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Monday, June 24, 2019

10 Tips for Making Fruits and Vegetables More Appealing to Kids (and You!)

Photo by muammerokumus (Flickr)

June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, so let's talk about food! For many kids, fruits and vegetables aren't the most exciting foods, and some of us adults aren't always that great about getting in our daily servings, either. If this sounds like you, maybe you just haven't found a way to jazz them up! I hope I can supply some tips below that might help you nurture your love for healthy fruits and veggies. Since kids aren't known for being the biggest health food enthusiasts, try these tips out with them, too, and help them get an appreciation for fruits and veggies. I've used these tips to drastically reduce the complaints I hear from my girls when veggies and fruits are served.

  1. Get your kids involved with cooking! For a lot of kids, cooking is fun, and they like spending time with you to create dishes the whole family can enjoy. Not only will they learn new skills and hopefully help you out with your meal prep, but kids are far more likely to eat something they helped create. They'll have a real sense of pride in having helped make the meal, and the fruits and veggies will go down the hatch.
  2. Keep your kids' favorite foods in mind. It's usually pretty easy to sneak fruits or vegetables into the favorite dishes. My kids love pizza and tacos, two things that are pretty easy to sneak more servings of vegetables into. You can also sprinkle fresh fruit on cereal or get creative with dishes like mac and cheese or lasagna, which are easy to sneak veggies into.
  3. Go a little easier on your kids' veggie-eating habits. If they at least eat some of their veggies, they should get some praise. Forcing them to clean their plate often just puts them off vegetables even more.
  4. If you're trying to expand their horizons, serve a fruit or vegetable your child already enjoys along with something new for them to try. If they only like carrots, serve them but try mixing in peas, too. If they put strawberries on their oatmeal, why not slice up a few bananas for them to try with them?
  5. Start serving fruits and vegetables early in their lives. Kids develop their tastes pretty young. Introducing fruits and vegetables as soon as it's safe to do so will make them more likely to eat them without complaint later.
  6. Embrace the veggie love yourself. Your kids are looking up to you, and if they see you enjoying fruits and vegetables with a smile, they won't want to miss out!
  7. Break out the butter. A lot of kids dislike leafy greens because of their bitterness, and butter can counteract that. Sure, we should limit butter in our diets, but it's far better to use butter if gets kids to eat veggies, and butter does have nutritional value, including vitamins A and D. The extra fat can also help their bodies to absorb the vitamins in the vegetables.
  8. Visit a community garden and pick your own fruits and vegetables. Choosing and harvesting your own produce can make it more appealing to eat it later on.
  9. Stoop to a reward system if you have to. Making kids eat their vegetables in order to earn their dessert is a time-tested tactic that often works.
  10. Make some tasty dip! Whether you're serving fruits or vegetables, there's usually a dip that will make kids more excited to eat them. Kids seem to love dipping sauces, and there are a lot of healthy yogurt-based recipes that are easy to make.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Why Choice and Freedom During Playtime is So Important

Photo by ThomasLife - Flickr

Happy June! I hope you're enjoying some beautiful weather outdoors! Schools all over the place will be starting summer break soon if they haven't already. When most of us think back to summer break from school, our minds fill with memories of long hours of freedom. I rarely stop to think about it, but really the essence of playtime is free time. When we feel relaxed, fun and a sense of playfulness follow. That's why even if we're setting up structured playtime for children, it's important to still give them a sense of freedom.

Different Styles of Play

We should recognize that there are different styles and types of play that can be used to enhance play while trying to keeping it free and imaginative.

Social Play - Children play with others at team sports and cooperative activities, or they role-play imaginative scenarios.

Independent Play - Children play alone, but they are often engaged with action figures, stuffed toys, puzzles, or the environment around them.

Guided Play - Children play in the context of a situation that an adult has arranged. This can be a teacher, parent, or camp counselor presenting an opportunity for play and giving them an objective.

There are ways to make all styles of play creative and free.

The Benefits of Free Play

  • Play teaches children problem-solving skills. If children have the freedom to push limits or encounter a problem during play, they develop the skills to find ways out and persevere.
  • When children are playing imaginary games, their emotions can be provoked. Free play is a safe environment for children to grow more comfortable with emotions like fear, anxiety, and sadness. They'll learn how to cope with these feelings while playing.
  • Free play gives children greater confidence as they learn how to entertain themselves and feel prepared to overcome challenges.
  • When children feel free while playing, they reduce their stress and anxiety as they feel free from scrutiny and judgment.
  • Free play inspires creativity and curiosity. Kids might even discover new passions and interests while playing if they have the freedom to explore.
  • When kids have free play outside and interact with the environment, they develop an appreciation and respect for the natural world.
  • Children who have freedom of choice while playing improve their decision-making skills.
  • When children play freely and socially, they work on teamwork, cooperation, and good communication with others as they play and take on challenges together.

Tips for Free Play

  • Schedule some free time for play that gets kids away from screens. Some children will need more of a structured play environment than others. If you're little one is in need of more structure, you can set up a playroom or space outdoors with activities and toys ready to go. The key is to provide choice!
  • Encourage children to use readily available resources for play! This can include empty boxes, recyclables, rocks, shells, leaves, and more.
  • Play together! Nothing gets children out of their shell like an adult ready to engage in play with them and model play behavior and ideas. Who says adults can't have fun too?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Round-Up of Mental Health Resources for Parents, Teens, Children, and Educators

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May is ending, but the month isn't over yet, which means that I still have time to lend a voice in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. During Mental Health Awareness Month, individuals and organizations take a moment to help raise awareness of the need for self-care, better treatments, and an end to the unfair stigma that faces people struggling with mental health issues. To help do my part, I've pulled together some resources that can help people with mental illnesses as well as the parents, teachers, and loved ones who care about them.

  1. Mental Health for Parents and Caregivers: I've started talking to my girls about mental health pretty early in their lives because I think it's important. It's not always easy to do, though. This resource can help parents and caregivers know what to say, what to do, and what signs of poor mental health to look out for.
  2. Mental Health Resources for Parents of Adolescents: Adolescence is a turbulent time full of change, peer pressure, and other challenges. This page is full of resources that can help out parents of teens for any issue you can imagine. It includes treatment guides and service locators.
  3. Learning to Help Your Child and Family: This is another important resource for parents and caregivers. It will help you identify symptoms of mental health problems and guide you on what steps you should take next to help the child or children in your care.
  4. Mental Health for Educators: Teachers are in a special and important position to encourage good mental health and identify problems. This page gives ideas on how to promote good mental health in the classroom as well as on a schoolwide level. It will also tell you what to look out for to identify a student in need of mental health support.
  5. Psychology Today: This resource can help you find a therapist near you and get information on where they practice, what techniques they use, and the insurance they accept.
  6. Anxiety and Depression Association of America: This site gives information on prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety, and related illnesses.
  7. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder: Get information on where to find treatment for ADHD and locate local support groups here.
  8. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: This site has online support and can refer users to in-person support for depression and bipolar disorder.
  9. Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America: This organization manages the Schizophrenia Anonymous group, which is a network of self-help groups.
  10. Treatment and Research Advances for Borderline Personality Disorder: This referral center gives information on borderline personality disorder and treatment options.
  11. The Suicide Prevention Hotline: This very important resource is available 24/7 for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  12. The National Domestic Violence Hotline: This organization is always available for those who are being abused and trying to escape from domestic violence. If you're a parent who's being abused by a partner, get help, both for you and for your child or children.
  13. International OCD Foundation: Learn more about OCD and get referrals from this organization dedicated to helping people who have obsessive compulsive disorder.
  14. To Write Love on Her Arms: This organization is popular with teens. It's dedicated to providing hope and help for those struggle with depression and self-harm.
  15. GriefShare: Grief can open the door to mental health struggles or trigger an existing mental health condition. GriefShare helps you connect with others who are going through the same things and can offer support.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, June 20, 2019

National Walking Month! 10 Benefits of Walking Your Dog

Photo by Nicki Dugan Pogue (Flickr)

Did you know that May was National Walking Month? We all know that walking is fantastic for our health, helps us enjoy the gorgeous weather, and can give a giant boost to your fitness regimen. Since we all agree that going for a walk is a fantastic idea, let's mix it up a little bit. If you have a canine companion, get them involved! While we don't have a dog, my girls sometimes offer to walk our neighbors' dogs; they enjoy it and sometimes make a few bucks, too. What's not to love about getting out in the fresh air with a furry friend? The pup will thank you, and let's not forget about the rewards for humans.

  1. Make Friends: Studies have shown that people who walk a dog are more engaged with their community. It makes them more likely to meet other neighbors, greet neighbors they come across, and help a neighbor out. I know that in my own community, our local farmers' market and other community events tend to be full of dog-walkers, and a cute four-legged friend makes a great ice-breaker.
  2. Lose Weight: Those walking benefits I mentioned? They certainly don't disappear just because you have a dog in tow. Walking is a proven weight-loss tool, and walking with your dog can help keep you on a consistent schedule, giving you an extra reason to get out the door. Your dog can even help you set a good pace.
  3. Stay Loose: This benefit is for both dogs and humans. As humans and canines alike get older, joints and muscles can become stiff. Walking is a gentle but vigorous way to stretch and exercise those joints in a low-impact way that won't cause damage to the joints of you or your dog.
  4. Keep the Dogs Happy: Dogs really need to be taken out for fresh air and exercise. When they're left inside for long periods with limited fresh air, they can become depressed, anxious, and bored. This may lead them to destroy furniture and other objects around your home. To raise a happier dog, spend some quality social time with them while out exercising.
  5. See Something New: Taking regular walks with your dogs can lead to the discovery of some hidden gems in your neighborhood. If you're bored of the same old route, don't be afraid to look for new parks, trails, and other areas that might have escaped your notice.
  6. Go Back to Nature: Going out in nature benefits you and your dog. Exposure to fresh air and sunlight increases overall health as you get more vitamin D, which can improve your mood and lower stress levels.
  7. Make Better Bonds: Spending this regular social time with your dog will give you and your dog an even better bond of friendship. Your dog will really love spending this time with you, and it gives you the chance to practice obedience training with your dog as you work on communication and your dog's ability to listen.
  8. Slim Down the Dogs: We all love to spoil our dogs. We give them treats, leftover scraps, and lots of couch potato time for cuddling. Unfortunately, this has led to a large number of obese dogs. Just like in humans, obesity can cause joint problems and raise the risk of heart disease in dogs. Keep your dog in shape by bringing them out for regular walks.
  9. Improve Digestive Health: Dogs who get to walk regularly take this opportunity for plenty of bathroom breaks. Walking has been shown to lower a dog's risk of urinary tract infections and other digestive issues. Just make sure you bring a bag to clean up after your pup.
  10. Get a Healthy Reward: It's clear that going out for regular walks with your dog has some incredible benefits. But how many times have you gone out for a solo walk and then rewarded yourself with a little treat? After all, you deserve a cookie after all of that hard work. You'll find that when you walk with your dog, their excitement is contagious. A tired and happy dog and human reward each other with hugs, pets, and an endorphin rush that's totally calorie-free.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart