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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

7 Reasons Why Boredom is Beneficial for Children

Photo by Shinichi Sugiyama (Flickr)

When my girls tell me that they're bored, I smile. I know they want me to entertain them or give them an electronic device, but I usually send them off to play with no direction or assistance. Why don't I solve their boredom? I believe boredom serves an important role in child development and gives kids seven benefits.

Learn to Entertain Themselves

While I love to play with my kids, I also want them to be comfortable, confident, and capable of entertaining themselves. This skill teaches them how to make decisions for themselves. It also develops their self-reliance and shows them that they can find happiness alone, which can help them say no to peer pressure and feel comfortable in a variety of circumstances.

Become More Independent

One of my parenting goals is raising strong, confident, and empowered young women who are prepared to take on the world. As my girls decide what to do during their free time and engage in solo activities they enjoy, they become more confident and independent.

Nurture Creativity and Imagination

Give kids plenty of unstructured time and they can explore, build, and create without feeling rushed. This gift of time opens creative doors in their minds that may otherwise remain locked. Our kids could invent a cure for cancer, end poverty, or become world leaders one day because they experienced boredom and had time to nurture creativity and imagination.

Discover New Passions

After one too many boring car rides, my older daughter decided to learn how to knit. I enjoy watching her discover and develop a new passion that sprang out of boredom. Our kids can use boredom as a springboard to stretch their wings, think outside the norm, and discover new interests and passions.

Work Through Emotions

Our kids can feel stress, anger, grief, or guilt, but they don't always have the ability to process or express these strong emotions and feelings. I've watched too many kids self-destruct because they hid their emotions and feelings behind an activity, screen, or distraction. Let's give our kids unstructured play time: As they relax and unwind, they may acknowledge, address, and work through the emotions and feelings they carry and become healthier and happier kids.

Improve Their Inner Lives

Time alone, without noise, distractions, or people, gives kids space to improve their inner lives. They hear themselves think, embrace their uniqueness, and discover deep truths about their beliefs, values, and interests. Of course, I love play dates and time with friends, but our kids must learn to appreciate solitude, too. It's essential for their sanity, self-esteem, and health.

Learn Gratitude

If your kids are like mine and have a playroom full of toys but still say they're bored, they may need a boredom break. Boredom forces kids to slow down, turn off the volume around them, and realize that they're surrounded by blessings. My girls become more grateful human beings every time they experience boredom.

As parents and caregivers, we often feel obligated to entertain our kids all of the time. I encourage you to help your kids embrace boredom, though. It gives them a lot of benefits and helps them become more well-rounded individuals. What other boredom benefits have you discovered?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, November 20, 2017

10 Tips and Activities for a Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving Day

Photo by JBLM MWR (Flickr)

Every Thanksgiving, I eagerly prepare a big feast and anticipate chatting, laughing, and eating with our extended family. People can consume up to 4,500 calories during this feast, though, and I don't like that statistic. This year, I rallied my family, and we decided to try out some tips and activities to make our Thanksgiving healthier and happier.

Enter a 5K

My family agreed to participate in our local turkey trot, a 5K race held on Thanksgiving morning. We're excited about the opportunity to exercise and enjoy quality family time together before our big celebration.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

I'm a big breakfast fan because starting the day with a healthy meal can curb cravings and overeating later in the day. This year, I'll prepare an egg casserole and serve fresh fruit as we set the tone for a healthy holiday celebration.

Exercise During Parade Commercials

The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an important tradition in our family. Personally, I love the balloons, performers, and music! While watching the parade this year, we'll also exercise during the commercials as we enjoy this tradition and stay active.

Take a Hike

Because I spend Thanksgiving Day cooking, baking, and entertaining, I usually skip my daily workout and then regret that decision the next day. We're planning to go on a short hike before dinner this year. The exercise will work off a few calories, and we'll get to enjoy family bonding and the great outdoors together.

Snack Smart

Because my family loves munching on snacks while we wait for the turkey to bake, we usually serve hot crab dip, crackers, and candy. These snacks are loaded with extra calories, though. Smart snack alternatives like fresh veggies, fruit, and single-serve bags of nuts will satisfy our hunger and decrease our overall caloric intake. Everyone wins!

Make Heart-Healthy Dishes

Our Thanksgiving meal includes dozen of delicious dishes, but I've got to admit that they're not all heart-healthy. We're changing the menu a bit this year and will prepare our favorite dishes with low-sodium broth, Greek yogurt, and whole grains. Plus, we'll serve mashed cauliflower and add kale to the stuffing. These heart-healthy changes are good for our waistlines and will taste great, too.

Eat Mindfully

I know Thanksgiving dinner only happens once a year, and I typically overindulge. This year, I'm challenging my family to eat mindfully and choose small portions, chew slowly, savor each bite, and stop eating when we start to feel full. Mindful eating is a great tool that prevents overeating and improves our health.

Choose Desserts Wisely

Our dessert table usually overflows with rich, sugar-laden goodies. Rather than fill a plate with desserts, I've already decided to choose small portions of one or two favorites. As I savor their flavor and texture, I'll indulge my sweet tooth without compromising my commitment to health and wellness.

Dance During Cleanup

While discussing ways to add healthy activities to our Thanksgiving festivities, my girls suggested a dance party. They've already created a playlist and anticipate dancing with their grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins as we clear the table, wash dishes, and sweep the floor after our meal.

Play Flag Football

If your family is like mine, you watch football on Thanksgiving. We're giving this tradition a twist this year and playing flag or touch football after dinner. I'm excited to get my family off of the sofa and have fun playing together!

Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays because I love spending time with family around our bountiful dinner table. I also want to make the holiday healthy and happy, though, which is why I'll try out these tips and activities during our upcoming celebration. What other healthy tips and fun activities do you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, November 13, 2017

9 Tips For Keeping Your Child Safe On the Internet

Photo by Lucélia Ribeiro (Flickr)

October 29 is Internet Day, but personally, my girls and I can't imagine life on any day without this technology that gives us access to information, friends, and the world. The Internet can open doors to scary and dangerous things, though, including identity theft, predators, pornography, and fake news. Consider these nine tips as we teach our kids to stay safe and be responsible while using the Internet.

Place Devices in a Common Area

My older daughter often asks for a computer in her bedroom, but I insist that it remains in a common area. This way, I can answer questions, talk about information, and successfully guide my kids as they use the Internet.

Know What They're Looking at

Now that my girls are a bit older, I don't stand over their shoulders as they go online. I do, however, frequently check their devices' browsing histories and monitor their social media and email accounts. With this information, I can initiate conversations about why they visit certain sites and ways they can protect themselves.

Teach Them to Protect Personal Information

An identity thief or sexual predator can use your child's name or photo to find them in real life. I often emphasize that my girls cannot publicly share personal information online, including their name, phone number, address, email, passwords, school, or photos. Also, they may only communicate online with people they know.

Block Explicit Material

While researching the history of her favorite toys for a school project, my daughter typed "legs" instead of "Legos." The results? Several porn sites popped up. That one misspelling prompted me to turn on the computer's parental controls, use Google SafeSearch, and check out the blocking options provided by CyberPatrol and other security sites.

Respond Properly to Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is defined as threatening behavior that occurs online and can include intimidation, name-calling, and body-shaming. I tell my girls not to respond to any cyberbullying messages and to report any bullying incidents to me.

Recognize Unsafe Websites

Unsafe websites can lead your kids to harmful content or install spyware, malware, or viruses on their device. In general, websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov are the most reputable and safest. Check the color of the address bar, too, since it can turn yellow or red in some browsers if the site is unsafe. Consider bookmarking your children's favorite sites to promote safe browsing.

Learn to Spot Fake News

At dinner the other night, my younger daughter shared that the queen of England had died. She saw the story online and thought it was true. Our conversation opened the door to a discussion about how to spot fake news, and I reminded my girls to ask themselves a few questions as they evaluate what they read online.

  • Are other news sites reporting the same story?
  • Does it link to real news or reputable websites?
  • Is the news current?
  • Is the source itself reputable?
  • Is the writing mostly error-free?
  • Is the article satirical, a joke, or an opinion?

Invite Conversations About Internet Use

My girls know they can talk to me about anything, including their internet usage. If they ever feel uncomfortable online, see a friend being bullied, or wonder about the safety of certain websites, they know I will listen and not immediately overreact or suspend their online privileges.

Sign an Internet Usage Contract

An Internet usage contract gives your kids another layer of protection and shows them how to use the Internet responsibly. It includes details like how much time your kids can spend online, what sites they can use, and consequences for breaking the rules.

The Internet offers our kids nearly limitless access to information. Let's use these nine tips as we teach our kids how to be responsible online and use the Internet safely. In what other ways can we teach online safety?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart