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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Young at Heart: 7 Ways for Adults to Nurture Their Inner Child

Photo by MarkScottAustinTX (Flickr)

Some days, I feel very old. Today was one of those days. My kids asked me to blow bubbles with them after dinner, and all I could see was a pile of dishes, bills, and dust bunnies screaming my name. Have you ever felt that way? Instead of getting stuck in adulthood, let's rediscover our youthfulness and relearn how to play. As we cultivate play in our daily lives, we'll also become more imaginative, resourceful, and relaxed. Who's in? Here are seven playful ways to become young at heart.

Play With Your Kids

Whether you chase lightning bugs, build a giant city of blocks, or assemble a puzzle, play helps you feel young. It also relieves stress and reminds you that life really isn't all about work, bills, and cleaning. Life is fun, and it's good to be alive. I'm grateful that play time with my kids reminds me of these facts.

Color

Coloring books aren't just for kids. Adult coloring books have gotten very popular and are available in almost every retail store. Find one with animals, mandalas, or inspirational quotes, and take time to get creative and relax the stress away. No one cares if you stay inside the lines, and you'll have fun as you enjoy the health benefits of coloring.

Go Outside

When was the last time you spent time outside? I'm a huge outdoor play advocate because fresh air provides our bodies with so many benefits, and it's fun, too. Make time today to hike, swim, camp, and explore the great outdoors. Adventure awaits, and it's time to spark your youthful spirit.

Upcyle Old Stuff

I spent some time looking around my basement last weekend, and I found a bunch of treasures. The changing table my girls used when they were babies will make a great entertainment center, and one of our old dining room chairs can be hung on the wall and used as a pot and pan holder. What old items do you have in your house that could be upcycled? Pull your creativity and curiosity out of hiding when you upcycle. These projects allow you to be innovative and resourceful, and you'll have fun as you create unique recycled goods.

Celebrate

When my girls were little, I celebrated every accomplishment: their first word, their first step, and even their first tinkle in the potty. So why not celebrate today? Birthdays, holidays, or any day is a great time to celebrate the fact that life is good. Plan a party for no reason or treat yourself to a celebration today. You'll feel happier, healthier, and youthful.

Join a Club

Are you into sports, books, or knitting? Join a civic, community, hobby, or spiritual group and spend time cultivating your interests. You'll have fun, find satisfaction, and feel more positive as you enjoy doing something you love. As a bonus, your club membership allows you to meet like-minded people who share your interests, remind you that you are important, and revitalize your passions.

Learn Something New

It's easy for us adults to get stuck in a rut. Spice up your routine, take back your life, and learn something new. Try a new recipe for dinner, learn how to speak Portuguese, or take flying lessons. Reignite your inner child as you learn something new today.

No matter how old you are in biological years, you can be young at heart. I encourage you to do one of these seven playful activities. They're fun and remind you that you are creative, innovative, and resourceful, so let's play today!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, July 29, 2016

9 Playful Ways to Teach Children About Animals

Photo by Paul Schultz (Flickr)

Have you ever noticed that animals and kids share many characteristics? They both enjoy playing, get hungry, and sleep often. Plus, animals and kids are both cute! To teach my girls more about the natural world, I decided to play games with them. You, too, can choose one of these nine playful ways to teach your kids about animals.

Animal Yoga

Yoga reduces stress and hyperactivity, promotes physical fitness and flexibility, and is a fun way to teach kids about animals! Imitate different animals with yoga poses. The results? Your kids build muscles, flexibility, and health as they learn about how animals move, bend, and stretch.

Animal Scavenger Hunt

Grab your cameras and take a hike around the block or to a local wildlife preserve during an animal scavenger hunt. Challenge your kids to find and snap pictures of a variety of animals. When you get home, print the pictures, research the animals, and start a scrapbook. Your kids will have fun adding pages to the book every time they explore.

Animal Snacks

Turn snack time into a wild adventure when you eat like an animal. Serve a variety of snacks and let your kids guess which animal eats which food, or serve several foods that one animal eats and have your kids mimic that animal as they snack. Need ideas? Serve bananas to monkeys, carrots to rabbits, pumpkins seeds to birds, and berries to bears. Don't forget the animal crackers!

Animal Sounds

Animals communicate by making sounds. Teach your kids to identify animals by their sounds when you quack like a duck, moo like a cow, or caw like a parrot. You can ask, "What sound does a lion make?" Or play Simon Says and have them make different noises.

Animal Zoo

Transform your child's stuffed animal menagerie into a real zoo. Create realistic habitats with cardboard, construction paper, and other props. Your kids can also group animals according to nature; remind them that fish can't survive in the desert and jaguars won't like the arctic. When you're finished creating your zoo, let your kids give tours to all of the dolls in your house or invite the neighbors over. If you don't have enough different stuffed animals to make a zoo, create one with puzzles, coloring pages, or blocks.

Animal Dance

Swing around the house like a monkey, balance on one leg like a flamingo, or tiptoe like a giraffe. As your kids dance and move, they'll learn about animal movement and get exercise.

Animal-Watching

Is your backyard a haven for birds, squirrels, or bunnies? Spend an afternoon assembling and hanging a bird feeder or set up a motion-activated video camera. You can also visit a dog park, watch live webcams, or visit a local petting zoo. As your kids watch animals in action, they will learn more about animal behavior.

Animal Tracking

After a bath or play time in the mud, your kids make footprint tracks. Animals do, too. Print paper tracks and challenge your kids to match the track with the animal that made it, or make a trail of tracks that lead your kids to fun activities around the house and yard. You can also draw animal feet on paper, sculpt tracks out of clay, or make plaster casts of animal tracks.

Animal Crafts

Teach your kids about animals as you make animal crafts together. Paper plate lion faces, sock puppet cats, and bat garland are three craft ideas that provide hours of educational fun.

Most kids love animals. Use these nine activities to teach your kids more about the animals that share our world. What other educational animal games would your kids enjoy playing?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beat the Heat! 9 Fun Ways to Cool Off and Keep Playing

Photo by Jaume Escofet (Flickr)

Summer weather has arrived, and that means it's sunny and hot! What do your kids do to stay cool? Instead of playing video games inside all day, beat the heat with these nine activities. They're fun and help your entire family stay cool all summer.

Swim

My girls would love to have a pool in our backyard! But since we don't, we head to the local pool or the YMCA for a fun afternoon of swimming fun. You could also check out local swimming spots where it's legal to cool off and have fun. Don't forget the sunscreen!

Toss Water Balloons

At the store last month, I stocked up on balloons. Now, my girls and I fill a bucket of water balloons and have a cool blast tossing them at each other. If you try this fun summer activity, remember to clean up the balloon pieces when you're done, or you could use wet sponges instead of balloons.

Make Slushies

My girls love cold ice water on hot summer days, but I like to mix things up sometimes with fresh slushies. We mix ingredients like fruit, honey, yogurt, and mint or whatever we have on hand into tasty and cool treats that also help us stay hydrated as we play in the sun.

Bob for Fruit

If you thought fruit-bobbing was a Halloween activity, think again! We set up a few big tubs on our deck and bob for apples, oranges, and grapes. It's fun and refreshing for the whole family, and we all love snacking on the fruit when we're done playing.

Turn On a Sprinkler

Whether you buy a sprinkler or turn a two-liter bottle into a homemade sprinkler, your family can have fun running and playing all summer. We like to play games in the sprinkler, too, like Simon Says, Freeze Tag, and the Hokey Pokey, as we have fun outdoors.

Freeze Your Tees

Your freezer can do more than provide refreshing ice cubes. Soak T-shirts in water, wring them out, lay them flat, layer them between waxed paper, and freeze them. Then, give each person a frozen shirt, race outside, and see who can manage to put theirs on the fastest.

Make Freeze Pop Sabers

Every summer, I buy freeze pops by the case. My girls love them, and they're a low-calorie way to stay cool and refreshed. I found a cute template that turns normal freeze pops into light sabers, and my girls are thrilled! They can play with their faux sabers and then enjoy an icy treat.

Play With Super Soakers

The next time you head to your local big-box store, grab a few Super Soakers. They're a blast to play with in your backyard as a family or with the entire neighborhood.

Splash in the Tub

Sometimes, the temperature rises so high that it's unsafe to be outside. On those days, I send my girls to the tub. They can splash, play, and have fun in the water without risking heat stroke.

Hot summer days are here, but you and your family can stay cool. Drink plenty of fluids, wear sunscreen and protective layers, and try one of these nine activities as you beat the heat. Which one will you enjoy with your family today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, July 15, 2016

Playful Peace! 9 Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Photo by Ilona (Flickr)

Since yoga was invented in India thousands of years ago, it's become a common activity for many people. The word "yoga" means "union," and I definitely see how it brings our bodies, feelings, and minds together as we practice it. I've been enjoying adult yoga classes for a few months, since it helps me relax, unwind, and exercise. It's also an activity my girls and I can enjoy together because it's fun and healthy. Do you need playful peace? Practice yoga as a family and gain these nine benefits.

Detach From Electronics

How many hours a day do your kids play with electronics? Yoga classes get your kids offline and moving, and yoga helps them tune in to their bodies and emotions. They learn to be present in the moment and find entertainment outside of their electronic devices.

Build Concentration and Focus

Some of those yoga poses are not easy to find and hold! They require concentration, focus, breathing, and patience. Those skills transition to everyday life, too, as our kids study in school, play an instrument, or hold conversations at the dinner table.

Increase Body Awareness and Body Acceptance

I know body awareness and body acceptance can be challenging for kids and adults. During yoga, we move, bend, and contort as we learn to appreciate our body's capabilities, shape, size, and appearance. Confidence grows, too, as we master new poses and skills. I love how my girls and I feel better about ourselves and our bodies thanks to our yoga class.

Breathe Better

The way you breathe can affect your heart rate, digestion, ability to fight illness, hormones, cell oxygenation, nervous system, and fat-burning capabilities. Breathe better and enjoy better health with yoga, since it expands lung capacity and gives you an improved sense of well-being.

Reduce Anxiety

Before my yoga class the other day, I was stressed, anxious, and worried. As soon as I unrolled my mat, I felt my mind and emotions begin to clear. I ended the class feeling relaxed and calm. My girls tell me that they enjoy the same mental and emotional clarity. After yoga, they feel less anxious and more confident about facing school exams, relationship bumps, or other childhood challenges.

Stay Active

Exercise is essential for growing bodies. Kids need it to build muscle strength, work out their heart, and maintain a healthy weight. Even though yoga doesn't appear to be strenuous, the variety of poses works out almost every muscle group, gives kids a solid workout, and encourages them to stay active, since it's an activity they can enjoy for life.

Develop Perseverance

It takes time to master new yoga poses. I'm so proud of my girls when I watch them persevere even after they fall. That perseverance can help them succeed in all areas of life.

Hone Balance and Flexibility

When my girls started yoga, they could barely balance on one foot. They've gotten much better now, and it's exciting to watch them become more stable and strong. Balance and flexibility are essential for the development of fine and gross motor skills, and these traits give kids greater confidence as they play outside, participate in sports, and maintain proper posture in school.

Have Fun

Every time my girls and I take a yoga class together, we leave feeling rejuvenated and agree that we need to keep doing this activity as a family. It's a fun way to get exercise and play together. Your family can enjoy the same benefits when you take a yoga class that welcomes kids and adults.

Yoga provides nine benefits for kids as it builds strong bodies, healthy emotions, and smart minds. Find a yoga class near you and exercise, unwind, and enjoy playful peace together as a family.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

9 Ways That Recess Boosts Academic Achievement

Photo by will kay (Flickr)

In 2006, less than 60 percent of school districts provided students with daily recess. Nancy Barrand, senior adviser for program development at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, states, "Recess is an essential building block for healthy school environments that help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and physically." I agree. Because I know my girls thrive on physical activity during the day, I created this list of nine ways recess boosts academic achievement. Use it to advocate for recess at your child's school!

1. Improves the Transition to Learning

Kids who constantly move from one class to the next during the day can struggle to mentally transition between classes. After recess, though, students spend 34 percent fewer minutes transitioning to the next subject, giving students and teachers more instruction time.

2. Boosts Focus

After a long day at work, you might experience a foggy brain and struggle to finish tasks, focus on your work, or think clearly. The same phenomenon happens to kids when they work for long stretches at a time. Recess breaks are essential to boost focus and help kids concentrate at school.

3. Improves Memory

When my girls are bombarded with facts all day, they tend to forget much of it quickly. I've found that they retain more information and remember it better when they have play breaks that allow their brains to reboot and better process facts.

4. Decreases Fidgeting

Kinesthetic learners and high-energy kids typically have trouble sitting still during the day, and their fidgeting can distract other students and hinder learning. Recess gives kids a chance to run, jump, and play. They return to the classroom with a renewed focus and ability to sit still.

5. Improves Behavioral Issues

Too often, teachers take away recess for kids who misbehave. However, recess is an important break that actually decreases behavioral issues. It gives kids a chance to move, escape from the classroom, and reboot mentally, which also helps them behave appropriately in the classroom.

6. Relieves Stress

Tests, homework, and structure can create stress for kids of all ages. Recess breaks provide a change of scenery, a break from academics, and the opportunity to decide what activities they will do. Students return to the classroom relaxed and less stressed because they were able to play. As family physician Dr. Wendy Kohatsu says, "I would far rather write a prescription for safe outdoor play for my pediatric patients than see them five years later with depression, anxiety, and obesity."

7. Decreases Class Interruptions

There's always one kid in the classroom who talks a lot and interrupts the class. Recess gives kids a designated time to chat with each other. Because class time interruptions are decreased, the whole class can focus and learn.

8. Improves Brain Capacity

When kids move, the physical activity increases their brain's capacity. Movement increases the amount of brain food (glucose, oxygen, and water) that's delivered to the brain and helps kids get better test scores and have a better attitude toward school.

9. Improves Lunch Choices

Most kids naturally gravitate to junk food, and foods high in sugar and fat actually decrease energy and focus. Kids are more likely to choose fruits and vegetables for lunch, though, when they have recess first because the exercise gives them focus that helps them make better choices. Those healthy food choices then help kids focus in school.

I'm a big play advocate and agree that students should have daily recess breaks. Has this list of nine ways recess boosts academic achievement shown you the importance of recess, too? If so, make sure your kids get recess at school every day!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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