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Monday, December 23, 2019

Unoccupied Play: What it is and Why it is So Important

Photo by pexels (pixabay)

Children play in many different ways and for many different reasons, even when it may not look like "traditional" play. Unoccupied play, may appear as random gestures and sporadic movements most commonly demonstrated by infants from birth to three months old. As random as they may seem, they are a meaningful attempt by the child to explore and learn about their environment and personal space. Unoccupied play helps to prepare babies for future play experiences by building their confidence and helping them to learn about their environment.

The building blocks of solitary play

Unoccupied play is precursory to solitary play, during which children play alone rather than others. Solitary play typically lasts through two years of age. The exploration of space and movement during unoccupied play prepared children to play alone and concentrate on activities while beginning to learn about cause and effect and explore creative play.

Sensory experiences

The exploratory movements of unoccupied play allow children to experience different sensations, textures, and materials. They may begin to practice manipulating objects and understand space. The freedom of unoccupied play encourages children to come to their own conclusions and make decisions without organization or expectation.

The development of motor skills

Although appearing as unengaged and stationary, young children are in fact engaged in unoccupied play that helps build a baby's motor skills, preparing children for more refined play in the future.

Understanding personal space and potential

During unoccupied play, infants may explore their range of motion and the potential they have to change their environment. Stretching, kicking, grabbing and gripping help babies build strength and challenge their muscles. These movements prepare them for more complex motions and sequences of movements as they develop.

Parents of young infants can keep in mind the many benefits of unoccupied play as they learn to engage with their children and support their development. It may not look like anything remarkable, but this phase of development is just the beginning of your child's play experience; soon enough they will be enjoying all of the different types of playground equipment.

The Different Stages of Play

Unoccupied Play

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, December 16, 2019

10 Ways to Have a More Playful 2020 No Matter Your Age!

Photo by tookapic (pixabay)

A new year is right around the corner and many of us are starting to gear up for our annual resolutions. This year, I'm choosing to make 2020 the year of fun and playfulness. Join in on the fun this year with some of these different ideas I've put together.

Explore Exercise as Fun

Many of us make an annual fitness resolution this time of year. Eat better, drink more water, exercise more. We sign up for the gym and by May, we've lost the momentum and motivation to achieve our goals. Let's make this year different by experiment with fitness. Try something new outside of the gym.

Dance Away Dreariness

This year, take time to dance more. Dancing releases endorphins that energize the body and spirit and is a great way to have some fun. Whether you take a dance class to learn something new, get together with some friends for a night out at your new favorite club, or simply dance around your kitchen with your kiddos to lift your spirits at the end of a challenging day, make this year one that is full of dance and laughter.

Walking Work Meetings

When so many of us endure days at our desks, it is important that we take steps to live healthily. Instead of your weekly board meeting in conference room 3, suggest to your team that you take a walk and talk. This might not work for all meetings, but when possible, get your coworkers to lace up their sneakers and join you for a power walk while you hash out the latest updates and progress reports.

Love Your Local Flavor

It's easy to overlook the charm of the town or city you live in after a while. This year, make a commitment to rediscovering your city and all of the wonderful things that it offers. Explore the latest happenings at the local library, visit local museums, support local businesses by patronizing shops in your downtown shopping district, support your local theater, enjoy a night of music with a local band. There are so many fun and unique reasons to love your town and it's time to dive into the scene and experience the unique local flavor around you.

Try a Trampoline Park

Trampoline parks, both outdoor and indoor have become popular among families looking for something new and exciting to do together. One of the biggest draws of these parks is that parents get to play with their kids, rather than standing on the sidelines.


Staycations are a wonderful and relaxing way to have fun with family and friends. Take a few days or a week to relax locally, within a few hours of home; doing this allows for the benefits of a vacation without the stress and drawbacks of expensive travel and planning.

Find a Friend

Make 2020 the Year of the Friend. It can be tough to find friends for adults and families, but with the help of technology, it can be made easier. Peanut is an app made for moms to help them connect with others in their area that they might like to meet up with for play dates at the park or playground. Use online resources and apps to make real-life connections and find friends to share the fun with.

Play in the Pool

Swimming is an excellent way to have fun, relax, and get some exercise. And you don't need to own a pool to enjoy swimming. Many communities offer recreational swimming at community pools. You can also find a local hotel with an indoor or outdoor pool and book a room for a single night. This will give you access to the amenities to enjoy.

Join a Club

Take your hobby to the next level by joining a local club or group with the same shared interest. It can be so much fun to connect with others who share something you are passionate about. It can also help you reach new levels of mastery as you learn from others.

Find the Fun in Family

As with many things, fun also starts at home. Turn to your family, including kids, to brainstorm fun things that your family can do together. Allow for constructive conversation and include the kids in the decision-making to ensure that everyone has a say and the activities are varied.

Habits of Playful People

The Benefits of Being a Playful Person

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, December 5, 2019

15 Vital Things Parents Should Know About Play

Photo by Skitterphoto (pixaby)

Play is an integral part of our children's growth and development, and outside of pure fun, there is so much to be gained from play. A healthy body and mind can both be aided by unstructured and structured playtime. The following are some of the many ways children can benefit from play immediately and in the long term.

Bonding through play

Play at any age or phase of development gives children and parents the opportunity to bond and learn about each other. During early development and young elementary, children and parents can develop deep connection and trust through play. The time and attention given to a child during uninterrupted play is invaluable in the bonding experience and can lay the foundation for a healthy parent/child relationship in the future.

Building motor skills through play

Play in many forms is an exercise in gross and fine motor skills, it allows children to practice important movements, focus, strength, and attention. Play is also an excellent way to observe a child's motor skills without interfering with the child's natural reactions and instincts.

Play to find balance

Finding a healthy balance between work, academics, family obligations, and fun is important in every family, because when one of these areas is out of whack, all others are impacted. When making a family schedule, it can be helpful to actually write playtime into the schedule, as that is often the first thing to go by the wayside when people get busy.

Play to reduce stress

When children are engaged in play, they may begin to relax. Nervous or anxious children may be more willing to engage when that engagement is facilitated through play. It is largely accepted that western culture values work and busyness over relaxation and play when compared to other parts of the world. Prioritizing play allows children to shed the weight of the day and relax without expectations or restraints.

Play to explore emotion

Dynamic play allows children to safely explore different emotions as they take on different personas through acting or role playing. This type of play also helps children to better understand a range of emotions from different perspectives. The emotional development practiced through play can translate into real-life application and help them to be more mindful, compassionate individuals.

Making the most of family time through play

Playing as a family, similar to bonding, helps to build a healthy parent/child relationship. It also facilitates important learning opportunities for children to help them to better understand what it means to be a team player, to share, and compromise. Children are observant and can learn a lot from watching their parents and other family members interact.

Children benefit academically from recess and play

Studies have shown the value of recess in our schools and we know that it is important for our children to exercise both their body and their mind daily. Play allows for a necessary mental break that helps in the processing of learned information. It also aids in a child's ability to focus in the classroom.

Leaving room for play is important for a child's mental health

Making time for play is important for a child's mental health. Again, in a culture that largely values full schedules and work, it is important that children be allowed to play in order to balance out the mental load of learning. Anxiety and stress may both be linked to a child being overscheduled or feeling great pressure to perform.

Promote a child's independence through play

Play is a great way for children to learn independence. Too often children are fed instructions on what they need to do and how they need to fill their time. Leaving a child to play without instruction challenges them to come to their own conclusions and empowers them to make decisions. Independent play also helps them to stretch their creative muscles.

Promote an active lifestyle through play

Play is a great way to instill in our children the importance of physical activity and allows them to explore movements that are healthy for their mind and body and bring them joy. If children are given the opportunity to play and exercise as a means of fun, they may be more likely to have a healthier approach to fitness as they grow and view it less as a chore.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

7 Ways That Play Cultivates a Grateful, Optimistic Spirit in Children

Photo by ArtsyBee (pixabay)

In this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, I'd like to take the opportunity to bring some focus to what I've learned about raising children that are filled with gratitude and optimism. I believe that by cultivating these attributes in our children, we position them well to maintain a healthy outlook into their teen years and adulthood. But being grateful and thankful isn't something that children inherently understand; they need to be taught and shown thankfulness and given the opportunities to practice gratitude all year long.

Dramatic play builds understanding

Dramatic play or pretend play allows children to expand their understanding of the "other". By playing out a scene as a person other than themselves, they are challenged to experience the emotions of their character. This type of play helps children to access emotional awareness that can contribute to empathy and gratitude towards others.

Bring the focus of the day to the good

One of the principles that my house lives by is that attitude is a choice. We have the power to choose how we approach situations, both good and bad, and we can choose to have a good day and a positive experience. Making many choices throughout the day, we believe it is also important to recap the highlights of the day, focusing on the good and facilitating the opportunity for children to share the good they have experienced. This recap shines a new light on good things and can help bring attention to our good fortune.

Share your own appropriate personal experiences

When recapping the good experiences and opportunities for gratitude, it is also important to acknowledge things that you are grateful for. Children will follow the lead of their parents and by showing your own gratitude, you are encouraging them to do the same. Likewise, when the situation calls for it, sharing your past experiences of receiving kindness from others may encourage children to go out of their way to share with and care for others.

Facilitate opportunities to give back

Children learn well when they can experience first-hand how their actions impact others and help them to recognize the importance of kindness and gratitude. When teaching children about empathy and gratitude, consider offering them first-hand experiences, such as volunteer work, that would allow them to experience gratefulness on a deeper level.

Say thank you and heap praise yourself

From a young age, we teach children to say 'please' and 'thank you', but in many cases, it is more about manners than a sincere display of gratitude. Of course, manners are important, but sincerity is paramount. When you say thank you around your children, make sure that you are clear about what it is exactly, you are thankful for. Be it someone's time, skill, attention, etc. be clear and specific, rather than a blanket 'thank you'.

Gift experiences rather than material goods

Receiving gifts is certainly fun and exciting for children of all ages, but over-receiving may negatively impact a child and cause material gifts to become expected, rather than appreciated. Gifting experiences is one way to mitigate over-gifting and offers children the opportunity to enjoy an experience that lasts as a memory, adding to its unique value.

Children should contribute to the household

We've found that making chores a regular part of our children's days helps them to have a better grasp on the fact that a family is a community and it is important that we all work to make it a community we can to participate in. Chores encourage an appreciation for parents that can help shape the spouse and parent they grow up to be.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, November 18, 2019

10 Ways to Help Shelter Animals This Holiday Season

Photo by KatinkavomWolfenmond (pixabay)

During the holiday season, there are so many opportunities to give back to those in need. Organizations see an influx of new volunteers eager to share in the spirit of giving and make a difference in their communities. Whether one chooses to donate time or items to a local food pantry, provide much-needed items to a local homeless or women's shelter, or to families in need, there is a nearby charitable cause that would certainly welcome another helping hand to meet the needs of those they serve. When considering which organization to contribute to this holiday season, please consider supporting your local animal shelter. Our furry friends are in great need of donations and volunteer time and here are some ideas for how you can help:

Volunteer your time

Volunteering your time is a very valuable way to help your community animal shelter. If doing so is something you are interested in, it is important to contact your local shelter as early as possible. Spots may be limited so you may need to be creative in how you choose to volunteer. Consider your unique skills and how they might be beneficial to your community.

Replace gifts with donated items

Rather than asking for gifts this season, consider asking friends and family to donate in your name to an animal shelter or animal organization you would like to support. Gifts of food or much-needed items also make wonderful gifts.

Support spay and neuter awareness

Spread the word about the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs. Addressing over-populations and avoiding increased instances of unwanted cats and dogs can help shelters better manage any overcrowding.

Transport animals in your community

Shelters in rural areas with low foot traffic often need to relocate animals to other shelters where the animals may have a higher likelihood of being adopted. Volunteers are needed to transport shelter animals, sometimes over several different states.

Create and donate toys and comfort items

If you have a passion for crafting, put your skills to good use and make handmade toys, blankets, and beds for shelter animals. Using pet-safe materials are a must and you may consider asking your local shelter what types of items they are in need of the most before getting started.

Offer pet owner's unique services and donate the proceeds

People love their pets and offering pet parents unique, pet-focused services is a great way to raise money for worthwhile causes.

Speak up for animals and speak out against mistreatment

As with the "see something say something" mantra against community violence, it is important to speak up when you see any type of animal mistreatment or neglect.

Walk shelter dogs in your spare time

Exercise is so important for animals, but sometimes it can be difficult for those in shelters to get the amount of fresh air and exercise they need to remain healthy and happy. Contact your local animal shelter to see if they have a need for a volunteer to take out their animals out for a walk in the dog park.

Foster homeless animals

Taking homeless animals into your home as an alternative to them living in a shelter is a noble act. Temporarily housing animals until they find their forever home helps to ensure that they are properly socialized, cared for, and connected to people.

Adopt a pet from a local shelter

Pet adoption is a wonderful act. Inviting a new animal into your family is also a big step. Carefully consider before adopting and make sure that you understand fully the commitment being made. Following the holidays, shelters may experience an influx of new animals to care for when families realize that adopting or purchasing a pet as a gift may not have been a good choice.

Help Your Kids Help Animals

How You Can Help the Humane Society

GoFundMe - Animals in Need

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Happy National Hiking Day! 10 Benefits of Hiking With Children

Photo by free-photos (pixabay)

November 17th is National hiking day and there's no better time to gather the family and hit the trails for a family hike. And, apart from being fun, there are so many benefits to taking the kids out into nature for some fresh air.

Stay Fit

Hiking is a wonderful way to stay fit and active, and for some it is more enjoyable than heading to the gym or a fitness class. Children and parents alike can stretch their legs and get a full-body workout, trekking over various terrain, be it flat or steep, there's still a good workout to be had.

Exposure to Sunshine and Vitamin D

In addition to exercise, hikers can benefit from a good dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important to our bodies and helps our bodies improve kidney function and aids in the absorption of calcium. It also helps to boost one's mood; making for a happy hiker and a healthy hiker.

Perform Better Academically

Growing evidence suggests that exercise can help students perform better academically. Hiking is an excellent way to clear the mind. Taking a needed break to recharge with fresh air, can aid in concentration once called back to their academic studies.

Build Self-esteem

Hiking can be a great way to build children's self-esteem. By taking the lead on a nature walk or hike, children can learn how to lead others. Learning the appropriate trail symbols can also allow them to put their learned skills into practice.

Exposure to Wildlife

Exploring nature and experiencing wildlife is a great way to open a child's eyes to the world around them. Learning to identify the plants and animals around them, and how they impact their ecosystem can help them to develop an appreciation for how all nature work in harmony. With guidance, children may also begin to grasp the concepts of interconnectivity in their own ecosystems and communities.

Cultivating Curiosity

Developing a curiosity for nature from a young age can help students develop a love of the sciences and reinforce concepts learned in the classroom. A family hike also gives young students the opportunity to teach their family about what they've been learning in school. The act of teaching empowers the students and helps them to build on and develop connections between the classroom and the real world.


Hiking is also a good way to teach environmentalism. The next time your family is out enjoying a hike, bring along an empty trash bag to be filled with trash picked up along the trail. This act of community service teaches children the important concept of "leave no trace" and respecting the natural environment. This is also something that can be done on a smaller scale and with younger children at a local park.

Encourage Low-Tech Bonding

Hiking is largely low-tech. And while hikers might carry a GPS, there's no need to have phones and tablets out. By taking the screens out of the way, children are empowered to make real connections in real-time. Enjoy some one-on-one time with the family and reconnect in nature.

Teaches Life Skills

Hiking can teach us many things, including life skills that can translate into different aspects of life, including leadership skills, a good sense of direction, the importance of being observant. Problem-solving is also tested out on the trails as hikers may need to troubleshoot problems along the way.

Meeting New People

When out hiking, you never know what connections you might make. Hikers may be inclined to be friendly and start up conversations trailside, creating the opportunity to make new friends and meet people who share a passion for nature and the outdoors.

Five More Reasons to Hike with Your Kids

Hiking with Kids

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

9 Ways That Play Helps Children Deal With Scary Things

Photo by jennyfriedrichs (pixabay)

Learning to handle difficult or scary situations is an integral part of a child's growth and development. It is important to explore different coping mechanisms and ways of handling difficult situations. Be it through play, pre-planning, or personal development, find things that resonate with your child and empower them to be confident in themselves and their emotions during times of stress, such as the start of a new school year, a move, or a trauma.

Play therapy

Play therapy uses a child's natural inclination to play as a vehicle for the processing of tricky or uncomfortable emotions. Therapists understand that children may be more likely to open up and communicate indirectly while playing because the act of play feels like a safe barrier between themselves and something scary they may have experienced.

Dynamic Play

Dynamic play may be helpful to children experiencing complex emotions. By taking on alternative roles, children are able to explore another perspective and the emotions of another. Dynamic play also helps to build on children's' vocabulary, which may also be helpful in the expression of their own emotions.

Obstacle Play

Obstacle play is a great way for children to practice problem-solving. These activities can teach resilience and perseverance.

Play to Build Confidence

Play can help build confidence in children and encourage them to feel comfortable in their decision-making in play and in other circumstances.

Find New Friends

Getting out and meeting a new group of friends can be helpful in expanding a child's circle to include new perspectives, which may also be helpful in processing difficult experiences. New friends also offer a new start and that can be a refreshing experience for children that may be carrying trauma.

Develop Communication Skills

Working with children to develop their communication skills from an early age has lasting benefits as they come up against different challenges. Being able to communicate emotions clearly and confidently is also a skill that can help them navigate stressful situations such as public speaking.

Make a Plan

When a stressful or scary situation is upcoming, it can be helpful to talk to children before had and create a plan on how to best handle the scary thing. Exploring the options of how to handle something unpleasant can empower a child to make a calm decision on how to best approach the problem and walk through different "what-if" scenarios. It is important to note though that this technique doesn't work for all.

Be Patience and Offer Praise

When dealing with a child in turmoil, patience is key. Allow them space and time to work through complicated emotions in ways that are the healthiest and most accessible to them. Facilitate the processing of events and the emotions it raises in a safe and encouraging way, offering praise for the child's courage and self-awareness.

Model Calmness

In stressful times and times of uncertainty, model calmness for your child. Children take queues from those around them to learn about appropriate responses to stress, discomfort, and fear. By mastering your own emotions, you set an example for your child. A calm demeanor may also position you as a person that the child can come to as a source of strength.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, October 28, 2019

10 Tips for Encouraging Healthy Dental Habits in Children

Photo by jennyfriedrichs (pixabay)

Brushing teeth is an important part of any morning and evening routine. Adults and children alike need to take the time to properly care for their teeth in order to keep them strong and healthy. Baby teeth are no exceptions and teaching proper dental care should start from a young age in order to build a lifelong habit.

Choose the right kind of toothbrush

There are different kinds of toothbrushes and each has an important purpose. For infants and toddlers, look for a toothbrush that is specifically designed for little mouths; these brushes are often smaller than adult toothbrushes and may have differently shaped handles that may help children learn how to properly hold the toothbrush. These brushes should also have soft bristles.

Don't overload the toothbrush

The more toothpaste, the cleaner the teeth - this is not true. When teaching children to brush, don't worry about filling their tiny toothbrushes with fluoride toothpaste. You only need a small amount, as much as a grain of rice or about as big as a pea, depending on the age of your child.

Choose the right toothpaste

Use a children's toothpaste with fluoride in it. It may help to let the child choose their toothpaste, offering them a little control over something like that may make them feel more comfortable with their brushing routine.

Take the time to teach with patience

As with anything that must be taught to children, it is important to teach with patience. Brush your own teeth with your child, this is a good way to show them proper brushing techniques and shows them that this is really something that everyone must be doing. If necessary, brush your child's teeth, then hand them the brush to replicate your movements themselves. Regardless of the movements, the most important part is that the teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

Teaching Proper Dental Care to Kids

Position your child properly

Make sure your child is comfortable and has everything needed to complete the task at hand. If they are a little too tiny to reach the sink comfortably, get a small step stool so that they can reach the sink. Make sure their rinse cup is also within reach.

Use a timer

Brushing for the recommended two full minutes can be trick. Using a timer can ensure that the teeth are thoroughly brushed and shows an antsy child that there is a definitive end to their task.

Make it a game

Making toothbrushing a game is also a good way to help children embrace proper dental hygiene. Earning a small reward for completing the game and task may also be effective for goal-oriented children.

Avoid "sticky sugars"

Some foods are more detrimental to children's children than others. Sticky sugars, like caramel, gum, dried fruit, and toffee should be avoided, as the sugars they contain can sit on the teeth for hours.

Make it an important part of the morning and night time routine

As with any routine, consistency is important to establishing habits. Make time for tooth brushing every morning and every evening. This may mean reconfiguring an existing routine, maybe starting the routine a little earlier. Do not skip brushing, as a break in the routine may disrupt a child's willingness to complete the task the following day(s).

Don't rely on brushing alone

In addition to brushing, make sure you and your child are also flossing. Whether with traditional floss, floss picks, or a water pick, flossing is an important part of good dental care.

Toothbrushing Tips

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, October 25, 2019

Happy National Vegetarian Month! 11 Tips for Eating Less Meat as a Family

Photo by congerdesign (pixabay)

Animal proteins, including beef, chicken, lamb, and fish are mealtime staples for many families, but some are choosing to refocus their diets to reduce the amount of meat consumed. With so many benefits of going vegetarian, it's often a shift worth exploring. Trying a vegetarian diet is a great way to expand your recipe repertoire and can help to stretch your grocery budget just a little further. Below are some ideas to help your family to eat a little more green and a little less red (meat).

Start with one designated day: Meatless Monday

Making the decision to eat a vegetarian diet can be a shock. Starting slow and designating one day for vegetarian eating may be a good way to quell the uprising from those in your household who might need a bit more convincing. A designated day like Meatless Monday can also be helpful when planning out your weekly meals; plan ahead to make sure that you don't overbuy meats and plan on a delicious veggie-forward dish.

Supplement with supplements

Animal proteins provide us with specific nutrients, including B12, D3, Omega 3s, and iron. To make sure that all nutrients are still received, many vegetarians choose to supplement with a multivitamin. It may also be advisable to speak with your doctor is a vegetarian lifestyle is something you are considering on a more consistent scale. They would be able to recommend supplements to ensure you remain healthy and strong.

Shop local markets

Shopping local farmer's markets offers you a chance to connect with the farmers and purveyors who know the most about their produce and can help point you in the right direction as far as the preparation of new vegetables. Many are more than happy to offer suggestions to help you enjoy their selection.

Make beans your new BFFs

Beans and lentils are popular staples of a vegetarian diet. They are a filling and nutritious way to build out a vegetarian menu. Beans come in countless varieties and are very versatile.

Mock "Meat"

Sometimes "tricking" our brains can be a good way to expand the palate and transform vegetables into something familiar. Many of us are familiar with the idea of bean burgers and similar vegetarian options that have found their way onto the menus of many casual dining chains. Similar dishes can be prepared at home. Try black bean burgers or a lentil loaf as ways to reduce the amount of meat on the menu.

Mix things up with marinades

Marinades can work miracles on meats, and they can do the same for vegetarian alternatives. Marinating "meaty" alternatives, especially mushrooms, can impart a ton of flavor.

Classic comforts revamped

Replacing the meats in favorite dishes can help ease the transition into a vegetarian diet. Vegetarianism isn't about cutting out your favorite dinner dishes; it's about finding healthy, delicious, and sustainable alternatives to animal products. Finding new ways to recreate family favorites can be fun and offer a sense of familiarity that may be beneficial if you are dealing with selective eaters.

Go nuts

Adding nuts into a dish is another great way to beef up a vegetarian dish. Cashews, for example, are very meat and offer a firmness to dishes. They can also be used in a variety of vegan dishes as a way to remove cheeses and creams from select dishes.

Cook up a new cuisine

Some global cuisines lend themselves very well to vegetarian diets simply because meat is not a staple of the cultural cuisine. Indian food, for example, includes a variety of flavorful vegetarian dishes, as does Israeli, Taiwanese, and even Italian cuisines.

Don't call it meat (the opposite of #5)

Embrace the change. Rather than faking meat, calling things "steaks", and so on, just embrace the idea. Instead of trying to find the best ground beef replacement, try to find the best way to use the red lentils in your pantry; make a lentil loaf and just call it lentil loaf, not meatloaf.

Trying something new can be nice

Seek out new vegetables you have never cooked with before. Never had Romanesque cauliflower? Try it. There are so many beautiful and delicious vegetables that offer us something new. Pick up some new produce, then search for recipes that feature it and go from there. You never know what you might come across.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Playground Pumpkins

Here at AAA State of Play, we’re excited for Halloween! To get into the festive spirit, we visited Anderson Orchard near Mooresville, Indiana to see how the kids liked the playground we installed there. The children enjoyed spending time on our “Augusta” structure, as well as picking pumpkins for Halloween and enjoying apple cider made from Anderson Orchard’s own apples! Although, there did seem to be a problem with sharing on the kid’s swing set.
Need some other ideas of things to do with the kiddos this fall? Here’s a list of some of our favorite activities:

  1. Go Apple Picking
  2. Turn those apples into something yummy!
  3. Visit a pumpkin patch
  4. Paint those pumpkins!
  5. Visit a local playground-- or find a new playground you’ve never been to before
  6. Jump into a pile of leaves
  7. Do a corn maze
  8. Take a hayride
  9. Make hot cocoa, or warm up some apple cider you might’ve gotten from the orchard
  10. Make s’mores
  11. Watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  12. Make a hand print turkey
  13. Go for a bike ride
  14. Bob for apples
  15. Turn each other into mummies using toilet paper

Want even more ideas? Check out’s 101 Fun Fall Activities for Kids!
Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, October 11, 2019

9 Benefits of Playing Dress Up for Children

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

In the month of October, we see dress-up clothes all over the place. Princesses, pirates, firefighters, and ballerinas galore! But beyond Halloween fun and the sugar rush our kids will inevitably get, the benefits of dressing up and dramatic play are many.

Memory Retention

Dressing up and dramatic play encourage children to exercise their brains and pull accumulated knowledge into a specific scenario. Children are observant and dramatic play allows them to use the skills and knowledge they see every day. Be it playing house, taking care of a baby doll, or acting out a fairy tale, dramatic play is a workout for their brain as it recalls information before play-acting.


Through dress-up play, children take on the persona of their costume. They may explore different vocabulary they believe is appropriate for their character and, eventually, children can learn how to apply language to different situations and eventually apply it to their everyday activities and communications.

Problem-Solving Skills

Before dress-up play can begin, children need to solve a few different problems, including decisions regarding what scenarios to act out/play, who gets to act out which role, and what is needed to outfit the roles involved. Solving these problems as a group or as individuals forces the children to navigate problems and arrive at solutions that will move the play forward.

Empathy Towards Others

We've heard the phrase "...walk a mile in their shoes…" Through dramatic play, children are able to put this phrase into action and better understand the perspectives and experiences of others. They may exercise their ability to soothe and feel nurturing when playing with a baby, or brave as they pretend to be a firefighter or soldier.

Emotional Development

The processing of difficult situations through play is a safe way for children who may have seen or experienced trauma or acts of violence. It can help them overcome feelings of helplessness and regain a sense of wellbeing.

Fine Motor Skills Development

A less obvious benefit of dress-up play is the development of fine motor skills. Be it buttons, zippers, or ties, the different pieces of play clothes challenge children to practice their fine motor skills. Large motor skills, such as jumping, running, and spinning are also used in dramatic play.

Gender Identity and Exploration

We may find little girls playing as princesses or fairies more often than boys, who may be more likely to pretend play as firefighters and pirates. Exploring differently gendered roles through play allows children to experience a different perspective.

Social Skills

Dramatic group play offers children the opportunity to practice cooperating with others, building on the story being played and negotiating the rules of the scenario. The concept of sharing and taking turns is also practiced during group play.

Creativity and Imagination

Dramatic play allows children to stretch the constraints of reality. By using their imagination, children are engaged in creative thinking that can serve them well in real life.
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Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

15 Awesome Quotes on Play From Experts You Can Follow on Twitter

Play is important but, goodness knows, some days we need a bit more motivation to get off of our couches with our kids. It can certainly be tempting to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning hunkered down watching cartoons or a movie as a family, but it can be so much more satisfying to get up and move our bodies together. Whether you are a family who enjoys playing team sports or hiking in the wilderness, those first few steps to get up, ready, and out the door can be hard. To make it a little easier to stay motivated to move, I've collected the following inspirational quotes and tweets from people who understand and champion the importance of movement and play. Print these out, hang them up, and come back to them when the thought of a lazy, sedentary weekend sounds extra alluring.

1. "Free play gives children an outlet to express their emotions and feelings and helps them develop a sense of who they are."
- KaBOOM! @kaboom!

2. "Children learn through doing - play is how they explore the world, learn to assess risk, try things out, and get to know themselves."
- Bethe Almeras @balmeras

3. "You don't remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go."
- Lenore Skenazy @FreeRangeKids

4. "Think of playtime like an innovation lab where tomorrow's civilization is being actively designed."
- Jordan Shapiro @jordosh

5. "We should be simply providing fields of free action for them to become, through playing, the resilient, adaptive, creative, emotionally intelligent, and socially confident young people that we all, in truth, want them to be."
- Adrian Voce, OBE @adevoce

6. "Play is our brain's favorite way of learning."
- Diane Ackerman @DianeSAckerman

7. "I shouldn't have to defend play for children any more than I should have to defend their eating, sleeping, and breathing."
- Rae Pica @raepica1

8. "Supporting children to play requires us to remember what life is all about. It's not about getting from A-Z, but rather dreaming beyond both."
- Vince Gowmon @VinceGowmon

9. "Kids who play, play well as adults. Kids who play build their confidence and learn the social skills that help them become happy, well-adjusted adults."
- KaBOOM! @kaboom!

10. "Let's stop differentiating between children's play and children's work. In early childhood play IS the work." - Tonya Satchell @LiteracyCounts

11. "...Kids don't run home excited to share all the procedures they learned day one. Make time for fun day one, week one and all year." - Matt Gomez @mattBgomez

12. "I believe we should call children writers and artists because children ARE writers and artists.
- Mo Willems' Pigeon @The_Pigeon

13. "Technology should be used to capture and amplify learning, not to keep children "busy."
- Karen Lireman @KLireman

14. "As educators, we live in a world of S.M.A.R.T. goals which help us focus our efforts to achieve results. But shouldn't we leave some room for D.U.M.B goals, too?

D ream-Driven

U plifting

M ethod-Friendly

B ehavior-Triggered

- Bevin Reinen @TeachTrainLove

15. "If you insist on readiness tests for children entering school, I'd suggest putting them on the playground with a bunch of other kids for an hour and determine if they act like a child. Anything less than what a kid would do means you should ramp up playtime."
- Dean Shareski @shareski

Find more about the author: Kim Hart