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Thursday, July 31, 2014

13 Ways to Anchor Down Water Safety

Photo by LouisvilleUSACE (Flickr)

When I was a child, one of my favorite summer activities was to go swimming - whether it was in a pool, lake, or ocean, it didn't matter. Still, to this day, I love jumping into the water here and there when it's hot out, or if I've just had a long day in particular. There aren't many ways that are better to blow off some steam and relax!

Not only that, but my kids love it as well, as I'm sure yours do, too. However, as with most activities, especially those like swimming, there are always safety precautions that need to be considered. It's important to teach your children how to be safe in and around the water, so here are 13 ways to anchor down water safety with the kids.

  1. Don't Run Around the Pool: If a child runs on the wet area around the pool, they could slip and there could be a serious injury as a result. It's best to always walk around the pool area.
  2. Always Have a First-Aid Kit Handy: In the event of any accident, you always want to be prepared and have the necessary supplies to help aid in any situation.
  3. Keep an Eye on the Kids: Put the smartphone or laptop down, and be sure to keep a good watch on the kids at all times. Anything can happen, so you always want to be ready.
  4. The Importance of Swimming Lessons: From an early age, be sure to take your children to receive swimming lessons. The more they know, the better, and it can help to save their life.
  5. Enforce the Buddy System: Never let your child swim alone, and stress to them the importance of always having someone else in the pool with them. In the event that something happens, you'll always want someone there who can assist with a situation.
  6. Don't Rely on Others: If you go to a public pool or ocean, for example, don't always rely on those around you. While there may be lifeguards on duty, they have many different people to watch and potentially keep safe, so always keep an eye on your own children!
  7. Post a CPR Guide: Whether it's your own pool or another pool, it's best to make sure that there's a CPR guide posted somewhere in case of an emergency.
  8. Floatation Devices Aren't Lifeguards: Just because your child is wearing a life jacket or has floatation devices to rely on doesn't mean everything is completely fine. It can't be stressed enough: Keep a close eye on your kids when they're in the water.
  9. Have Rescue Equipment Available: In the event of an emergency, aside from calling 911, it's important to have rescue equipment available. If there's a bad situation going on, every second counts, and you need to help make them matter.
  10. Stay Within Your Limits: Kids can be daredevils, so it's important to stress to them to stay within their limits. Going over to the deeper end of the pool may sound tempting, but it's probably not a good idea, depending on their age.
  11. Have a Life Jacket: If you're out swimming in the lake or ocean, it's always best to have a life vest on you. The water can be more powerful than one might think, and a life jacket can do just that - save a life.
  12. Be Courteous of Others: Kids will want to horse around, but it's vital to teach them the importance of being kind to others and not pushing others in the pool!
  13. Always Be Careful: Most importantly, it's best to stress the importance of water safety by letting others know that you can't only drown in a pool or lake. It can also happen in bathtubs, for example, so it's best to always be as safe as possible!

Most importantly, just remember to have fun as a family. What have you taught your children about when it comes to water safety, and which of these tips do you find to be especially helpful? We want to hear from you!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Play is Meditation for Kids

Photo by Ian D. Keating (Flickr)

Stress catches up to even the most carefree and whimsical of us, so it's essential to have a healthy repertoire of relaxing activities to put the pep back in your step. Many partake in quiet, restful meditation for this purpose. Since most children are unlikely to want to sit still and welcome calming vibes, I like to consider play as their own personal kind of meditation. After all, play and meditation share many of the same benefits.

Meditation expands the mind and preps it for ample learning and listening just as play does. It soothes worries and opens new perspectives to the practitioner much like hanging upside down on the monkey bars can! I am getting ahead of myself, so I'll break down the evidence step by step.

