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Monday, December 31, 2018

8 Ways to Help Beat the Winter Blues and Stay Positive

Photo by Brandon Atkinson (Flickr)

Every winter, I suffer from a phenomenon called the winter blues. Shorter daylight hours and cold weather definitely contribute to my irritable, tired, and blah mood. My social life suffers, too. Even my kids feel the effects of the winter weather. This year, we want to stay positive and beat the winter blues, and we're trying these eight ways to do it.

Let the Sunshine In

A good source of vitamin D, sunlight also boosts our mood and energy. For this reason, we want to get as much sun exposure as possible. I plan to trim the trees and bushes near our windows, open the blinds and curtains, and sit closer to the window at work. If these tricks don't work, I'll buy a sun lamp, a beneficial tool used by people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Exercise Every Day

Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. We also feel energized, focused, creative, productive, and calm when we work out regularly. To get more exercise and improve our moods during cold winter weather, we can take power walks around the mall, go ice skating, and schedule winter hikes.

Play More

When we listen to our kids play, we hear laughter and joy. I love that sound! We can join in the fun and feel less stressed and more upbeat as we play. Let's gather our kids and build a pillow fort, create art, or enjoy a snowball battle together.

Learn Something New

Sometimes, our brains get stuck in a down mood and stay there for days on end. Learning new things or trying new activities reboots our brains and gets them unstuck. We can try new cooking techniques and recipes, discover new book and music genres, and play new card and board games this winter.

Eat a Mood-Boosting Diet

Certain foods actually improve our mood. For example, my girls and I discovered that tomatoes, honey, coconut, and even dark chocolate help us feel happier, so we'll add more of these mood-boosting foods to our winter menu.

Make Plans With Positive People

Although I often don't feel like socializing when the winter blues strike, I benefit from social interactions with positive, upbeat friends. I also know that I'm more likely to show up for events instead of hibernating if I'm hanging out with people I like. To prioritize beneficial play dates, we can join a book club, go bowling, or indulge in some retail therapy with positive, fun, and engaging friends.

Wear Bright Colors

Bright colors help us feel happy, cheerful, and positive. I know I smile more when I wear bright yellows, pinks, purples, and reds. My girls even asked for colorful and bright hats and gloves this year so they can remember to smile as they go to school and do other activities.

Be Grateful for the Season

While we may dream of living on a tropical island year-round, we have to accept that our reality includes cold and dark winter weather. Complaining only makes us feel more miserable. Instead, let's embrace gratitude and look for things to be thankful for, like pretty icicles on tree limbs, cute snowmen, fuzzy socks, and delicious hot cocoa.

Staying positive when winter weather hits can be tough. I know my girls and I struggle with our attitudes every year. This year, we plan to keep the winter blues at bay in these eight ways. What else could we try to remain more upbeat during this cold, dark season?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

9 Tips for Safe Play with Ice, Snow and Cold

Photo by Joe Green (Flickr)

My girls and I love outdoor winter activities! Playing outside in the ice, snow, and cold is fun, and the Vitamin D exposure helps to relieve depression. Plus, the exercise is important for kids, as it fights obesity and reduces ADHD symptoms. While fun and beneficial, outdoor winter play includes several hazards. Here are a few tips we can use to help our kids play safe.

Dress in Layers

The right combination of layered clothing keeps our kids dry and warm. When my girls play outdoors in cold weather, they always wear a snug polyester shirt followed by two looser middle layers and a windproof and waterproof outer layer.

Prioritize Socks and Shoes

Dry feet are essential for warmth and frostbite prevention. My girls first put on thin, polyester socks followed by thick wool socks. Then, they wear waterproof insulated boots that aren't too snug and will protect their feet and toes.

Opt for a Hat and Mittens

Insulated and waterproof mittens and hats are essential winter gear. The mittens protect my girls' hands and fingers from frostbite and give them the mobility they need to scoop snowballs, handle a shovel, and have fun outdoors all winter. Hats reduce heat loss. My girls also pack extra gloves and hats to change into if these essentials get wet.

Wear Reflective and Bright Clothing

Because I want my kids to be visible as they play in the snow, I dress them in bright clothing. Their jackets and shoes also feature several strips of reflective tape. My girls also know that staying safe includes coming indoors before dark.

Lather on Sunscreen

We often associate sunscreen with summer weather, but I don't pack it away with the bathing suits. Snow reflects UV rays, and our kids can still get a winter sunburn. That's why I slather sunscreen on my girls' exposed skin before they head outside to play.

Check Sports Equipment

As we pull out our winter sports equipment from storage, we give it a checkup. I make sure that the boots, goggles, helmets, and ice skates or skis still fit and that all of the parts are in good working order. If I'm not sure the equipment is safe, I take it to a local winter sporting goods store and let a professional verify that it's stable, safe, and ready for use.

Choose a Safe Sledding Spot

Sledding accidents can cause concussions, broken bones, and other injuries. I always inspect hills before my girls sled and make sure the area is located away from busy roads and free of obstacles like trees, posts, holes, and rocks. My girls also try to avoid peak sledding times to reduce collisions, only ride solo on the sled, and stay aware of their surroundings.

Stay Hydrated

Our kids must stay hydrated as they play outside in cold weather. They may not feel thirsty, but their bodies lose water as they sweat and breathe. I give my girls room-temperature water and warm tea or cocoa throughout the day to prevent dehydration as they play.

Enforce the Buddy System

While my girls do implement safety protocols as they play outside in the ice, snow, and cold, I assign them a buddy for extra security. Buddies remind their friends to stay safe and can alert an adult after an accident.

Playing outside during the winter is fun and offers numerous health and wellness benefits. These nine tips can keep our kids stay safe as they play in the ice, snow, and cold. What other safety tips do you recommend as your kids play outdoors in the winter?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, December 15, 2018

10 Tips for Squeezing More Exercise Into the Holiday Season

Photo by Brian (Flickr)

With the busyness of the holiday season upon us, I've got to admit that I sometimes skip my daily workout. I figure I have too much shopping, baking, and decorating to do and can always get back into the groove in January. But today, I realized that skipping my daily exercise routine has caused holiday weight gain and insomnia, and I feel more anxiety, stress, brain fog, and frustration. Can you relate? If so, let's squeeze more exercise into our busy holiday season with these ten tips.

Park Away From Your Destination

Can't find a parking space near the mall or grocery store entrance? No worries! We can park far away and walk. The few extra steps help us burn calories, and the fresh air can revive our mood.

Use Down Time to Get Moving

Often, I find myself sitting down to enjoy a short break while the cookies bake or I watch my favorite holiday movies. However, we could put this down time to good use and march, dance, or jog in place. That movement gets our blood pumping and helps us reach our daily fitness goals.

Take the Stairs

My girls love riding the escalator at the mall, but I challenge them to take the stairs instead. We also intentionally make multiple trips up and down our stairs at home while cleaning the house or arranging decorations. The extra steps we get while climbing the stairs are good for our waistline, heart, and brain.

Play With Kids

Our family holiday gatherings always include at least a few kids with extra energy to spare. Why not corral the kids and head outside to play tag or other outdoor winter games? We can improve our fitness and spend time together while burning off excess energy and cookie calories.

Participate in a Holiday-Themed Run

One of our annual traditions is running in a holiday 5K. My girls and I participate every year, and we usually invite our family members and friends to join us. The race motivates us to work out and train faithfully before the holiday, and it's a fun bonding event. Consider joining a holiday-themed race or obstacle course event in your community this year!

Find a Gym

If your holiday travels find you visiting a new town, sign up for a free trial membership at the local gym. One of my cousins did this last year, and we had fun working out together every morning before the day's holiday festivities started.

Take a Family Walk

Does your family love to eat like mine does? I can taste the turkey, stuffing, and pecan pie right now! That's why our holiday tradition includes a walk or hike after our holiday dinner. Aside from burning calories, we can also look at holiday lights or sing carols together as we get some exercise.

Play in the Snow

I love snow! Not only is it beautiful, but it's fun to play in. My girls and I enjoy making snow angels, sledding, and ice skating. Even shoveling snow can be a good way to get a great full-body workout during the holiday season.

BYOE (Bring Your Own Equipment)

We don't have to allow work or travel to hinder our exercise routine. Instead, we can pack resistance bands, weights, and sneakers into our work or travel bag. With these BYOE resources, we can do a few mini workouts throughout the day at our desk, in the airport, or in a hotel room.

Set and Keep Exercise Goals

I know our holiday schedules are packed with activities, but exercise is so important that we must add it to our to-do list. Until the end of the holiday season, let's commit to wearing a pedometer and walking at least 10,000 steps per day. For extra motivation, consider working out one minute for every dollar you spend on holiday gifts.

This holiday, let's commit to getting more exercise. We can stay active with these ten tips. In what other ways do you squeeze in exercise during the busy holiday season?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 13, 2018

7 Parenting New Years Resolutions to Consider for 2019

Photo by Free Images (Flickr)

To ring in the New Year, my girls and I usually head downtown for our town's fireworks display. We love the excitement! This year, I'm also ringing in the New Year with several parenting resolutions. My girls are growing up fast, and I want to make sure I'm doing the best job possible. Consider adding one or more of these seven parenting resolutions to your New Year's celebration, too.

Try to Spend More Quality Time Together

With the speed of daily life, I often find that my girls and I hardly connect at all some days. I want to change this trend in 2019 because quality time is important to my girls' happiness and development. Some ideas that will increase our quality time together include:

  • Share breakfast and talk about our day.
  • Turn off my work phone when the girls are home.
  • Play a board or card game each night.
  • Read a chapter book together before bed.
  • Enjoy a date with each child at least once a month.

Try to Yell Less

Last week, I lost my temper with my girls big time. We did reconcile later that day, but I still feel bad about the incident, especially because I've been yelling a lot lately. It's definitely time for me to try to yell less. To achieve this resolution, I can:

  • Know my triggers and learn how to respond better.
  • Develop stress-relief strategies like deep breathing, exercise, or a timeout.
  • Perform some kind of relaxing and rejuvenating self-care activity each day.
  • Pause when I'm hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).
  • Relax and accept that sometimes my kids will be kids.

Try to Be Positive

I noticed recently that I often say "no" and "don't" as I talk to my girls. For example, I'll say, "No, you can't wear that outfit" or "Don't poke your sister." As parents, we do have to say no sometimes, but positive interactions make our kids more receptive to what we have to say. We can become more positive parents when we:

  • Spin negative instructions into a positive statement, such as "Please respect your sister's personal space."
  • Sandwich instruction or correction between two praises or compliments.
  • Acknowledge when my girls do things well or make progress toward achieving a goal.
  • Give plenty of hugs, kisses, and smiles during the day.
  • Have more fun together.
  • Choose to laugh over mistakes.

Try to Cook at Home More

My girls and I love to eat! But I don't always have time to cook meals at home. I want to change that habit this year because cooking with kids can:

  • Increase the amount of quality time my kids and I spend together.
  • Improve our health, since home-cooked meals often have less sodium, fat, and calories than fast food.
  • Teach my girls cooking skills and self-sufficiency in the kitchen.
  • Expose us to new cuisines and culinary adventures.

Try to Separate From Your Child

When my girls were babies and toddlers, I did everything for them and with them. Now that they're growing up, I find myself struggling to let them go. We'll all be happier and better-adjusted, though, if I remember that my job as a parent is to equip my kids to be independent adults. While I'll teach my girls self-help skills and continue to set boundaries, I also want to separate from my girls as I encourage them to:

  • Embrace their uniqueness.
  • Make their own choices.
  • Accept natural consequences.
  • Fight their own battles.
  • Own their life.

Try to Play More

There's no better sound in the world than a child's laughter! My girls laugh often as we play. As a bonus, play improves sportsmanship, mental and physical health, and relationships. To add more play to our year in 2019, I want to:

  • Hike at least one trail in each of our state parks.
  • Learn a new sport together.
  • Ride bikes each week.
  • Host dance-offs as we clean our house.
  • Tell more jokes.
  • Enhance my sense of humor and positive outlook.

Try to Develop a Healthy Habit

Like our vehicles need fuel to run properly, we parents need to fill our physical, mental, and emotional fuel tanks. To achieve this goal, I want to develop a healthy habit this year that fills me and shows my girls the value of self-care and health. Some healthy habit ideas to choose from include:

  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet each day.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Meditate or do yoga before bed.
  • Prioritize friendships.
  • Engage in a hobby at least once a week.

As I prepare to ring in 2019, I'm excited about all of the possibilities for my family. To achieve our goals, I know I have to improve my parenting game and want to implement a few parenting resolutions. What New Year's parenting resolutions do you want to try?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 6, 2018

How Play Helps Children Develop 5 Different Types of Communication

Photo by John Wilkinson (Flickr)

While listening to my girls play together on the swing set the other afternoon, I realized how much they communicate as they have fun. They talked, laughed, argued, and reconciled as they built block castles, colored pictures, and kicked the soccer ball together. This afternoon of communication prompted me to think of all the ways our kids communicate, and I realized that play is very important to our kids' development. That's because children learn five different types of communication as they play.

Oral Communication

Holding conversations, expressing emotions, negotiating, and exchanging ideas are all forms of oral communication kids develop during playtime. Our children learn how to talk to their peers and adults as they play games, role-play, and sing. We can promote communication skills in our kids when we introduce imitative songs, offer interactive toys like trains, dolls, and puppets, and ask open-ended questions as we play.

Nonverbal Communication

Often, what we communicate through our facial expressions, eye contact, and body language is as important as the words we verbalize. Our kids develop their nonverbal communication skills through dance, art, books, and pretend play. We can start teaching this valuable skill as we smile and interact with our kids when they're babies. As our kids grow, we can point out nonverbal communication in book illustrations, practice acting out different emotions, and identify different types of body language as we play games.

Visual Communication

Our early ancestors mastered the art of visual communication as they used rock art, hieroglyphics, and other pictures to represent words or concepts. Visual communication continues to be important for our kids today because they can use pictures, graphs, and charts to share ideas and illustrate their thoughts and emotions. We help kids understand visual communication as we encourage them to color, draw, create videos, and represent objects with pictures.


Over the past two years, my younger daughter has developed into an amazing storyteller. She has learned to use descriptive language that brings the story to life, and she follows a logical sequence of events. I enjoy listening to her stories, and this skill has improved her reading, comprehension, and writing ability, too. As I think back to how her storytelling skills have developed, I can point to play as the catalyst. Reading books, singing songs, and role-playing introduces our kids to sequences, sentence structure, repetition, vocabulary, memory, and expressive language, essential aspects of successful storytelling.

Written Communication

My older daughter writes almost constantly. In addition to writing essays for school, she writes poetry and journals her personal feelings. She needs to know how to use her written communication skills for success in school and in her personal life, and play has helped her develop this skill. Play exposes our kids to numerous functional texts as they make pretend grocery lists, draw signs for zoo animals, and write letters to mail at their imaginary post office. Kids can also practice their spelling through word games. Also, we can encourage our kids to write a book or dictate a book for us to write and then draw the illustrations as we prompt stronger written communication skills.

Our kids need to know how to communicate, and they learn five different types of communication as they play. For this reason, let's promote play. How does play help your kids learn to communicate?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, November 26, 2018

7 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Children That Will Last a Lifetime

Photo by Cindi Albright (Flickr)

One of our family's Thanksgiving traditions includes taking turns sharing things we're thankful for from the past year. I enjoy the tradition, but I also want my girls to show gratitude all year. For this reason, I decided to be intentional about cultivating gratitude in my children. In seven ways, we parents, teachers, and caregivers can foster gratitude in our kids that they will practice for the rest of their lives.

Model Gratitude

Our kids watch us for cues about how they should act. That's why I make sure to say "thank you" to others as often as possible and encourage my girls to do the same. When gratitude is part of everyday life at home, in the classroom, and as we interact with others in the community, our kids embrace the habit.

Practice While Playing

Since our kids spend so much time playing, it makes sense to use this time to practice gratitude. During tea parties with stuffed animals or dolls, when sharing crayons, and while taking turns using the swing, our kids can practice saying "thank you" as they become more grateful.

Expose Kids to Social Justice

One of my daughters walks dogs at an animal shelter because she wants to end animal cruelty. She chose this cause after we heard news stories about several cruelty cases in our state last year. While I'm careful to keep my girls' emotional development in mind, I also know it's important to be honest with them about social justice issues. They're part of humankind and can develop compassion for causes that matter. Exposure to social justice also helps our kids become grateful for their blessings and give back to society.

Volunteer Together

As a family, we help our elderly neighbor care for her property throughout the year. My girls also regularly donate clothing and toys they outgrow, and they each participate in volunteer activities at school. I want my girls to exercise generosity, cooperation, and helpfulness for the rest of their lives, and volunteering is a good way to reinforce these values.

Reduce Consumerism

I'm a big fan of minimalism, but this philosophy goes against the grain of consumerism, a concept I'm trying to teach my girls about. To reduce consumerism and entitlement, we sometimes intentionally go window shopping and leave my wallet locked in the car. I also encourage my girls to ask for non-material holiday and birthday gifts like museum tickets, art lessons, and coupons for trips to our local ice cream parlor. With less stuff and clutter, their gratitude grows.

Be Mindful Together

A few years ago, our family started a gratitude journal. During dinner, we share what we're thankful for, and I write it in our book. The practice has prompted us to be more mindful of our blessings and look for the good in every situation. We've also become more compassionate to and grateful for each other as we discuss our day.

Write Thank You Notes

There's something special about receiving a thoughtful handwritten thank you note. These notes are also effective tools that foster gratitude in our kids. My girls know that they will have to write a note to everyone who gives them a holiday or birthday gift. They also write notes to thank teachers, coaches, and other adult influencers as they demonstrate their gratitude.

As parents, caregivers, and teachers, we can foster an attitude of gratitude in our children in these seven ways. Our efforts can help our kids become more grateful now and into the future. How do you teach your kids to be thankful?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

It's Game and Puzzle Week! Here are 7 Benefits of Playing Board Games for Kids

Photo by Daniel Giovanni (Flickr)

Playing board games with my siblings on cold, snowy days is one of my favorite childhood memories. I learned so many skills as we played, and my siblings and I still play games when we get together. I want my girls to make similar memories with each other. That's why we filled one of our playroom cabinets with games in preparation for a game night with our friends in celebration of Game and Puzzle Week, observed the third week of November. I invite you to join us as you teach your kids important skills and have fun.

Bond as a Family

With our busy schedules, my girls and I sometimes feel very disconnected from each other. That's why we schedule a weekly game night. It's intentional time we set aside to connect with each other and bond.

Cultivate Social Skills

Most of our favorite board games require at least two people to play, but we parents, caregivers, and teachers all know that conflict can happen when kids play together. I see board games as an opportunity to help kids cultivate social skills. My girls have learned to take turns, share, and stay in their own personal space thanks to board games.

Improve Focus and Attention

As toddlers, my girls could only sit still for a few minutes as we played games. I knew, though, that their attention span would increase with practice, so we kept playing fun, exciting, and engaging games. Now they like to challenge me to marathon sessions of Monopoly and other games, and they can focus and pay attention as they read books, take tests, and complete chores.

Develop Strategy and the Ability to Think Ahead

My grandfather taught me to play chess. It took me a long time to learn how to strategize and think through my moves, and I never did beat him, but I'm grateful for those lessons. I've introduced my girls to chess and other complex games, too, so they can learn to develop strategy and work on thinking ahead. With these skills, our kids can think beyond the current moment, plan ahead, follow multi-step directions, and become leaders in school and life.

Learn Better Communication Skills

One day, I watched my girls play a board game and realized that they communicate a lot as they play. They started by discussing which game to play. Then, they decided who would go first, showed compassion and empathy when they sent each other back to home, and read nonverbal cues. In a safe environment as they play, our kids learn how to communicate better with others.

Become a Good Sport

It's natural for kids to want to win all the time, and they may even cheat or trash-talk their opponent. I support adapting a game's rules so it's not too hard for young kids, but we must also teach our kids to have fun, play by the rules, and be kind whether they win or lose. We can use board games to achieve these goals and help our kids become good sports.

Prepare for School

Playing board games taught my toddlers dozens of skills they needed to know for success in school. To name a few, they learned letters, numbers, grouping, counting, visual perception, color recognition, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity. Even now, we reinforce important concepts my girls use in school every day when we play games, and we have fun as we learn.

It's Game and Puzzle Week, and my girls and I plan to celebrate with game night. We'll have fun together and gain these seven benefits. How do your family's favorite board games benefit your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

10 Unique and Fun Writing Prompts for Kids to Celebrate NaNoWriMo!

Photo by David Kessler (Flickr)

Started in 1999, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) gives writers the encouragement to pen 50,000 words during the month of November. I admire the novelists who participate in NaNoWriMo, and this year, I decided to get my girls involved. Here are ten unique and fun writing prompts we can use to help our kids celebrate NaNoWriMo, whether or not they're up for the challenge of trying to write a full novel.

A talking cat and dog visit a farm. What do they see, think, experience, and say?

My girls often imagine what animals would say if they could talk. Now, they can put their imaginative thoughts onto paper with a prompt that also encourages them to consider animal behavior and develop empathy.

What would your day be like if you were a snowflake?

Our kids can tap into their creativity and explore science, geography, and weather as they complete this adventurous and fun writing prompt.

Write a story, poem, or song about three random objects you see in the room right now.

It's easy to connect related items like pizza, a plate, and cheese, but our kids get to think outside of the box when they connect random objects like paper, shoes, and a trumpet. In addition to creativity, this prompt helps kids explore different types of writing styles, since they can write a story, poem, or song about their chosen objects.

What would you do if you could become invisible whenever you wanted?

Our kids can explore their interests, values, and imagination as they reply to this writing prompt. As a twist, we could challenge kids to write about how other people would respond to their ability to become invisible.

If you could do anything you wanted for an entire day, what would you do and why?

Sometimes, when my girls feel discouraged, sad, or upset, I ask them to think about their dream day. They have fun thinking about all of their favorite things, and in no time, they feel better. This prompt also helps my girls examine the interests that make them unique.

Write an ad for your favorite food, book, or game.

When writing an ad, our kids practice summarizing and persuading. Writing ads also helps our kids recognize the elements of sales pitches and become more discerning shoppers.

Pretend you're the king or queen of an underwater world and write about your day.

Our kids can research ocean life and learn more about the animals and plants that live in the water when they plan their day as an underwater ruler. As a bonus, we can use this prompt to help our kids discern what kind of leader they would want to be and what values they appreciate in the teachers, parents, coaches, and leaders in their life.

Rewrite the ending of your favorite movie. What would you change and why?

My girls each have a favorite movie they can recite by heart. I like this prompt because it challenges them to rethink the ending and choose a different path for their favorite characters as they tell a story. It also invites "what/if" conversations that help them think through consequences of actions, an important life skill.

What would you think, feel, and experience if you looked up and saw ice pops raining from the sky?

In addition to creativity, our kids can express their imaginations and think about their feelings when they face unexpected circumstances. This exercise also expands their writing talents and their emotional expression.

Write a letter to your future self to read in ten years.

Despite their biological age, my girls often show wisdom beyond their years. Writing a letter to their future selves gives our kids an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, and dreams, and it's good letter-writing practice.

Our kids need to know how to write. Let's encourage them to develop this skill with these ten writing prompts. As a bonus, they can celebrate NaNoWriMo and gather a greater appreciation for writing. What other prompts would you suggest?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, November 2, 2018

10 Tips for Preparing Your Child to Hike Their First Mountain!

Photo by Vasile Cotovanu (Flickr)

After months of prep, my girls and I are finally ready for a big adventure. We're planning our first mountain hike! We're all excited about reaching this milestone, but we've had to work really hard. I used these ten tips to prepare my girls to reach their first mountain summit successfully and happily.

Build Your Endurance

I know we can't just wake up one day and easily walk to the top of a mountain. Instead, we have to build endurance. We did that by walking every day until we successfully completed several day hikes. I now know that my girls are ready to persevere during our mountain hike.

Choose an Entertaining Trail

My girls typically get more enjoyment from hikes that feature lots of scenery. They want to enjoy the journey and see waterfalls, streams, and wildlife on the way to their destination. For this reason, I let them research possible mountain trails and choose the one that will be the most entertaining.

Dress in Layers

Temperatures can drop quickly as we reach higher altitudes, so we plan to dress in layers. With non-cotton layers close to our skin and water-resistant outer layers, we'll stay dry and warm. I also insist that my girls try on all of their hiking clothes before our adventure to make sure everything fits and feels comfortable.

Break in Your Hiking Shoes

We know that our hiking boots can make or break our mountain adventure. That's why we picked out shoes that feature sturdy soles and ankle support. Also, we wore them hiking several times to prevent blisters and other discomforts when we hit the mountain.

Pack Healthy, Nutritious Snacks

Hiking is hard work! To keep up our energy, we will pack trail mix, dried fruit, and granola. As a bonus, these snacks are easy to carry.

Carry Enough Water

Our bodies need about one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. My girls and I already use hydration packs, and we'll each carry flexible water bottles so we can stay hydrated throughout our adventure.

Take the Right Pack

During our day hikes, I make my girls carry a pack that's the right size for their body height. They only carry 10 percent of their body weight, and we evenly distribute those items so all of the weight's not at the top, bottom, or one of the sides. I also ensure that my girls each have food and protective gear in their bags in case we get separated.

Protect Yourself in Any Weather

Even though I check the weather forecast multiple times before each hike, I pack enough protection for any weather. It's especially common for the weather to change rapidly on a mountain, so my girls know that we'll pack water-repellent clothing, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, gloves, and a lightweight jacket for protection.

Stay Motivated

Hiking a mountain can be very different and harder than hiking a flat trail. My girls have built up their endurance, but I'll also bring several games and activities so my girls stay motivated to push through hard hills or rough terrain. We might look for different colors, identify bird calls, or practice walking like animals as we reach the summit and have fun.

Prepare for Anything

An unexpected storm, wrong turn, or medical event can affect the outcome of any hike, but it's especially important to be prepared while climbing a mountain. We picked out safety gear like a compass, map, whistle, and first aid kit, and I taught my girls how to use each item just in case.

Before my girls and I tackle our first mountain hike, we want to make sure we're prepared. So far, we've implemented these tips to ensure we remain happy as we succeed on our first mountain hiking adventure. What other training or preparation ideas do you suggest?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

15 Trick-Or-Treating Safety Tips for a Happy, Healthy Halloween

Photo by Tzuhsun Hsu (Flickr)

Trick-or-treat night is an event my girls anticipate all year. They spend months crafting the perfect DIY costumes and dream about all the candy they'll get. Halloween can be dangerous for kids, though. That's why my family implements 15 safety tips as we enjoy a happy and healthy evening.

Wear a Costume That Fits

One year, my daughter wore a princess gown that was too long. She tripped several times, and we learned a valuable lesson. Now, we try on costumes and make any alterations before trick-or-treat night.

Choose Safe Accessories

Some costumes need accessories like flowing wigs, long swords, or oversized shoes. We can keep our kids safe with accessories that fit properly, are flame-resistant, don't have sharp points, and are free of other hazards.

Ensure Visibility

I'm a big fan of masks. This costume element can make or break trick-or-treating! However, we always pick masks with enlarged eye, nose, and mouth openings so my girls can see clearly as they walk around town.

Apply Safe Face Paint and Makeup

Face paint and makeup can be a safe alternative to masks, since they don't hinder visibility. I always look for nontoxic face paint and makeup and test a small amount on my girls' wrists to ensure they aren't allergic. We also remove all face paint and makeup before bed.

Wear Reflective Elements

Reflective tape makes our kids more visible to other Halloween celebrants and drivers during nighttime trick-or-treating. For this reason, we add reflectors to our costumes, shoes, and candy pails.

Carry a Flashlight

A flashlight is a mandatory costume accessory for my girls. They rely on their flashlights any time they can't see clearly.

Be Smart When Using Electronic Devices

My kids carry a cellphone for emergencies or to take cute pictures with their friends. But they know that their phones stay in their pockets as they walk so they don't get distracted and trip or fall.

Visit Well-Lit Houses

To make sure my kids can see where they're walking and are seen by others, I instruct them to only visit houses with well-lit sidewalks, paths, stairs, and porches.

Remain on the Sidewalk

Every year, I see excited trick-or-treaters walk on private lawns or even dart into the street. I tell my girls to stay on the sidewalk where they'll be safe.

Pay Attention

Instead of checking out their candy baskets or looking around, I encourage my girls to pay attention to their surroundings. I want them to avoid obstacles and hazards throughout the evening.

Cross the Street Properly

To maximize their candy haul, my girls sometimes zigzag across the street. Before Halloween, we practice using crosswalks. My girls know they should wait for the walk signal and look both ways before they cross the street.

Avoid Strangers

I know my girls will encounter strangers as they celebrate Halloween, but they also exercise caution. They only walk with kids or adults they know and never go into anyone's home or accept rides from strangers.

Stay Alert for Cars

The excitement of trick-or-treating can cause kids to act in unpredictable ways. They must remain alert and watch out for cars as they navigate busy neighborhoods on Halloween.

Provide Adequate Supervision

For years, my girls begged me to let them trick-or-treat with friends instead of with me. I insisted that they wait for group trick-or-treating until they turned 12 and then stay in well-lit and familiar areas to improve safety as they have fun.

Check Candy Carefully

I'm usually a trusting person, but I know the realities of our day and age. That's why I instruct my girls to let me inspect their candy before they eat even one piece. I toss anything that's homemade, unwrapped, or unsealed and remove any candy that's a choking hazard.

This year, my girls are as excited as ever about trick-or-treating. We'll follow these 15 safety tips to ensure the evening is happy and safe. How do you keep Halloween safe for your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, October 26, 2018

10 Reasons to Reduce Meat During National Vegetarian Month

Photo by Kinshuk Kashyap (Flickr)

Although my girls and I like to eat meat, we're participating in National Vegetarian Month this October. We did a bit of research and found ten compelling reasons to go vegetarian and reduce our meat consumption this month. This list might motivate your family to embrace a vegetarian diet in October, too.

Live Longer

Vegetarians outlive meat-eaters and are less likely to die from chronic diseases. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthy nutrients in plants contribute to longevity. By eating more plants, we can slow the aging process, reverse some chronic diseases, and strengthen our immune systems.

Reduce Heart Disease Risk

By consuming a vegetarian diet, we could reverse coronary heart disease and lower our risk of dying from heart disease. That's because plants are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the major contributors to heart disease.

Prevent Certain Cancers

Eating a vegetarian diet may not reduce every cancer risk. However, we can reduce our risk of developing certain cancers when we boost the amount of plants and vegetables we eat.

Lose Weight

In general, vegetarians have a lower BMI than people who consume meat. Plants and vegetables are rich in fiber, which can help us lose weight. Also, I notice that my girls and I tend to eat less junk or processed foods when we load our meal and snack plates with fruits and vegetables.

Help Fight Global Warming

The carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide generated by livestock contribute more greenhouse gases to the environment than all the vehicles in the world, according to a 2006 United Nations report. As parents, caregivers, and teachers, we can encourage our kids to reduce meat consumption and eat more plants and vegetables as we cut global warming and preserve the environment for our benefit and to help future generations.

Protect Animals

Overfished oceans, penned livestock, and other insensitivities affect the animals we eat. When my girls realized this fact, they decided to exercise compassion to animals through vegetarianism.

Stop World Hunger

Every 3.6 seconds, a human dies from starvation. Eating meat contributes to this concern because cattle consume grain that could be used to feed up to four billion humans. Let's eat more plants and boost the amount of grain available to our fellow men, women, and children.

Save Money

If you're like me and try to save money, go vegetarian. We can reduce our doctor visits and medical bills, enjoy a healthier lifestyle, and even boost our energy levels and productivity at work when we eat a healthier diet.

Grow Your Own Food

My girls and I read labels on the foods we buy at the grocery store because we want to know the origins of our food and ensure that we don't consume contaminants, hormones, and pesticides. We can take this interest a step further by growing our own fruits and vegetables. Gardening is fun, and we can bond as a family as we plant, nurture, and harvest our snacks and meals. Plus, we can guarantee that the food we grow is safe to eat when we follow it from seed to table.

Embark on a Family Adventure

I've cooked a few vegetarian dishes for my family over the years, but eating this diet every day in October is a new adventure. My girls and I are all excited to experiment in the kitchen together and engage our taste buds with new fruits and vegetables.

This October, my family is eating like vegetarians for ten compelling reasons. We invite your family to join us! Even if you can't embrace vegetarianism for a whole month, consider reducing meat and boosting fruits and veggies on your plate as much as possible. Will you join us in celebrating National Vegetarian Month?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart