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Friday, September 22, 2017

Little by Little: 6 Tips for Raising Patient Kids

Photo by jess2284 (Flickr)

As our kids wait for their turn on the slide or wait for a painting they've made to dry, they need to use patience and perseverance. Most kids aren't born with these essential character traits, though. I know my girls have had to learn these skills little by little. Here are six tips that help me raise patient kids.

Encourage Delayed Gratification

When my girls were toddlers, we frequently ate fast food because it was easy and quick. I soon realized, though, that we had to eat smarter meals, and we started cooking more often at home together. It was hard at first to wait longer than two minutes for dinner, but that delayed gratification paid off because my girls are both skilled cooks now. Over the years, we have also planted gardens, learned new hobbies, and hiked together, all slow activities that bring great rewards in the end.

Practice Mindful Breathing and Yoga

I discovered mindful breathing and yoga in college. These two tools do wonders to relax the mind and body and restore a sense of control. That's why I shared these tools with my girls. We breathe in through our noses, count to five, and slowly exhale through our mouths, and we do at least 10 minutes of yoga every day. When we start to feel impatient, agitated, or frustrated, we can draw on these tools as we relax.

Offer More Free Play

Free play is a big part of my girls' lives because it's very beneficial. I especially appreciate that it helps my girls become more patient. Play time is a natural training ground for patience and perseverance as they enjoy their favorite activities and have fun.

Prep for Challenging Moments

Long lines have always challenged my older daughter. In fact, she developed a bad habit in her preschool years of pinching me if we had to wait in line at the grocery store, movies, or amusement park. I finally began prepping her in advance for this challenge. At home, we pretended that we were waiting in line. I showed her how I expected her to behave and taught her how to keep her hands to herself, breathe mindfully, and wait patiently. With this prep and positive reinforcement, she learned to wait her turn and develop patience.

Review Impulsive Moments

During impatient moments, my girls aren't usually receptive to hearing about how they should be patient. I learned to wait until after the incident to review what happened. We talk about how their actions made them and others feel, and we review what they could have done differently. Over time, my girls have gotten better at impulse control.

Slow Down

We live in a fast-paced society, and I confess that I sometimes get in a hurry and rush my girls. Then we're all agitated! I'm learning to slow down and be more intentional about exercising patience and perseverance in my own life. When I am calm, tranquil, and relaxed, my girls see how they should act and follow my example.

Patience and perseverance are two skills kids can learn little by little. I use these six tips to help my girls become patient kids. What other tips can we use to help our kids develop these essential traits?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to Prepare Your Child For Their First Hike

Photo by slashvee (Flickr)

Hiking is one of our family's favorite activities. We love the fresh air, exercise, and family time! While both of my girls are pros now, I remember all the steps I took to get them ready for their very first hike. These tips can help you prepare your kids for a successful first hike, too.

1. Choose the Trail Carefully

Before I had kids, I loved hiking long hilly trails. I knew my favorite trails were not toddler-friendly, though. Instead, I had to choose flatter, shorter trails my toddlers could handle. To find kid-friendly trails, ask other parents for advice, search hiking guides, or check out the AllTrails website.

2. Think About Timing

I know you want your child's first hike to be a positive experience, so time it carefully. Try to hike when your child has high energy, and avoid any interruption to nap time.

3. Wear the Right Clothes

I made the mistake of buying my older daughter new speakers before her first hike, and they gave her blisters. Ouch! The right shoes and protective clothing, including a sunhat, keep kids comfortable and safe as they hike.

4. Pack Adequate Supplies

Be prepared for anything on your child's first hike - trust me! I suggest packing extra clothes, snacks, water, a first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, baby wipes, a blanket, and diapers, if necessary. I know it seems like a lot; if your kids are old enough, they can carry a backpack and share the load.

5. Involve Your Kids in the Planning

My girls loved helping plan their first hike. Even though they were too young to pick the trail, they chose the color of their shoes and helped pack the snacks as they took ownership of their hiking experience.

6. Familiarize Your Kids with Nature

It's natural to hear loud birds or see snakes on the hiking trail, but newbie hikers can be freaked out about these natural phenomena. Be sure your kids feel comfortable in nature so they can have fun and enjoy the wonder of the outdoors.

7. Anticipate Rest Stops

First hikes can be challenging for young kids. Plan to take several rest stops and refuel with water and a snack or explore an interesting site. Your child will then be reenergized and focused to keep moving.

8. Prepare a Few Games

In the middle of my younger daughter's first hike, she grew tired and cranky. Luckily, I was prepared to play games. We counted squirrels, played I Spy, and sang silly songs. Games can help your child stay entertained and remain enthusiastic for the entire hike.

9. Teach Safety Rules

Safety is a huge priority for me, so I taught my girls safety rules before we hit the trail. They knew to always keep me in their view, never stray from the trail, and leave no trace. These safety rules protect our kids and nature.

10. Take a Practice Run

Before your first official hike, try a short practice run or two. Use this practice hike to tweak your gear list and show your kids what to expect. I also appreciated trial runs because they helped my girls get excited for their first real hiking adventure!

A child's first hike can be tons of fun and is a big accomplishment. Follow these steps as you prepare your child for success. What other tips would you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

8 Tactful Tips on Teaching Children About Current Events

Photo by Abhisek Sarda (Flickr)

From hurricanes to hijackings, the news headlines are filled with events that kids may find difficult to comprehend and process. A few years ago, I decided that I want my girls to understand current events and know the facts without feeling scared, confused, or overwhelmed. Here are eight tactful tips I use to teach my girls about current events. You, too, can use these tips with your kids at home or in the classroom.

Read Picture Books

Picture books use illustrations to share information and educate kids in a fun way. They're also age-appropriate. I find a variety of picture books at the library and online that discuss events like natural disasters, refugees, and racism in an unbiased, educational, and informative way.

Play Games

Games are an effective and fun way to introduce and discuss current events with kids. Consider trying two of my favorite current event games. The first game, the World Peace Game, helps kids solve political challenges around the globe in peaceful ways. Fantasy Geopolitics is the second game I really like. With a format similar to fantasy football, it introduces kids to global politics, geography, economics, and populations.

Create a Podcast

My girls and I often listen to entertaining and educational podcasts as we clean, exercise, and drive to school. They also create podcasts about current events. During this process, they research news stories, interview friends, re-enact events, write scripts, and record their podcasts as they understand and process the news.

Learn About Cultures

Learning about cultures is a fun way to discover different countries in the news and process current events. During a recent conversation about Princess Diana, my girls asked dozens of questions about Great Britain's monarchy. We ended up talking about the country's religion, history, climate, and even foods, art, and entertainment as we talked about the princess's life, work, and death.

Map the News

The world map hanging on our playroom wall does more than decorate our home. It also serves as the catalyst for greater understanding of world events. When we listen to the news, my girls stretch a string from our hometown to the locations they hear about on the TV or radio. We then talk about that region. With this tool, my girls relate better to the people and counties in the news, and they gain a broader world view.

Practice Journalism

I firmly believe that knowledge is power! When my girls understand current events, they're less likely to feel overwhelmed or scared by the news, which is a great reason to introduce kids to journalism. As kids examine the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, and why) of an event, they discover facts that help them feel more engaged, informed, and secure despite what's happening around the globe.

Express Opinions

When we discuss current events, I enjoy hearing my girls' opinions about the people and issues involved. I often encourage them to write editorials and share their views on issues like local community improvements, national politics, or war. You can also host classroom debates or ask kids to interview other students as you give them an outlet to express their opinions and discuss the news.

Brainstorm Solutions

I'm constantly surprised at my girls' ability to solve problems creatively, see situations in unique ways, and come up with solutions I don't even think about. I've decided to harness their creativity as we discuss current events. They imagine they're world leaders, policy-makers, or city officials and write policies, laws, and solutions to problems in the news.

Whether local or global, current events affect our kids. I use these eight tips to teach my kids about current events and help them understand our world. What other tips or tools do you use?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, September 7, 2017

10 Reasons Why Public Parks Are So Important

Photo by Herry Lawford (Flickr)

Our local public park plays a big role in our family life. Ever since my girls were babies, the park has served as our playground, exercise area, and social hangout. There, we've spent countless hours playing together, meeting new people, and enjoying the fresh air. As we played at the park this week, it occurred to me that public parks are important for families and communities in ,any important ways.

Trees Filter Pollutants

Cleaner outdoor air is one reason to appreciate public parks. Air pollution contributes to health conditions like asthma, but trees filter pollutants and create a healthier living environment for everyone.

Public Parks Protect Natural Ecosystems

Every public park features its own unique ecosystem. My girls always marvel at the variety of plants and wildlife in our local parks. Building, preserving, and protecting public parks protects these diverse ecosystems now and allows them to thrive into the future.

Unpaved Soil Improves Storm Management

During rainstorms, the soil in public parks absorbs water, which reduces flooding and decreases storm management and sewer maintenance costs. Communities around public parks become safer and save money because of public parks.

Public Parks Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect

I met a city engineer yesterday as our girls played together at the park, and she mentioned the urban heat island effect. In areas covered by asphalt and concrete, temperatures rise as levels of smog and other outdoor air pollutants increase. She said that trees reduce the urban heat island effect and create healthier cities, making public parks essential for community health and wellness.

Public Parks Generate Revenue for Communities

Communities benefit financially from their public parks. Many parks, like the one in our neighborhood, frequently hold holiday festivals, sporting events, and musical performances that generate revenue. And home values and taxes are higher for properties located close to public parks. The revenue potential is a big reason to support public parks, since they potentially pay for themselves!

Open Spaces Facilitate Community Engagement

Every time my girls and I visit our neighborhood park, we see people from our community playing, chatting, and visiting. I love that the park facilitates community engagement, since it's an ideal place to organize group sports, family parties, and play dates.

Public Parks Create Safer Neighborhoods

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered that access to public parks creates safer neighborhoods. Community members who spend time in the park report less mental fatigue and aggression and stronger relationships with their neighbors. Because of parks, crime, juvenile delinquency, and vandalism rates decrease and neighborhoods become safer.

Public Parks Encourage Physical Activity

My girls and I are lucky because our local park offers a fitness trail and a variety of recreational programs like yoga, baseball, and hiking. We can easily stay active and enjoy better physical health as we play.

Public Parks Boost Mental Health

Did you know that spending even ten minutes in an urban park reduces stress? I appreciate that the fresh air, exercise, and social interaction boosts our mental health and outlook on life.

Public Parks Improve Appreciation for Nature

While hiking through a state park last weekend, my girls spotted 20 different varieties of bugs in just one small section of the trail. They were so excited! These bugs are only a few wonders of nature we see and learn to appreciate when we visit a park.

I love public parks. They give families a fun place to play and are important for so many reasons. What's your favorite reason to play at the park?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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