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Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Encourage Your Children to Eat More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Photo by RubyDW (Flickr)

I love having my girls home for summer vacation, but like most parents I know, I find it hard to keep up with their growing appetites and make the time to cook healthy meals. One thing I can do is ensure that they eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially during June, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. Because these foods build strong bodies, reduce obesity, and improve school performance, the American Heart Association recommends that kids eat one to two cups of fruit and three-quarters of a cup to three cups of vegetables each day, depending on their age. I plan to use several strategies to boost my girls' fruit and veggie intake in June and all summer.

Visit Local Farmers' Markets

Our community hosts a weekly farmers' market that's part of our shopping routine. I want my girls to know where their produce comes from, and I can use these trips to teach them how to pick produce that's ripe and delicious.

Grow a Garden

My girls always enthusiastically eat the produce they grow themselves. They feel proud of their accomplishments and want to enjoy their hard-earned harvest. Plus, fruits and vegetables taste better when they're eaten within minutes of being picked.

Cook Together

As often as possible, I ask my girls to help in the kitchen. They learn invaluable life skills as we have fun, plus they're more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they prepare.

Prepare Vegetarian Dishes

Last week, I made vegetarian lasagna, and my girls loved it! This success prompted me to add even more vegetarian dishes to our menu as we boost our veggie intake with flavorful food.

Serve Salads

Every weekend, I chop a variety of vegetables for our daily dinner salad and let my girls pick at least one other kid-friendly salad to make. My girls enjoy customizing their daily salad with whatever veggies they feel like eating, and we use healthy citrus juice to top them instead of high-fat dressings.

Season Bitter Vegetables

Despite their health benefits, broccoli, kale, and other bitter vegetables aren't appealing to kids. I toss a little butter, coconut oil, salt, or herbs on these foods to make them more appealing to my kids.

Offer Fruits and Veggies as Snacks

After a busy day of summer fun, my girls feel so hungry that they'll eat anything in sight. That's why I prep plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and place them on the counter or in plain sight in our fridge.

Phase Out High-Calorie and Sugary Snacks

I admit that my girls like eating cookies, candy, and chips, but I limit high-calorie and sugary foods to special occasions. I want my girls to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit and gain all of the health benefits of these real foods.

Make Dips

Dunking fruits and vegetables into yummy dips adds fun to snacks and meals. In addition to using low-fat ranch dressing, I mix spices or fresh fruit puree into Greek yogurt, serve hummus, and make other healthy dips for my girls.

Get Creative

While my girls will grab a whole apple or carrot sticks, they prefer fun fruit and veggie displays. We assemble kebabs, make smoothies, and build edible arrangements. These and other creative displays encourage my kids to have fun as they consume their recommended daily fruit and veggie servings.

Mix it Up

Everyone knows that eating the same foods every day is boring, so I offer my girls a variety of fruit and vegetable choices. In addition to serving fruits and veggies in different textures and forms, I freeze grapes, puree fruits and veggies for smoothies, and dehydrate blueberries and kale.

Give Kids Control

Usually, I let my girls pick the fruits and vegetables they eat, and they help plan our weekly menu. They feel empowered and are more likely to eat healthy foods when they have a say in what they eat.

Be a Role Model

We know that kids model what they see, so I add fruit to my morning cereal, pack veggies for my lunch, and fill my dinner plate at least half full with vegetables. My daily food choices encourage my girls to also embrace a balanced and healthy diet.

During National Fruit and Vegetables Month, I will use these tips to encourage my girls to eat more fruits and veggies. Not only will they consume a healthier diet, but I'll also reinforce healthy habits that last a lifetime. What other tips do you suggest for increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables our kids eat?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

9 Benefits of Playing on Swings for Children

Photo by tanakawho (Flickr)

There's no other feeling in the world quite like swinging. From the moment we sit down on the swing until we feel ourselves flying through the air as we cling with all our might to the swing's chain, the experience is invigorating and exhilarating. While I loved the swings as a kid, I also love swinging now and encourage my girls to engage in this activity as often as possible, since I know that kids also gain important benefits when they swing.

Swinging Prompts Sensory Integration

The acts of balancing on the seat, pumping their legs, and holding onto the chains as they swing prompt sensory integration development. With sensory integration, our kids' brains can better organize and interpret information, and it lays the groundwork for them to learn and develop more complicated academic, social, and emotional behaviors later in life.

Swinging Stimulates the Brain

The motion of swinging stimulates several different parts of the brain at the same time. These interconnected brain pathways then assist our kids with rhythm, muscle control, and focus.

Swinging Builds Spatial Awareness

As kids decide where to sit on the swing so they don't fall off and balance their bodies as they swing, they build spatial awareness skills. These skills equip our kids to navigate their environment successfully as they differentiate right, left, up, and down, avoid obstacles as they walk, and understand math, science, and other concepts.

Swinging Improves Gross Motor Skills

Our kids walk, run, and jump thanks to their gross motor skills. Swinging can boost your child's gross motor skills as they pump their legs and strengthen their bodies.

Swinging Develops Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills enable our kids to button buttons, hold a pencil, and cut with scissors. Gripping and holding onto the swing chains develops the hand, finger, and arm coordination that's essential for our kids' fine motor skill development.

Swinging Strengthens the Core

I want my girls to have a strong body core, the muscles around their trunk and pelvis, because these muscles are responsible for stability and balance. Plus, a strong core reduces injuries. The repetitive motions of swinging strengthen our kids' cores and give them strong bodies.

Swinging Calms Kids

When my girls were babies, I often took them swinging. The rhythmic motion calmed and relaxed them. Even now, we will take a swing break when we feel frustrated, angry, or stressed, and I can see my girls instantly relax.

Swinging Encourages Social Interaction

Every time we visit the park, at least one other kid wants to swing, so my girls get to make new friends and practice taking turns, sharing, and making small talk. These interactions boost their social skills and prepare them for future social situations.

Swinging Promotes Fun

Swinging is one of the most fun activities on the playground, in my opinion, and my girls agree. They could swing forever and enjoy the time we get to spend together on the swings.

Swinging has always been one of my favorite playground activities. It offers many benefits to our kids, which makes it an important activity for them, too. Will you join my girls and I and go swinging today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, June 15, 2018

25 Inspirational Quotes to Celebrate International Yoga Day

Photo by Dave Rosenblum (Flickr)

If you've ever done yoga, you know it involves more than headstands and other challenging poses. It's a beneficial activity that strengthens our bodies, enriches our minds, and prompts relaxation. My girls and I do yoga regularly because it helps us stay physically, mentally, and emotionally strong, and we invite you and your kids to join us as we participate in International Yoga Day on June 21. In celebration, I compiled 25 of my favorite inspirational yoga quotes. Hopefully, they will encourage and motivate you in your yoga journey.

  1. "Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga." (Baron Baptiste)
  2. "There will always be people who can do it better than you, but that's a good thing! Start to see competition as inspiration, without envy." (Kathryn Budig)
  3. "Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are." (Jason Crandell)
  4. "The ultimate goal of yoga is to always observe things accurately and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later." (T.K.V. Desikachar)
  5. "You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state." (Sharon Gannon)
  6. "Yoga is not a workout, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable, to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are." (Rolf Gates)
  7. "Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self." (the Bhagavad Gita)
  8. "Yoga is not about touching your toes; it's about what you learn on the way down." (Jigar Gor)
  9. "If I'm losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and not just in yoga." (Terri Guillemets)
  10. "A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves." (Terri Guillemets)
  11. "Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes." (Thich Nhat Hanh)
  12. "Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim; the better your practice, the brighter your flame." (B.K.S. Iyengar)
  13. "The very heart of yoga practice is abhyasa, steady effort in the direction you want to go." (Sally Kempton)
  14. "Yoga is a dance between control and surrender, between pushing and letting go, and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being." (Joel Kramer)
  15. "One of the fundamental principles of yoga: A small action done repeatedly can make an enormous difference." (Dr. Timothy McCall)
  16. "The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness." (Sakyong Mipham)
  17. "Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga, you can write your poetry of movements." (Amit Ray)
  18. "Yoga means addition: addition of energy, strength, and beauty to body, mind, and soul." (Amit Ray)
  19. "It is not arrogant or egotistical to feel good inside. You had nothing to do with it. It's simply the honest response to clearly perceived reality." (Erich Schiffmann)
  20. "Yoga begins right where I am, not where I was yesterday or where I long to be." (Linda Sparrowe)
  21. "Remember, it doesn't matter how deep into a posture you go. What does matter is who you are when you get there." (Max Storm)
  22. "Anyone who practices can obtain success in yoga, but not one who is lazy. Constant practice alone is the secret of success." (Svatmarama)
  23. "Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel." (Kevin Trudeau)
  24. "Your soul is your best friend. Treat it with care; nurture it with growth; feed it with love." (Ashourina Yalda)
  25. "Yoga is really trying to liberate us from … shame about our bodies. To love your body is a very important thing: I think the health of your mind depends on your being able to love your body." (Rodney Yee)

These 25 inspirational yoga quotes encourage and motivate me to practice this activity consistently. I hope they inspire you to join us in celebrating International Yoga Day on June 21 this year.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, June 7, 2018

9 Ways to Encourage Learning Throughout the Whole Summer

Photo by JON_CF (Flickr)

While my girls feel excited that school's almost over for the year, I plan to encourage them to keep learning throughout the summer. I can hear them groaning right now, but kids who don't continue to learn over the summer score lower on standardized tests and could lose up to two months of reading and math skills. For these reasons, I found nine fun ways for my girls to engage in learning as they stay active and have fun this summer.

Play

All forms of play help kids learn while they have fun. I plan to give my girls opportunities for free play, and we'll build block castles, ride bikes, and play ball together.

Swim

Water plays a big role in our summer fun. Swimming in the community pool does more than entertain my girls and teach them water safety, though. They also learn to set goals as they develop their swimming skills, practice their social skills, and get physical exercise. All of these benefits can translate into success when school starts again.

Hike

I'm always amazed at the education we receive when we hike. Thanks to books and the Internet, we discover details about science, wildlife, topography, plants, and birds we see while enjoying the great outdoors. As a bonus, the physical activity helps us retain all the fun facts we learn and observe.

Read

Our local library sponsors a summer reading program for kids of all ages, and my girls will definitely participate this year. Usually, they get to pick the books they read, but I also have a few age-appropriate classics I want to introduce them to this year. Reading engages their mind, teaches them facts, and is fun.

Explore a Favorite Topic

One of my girls is obsessed with soccer, so I will challenge her to learn more about the sport and her favorite players. She's already eager to explore the origins of the game, the geography of countries where soccer is popular, and details about playing technique. Your child will also learn and have fun whether they study and explore cars, Pokemon, or cupcakes.

Enjoy Crafts

I wish we could spend all summer outside, but I have several craft projects lined up for rainy days. We'll make bubbles, create clay art, and paint. As my girls enjoy craft activities, they also develop their self-esteem, self-regulation, problem-solving, and creativity skills.

Visit Local Museums

We already decided to visit several local museums this summer. I plan to connect the art, artifacts, and textiles we see with information my girls learned in school. We'll also have fun with a scavenger hunt as we find different colors, shapes, and objects.

Volunteer

I know the value of knowledge, but skills like compassion and empathy are also important, which is why we will volunteer this summer. So far, we're set to babysit for a neighbor, help with games at a kids camp, and pet-sit for a friend. These and other acts of service can help my girls discover the value of helping others as they hone important life skills.

Create a Summer Adventure Journal

Each summer, we create a journal so my girls can remember all of the fun activities we enjoyed together. Each girl takes turns writing about our daily activities, which helps them practice writing essays. They include pictures and drawings, too, as they record our summer adventures.

This summer, my girls will keep learning as they have fun and stay active. So far, we plan to engage in these nine activities. In what other fun ways do you encourage your kids to learn throughout the whole summer?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Sunday, June 3, 2018

9 Playful Family Staycation Ideas That Are Fun and Active!

As a family, we make time for an annual summer vacation because my girls and I need to reconnect, relax, and unwind. We don't always travel far away, though. Often, we stick close to home and enjoy a staycation. Over the years, I've collected dozens of playful staycation ideas, including these nine favorites that help families have fun and stay active together during the summer break.

Attend Local Festivals and Fairs

Many towns host summer festivals and fairs, often with free admission and plenty of unique activities. We check our local newspaper, browse community bulletin boards, and search online to ensure that we schedule these fun events on our summer calendar.

Enjoy an Active Picnic

During summertime picnics, my girls and I enjoy eating yummy food and relaxing together, but first, we work up an appetite. We may ride our bikes to the park, play on the disc golf course, or hike to a secluded picnic spot. The physical activity rejuvenates us and is fun.

Visit a Hands-On Museum

Several children's museums in our town feature interactive exhibits that welcome my girls to play. I like to join them and explore the exhibits, take photos, and learn as we have fun. If money's an issue, check for coupons online that make this staycation affordable.

Do a Park Hop

We're big playground fans, but we usually frequent only a few local parks. Summer provides us with the perfect opportunity to check out different parks and playgrounds, including those with water features or a petting zoo.

Organize a Progressive Neighborhood Dinner

A few years ago, I asked our neighbors to participate in a progressive dinner, and it's become an annual summer tradition. Each family prepares a different course or type of food and plans a backyard game or activity, such as basketball, cornhole, or the limbo. As we walk through the neighborhood, we spend an enjoyable evening playing, laughing, eating, and bonding with our neighbors.

Plan a Craft Day

Spending the day creating art allows us to unleash our inner child while having fun together. Last year, we took a photography class at the library, and this year, we signed up for a painting class at our local rec center. We enjoy creating unique mementos of our summer break, and of course, it's fun to get messy!

Go Camping

Whether we rent a cabin at a nearby campground, assemble a tent in our backyard, or set up a makeshift campsite indoors, camping helps our family relax and unwind. We turn off electronics, go geocaching, take a walk, play cards, tell stories, and roast marshmallows while engaging in this fun and active summertime tradition.

Play the Tourist

My girls and I are adventurous, but I realized a few years ago that we were missing out on adventures right in our hometown. That's why we browse guidebooks, research online, and check out our visitors' bureau for ideas for unique local experiences, such as museums, landmarks, restaurants, and attractions. Then, we play tourist, sometimes even taking the bus or a cab to our destination.

Make a Movie

One of my daughters likes live theater and decided to write an adventure movie script for our family to perform this summer. We'll assemble the props, make the costumes, and record our performance. Other years, we've edited our existing family videos, recorded a "day in the life" of our family, and participated in a summer theater class.

This summer, our family will enjoy a playful staycation thanks to these nine ideas. We're looking forward to having fun and staying active close to home. What staycation ideas does your family enjoy?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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