Here are just some ways that play is a form of dynamic meditation for kids:

  • Relieves Stress: Meditation is renowned for its stress-busting prowess. Play has the same power! Children burn off stress and excess energy through play. They can enjoy the release of expressing themselves and moving their bodies. Much like meditation offers the opportunity to diffuse painful, anxious emotions in a safe place, play gives children the chance to work through their experiences in a proactive way.
  • Expands Creativity: Creative expression is beautifully interwoven in children's play. They develop an understanding of how things are connected, what their own individual strengths are, and how to conjure up unique ideas on their own. Imagination blooms as they pretend their way through dazzling "playscapes" and simple objects become new, exciting symbols of their choosing. Meditation also liberates the mind to explore hidden connections that bring more peace and insight into everyday life.
  • Builds Relationships: Play encourages children to discover confidence and compassion in their place beside others. As they interact, share, negotiate and plan, they are establishing essential teamwork skills that will be rewarding throughout life. Certain forms of mindful practice, such as compassion meditation, can cultivate empathy. In this way, both play and meditation nourish the respect and appreciation we bring to relationships.
  • Puts Energy to Good Use: Both play and meditation can encourage us to channel energy in a healthy way. As kids play, they strengthen their bodies and liberate excess energy before it boils over into reckless behavior. Meditation can also establish a more gratifying bond with energy; with more mental strength, we can make better choices on what we eat and what activities deserve our time and effort.
  • Sharpens Concentration: Play is all about putting new concepts to work. It translates abstract ideas into something tangible, thrilling and fun. Not only that, children pay more attention to academics if they are granted regular bouts of free, undirected play. It's a simple truth backed by cognitive science; tasks are much more manageable after our minds receive some reprieve. Meditation is another form of this essential rest as it sorts out messy thoughts and creates a fresh canvas to take back to work.

Both play and meditation offer so many wonderful benefits! They relieve stress, cultivate imagination, sharpen concentration, nourish interpersonal skills and enhance concentration. So the next time your kiddos ask to play outside, try to think of it as their own delightful brand of meditation. How else has play helped your children grow and become more in tune with themselves?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happy Clan: 9 Ways to Play as a Family

Photo by Jhong Dizon (Flickr)

Summer's here, and it's without a doubt my favorite time of the year. The fresh, balmy air eases tension and invites plenty of free play. Whether it's swimming, camping, or even just appreciating summer for what it is, it's always such a delight for the whole family. We know how fleeting this lush, lively weather is here in Indiana, so we try to make every moment count. We laugh, play, connect, create and love our way through the hazy days of summer!

My girls love to play on their own, and that's wonderful. It empowers them to make creative decisions, explore confidence-boosting risks and be independent. But when the whole family plays together, the power of play unfolds in new ways. It builds teamwork, communication, pride and so much more. Here are nine ways that we play outdoors as a family and how you can, too.

  1. "Tag, You're It": Not only can classic games like this be fun for your children, but it can be fun for you as well, as it can bring back memories from your childhood. While classic tag rocks, there are also so many fresh variations to try. Plus, you'll get a healthy dose of cardio while you're on the run!
  2. Jump in the Pool: My girls are mermaids. Do you also have amphibious little ones in your bunch? The water is a "pool" of endless play possibilities. Independent play, exploration and group games like Marco Polo! Water safety is also an essential skill to have, so consider enrolling your kids into a class to get them started.
  3. Head to the Playground: What kid doesn't love going to the playground? Check out the local playground and have some fun with your kids, whether it's soaring on the swings or climbing the monkey bars. Playgrounds are the perfect landscape for kids to move, explore and imagine. As for you, try some of these handy playground exercises to keep up with your little adventurers!
  4. Be Artistic: When I was a kid, I took the driveway by storm with a frenzy of colorful chalk. I urge you to offer some chalk to your kids and watch the magic happen! Join them and create masterpieces together. It's an outlet of self-expression and it will help enhance their creativity as well.
  5. Simon Says: Always a laughter-filled game to play, Simon Says is a classic that will teach your children about paying attention to detail! Sure, this is something that you could play inside, but why not do it outside and revel in the dazzling weather?
  6. Build a Sand Castle: The beach is one of our favorite places to go when on vacation, and if you live near one, you're especially lucky. Building a sand castle, whether it's on the beach or even in a sandbox, can tease out the budding architect in you and your kids. It also encourages us to value the joy of the process just as much as the result.
  7. Not All Indoor Activities Have to Be Indoors: Shake things up and take board games outside! We bring along Apples to Apples on picnics and enjoy a healthy serving of leisure and laugher in the warm breeze. Twister is also fabulous on the grass as it adds a whole new element of balance!
  8. Nighttime Bowling: Bowling is a fun indoor activity for a rainy day, but I dare you to take it outside under the stars. Pop some glow-sticks in water bottles and use them as pins! It looks magical and the challenge of aiming the ball in the dark is so much fun!
  9. Run Through the Sprinkler: Sprinklers are a wonderful way to cool off. You can even throw a sprinkler dance contest; who can pull off the wildest dance move as they leap through the water? It makes for some hilarious photos, too!

What activities does your family enjoy together during the summer? I'd love to hear all about them!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cub Trails: 7 Tips for Kid-Friendly Camping

Photo by: amalakar (Flickr)

Summer is in full swing, and we're diving into all sorts of outdoor fun! During this time of year, there are three sunny activities that my children and I really enjoy, and those are biking around the area, having a picnic at the local park, and camping. We love this refreshing, down-to-earth (literally!) pastime because it unites us as a family and encourages us to purge out tech and material overload to just BE. If we can't make it to a campsite, the backyard suits our needs just fine!

With little ones in tow, every camping excursion can feel like tackling Mt. Everest, but don't let that stop you! With some preparation and patience, you can be a one-family wolf pack that moves in perfect harmony. Although that last sentence may be a bit of an exaggeration, here are seven helpful tips to make your next trip as kid-friendly as can be.

  1. Bring some snacks: One of the best parts of camping is the food that comes along with it. Some of the traditional favorites, like campfire-toasted marshmallows and s'mores, are always necessities, but one thing that I've enjoyed throwing into the mix (no pun intended) is trail mix. It's protein-packed, delicious and easy to gobble down during the trek. By making your own, you can slash excess sugar and cater it to the family's tastes. We toss in hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, coconut shavings, multi-grain cheerios and dark chocolate hemp seeds. The possibilities are as endless as the open sky!
  2. Be enthusiastic about camping: If this will be your children's first camping trip, they may be timid and reluctant. In the event of this, be as enthusiastic as you can about the entire experience. Kids are very in tune with their parent's vibes, so try to exude energy and wonder. This is more effective than simply informing them that they're sure to have a wonderful time.
  3. Let the kids bring some toys: A first time camping trip is akin to leading them into foreign territory, so it's important to let them bring a few of their favorite toys so they feel more at ease. If you're gearing them up with brand new equipment, let them don their favorite socks, hair bows and jewelry. This will help them feel like they're meeting nature on their own terms.
  4. Bring your bikes: There are many benefits to biking, not only because it's a great form of physical activity but because it's fun as well. There are plenty of trails to conquer and puddles to splash through. Keep in mind that some state parks forbid bikes to slow erosion, so do some research beforehand.
  5. Appreciate your surroundings: Nature is amazing, isn't it? Soak in all of your surroundings. Take a look at the flowers, trees, and rocks around you. Relish in sharing the environment with wildlife. If you welcome the quiet and embrace the serenity, your kids are sure to follow. If you foster this appreciation early in life, it becomes a lifelong blessing; they become more independent, more healthy within and without and more connected to the world as a whole.
  6. Let everyone have responsibility: Camping and hiking duties can grow with the child; it will help them feel like a valued team player and build a strong sense of responsibility. Let them help you gather firewood, carry their own packs, aid in pitching the tent and concoct spooky stories around the fire!
  7. Safety first: The most vital rule of them all is to be safe. Camping can be a lot of fun for you and the kids, but take all of the necessary safety precautions, such as arming everyone with flashlights and spare batteries. If your family is avid about hiking and camping, consider taking wilderness survival courses and getting first aid and CPR certified.

The great outdoors has so much to offer your entire family, and camping is a wonderful way to be fully immersed in it. If you've been camping with your kids, in what ways have you made it "kid-friendly"?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart