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Friday, January 31, 2014

How are Kids Games Different Around the World?

(CREDIT: craigland (Flickr))

Having grown up in Indiana, I grew up on the traditional games that we play here in the United States as children. Whether it was on the playground during recess, at the neighborhood playground, or just playing in the backyard at home with my siblings and friends, there was never anything better than playing outside as a child. When I was younger, some of my particularly favorite games were the classic games that we all know and love, such as dodgeball, tag, and kickball.

However, the "traditional games" that we're used to aren't exactly commonplace in other countries, as children around the world have their own favorite games that they play. Here on this blog, we recently took a look at some of the most unique playgrounds from around the world, to give an idea of how different cultures tackle different things. With actual games, it's no different.

Here are some games that are commonplace around the world, just not necessarily games that we may be particularly familiar with:

  1. Catch the Dragon's Tail (China) – This is a game that is commonly played in China, and is better suited for large groups, because with the more children there are to play, the more fun the game can be. To play, all of the children involved come together to form a human chain, by putting their hands on the shoulders of whomever is right in front of them. The child at the very front is known as the Dragon's head, while the child at the very end of the line is considered to be the Dragon's tail. The goal of this game is for the "Dragon's Head" to tag the "Dragon's Tail." It's definitely unique!
  2. Corre, Corre la Guaraca (Chile) – Typically played in Chile, translated, the name of the game means "Run, Run, la Guaraca," and all children need to have in order to play is a handkerchief. The game is very much like "Duck, Duck, Goose;" children need to sit on the ground and form a circle for the game to begin. With everyone seated, one kid runs around the circle with the handkerchief, while the seated children sing "Corre, Corre, la Guaraca." The runner tries not to be detected, draping a handkerchief on one's back while running by. If the runner can make it around the circle prior to being caught, the player seated is out!
  3. Semut, Orang, Gajah (Sumatra) – Played in Sumatra, "Semut, Orang, Gajah," which translates to "Ant, Man, Elephant," is similar to the game known as "Rock, Paper, Scissors." A fist-pump and a three-second countdown begins the game, The "ant" is signified by having the pinky finger out, the index finger out symbolizes the "man," and the thumb out is the "elephant." Now, we're used to paper defeating rock, rock defeating scissors, and scissors defeating paper. In this game, however, the elephant beats the man (because it's stronger), the man defeats the ant, and strangely enough, the ant defeats the elephant, which a bit of humorous reasoning – the ant can crawl into the elephant's ear and drive him insane!
  4. Statues (Greece) – Seeing as Greece holds claim to some of the most amazing statues in the world, it's fitting that they have a game for children named after them. To play, one child is selected as being "it," and then has to stand in the middle of a large space (such as a field) with their eyes closed, and must count to at least 10. Once they hit 10, then can either keep counting or stop completely, as there isn't any set number past that. Once "it" is done counting, the child yells "Agalmata!" which in Greek means "statue." Once this occurs, the children out in the field are to stop what they're doing, and get into a statue pose, representing one of the many famous statues in Greece. If "it" can make a statue laugh, they're out!

With that, some games are much different than what we're used to, while others are really quite similar, like Corre, Corre, la Guaraca, which is commonly played in Chile. What were some of your favorite games to play as a child, and are there any from around the world that you're aware of? Let myself and our readers know in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Funnel Ball, an Underrated Game

(CREDIT: sam_pelletier)

There's one thing that we can all relate with, and that's that we all loved heading to the playground when we were children. Whether it was during recess at school, or on the playground outside of school with our friends, it was always a good time. As I'm older now, and as a mother, I love taking my children to the local playground; it's a good way for them to have fun, stay active, and simply unwind a bit. They love the games they play, and especially now love the game that I recently introduced to them.

However, there was one game that I loved playing on the playground as a child; one that doesn't get the recognition that it deserves. Funnel Ball is a great game that consists of either a plastic or fiberglass funnel that is placed on top of a post, and is typically about five feet in diameter with a 45 degree pitch. Not only that, but there are evenly placed holes along the bottom of the funnel itself.

Every game has some sort of rules, and those associated with Funnel Ball are simple to follow. To play, you throw a something like a small medicine ball or basketball into the top of the funnel, waiting for it to come out of one of the holes at the bottom of the funnel. Alongside the bottom, each hole is designated with a different number. As for the numbers, they're even numbers specifically, marked with the numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8.

One of the best parts of the game is that it can be a bit unpredictable, with it being a bit random as to what hole the ball will pop out of. It isn't all random, because with high accuracy, having the ball come out of a desired hole is possible. As for a scoring system, there really isn't one, which is great for just having some fun with the others that you're playing the game with. You can set the winning score at whatever you want, but it's important to remember to just have fun with it. The score doesn't matter, just enjoy yourself!

Now that we have gone over exactly how to play Funnel Ball, and what the game actually is, it's important to remember, again, to have fun with it. I, personally, always found Funnel Ball to be one of the most fun games to play on the playground, because of the unpredictability, the laughs that we would share, and the determination that we would all have, trying to have that top-notch accuracy to have the ball come out of the correct hole.

Did you ever play Funnel Ball as a child when you were on the playground? Also, what were your favorite playground games as a child? Some of the best memories we have are the ones from when we were younger, so let's reminisce. Let's head back to our childhoods and discuss our favorite playground games from our earlier years. Let me know in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, January 20, 2014

It is Vital to Teach Your Children that Bullying is Wrong

(CREDIT: MDGovpics)

One of the biggest, most unfortunate issues in our society is bullying. It's always been an issue, and for good reason – it's difficult to stop. Bullying is a problem because it can lead to issues like anxiety and depression for children later on in life, and no one should have to go through that. In the case of bullying, no child should ever have to live in any sort of fear. With all of that said, you can do your part in the fight against bullying by teaching your children that it's wrong, and that it's something that they simply shouldn't ever partake in.

As I'm sure some of you may have already done, I've had the talk about bullying with my children, and there are some ways that you can go about it. Here a few of my personal tips, all of which should help you in bringing up the subject to your children.

  • Help your children understand bullying – While it may sound basic, it's extremely important that when bringing up the subject, the subject is understood. It's important to go into detail about what bullying exactly is. Not only that, but explain that there are different forms of bullying. For example, bullying can happen any way in today's technological age. We're past the days where bullying just took place on the playground, on the school bus, or in the classroom. Instead, bullying can take place online and through social media, which children today are using at younger ages.
  • Inform your children about the right choices to make – It's crucial to let your children know that if they see something, then they need to say something, whether it's to you, a teacher, or another supervising adult. By doing this, the adult that they inform of the situation can step in and at the very least, provide comfort to both the victim and the situation at hand in general.
  • There can be consequences - It's important to let your child know that bullying is unacceptable, and not fair to any child. Not only that, but it's vital that you let them know that if they partake in any bullying, that there will be consequences, both at school and at home. Let them know that it isn't worth it!
  • Teach your children to be kind to everyone – This is perhaps the most important part, at least it has been in my experience. Hammer home the point to your children of how truly important it is to simply try and be nice to everyone. It's the old cliché of "what goes around comes around," and I truly believe that. If you're kind to everyone, great things will come your way, and it's important to let your children know that.
  • Don't tell them to 'just ignore it' – While this may seem like a great idea at first, it's really not, because in most cases, if nothing is done about the situation, it won't stop. Now, this isn't to say that your child should retaliate with any sort of violence, because that's the last thing anyone wants, but it goes back to speaking with an adult. Whether your child speaks to you or an adult at school, it's a step in the right direction. The last thing your child should do is "just ignore it." With all of that said, it's crucial to let your child know that if they're ever being bullied, that they must speak up.

Victims of bullying can feel alone. They can feel isolated, which as mentioned, can lead to anxiety and depression both as a child and as they grow older, so even as a parent, by simply talking to your children about the subject of bullying, you're already playing a major role.

Have you talked to your children about bullying? If you have any tips of your own to share on the subject, as it pertains to discussing the topic with your children, I would love for you to share them with myself and the readers in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, January 17, 2014

Keeping your child healthy: Health Changes Headed into the New Year

(CREDIT: Tony Crider)

It's the New Year, and if you're like my family and I, then you've certainly already put some New Year's Resolutions in place for 2014. Can you believe we're already into the New Year? In my family, while one of the New Year's Resolutions that we're targeting isn't necessarily doing something new, it's more of setting a goal to keep up with things that we're doing. I try for myself, and for my children, to keep us healthy and active, so for 2014, we're shooting for continued success on that front.

Whatever you may have chosen as a New Year's Resolution, stick with it! It's important, but it's also vital that we all improve our health as we head into 2014, especially the health of our children, because there is always room for improvement. We're living in a time when obesity is a prevalent problem, but it can be combated by proper health and lifestyle choices for your child.

Here are some ways that you can reach this goal for your children as 2014 continues on.

Continue to Stay Active

Being physically active is instrumental in improving the health of your children. Not only does it promote healthy growth and development, but other benefits that your child will see include developing stronger bones and muscles, improved flexibility, and better balance skills.

Eat Healthy

While this one may seem self-explanatory, it's so vital in both improving and maintaining, in some cases, your child's health. One thing that I've found to be key over the years with my children, is having them become involved with the meal preparation. I've found that by getting them involved and letting them help out a bit, they become more interested, and can understand the importance of food. Also, it's so important to limit portion sizes. Portion control is a necessity, because it's very important to eat in moderation.

Get Enough Sleep

As adults, we aren't the only ones that have busy days. Our children are busy too, as they can have school, homework, extracurricular activities, and more, so it's important they get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Sleep isn't just important for their bodies, either – it's important for their brains. When your child doesn't get enough sleep, their mood can be lowered, and they can become cranky, so make sure your child gets enough sleep this year! They may want to stay up and watch something on television, but that's what digital recording on your television is for! They can watch it tomorrow after they've done their homework.

Become Involved with Extracurricular Activities

Activities such as sports or clubs after school are great, and if your child isn't involved in either, it's never too late to start, making 2014 a prime starting point. One of the greatest benefits of extracurricular activities, and something that is key for your child to learn in 2014, is that of time management. With everything going on, including school, playing with friends, doing their homework, and sleeping, among other things, your child will grow up real fast when it comes to balancing their time and truly understanding time management. Not only that, but it will help them to learn about commitments. Make 2014 a strong year!

Improve Both Mental and Emotional Health

By having more of a focus on the above elements in 2014, your child's mental and emotional health will definitely improve. They'll have increased self-esteem, which will put opportunities in front of them to make friends, have the drive to get involved in things like extracurricular activities, and most important of all, perhaps, to relax their minds.

Get the New Year off to a great start by focusing on your goals for 2014, one of which for all of us should be based around not only improving the health of our own lives, but for our children as well. What ideas do you have for improving your child's health in 2014? And do you have any other great New Year's Resolutions that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The 13 Best Family Games That You Can Play Around The Holidays

by paparutzi

It's one of the best times of the year. The holiday season is upon us, and one of the best parts about it is that we get to spend time with our families. Sometimes, there's nothing better than quality family time, and it doesn't matter how big or small your family is, there are many great ideas to ensure that you all have some extra fun together. Why not play some holiday games? Playing family games can certainly bring you closer together!

Especially around the holidays, my family and I find playing games to be a great bonding experience. Over the years, these have included word games, board games, and even games that we have made up along the way. It's all about family-fun, and here some games for the family to play, that I would like to share with you; games that my children have especially come to love.

  1. Who Am I? – To play this, grab some Post-it notes and stick one on each person's head. Write down the name of a Christmas character on each Post-it, and that person has to ask questions to figure out who they are!
  2. Holiday Trivia – My family loves playing trivia, and it's fun around the holidays when you can quiz one another on your favorite holiday movies, television shows, traditions, and so much more. This is a fun way to find out who in your family knows the most about things related to the holiday season!
  3. Charades – We have all played Charades, but why not mix it up and cater it to the holiday season? Give it some holiday flavor – act out characters from popular holiday movies, television shows, and more.
  4. Holiday Scramble Game – This one is a particular favorite of my children, and will surely be a hit with yours. To play, someone must say a word that pertains to that particular holiday, and then everyone else has to come up with as many words as they can, using only the letters in the chosen word. This can be tough, but it's a lot of fun!
  5. What's in the Stocking? – This is a great guessing game that your children will have fun with, and surely laugh. To play, it's simple –place an item in a stocking, and pass it around, letting the family feel what's in the stocking (without peeking at it), and having them guess what it is!
  6. Pass the Wreath Relay – This one can definitely be challenging, but it's a lot of fun and will definitely elicit some laughs from the family – it certainly did with mine! To play, you just pass the wreath around... but there is one catch. You can't use your hands.
  7. Fill the Stocking – This game can be madness, but can be a lot of fun! It's simple – see who can fill their stocking with candy the fastest, just by using a spoon.
  8. Pin the Red Nose on Rudolph – This can be a Do-It-Yourself project, and won't only just be fun making it, but playing it as well. Just like the classic game 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey,' get a blindfold and see if you can pin the red nose on the reindeer!
  9. Name that Carol – Put together a list of songs, but for each song, only provide a few words. Whoever can name the most songs correctly wins!
  10. Gift Hot Potato – This one is fun for the whole family. Everyone sits in a circle, and you pass around a gift, while some holiday music is playing in the background. You keep passing around a gift, and when the music stops, the person holding the gift is out, but gets to keep it!
  11. The Ornament Guessing Game – This one is simple, but fun! Who can come closest to guessing the amount of ornaments that are hanging on the tree?
  12. Holiday Memory Game – This is one of the most fun holiday games out there. Place some items on a tray, and only show them for a short period of time. Take away the items, and have everyone write down as many things as they can remember within a short time. This is one of the most fun family games of the year. Mine loved it, and I'm sure yours will too.
  13. Christmas Cookie Decorating – This is one of those holiday games where everyone comes out a winner. Who can decorate the most creative Christmas cookie? In the end, everyone is a winner, as the entire family gets to enjoy some great holiday treats!

These are just some of the fun games that my family and I enjoy playing around this time of year. What games will you and your family be playing around the holidays this year, and are there any that you can share?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Most Incredible Playgrounds In The World And Why You Need To Visit Them

Photo By: cwwycoff1 (Flickr)

When I grew up, I always had so much fun going out onto the playground with my friends at school when it was time for recess, or even having my parents bring my sisters and I to the local public playground in our neighborhood. Playgrounds were a big part of my childhood, because I loved being active, but they're certainly not the same as they once were.

Now, there are playgrounds in the United States and around the world that are incredible in that they're unique. There are ideas behind them, which become reality, and enhance the experiences for children like never before. I've been to some of these 'new-age' type of playgrounds with my children, and the look on their faces has been outstanding.

Here is a list of some of the most amazing playgrounds around the world, and if you're in the particular area, you have to make time to check out!

  1. Teardrop Park (New York City, New York) – Costing over $17 million to put together, Teardrop Park in New York City is a 1.8 acre park located in Manhattan that features slides, secret paths, rock outcroppings, unique geological formations, and so much more. Perhaps the most unique aspect about Teardrop Park is in regards to why it went from being an idea to a reality. The park was designed with the idea of addressing the urban child's lack of natural experience, thus having the park be there to offer children adventures to benefit both their mind and body. The factors in the park like the water and rocks help to accomplish this goal.
  2. Yerba Gardens (San Francisco, California) – This park in San Francisco, known as Yerba Gardens, is on my list of the most amazing playgrounds in the world. Take it from me, as I've taken my children here when we were on the west coast, and having seen it, it's incredible. Perhaps the most unique aspect of this playground is that it's on a rooftop of a building that includes both an ice skating rink and a bowling center. Not only that, but there is history to it, as the park at Yerba Gardens includes a carousel carved by hand that was made in 1906, and it's undoubtedly the centerpiece of the park.
  3. Nishi-Rokugo (Tokyo, Japan) – The days of only having tire swings on a playground are a thing of the past. In Japanese, the translation for 'Nishi-Rokugo' is 'Tire Park.' This unusual, yet very unique playground is comprised of over 3,000 tires. At this massive playground, the tires make up things like bridges, swings, slides, and even monsters. At this park, there are even loose tires for children to play with. Nishi-Rokugo in Tokyo is a unique site worth checking out if you're ever in Japan!
  4. Clemyjontri Park (Fairfax County, Virginia) – The name is unique, and so is the playground itself. Located in Virginia, Clemyjontri Park is the great because it's one of only a few playgrounds where disabled children can play with those without disabilities. At the park, the ground's surface is created with a slip resistant material, and perhaps most importantly, the entire park has ramps for wheelchairs.
  5. The Fruit and Scent Playground (Liljeholmen, Spain) – Located in Spain, the Fruit and Scent Playground's most unique quality is the message that it sends. It's no secret that childhood obesity has become a problem in this day and age over the last several years, therefore the message this playground sends to children is that it's important to eat healthy, and to avoid junk food as much as they can. There is a banana slide, cherry swings, strawberry swingers, and more.

When it comes to modern day playgrounds, it's certainly much more than I grew up with! Now, these modern day playgrounds have a vision behind them when they're created, as we have moved past the days of having just a sandbox and some swings. Have you visited any of the above playgrounds in the past, and are there any you have been to that you have found to be fascinating? Let me know in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Playing Outside Is Way Better For Your Child's Health Than Video Games

CREDIT: k4dordy Flickr

In the digital age that we're living in today, children have become fascinated with their electronic devices. Whether it's their smartphone, tablet, or the latest video games out on the market, kids have increasingly had their eyes glued to screens over the last several years. However, it's vital that children spend time playing outside, without their digital devices, as it can not only help with their physical health, but their mental health as well.

Your children's health is important, and staying active as opposed to being in front of the television can be a huge help. When it comes to these digital electronics, it's been video games that have perhaps been the biggest offenders of keeping your children inside. Early on, I made a serious effort to get my children active by having them play outside, and here are some reasons why it's beneficial to be outside, instead of inside with a controller in hand, for your child.

  1. The air outside is better than the air inside – The air inside of our homes can often be recycled, thus it has containments and dust, among other things, which can make your home somewhat of a health risk at times. Even if you're inside weather permitting, open a window! Fresh air is great for both yours and your child's health. By staying inside playing video games, your child isn't getting as much of that fresh air as they could, by playing outside.
  2. By playing outside, your child is getting exercise – In a day and age where child obesity is one of the biggest problems that we face, sitting inside all day certainly isn't the solution to the problem. Playing 'tag' outside over playing the latest game for the Playstation is much better for your child's physical and mental health. Supplementing this exercise with healthy eating habits can be great for your child's health.
  3. Your child's problem solving skills will enhance – By playing outside, as opposed to staying inside in front of the television, your children will be better problem solvers as they grow and get older. Even when it was something small like when my children would build forts, they were using their brains, and surely you have seen this with your children as well. Creativity and real experiences are key.
  4. Imagination is important – With the way technology is in the world that we're living in; it gives everyone everything they need, often at the touch of a button. With that said, there isn't any effort needed anymore with many basic life functions. Our children are shown everything now through technology. To go back to the example of building a fort outside, it enhances their imagination. Sure, they may be able to do something like this in a video game, but the real, hands-on experience is important in enriching your child's mind and imagination.
  5. Don't miss out on Vitamin D – As your children are exposed to the sun, they'll get Vitamin D, which not only can help raise their mood, but it can enrich their memory, energy levels, and overall health in general. By staying inside, your children aren't getting this benefit.

There's no harm in having your child enjoy their video games here and there, but it's important that it's not their only hobby. With that said, these are some examples that I'm happy to share with you, as to why it's vital for your children to be outside! I took interest in keeping my children active from an early age, and you can too. What benefits do you see in your children playing outside? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, January 9, 2014

15 Foods That Are Necessary Parts Of Keeping Your Child Healthy And Active

Photo By: David Saddler (Flickr)

It's no secret that childhood obesity has become a growing problem in today's society, so it's important to keep your children both healthy and active. By getting your children on a healthy diet, not only can you help to stabilize your child's energy, but you can also increase their moods in a more positive manner, and even sharpen their minds. You will face some of the same struggles that I did – combating your word against the flashy commercials on television that promote fast food and junk food. You've got this though – your efforts will help shape your child into a healthy, confident adult as they grow older.

It's important for your children to develop healthy eating habits, and while you will surely face the same troubles that I did, like trying to convince them that they should stick with an apple over potato chips, perseverance will certainly pay off. As a mother, I've learned quite a bit over the years when it comes to getting your children on a steady and smart diet. Here are some foods that are essential for your child's diet, all while staying active at the same time.

  1. Spinach – You may not have known this, but spinach is one of the most-effective foods when it comes to both eating healthy, and preventing cancer. It's also healthy to mix it into a smoothie, and you won't even taste it. My kids love it – try mixing 1 cup of spinach, 1 cup of grated carrots, 1 banana, and 1 cup of apple juice with ice. They'll love it!
  2. Avocados – Avocados can be fun for the kids. They're very rich in the healthy fats, and can help lower your child's cholesterol levels significantly. Avocados are great on salads – my children love them, and I'm sure yours will too.
  3. Lemons – Did you know that a single lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C? This will increase your child's "good" cholesterol levels, as well as strengthen their bones.
  4. Broccoli – Much like with lemons, broccoli can help strengthen your child's bones, and give them an intake of both vitamin C and vitamin K. Also, don't forget to microwave it! This way, you can preserve up to 90 percent of broccoli's vitamin C.
  5. Salmon – While not every child is going to prefer the taste of fish, it's an essential part of a healthy diet, especially salmon. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, and by incorporating this into your child's diet, you can help to reduce their risk of depression as they head into their late years of adolescence.
  6. Dark Chocolate – There has to be something 'fun' on this list, right? My children love chocolate, and I'm sure yours do too. A little dark chocolate daily can help to reduce your child's blood pressure!
  7. Eggs – These are filled with protein, and are an essential part of your child's nutrition plan and diet. Not only that, but they're filled with vitamin B12 and vitamin A. One great idea for eggs is to make a sandwich with egg whites, tomatoes, olives, and olive oil. Try it!
  8. Sweet Potatoes – More potatoes! Not only are sweet potatoes tasty, but the vitamin A found in them is through the roof. In one single sweet potato, there is almost eight times the amount of vitamin A that you need daily, which is great, as vitamin A helps prevent cancer!
  9. Walnuts – My children love these, and that's great, as much like salmon, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids. A few of these for dessert can also help regulate your child's sleep!
  10. Garlic – Children get sick, it happens! Including a little bit of garlic in their diets will help prevent that, as garlic can help fight disease, and stop the growth of bacteria. Not only that, but it can help to lower both your child's blood-pressure and cholesterol levels.
  11. Beans – It's best to feed your children legumes (like beans, peas, and lentils) a few times a week, as they can benefit your child's heart health. Beans make a great addition to almost any meal.
  12. Oranges – This is one of your primary sources for getting your children the vitamin C they need, and not only that, but oranges can help prevent colds, believe it or not. One dish that I've made, that the family has loved, is salmon with roasted orange slices. No one will be disappointed!
  13. Peanut & Almond Butters – What more can you ask for? They're rich in heart-healthy fats and filled with protein. Not only are either of these great on sandwiches, but they're even great when mixed with soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice wine vinegar, to dip with chicken. Plus, it's healthy too!
  14. Almonds – Much like is the case with a little dark chocolate, some almonds can be a much better and healthier snack alternative in comparison to junk food! They're filled with protein, can help lower your child's cholesterol levels, and can keep the blood vessels healthy.
  15. Blueberries – They're packed with fiber, and blueberries will give your child that extra boost of potassium, B vitamins, and calcium. Try serving them over vanilla yogurt – they'll love it.

Sometimes, it won't be easy. I've been there with my children, but it's important to understand how vital it is to keep your children active and healthy, in a time where childhood obesity has become a huge epidemic in today's society. Eating healthy and staying active is important! What healthy foods and snacks do you have your children eating on a regular basis?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart