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Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful Family: 11 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Your Kids

Photo by BK (Flickr)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, enticing us with the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie! Now, as always, I try my best to dedicate some time to count my blessings. Why don't we do that now, together? I'm thankful for my zany, playful life, made deliciously whole by my two daughters. They bring joy to my life each and every day, even if they drive me bonkers. After all, what parent isn't at least a dollop of bonkers?

Gratitude is a wonderful trait we can nurture in our kiddos from the moment the bless our lives. After all, a thankful heart yields more happiness, enthusiasm, and motivation! I'm not claiming that we are 100% able to meltdown-proof our children when the Elsa doll is out of stock, but gratitude for what they DO have will help them "let it go". So without further ado...

Here are 11 ways to foster gratitude in your kids!

  1. Pass the Tea, Please: Sometimes it's not that they're being rude; often, they are just genuinely too shy to whisper 'Thank you"! To ease this anxiety, practice gratitude in a playful environment. Encourage your wallflowers to say "please" and "thank you" to their favorite stuffed animals. Join in and set an example!
  2. Dine on Grace: Make it a dinnertime ritual to have each family member express one thing they are grateful for that day. To spice it up, discuss one thing everyone has learned and what they are hopeful for tomorrow.
  3. Handwritten Gratitude: Foster this habit early on. Join your precious little ones in writing/doodling handwritten 'thank you' notes. Gift them to anyone who is a positive influence on your kid's life, such as teachers, family, and bus drivers! Don't forget your partner or spouse too - after all, gratitude starts at home!
  4. Be Patient: Simply demanding that your kids be more grateful will backfire. Gently commend them when they express gratitude, but don't force them beyond their comfort zone. Living as an example will help foster a gracious mindset naturally.
  5. Volunteer: I imagine the heart like a bowl - compassionate deeds such as volunteering deepen and widen it, making it more receptive to love, gratitude, and happiness. Make helping others an active element in your family life. It lifts everybody up!
  6. Global Awareness: The vibrant tapestry of cultures in our world is something I am awed by and grateful for. Seek to cultivate a curiosity and respect for our world in your kids. This will help them appreciate experiences and knowledge over material possession. It will also provide prospective on the abundance of their lives.
  7. Tell Them Stories: Tell stories to your children, especially ones that center around gratitude. Provide both personal tales and a variety of enriching books. Even sad stories serve a purpose if you focus on the silver lining. These heartfelt narratives have a lasting impact.
  8. Thanksgiving Hunt: Why not try a gratitude scavenger hunt this Thanksgiving? Compile a list of thankful things to find, such as "someone who made me smile lots this year". Snap pictures and make an album to share next Thanksgiving.
  9. Emphasize What's Around: Want to surround your family with lush treasures? Venture into the great outdoors! I've relished in nature with my girls since they were bouncing babes. The wide open air and the kaleidoscope of sensory delights feels so whole. No object can match that feeling!
  10. Don't Take Playtime For Granted: Play makes everything feel good! It eases stress, encourages experiential learning, and builds empathy. A mind refreshed by frequent play is more apt to discover plenty to be grateful for. This applies to adults too!
  11. Be a Role Model: This is perhaps the most essential point on this list. Be a role model to your children and radiate gratitude in everything that you do. Show them (and tell them!) how grateful you are for your life, for your family, and for them! This isn't always easy, but we can all vow to TRY to count our blessings, right?

As parents, we want nothing more than happy and healthy children. Gratitude is an key ingredient to this! How have you been able to foster gratitude in your children? I'd love to hear your tips and stories in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, November 14, 2014

Interview with Playworks Founder Jill Vialet

Photo by Dan Harrelson (Flickr)

I am honored and delighted to share with you my interview with Playworks founder and CEO Jill Vialet. Playworks is a non-profit organization that strives to establish a playful culture where every child in America can explore, learn, connect, and have fun. Jill's passion for providing play opportunities for all children truly shines in her book Recess Rules. So without further ado, let's leap right into this conversation!

Kim: Let's start off with a big, golden question! In your TED talk, you mentioned a city worker named Clarence who encouraged you to participate in playful activities no matter what. Through Playworks, you've sought to invite a play-advocating "Clarence" into every child's life. Why does play matter so much to you?

Jill: Play matters because it creates an opportunity to bring out the best in every kid - and it's an opportunity for kids to really see the best in themselves. Not sure if you had a chance to watch it, but I gave a more recent talk at TEDMED that just came out a couple of weeks ago that's all about why play matters.

Kim: On the wonderful topic of Playworks, what would you say are the organization's three main goals?

Jill: To make it possible for every child in America to play every day. To fundamentally shift the education system to include an awareness of play as an essential developmental experience. And to make training universally available to grown-ups that work with kids to support them in infusing play into every interaction.

Kim: Once again drawing from your uplifting talk, you state that play-fortified learning can "solve the education crisis" and "raise a generation with the vision and collective will to make all the other changes we need." What do you think makes play so powerful?

Jill: There's a lot to play that makes it powerful, but one significant aspect is that it is an experiential way of teaching and learning empathy. The experience of playing together creates a very real opportunity to really see another person, and to be truly seen - and this, in turn, creates an opening for understanding other people - for authentically coming to believe that another person's inner life is as complex as one's own.

Kim: You also say that play is the "fundamental sign of our inner drive and ambition." What are 3 things we as parents and caregivers can do to help banish the stigma that play is frivolous and secondary?

Jill: As the grown-ups who care about kids, I think the first thing we can do is to be curious about the things our kids care about. The second thing is to play with them and spend time with them. And third, to create consistent boundaries - whether that's around sleep, homework or screen time.

Kim: If you wanted one message to reach every single child in the world, what would it be? What about every single adult?

Jill: Same message to both: I believe in the best in you and I know that, as a society, if we are to achieve all that we are capable of, we need you to tap into that part of you.

Kim: Let's wrap this up with a whimsical question! Please gift us with a haiku all about play!

Jill: OK, I'm going with more relaxed rules: 5-7-5, but no mandatory reference to the seasons...

Play is to the child

What oxygen is to life

You simply need it.

Wow, what an empowering interview! Jill truly conveys the power of play and why we should strive to build a more play-friendly world. To keep in touch with Jill, you can follow her on Twitter and Google+. You can also find Playworks on Twitter. See you on the playground!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Join These 9 Play Advocates on the Playground of Social Media!

by Wikipedia Commons

We all need to play. Leisure time, exploration, creative endeavors, and just freely being ourselves are all key ingredients to a happy, wholesome life. For children, play is essential for development. It helps kids discover themselves and rejoice in the humanity of others. It also provides them a landscape to practice what they've learned. For adults, it eases stress, invites creative expansion, and keeps our souls youthful! All across the Web, there are many play advocates that are definitely worth following and engaging with! They provide resources, inspiration, and volunteer opportunities all in the name of play.

Here are nine of my favorite play advocates that I encourage you to connect with on the playground known as social media!

  1. @KaBOOM: It's only fitting that we kick off this list with one of the most influential, empowering play advocates out there. KaBOOM! is a nonprofit organization that is passionate about helping incorporate play into the lives of children on a national scale. They're so interactive and uplifting that I make it a priority to explore their profiles daily. I love following them because they showcase joy-sparking photos, share information from a variety of playful sources, and all around lead the way to a more spontaneous, play-powered world!
  2. @Playworks: Every child has a place on the playground, and Playworks really delivers that truth with flying colors. I 100% believe in their solid motto of "play works for every kid". You can relish in their playful influence nationwide; they actively serve 23 communities that have separate Twitter profiles for maximum fun! Playworks also offers training opportunities to shape individuals into positive, empowering playmakers on and off the playground. Need to revamp or implement a recess program? They can help with that too!
  3. @balmeras: Bethe Almeras is known as the "Grass Stain Guru" and is a fervent believer in the power of play and nature. She's a renowned speaker that voices the spirit of the Play Movement. This quote captures her gloriousness quite aptly: "I also believe that childhood was meant to be messy. Muddy. Slimy. Silly. And most of all, joyful. Steeped in awe and wonder, childhood should be spent outdoors as much as possible, and should rely on imagination and whimsy as much as it does on rules and regulations." Check out her website, read the lively interview we did with her, and reach out to her in the Twitter birdhouse!
  4. @LetsPlay: The name really says it all, doesn't it? Let's Play is wonderful because they represent the group effort of Dr. Pepper and Snapple to help spur more active lifestyles in families across America. One of the big benefits of following them on Twitter is that they share a lot of creative play ideas that really leap outside of the box!
  5. @VinceGowmon: Play advocate Vince Gowmon won't let you forget to play! His endeavors delight both kids and adults alike. I adore his Tweets because of the variety; he offers original quotes and resources about bullying, communication, empathy, healing, play, and family. Vince truly makes us feel like a vital part of his mission. Did I mention that he runs playshops around the country? I've yet to attend one, but it is on my to-play list!
  6. @JillVialet: As the founder of Playworks, Jill believes that play can and will bring out the best in every child. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she's so down-to-earth; she engages heartily with her followers and finds an abundance of play resources to share. Give her TED talks a listen; she champions for play in a refreshing, grounded way that is sure to resonate with you.
  7. @MovingSmartNow: "A moving child is a learning child". Such a wise, uplifting motto! They provide move-to-learn resources, quotes, play ideas, pictures, and plenty of smile-worthy moments. Gill Connell also has a glorious book and blog all in the name of mobile growing. this A moving child is a healthy child and happy child, too!
  8. @DarellHammond: Earlier, I celebrated about how awesome KaBOOM! is as a play advocate. Darell is the founder of KaBOOM! and the author of KaBOOM! A Movement to Save Play. It's an outstanding book that I highly recommend. He actively shares play, education, and movement insights from all corners of the social playground. He also guides followers towards volunteer opportunities that are worth wholehearted support.
  9. @PPS_Placemaking: Last but certainly not least is the Project for Public Spaces. They seek to design a world that is play-friendly, sustainable, and morale-boosting. The movement of placemaking is compelling and unique; I urge you to explore how we can help put our limited resources and land to more fulfilling uses. Human connection and imagination are cornerstones to this effort. There is SO much potential out there!

Are you connected with any of these influencers of play on social media? I'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments below! Together, we can build a world enriched by the power of play!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart