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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