Leona O'Neill: Get set for school holiday activities

With the school summer holidays now underway and boredom already creeping in, Leona O'Neill writes in praise of NI Chest, Heart & Stroke's new programme of activities to keep kids stimulated

15 June 2017 - Picture by Darren Kidd /Press Eye. . ..

WELL, here we are, we made it. Two days into the summer holidays and I hope

all is reasonably well.

It's a hybrid of July and December – or 'Julember' – outside the windows and

the kids are still high on the novelty of not having to go to school.

This phase, I know for a fact, will last until approximately Wednesday at 6pm,

when the advanced complaining will creep in and the groceries that you bought on Saturday, foolishly thinking they would last all week, have all been consumed.

You might be forgiven, when this phase kicks in, to let the Playstation or Xbox step in as an electronic babysitter – but Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke have a better idea and are encouraging kids to have fun and get active over the summer holidays.

As part of their campaign 'Ready Set Summer', special packs are being made

available to teachers, parents and childminders packed full of fun stuff for seven to 11-year-olds to do over the school summer holidays.

Each pack contains a wall chart listing fun activities, stickers to mark off adventures as and when they are done, and stickers for kids to wear.

Included in the pack is a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities, as well as things to do with friends, family or just by themselves. There's even a competition especially for kids who participate with a host of different

prizes available from National Trust and sponsor Mace.

As part of the campaign the charity has linked up with the Park Life education

programme to organise two Belfast activity days, on Friday August 11 at Botanic Gardens and Tuesday August 15 at Falls Park, including crafts, wildlife

Olympics, a scavenger hunt and ultimate Frisbee – all of which are open to Ready Set Summer pack holders.

Ulster and Irish International rugby player Chris Henry, newly announced

Ambassador for Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke, said the pack

provides some great inspiration for fun things to do both outdoors and

indoors to allow kids to make the most of summer holidays.

"The summer holidays represent a massive opportunity for young people to

take part in brand new activities, learn some new skills and most of all have fun," he said.

"I have wonderful memories of school holidays, when every day brought a new adventure and at home time feeling tired yet elated. The Ready Set Summer Pack provides some great inspiration – and, best of all, it's free!"

Fidelma Carter, Public Health Director from Northern Ireland Chest Heart &

Stroke, said that there is a serious message behind the fun.

"Over three-quarters of children in Northern Ireland don't get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and one in four children here are classified as overweight or obese.

"Both of these put our children at increased risk of heart disease and stroke when they grow up.

"We believe prevention is better than a cure and if we teach our children to make healthy choices now, they may avoid developing illnesses when they are adults. Habits started at an early age can last a lifetime so we hope.

"Ready Set Summer will show children that exercise can be fun and something

they fit into their everyday lives."

In this modern world, sitting in front of a computer or a mobile phone all day is becoming the norm for our kids. Everything about digital devices draws them in and keeps them connected for hours on end. But we have to fight back or we'll be handing them a lifetime of health problems.

:: To request your Ready Set Summer pack and get out and really enjoy the

holidays go to

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