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Monday, July 30, 2018

9 Safety Tips for Playing and Hiking in the Heat for Children and Pets

Photo by Gordon (Flickr)

During our hike last weekend, my girls and I met up with a family and their three dogs. As we walked, we talked about the hot weather and swapped tips for keeping our kids and pets safe as they play outdoors during the summer. My favorite nine tips can help you keep your kids and pets safe as you hike and play this summer, too.

Check the Temperature

Playground equipment, pavement, and surfaces like black safety mats can exceed 140 degrees even if the outdoor temperature is only in the 80s. Before you let your kids or pets walk or play outside, touch the surface with the back of your hand. Choose a different activity if the surface temperature is unsafe for your loved ones.

Stay Hydrated

Every time we head outside to hike or play, we overestimate the amount of water to bring. I definitely don't want to become dehydrated or develop heat cramps, exhaustion, or stroke in the hot sun! Ideally, we bring one liter of water per person for a moderate two-hour hike. To carry this essential hydration, my girls prefer hydration packs instead of bulky, heavy bottles, and I recommend bringing a portable water dish for furry friends.

Apply Sunscreen

My younger daughter has fair skin, and she can get a severe sunburn even on cloudy days. However, we all generously slather on the lip balm and sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outside and again after we've been out for an hour or so or sooner if we're sweating or playing in the water. With adequate sunscreen, we're less likely to get an uncomfortable sunburn as we protect our skin from damage.

Wear the Right Clothes

While my girls prefer wearing shorts and tank tops to stay cool during the summer, these clothing choices aren't protective as they play outdoors. I typically ask them to wear a synthetic fiber or linen wicking layer next to their skin, followed by loose, vented, and breathable white, tan, khaki, or other light-colored shirts and shorts or pants. I also stock their closets with UPF-rated clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses that offer extra protection during outdoor hikes and play time.

Choose Supportive Shoes

Everyone in my family likes wearing flip-flops, and while this shoe option is great for lounging at home, it's not the best choice for hiking or active outdoor play. Instead, I suggest sturdy hiking or tennis shoes. They support my kiddos' feet and protect them from burns as they play. We wear wool or synthetic socks that fit properly, too, as we keep our feet dry and reduce uncomfortable blisters or pressure points.

Play With Water

Hiking near a stream, playing backyard water games, or visiting a water park or the community pool helps our kids and pets stay cool and have fun. My daughters also like wearing neck gaiters during hikes because the evaporating water keeps them cool.

Look for Shade

One of our local playgrounds features tons of shade, and that's my girls' favorite summer play spot. However, we also like hiking on shady routes where we appreciate the scenery and cooler temperatures.

Avoid Hot Times of Day

When my girls were younger, they napped after lunch, the hottest part of the day. Now that they're older, they often want to head outside after lunch to play. I encourage them to play outdoors early in the morning or later in the day, though, and we've started taking night hikes to prioritize safety without sacrificing fun.

Plan Your Day

Over breakfast each morning, my girls and I review the daily schedule and plan to have fun while playing safely. For example, they may choose to play in a shaded park in the morning, do crafts at home, or hang out in an air-conditioned library, mall, or museum after lunch and meet friends at the pool or for a hike in the evening. A plan helps us avoid hot temperatures while loading our summer with fun activities.

This summer, my girls and I plan to have tons of fun even in hot weather. We follow these nine safety tips that keep us safe. What other safety strategies does your family implement as you keep your kids and pets safe in the heat?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, July 27, 2018

9 Benefits of Climbing For Child Development

Photo by Richard Elzey (Flickr)

As soon as my girls could walk, they also started to climb. They couldn't wait to climb onto their toy rocking horse, the sofa, and me. Today, they enjoy tackling rock walls at our local gym. Have you ever stopped to wonder why kids climb? It's actually fundamental to their development and helps kids in nine ways.

Promotes Healthy Risk

We need to keep our kids safe as they play, but our kids need healthy risks, too. Climbing allows our kids to test their bodies and capabilities, explore their surroundings, and develop confidence. For these reasons, I'm a firm believer in providing climbing opportunities for our children.

Hones Gross and Fine Motor Skills

Our kids use a variety of gross and fine motor skills as they function every day. Their brain, nervous system, and large muscles work together to help them perform gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, and running. Fine motor skills describe precise actions like holding a pencil, closing buttons, and picking up small objects. Our kids hone these motor skills as they climb and navigate obstacles.

Increases Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness describes our understanding of how our bodies move, how shapes relate to each other, and how far we need to stretch to reach an object. With spatial awareness, our kids successfully navigate obstacles as they walk and run, do math problems, and read books. Let's increase our kids' spatial awareness with climbing opportunities.

Develops Hand-Eye Coordination

To get dressed, read, write, cook, or assemble furniture, our kids rely on hand-eye coordination. It describes the way their brain, eyes, and hands work together to equip them to accomplish tasks. Our kids hone this life skill on the climbing wall and jungle gym.

Enhances Problem-Solving Abilities

Climbing is like a puzzle. Our kids analyze the summit, decide what route to take, and follow through on their plan. If they discover along the way that their original path won't work, they rethink their strategy and adjust. Whether our kids climb the sofa as toddlers or tackle rock walls as teens, climbing enhances their ability to solve problems.

Improves Academic Performance

Physical activity improves our kids' memory, concentration, test scores, and behavior, essential skills for successful school performance. If you're like me, you want your kids to succeed in school, and that's why we should encourage our kids to climb.

Builds Confidence and Self-Esteem

I want my girls to feel confident in their ability to meet life's demands. Climbing offers the perfect training ground for them to develop these skills. Once they master small climbing goals like reaching the top of the kiddie sliding board ladder, they're ready to try harder summits. Over time, achieving their goals stretches their confidence, builds their self-esteem, and gives them pride in a job well done.

Boosts Perseverance and Resilience

When my girls face personal, school, or relationship challenges, they need to exercise perseverance and resilience. These character traits reduce stress during trials and help our kids bounce back faster after adversities. If you watch your kids climb, you'll see them develop perseverance and resilience as they make plans, adjust those plans if necessary, manage impulses, follow through on their decisions, and improve their self-image.

Offers a Total-Body Workout

Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and my girls like climbing because it works out their entire body. They use their fingers and forearms to grip the climbing holds, their abs and core to lift their legs, and their entire body to push themselves upward. All of these actions work together to strengthen muscles and build endurance. The cardiovascular workout, flexibility, agility, balance, and leg strength our kids gain from climbing help them play other sports and function better in daily life, too.

Most kids, including my girls, start climbing as soon as they can move. I'm glad because climbing helps our kids develop in nine important ways. What other benefits do your kids gain from climbing?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

7 Benefits of Playing on the Slide for Child Development

Photo by Rachel Coleman (Flickr)

Every time my girls visit the playground, they take at least a few turns down the slide. My kids love the rush they feel as they soar down the slide's surface. While it's fun, the slide also supports child development in many ways. Discover the benefits of the slide as you encourage your kids to play, learn, and grow on the playground.

Promotes Balance

To navigate the slide successfully, our kids must steadily climb the ladder, sit confidently at the top, and release themselves to fly down the chute without falling off. These actions strengthen our kids' balance and stimulate the vestibular apparatus, part of the inner ear that's responsible for equilibrium. With better balance, our kids can stand, bend, walk, and move with confidence as they walk, run, and play.

Increases Strength and Flexibility

When my girls were toddlers and first starting to slide, they only had enough strength to climb a short slide, and they could only reach ladder rungs that were set close together. As they practiced climbing the ladder and sliding, though, they developed more hand, arm, leg, and body strength and flexibility. Now, my kids can tackle bigger slides with ease, and the strength and flexibility they have gained help them avoid injuries and give them confidence as they play sports and walk, run, and move in daily life.

Develops Social Skills

For years, my girls have met new friends during every playground visit. I love watching them develop friendships and social skills, especially as they play around the popular slide. Here, they learn how to take turns, share, and put others first. Plus, they develop awareness of others and learn how to be patient with kids who may move slowly up the slide because of a physical disability. These social skills are invaluable during play now and will be useful for the rest of my kids' lives.

Hones Grip Strength

With strong hands and finger muscles and honed fine motor skills, our kids can grasp a pencil, doorknob, or tools. They develop these skills as they grasp the rungs of the ladder and the sides of the slide. Watch your kids the next time they slide, and see for yourself how sliding hones grip strength.

Boosts Spatial Awareness

As a toddler, my older daughter would always fall on her bottom at the end of the slide. It took her a long time to develop spatial awareness and realize that she needed to put her feet down to stop herself. Spatial awareness does more than help our kids land properly, though. It also helps our kids as they write on paper, complete math problems, and explore science concepts.

Improves Coordination

Climbing the slide's ladder requires our kids' eyes, hands, feet, and legs to work together. Through these actions, their coordination improves, equipping them to move their bodies properly throughout the day as they feed themselves, walk, run, and play.

Fights Obesity

At least 60 minutes of physical activity each day can help our kids maintain a healthy weight. Like most kids, my girls are more eager to get active when they have fun, which is a great reason to use the slide. It's a fun playground activity that keeps our kids moving!

The next time you watch your kids on the slide, remember that this fun activity helps them develop in seven important ways. What other benefits have your kids gained from the slide?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

10 Reasons Why Play and Learning Go Hand in Hand

Photo by davitydave (Flickr)

When we watch our kids play, we think they're simply having fun. However, play helps our kids learn and is essential to their development. Consider these ten reasons why play and learning go hand in hand.

Prepare for School

As preschoolers, my girls honed their counting skills as they stacked block towers, learned shapes and colors while sorting magnets, and improved their concentration and memory while reading books. These lessons gave them a strong foundation when they started school.

Develop Social Skills

My girls enjoy playing alone, but they also shoot hoops, play board games, and jump rope with each other, neighbors, and friends. Through these social games and activities, they learn how to share, negotiate, and handle conflict, social skills that will help them succeed on and off the playground.

Experiment With Cause and Effect

When kids drop a ball, they learn that it bounces. Similarly, they discover that sand stacks better if it's wet and a doll's hair won't grow back after it's cut. These and other playtime examples of cause and effect help kids make important connections in academic, social, and everyday settings.

Learn Safe Practices

While baking cookies, riding bikes, and climbing jungle gyms, my girls learn kitchen safety tips, the importance of wearing a helmet, and how to climb safely. I love that they can use these and other safety skills for years to come.

Discover Unique Abilities and Interests

I introduce my girls to a variety of different playtime activities, such as sports, crafts, and manipulative toys, so they can discover their unique abilities and interests. This knowledge boosts their self-esteem and may even shape their future careers. Those are great outcomes from play!

Reduce Stress

Our kids face increasing demands that increase stress, anxiety, and frustration. Free time to play allows our kids to relax and unwind, and it provides a healthy outlet for emotions. I also appreciate that my girls now realize that they can use play as a coping skill for the rest of their lives.

Gain Body Awareness

When my girls first learned to walk, they stumbled a lot. They had to practice moving, which built their muscle control, balance, and coordination. Play gives kids the same result. Our children learn how their bodies move and discover their bodies' capabilities and limitations as they run, jump, and ride.

Develop Perseverance

My older daughter decided to learn origami last year. At first, she struggled with even basic folds, but she persevered and now creates intricate animals. This example demonstrates how play motivates our kids to develop perseverance as they tackle new challenges and master new skills.

Practice Fine Motor Skills

Building block houses, coloring pictures, and manipulating toy cars require precise movements. This fine motor skill practice equips our kids to feed themselves, tie their own shoes, and hold a pencil.

Hone Creativity and Imagination

I want my girls to think outside the box as they solve problems and navigate life challenges. That's why I encourage them to play. Making up stories to act out, creating dialogue for dolls, and fighting off imaginary dragons in their playground fort hones their creativity and imagination.

The next time you watch your kids play, remember that they're doing more than having fun. They're learning naturally through their playtime activities. In addition to these ten ways, what other ways do you see your kids learn through play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Recess at Work Day: 10 Reasons Why Hard-Working Adults Should Play Hard Too!

Photo by Jason Pratt (Flickr)

On June 19, my company celebrated Recess at Work Day with a party that featured games and other fun activities. The entire team had so much fun playing that we decided to plan more official recess breaks. While many adults associate recess with kids, I'm grateful for our playful company culture because play offers ten important benefits to hard-working adults.

Solve Problems More Creatively

When we play, we exercise our imaginations as we think about what might happen and how we'll deal with those events. For instance, as I play volleyball or a board game, I think about the moves other players will make, and I adjust my actions accordingly. These skills, honed as we play, improve our creativity, reasoning, and problem-solving skills at work.

Improve Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases our risk of heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, 30 minutes of daily aerobic activity and the relaxation that play provides can improve our blood pressure. Let's play more so we can become healthier now and into the future!

Build a Sense of Community

I'm big on team-building events at work because they boost trust, cooperation, and collaboration. Whether we play sports, assemble puzzles, or play cards, play builds our sense of community and connection, making us more successful and fulfilled at work.

Promote Peace

In my daily life, I strive to maintain peace with myself and others. This practice improves my overall physical, emotional, and mental health, boosts relationships, and enhances my workday performance, and I achieve peace through play. As I play with my co-workers, family members, and friends, we have fun, relax, let go of expectations, and bond, allowing us to feel more at peace with ourselves and each other.

Stay Mentally Sharp

Recess activities like playing games, completing puzzles, and participating in physical activities improve our brain health, memory, and thinking skills. This brain boost is why our company placed a jigsaw puzzle table in our break room and added regular volleyball games, yoga classes, and board game tournaments to our schedule.

Maintain Healthy Relationships

A successful work environment depends on healthy relationships between co-workers and clients, and we build and maintain these relationships as we play. Telling jokes, playing games, and having fun together lightens the work atmosphere, diffuses tension, and keeps our relationships healthy.

Reduce Stress

Every adult experiences stress, but playfulness helps us cope better with stressors and reduces our dependence on avoidance or escape strategies. Our playful outlook on life at work and at home gives us the tools we need to cope with stress and navigate stressful situations successfully.

Reduce Burnout

Most of the adults I know use their annual vacation to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate away from the daily grind. That single week off of work isn't always enough to prevent burnout, though. Let's incorporate recess and play into our daily routine as we boost our resiliency, feel rejuvenated, and reduce burnout throughout the year.

Enhance Productivity

We often work smarter and harder when we're having fun. I know I work better after play breaks because they reboot my brain, jump-start my creativity, and boost my productivity when I return to my desk.

Boost Well-Being

When I take time to play, I enjoy life more, stay positive, and feel better overall. That sense of well-being contributes to satisfaction at work and at home, a compelling reason for us to play often.

We hard-working adults gain ten important benefits thanks to play. On Recess at Work Day and every day, let's make time to climb rocks, play video games, or create art. What other ways can we incorporate recess into our workday?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart