way to be organised.

•             Try to have a balance between rest and play and avoid passive screen based activities during your play.

•             Engage your child in appropriate physical activity, this could mean positioning your child into their standing frame to play a game, encouraging your child to play whilst they are on their tummy, playing a physical game in the house such as hide and seek or throwing and catching games.

•             Engage your child in appropriate cognitive and craft based activities such as reading stories, “I spy” games, pairing games like “Snap”, colouring, drawing, cutting, sticking, playing board games.

•          Encourage communication development through word learning activities. Encourage communication and socialisation with friends / family virtually, if they are unable to visit the hospital or your home. 

•             Follow your Occupational Therapy developmental programme. Contact your Occupational Therapist if your child achieves some of their developmental goals for a review session at home.

•             Find out if there are other local parents of children who also cannot leave the house. Meet up with these parents to talk to them about how they manage.

Erin Hanna - Play Specialist

Why is it important for children to keep engaged and active during summer?

It is important for children to keep engaged and active during the summer holidays because they can experience learning loss when they do not engage in developmental activities.  Children also thrive on routine, so when summer comes and school and regular activities have finished, this may be the time children become bored. Children instinctively play and it is through play that they learn new skills and develop. Play is important for healthy brain development and it is through play that children engage and interact in the world around them.

What are your top tips for families this summer?

1.            Find out what services are available during your stay in hospital (or if you’re at home, check your local children’s centre).

2.            Plan your activities so you have something to do each day.  You can start by making and creating your own timetable!

3.            Ensure there are a variety of activities to help stimulate each area of development.

4.            Arrange for guests to come and visit (based on ward staff advice on visiting hours and numbers of guests allowed).

5.            Have fun and join in with the activities with your children.

Asia Kujawa

Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist

Asia is a Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist who works with our International and Private inpatients who have long-term conditions. The physiotherapy department is an internationally-renowned team with access to the latest specialist equipment, including a walkway system, hydrotherapy, orthotics, postural management and ventilation. The department provides a high standard of assessment and treatment across all the specialties and see children with rare and complex diagnoses. The department’s physiotherapists have a national and international reputation within children’s physiotherapy.

Caroline Kermarrec

Senior Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Caroline Kermarrec qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2009. Upon qualification, she specialised in Paediatrics working with babies, children and young people in the community, educational and acute hospital settings. She has worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital since 2013 and is currently the Lead Occupational Therapist for babies, children and young people on the International and Private Patients wards.

Caroline works with babies, children and young people with a wide range of disabilities and is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of both the child and their parents / carers.

Erin Hanna

Play Specialist on Hedgehog Ward

Erin is part of our friendly and highly-skilled Play Team who provide specialised therapeutic play to help patients cope with their diagnosis, condition, treatments and procedures. For example, the team use distraction techniques to engage and distract children before and during blood tests, so that they have a more comfortable experience.

The Play Team also provide general play activities, to help normalise patients’ experience at hospital. As part of this, on every ward there is a play facility staffed by team members, and stocked with books, toys and games.
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