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Friday, February 15, 2019

8 Black History Month Resources for Children

Photo by Clotee Pridgen Allochuku (Flickr)

In addition to Valentine's Day and Presidents Day, my girls and I celebrate Black History Month in February. Started in 1926, Black History Month is observed annually in February because Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men who supported and influenced African-Americans in our country, were also born during this month.

I know we can celebrate black history all year long, but I like to use this occasion to emphasize and honor the achievements and contributions of African-Americans in our country's history and future. I've found eight resources that can help us to promote learning, understanding, and appreciation among our kids during Black History Month.

  1. Top 15 Children's Books for Black History Month: Celebrate and explore Black History Month with 15 stories that feature African-American themes and famous people. Kids can meet Jackie Robinson, discover jazz music, or learn about segregation. With these books, our kids can also find the courage to overcome adversity, celebrate their unique history, and feel inspired to make their own multicultural mark on the world.
  2. Black History Month Facts: Access the History Channel's Black History Month page to view videos and read articles that share facts and information about black history. Scroll to the end to the page to access all of the valuable information on this resource page. In particular, my girls felt inspired by the photo journal of black female politicians.
  3. About Black History Month: Discover Scholastic resources including a variety of stories and articles that tell kids more about African-American people and the numerous events that have shaped their history and culture. For example, you can read about the first black songwriter to write a country music hit and understand more about Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
  4. African-American Heritage Sites: My girls are using the National Park Service website to plan our next vacation. They want to visit African-American heritage parks and see the sights that commemorate historically significant events. They can also use this resource to find and learn about celebrations around the country that honor African-American heritage.
  5. Black History Month Lessons and Resources: Every time I visit the National Education Association website, I find dozens of lesson plans, worksheets, and games that can help my kids learn more about black history. This resource also equips teachers, parents, and caregivers to share facts and information about arts, science, and history. As a bonus, we can adapt each activity to any grade level.
  6. Black History Month Worksheets: Kids can learn more about black history with games, coloring pages, recipes, crafts, and informational worksheets from Education.com. The resources on this page cover a variety of African-American facts and people. Explore music, politics, writing, and science or make an African musical instrument in the classroom or at home.
  7. All About Black History Month: This PBS video tells us how Black History Month began and includes lots of interesting information about black history and famous black Americans.
  8. Black History Activities: From making a collage to re-enacting a story from history, ideas provided by Kids Activities can keep kids engaged and entertained as they learn. My girls especially like activity eight, which allows them to make their own inventions in honor of African-American innovators.

This February, let's teach our kids about Black History Month. These eight resources can help you promote learning, understanding, and appreciation. What other resources do you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

10 Tips for a More Playful and Productive New Year!

Photo by Alan Levine (Flickr)

Play time teaches our kids about their world and helps them develop important social, academic, and life skills. Play isn't just for kids, though. It's important for adults, too, since it increases our relaxation, joy, productivity, and fulfillment. This year, we can implement ten tips that enhance our lives, help us play more, and make 2019 a more playful and productive year.

Enroll in a Fun Class

I've always wanted to take a Zumba class because it looks like fun and is good exercise. This year, I'm putting aside all my excuses and have enrolled in a Zumba class at our local YMCA. I might even try my hand at fun classes like woodworking or face-painting as I vow to play more.

Adopt a Pet

Pets fill our lives with play, love, and activity. Consider adopting a pet into your family, and enjoy all of the benefits this new addition brings to your home.

Use a Brain-Training App

Our marvelous brains can change and adapt as we exercise them. I found a few fun brain-training apps like Lumosity, Happify, and Peak that I plan to use this year as I play and learn.

Make Art

Coloring, writing, making music, and engaging in other art activities boost our creativity, dexterity, and mood. Since art offers us a fun way to play and improve productivity, I assembled a craft box filled with supplies I can create with after dinner, on weekends, or whenever I want to unwind.

Learn a New Game or Sport

A new game or sport can jump-start our physical and brain health. I'm excited to start line dancing, go hiking, and learn new card games as I relax and have fun.

Tell Funny Jokes and Stories

Laughter is amazing medicine! It lightens our mood, reduces stress, and improves our heart health. For these reasons, I'm eager to smile, be silly, and laugh more often throughout the day. I've already learned a few new jokes to share with friends and coworkers, and I added more comedians to my social media feeds.

Meet New Friends

I set a goal to meet one new person each day in 2019. New friends teach us things, and meaningful conversations stretch our minds.

Spend Time With Kids

The next time you spend time with children, observe their behavior. Kids accomplish a ton of objectives as they play and have fun. I always feel more relaxed, energized, and calm as I play with my kids, too, which is why I resolve to spend more time around children this year.

Be Grateful

Recording the things we're grateful for can make us more content, happier, and productive. I started a gratitude journal and plan to write at least three things I'm happy for each day. This practice helps me look for blessings, joy, and fun in my life.

Schedule Downtime

It's easy to say that we want to play more, but this goal won't happen unless we intentionally put play on our daily calendar. We have to schedule downtime and plan to daydream, be creative, and play every day. So far, I've scheduled play breaks before work, during my lunch break, and after dinner, and I'm excited to see the results of my intentional play time.

This year can be more playful and productive. I plan to achieve this goal by implementing these ten tips. How will you be more playful and productive in 2019?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

7 Reasons Why You Should Encourage Your Kids to Play Alone

Photo by Andy Buckingham (Flickr)

Most children experience dozens of daily opportunities to play with siblings, friends, and parents. For example, my girls can play with peers at school, friends from the neighborhood, and their siblings and parents at home each day. These social play times are important for our kids' development, but children need time to play alone, too, as they develop into well-rounded individuals. We can encourage our children to play alone for seven important reasons.

Solo Play Teaches Independence

I want my kids to learn how to play nicely with others and interact appropriately in social settings. However, they also need to be comfortable spending time alone. Solo play teaches kids to make their own entertainment, rely on their abilities, be content alone, and develop independence. With these skills, our kids experience less boredom and become more confident and well-rounded.

Solo Play Improves Concentration

During a recent play date, I noticed how my girls and their friends flitted between the art supplies, building blocks, and basketball hoop. They had fun but really only spent a few minutes on each activity. Alternatively, when they play alone, my girls can spend hours perfecting a drawing, completing a puzzle, or practicing their jump shot. Solo play definitely gives our kids time to improve their concentration, a skill that's important in school and daily life.

Solo Play Develops Emotional Regulation

Sometimes, my girls wake up cranky, have a rough day at school, or feel upset about something that happened to them. In those moments, I encourage my kids to spend time playing alone. In their personal space, my girls unwind and relax with a calming activity like sketching, reading, or meditation, or they process their emotions as they jump rope, pound a drum, or ride their bike. No matter which activity they choose, my kids use solo play to recognize and regulate their emotions, which will help them in every area of life.

Solo Play Advances Imagination

Imagination opens doors of possibilities as our kids discover new solutions to problems, exercise their creativity, and expand their worldview. While playing with other kids can advance our kids' imaginations, children also tap into their creative side as they play alone. Solo play produces time and space for our kids to explore their interests, create appealing imaginary worlds, and nurture their creativity in unique and fulfilling ways.

Solo Play Builds Self-Confidence

As parents, caregivers, and teachers, we want our kids to feel secure, resourceful, and confident so they understand their value, stand firm against peer pressure, and create a fulfilling life. We can offer solo play time to enhance and build self-confidence. As our kids play alone, they explore their interests, values, strengths, likes, and dislikes. Solo play also helps our kids feel accomplished. With these tools, our kids become secure, confident, resilient, and successful now and for the future.

Solo Play Enhances Self-Discovery

Every kid is different, and this uniqueness is exactly what will set our kids apart as they fulfill their life's purpose. We enhance self-discovery when we give our kids time to play alone and explore their interests and passions. As they write stories, create art, and invent games, they learn more about what's important to them. Through solo play, we equip our kids to discover their inner worlds and what makes them tick.

Solo Play Boosts Academic Success

After school, my girls often sit together at the kitchen table to do homework or read, but they each focus on their own work. I see the same scenario at school as my kids sit near peers but complete their assignments independently. This ability to work alone is developed during independent play and sets our kids up for success in school. Solo play also equips our kids with improved concentration, emotional regulation, and confidence, additional factors that are essential for academic success.

Solo play is important for a child's development. Of course, our kids need to play with peers and adults, too, but let's provide plenty of opportunities for independent play as we help our kids mature and grow. In addition to the seven reasons I've listed here, what other benefits do your kids experience as they play alone?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, January 28, 2019

8 Tips for Raising Self-Driven and Confident Children

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Flickr)

I love being a mom to my girls, but I know my main job is to raise my kids to become independent and fulfilled adults. To do my job, I have to give my girls room to make their own decisions, achieve their goals, and take control of their lives. We parents, caregivers, and teachers can follow eight tips as we raise self-driven and confident children who are capable of making and achieving their goals.

Allow Downtime

Some days, my girls are so busy that they end up cranky and stressed. Participation in school and extracurricular activities is important for our kids' development, but they also need free time to play, daydream, and sleep. With downtime, our kids learn more about themselves, practice autonomy, and develop the confidence to think and act for themselves.

Develop Personal Pastimes

Every child has different interests, and children need to know that what matters to them is important. That's why I let my girls select and engage in the personal pastimes that interest them. We can introduce new activities to our kids, but for the most part, we have to let them choose the hobbies, sports, and play activities they participate in. With this approach, our kids learn to trust their decisions, gain a creative outlet that recharges them emotionally and physically, and experience an increased drive to succeed.

Enforce Screen-Free Time

Most kids, including my girls, rely on digital devices to do school work, keep in touch with friends, and relax. Constant reliance on screens can become an obsession, though, and keep our kids from choosing fulfilling and engaging activities they truly enjoy. When we enforce screen-free time, we give our kids opportunities to discover and cultivate the activities, hobbies, and interests they truly enjoy.

Provide Reasonable Challenges

I used to rush in and rescue my girls when they couldn't climb the jungle gym at the park or tie their shoes before school. While my intentions were good, kids need challenges so they can become confident. We can give our children opportunities to handle small challenges with little or no direct involvement. Conquering reasonable challenges equips our kids with the self-confidence they need to persevere and overcome the obstacles, frustrations, and problems they will face in the future.

Encourage Problem-Solving

While baking cookies several years ago, we ran out of flour. My younger daughter wondered what would happen if we used ground oatmeal instead, and we liked the results so much that we now always use this recipe. I often use this experience as a reminder to let our kids solve problems. We cultivate our kids' natural curiosity when we give them the chance to try new things and explore their world. They then gain confidence and increase their knowledge, which can help them succeed in all areas of life.

Promote Creativity

My girls come up with some very creative ideas as they play together. They often adjust game rules depending on their mood, and one day, they wrote an entire play about a talking cupcake. I encourage their creativity because thinking outside of the box enhances our kids' drive and confidence. Our kids are also more likely to feel good about accomplishing their goals when they come up with the idea themselves.

Put Kids in Charge

To bond with each of my girls, I plan monthly date nights or let them decide where we'll eat and what we'll do. Being in charge offers kids practical experience in creating goals, planning for success, and seeing the activity through until the end. I've also found that teaching and leading others can encourage our kids to become more confident leaders and discover that they can achieve their dreams.

Allow Mistakes

The first time my daughter forgot her homework at home, I was tempted to drop it off for her at school. However, I knew that she'd become more responsible in the future if she received a zero on the assignment. Since then, I've let my girls make numerous mistakes, and they've thrived. As long as they're not endangering themselves or others, their mistakes help them learn, give them insight into their values, and teach life lessons that assist them in becoming mature, confident, and independent adults.

One job of parents is to raise self-driven and confident kids. Let's use these eight tips to help our kids grow and mature. What else can we do to help our kids successfully pursue their goals with drive and confidence?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, January 25, 2019

10 Tips for Introducing a Rescue Dog to Your Family and Home

Photo by Paul Schultz (Flickr)

Rescue dog adoption is a cause that's near and dear to my younger daughter's heart. In fact, she's so enthusiastic about the cause that we now volunteer together at a local dog shelter, where we play with the dogs, feed them, and introduce them to potential families. We also recently started training adoptive families on how to prepare for successful integration of their new furry friend. We recommend these ten tips that equip families like yours to introduce a rescue dog properly and successfully to your home.

Gather Supplies

Shopping for pet supplies is one of the fun aspects of dog adoption! Don't wait until after you bring your new dog home, though, to hit the pet store. Purchase everything you need in advance. Suggested supplies include a collar and a leash, a crate or safety gates, a bed, food, treats, bowls, toys, grooming tools, waste bags, and other items recommended by the rescue organization or your veterinarian.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Your new dog will be curious about its new home and will want to explore. To protect your pet and ensure its safety, remove potential hazards from all of the areas your dog can access. For example, place chemicals, plants, and valuable collectibles on a high shelf, secure power cords to the floor or baseboard, and cover electrical outlets.

Set up the House

We recently redecorated our guest room at home, and my daughter points out that like we created a cozy, welcoming, and functional space for guests, you'll want to do the same for your new dog. Spend some time deciding where you want your pet to eat and sleep, create pet-friendly spaces, and choose a convenient space to store its food, toys, and leash.

Agree on House Rules

If my daughter had her way, we'd rescue ten dogs, and they would all sleep on her bed. On the other hand, I think dogs should not sleep with their humans. This decision is just one reason you and your family members should sit down and negotiate house rules. Your rules may include areas where the dog is allowed, which commands you'll use, and behavior guidelines you want to enforce with your new pet.

Plan a Dog Care Schedule

If we ever adopt a dog, my younger daughter has vowed to do all of the dog care. I appreciate her enthusiasm, but I know I'll have to help sometimes, too. Likewise, your family should decide on a dog care schedule that fits your dog's needs. Plan who will be responsible for the dog's meals, walks, play, potty time, and behavior training each day, and ensure that everyone knows how to do each job correctly and safely.

Acclimate the Dog Slowly

I know it's easy to expect your new dog to feel at home instantly, but a move is stressful and overwhelming for your pet and for your family. Give your dog time to feel safe in your home and to feel comfortable around each family member with these steps.

  • Let the dog sniff around the yard and house.
  • Introduce it to the potty area, its bed or crate, and food and water bowls.
  • Allow the dog to approach each family member on its own terms; don't force interactions or touching.
  • Ensure that your children know the right way to approach the dog.
  • Provide solitary time for your dog to relax.

Begin Training Immediately

While you do want to give your dog time to settle in, you also want to ensure that your pet understands the house rules and expected behavior. Successful training will start right away and can include firm boundaries of areas the dog can access, a command list that each family member uses, and a daily routine of activities.

Establish a Daily Routine

A predictable daily routine can help your pet adjust to your home and improve bonding. Consult with the rescue organization and try to follow that same schedule with your new dog, including meals, potty breaks, walks, play time, and sleep. You can always adjust the routine if needed once your pet is acclimated to your home and family.

Limit Excitement

With all of the adjustments to a new home and people, your pet may feel overwhelmed at first. My daughter always recommends that adoptive families try to limit loud noises, forced contact, and interactions with strangers for at least a few weeks. Use this time to get to know your dog better, improve bonding, and foster feelings of security and safety.

Exercise Patience

Your new rescue dog will eventually become a trusted part of your family. However, it needs time to bond with you and your family. Plan to be patient as you get to know your dog's body language, habits, and preferences.

As my daughter says, adopt a rescue dog and you save a life. To ensure that you and your new family member properly and successfully bond, follow these ten tips. What other tips could help families introduce a new dog to their home?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, December 31, 2018

8 Ways to Help Beat the Winter Blues and Stay Positive

Photo by Brandon Atkinson (Flickr)

Every winter, I suffer from a phenomenon called the winter blues. Shorter daylight hours and cold weather definitely contribute to my irritable, tired, and blah mood. My social life suffers, too. Even my kids feel the effects of the winter weather. This year, we want to stay positive and beat the winter blues, and we're trying these eight ways to do it.

Let the Sunshine In

A good source of vitamin D, sunlight also boosts our mood and energy. For this reason, we want to get as much sun exposure as possible. I plan to trim the trees and bushes near our windows, open the blinds and curtains, and sit closer to the window at work. If these tricks don't work, I'll buy a sun lamp, a beneficial tool used by people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Exercise Every Day

Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. We also feel energized, focused, creative, productive, and calm when we work out regularly. To get more exercise and improve our moods during cold winter weather, we can take power walks around the mall, go ice skating, and schedule winter hikes.

Play More

When we listen to our kids play, we hear laughter and joy. I love that sound! We can join in the fun and feel less stressed and more upbeat as we play. Let's gather our kids and build a pillow fort, create art, or enjoy a snowball battle together.

Learn Something New

Sometimes, our brains get stuck in a down mood and stay there for days on end. Learning new things or trying new activities reboots our brains and gets them unstuck. We can try new cooking techniques and recipes, discover new book and music genres, and play new card and board games this winter.

Eat a Mood-Boosting Diet

Certain foods actually improve our mood. For example, my girls and I discovered that tomatoes, honey, coconut, and even dark chocolate help us feel happier, so we'll add more of these mood-boosting foods to our winter menu.

Make Plans With Positive People

Although I often don't feel like socializing when the winter blues strike, I benefit from social interactions with positive, upbeat friends. I also know that I'm more likely to show up for events instead of hibernating if I'm hanging out with people I like. To prioritize beneficial play dates, we can join a book club, go bowling, or indulge in some retail therapy with positive, fun, and engaging friends.

Wear Bright Colors

Bright colors help us feel happy, cheerful, and positive. I know I smile more when I wear bright yellows, pinks, purples, and reds. My girls even asked for colorful and bright hats and gloves this year so they can remember to smile as they go to school and do other activities.

Be Grateful for the Season

While we may dream of living on a tropical island year-round, we have to accept that our reality includes cold and dark winter weather. Complaining only makes us feel more miserable. Instead, let's embrace gratitude and look for things to be thankful for, like pretty icicles on tree limbs, cute snowmen, fuzzy socks, and delicious hot cocoa.

Staying positive when winter weather hits can be tough. I know my girls and I struggle with our attitudes every year. This year, we plan to keep the winter blues at bay in these eight ways. What else could we try to remain more upbeat during this cold, dark season?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

9 Tips for Safe Play with Ice, Snow and Cold

Photo by Joe Green (Flickr)

My girls and I love outdoor winter activities! Playing outside in the ice, snow, and cold is fun, and the Vitamin D exposure helps to relieve depression. Plus, the exercise is important for kids, as it fights obesity and reduces ADHD symptoms. While fun and beneficial, outdoor winter play includes several hazards. Here are a few tips we can use to help our kids play safe.

Dress in Layers

The right combination of layered clothing keeps our kids dry and warm. When my girls play outdoors in cold weather, they always wear a snug polyester shirt followed by two looser middle layers and a windproof and waterproof outer layer.

Prioritize Socks and Shoes

Dry feet are essential for warmth and frostbite prevention. My girls first put on thin, polyester socks followed by thick wool socks. Then, they wear waterproof insulated boots that aren't too snug and will protect their feet and toes.

Opt for a Hat and Mittens

Insulated and waterproof mittens and hats are essential winter gear. The mittens protect my girls' hands and fingers from frostbite and give them the mobility they need to scoop snowballs, handle a shovel, and have fun outdoors all winter. Hats reduce heat loss. My girls also pack extra gloves and hats to change into if these essentials get wet.

Wear Reflective and Bright Clothing

Because I want my kids to be visible as they play in the snow, I dress them in bright clothing. Their jackets and shoes also feature several strips of reflective tape. My girls also know that staying safe includes coming indoors before dark.

Lather on Sunscreen

We often associate sunscreen with summer weather, but I don't pack it away with the bathing suits. Snow reflects UV rays, and our kids can still get a winter sunburn. That's why I slather sunscreen on my girls' exposed skin before they head outside to play.

Check Sports Equipment

As we pull out our winter sports equipment from storage, we give it a checkup. I make sure that the boots, goggles, helmets, and ice skates or skis still fit and that all of the parts are in good working order. If I'm not sure the equipment is safe, I take it to a local winter sporting goods store and let a professional verify that it's stable, safe, and ready for use.

Choose a Safe Sledding Spot

Sledding accidents can cause concussions, broken bones, and other injuries. I always inspect hills before my girls sled and make sure the area is located away from busy roads and free of obstacles like trees, posts, holes, and rocks. My girls also try to avoid peak sledding times to reduce collisions, only ride solo on the sled, and stay aware of their surroundings.

Stay Hydrated

Our kids must stay hydrated as they play outside in cold weather. They may not feel thirsty, but their bodies lose water as they sweat and breathe. I give my girls room-temperature water and warm tea or cocoa throughout the day to prevent dehydration as they play.

Enforce the Buddy System

While my girls do implement safety protocols as they play outside in the ice, snow, and cold, I assign them a buddy for extra security. Buddies remind their friends to stay safe and can alert an adult after an accident.

Playing outside during the winter is fun and offers numerous health and wellness benefits. These nine tips can keep our kids stay safe as they play in the ice, snow, and cold. What other safety tips do you recommend as your kids play outdoors in the winter?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, December 15, 2018

10 Tips for Squeezing More Exercise Into the Holiday Season

Photo by Brian (Flickr)

With the busyness of the holiday season upon us, I've got to admit that I sometimes skip my daily workout. I figure I have too much shopping, baking, and decorating to do and can always get back into the groove in January. But today, I realized that skipping my daily exercise routine has caused holiday weight gain and insomnia, and I feel more anxiety, stress, brain fog, and frustration. Can you relate? If so, let's squeeze more exercise into our busy holiday season with these ten tips.

Park Away From Your Destination

Can't find a parking space near the mall or grocery store entrance? No worries! We can park far away and walk. The few extra steps help us burn calories, and the fresh air can revive our mood.

Use Down Time to Get Moving

Often, I find myself sitting down to enjoy a short break while the cookies bake or I watch my favorite holiday movies. However, we could put this down time to good use and march, dance, or jog in place. That movement gets our blood pumping and helps us reach our daily fitness goals.

Take the Stairs

My girls love riding the escalator at the mall, but I challenge them to take the stairs instead. We also intentionally make multiple trips up and down our stairs at home while cleaning the house or arranging decorations. The extra steps we get while climbing the stairs are good for our waistline, heart, and brain.

Play With Kids

Our family holiday gatherings always include at least a few kids with extra energy to spare. Why not corral the kids and head outside to play tag or other outdoor winter games? We can improve our fitness and spend time together while burning off excess energy and cookie calories.

Participate in a Holiday-Themed Run

One of our annual traditions is running in a holiday 5K. My girls and I participate every year, and we usually invite our family members and friends to join us. The race motivates us to work out and train faithfully before the holiday, and it's a fun bonding event. Consider joining a holiday-themed race or obstacle course event in your community this year!

Find a Gym

If your holiday travels find you visiting a new town, sign up for a free trial membership at the local gym. One of my cousins did this last year, and we had fun working out together every morning before the day's holiday festivities started.

Take a Family Walk

Does your family love to eat like mine does? I can taste the turkey, stuffing, and pecan pie right now! That's why our holiday tradition includes a walk or hike after our holiday dinner. Aside from burning calories, we can also look at holiday lights or sing carols together as we get some exercise.

Play in the Snow

I love snow! Not only is it beautiful, but it's fun to play in. My girls and I enjoy making snow angels, sledding, and ice skating. Even shoveling snow can be a good way to get a great full-body workout during the holiday season.

BYOE (Bring Your Own Equipment)

We don't have to allow work or travel to hinder our exercise routine. Instead, we can pack resistance bands, weights, and sneakers into our work or travel bag. With these BYOE resources, we can do a few mini workouts throughout the day at our desk, in the airport, or in a hotel room.

Set and Keep Exercise Goals

I know our holiday schedules are packed with activities, but exercise is so important that we must add it to our to-do list. Until the end of the holiday season, let's commit to wearing a pedometer and walking at least 10,000 steps per day. For extra motivation, consider working out one minute for every dollar you spend on holiday gifts.

This holiday, let's commit to getting more exercise. We can stay active with these ten tips. In what other ways do you squeeze in exercise during the busy holiday season?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 13, 2018

7 Parenting New Years Resolutions to Consider for 2019

Photo by Free Images (Flickr)

To ring in the New Year, my girls and I usually head downtown for our town's fireworks display. We love the excitement! This year, I'm also ringing in the New Year with several parenting resolutions. My girls are growing up fast, and I want to make sure I'm doing the best job possible. Consider adding one or more of these seven parenting resolutions to your New Year's celebration, too.

Try to Spend More Quality Time Together

With the speed of daily life, I often find that my girls and I hardly connect at all some days. I want to change this trend in 2019 because quality time is important to my girls' happiness and development. Some ideas that will increase our quality time together include:

  • Share breakfast and talk about our day.
  • Turn off my work phone when the girls are home.
  • Play a board or card game each night.
  • Read a chapter book together before bed.
  • Enjoy a date with each child at least once a month.

Try to Yell Less

Last week, I lost my temper with my girls big time. We did reconcile later that day, but I still feel bad about the incident, especially because I've been yelling a lot lately. It's definitely time for me to try to yell less. To achieve this resolution, I can:

  • Know my triggers and learn how to respond better.
  • Develop stress-relief strategies like deep breathing, exercise, or a timeout.
  • Perform some kind of relaxing and rejuvenating self-care activity each day.
  • Pause when I'm hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).
  • Relax and accept that sometimes my kids will be kids.

Try to Be Positive

I noticed recently that I often say "no" and "don't" as I talk to my girls. For example, I'll say, "No, you can't wear that outfit" or "Don't poke your sister." As parents, we do have to say no sometimes, but positive interactions make our kids more receptive to what we have to say. We can become more positive parents when we:

  • Spin negative instructions into a positive statement, such as "Please respect your sister's personal space."
  • Sandwich instruction or correction between two praises or compliments.
  • Acknowledge when my girls do things well or make progress toward achieving a goal.
  • Give plenty of hugs, kisses, and smiles during the day.
  • Have more fun together.
  • Choose to laugh over mistakes.

Try to Cook at Home More

My girls and I love to eat! But I don't always have time to cook meals at home. I want to change that habit this year because cooking with kids can:

  • Increase the amount of quality time my kids and I spend together.
  • Improve our health, since home-cooked meals often have less sodium, fat, and calories than fast food.
  • Teach my girls cooking skills and self-sufficiency in the kitchen.
  • Expose us to new cuisines and culinary adventures.

Try to Separate From Your Child

When my girls were babies and toddlers, I did everything for them and with them. Now that they're growing up, I find myself struggling to let them go. We'll all be happier and better-adjusted, though, if I remember that my job as a parent is to equip my kids to be independent adults. While I'll teach my girls self-help skills and continue to set boundaries, I also want to separate from my girls as I encourage them to:

  • Embrace their uniqueness.
  • Make their own choices.
  • Accept natural consequences.
  • Fight their own battles.
  • Own their life.

Try to Play More

There's no better sound in the world than a child's laughter! My girls laugh often as we play. As a bonus, play improves sportsmanship, mental and physical health, and relationships. To add more play to our year in 2019, I want to:

  • Hike at least one trail in each of our state parks.
  • Learn a new sport together.
  • Ride bikes each week.
  • Host dance-offs as we clean our house.
  • Tell more jokes.
  • Enhance my sense of humor and positive outlook.

Try to Develop a Healthy Habit

Like our vehicles need fuel to run properly, we parents need to fill our physical, mental, and emotional fuel tanks. To achieve this goal, I want to develop a healthy habit this year that fills me and shows my girls the value of self-care and health. Some healthy habit ideas to choose from include:

  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet each day.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Meditate or do yoga before bed.
  • Prioritize friendships.
  • Engage in a hobby at least once a week.

As I prepare to ring in 2019, I'm excited about all of the possibilities for my family. To achieve our goals, I know I have to improve my parenting game and want to implement a few parenting resolutions. What New Year's parenting resolutions do you want to try?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 6, 2018

How Play Helps Children Develop 5 Different Types of Communication

Photo by John Wilkinson (Flickr)

While listening to my girls play together the other afternoon, I realized how much they communicate as they have fun. They talked, laughed, argued, and reconciled as they built block castles, colored pictures, and kicked the soccer ball together. This afternoon of communication prompted me to think of all the ways our kids communicate, and I realized that play is very important to our kids' development. That's because children learn five different types of communication as they play.

Oral Communication

Holding conversations, expressing emotions, negotiating, and exchanging ideas are all forms of oral communication kids develop during playtime. Our children learn how to talk to their peers and adults as they play games, role-play, and sing. We can promote communication skills in our kids when we introduce imitative songs, offer interactive toys like trains, dolls, and puppets, and ask open-ended questions as we play.

Nonverbal Communication

Often, what we communicate through our facial expressions, eye contact, and body language is as important as the words we verbalize. Our kids develop their nonverbal communication skills through dance, art, books, and pretend play. We can start teaching this valuable skill as we smile and interact with our kids when they're babies. As our kids grow, we can point out nonverbal communication in book illustrations, practice acting out different emotions, and identify different types of body language as we play games.

Visual Communication

Our early ancestors mastered the art of visual communication as they used rock art, hieroglyphics, and other pictures to represent words or concepts. Visual communication continues to be important for our kids today because they can use pictures, graphs, and charts to share ideas and illustrate their thoughts and emotions. We help kids understand visual communication as we encourage them to color, draw, create videos, and represent objects with pictures.

Storytelling

Over the past two years, my younger daughter has developed into an amazing storyteller. She has learned to use descriptive language that brings the story to life, and she follows a logical sequence of events. I enjoy listening to her stories, and this skill has improved her reading, comprehension, and writing ability, too. As I think back to how her storytelling skills have developed, I can point to play as the catalyst. Reading books, singing songs, and role-playing introduces our kids to sequences, sentence structure, repetition, vocabulary, memory, and expressive language, essential aspects of successful storytelling.

Written Communication

My older daughter writes almost constantly. In addition to writing essays for school, she writes poetry and journals her personal feelings. She needs to know how to use her written communication skills for success in school and in her personal life, and play has helped her develop this skill. Play exposes our kids to numerous functional texts as they make pretend grocery lists, draw signs for zoo animals, and write letters to mail at their imaginary post office. Kids can also practice their spelling through word games. Also, we can encourage our kids to write a book or dictate a book for us to write and then draw the illustrations as we prompt stronger written communication skills.

Our kids need to know how to communicate, and they learn five different types of communication as they play. For this reason, let's promote play. How does play help your kids learn to communicate?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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