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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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It's National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! Top 10 Reasons to Adopt a Dog

Photo by Thomas Lillis IV (Flickr)

Every October, you'll find my girls and me celebrating Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. We visit animal shelters to play with dogs, share the event on social media, and encourage our friends to adopt. If your family has thought about adding a dog to your home, consider 10 reasons you should adopt a dog from a shelter rather than purchase a puppy this month.

Save a Life

Every year, 670,000 shelter dogs are euthanized. You can save one of those dogs and make a big difference in its life when you adopt.

Break the Cycle of Pet Overpopulation

Overpopulation occurs when the number of available pets surpasses the number of pet owners. Adoption can reduce this concern. Also, remember to spay or neuter your new dog and the pets you already own to keep the pet population safe and healthy.

Choose the Right Dog for You

Although my girls really want a dog, we don't have the time or room for a pet right now. However, if you've evaluated your lifestyle and are ready to choose a new pet with a complementary temperament, personality, and needs, visit a shelter. While it's difficult to know how a puppy will act as it grows, shelter staff can often get to know a mature dog's demeanor and help you find a good match for your family.

Add a Healthy Dog to Your Family

Puppies sold by puppy mills or online sellers may be sick or malnourished. Alternatively, dogs cared for in shelters receive medical exams, disease screenings, vaccinations, and a balanced diet. You can adopt a dog from a shelter and have confidence that it will be healthy.

Reduce Adoption Costs

To adopt a puppy, you'll have to pay for its vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping, which is essential to help you find your dog if it ever gets lost. You may also need to purchase obedience and house-training classes. Mature dogs typically have received these services and are already trained. Not only will you save money, but the adoption fees you pay will support the shelter's ongoing rescue efforts.

Adopt a Trained Dog

Many shelter dogs are strays or are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for their pet. They probably are already house-trained and know basic obedience skills, and they may be comfortable around kids and other animals, too. Based on these probabilities, you will generally experience less frustration and save time and money when you adopt an adult dog rather than a puppy.

Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health

Research shows that dog owners gain a variety of health benefits. For example, you and your family can experience less stress and loneliness, lower blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health thanks to your new pet.

Play and Exercise More

Play and exercise are important for the health and well-being of both you and your dog. I love how your entire family can play more while you take walks, play fetch, and run laps with your new furry friend.

Keep Kids Safer

We want to protect our kids, which is a great reason to adopt a mature dog. Now that they're past the excitable puppy stage, they're probably less likely to jump, claw, or yip and can form healthy and protective bonds with your children.

Encourage Others to Adopt

Post selfies with your new pet, introduce your new dog to everyone you meet, and tell your friends about life with your dog. Your excitement and enthusiasm might encourage others to add an adopted dog to their home, too.

This month, consider adopting a shelter dog instead of a puppy. You'll gain many important benefits as you enhance your family life. What other reasons can you think of to add a shelter dog to your home?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Play-Based Learning Sets Children Up for Academic and Personal Success!

Photo by woodleywonderworks (Flickr)

After a long day at school, my girls love to come home and play. They shoot hoops in the driveway, run around the playground, or find a fun activity to enjoy in our playroom. Rather than a waste of time, all this after-school playtime helps them focus better on their homework. Research also shows that play-based learning is important for child development, and it can pave the way for their academic and personal success. Let's advocate for more play in and out of school as we help our kids succeed.

What Is Play-Based Learning?

In most classrooms, our kids experience an academic setting. They sit at a desk, listen to the teacher, then complete worksheets, reading assignments, or other tasks. This setting is valuable for our kids' education, but besides recess, kids in academic environments receive very few opportunities to play.

Play-based learning takes advantage of a child's natural curiosity, creativity, and playful attitude. In a relaxed environment, kids learn as they have fun. With games, music, art, books, activities, objects, materials, and hands-on activities, kids experiment, explore, imagine, and solve problems.

Play-based learning can occur during free play and guided play.

  • Free Play: Kids decide which spontaneous activities they'll engage in. They use their imaginations and creativity to choose games and other play activities that may but don't have to incorporate academic topics like math, reading, and science.
  • Guided Play: Also child-directed, guided play includes intentional guidance from the teacher. For example, the teacher may ask kids to explore a theme from the day's lesson, solve a problem, or hypothesize an outcome as they play with blocks, jump rope, or pretend they're jungle animals. Or teachers may encourage kids to work together as they play, which allows them to develop social skills such as sharing, teamwork, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

Research That Supports Play-Based Learning

You can probably tell by now that I'm a big play-based learning advocate. Part of my passion is supported by documented studies. Research results compiled by the National Association of Elementary School Principals reveal the benefits of play-based learning.

  1. Kids often spontaneously choose to include mathematical concepts as they play. A study conducted by Herb Ginsburg and Kyoung-Hye Seo found that up to half of a preschooler's playtime activities included patterns, shapes, quantities, and other math activities.
  2. Young children who use language during play experience better literacy outcomes in middle school. The connection between play and literacy is proven in a study conducted by the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development.
  3. Play-based learning programs improve long-term outcomes for children. The HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study (PCCS) followed children into young adulthood and found that kids who participated in play-based learning programs performed better academically and committed fewer crimes than kids who were enrolled in rigid instructional programs.
  4. Kids score higher in creativity, industry, and oral expression when they participate in play-based kindergarten classes. A study conducted in Germany followed children until age 10 and helped convince the government to implement more play-based classes.
  5. Engaging in dramatic pretend play with other kids can give children greater comprehension skills and a stronger understanding of written texts. Sara Smilansky discovered this connection as she studied young children.

How to Increase Play-Based Learning Opportunities

While play-based learning is especially important for young children, older kids also benefit. I know both of my girls appreciate opportunities to play in and out of the classroom as they learn.

Here are a few ways we can add more play-based learning opportunities to our kids' academic experiences.

  1. Provide access to a variety of objects and materials.
  2. Encourage kids to experiment.
  3. Incorporate playful, hands-on exercises in the classroom.
  4. Give children opportunities to move around during class.
  5. Increase recess time.
  6. Provide kids with time to unwind and enjoy free play after school.

Our children need play time: It's important for their academic and personal success. Let's encourage our schools to provide additional play opportunities during the day, and let's give our kids time to play at home after school. In what ways do you provide play-based learning opportunities for your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart