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Monday, March 18, 2019

Why Taking Away Recess for Bad Behavior Can Backfire

Photo by unionland (Flickr)

When children misbehave at school, they may lose their recess privileges. I know my girls have both lost recess in the past because they didn't complete classwork or homework on time, fidgeted a lot, or talked during class. While this punishment is easy to administer and can motivate good behavior, let's consider how taking away recess actually backfires in several ways for our children and their teachers.

Recess Releases Pent-Up Energy

Children are naturally energetic. They're going to fidget, get out of their seats, or be unable to sit still during class. Send them outside or to the gym to play, where they release their excess energy, and they return to the classroom more relaxed, focused, and ready to learn.

Recess Cultivates Attentiveness

A 5-year-old child has less than a six-minute attention span for assigned tasks, yet we often require young children to sit still and listen to long lectures or complete worksheets. It's no wonder children misbehave. We need to give our kids recess breaks throughout the day because when they return to class, they'll be alert, focused, and attentive.

Recess Develops School Skills

When our kids play on the jungle gym, swings, and teeter-totter, they do more than have fun. These playground activities also develop the essential skills kids need in the classroom. For example, holding onto jungle gym bars improves the fine motor skills kids use to write, and swinging boosts coordination that leads to reading fluency. We actually equip our kids to succeed in school when we provide recess and encourage play.

Recess Boosts Test Scores

Playing by itself won't help our kids pass tests, but the physical activity is connected to better test scores. Time away from the classroom reboots our kids' brains and promotes creative thinking, two factors that may boost regular and standardized test scores.

Recess Improves Social Skills

One year, my younger daughter lost several recesses because she talked too much during class, and her best friend lost recesses because she spoke rudely to peers. In both cases, play time would have taught and reinforced appropriate social skills. Unstructured play time teaches our kids how to interact with their peers and invites them to solve problems, manage conflict, and take turns. These essential social skills help our kids succeed in and out of the classroom.

Recess Promotes Physical Exercise

Our kids spend at least six hours a day at school, have homework in the evenings, and may turn to video games to unwind. The CDC recommends that our kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, though. By providing recess, we give our kids time to run, jump, move, and meet their daily physical exercise quota, so let's promote this fun and beneficial activity.

Recess Combats Obesity

Childhood obesity may lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other health complications later in life. I know kids spend a lot of time sitting down during the school day, but we can also provide recess. It can motivate our kids to move more when they're at home, may reduce obesity, and helps our kids maintain an overall healthier lifestyle.

Alternatives to Taking Away Recess

Taking away recess is an easy punishment, but we can do better. Let's discover why our kids act out during class and take steps to address those challenges in a productive and beneficial way. What we call misbehavior could actually be a skill deficit or a learning disability.

We can also add frequent breaks into the school day and try creative punishments that supplement rather than replace recess. To manage behaviors and equip our kids to learn and succeed in school, we can:

  • Send fidgety kids on an errand to the supply closet or the school office.
  • Jump in place or through tires while practicing spelling words and math problems.
  • Dance to music between classes.
  • Practice yoga before school, after lunch, or at the end of the day.
  • Assign chores like picking up all the playground toys after recess, organizing bookshelves, or sweeping the classroom floor.

Recess is a necessary part of the school day for our kids. They need time to play, move, and unwind. Instead of taking away recess for bad behavior, we must support our children and provide plenty of recess time at school. In what other ways does recess benefit your children?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, March 15, 2019

7 Benefits of Flexible Classrooms That Encourage Movement and Play

Photo by Tom Woodward (Flickr)

My younger daughter came home from school today with exciting news about her classroom. The teacher decided to implement a flexible classroom setting that will include standing tables, sofas, reading rugs, and exercise balls. The students are looking forward to the open and welcoming atmosphere, and I like the idea, too. Flexible classrooms promote movement and play during the day, and these educational environments can offer important benefits to our children.

Empower Students

We want to raise our kids to become independent thinkers and problem-solvers who take ownership of their education. Let's cultivate these important skills in a flexible classroom where our kids can choose where to sit based on their needs. Students experience fewer distractions, more productivity, and more empowerment when they take responsibility for their educational success.

Boost Academic Performance

As a parent, I focus more on learning than grades, but grades are important. I've noticed that a variety of factors, including the classroom environment, subject matter, and educational stimulation, can boost our kids' academic achievement. Flexible classrooms nurture these factors and support our kids' motivation to learn.

Enhance Collaboration

In the real world, our kids must work well with others. We teach them how to collaborate, share, and build a community when we provide flexible classroom environments. Instead of feeling possessive about a desk and their personal space, kids learn to work together as they negotiate seating arrangements and interact with classmates from their standing desks, soft chairs, and floor mats.

Encourage Physical Exercise

Traditional classroom settings include hours of sitting, which can hinder our kids' academic performance and overall health and wellness. We improve alertness, focus, and behavior when we encourage our kids to exercise and move often during the day. Flexible classrooms encourage our kids to rock, bounce, lean, stand, and wiggle. These movements boost mental sharpness and help our kids perform better in school.

Improve Comfort

Uncomfortable classrooms distract students and hinder their ability to listen to the teacher, understand concepts, and retain information. Alternatively, we create a comfortable, calm, and engaging learning environment when we implement flexible seating. Our kids are more likely to listen and learn and less likely to feel anxious or stressed when they feel comfortable in their classroom.

Promote Fun

I know school is a serious endeavor for our kids, and I want my girls to work hard when they're in school. But most of the parents and teachers I know want children to be happy at school, too. Happy and excited kids become enthusiastic learners who engage with the material and retain information more easily. We encourage fun and engagement when we implement flexible classroom environments with exciting, new, and unique seating arrangements and learning opportunities.

Customize Configurations

My teacher friends tell me that the dynamics of every class change based on the students and the subject. Flexible classrooms allow teachers and students to maximize their classroom space and daily lessons based on the students' needs and preferences. This flexibility helps kids succeed.

The flexible classroom my daughter will soon enjoy at school can improve her educational experience. I welcome this change because it promotes movement and play in addition to these seven benefits. How else would your children benefit from flexible classrooms?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, March 2, 2019

10 Excellent Educational YouTube Channels for Children

Photo by Tony Alter (Flickr)

Watching YouTube is a popular pastime at my house. My girls use it to research interesting topics, like how to dribble a soccer ball faster or how to create funky hairstyles. They also watch videos related to what they learn about in school, such as how the government works or what their body's nervous system does. While I understand the value of YouTube, I also know how important it is to monitor the content our kids watch and make sure they stick to safe, trustworthy sources. That's why I've put together this list of ten excellent educational channels that are appropriate for children.

Baby Einstein

To cultivate curiosity in toddlers, turn on the Baby Einstein channel. Videos of varying length use catchy music, entertaining puppets, and playful imagery to introduce colors, shapes, and language. I even find myself excited to learn when I watch this channel.


Preschoolers will sing and dance along with the interactive videos they view on HooplaKidz. The characters introduce kids to nursery rhymes, good conduct, and vocabulary, and all of the content is child-friendly.

PBS Kids

I always feel safe letting my girls watch the positive and non-violent PBS Kids YouTube channel. While introducing kids to different cultures and positive role models, this channel's videos also encourage our kids to think critically, be kind, and exercise their imaginations. Toddlers, preschoolers, and even elementary-aged kids can learn and grow thanks to this educational content.

Nat Geo Wild

While washing dishes last night, my girls and I watched a few birds checking out our backyard bird feeder. My girls then spent an hour learning about birds with this National Geographic YouTube channel. Perfect for animal-lovers, this channel also educates kids about animal behavior and habitats around the world.

What Do We Do All Day?

Our kids discover STEAM activities, including arts, crafts, experiments, and puzzles, on the What Do We Do All Day? channel. The short, creative videos inspire my girls to exercise their creativity and have fun as they learn.

Rock 'N Learn

Several of my teacher friends use the Rock 'N Learn channel in their classrooms because it offers entertaining and educational content. Kids through fifth grade can learn songs in different languages, discover science facts, and review reading and math concepts while having fun.

The Backyard Scientist

Kids can discover really cool science experiments that involve unusual materials like molten aluminum and flaming arrows when they watch The Backyard Scientist. Each short video is truly fascinating to watch.


My girls like hip-hop music, and that's why Flocabulary is one of their favorite YouTube channels. It uses music and animation to teach kids about academic topics and social skills, including anxiety management. We often watch these videos together and continue singing the information long after the video ends.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a resource my girls use often to boost their understanding of math, science, grammar, history, economics, arts, and humanities. As you can see, this channel includes tons of content! With a mission to provide everyone with free education, Khan Academy videos are accessed each month by 15 million people around the world.


Sometimes, my girls and I watch a TED-Ed video before dinner and discuss the content as we eat. The majority of the TED-Ed videos introduce quirky ideas or riddles that spark thoughtful conversation and stretch our kids' thinking.

If your kids are into YouTube like mine are, introduce them to these ten excellent educational channels. Entertaining and suitable for kids, each channel helps our children learn and expands their knowledge and worldview. What are your kids' favorite educational YouTube channels?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Ways That Play Strengthens the Community as a Whole

Photo by Dan Keck (Flickr)

When I think of what makes my local community successful, I think of its economic conditions, social interactions, environmental stability, and cultural diversity. Play also contributes to the success of my community. As we promote play, let's consider the ways that play and playgrounds support a community's well-being.

Boost Cognitive Function

Everyone in the community benefits cognitively from play. When children play, they develop important cognitive skills like language, problem-solving, and strategic planning. Playing also improves memory and reduces dementia in adults.

Encourage Creativity

I love watching my girls and their friends make up new games as they play. Creativity is important for our kids' development, but it's also important for adults because it improves innovation, problem-solving, productivity, and positivity.

Develop Social Skills

I'm always looking for ways to prompt my girls to practice friendliness, compassion, and inclusion. They can learn these skills on the playground as they collaborate, cooperate, share, and play fairly with a variety of children. Adults, too, develop social skills and strengthen bonds with family members and neighbors as we play together in our community.

Improve Mental Health

Whenever my girls or I feel stressed, frustrated, or out of sorts, we play. The physical activity and fresh air clear our heads, reduce stress, and improve our moods. These same mental health improvements are available to everyone in our community as we relax, make connections, and play.

Stay Physically Active

To better our physical health and fight obesity, we need exercise, which we get as we play. One study showed that a park improvement project in Chicago resulted in a 37 percent increase in movement and physical activity. Walking, biking, or hiking around the neighborhood, joining a community rec center, or playing basketball, tag, or tennis are all fun, playful activities that encourage our families and neighbors to get more exercise.

Celebrate Diversity

One of my favorite neighborhood playgrounds features an inclusive design. Kids and adults of all ages and abilities can meet for fun and play. In this environment, neighbors learn to demonstrate compassion, celebrate diversity, and value all humankind.

Promote Teamwork

When one of our local playground areas needs a makeover, the entire community pitches in. We band together to pull weeds, repair broken equipment, and paint benches. We can feel proud to be part of a community effort that promotes teamwork and draws us together as neighbors.

Create Healthy Habits

We want our kids to adopt a playful lifestyle now so they can continue to enjoy the benefits of play when they reach adulthood. Let's prioritize play and make it a habit as we empower our kids and communities to transform their health, wellness, and well-being.

Preserve the Environment

While walking the perimeter of a local playground recently, my girls and I spotted squirrels, birds, and dozens of tree and plant varieties. All of these playground features beautify our communities, improve air quality, and preserve the environment for future generations.

Strengthen the Local Economy

Playgrounds and play boost the local economy through reduced environmental cleanup expenses and community health-care costs. Local restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping centers near playgrounds also enjoy higher sales, and properties located next to parks increase in value by as much as five percent. For these reasons, we can support play as we strengthen our local economy.

To help our communities succeed, let's play more. When we support our local playgrounds and encourage our kids to play, everyone wins. How does your community benefit from play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, February 25, 2019

8 Ways That Play Promotes a Go-Getter Attitude!

Photo by Josh Davis (Flickr)

Some children are naturally focused, independent, and motivated, but other kids need help developing a go-getter attitude. Personally, I want both of my girls to become more confident as they make decisions, take risks, learn from failure, exercise self-control, and develop a winning attitude. If you want the same for your kids, let's use play. It promotes a go-getter attitude in eight ways.

Play Prompts Step-by-Step Learning

Almost every skill our kids develop depends on a step-by-step approach. For example, our kids must learn to hold a shovel and scoop sand before they can build a sand castle. Let's give our children time to play, and they'll learn the importance of mastering the basics and persevering through each level. This understanding equips them to tackle school and work projects in a methodical, step-by-step way.

Play Promotes Desire and Motivation to Master Concepts

My younger daughter is determined to run a half-marathon this summer, so she runs almost every day, follows a strict strength training regimen, and eats a balanced diet. Interestingly, I attribute her desire and motivation to free play. When our kids choose their playtime activities, they usually choose the activities they want to do and are then motivated to succeed. Play allows them to develop inner fortitude that propels them to continue mastering concepts even when playtime is over.

Play Provides Opportunities to Practice

Our children learn by repetition. The hours they spend kicking a ball or drawing sketches eventually leads to improved skills. Play provides the practice time our kids need to master skills and realize that success depends in part on their motivation and commitment to ongoing self-improvement.

Play Improves Executive Functioning

The prefrontal cortex of the brain controls our kids' ability to regulate their emotions, solve problems, and make plans. These and other executive functions develop through play. As kids choose playtime activities, learn to solve problems, and practice emotional regulation, they also develop skills that help them make wise decisions and succeed in their endeavors.

Play Encourages Kids to Weigh Risks and Rewards

When our kids bravely try new play activities like climbing a high jungle gym or learning a new game, they decide that the rewards of the activity are greater than its risks. The commitment to leave their comfort zone, embrace potential failure, and exercise independence will increase their ability and motivation to tackle new ventures and reach their goals in the future.

Play Increases Focus

My girls can stay entertained for hours when they're engaged in a fun, playful activity. Over time, this ability to focus also enables them to stay on track and complete tasks like school homework, band practice, and job responsibilities.

Play Develops Self-Sufficiency

I sometimes hear my girls complain of boredom, but solo play plays an important role in developing a go-getter attitude. Children need to trust themselves and feel confident about their abilities as they tackle projects in their personal lives and their careers. Playing alone gives our children opportunities to take initiative, exercise their imagination, and be responsible for their own success.

Play Enhances Decision-Making Abilities

As our kids play, they make multiple decisions. For example, they select which brush strokes to use, what card game to play, and how to design their indoor fort. These decisions lay the foundation for our kids to trust their instincts or realize they can adapt and make better decisions next time. Overall, our children become more confident, independent, and motivated as their decision-making skills improve through play.

With a go-getter attitude, our children can achieve almost any goal they set their minds to. We can cultivate this important attitude in eight ways as we encourage our kids to play. In what other ways do you promote a go-getter attitude in your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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 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