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Friday, July 28, 2017

Stop Enamel Cruelty! How to Encourage Healthy Dental Habits in Children

Photo by MissMessie (Flickr)

A baby's teeth start to form during the first trimester of pregnancy, and a child's first tooth typically erupts between six and nine months of age. These developmental facts show the importance of dental health from the very beginnings of a child's life. With proper dental habits, your kids can have healthy smiles as they stop enamel cruelty. Here are seven ways I've encouraged my girls to embrace healthy dental habits.

1. Start Early

Even though babies don't have teeth, it's important to wipe their gums with a clean washcloth or damp gauze after every meal. This practice keeps your baby's gums clean and establishes good oral hygiene habits.

2. Teach Proper Oral Hygiene Techniques

When my girls first learned how to take care of their teeth, we brushed, flossed, and used mouthwash together every morning and every night. They each used a character toothbrush as we raced a timer, fought plaque monsters, and had fun. With this practice, my girls learned the right brushing techniques, like reaching every tooth surface and using only a pea-size dollop of toothpaste instead of the whole tube. They also learned to be consistent with these important oral hygiene habits.

3. Visit the Dentist Regularly

Kids should visit the dentist around their first birthday or within six months after their first tooth erupts. My dentist told me that this visit gave her a chance to assess tooth decay risk, check for cavities, and answer any dental hygiene questions a parent may have.

After that initial visit, continue to schedule regular dental check-ups. Your child should visit the dentist every six months to ensure oral health.

4. Limit Sugary Drinks

Soda and juice are filled with sugar and acid that can wear away your child's tooth enamel. Limit sugary drinks and serve water instead as you protect your child's teeth. If you want to give your kids sugary drinks, reserve these treats for special occasions, use straws to limit the tooth's exposure to the sugar and acid, and rinse with water afterwards.

5. Eat Enamel-Friendly Foods

The right foods clean teeth and strengthen enamel. I try to feed my girls these foods regularly.

  • Serve your kids apples, carrots, and other crunchy fruits and vegetables because they clean teeth.
  • Cheese, meat, nuts, whole grains, and green vegetables are also smart food choices since they contain strengthening vitamins and nutrients.
  • Avoid candy, bread, potato chips, and other foods that are high in sugar or stick to teeth because they contribute to tooth decay.

6. Advocate for Dental Hygiene Classes in School

Whether you're a teacher, caregiver, or parent, you can advocate for dental hygiene classes at your child's school. Ask a dentist or hygienist to visit your child's classroom and teach proper brushing techniques, or encourage the school to invite a mobile dental clinic to give kids check-ups and cleanings.

7. Model Good Dental Hygiene

My girls know that I take care of my teeth and see the dentist regularly. As I model good dental hygiene, I teach them to practice these same habits.

When you encourage healthy dental habits in children, you stop enamel cruelty and equip your kids to have a healthy smile for the rest of their lives. What other tips have you used to encourage your kids to take care of their teeth?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kids Need Freedom! How Overscheduling and Micromanaging Can Backfire

Photo by Ole.Pophal (Flickr)

My girls love summer, but some days, they spend every waking minute running from swim lessons to art camp to play dates. I know my girls want to have fun, and I don't want them to miss out on any activities, but all of this busyness leaves my girls exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. I reflected this week on our recent busyness and realized that I have to give my kids freedom to create their own fun. Overscheduling and micromanaging my kids backfires in seven ways.

Hinders a Child's Independence

One of our basic jobs as parents is to equip our kids to be independent adults. We achieve this goal by giving our kids opportunities to make their own choices and find their unique voice. Start by giving kids free time and letting them decide how to spend it. Whether they're toddlers or teens, they will appreciate the freedom to explore hobbies, discover interests, and exercise their independence.

Causes Health Problems

Kids who are overscheduled or micromanaged may experience physical and emotional health problems like insomnia, anxiety, or headaches. For example, when we're too busy, my older daughter eventually drops wherever she happens to be sitting and sleeps for hours, while my younger daughter gets grumpy and clingy. I've learned to monitor their health and emotions and adjust our schedule as I help them stay healthy.

Harms School Performance

Some kids can juggle sports, music lessons, dance classes, and school work successfully. Others, including my younger daughter, struggle to keep up with homework and tests when they're busy. We decided to let the girls choose one after-school activity at a time during the school year. This way, they continue to enjoy the activities they love while they pursue academic excellence.

Impedes Kids From Learning Time Management

I want my girls to learn how to manage their time wisely so they get ready for school on time and don't wait until the last minute to finish big projects. To learn this skill, they need me to stop dictating how they spend every second. Instead, I must give them free time and space to practice and develop wise time management skills.

Isolates Kids From Friends

When kids are overscheduled with activities, their friendships can suffer. Friends are important because they help kids relax, improve physical and mental health, and boost immunity. Be sure your kids have plenty of time to spend with their friends. They need that support!

Cuts Into Family Time

We're so busy some days that my kids and I only connect for a few minutes in the car and before bed. Kids need quality and quantity face-to-face time with their parents and siblings. Prioritize family meal time, game time, and play time as you improve your family's relationships.

Prevents Kids From Being Kids

I often hear the phrase, "Let kids be kids." It means that we need to give kids time, space, and freedom to explore, experiment, and enjoy life. Whether they're 2 or 12, they need time to enjoy whatever hobbies, interests, and fun that helps them relax, unwind, and be a kid.

Do your kids show any of these signs that indicate that they're overscheduled and micromanaged? If so, I encourage you to evaluate your schedule. Activities definitely benefit our kids, but they need freedom to create their own fun, too. Join me in finding balance and helping our kids thrive!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Step in the Right Direction: 10 Benefits of Walking For Kids

Photo by Todd Morris (Flickr)

The next time you visit my community, you'll probably see my girls and I walking around town. They walk to school many days, and we like to walk together after dinner. We also often walk to the library, park, and friends' houses. Walking is a step in the right direction for our kids because it gives them ten important benefits.

Stay Active

The American Heart Association recommends that kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Since a one-mile walk can meet a sizable chunk of that requirement, challenge your kids to walk daily. Walking to the park or the library or even around the house keeps them active and healthy.

Improve Concentration

Walking to school helps kids concentrate in the classroom. In fact, the positive effects last up to four hours into the school day. I've found that after my girls walk home from school, they concentrate better on homework, too.

Promote Freedom and Independence

When we ride together in the car, my girls can't decide which route we'll take, who's riding in the car, or how long we'll travel. They have the freedom and independence to make these choices when they walk, though, and I've watched their confidence grow as they make decisions for themselves.

Practice Safety

Safety has played an important role in our family walks every since my girls' toddler years. They learned to wear the proper walking shoes, look both ways before they cross the street, and be conscious of their surroundings. They continue to practice these safety tips every time they walk alone or with a group.

Enjoy Nature

Even though we often walk the same paths, nature changes along the route every time. It's become a game for my girls and I to see who can spot and point out the most unique natural wonders, such as chirping birds, colorful flowers, and interesting clouds, as we walk together.

Protect the Environment

Walking reduces air pollution and provides other benefits to our environment. Partner with your kids to protect our planet when you encourage them to walk.

Socialize

Whenever my kids and I walk together, we chat about everything from the day's weather and our current favorite songs to our future hopes and dreams. Walking gives kids a great opportunity to talk and socialize with friends on the way to school, too.

Savor Alone Time

Kids need time with others, but they also need time alone. While walking, kids can daydream, think through problems, and enjoy their own company.

Have Fun

My girls like to walk, probably because we make it fun. We practice spelling words, skip, and play games. On the way to the park, corner store, or school, kids have fun as they walk.

Cultivate a Lifelong Habit

Walking is one form of exercise anyone of any age can enjoy! It's a lifelong habit that keeps our kids healthy now and into the future.

Walking is a step in the right direction for our kids, and it gives them ten important benefits. Join my girls and me today and take a walk with your kids!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

6 Ways to Keep Your Kids and Pets Safe From Ticks

Photo by s p e x (Flickr)

While playing at the park tonight, one of our neighbors noticed a tick crawling on her arm. I know most ticks are harmless, but deer, dog, and some other ticks can carry serious diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I'm grateful I researched these arachnids earlier this year and discovered these ways to keep kids and pets safe from ticks.

Avoid Tick-Infested Areas

Ticks live close to the ground in any area with shrubs, brush, or grass. When your kids, pet, or other host walks, plays, or sits nearby, the tick crawls on you and looks for a tasty spot to latch onto. I know it's impossible to avoid infested areas altogether, but you can increase your safety when you avoid playing in or walking through overgrown, grassy areas. When hiking, stay on the trail and avoid touching plants.

Wear the Right Clothes

Our summer wardrobe includes mostly shorts and tank tops. These clothes don't provide tick protection, though. When we hike or spend time in a tick habitat, my girls and I wear light-colored clothing that allows us to see ticks more easily. We also cover our skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants with the pant legs tucked into our boots. We tie our hair back and wear hats, too.

You can also consider tick-repellent clothing. Buy clothes that are pretreated with permethrin, or spray the insecticide on your clothes. It kills ticks on contact and protects your children as they enjoy the great outdoors.

Apply Insect Repellent

To prevent ticks from biting you, wear a tick repellent. It's easy to apply and prevents ticks from attaching themselves to exposed skin. The most effective and safest varieties of tick repellent for kids contain at least 10 to 30 percent DEET. I recommend that you follow the directions on the repellent bottle to ensure that you apply it safely and maximize its benefits.

Perform Regular Tick Checks

My girls know that I'll perform a tick check after every outdoor excursion! They toss their clothes in the washing machine, and then I check concealed areas, including their scalp and neck, behind their ears and knees, under their arms, between their fingers and toes, and in the groin area. Be sure to inspect your pets carefully and thoroughly, too.

Ask Your Vet for Pet Medication

Pets are not immune to ticks, so protect them, too. In addition to perfoming regular tick checks, I recommend that you ask your vet for a tick collar, shampoo, or medicine that repels ticks and protects your furry friend.

Remove Ticks Promptly

Despite these preventative measures, you could still find a tick crawling on your skin, clothing, or pet. The best approach is to remove it before it bites. Use a paper towel or tweezers to pick up the tick. Never use your fingers, since you could pick up spirochetes, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, by handling the tick. Drop it in rubbing alcohol to kill it, then place the dead tick in a baggie, seal the bag, and toss it in the trash.

Ticks thrive outdoors and are part of almost any outdoor play experience. Protect your kids and pets with these six tips. Do you have other suggestions that will keep kids and pets safe from ticks?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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