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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