Mon-Fri 8:00am - 6:00pm EST

AAA State of Play

Find Close

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Parenting Lessons From the Fandom Fathers

Photo by lozikiki (Flickr)

Parenting is a wild ride. We ask for help only to get jumble of clashing answers in return. With so many styles, opinions, products, and experts, it's no wonder we feel overwhelmed. I know I do! As both a lover and teller of stories, I often dive into fiction for a reprieve. This got me thinking; why am I drawn to certain characters? As guides and mentors, their actions have taught me lessons I innately wished to know as a mother. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce four of my favorite fandom father figures!

Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter

"Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living, and above all, those who live without love."

I have always been in awe of Dumbledore's wisdom. He was deeply devoted to the power of love, integrity and courage. It was only natural for Harry to put him on a grand pedestal. Albus strove to bestow all the traits of a hero upon the young wizard: bravery, honor, and dauntless optimism. He inspired Harry to believe in himself! Yet I believe that Dumbledore's most dazzling lesson was his humanity. As the plot thickened, his flaws and failures unfolded before Harry's eyes. The boy had to swallow the hard truth that there are shades of grey to everyone, even his beloved idol. He learned that mistakes can be forgiven and that love goes beyond the cracks to honor the whole person.

The lesson: As parents, we're so afraid of making mistakes and revealing that we don't truly have it all together. Let's strive to be more transparent with our kids so they understand that emotions are okay. Pain is okay. Flaws are okay. We'll always love them, anyway.

Bobby Singer from Supernatural

"As fate would have it, I adopted two boys. And they grew up great. They grew up heroes."

Don't let the sour exterior of Bobby Singer deceive you. In between exorcising demons and fishing the Winchester boys out of trouble, he remains a sunny patch in their dark lives. Even though trauma stole from him the belief that he could raise children properly, he became a father figure for Sam and Dean. With their own dad consumed by a vendetta against all things supernatural, "Uncle" Bobby picked up the slack. He offered them the simple things such as playing catch, watching movies and just being kids. In the face of all odds, his loyalty to "his boys" truly shines.

The lesson: Some new moms and dads fear that they'll repeat the mistakes of their own parents. With love and dedication, you can take a new path. You can determine what kind of parent you will be. That is the beauty of parenthood; it's a one-of-a-kind bond that begins anew and grows with you.

Charles Xavier (Professor X) from X-Men

"Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, doesn't mean they're lost forever."

It is no easy task to unite a motley, disparaged crew of mutants. But there's the key; the Professor believes that their deviant origins should be embraced. He encourages them to find the beauty in their eccentricities and to employ their gifts for good. By taking them all under his wing, he seeks to lift their confidence and establish equality for all.

The lesson: Embrace the quirks of your child's self-expression! A free spirit and a solid sense of confidence will give your child wings to explore the world and find their stride.

Euphegenia Doubtfire from Mrs. Doubtfire

"But if there's love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever."

When quirky, easygoing dad Daniel Hillard loses custody of his children, he employs his knack for voices and sprawling imagination to stay close to them. He transforms into Mrs. Doubtfire and becomes an invaluable part of the family. Not only does he reinvent his own life and grow as a parent, he aids in healing the rift between the mother and his kids. After many hoops and hurdles, his dedication is triumphant; the family is united and he credits love for making it possible.

The lesson: As parents, this truth is near and dear to our hearts. When it comes to our children, we know just how tight love binds us together, whether snuggling in bed or thousands of miles apart. No matter the circumstances - where there's love, there's a way.

So there you have it! Four fandom fathers that have made me cry, laugh and cheer. Who are some of your favorite fictional role models?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wonder Woman: 11 Kid-Friendly Fitness Tips for Moms

Photo by Health Gauge (Flickr)

Anyone who knows me sees that there's nothing I love more than spending quality time with my kids. There are many different activities that we enjoy doing throughout the year. Throughout the summer, we eagerly venture outdoors for camping, swimming, and biking, while during the winter, we'll spend more time inside playing games. No matter what the temperature is outside, you can and should turn up the heat with exercise!

For busy parents, finding time to devote to self-care and fitness may seem akin to unearthing an ancient treasure. Fortunately, there are ways to squeeze in exercise that also invite your kids in on the fun! By incorporating your kids into some of your routines, it can help grow their confidence and foster a lifelong love for health. By eating healthy and staying fit together, it will strengthen your relationship with your kids, too; you become a team striving towards a wonderful common goal!

Play and move together to nurture your happy clan. Here are 11 kid-friendly fitness ideas to improve quality of life for the whole family!

  1. Join the YMCA: There is so much to do with a YMCA membership. The gym equipment is often top-notch, and it's delightful for the whole family to swim together. With countless classes to choose from and summer camp programs for kids, it's a great community to join and support.
  2. Zumba or Dance Classes: Who doesn't love to dance and jump around? Add some spunk to your step by joining a dance class with your kids. It will pump up your child's confidence and give some verve to your fitness repertoire.
  3. Exercise at the Playground: No more idly browsing your smartphone while your kids enjoy the playground! Get creative and transform the equipment into a strength-building obstacle course.
  4. Musical Chores: Doing chores around the house may not be the most exciting things for the kids, but you can spice it up. Play some music while you're doing chores together to keep things upbeat and flowing. Dancing will ensue, I assure you!
  5. Go for Walks: It's simple but effective and relaxing. You can tailor it to your time constraints, go exploring and have an easygoing conversation with your little ones.
  6. Fitness Breaks: When you're watching TV, don't just lounge during the commercial breaks. Do something, even if it's a few jumping jacks, to loosen the body and keep your heart happy!
  7. Charity Events: There's no better feeling than contributing to a good cause. Check out local charity runs, and go be a part of them with the kids! It will build their character and set the pace for a lifetime of giving back to the community.
  8. Gardening: Gardening is no dainty picnic. It gets you down, dirty and working muscles you never knew you had! The benefits are wonderful, though. Ask your kids to fetch water, dig holes and offer moral support. Before long, they can tend to their own patch of precious earth.
  9. Bike Riding: There are many perks to biking. It softens our carbon footprint, refines non-verbal communication and jogs our heart health. If your family bike ride ends at the ice cream shop, I won't tell! I may even see you there.
  10. Tag, You're It! This was my favorite game to play as a kid, and I still find the chase so thrilling! You'll be so caught up in trying to not become the dreaded "it" that you won't even notice your heart rate raising the roof. Play and fitness are the perfect match for parents.
  11. Anything is Better Than Nothing: Lastly, be realistic with your children, and let them know that being active, even for a little bit, is better than not being active at all. Be kind to yourself, do what you can, and know that loving our kids is what makes us wonder moms and dads.

Do you have any kid-friendly fitness tips to share? How do you find the time for self-care in the midst of the wild ride of parenting? I'd love to hear your input!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wild Child: 9 Ways to Nurture a Free Spirit in Kids

Photo by Jeff Rhines (Flickr)

I was blessed with free-spirited parents that encouraged me to let my true colors blossom. Today, I seek to nurture this liberty of self-expression in my own kids. My two wildflowers are very much their own ladies; the youngest has a bubbling enthusiasm for art while the eldest soars across the soccer field with dazzling eyes. They both share a curiosity for fantasy creatures and a love of playgrounds. As a mother, I am so eager to be present as they continue to grow into themselves.

As parents, we want to create an environment that fosters independence and self-expression. As infants, your children will need you to care for their livelihood. As they grow, they'll reach out into the world, exploring on their own. While they will still rely on us for love and support, they'll need to find their footing and develop an independent rhythm. How can we ensure their health and happiness without stifling their journey into adulthood? It's a tricky compromise, but I have some ideas on where to begin.

Here are nine ways to encourage independence and self-expression in your children.

  1. Let them play: This is simple and sweet; give your kids freedom to play. I cannot celebrate enough just how wonderful play is for all aspects of children's growth! Through solo play and group play, they'll discover their talents, hobbies, and communication styles. Play can also bolster essential motor skills so that they can spread their wings and explore.
  2. Distribute chores: By cleaning up, kids can gain self-reliance. When they'll able, give them a chance to wash the dishes or fold their own laundry. The trust you place in them will reassure them that they can get the job done. This builds accountability and respect for themselves.
  3. Don't just read to them: Reading to our children is deeply rewarding, especially if it's a mutual exchange. Ask them how it makes them feel. Do they agree with the actions of the protagonist? What would they have done in that situation? This gently urges them to think for themselves.
  4. Offer guidance: When a decision arises, offer guidance and support to them while handing them the proverbial keys. They'll navigate the cause and effect of their own actions while feeling empowered by your trust. Growing an internal driving force is essential to healthy independence throughout life.
  5. Compliment their actions: When your children do something awesome, express your pride about the positive details of their actions. Focus on the how and why of their success. This celebrates their unique efforts; they achieved a goal in their own way.
  6. Be a good example: We should never underestimate the influence we have on our kids. To nurture a free spirit in your children, take care of yourself, take pride in your endearing quirks, enjoy hobbies and be fearlessly you. Confidence is no easy feat, so take this to heart; as parents, we can grow and discover ourselves along with our children.
  7. Don't allow labels: Ban labels from your family's life. Inform them that a label could never capture all the facets of an individual. Labels are limits; invite your kids to soar past them in the dance of growth and learning. Show them that, no matter what, they are who they are and that's a gift to the world. After all, it takes a medley of unique instruments to make the music that delights us!
  8. Express, don't hide, feelings: Stress to your children that they should never bottle up their feelings. They should be aware of how vital it is to be able to speak openly about their feelings and how much it can help. I always let my girls know that emotions are nothing to be ashamed of; I let them see me crying or stressed and I also share with them my joy.
  9. Get artistic: Art! What better way to indulge in self-expression? There is a dazzling array of art forms to try, such as painting, drawing, singing, or dancing. Your children can truly express themselves in ways they never thought possible. Not only that, art is fun and therapeutic.

What ways are you nurturing a free spirit and independent thinking in your children? We'd love to hear from you!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, August 7, 2014

11 Playful Ways to Grow Solid Confidence in Kids

Photo by swong95765 (Flickr)

As parents, we want our children to feel safe and empowered in their own skin. We can talk to our kids to nurture confidence, but action makes a more lasting impact. Ben Franklin said it best: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." By engaging in confidence-boosting activities, your kids will feel ready to tackle their first day of school, socialize with friends and just be their wonderful selves. This confidence will grow and enhance their lives into adulthood.

Play is an ideal way to prep the "soil" for growing confidence. It mixes essential ingredients like learning, action, application and freedom. It can also help them relax and reflect so they can be more at ease with themselves. So without further ado, let's get to the fun stuff!

Here are 11 great ways to help grow solid confidence within your children.

  1. Who Wants To Sing? As a kid (and sometimes adult!), it can be so daunting to get up and present or perform in front of a group of people. Consider having a karaoke party at home with just the family; that way, your child can have silly, easygoing fun while receiving positive feedback. These happy thoughts can help ease the dread of public speaking.
  2. Head to the Playground: There are many benefits to visiting the playground, and confidence is a big one. The playground is a buffet of exploration, interaction and growth, all topped with a healthy dollop of fun. Here, a child can discover a bold sense of self and how they influence their surroundings.
  3. Assign Chores: When your children are old enough, consider giving them chores. Even if their cleaning skills aren't top-notch just yet, let them know that you appreciate their efforts. It also assures them that you believe in their abilities, and that they can make a positive impact on their environment. Chores can be fun and playful, too: stir up some big bubbles while washing the dishes!
  4. Water the Plants: Designate a plant for your child to care for. They will feel responsible and accountable, and this can do wonders for inspiring them to believe in themselves as caregivers capable of creating a better world. For older kids, caring for pet fish can also foster a sense of responsibility and pride.
  5. Play With Your Kids: By playing with your children, you're showing that you enjoy spending time with them and are interested in what they like. They will feel worth your time and energy. However, it's also essential to let them partake in independent, unsupervised play so they can gain trust in themselves by taking healthy risks and being their own leader.
  6. Go For a Bike Ride: By going for bike rides to nearby locations with your kids, it will empower your children by giving them control of their own transportation. Plus, everybody needs and deserves to exercise for optimal physical and mental health!
  7. The Wall of Fame: Setting up a "Wall of Fame" for your children has always been a personal favorite of mine. It's the perfect place to display their artwork, good grades, handmade cards and more. You are honoring their hard work and celebrating their creativity.
  8. Lights! Camera! Action! Take pictures of and with your kids. Try to steer clear of too many staged photos; by just snapping shots of them just being themselves, you show that you cherish their true colors. You can also invite them to take photos of anything they please so that they feel as if their interests are worthy of being illuminated.
  9. Does Anyone Want To Dance? Movement, especially dance, is vital for self-expression. This can build a fluid sense of awareness both in themselves and in a group dynamic. Not only that, it can promote a positive body image. Consider classes or just spontaneous dance parties with you and the kids. It's a ton of fun!
  10. Be Creative: This stretches far beyond just painting or drawing. Encourage them to explore a variety of creative outlets so they feel the liberty to find what best suits them. When they see what they've created, they'll realize, "I can do it!"
  11. Teach Good Manners: Reinforce good manners and applaud compassion. We can all create a more happy, healthy environment wherever we go, and your kids will be delighted and proud to be a part of that. The golden rule of treating others as we wish to be treated should play an active role during all activities.

How do you strive to foster lifelong confidence in your children? I'd love to hear about your own fun, unique ways of weaving playful confidence into your family life!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart