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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 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.

Storytelling

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

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