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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sunny Side Up: 7 Tips for Fostering a Positive Attitude in Kids

Photo by John Morgan (Flickr)

Positive people live longer, experience greater success, and are more resilient than negative people. These are excellent reasons for promoting positivity at home, wouldn't you agree? I know I want my girls to reap the benefits of being positive, so I'm implementing these seven tips into my family life. You can try them, too, as you cultivate positivity in your kids.

1. Joke Around

As a parent, I've found that it's easy to get bogged down with the seriousness of life. My girls sometimes get focused on their problems and stressors, too. In those moments, I try to tell a joke, do a silly dance, or start a tickle fest. In no time, my girls have forgotten whatever was bothering them and we're having fun.

2. Avoid Being a Helicopter Parent

There certainly are dangers in the world today that we want and need to protect our kids from experiencing. Hovering doesn't help, though. It only makes our kids fearful, anxious, and timid. Instead, choose to let your kids explore life on their own terms, within reason, of course. Empower your kids with confidence as you set aside your helicopter-parent tendencies.

3. Establish a Habit of Gratitude

New habits need time to form, and that's why I ask my girls every day to list three things they are grateful for. We use a journal to record our daily happiness. The ritual has become something we all look forward to at bedtime, and it promotes positivity and gratitude.

4. Be a Positivity Role Model

I know it's easy for parents to be pessimistic, angry, or cranky, but in environments charged with negative emotions, kids tend to be negative and experience behavioral problems. Take time to deal properly with your negative emotions as you strive to be a positive role model to your kids.

5. Promote Positive Self-Talk

Think about the words you say to yourself when you're stressed, disappointed, or upset. If you don't embrace positive self-talk, your kids probably don't, either. Try cutting yourself some slack and looking for the positive. Encourage your kids to also point out what they do well or the good things that happened to them that day. You won't change into a Positive Patty overnight, but promoting positive self-talk will have a good impact on your kids' outlook.

6. Prioritize Play

If you can't remember the last time you played with your kids, make it a priority today. Grab Hula-Hoops, go for a walk, or play a board game for at least 15 minutes. Mindful play activities like these are good exercise and can ward off depression. Plus, they make fun memories and give our kids something positive to look forward to each day.

7. Don't Demand Perfection

Mistakes are part of life, but how often do you freak out about a spilled cup or missed homework assignment? I know I have to catch myself from being hard on my girls, so I'm trying hard to accept mistakes rather than demand perfection. As I relax, my girls can relax and realize that they are capable, confident, and spectacular kids.

Positive people energize me! Do you feel the same way? Then let's implement these seven tips and help our kids become positive people. Whether you play a game, let go of mistakes, or give them some room to explore life, you're investing in their positivity. That's a good thing!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Little Hands, Big Learning: 5 Benefits of Sensory Play

Photo by Brisbane City Council (Flickr)

My girls love sensory play. They enjoy beading bracelets, breading potato patties, and brushing doll hair as they touch, feel, and smell whatever project they're working on at the moment. Like most parents, I encourage sensory play, too, because it's valuable. Any activity that stimulates a child's sense of sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, movement, or balance is important to a child's development. Learn five benefits of sensory play as you encourage your child's little hands to do big learning.

Sensory Play Teaches Cause and Effect

No matter how many times you explain something, kids learn best when they experience a hands-on demonstration of it. For example, when my girls were little, I tried to tell them that glue is sticky. They didn't believe me until they touched glue. They needed that sensory lesson to understand cause and effect. Your kids can also learn about gravity, states of matter, and other examples of cause and effect as they participate in sensory play.

Sensory Play Improves Memorization

Like the sticky glue, my girls learned about "cold" when I gave them ice cubes to play with, and they finally understood "slimy" when we touched worms. Your kids will also memorize words and concepts when they see them in action. Many kids have trouble understanding the connection between a concept and a word, but sensory play can help. It can be the key that unlocks their ability to understand words and memorize language.

Sensory Play Prompts Social Development

What happens when my girls share a sensory table or sand box? They learn to share, cooperate, and work together. Kids have to express themselves, defend their actions, and make their point about why they want to play a certain way. Those social development skills help them succeed in life, which makes sensory play an important part of childhood.

Sensory Play Develops Fine Motor Skills

Have you watched your kids try to tie their shoes or turn book pages? The ability to do these tasks requires fine motor skills, and sensory play helps kids develop the dexterity they need for these activities. Give your kids toys, objects, and materials that require them to mix, measure, roll, and scoop. While they play and perform these fine-motor-skill activities, they develop the muscle movements and hand-eye coordination needed to perform real-life tasks now and in the future.

Sensory Play Improves Creativity

One of my favorite things about sensory play is the fact that there is no right or wrong. Kids can simply play with the materials however they want. They can use blocks as drums or building materials, and they can make mud pies or plant flowers in a dirt and water mixture. Open-ended play improves creativity as kids solve problems, engage in make-believe, and build self-esteem all while stimulating their senses.

Sensory play offers these five benefits plus many more. The next time your kids need something to do, pull out materials that require them to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, move, or balance. Busy little hands yield big learning results that are well worth any mess your kids may make.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Snow Globe: 5 Winter Activities From Around the World

Photo by julie corsi (Flickr)

When winter turns your city into a snow globe, you have the perfect opportunity to play. Yes, you read that right. The freezing temperatures and frozen landscape encourage indoor and outdoor activities! My family has discovered five great winter activities that families like yours around the world can enjoy all season. Let's get active and try one or all of these this winter!

1. Attend an Outdoor Ice Festival

Ice-carving started as a culinary school skill, but it's now an art form. Ice and snow sculptures transform ordinary blocks of ice into exquisite masterpieces with tools like chainsaws and chisels. Your family can enjoy an outdoor ice festival almost anywhere on earth. Personally, I'd love to check out the Ice Music Festival in Geilo, Norway, where the instruments are made from ice. My girls hope to visit the Frozen Kids' Park at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they can slide, ride, and go through mazes made of ice and snow!

2. Hang Out in the Kitchen

The joy of cooking and baking can keep kids and adults entertained all winter, especially when you turn it into a game. Challenge your kids to master basic cooking techniques before the first day of spring or to use one basic cookie dough recipe to make 20 unique varieties of cookies. You can also do a chili cook-off with a neighboring family or see who can find the most unusual recipe from around the world. Whether you use family favorites or find kids' recipes online, your family will have fun, bond, and stay cozy as you roll out pizza dough, stir soup, or mix homemade cookies all winter.

3. Go Sledding

Some of my best winter memories as a kid were of sledding down a hill near our house. My siblings, neighbors, and I had hours of fun. This winter activity makes my girls happy, too. We bundle up in layers, grab our toboggans, and head outside for an afternoon of fun and exercise. Several sledding hills around the globe are on our bucket list, including Ski Dubai, the world's largest indoor snow park, with year-round tobogganing hills and snowboarding. We are also excited to sled down the Volcan Villarrica in Chile, a volcano that features panoramic views at the top and a 20-minute downhill slide.

4. Teach Kids About Volunteering

Volunteering builds character and civic awareness. Plus, it's fun. Last year, my girls and I visited a senior center once a week to play games with the residents. I also know families who help sort food at food banks, play with puppies at local pet rescues, and help neighbors with household chores. Families in any city across the globe can use the winter season as an opportunity to make a difference in their communities and enjoy a unique winter activity.

5. Complete Art and Craft Projects

When winter weather grows fierce, I pull out the art and craft supplies. My girls and I challenge each other and see who can create the most elaborate scenes from play dough or who does a better job of coloring inside the lines in our giant coloring book. With hours of free time, we enjoy a variety of fun art and craft projects that keep us entertained as we play.

Winter weather might turn your town into a snow globe, but I encourage you not to hibernate. Embrace the season and enjoy these fun activities that are suitable for anyone around the world. Which would your kids enjoy the most this year?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart