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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Blossoming Yogis: 7 Reasons Why Yoga Is Wonderful For Kids

Photo by Ilona (Flickr)

This school year, my younger daughter's teacher started doing yoga with her students every morning. The kids love it because it's fun, and the teacher has seen huge improvements in the students' behavior, attitudes, and moods. I'm amazed at the benefits these blossoming yogis gain! Seven particularly helpful benefits illustrate why yoga is wonderful for kids.

Increases Physical Activity

My girls love sports, and I can tell that my younger daughter is more coordinated and flexible this year. I think that's because of yoga, which increases strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, and spatial awareness. But what if your child doesn't enjoy physical activities or participate in organized sports? Yoga gives them a gentle way to stay physically active and keep moving.

Relieves Stress

In the midst of life's busyness, school pressures, and other challenges, our kids can feel intense stress. Yoga provides the perfect escape. Not only does it promote inner harmony, but the movement also releases tension and increases feelings of well-being, making yoga an ideal everyday activity for kids.

Improves Body Awareness and Appreciation

While I've noticed an improvement in my daughter's coordination since she started yoga, I also found out that it helps kids develop dexterity and motor skills. They also gain a greater awareness of how their bodies move and function as individual muscles, bones, and joints and as one unit. This body awareness and appreciation can motivate kids to make healthy choices that protect their body and ensure that it functions properly now and into the future.

Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence

Every time my daughter meets a milestone in yoga, like beating her balance record or mastering a new pose, her face lights up. I love to see her confidence grow! I also appreciate that she puts the confidence, self-esteem, perseverance, and patience she gains from yoga into practice during everyday life at school, with friends, and during social activities.

Develops Focus and Concentration

Mastering yoga moves requires incredible focus and concentration. Kids must clear their minds and focus their attention on bending and twisting their bodies into position. This practice on the yoga mat transfers into the classroom and every arena of daily life. Our kids can get better grades in school and quiet their minds in a variety of situations because they learned to focus and concentrate while doing yoga.

Improves Self-Regulation

Therapists often suggest that patients with anxiety, anger, or fear should focus on controlling their breathing. This exercise quiets negative thoughts, calms strong emotions, and gives the person time to think. Yoga does the same thing for kids. They can use the skills they learn from yoga to regulate their bodies, minds, and emotions throughout the day.

Connects Kids to Nature

Yoga is filled with nature references. Whether our kids do an animal pose like the mouse, lion, or dog or a nature pose like the tree, sun, or mountain, they are connecting with nature and gaining a greater appreciation for the environment and the role they play in the world.

Yoga has definitely given my daughter these seven benefits and more. I highly recommend that all kids become blossoming yogis. How could your child benefit from yoga?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, May 26, 2017

9 Ways That Play Builds Self-Esteem in Children

Photo by HOPE Art (Flickr)

Kids with healthy self-esteem feel good about themselves and are confident in their abilities. They know they're valued and accepted, and they feel prepared to face any challenge. I want my girls to develop those characteristics, so I encourage them to play. Play builds confidence and self-esteem in nine ways.

Achievement

Do you know the look on your child's face when they succeed in building a fort, writing a song, or mastering a trick shot in basketball? Those achievements build their confidence and encourage them to continue trying and accomplishing new things.

Decision-Making

I'm a strong advocate for teaching kids to make decisions, and play offers the perfect training ground to learn decision-making skills. As kids decide what and how to play, they develop a value system, figure out who they are, and become more confident advocating for themselves, all essential for making smart decisions every day.

Independence

For Mother's Day this year, my daughters made me breakfast in bed. All of the hours we spent hanging out together in the kitchen over the past few years really paid off for me, and I'm grateful! I'm also proud of my independent young women. They're confident in their talents, abilities, and strengths, many of which they learned during play.

Skill Improvement

I remember the first time my older daughter tried to blow bubbles. She was only two, but she huffed and puffed on that bubble wand with all her might until she finally figured out how to make it work. It was adorable! Like learning to sew, riding a bike, or kicking a soccer ball, blowing bubbles is just one of thousands of skills kids learn as they play, and each new skill reinforces their value, confidence, and self-esteem.

Perseverance

Most kids (and adults!) don't like to make mistakes or fail, but mistakes or failures teach perseverance. Will our kids give up when they can't figure out how to build their new model train set, or will they keep trying until they get it? Every time kids face a challenge as they play, they learn something and develop perseverance, a character trait that boosts their confidence and equips them to face future challenges inside and outside of the playroom.

Resilience

My older daughter was devastated last year when she wasn't chosen for the school play. However, she decided to take a theater class over the summer and practiced her newfound skills in front of the mirror every day. This year, she landed a role and is super-excited. I'm proud of her, too, for turning her disappointment into an opportunity to learn and grow. The resilience she is developing is an important part of self-esteem and will help her stand up when life gets tough.

Risk-Taking

We tried rock-climbing for the first time last week at a new gym. Both of my girls were scared at first, but they were brave and actually reached the top of the wall! It's awesome when kids feel confident enough to trust their abilities. They're then more willing to embrace new activities, even ones that are challenging, scary, or risky.

Safety

Feelings play an important role in building self-esteem. When our kids feel safe exploring their interests, cultivating their talents, and achieving their goals during play time, they are more likely to feel confident and try other new things in the future.

Peer Support

In addition to solo play, I encourage my girls to play with peers. They feel valued as they contribute to the team's goal, and they thrive as they hear encouragement like, "Great job designing the set for our play" or "I couldn't have finished this art project without you."

A child with healthy self-esteem feels confident, valued, and empowered. Let's encourage our kids to play, since it builds self-esteem in nine ways.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

10 Ways That Play Cultivates Creativity in Children

Photo by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter (Flickr)

When kids are born, they're highly creative. Each generation becomes a little less creative, though, and that creativity crisis bothers me. I want my girls and kids everywhere to spend their lives creating and producing original and useful ideas, things, and discussions. If you agree, encourage your kids to play because it cultivates creativity in ten ways.

Solve Problems

Most of life's problems can be solved in more than one way, so it pays to think outside of the box. Play helps kids begin to develop essential creative problem-solving skills. As they build with blocks, climb the jungle gym, and enjoy open-ended toys, they use their imaginations and discover creative solutions that help them succeed inside and outside of the playroom.

Learn to Adapt

When kids play, they must learn to adapt to different situations. Sometimes, they have to compromise on which game to play together, or they may need to choose a different playground activity if their first choice is unavailable. Their ability to adapt is an important part of the creative process, since it prompts them to find alternative solutions and be flexible as they engage with the world in new ways.

Develop Empathy

Our world is filled with uniqueness and diversity. To teach my girls to value these traits and show empathy to others, I encourage them to put on theatrical plays, play games from other cultures, and choose playmates of different ages and backgrounds. These diverse play activities help them see life from someone else's perspective and gain a better understanding of how other people think and feel.

Accept Mistakes

Mistakes are part of the creative process, and handling them is an essential life skill that everyone, including our kids, needs to develop. Even if their drawings don't quite look realistic or they build a sand castle that flops, they can get up and try again as they accept their mistakes and then move on.

Stay Curious

Young kids are infamous for asking questions. They're curious about the world and everything in it. For many kids, that curiosity fades over time. That's why I encourage my girls to play. It sparks their curiosity and helps them continue to ask questions and discover the uniqueness of the world.

Stimulate Learning

I get some of my best ideas when I'm playing. Whether I'm shooting hoops, playing tag, or drawing, play distracts me and frees my mind to think creatively. The next time your kids struggle to grasp a new concept in school or get frustrated trying to learn a new skill, like roller-skating, essay-writing, or algebra, encourage them to take a play break and reboot their brain.

Prompt Original Ideas

A friend of mine confessed recently that she threw away the rules to all of the board games in her house. She wants her kids to make up their own rules instead of feeling pressure to play the "right way." Because she encourages original ideas, her kids' creativity blossoms.

Stimulate the Imagination

As a toddler, my older daughter had an imaginary friend, and the conversations they shared made me laugh. Today, she's graduated to other imaginary play, including writing plays, drawing pictures, and making up games to play with our young neighbors. I love how play stimulates her imagination and helps her think in unusual and creative ways.

Develop Unique Self-Expression

Sometimes, my younger daughter gets so passionate, angry, or sad about something that she can't verbalize her emotions. I encourage her to harness play as a way to express herself. She can put on a puppet show, create art, or bang on her drum set as she shares how she feels in a unique way.

Interact With Their Environment

On the playground, kids interact with structures, tools, and environments in a variety of unique ways. The jungle gym transforms into a fort, and they can build an entire city from sticks, mud, and leaves. In fact, any time kids play, they discover unique ways to interact with their environment. Watch your kids the next time they play with water, shadows, or music and count all of the creative ways they see the world around them.

Our kids need creativity because it helps them succeed in life. As parents, teachers, and caregivers, we can cultivate creativity in 10 ways as we encourage our children to play. How will you entice your kids to play and be creative today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

11 Playful Interview Questions to Spark Summer Enthusiasm!

Photo by Billy McCreary (Flickr)

Do you know what your kids want to do this summer? I want my girls to have the best summer ever, so I decided to ask them 11 playful interview questions. Because they get to help plan our summer activities, they're now really excited about all of the fun we're going to have. These questions can spark your kids' enthusiasm, too, and ensure that they enjoy their best summer ever!

1. What parks do you want to visit?

In our community, there's one park that features a cooling wading pool that definitely made my girls' to-visit list! My girls want to visit an amusement park, too, since they love rides.

2. What healthy snacks do you want to eat?

The fresh summer air makes my girls hungry. I don't want them eating junk food all summer, though, so I challenge them to find healthy snack options. Their choices include fresh radishes from our garden, homemade guacamole, and whole-grain pretzels. Yum!

3. What kind of art materials would you like to play with?

Art is one activity both of my girls enjoy, which means they spend a lot of time working on projects over the summer. This year, they're excited to use chalk for sidewalk drawings, and they want me to buy felt, charcoal, and rubber stamps for their projects.

4. What would you like to read about?

My girls love playing outside, but I encourage them to read, too, as they expand their minds, practice this important skill, and relax between activities. As a bonus, they earn cool prizes from our local library and a free book from Barnes & Noble's reading program! Yay for summer reading!

5. Which friends do you want to play with?

Both of my girls have good friends from school who they want to play with this summer. They also have friends in other school districts and cousins who live several hours away, and summer is the perfect time to set up play dates with their favorite playmates!

6. What kinds of field trips do you want to take?

While browsing an online parenting group, I found several fun field trip ideas. We can visit a petting zoo, railroad museum, or interactive Lego display. I'm sure there are dozens of kid-friendly field trip options in your area, too!

7. What physical activities do you want to do?

Bike-riding, bowling, and roller-skating top my girls' to-do list this summer. They can't wait to have more time to get outside and play!

8. What uniquely summer activity is a must-do?

For us, swimming tops our must-do list! My girls have already made a list of local pools they want to visit. Now, we just have to find new swimsuits.

9. What new toy do you want to play with?

Homemade slime is the new big thing in our neighborhood, and my girls have asked to make their own slime this summer. They even started researching instructions online and sharing their favorite how-to videos with me.

10. What's a new skill you'd like to learn?

Last year, my older daughter decided to become a better photographer. She spent hours taking and editing pictures. This year, she wants to learn how to knit, and my younger daughter is interested in sketching horses. They're going to have a lot of fun learning these new skills.

11. What does your dream summer day look like?

During the school year, our days are structured, but summer means we can relax a little bit. While we still keep busy, my girls appreciate planning at least one dream summer day, complete with sleeping in, no chores, and doing their favorite activities.

This summer can be the best one yet for you and your kids! Ask your kids these 11 playful interview questions as you spark your kids' summer enthusiasm and get them ready to have fun. What other playful interview questions can ignite your kids' desire to play and have fun?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fresh Air, Twinkling Skies: 9 Tips for Camping With Kids

Photo by Steve Wainright (Flickr)

Camping is quickly becoming one of my family's favorite outdoor activities! We love the fresh air, twinkling skies, and never-ending fun. Over the years and through much trial and error, I've developed a list of nine tips that make camping with kids fun and safe. Check them out before your next camping adventure.

1. Practice Camping at Home

Set up a tent in your living room, backyard, or driveway and spend the night camping at home. I did this with my girls, and it gave them a better idea of what to expect when we went camping for real.

2. Go Day-Camping

Before your first overnight camping trip, visit a local campsite for the day. Check out the campground, hike the trails, and enjoy a picnic lunch as you familiarize your kids with the camping experience and help them feel comfortable with the campground.

3. Start Small

When you're ready to camp for real, ease into it. Plan a simple overnight visit to a local campground, and only pack absolute essentials. A successful first camping experience can lead to more successful and bigger trips in the future. There's no need to rush off hours away or pack everything, including the kitchen sink.

4. Teach Safety Protocols

Camping is definitely fun! But like any outdoor activity, there are risks. Keep your kids safe when you teach them safety protocols like these:

  • Never wander away from the campsite or trail alone.
  • Practice fire and grill safety.
  • Don't touch or disturb wildlife.
  • Check for ticks at least once a day.
  • Wear insect repellant and sunscreen.
  • Carry a whistle and use it if you get lost.
  • Wash hands often, especially after playing in the dirt or using the bathroom and before eating.

5. Prepare for the Weather

On one of our first camping adventures, we got soaked during an afternoon thunderstorm. I learned my lesson the hard way, and we always prepare for the weather now.

  • Wear layers for protection during those chilly mornings and evenings around the campfire.
  • Remember your rain gear, including rain coats and extra socks.
  • Pack sunscreen and hats (for hiking or as you hang out at your campsite).

6. Involve Your Kids in the Planning

Kids are more likely to get excited about camping and participate in the fun when they have a say in what you see, do, and eat. Before our camping trips, we gather as a family and discuss activities and the menu together.

7. Pack Fun Toys

Part of camping is the adventure outdoors! My girls love birding, hiking, and exploring around the campground, but we also pack a few fun toys. Here are our favorites.

  • Marshmallow launcher
  • Flying discs
  • Soccer, football or baseball equipment
  • Water cannons
  • Card games

8. Bring a Few Comforts

It's a good idea to pack lightly on your camping adventures, but I do recommend that kids bring at least one comfort item. They can use their favorite blankie, toy, or stuffed animal friend for comfort in case they feel anxious, scared, or overwhelmed on your adventure.

9. Stick to Your Usual Routine

Vacation is a time to get away from everyday life, but I notice that my girls function better, experience fewer meltdowns, and are more eager to play when we maintain their normal sleep and meal schedules. For the best camping experience, consider sticking to your kids' usual routine, too.

When your family is ready to start camping, keep these nine tips in mind. They ensure your entire family enjoys the fresh air, twinkling skies, and plentiful activities on your camping adventure. What other tips would you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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