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Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's National Nutrition Month! Here are 10 Ways To Spark Healthy Habits in Children

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It's National Nutrition Month! Here Are 10 Ways to Spark Healthy Habits in Children

It's National Nutrition Month! During this time of the year, when parts of the country are still in the firm embrace of winter but spring is starting to feel like something that might happen, it's an excellent time to reassess what healthy habits your family embraces and which practices need reconsidering. If you are anything like me, you made some resolutions in January to adopt healthier habits, but by now, some of them may have fallen by the wayside. If so, use this month to get back on a healthier path.

  1. Be a role model. Don't we all want our children to have a healthy relationship with food? The number one way to ensure that they do is to model healthy habits and attitudes toward food yourself. Parents lay the groundwork for so much of their children's future relationship with food, creating memories of the foods they enjoyed, the foods they hated, and how their parents treated food. So even if you have to fake it, act like you have the relationship with what you eat that you want your kids to have in 15 years. Make good choices, don't engage in negative self-talk, and be adventurous.
  2. Play actively, such as going to the park, taking walks, or chasing bubbles. Staying active and getting outside as part of your daily routine is crucial for you, and it's also essential for your children, no matter how young they are! Lace up your sneakers, get the baby into the stroller or carrier, and head outside to get moving. Every night doesn't have to include a five-mile walk or family game of touch football, though. You could walk around the block, head to the park to have fun on the playground equipment, or just enjoy a game of tag.
  3. Don't pressure your children to play a sport that they don't enjoy. I grew up taking dance classes and performing, but my girls weren't nearly as enthusiastic about dancing as I was. Just because you loved all 15 years you spent playing baseball doesn't mean your kids will want to, too. And when you sign your child up for T-ball, don't start imagining their career as a future MLB superstar! Let your kids experiment with different sports until they find one that they enjoy. Then, let them have fun: They don't have to win championships or compete in the Olympics to get a lot of benefits out of participating in the sport they love.
  4. Encourage each child to find their own favorite outdoor activities. Just like not every kid loves playing lacrosse, not every one of your children will enjoy outdoor activities in the same way. Some children thrive on activities that are organized and competitive, while others want to be able to do their own thing in cooperative or solitary pursuits. There is no right way to be outdoors and be active, so let your children find their own path.
  5. Limit screen time! We all resort to electronics every once in a while, and that's OK. But limiting screen time leads to children who are more active, less anxious, less depressed, and less likely to be obese. So don't be afraid to pull out the tablet when getting on a plane, but when you're at home, encourage everyone to get outside or pursue another hobby instead.
  6. Plan tasty, healthy meals. A little planning can help you limit trips to the drive-through for meals you'll later regret. Healthy meals don't necessarily have to be time-consuming: You can buy foods that are both good for you and quick to cook, like steam-in-bag frozen vegetables. Canned foods like beans can add healthy protein to a quick meal.
  7. Get your kids involved in cooking. Getting your kids to help in the kitchen will slow you down but will give your children so many advantages. For one, knowing how to prepare a meal is an important skill they'll need as an independent adult! Also, kids are far more likely to eat food they were involved in preparing. Unsure how to engage your kids in the cooking process? The Montessori method has lots of ideas for how to include children as young as toddlers in the kitchen.
  8. Swap out less-healthy foods with healthier alternatives, but do it slowly. If you're trying to turn over a new leaf, don't throw away all the food in your cupboards and buy a bunch of new cookbooks all at once. Instead, make small substitutions. Try swapping a cauliflower crust for your regular pizza crust. Make zucchini noodles with meatballs and sauce instead of spaghetti. And saute food in olive oil instead of butter. Each small change you make will have substantial health benefits, and by making one small change at a time, your family is less likely to revolt.
  9. Keep your diet affordable. Making healthier food choices doesn't have to mean busting your grocery budget. Buying fresh produce that's currently in season is an easy way to save money. Switching out a couple of meat-based recipes for ones that focus on lentils or beans can be a significant money-saver. Canned and frozen goods can also be a significant source of savings and ensure that you always have healthy food on hand.
  10. Have an open dialogue with your children about healthy choices. Talk to your kids! Let them know your reasoning, listen to their opinions, and keep the conversation about healthy decisions open.
Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

9 Tips for Encouraging Healthy, Happy Sibling Relationships

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Any parent of more than one child has experienced their home going from a peaceful paradise of calm, happy play to an absolute war zone where the two little people you love best in the world are screaming at each other. Sibling rivalry is a real thing and can have a lasting impact. A little bit is a natural part of growing up with a brother or sister, but if you want your children to have a healthy, loving relationship as adults, it's important to rein it in and help them learn to get along now.

1. Spend Special Time With Each Child

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The first way to minimize sibling rivalry is to spend time with them both and make sure that they know that you appreciate each of them as individuals. Try to set aside some time for each of them on a regular basis when it's just the two of you, and spend this quality time doing something they enjoy. For instance, my younger daughter has started getting interested in yoga lately, so I've been doing regular workouts with her. Meanwhile, my older daughter loves to cook, so I make a point of bringing her into the kitchen with me at least once a week as my sous chef. Spending time alone with each child will deepen your bond with them and their bond with you, and it reassures them that they are loved and valued as individuals.

2. Compliment Good Behavior

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When you see one of your children making an extra effort to get along, like sharing a favorite toy or helping out with homework, compliment them (but do it out of earshot of the other kid). Also, don't be afraid to compliment the kids as a group if they are playing nicely together or otherwise involved in a shared activity.

3. Avoid Comparing Siblings

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The number one thing parents of multiple children need to remember is to avoid comparing your children to each other. Of course, it's inevitable that you'll notice that your son's room is neat while your daughter's looks like a hurricane went through it, but keep the comparison to yourself: Talk to your daughter about her messy room without referencing her brother. Similarly, if your daughter loves to climb jungle gyms, rock walls, and trees in the backyard but your son is afraid of heights, don't ask why he can't be brave like his sister. Comparing siblings can ruin their relationship.

4. Don't Force Forgiveness

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As a kid, I loved the book Little Women. What I didn't love was when little sister Amy was angry at big sister Jo and burned the book Jo was writing. When your kids strike out at each other (hopefully in less severe ways that don't involve fire!), don't force the wronged party to forgive them right away. Kids have feelings and emotional lives just like adults, and letting the wronged sibling work through their anger and sadness will allow the relationship to repair itself more naturally than you forcing them to act like everything is OK will.

5. Model Appropriate Behavior

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Want your children to behave reasonably, be generous, and act graciously? The best way to ensure that your home is peaceful, loving, and filled with gratitude is to model that behavior yourself. If the kids see you yell at your spouse for drinking all of the coffee or see you act out in moments of frustration, they will copy these behaviors. Being the person you'd like your children to be is hard, and no one is perfect. But making a real attempt and owning up to your own mistakes can help give your children the tools they need to behave appropriately.

6. Set Ground Rules

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Although it's important to let your children figure out their relationship, it's still important that you set and enforce some rules. Everyone in your household should understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. They also should understand the consequences of breaking the rules. Acting respectfully, avoiding name-calling, and refraining from criticizing are good ground rules to ensure healthy sibling boundaries.

7. Anticipate Issues

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Look for pressure points, and see how you can address them before they get out of hand. Are fights over bathroom access a common occurrence? Set up and enforce a schedule so that everyone has the time they need to get ready. Schedules also work for battles over who sits where in the car or whose turn it is to use the tablet.

8. Listen to Your Children

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I'm sometimes frustrated by my spouse, coworkers, friends, and family members. Children are just likely to be frustrated by their siblings. Let them talk about their feelings and frustrations. Don't be afraid to share stories of your childhood and issues with your siblings growing up. Consider having regular family meetings where issues can be shared and addressed.

9. Build Memories

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Find activities and experiences that your whole family will enjoy. These don't have to be costly: Afternoons at the park, evenings playing board games, and even simple things like singing silly songs on the way to school in the morning can help your children bond. These shared memories and childhood bonds will bolster their relationships as adults.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

9 Benefits of Snowshoeing for the Whole Family

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No matter how much your family loves outdoor activities, finding ways to get outside and stay active in the winter can be challenging for people who live in colder, snowier climates. After all, you can't exactly spend a weekend swimming at the lake in the middle of January, and in some places, even jogging can be hazardous. That's why my family decided to take up snowshoeing. It's a winter sport that's good for most ages, from elementary-aged children on up, and it's a great way to get the whole family outside. Check out these reasons why you should strap on some snowshoes this year!

Snowshoeing Is Beginner-Friendly

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If you can walk, you can snowshoe: You just need warm winter gear and snowshoes. There are three different types: recreational hiking snowshoes, racing or fitness snowshoes, and backcountry hiking snowshoes. Recreational snowshoes are best for beginners.

It's Environmentally Friendly

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Walking through the snow can damage the vegetation under the snow. However, when you're snowshoeing in areas with a good snowfall, a careful snowshoer will not cause damage. Also, you'll be breaking up the snow and creating trails that can help animals to move about in the winter more easily.

It's Great Exercise

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Snowshoeing is almost the perfect workout: It requires agility, balance, cardio, endurance, and strength. It also gets you and your family outside and moving around during the winter doldrums instead of sitting on the couch.

Getting Out in the Winter Is Good for Your Health

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Getting outside has physical and mental benefits. People who spend time outdoors have lower stress levels and an overall happier outlook. Getting outside in the winter is hard, but snowshoeing makes getting out in your favorite outdoor spots easier when the snow is thick on the ground.

Snowshoeing Helps You Fight Obesity

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Between the lower rate of outdoor activity in the winter and the natural inclination to eat more heavy, fatty foods in cold weather, it's easy to start gaining a little weight. You don't want to negatively impact your kids' body image or relationship with food by harping on counting calories, but you do want to help them fend off the threat of obesity. Snowshoeing lets you focus on having fun while still burning around 600 calories an hour.

It's a Quiet Activity

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Sometimes, it's nice to just slow down and enjoy the quiet. Silence can be hard to come by when you have kids running around the house, but snowshoeing in the stillness of nature can be a nice, quiet, meditative activity. The snow dampens noise, and you'll find that the world sounds quite different when it's covered with snow.

It Lets You See Remote Places

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I once lived near a lake, and during the summer, some of its islands and inlets were hard to reach. In the winter, though, it was easy to explore all of these areas by walking over the ice and snow on snowshoes. Where snowmobiles don't fit, snowshoes can, so you can explore remote places more easily.

It's a Cure for Cabin Fever

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We all need sunshine, especially in the dark days of midwinter, and snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and fight the winter blahs. Try exploring familiar places in a new way: Check out your own backyard, or go to your neighborhood park and see what it looks like when the slides and swings are buried in snow.

Snowshoeing Is Fun!

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One of the great things about snowshoeing is that it's something you can all do together as a family. To make it even more fun, try making a scavenger hunt out of it: How many different animals can you spot? Can you find rabbit tracks, or a snapped tree branch that touches the ground, or a frozen puddle? Or maybe you'd rather play I Spy, or listen for birdsong. Either way, it's sure to be a fun family outing.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

9 Reasons Why Bird-watching Benefits Children

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Nine Reasons Why Bird-Watching Benefits Children

Children are not exactly known for their lengthy attention spans or ability to be still and quiet. But recently, I thought of a good way to help kids work on these skills and get some fresh air, too. February was National Bird Feeding Month, and while the girls and I were filling our feeders, I started thinking about how bird-watching is a great family activity. There are a lot of benefits to bird-watching as a hobby, especially for children. I can think of at least nine reasons to get the kids outside with a pair of binoculars.

1. It helps children become more familiar with and fond of nature.

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The best way for children to develop an affinity for nature is for children to be out in nature. Bird-watching requires paying attention to the smells, sights, and sounds of nature, including each bird's markings and sounds and how they behave. It's a chance to improve their focus and their sensory processing abilities. Once they spend time watching the birds, they might also decide that they have a favorite type that they'd like to focus on feeding.

2. It gets children active by visiting parks and preserves in search of birds.

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The more time children spending engaged in outdoor pursuits, the more likely it is that they'll continue to make this a habit as they grow older. Getting children out in the backyard, climbing a mountain in a nearby state park, or standing quietly in the dunes watching the birds fly over the sea means they are moving and experiencing nature, and time outdoors directly correlates with time spent being physically active; children who spend time outdoors are less likely to struggle with obesity.

3. It helps children become more observant of the world around them.

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Did you know there are around 10,500 individual species of birds in the world? Some birds are easily identified, like cardinals. However, other species birds strongly resemble each other and are difficult to identify. Sometimes, something as small as a very light eye ring is all that distinguishes one species from another. Bird-watchers have to learn to identify myriad characteristics, including colors, markings, shapes, sizes, behaviors, and calls. Adding to the complexity, some birds change colors depending on the season or their age. Good bird-watchers have to focus on details and be able to connect what they see in their field guides with what they see in nature. The focus required to identify birds can help children become more observant of all the things going on in the world around them.

4. It can cultivate an interest in biology and science.

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The field of bird study is called ornithology. Learning about birds and becoming amateur ornithologists can spark an interest in the larger field of biology. Bird-watching allows children to observe and ask questions about the behaviors, habits, life span, and diet of the birds they are watching. Their observations and questions can lead to research and even following the scientific method to pose a hypothesis, perform research or experiments, and present the results to their families and fellow bird-watchers.

5. It can build confidence as children learn to listen for and identify birds.

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Building competence is key to building confidence. Bird-watching allows children to build competence in a variety of areas. They learn to use research materials to find the information they want. They learn how to quietly be in nature so that they can see exciting things. And they learn how to identify birds and how to make observations about the behavior of birds. As they get better at identifying birds, their confidence will grow. And the skills they're building while bird-watching can help them in the classroom, too, which should also help them feel more competent and confident.

6. It develops language skills as they learn to describe birds.

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Most activities have specialized vocabularies, and bird-watching is no different. Your children will pick up some of the language of ornithology, but they'll also be able to develop their descriptive abilities as they tell you about the birds they see.

7. It can help a child develop their own identity.

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Pursuing hobbies improves children's self-esteem and can help them forge their own independent identity. Children need help finding activities and experiences that can help them grow a strong sense of self, and one of these activities could be bird-watching. Encourage your kids to explore this and other hobbies to help them form a stronger sense of who they are.

8. It can help children form a community.

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Studies have shown that time in nature increases individual happiness, but it also strengthens connections and bonds between people experiencing nature together. Families and children can meet other bird-watchers or even join online or in-person birdwatching groups. Joining a local group will allow your children to share their knowledge with other people who have the same interest they do.

9. It helps kids understand their local ecosystem.

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Children typically are drawn to the exotic animals they see in animated movies or in their textbooks, and they can easily overlook the wide variety of life that's literally in their backyard. Paying attention to the birds around them can help them learn more about their local ecosystem and how it changes from season to season. Why are some birds only around at certain times of year? Which birds tend to appear near which types of plants? The answers can help kids learn a lot about the local habitat.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, February 21, 2020

Onlooker Play: What It Is and Why It Matters!

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Onlooker Play: What it Is and Why it Matters!

Onlooker play can look a little concerning at first. I'm sure we've all looked at children playing and seen one child standing on the sidelines, just watching. You might wonder why that child doesn't join in: Are they shy? Are the other kids being mean to them? But sometimes, there's nothing at all to worry about.

Onlooker play is a completely normal type of play, one of several stages that young children move through. It's a particularly important stage because it's the first time children express interest in the play of other children. During this stage, children watch other children at play. If it's your child doing the watching, your first instinct will probably be to encourage them to engage with other kids. After all, you want them to be able to have fun on the playground equipment like the other kids. But fight the urge to intervene. The truth is that this stage is part of how kids learn to play with others, and if you interfere with onlooker play, you'll be interrupting your child's healthy development. This is part of how they learn about social interactions, how other children manipulate playthings, and what playing with other children looks like.

The Six Stages of Play

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Mildred Parten, a researcher at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, identified six stages of play that children experience developmentally. Remember that each child develops at their own speed: Two children of the same age might be at different stages, so don't fret if your neighbor's kid is engaging in associative play while yours is still in the onlooker stage. The six stages are:

  1. Unoccupied Play: Babies and young children are reasonably still in their movements, and their play looks scattered. They mostly focus on exploring materials available to them and practice manipulating the materials.
  2. Solitary Play: Children play alone. This sometimes worries parents, but it shouldn't! Children at this stage are mastering new motor and cognitive skills and exploring the idea of play.
  3. Onlooker Play: Children watch other children playing without joining in. This gives children a chance to learn about peer interactions and how other children manipulate play materials.
  4. Parallel Play: Children play adjacent to each other but don't actually interact with each other. They may occasionally look at the other child or children and copy what they are doing.
  5. Associative Play: This is the stage of play when children start expressing interest in interacting with each other. They put into action what they observed during onlooker and parallel play and start practicing their social skills.
  6. Cooperative Play: At this stage, children make group goals for play, establish rules, and work through conflicts.

Support Your Child in Onlooker Play

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How can you support your young children during all stages of play development, especially during onlooker play? It's simple. First, provide ample opportunities for play: Take them to the playground, bring them on a nature walk, set out some art supplies for them to use, or just shoo them out into the backyard for a while. Then, try not to interfere: Let them find their own way to play. Children in control of their own play learn to follow their own interests and make appropriate choices. If they want you to help them climb the jungle gym or play pretend with them, they'll ask.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, February 20, 2020

10 Heart-Healthy Habits for the Whole Family

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10 Heart-Healthy Habits for the Whole Family

February is American Heart Month, which has got me thinking about how I can help my family be more heart-healthy. If you want your children to grow up to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices, the most effective way is to start while they are young and model the behaviors you want them to have. No child is going to want carrot sticks if you're eating fries, and no child is going to prioritize exercise if their parents rarely leave the sofa. So in honor of American Heart Month, guide your family into adopting these heart-healthy habits, which can improve your cardiac health and set your children up to continue a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.

1. Get Moving

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Incorporate regular movement into your family's routine. Take nightly walks, climb playground equipment together, go for family bike rides, or just grab a ball and invent a family game. Even grabbing a leash and taking the dog out for a quick stroll is a great way to start incorporating movement into everyone's daily schedule. Anything that encourages your whole family to get moving together is a good option.

2. Simplify Your Family's Schedule

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When my family's schedule is hectic, I know I start to make less healthy choices. Hitting up the drive-through for dinner, skipping a nightly walk so I can collapse on the sofa, and handing the kids devices instead of interacting with them are all easy go-tos when time is limited. Instead of using these coping mechanisms, work to simplify your schedule as much as possible. Limiting after-school sports and activities to one per kid is an easy to way to help free up your evenings for dinners together and a little after-dinner exercise.

3. Limit Screen Time

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Research shows that children with large amounts of screen time are heavier and less happy than their peers with limited screen time. Sitting in front of a screen also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Limit use of phones, tablets, computers, and TV to two hours a day or less.

4. Schedule Checkups

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Regular checkups are essential for everyone's health. Let your children see you schedule and attend your checkups, and make sure they're getting routine physicals as well. Children who play sports will also need a sports physical before the start of the season. I'm sure you've read the horror stories of seemingly healthy young athletes who experience sudden cardiac death; it's rare in healthy teens, but regular physicals may help identify any potential issues before they cause your kids harm.

5. Go to the Grocery Store Together

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We've all been tempted to get groceries alone, knowing that we'll be in and out of the store faster without the kids in tow. But regular family trips to the grocery store model how to make healthy food choices. Your children will see which parts of the grocery store to focus on and which to skip. They'll also get to see you reading labels and making decisions accordingly. Talk through your decision-making with your kids, and let them make some age-appropriate choices while you're there.

6. Keep Your Kitchen Healthy

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While you're at the grocery store, pick up plenty of healthy snacks. Keeping your kitchen stocked with kid-friendly, healthy options like string cheese, hummus, fruit, yogurt, and sliced vegetables can help ensure that your kids reach for healthy snacks and carry this eating habit into adulthood.

7. If Everyone Eats, Everyone Cooks

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Some parents are blessed with children who despise sugary treats, love veggies, and would never dream of burying everything they eat in ketchup. My kids aren't that perfect, and I bet yours aren't, either! But one way to get everyone on board with healthier eating habits is to let everyone take part in the process. Let the kids help you pick out recipes and plan meals, create the grocery list, and (most importantly) cook the food. Kids are more likely to eat food they've helped cook!

8. Monitor Salt Intake

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Keep an eye on your kids' (and your) salt intake. Try using more dried spices instead of salt when you're cooking. And check the labels of all prepared food, because some unexpected family staples can be high in sodium.

9. Give Up Sugary Drinks

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The culprit here isn't just soda: You'll need to cut back on juice and energy drinks, too, because they're all full of sugar. Breaking an ingrained soda habit can be hard even for an adult, so it's important not to let this bad habit take root in your child. Learning to reach for water is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle.

10. Be Realistic

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I'd love to be the mom who meal-preps green smoothies every week, always has a healthy snack in her bag, and never thrusts a device into her child's hand to get a moment of peace. Unfortunately, I'll never be perfect. Nobody's perfect, and that's OK. Making small changes over time can still make a massive difference in your child's health and your own. Strive for attainable goals, and forgive yourself when you occasionally give in to your bad instincts.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, February 14, 2020

8 Simple Resolutions for a Parent to Support Play

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8 Simple Resolutions for a Parent to Support Play

We all know how important it is to spend time with our kids, but did you know that parent-child play is a vital part of a child's development? Research shows that children who have parents who play with them have a better vocabulary, do better in school, and have better self-esteem. Of course, independent play is also important: Unstructured play allows children to gain independence, flex their imagination, and work on their problem-solving skills. It also helps kids manage their stress and build their resilience and grit. Whether they're playing with you or on their own, it's important that parents support and encourage playtime. Here are eight resolutions you can make to help your kids get all of the benefits that play provides.

Encourage Children to Play Independently

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Free play has been decreasing since the 1950s, largely due to fears about leaving children unsupervised. But independent play doesn't have to be totally on their own: Keep an eye on them, but let them be in charge and try to solve their own problems. Stand back, avoid making suggestions about how they should play, and praise what they're doing, whether it's making a tall tower out of blocks or trying out the tallest slide at the playground.

Allow Children to Take Risks During Playtime

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Scientists once deprived young rats of risky play during a sensitive time in their development. The result was adult rates that were scared of new environments and displayed inappropriate aggression. Children of all species will sometimes want to try types of play that involve great heights, high speeds, dangerous tools, elements like fire or water, roughhousing, or hiding. All of these things can be scary for parents, but setting up a controlled environment where children can experience risk while playing is important to their development.

Spend More Time Outside With Children

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Playing outside isn't just good for your kids: It's good for you, too. Try to work in some family play time by tweaking your existing schedule. For example, sometimes, when I'm out running errands with the girls, we'll stop at the playground to blow off some steam before we head to the next stop on our to-do list. Try to get out in your own yard or the neighborhood park at least a few days a week.

Advocate for Recess at School

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Only eight states require that students be given a daily recess period, and school districts across the country have been cutting recess in recent years to carve out more instructional time. Not giving children the chance to run around, be outside, socialize with their friends, and play is detrimental to their development. What's a parent to do if their children's school isn't offering recess? Advocate for it. The National PTA advocates for recess and has resources available. Speak with the principal, and then go to your school's PTA to form a plan. You might need to escalate your request to the school board or involve the media.

Play More Yourself

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Instead of micromanaging the kids' play when you go outside with them, engage in your own favorite activities! Did you love riding your bike as a kid? Get it out of the garage and go for a ride around the neighborhood. Enjoy swinging? Show the kids how your proper pumping technique really lets you fly! The kids will see an adult happily engaged in play, and that affirms that their own play is important and valuable. It's also great for you!

Make Sure the Family Schedule Allows for Unstructured Play

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We all have busy schedules, and that goes for both you and your kids. That means that finding the time for free play to just spontaneously happen can be difficult. That's why it's important to make sure there's enough room in your schedule for play. Scale back on your after-work and after-school activities; limit each kid to one sport or after-school activity per season. After all, if each kid has organized activities from the time school lets out until dinnertime, when are they supposed to play?

Provide the Necessary Materials for Playtime

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So many children's toys are meant to only be played with in one particular way. Try to shift your toy-buying to things that allow for open-ended, creative play. A box of dress-up clothes, puppets, small versions of adult tools (a small broom, a small rake, etc.), buckets, balls, and the like will give your kids the necessary physical objects for highly creative play.

Invite Other Children Over

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Children love playing with other children, so make sure they have other kids to play with! A simple way to make this happen is to hang out with your kids on the school playground after classes let out. You can also meet other kids to play with at local parks. As kids grow older, they'll naturally want to start hanging out more with their favorite friends, so make a point to invite them over for play dates. It doesn't have to be anything fancy: Just offer a few snacks and let the kids handle the rest, with minimal adult interference.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart