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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

10 Tips for a More Playful and Productive New Year!

Photo by Alan Levine (Flickr)

Play time teaches our kids about their world and helps them develop important social, academic, and life skills. Play isn't just for kids, though. It's important for adults, too, since it increases our relaxation, joy, productivity, and fulfillment. This year, we can implement ten tips that enhance our lives, help us play more, and make 2019 a more playful and productive year.

Enroll in a Fun Class

I've always wanted to take a Zumba class because it looks like fun and is good exercise. This year, I'm putting aside all my excuses and have enrolled in a Zumba class at our local YMCA. I might even try my hand at fun classes like woodworking or face-painting as I vow to play more.

Adopt a Pet

Pets fill our lives with play, love, and activity. Consider adopting a pet into your family, and enjoy all of the benefits this new addition brings to your home.

Use a Brain-Training App

Our marvelous brains can change and adapt as we exercise them. I found a few fun brain-training apps like Lumosity, Happify, and Peak that I plan to use this year as I play and learn.

Make Art

Coloring, writing, making music, and engaging in other art activities boost our creativity, dexterity, and mood. Since art offers us a fun way to play and improve productivity, I assembled a craft box filled with supplies I can create with after dinner, on weekends, or whenever I want to unwind.

Learn a New Game or Sport

A new game or sport can jump-start our physical and brain health. I'm excited to start line dancing, go hiking, and learn new card games as I relax and have fun.

Tell Funny Jokes and Stories

Laughter is amazing medicine! It lightens our mood, reduces stress, and improves our heart health. For these reasons, I'm eager to smile, be silly, and laugh more often throughout the day. I've already learned a few new jokes to share with friends and coworkers, and I added more comedians to my social media feeds.

Meet New Friends

I set a goal to meet one new person each day in 2019. New friends teach us things, and meaningful conversations stretch our minds.

Spend Time With Kids

The next time you spend time with children, observe their behavior. Kids accomplish a ton of objectives as they play and have fun. I always feel more relaxed, energized, and calm as I play with my kids, too, which is why I resolve to spend more time around children this year.

Be Grateful

Recording the things we're grateful for can make us more content, happier, and productive. I started a gratitude journal and plan to write at least three things I'm happy for each day. This practice helps me look for blessings, joy, and fun in my life.

Schedule Downtime

It's easy to say that we want to play more, but this goal won't happen unless we intentionally put play on our daily calendar. We have to schedule downtime and plan to daydream, be creative, and play every day. So far, I've scheduled play breaks before work, during my lunch break, and after dinner, and I'm excited to see the results of my intentional play time.

This year can be more playful and productive. I plan to achieve this goal by implementing these ten tips. How will you be more playful and productive in 2019?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

7 Reasons Why You Should Encourage Your Kids to Play Alone

Photo by Andy Buckingham (Flickr)

Most children experience dozens of daily opportunities to play with siblings, friends, and parents. For example, my girls can play with peers at school, friends from the neighborhood, and their siblings and parents at home each day. These social play times are important for our kids' development, but children need time to play alone, too, as they develop into well-rounded individuals. We can encourage our children to play alone for seven important reasons.

Solo Play Teaches Independence

I want my kids to learn how to play nicely with others and interact appropriately in social settings. However, they also need to be comfortable spending time alone. Solo play teaches kids to make their own entertainment, rely on their abilities, be content alone, and develop independence. With these skills, our kids experience less boredom and become more confident and well-rounded.

Solo Play Improves Concentration

During a recent play date, I noticed how my girls and their friends flitted between the art supplies, building blocks, and basketball hoop. They had fun but really only spent a few minutes on each activity. Alternatively, when they play alone, my girls can spend hours perfecting a drawing, completing a puzzle, or practicing their jump shot. Solo play definitely gives our kids time to improve their concentration, a skill that's important in school and daily life.

Solo Play Develops Emotional Regulation

Sometimes, my girls wake up cranky, have a rough day at school, or feel upset about something that happened to them. In those moments, I encourage my kids to spend time playing alone. In their personal space, my girls unwind and relax with a calming activity like sketching, reading, or meditation, or they process their emotions as they jump rope, pound a drum, or ride their bike. No matter which activity they choose, my kids use solo play to recognize and regulate their emotions, which will help them in every area of life.

Solo Play Advances Imagination

Imagination opens doors of possibilities as our kids discover new solutions to problems, exercise their creativity, and expand their worldview. While playing with other kids can advance our kids' imaginations, children also tap into their creative side as they play alone. Solo play produces time and space for our kids to explore their interests, create appealing imaginary worlds, and nurture their creativity in unique and fulfilling ways.

Solo Play Builds Self-Confidence

As parents, caregivers, and teachers, we want our kids to feel secure, resourceful, and confident so they understand their value, stand firm against peer pressure, and create a fulfilling life. We can offer solo play time to enhance and build self-confidence. As our kids play alone, they explore their interests, values, strengths, likes, and dislikes. Solo play also helps our kids feel accomplished. With these tools, our kids become secure, confident, resilient, and successful now and for the future.

Solo Play Enhances Self-Discovery

Every kid is different, and this uniqueness is exactly what will set our kids apart as they fulfill their life's purpose. We enhance self-discovery when we give our kids time to play alone and explore their interests and passions. As they write stories, create art, and invent games, they learn more about what's important to them. Through solo play, we equip our kids to discover their inner worlds and what makes them tick.

Solo Play Boosts Academic Success

After school, my girls often sit together at the kitchen table to do homework or read, but they each focus on their own work. I see the same scenario at school as my kids sit near peers but complete their assignments independently. This ability to work alone is developed during independent play and sets our kids up for success in school. Solo play also equips our kids with improved concentration, emotional regulation, and confidence, additional factors that are essential for academic success.

Solo play is important for a child's development. Of course, our kids need to play with peers and adults, too, but let's provide plenty of opportunities for independent play as we help our kids mature and grow. In addition to the seven reasons I've listed here, what other benefits do your kids experience as they play alone?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, January 28, 2019

8 Tips for Raising Self-Driven and Confident Children

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Flickr)

I love being a mom to my girls, but I know my main job is to raise my kids to become independent and fulfilled adults. To do my job, I have to give my girls room to make their own decisions, achieve their goals, and take control of their lives. We parents, caregivers, and teachers can follow eight tips as we raise self-driven and confident children who are capable of making and achieving their goals.

Allow Downtime

Some days, my girls are so busy that they end up cranky and stressed. Participation in school and extracurricular activities is important for our kids' development, but they also need free time to play, daydream, and sleep. With downtime, our kids learn more about themselves, practice autonomy, and develop the confidence to think and act for themselves.

Develop Personal Pastimes

Every child has different interests, and children need to know that what matters to them is important. That's why I let my girls select and engage in the personal pastimes that interest them. We can introduce new activities to our kids, but for the most part, we have to let them choose the hobbies, sports, and play activities they participate in. With this approach, our kids learn to trust their decisions, gain a creative outlet that recharges them emotionally and physically, and experience an increased drive to succeed.

Enforce Screen-Free Time

Most kids, including my girls, rely on digital devices to do school work, keep in touch with friends, and relax. Constant reliance on screens can become an obsession, though, and keep our kids from choosing fulfilling and engaging activities they truly enjoy. When we enforce screen-free time, we give our kids opportunities to discover and cultivate the activities, hobbies, and interests they truly enjoy.

Provide Reasonable Challenges

I used to rush in and rescue my girls when they couldn't climb the jungle gym at the park or tie their shoes before school. While my intentions were good, kids need challenges so they can become confident. We can give our children opportunities to handle small challenges with little or no direct involvement. Conquering reasonable challenges equips our kids with the self-confidence they need to persevere and overcome the obstacles, frustrations, and problems they will face in the future.

Encourage Problem-Solving

While baking cookies several years ago, we ran out of flour. My younger daughter wondered what would happen if we used ground oatmeal instead, and we liked the results so much that we now always use this recipe. I often use this experience as a reminder to let our kids solve problems. We cultivate our kids' natural curiosity when we give them the chance to try new things and explore their world. They then gain confidence and increase their knowledge, which can help them succeed in all areas of life.

Promote Creativity

My girls come up with some very creative ideas as they play together. They often adjust game rules depending on their mood, and one day, they wrote an entire play about a talking cupcake. I encourage their creativity because thinking outside of the box enhances our kids' drive and confidence. Our kids are also more likely to feel good about accomplishing their goals when they come up with the idea themselves.

Put Kids in Charge

To bond with each of my girls, I plan monthly date nights or let them decide where we'll eat and what we'll do. Being in charge offers kids practical experience in creating goals, planning for success, and seeing the activity through until the end. I've also found that teaching and leading others can encourage our kids to become more confident leaders and discover that they can achieve their dreams.

Allow Mistakes

The first time my daughter forgot her homework at home, I was tempted to drop it off for her at school. However, I knew that she'd become more responsible in the future if she received a zero on the assignment. Since then, I've let my girls make numerous mistakes, and they've thrived. As long as they're not endangering themselves or others, their mistakes help them learn, give them insight into their values, and teach life lessons that assist them in becoming mature, confident, and independent adults.

One job of parents is to raise self-driven and confident kids. Let's use these eight tips to help our kids grow and mature. What else can we do to help our kids successfully pursue their goals with drive and confidence?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, January 25, 2019

10 Tips for Introducing a Rescue Dog to Your Family and Home

Photo by Paul Schultz (Flickr)

Rescue dog adoption is a cause that's near and dear to my younger daughter's heart. In fact, she's so enthusiastic about the cause that we now volunteer together at a local dog shelter, where we play with the dogs, feed them, and introduce them to potential families. We also recently started training adoptive families on how to prepare for successful integration of their new furry friend. We recommend these ten tips that equip families like yours to introduce a rescue dog properly and successfully to your home.

Gather Supplies

Shopping for pet supplies is one of the fun aspects of dog adoption! Don't wait until after you bring your new dog home, though, to hit the pet store. Purchase everything you need in advance. Suggested supplies include a collar and a leash, a crate or safety gates, a bed, food, treats, bowls, toys, grooming tools, waste bags, and other items recommended by the rescue organization or your veterinarian.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Your new dog will be curious about its new home and will want to explore. To protect your pet and ensure its safety, remove potential hazards from all of the areas your dog can access. For example, place chemicals, plants, and valuable collectibles on a high shelf, secure power cords to the floor or baseboard, and cover electrical outlets.

Set up the House

We recently redecorated our guest room at home, and my daughter points out that like we created a cozy, welcoming, and functional space for guests, you'll want to do the same for your new dog. Spend some time deciding where you want your pet to eat and sleep, create pet-friendly spaces, and choose a convenient space to store its food, toys, and leash.

Agree on House Rules

If my daughter had her way, we'd rescue ten dogs, and they would all sleep on her bed. On the other hand, I think dogs should not sleep with their humans. This decision is just one reason you and your family members should sit down and negotiate house rules. Your rules may include areas where the dog is allowed, which commands you'll use, and behavior guidelines you want to enforce with your new pet.

Plan a Dog Care Schedule

If we ever adopt a dog, my younger daughter has vowed to do all of the dog care. I appreciate her enthusiasm, but I know I'll have to help sometimes, too. Likewise, your family should decide on a dog care schedule that fits your dog's needs. Plan who will be responsible for the dog's meals, walks, play, potty time, and behavior training each day, and ensure that everyone knows how to do each job correctly and safely.

Acclimate the Dog Slowly

I know it's easy to expect your new dog to feel at home instantly, but a move is stressful and overwhelming for your pet and for your family. Give your dog time to feel safe in your home and to feel comfortable around each family member with these steps.

  • Let the dog sniff around the yard and house.
  • Introduce it to the potty area, its bed or crate, and food and water bowls.
  • Allow the dog to approach each family member on its own terms; don't force interactions or touching.
  • Ensure that your children know the right way to approach the dog.
  • Provide solitary time for your dog to relax.

Begin Training Immediately

While you do want to give your dog time to settle in, you also want to ensure that your pet understands the house rules and expected behavior. Successful training will start right away and can include firm boundaries of areas the dog can access, a command list that each family member uses, and a daily routine of activities.

Establish a Daily Routine

A predictable daily routine can help your pet adjust to your home and improve bonding. Consult with the rescue organization and try to follow that same schedule with your new dog, including meals, potty breaks, walks, play time, and sleep. You can always adjust the routine if needed once your pet is acclimated to your home and family.

Limit Excitement

With all of the adjustments to a new home and people, your pet may feel overwhelmed at first. My daughter always recommends that adoptive families try to limit loud noises, forced contact, and interactions with strangers for at least a few weeks. Use this time to get to know your dog better, improve bonding, and foster feelings of security and safety.

Exercise Patience

Your new rescue dog will eventually become a trusted part of your family. However, it needs time to bond with you and your family. Plan to be patient as you get to know your dog's body language, habits, and preferences.

As my daughter says, adopt a rescue dog and you save a life. To ensure that you and your new family member properly and successfully bond, follow these ten tips. What other tips could help families introduce a new dog to their home?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart