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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

10 Simple Ways to Get More Steps Daily

Photo by JustyCinMD (Flickr)

To celebrate American Heart Month this month, my girls and I decided to walk more. We're already fairly active, but we want to increase our physical activity because sitting too much can increase our risk of developing high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. Fitbit recommends that we walk 10,000 steps each day, the equivalent of five miles or 30 minutes, and we're going to try to meet this goal in 10 simple ways.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

The type of shoes I wear definitely affects my activity level during the day. If I grab cute but uncomfortable shoes, I tend to walk less, but watch out world if I wear sneakers! The right walking shoes have the power to keep me moving, so I will commit to wearing comfortable shoes as often as possible.

Park Far Away

I confess that I sometimes drive around the parking lot until I find a close parking spot, but I'm going to start parking at least a few blocks away on purpose. My girls agreed that we need to park farther away from stores when we do errands, too, so we can improve our step total.

Use the Stairs

The elevator quickly carries me to my office, but I plan to use the stairs from now on. I can also take the stairs to use the restroom on a different floor to I boost my step count.

Schedule Walk Breaks

I usually spend my lunch break checking social media or reading a magazine, but I want to use that time to walk instead. Even better, I plan to set hourly alarms on my phone to remind myself to get up and walk around.

Fire People Who Walk for You

Your housekeeper, lawn-mower, and dog-walker essentially walk for you as they work around your home. If you hire people to take on these chores, consider doing these tasks yourself so you can add more steps to your daily routine.

Walk to Relieve Stress

Eating chocolate, binge-watching TV, and hanging out online often help me cope with stress, but these habits don't improve my health. Instead, I want to walk and enjoy the quiet time, fresh air, and scenery as I relieve stress and meet my daily step goal.


As I make dinner, watch TV, or talk on the phone, I typically stand or sit still. I can add dozens of steps into my day, though, if I multitask by walking while I do these things.

Embrace Inefficiency

If you're like me, you carry all of the grocery bags at once so you only have to make one trip from the car to the house. You may also cart a huge laundry basket upstairs all at once or email colleagues when you have a question because it's faster than walking to their desk. Inefficiency helps me walk more, though, so I will make multiple trips while unloading the car, walk over to see colleagues when I need to talk, and start using a smaller laundry basket. Being inefficient will take more time but is an easy investment in my health that I'm definitely willing to make!

Take a Buddy

Solo walks get boring fast, so my girls suggested that we each bring a friend. While we walk with our buddies, we have so much fun chatting that we forget to feel bored or tired. Plus, our friends keep us accountable and encourage us to walk each day.

Walk a Dog

While we don't have a dog, my girls suggested that we walk our neighbor's pooch before and after school or volunteer to walk our local shelter dogs. This task only takes about 15 minutes, but it's a great way to accumulate steps and do a good deed.

This month, my girls and I plan to celebrate American Heart Month by walking 10,000 steps a day. We'll use these simple ideas to reach our goal. What other tips could we try?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, February 15, 2018

9 Ways That Play Cultivates Compassion and Empathy

Photo by Caitlin Regan (Flickr)

Compassion and empathy improve our ability to interact positively with others. I reflected on these two character traits this week as I watched my girls play with our new neighbors, and I realized that they have both developed more compassion and empathy because of play. Consider these nine ways that play cultivates these two important traits in our kids.

Exposes Kids to the Emotions of Peers

Any time two or more children play together, our kids will see emotional expressions like happiness, anger, jealousy, or disappointment. Through this exposure, our kids can begin to understand the normalcy of feelings and identify the emotions they and their peers experience.

Fosters Emotional Regulation

Kids may understand that they have emotions, but it takes time to learn emotional regulation. Play helps. We parents, caregivers, and teachers can provide play opportunities and guidance as we role-play different scenarios, talk through situations during pretend play, and process emotions and feelings. These play activities equip our kids with self-control and self-regulation skills as they recognize appropriate and inappropriate ways to both express emotions and support peers in a variety of situations.

Puts Kids in Someone Else's Shoes

Pretend play and role-playing encourage children to transform into someone else's persona, character, or role. When my girls pretend to be a teacher, cashier, or astronaut, they discover what it's like to live in someone else's shoes, and they begin to develop empathy, which gives them a better perspective when they spend time with family members and peers in real life.

Develops a Cooperative Spirit

While playing soccer, riding bikes, or modeling clay together, kids begin to understand concepts like sharing, communication, and teamwork. They need this cooperative spirit to understand and appreciate others.

Builds Social Skills

Waiting in line, constructive play, and sports help our kids develop social skills. They learn how to be patient, wait their turn, share, negotiate, and recognize and read body language. With these social skills, our kids better understand how to relate to others and enjoy improved real-life relationships.

Improves Conflict Resolution

Conflict remains part of life, so encourage kids to play and improve their problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. Now that my girls are older, I often let them work through disagreements about which game to play or who gets the ball first because I want them to understand how to respect others and remain calm and kind as they resolve differences.

Addresses Trauma

One of our new neighbors doesn't talk much because of trauma from a recent accident, but I've already seen her open up a bit to my younger daughter as they draw, play with dolls, and run around the house. Play provides a safe haven for kids, allows them to be themselves, and provides a space where they can begin to address trauma and work through deep emotions. Eventually, this hard work equips kids to be more compassionate and empathetic to others.

Stimulates Creativity

When one of our new friends tripped during hopscotch, my older daughter tried to help, but he pushed her away. I watched her regroup, find a ball, and invite him to play. Her creative approach opened the door to a deeper relationship, and I feel grateful that kids develop this skill through play. As children explore different outcomes during constructive play, experiment with colors while painting, and brainstorm ideas during free play, they stimulate their creativity and imagination, skills they use to build relationships and meet the needs of the people around them.

Teaches Inclusion

Kids receive opportunities to include everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or ability as they play. We can help our kids learn to wait for a slower runner to catch up as they play tag, choose to play inclusive games with their disabled friends, and see beyond skin color as they take turns on the slide. Through play, our kids learn to respect differences, include everyone, and value all life.

Thanks to play, I've watched my girls cultivate compassion and empathy, two essential skills for life success. How have you seen play help your kids become more compassionate and empathetic?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart