If your kids are anything like mine, they’ve started the countdown to the first day of summer vacation, when they can forget about the days of homework and testing. But research shows that for most kids, summer break leads to summer learning loss and, for some, summer weight gain.

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) notes that students lose up to two months of math skills over the summer, and low-income students also lose up to two months of reading. And while weight gain is normal for growing children, NSLA tells us that kids gain weight up to three times faster during the summer, putting them at greater risk for becoming overweight or obese.

Through our parent-engagement work in Healthi Kids at Common Ground Health, parents have told us that getting their kids to stay active and eat healthily over the summer is challenging. With busy work schedules, it can be hard to make up for the amount of time kids spend being active during the school year in recess, sports and physical education classes. It can also be tough to make sure your kids are eating healthy at a time of year when barbecues and celebrations are more frequent and kids are picking up snacks more often.

But there are some simple solutions. Remember to carve out some time for some good old-fashioned play and keep healthy snacks like sliced apples and veggies on hand for those times when your little ones are tempted to raid the fridge. Kids who eat healthy and stay active during the summer will retain more of what they learned in school and will be better prepared once the summer is over.

There are also low- or no-cost opportunities to make sure your kids are eating healthy, staying fit and even learning something along the way. Start planning early to make sure that your kids get the most out of their summer. Here are some resources to get you started:

Town Recreation Departments: Most towns offer a recreation program during the summer months. Visit your town website to explore opportunities for your kids to get involved.

Summer Meals: Kids 18 and younger can get a free, healthy meal at more than 100 Summer Meals sites across the city of Rochester. City of Rochester families can get in on the action early at our “Spring into Summer: Summer Meals Fest” from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 14 at Frontier Field. The free family event is a kickoff to the program, featuring fun activities, a summer meals tasting, and an opportunity to learn more about summer programs in the city. “Summer Meals” will also take place in Gates, Irondequoit and East Rochester. Visit summermealsroc.org for up-to-date meal schedules and locations.

RCSD Summer Learning: Rochester City School District offers a number of options for students to enroll in Summer Learning. Summer Learning programs vary, but all include opportunities for physical activity, and healthy meals are served. To download the RCSD Summer Learning Catalog go to http://www.rcsdk12.org/domain/9739.

City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services: City of Rochester R-Centers are open daily in the summer. People can drop in and get in a workout in one of the fitness facilities, cool off at a spray park or pool, get active on the playground, and stop in for a free summer meal. The department also offers a variety of summer programs. Visit http://www.cityofrochester.gov/rcenters/ to download the Summer Rec Guide to learn more.

Dina Faticone is director of Community Engagement at Common Ground Health. Contact her at (585) 224-3126 or dina.faticone@commongroundhealth.org.

This blog post was originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle and is republished with permission.