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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Today is the International Day of Peace! 9 Ways to Teach Children About Diversity

Photo by James Doyle (Flickr)

On Friday, Sept. 21, we celebrate the International Day of Peace. This celebration is especially important as our kids increasingly encounter people of varying ages, from numerous cultures, and with unique physical abilities in their classrooms, on the playground, and around town. As parents, caregivers, and teachers, consider joining me this month as we teach our children to respect and embrace diversity in nine ways.

Get Out of Our Comfort Zone

It's natural for us to surround ourselves with people who look, talk, and think like us, but we owe it to our kids and ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone. Let's make a conscious choice to interact with people who are different than us and encourage our kids to do the same. For example, we can buy groceries at the international store across town or send our kids to a more diverse school.

See and Discuss Differences

In an effort to prevent racism, we may ignore the visual and other differences we see in people. However, even babies can identify gender and racial differences. Seeing and discussing differences with our kids can remove fear and help our kids learn to appreciate and respect people who aren't the same.

Attend Local Cultural Events

Many local communities host heritage festivals, diversity celebrations, and international musical events that celebrate the strengths and uniquenesses of other cultures. I attend and explore as many of these events as possible with my kids. I encourage them to interact with the performers, ask questions, and eat the unique foods. Through these events, we broaden our kids' worldview and increase their understanding and appreciation for other heritages and cultures.

Read Books About Diversity

Use story time to introduce your kids to the ways they can accept, embrace, and celebrate differences. Here are a few books about diversity that my kids and I have read together.

  • It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr celebrates the value of diversity.
  • My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone follows Granny through diverse marketplaces around the world.
  • One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley shows pictures of children from around the world participating in daily activities.
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz explores the fact that all people are simply different shades of the same color.
  • The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss demonstrates that different types of people are not superior and can become friends.
  • Why Am I Different? by Norma Simon outlines differences such as family, size, language, and hair color.

Meet Your Neighbors

We can weave diversity awareness and appreciation into our everyday lives when we meet our neighbors. That means we need to say hello at the bus stop or park. Additionally, we can share meals, play games, and help with home repairs. By interacting and building relationships with our diverse neighbors, we help our kids understand, value, and accept our rich world.

Play Games From Around the World

Like other kids around the world, my girls enjoy playing soccer and tag. We also sometimes play different games that are popular in other countries. Play gives our kids an opportunity to connect with and appreciate kids from all cultures.

Celebrate Cultural Holidays

When my girls' classmates or our neighbors celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Chinese New Year, we celebrate, too. It's educational and fun to make traditional foods and dress up in cultural clothing. We also gain firsthand insight into the values and uniqueness of other cultures through our holiday celebrations.

Listen to International Music

Music is an international language. Even if we don't understand the words, we can dance to the beat, make instruments that are unique to other countries, and enjoy the sounds of music from around the world. As my girls and I have listened to international music on satellite radio or CDs we borrow from the library, we've discovered dozens of new artists and have gained an appreciation for people from around the world.

Be an Example

As adults, we set the example for our kids in all areas, including diversity. That means we need to watch our words, attitudes, and behavior. I caught myself the other day feeling annoyed with one of our older neighbors who has a disability and takes a long time to cross the street. I had to remember that even my unspoken disrespect can cause my kids to think negatively about others.

Helping kids respect and embrace diversity is a big job for parents, caregivers, and teachers. We can use these nine ways to get us started, especially as we celebrate the International Day of Peace. In what other ways do you help your kids accept others?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, September 13, 2018

10 Ways to Make More Time to Play With Your Kids

Photo by Matthew Hurst (Flickr)

If your life is as busy as mine, you may not always know if you're coming or going! My girls are almost as busy, and finding time to play together is almost impossible some days. We need play time with our kids, though, because play helps us bond, improves communication, and builds trust. Consider joining me in making more time to play with our kids in these ten ways.

Turn Errands Into Game Time

My girls used to dislike visiting the grocery store, pharmacy, or post office with me, but we now turn almost every errand into a play opportunity. We might play I Spy, complete grocery store bingo cards, or compete to find the best deal of the day. These and other games can make essential errands fun and add more playful bonding time to our routine.

Share Household Chores

Someone has to wash dishes, dust furniture, fold laundry, and do dozens of other household chores, and I often ask my girls to help me. We sometimes race to see who can fold the most laundry in two minutes or dance as we dust. The work gets done faster and is a lot more fun when we play. As a bonus, my girls learn how to do household chores properly as we work together.

Cook Special Dinners

I admit that cooking with helpers takes more time. My girls and I share many fun moments in the kitchen, though. As we prep and cook tacos, pizza, sushi, or breakfast together, we chat, laugh, and learn. Our meals even taste better, I think, because my girls and I have invested time cooking these special dinners as a team.

Establish Playful Traditions

Each year, my girls get to pick the agenda for their birthday celebration. We might go hiking, visit a local museum, or enjoy a special meal at a favorite restaurant. Additionally, we've established other playful traditions throughout the year. On the last day of school, we visit a local water park, and Friday nights are reserved for pizza and active video games. These special moments give us time to play together as we create memories that my girls will remember for a long time.

Take Pajama Walks

As toddlers, my girls sometimes fought sleep and did almost everything they could think of to postpone bedtime. One night, I told them to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and put on their pajamas, and then we strolled leisurely around the block. The pause gave us time to connect, and the fresh air helped them relax. A great alternative to pre-bedtime fights or TV, this fun idea is still one we all enjoy occasionally.

Play Games

A few years ago, my younger daughter became obsessed with Candy Land. I quickly grew tired of that board game, but you can bet I played with her every time she asked. I knew that I needed to enter her world so we could better connect with each other and build trust. Plus, we had tons of fun laughing our way to the candy castle every day. Whether your kids are into soccer, robotics, or chess, consider playing often as you invest in your kids, prove that you value them, and make time to play.

Drive Less Often

I often rush the kids to the car when we have errands or they want to visit a friend. However, my neighbor challenged me last month to walk with my girls instead. Sure, walking takes extra time, but we use those minutes to chat and connect. Walking is good exercise for our bodies and minds, too. For these reasons, I've decided to drive less and walk more with my girls. So far, it's been a great decision for all of us!

Be Spontaneous

Our job as parents and caregivers never ends, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. However, our kids need us and are only small once. Instead of pushing our kids away when they ask us to play or invite us to interact with them, we can consider embracing all of those precious and engaging opportunities to play. Our adult tasks can wait as we toss a ball, inspect new artistic creations, build block castles, and otherwise invest in our children.

Perform Home Repairs as a Team

Ever since they could hold their toy screwdrivers, my girls have enjoyed being my assistants during home repair projects. They pass me tools and even help me with the jobs now as we change light bulbs, clean the furnace filter, and repair leaky faucets. I appreciate the time we spend together, and we have fun as I teach my girls important life skills.

Check in Each Day

My girls know that I will make time each day to check in with them. We might shoot hoops, play a game of Wii bowling, or have a pillow fight as we chat about the day, discuss any concerns, and connect. Even if we only spend a few minutes together, we have fun and make memories as we bond.

Play time is essential for our kids and for us. Although life is busy, we can make more time to play with our kids. In addition to these ten suggestions, in what other ways do you add play time to your routine with your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Sunday, September 2, 2018

7 Ways That Balancing Equipment and Games Help Child Development

Photo by Robert Murphy (Flickr)

I took my girls bike-riding last night, and we had quite the adventure. Both of my girls attempted to ride over a narrow rail and fell off of their bikes. They're both OK, but that experience reminded me of the importance of balance.

Balance is the ability to control our body's position, and it's important whether we stand still (static) or move (dynamic). We can use balance equipment, such as balance beams, wobbly pebbles, and stepping stools, and play balance games like hopscotch and freeze tag with our kids so they can develop balance and their bodies in seven important ways.

Balance Develops Coordination

With coordination skills, our kids can perform complicated movements with mobility and flexibility. For example, they can step up onto a curb without tripping, run around the playground and not collide with other kids or the equipment, and catch or throw a ball with ease. These and other actions are possible because our kids have practiced their balance and developed coordination.

Balance Improves Core Strength

Kids of all ages use balance to develop their core strength. That strength ultimately enables babies to roll over, toddlers to walk, and big kids to run. Additionally, core strength equips our kids to function during the day and play as they sit properly in a chair, stand tall in line, climb a ladder, and jump rope.

Balance Enables Sports Participation

When our kids play sports and games with their peers, they get physical exercise, build important social relationships, and develop confidence. Kids need balance to run, jump, or throw, though, since balance is what gives them the ability to make the fluid movements they use as they play sports.

Balance Reduces Injuries

Even though my girls fell off their bikes last night, they were able to put their hands out, stop their falls, and prevent themselves from suffering a serious injury. I attribute this skill to their balance and know that proper balance has helped them avoid injuries as they navigate stairs, walk through crowded hallways, and jump over obstacles, too.

Balance Builds Concentration

I admit that I didn't realize the connection between balance and concentration until I did some research and discovered that our kids often focus more efficiently and faster when their bodies are stable. Instead of thinking about how to sit in the chair without falling over, for instance, they can use their mental energy to focus on the task at hand, whether they're coloring, taking a test, or listening to the teacher.

Balance Supports Fine Motor Skills

The next time your kids write a letter, button their shirt, or cut paper dolls with scissors, watch their balance, posture, and core. Our kids can perform these and other fine motor skills with confidence thanks to proper balance.

Balance Enhances Table Activities

My girls usually eat, draw, and take tests at a desk or table. They can sit properly to perform these tasks because they've developed balance while playing hopscotch, walking on narrow beams at the park, and standing on a balance board.

The next time our kids play balance games and on balance equipment, we can remember that these activities support their development in seven important ways. I know my girls and I will head outside tonight to ride our bikes. What activities will you and your kids do to improve their balance?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, August 30, 2018

10 Ways That Children Benefit from Boredom and Free Time

Photo by Bernard Yeo (Flickr)

While my girls kept themselves fairly busy this summer, they did experience moments of boredom. The week when all their friends went on vacation and the time we lost electricity during a storm were especially difficult for them. Like most kids, my girls don't always enjoy downtime, but I like it. Free time without constant stimulation, scheduled activities, or devices gives our kids ten benefits that help them learn, grow, and function better in life.

Boredom Stimulates Physical Health

When my girls are overscheduled, they get physically tired, and their risk for illness increases. I have to be careful to include downtime in their schedule every day as we protect their physical health. As a bonus, my kids sleep better when they relax and experience a bit of boredom rather than stimulating activities before bed.

Boredom Protects Mental Health

Our kids might say that being bored causes them to feel stress, anxiety, and depression, but these mental health challenges actually stem from overstimulation. Too much activity can make kids feel overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to cope with everything on their schedule. We protect our kids' mental health when we let them be bored and enjoy free time to relax, unwind, and play.

Boredom Provides Emotional Security

I don't want my girls to need an activity, friend, or device to make them happy or to affirm their worth. Instead, I want them to find happiness, fulfillment, and confidence in themselves. Spending time alone prompts our kids to develop the emotional security they need to navigate peer pressure, friend challenges, and other life situations.

Boredom Encourages Creativity

Give our kids free time and they can imagine, experiment, and dream to their heart's content. And as they play, they develop creativity that helps them innovate and think outside of the box, skills they could use to transform our world.

Boredom Develops Personal Interests

As a kid, I spent many long hours inventing games during my free time. To this day, I remain grateful for those hours of self-directed play because they helped me choose my current career. I definitely want to give my own girls the gift of free time so they can discover their interests, talents, and abilities, too.

Boredom Trains Kids to Patiently Persevere

We want our kids to exercise patience as they wait in line or sit in class, and they must learn to persevere through tough tasks and hardships. Let's train our kids to cope with downtime so they can successfully handle non-stimulating life situations with patience and perseverance.

Boredom Improves Concentration and Focus

A packed schedule that's filled with activities, devices, and action forces our kids to multitask and think about dozens of things at once. That busyness can sabotage their concentration and focus. When it's time to complete a homework assignment, read a book, or take an exam, they may struggle to sit still and think because they're so used to moving, thinking, and doing all at once.

Boredom Equips Kids to Be Kids

I'm all for giving kids access to summer camps, educational classes, and stimulating social adventures, but they're only young once. Kids need time to enjoy childhood, including the freedom of unstructured play.

Boredom Frees Kids to Think

I get some of my best ideas when I'm doing nothing, tinkering, or doodling. Downtime gives our brains the opportunity to reboot and think.

Boredom Teaches Contentment

My girls know we limit our time on electronics, but that rule doesn't stop them from whining and complaining when their time's up. The other day, I realized that downtime and boredom can help my girls learn contentment and how to be satisfied with and grateful for all of their blessings rather than continually wishing they had more.

The next time your kids say that they're bored, resist the urge to fill their time with activities, stimulation, or devices. Boredom and free time give our kids ten benefits that prepare them for success in life. How do your kids benefit from downtime?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lead the Pack: 10 Benefits of Hiking as a Family

Photo by cherublisa (Flickr)

After much discussion, we decided to spend our last vacation of the summer on a family hike. My girls and I appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with nature as we relax. We also like hiking because it provides 10 benefits for the whole family, a great reason to lead the pack and enjoy a family hike today.

Hiking Promotes Learning

When my girls were younger, I pointed out colorful plants, unique smells, and wildlife noises during our hikes. Now, they research the trails we plan to hike, pack their own magnifying glasses and nature journals, and teach me about the natural wonders we encounter on our hiking adventures.

Hiking Provides Physical Activity

My girls and I enjoy an active lifestyle, and we definitely appreciate the health benefits we gain during hikes. Hiking gives us a cardiovascular workout, improves agility, and builds muscle strength. Plus, it's a fun way to burn calories, tone our bodies, and reach our daily fitness goals.

Hiking Reduces Reliance on Digital Distractions

If your kids are like mine, they love their digital devices, and I admit that I spend a lot of time on my phone, too. There's something about hiking, though, that helps us reset our brains and want to spend less time online. We pack one cellphone for emergency purposes and then spend our device-free hike talking and enjoying the peace, quiet, and tranquil energy of the great outdoors.

Hiking Sharpens Concentration and Focus

Spending time in nature helps our kids reboot their concentration and focus. The physical activity of hiking also gives kids an outlet for their energy, which helps them sit still and think more clearly when they return to the classroom or another task.

Hiking Builds Self-Confidence

With every hike we take, I give my girls more responsibilities. They now feel confident enough to choose our trails, persevere on long hikes and on trails with many obstacles, and pack their own hiking and survival gear. While their self-confidence ensures that my girls can hike successfully, it also equips them to succeed in tough academic classes, push through sports practices, and say no to peer pressure.

Hiking Develops Problem-Solving Skills

Last year, we took a wrong turn and got lost while hiking on an unfamiliar trail. Instead of panicking, my girls figured out how to find our way back to the car. They even discovered how to walk around huge boulders on the trail and cross a stream without getting wet. These and other challenges helped my girls develop problem-solving skills they can use in everyday life.

Hiking Boosts Communication Skills

To pass the time while hiking, my girls and I practice conversational skills, such as asking questions, active listening, and taking turns. We also take advantage of the undistracted time to talk about life goals, work through personal problems they may be experiencing at home or school, and practice respectful debate and negotiation, all important communication tools.

Hiking Improves Mental Health

Hiking is good for our mental health. Studies show that a walk in natural environments releases serotonin and adrenaline in our bodies, allowing us to feel good. We also ruminate less, relieve tension and stress, and fight depression as we hike outdoors.

Hiking Prompts Environmental Protection

My girls are more receptive to learning about ecology and ways they can protect the environment as we walk in nature. They also know that we'll talk often about conservation, practice the "leave no trace" principle, and volunteer regularly to remove litter from our local trails so that we can continue one of our favorite family activities.

Hiking Enhances Family Bonding

One of my favorite hiking benefits is the opportunity to escape real life and truly connect and bond with my girls. Not only do we talk about all sorts of topics as we walk, but we can reminisce for years about the shared memories we make during our hikes.

When we lead the pack and take our family hiking, the entire family can enjoy better health, communication, happiness, and well-being. In addition to these 10 hiking benefits, what does your family gain from hiking?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Sunday, August 12, 2018

7 Ways That Play Develops Emotional Intelligence in Children

Photo by Steve Wilson (Flickr)

My girls return to school soon, and while we're busy buying school supplies and thinking about classes, we're also making time to play and build their emotional intelligence. With emotional intelligence, kids learn to recognize their feelings, discern the source of their emotions, and understand how to handle them. They can then use this intelligence to enhance relationships, succeed in social situations, negotiate and collaborate with others, and lead with confidence. We can help our kids cultivate emotional intelligence in seven ways through play and recess.

Play Encourages Kids to Recognize Emotions

I vividly remember the afternoon years ago when I realized my girls needed help labeling their emotions. As preschoolers, they got into a pinching match over a toy and even yelled that they hated each other. That day, I vowed to help my girls recognize, name, and take ownership of their emotions, and we still practice this skill today as we play. When I notice that one of my girls feels angry, sad, or frustrated because she's not winning a game or has to wait her turn for the slide, we pause and talk about it. We also identify emotions as we play charades, color pictures, and discuss our storytime book illustrations.

Play Improves Self-Regulation

The way kids feel at home on a calm Sunday morning is different than how they feel when they take a big test at school or score a goal on the soccer field. My girls and I can even experience different emotions, including contentment, frustration, and calm, during a single hike. To process and handle these normal emotional changes in positive ways, my kids need self-regulation tools, which is why we practice yoga, use fidget toys, and make time for physical play every day.

Play Encourages Self-Expression

When kids can't express their emotions, they may throw tantrums, get quiet, or run away. To encourage self-expression, my girls and I talk about emotions as we play basketball, build with blocks, and mold play dough. The physical activity and conversation teach my kids to embrace and express their emotions appropriately.

Play Prompts Empathy

Give our kids opportunities for pretend play and they discover empathy, or what it's like to live in someone else's shoes. My girls have learned to see life from a different perspective and acknowledge that other people have feelings as they play dress-up, school, and army.

Play Develops Social and Communication Skills

My younger daughter met a new friend this summer who talks a lot. I'm proud of my girl for listening, and I've also watched her speak up when she has something important to say. These communication skills are part of emotional intelligence and help our kids negotiate, empathize, and lead.

Play Facilitates Understanding and Processing of Tough Emotions

All humans experience scary or unpleasant emotions like anger, fear, and worry, but our kids can feel powerless or out of control when they don't understand or can't process these feelings. Play provides kids with an outlet for emotions, and they can process how they feel as they run, jump, and create. My girls and I also role-play scenarios that may be potentially challenging, and we play games like Simon Says to reinforce ways we can respond properly when we feel angry, afraid, or anxious.

Play Provides Opportunities to Model Emotional Intelligence

Modeling shows my girls that they, too, can be comfortable talking about how they feel, and it gives them feedback and helpful tools for handling their emotions properly. For these reasons, I make an effort to tell my girls when I feel content after a long walk, sad because rainy weather changes our play date plans, or scared about trying a new game, and we talk about triggers and constructive ways we can handle feelings.

Emotional intelligence remains an important skill our kids can develop in seven ways through play and recess. How do you cultivate emotional intelligence in your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, July 30, 2018

9 Safety Tips for Playing and Hiking in the Heat for Children and Pets

Photo by Gordon (Flickr)

During our hike last weekend, my girls and I met up with a family and their three dogs. As we walked, we talked about the hot weather and swapped tips for keeping our kids and pets safe as they play outdoors during the summer. My favorite nine tips can help you keep your kids and pets safe as you hike and play this summer, too.

Check the Temperature

Playground equipment, pavement, and surfaces like black safety mats can exceed 140 degrees even if the outdoor temperature is only in the 80s. Before you let your kids or pets walk or play outside, touch the surface with the back of your hand. Choose a different activity if the surface temperature is unsafe for your loved ones.

Stay Hydrated

Every time we head outside to hike or play, we overestimate the amount of water to bring. I definitely don't want to become dehydrated or develop heat cramps, exhaustion, or stroke in the hot sun! Ideally, we bring one liter of water per person for a moderate two-hour hike. To carry this essential hydration, my girls prefer hydration packs instead of bulky, heavy bottles, and I recommend bringing a portable water dish for furry friends.

Apply Sunscreen

My younger daughter has fair skin, and she can get a severe sunburn even on cloudy days. However, we all generously slather on the lip balm and sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outside and again after we've been out for an hour or so or sooner if we're sweating or playing in the water. With adequate sunscreen, we're less likely to get an uncomfortable sunburn as we protect our skin from damage.

Wear the Right Clothes

While my girls prefer wearing shorts and tank tops to stay cool during the summer, these clothing choices aren't protective as they play outdoors. I typically ask them to wear a synthetic fiber or linen wicking layer next to their skin, followed by loose, vented, and breathable white, tan, khaki, or other light-colored shirts and shorts or pants. I also stock their closets with UPF-rated clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses that offer extra protection during outdoor hikes and play time.

Choose Supportive Shoes

Everyone in my family likes wearing flip-flops, and while this shoe option is great for lounging at home, it's not the best choice for hiking or active outdoor play. Instead, I suggest sturdy hiking or tennis shoes. They support my kiddos' feet and protect them from burns as they play. We wear wool or synthetic socks that fit properly, too, as we keep our feet dry and reduce uncomfortable blisters or pressure points.

Play With Water

Hiking near a stream, playing backyard water games, or visiting a water park or the community pool helps our kids and pets stay cool and have fun. My daughters also like wearing neck gaiters during hikes because the evaporating water keeps them cool.

Look for Shade

One of our local playgrounds features tons of shade, and that's my girls' favorite summer play spot. However, we also like hiking on shady routes where we appreciate the scenery and cooler temperatures.

Avoid Hot Times of Day

When my girls were younger, they napped after lunch, the hottest part of the day. Now that they're older, they often want to head outside after lunch to play. I encourage them to play outdoors early in the morning or later in the day, though, and we've started taking night hikes to prioritize safety without sacrificing fun.

Plan Your Day

Over breakfast each morning, my girls and I review the daily schedule and plan to have fun while playing safely. For example, they may choose to play in a shaded park in the morning, do crafts at home, or hang out in an air-conditioned library, mall, or museum after lunch and meet friends at the pool or for a hike in the evening. A plan helps us avoid hot temperatures while loading our summer with fun activities.

This summer, my girls and I plan to have tons of fun even in hot weather. We follow these nine safety tips that keep us safe. What other safety strategies does your family implement as you keep your kids and pets safe in the heat?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, July 27, 2018

9 Benefits of Climbing For Child Development

Photo by Richard Elzey (Flickr)

As soon as my girls could walk, they also started to climb. They couldn't wait to climb onto their toy rocking horse, the sofa, and me. Today, they enjoy tackling rock walls at our local gym. Have you ever stopped to wonder why kids climb? It's actually fundamental to their development and helps kids in nine ways.

Promotes Healthy Risk

We need to keep our kids safe as they play, but our kids need healthy risks, too. Climbing allows our kids to test their bodies and capabilities, explore their surroundings, and develop confidence. For these reasons, I'm a firm believer in providing climbing opportunities for our children.

Hones Gross and Fine Motor Skills

Our kids use a variety of gross and fine motor skills as they function every day. Their brain, nervous system, and large muscles work together to help them perform gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, and running. Fine motor skills describe precise actions like holding a pencil, closing buttons, and picking up small objects. Our kids hone these motor skills as they climb and navigate obstacles.

Increases Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness describes our understanding of how our bodies move, how shapes relate to each other, and how far we need to stretch to reach an object. With spatial awareness, our kids successfully navigate obstacles as they walk and run, do math problems, and read books. Let's increase our kids' spatial awareness with climbing opportunities.

Develops Hand-Eye Coordination

To get dressed, read, write, cook, or assemble furniture, our kids rely on hand-eye coordination. It describes the way their brain, eyes, and hands work together to equip them to accomplish tasks. Our kids hone this life skill on the climbing wall and jungle gym.

Enhances Problem-Solving Abilities

Climbing is like a puzzle. Our kids analyze the summit, decide what route to take, and follow through on their plan. If they discover along the way that their original path won't work, they rethink their strategy and adjust. Whether our kids climb the sofa as toddlers or tackle rock walls as teens, climbing enhances their ability to solve problems.

Improves Academic Performance

Physical activity improves our kids' memory, concentration, test scores, and behavior, essential skills for successful school performance. If you're like me, you want your kids to succeed in school, and that's why we should encourage our kids to climb.

Builds Confidence and Self-Esteem

I want my girls to feel confident in their ability to meet life's demands. Climbing offers the perfect training ground for them to develop these skills. Once they master small climbing goals like reaching the top of the kiddie sliding board ladder, they're ready to try harder summits. Over time, achieving their goals stretches their confidence, builds their self-esteem, and gives them pride in a job well done.

Boosts Perseverance and Resilience

When my girls face personal, school, or relationship challenges, they need to exercise perseverance and resilience. These character traits reduce stress during trials and help our kids bounce back faster after adversities. If you watch your kids climb, you'll see them develop perseverance and resilience as they make plans, adjust those plans if necessary, manage impulses, follow through on their decisions, and improve their self-image.

Offers a Total-Body Workout

Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and my girls like climbing because it works out their entire body. They use their fingers and forearms to grip the climbing holds, their abs and core to lift their legs, and their entire body to push themselves upward. All of these actions work together to strengthen muscles and build endurance. The cardiovascular workout, flexibility, agility, balance, and leg strength our kids gain from climbing help them play other sports and function better in daily life, too.

Most kids, including my girls, start climbing as soon as they can move. I'm glad because climbing helps our kids develop in nine important ways. What other benefits do your kids gain from climbing?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

7 Benefits of Playing on the Slide for Child Development

Photo by Rachel Coleman (Flickr)

Every time my girls visit the playground, they take at least a few turns down the slide. My kids love the rush they feel as they soar down the slide's surface. While it's fun, the slide also supports child development in many ways. Discover the benefits of the slide as you encourage your kids to play, learn, and grow on the playground.

Promotes Balance

To navigate the slide successfully, our kids must steadily climb the ladder, sit confidently at the top, and release themselves to fly down the chute without falling off. These actions strengthen our kids' balance and stimulate the vestibular apparatus, part of the inner ear that's responsible for equilibrium. With better balance, our kids can stand, bend, walk, and move with confidence as they walk, run, and play.

Increases Strength and Flexibility

When my girls were toddlers and first starting to slide, they only had enough strength to climb a short slide, and they could only reach ladder rungs that were set close together. As they practiced climbing the ladder and sliding, though, they developed more hand, arm, leg, and body strength and flexibility. Now, my kids can tackle bigger slides with ease, and the strength and flexibility they have gained help them avoid injuries and give them confidence as they play sports and walk, run, and move in daily life.

Develops Social Skills

For years, my girls have met new friends during every playground visit. I love watching them develop friendships and social skills, especially as they play around the popular slide. Here, they learn how to take turns, share, and put others first. Plus, they develop awareness of others and learn how to be patient with kids who may move slowly up the slide because of a physical disability. These social skills are invaluable during play now and will be useful for the rest of my kids' lives.

Hones Grip Strength

With strong hands and finger muscles and honed fine motor skills, our kids can grasp a pencil, doorknob, or tools. They develop these skills as they grasp the rungs of the ladder and the sides of the slide. Watch your kids the next time they slide, and see for yourself how sliding hones grip strength.

Boosts Spatial Awareness

As a toddler, my older daughter would always fall on her bottom at the end of the slide. It took her a long time to develop spatial awareness and realize that she needed to put her feet down to stop herself. Spatial awareness does more than help our kids land properly, though. It also helps our kids as they write on paper, complete math problems, and explore science concepts.

Improves Coordination

Climbing the slide's ladder requires our kids' eyes, hands, feet, and legs to work together. Through these actions, their coordination improves, equipping them to move their bodies properly throughout the day as they feed themselves, walk, run, and play.

Fights Obesity

At least 60 minutes of physical activity each day can help our kids maintain a healthy weight. Like most kids, my girls are more eager to get active when they have fun, which is a great reason to use the slide. It's a fun playground activity that keeps our kids moving!

The next time you watch your kids on the slide, remember that this fun activity helps them develop in seven important ways. What other benefits have your kids gained from the slide?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

10 Reasons Why Play and Learning Go Hand in Hand

Photo by davitydave (Flickr)

When we watch our kids play, we think they're simply having fun. However, play helps our kids learn and is essential to their development. Consider these ten reasons why play and learning go hand in hand.

Prepare for School

As preschoolers, my girls honed their counting skills as they stacked block towers, learned shapes and colors while sorting magnets, and improved their concentration and memory while reading books. These lessons gave them a strong foundation when they started school.

Develop Social Skills

My girls enjoy playing alone, but they also shoot hoops, play board games, and jump rope with each other, neighbors, and friends. Through these social games and activities, they learn how to share, negotiate, and handle conflict, social skills that will help them succeed on and off the playground.

Experiment With Cause and Effect

When kids drop a ball, they learn that it bounces. Similarly, they discover that sand stacks better if it's wet and a doll's hair won't grow back after it's cut. These and other playtime examples of cause and effect help kids make important connections in academic, social, and everyday settings.

Learn Safe Practices

While baking cookies, riding bikes, and climbing jungle gyms, my girls learn kitchen safety tips, the importance of wearing a helmet, and how to climb safely. I love that they can use these and other safety skills for years to come.

Discover Unique Abilities and Interests

I introduce my girls to a variety of different playtime activities, such as sports, crafts, and manipulative toys, so they can discover their unique abilities and interests. This knowledge boosts their self-esteem and may even shape their future careers. Those are great outcomes from play!

Reduce Stress

Our kids face increasing demands that increase stress, anxiety, and frustration. Free time to play allows our kids to relax and unwind, and it provides a healthy outlet for emotions. I also appreciate that my girls now realize that they can use play as a coping skill for the rest of their lives.

Gain Body Awareness

When my girls first learned to walk, they stumbled a lot. They had to practice moving, which built their muscle control, balance, and coordination. Play gives kids the same result. Our children learn how their bodies move and discover their bodies' capabilities and limitations as they run, jump, and ride.

Develop Perseverance

My older daughter decided to learn origami last year. At first, she struggled with even basic folds, but she persevered and now creates intricate animals. This example demonstrates how play motivates our kids to develop perseverance as they tackle new challenges and master new skills.

Practice Fine Motor Skills

Building block houses, coloring pictures, and manipulating toy cars require precise movements. This fine motor skill practice equips our kids to feed themselves, tie their own shoes, and hold a pencil.

Hone Creativity and Imagination

I want my girls to think outside the box as they solve problems and navigate life challenges. That's why I encourage them to play. Making up stories to act out, creating dialogue for dolls, and fighting off imaginary dragons in their playground fort hones their creativity and imagination.

The next time you watch your kids play, remember that they're doing more than having fun. They're learning naturally through their playtime activities. In addition to these ten ways, what other ways do you see your kids learn through play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart