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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

9 Ways to Encourage Respect for Diversity Through Play

Photo by trilemedia (pixabay)

Exposing young children to the idea of diversity and helping them to have respectful conversations about race, religion, and personal identity can be challenging; after all, even adults struggle with some of these concepts. Most parents already know the best way to engage their children is through play, and introducing the concept of respecting diversity is no different. Play is an amazing way to teach our kids many things, including how to be respectful and appreciative of our differences.

Start With the Toy Box

Most kids like to play with dolls and toys that look like them, but it's important to make sure that your collection of dolls reflects the reality of our world today. The dolls should have a variety of skin tones and reflect different cultural traditions. Additionally, go beyond dolls to incorporate toys from other cultures into your kids' toy rotation.

Diversify Your Bookshelf

Books should be windows into worlds, lives, and experiences very different from your own. Make sure the books on your kids' shelves aren't only mirrors that reflect lives much like you and your kids live. Seek out authors of different races and nationalities to expose them to different backgrounds. A lot of kids and adults tend to default to reading authors who look like them and stories about people like them. Creating a diverse bookshelf early on will help to ensure that your kids always have a rich and varied reading life.

Spin the Globe

One fun game children of all ages enjoy is the globe-spinning game. As you spin the globe, have your child place their finger on the globe to stop it. Whatever country they land on is the next one you'll explore. You could watch videos, try foods, or find books about this region at the library.

Try Music From Around the World

Music that once would have been hard to find is now available online with a few clicks. Find some modern music created by musicians from other cultures, and check out traditional music from around the globe as well.

Visit Museums

Museums can expose children to art and cultures beyond their own. A little preparation can allow your children to really immerse themselves in the experience. Trying food from cultures represented in the museum and reading storybooks before you go can help them build a context for what they will see. After your museum visit, try to create art or crafts like what you just saw.

Support Free Play

Play is a vital way for children to work through the ideas and concepts of diversity. However, children's playtime is under constant pressure. It's important to deliberately choose to create ample time and space for children's imaginative play. Scheduling in unscheduled time allows kids to experience unrushed playtime to work out their feelings and thoughts and become more competent and resourceful people.


Helping kids learn how to have difficult conversations and navigate challenging situations successfully is an important (but difficult) part of parenthood. Reading books or watching videos in which kids hear racist or other derogatory language lets kids think about how it feels to be in those situations, but role-playing after such exposure lets kids try out responses and strategies for dealing with these situations.

Start Early

Exposing your kids to different cultures isn't something that requires waiting. From infancy, incorporating storybooks from a diverse range of authors and listening to music from different cultures is an excellent foundation for a child who will respect diversity. But if your child is older, the window isn't closed: The best time to begin is now.

Listen to Your Kids

Most children have already seen or experienced prejudice. Playing is a great way to get them to start talking about things they've already witnessed in their own lives. These conversations can serve as building blocks to help them reach higher levels of understanding.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, June 21, 2021

10 Children's Snacks That Are Shockingly Unhealthy

Photo by Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Modern parents have a lot to worry about, but what to feed our kids is at the top of the list for many of us. We want them to eat fresh, nutritious food and have a lifelong healthy relationship with the things they eat. They want easy-to-eat snacks that taste good. Grocery store shelves are overflowing these days with updated versions of the snacks we grew up eating, like chips, cheese crackers, and Popsicles. However, although these new options may seem like they are more nutritious and wholesome, many are actually filled with added sugar, refined flours, chemical additives, and sodium.

1. Cereal Bars

We all have mornings when we need grab-and-go breakfasts. Cereal bars are easy for those rushed days, and the package says they contain fruit and whole grains: That should be healthy, right? The problem is that cereal bars are typically loaded with a tablespoon or more of sugar in each serving, and along with this dose of sugar comes trans fat and a host of artificial dyes and flavors. Instead, try keeping boiled eggs or protein bars on hand for easy, portable breakfasts that aren't hiding massive amounts of sugar.

2. Fruit Snacks

Fruit is a wholesome snack, but a piece of fruit is a far cry from a package of fruit snacks. Most fruit snacks are made from sugar-filled juice concentrates, actual sugar, and corn syrup. They also contain food coloring and artificial flavors. When it comes right down to it, fruit snacks are basically just candy with good marketing. A better alternative is to eat fiber-rich fruit or snack on fruit leathers or dehydrated fruit with few (if any) added ingredients.

3. Graham Crackers

Graham crackers entered our food culture as one of the first health food items, but even though they are still the snack of choice for many schools and parents, the bad news is that they basically offer the same nutritional value as a cookie. Their ingredient list includes sweeteners and highly refined flour. Does that mean you should panic each time another parent serves up graham crackers? Of course not! They are OK as an occasional treat, but try not to make them a daily staple.

4. Juice

I certainly grew up drinking juice, and I still love a cold glass of OJ on a hot morning. You might think that since it comes from fruit, it has to be a wholesome, healthy choice. But juicing fruit removes the fiber, which is a vital part of a healthy diet and also what helps our bodies to digest the natural sugar in fruit more slowly and evenly. Without the fiber, all of that sugar hits your bloodstream at once. Currently, the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to limit children under 6 to no more than eight ounces of juice a day, while elementary-aged children should have no more than 12 ounces a day. Children under the age of one shouldn't have juice at all. Drinking too many sugary beverages increases the likelihood that children will develop weight issues or diabetes.

5. Muffins

Many kids (and adults) would love to start their morning off with a doughnut, but few of us would call that a healthy breakfast. Muffins, though, are far more likely to end up on the breakfast table. I've got bad news for you, though: If you're buying muffins at the store, you might as well be buying doughnuts. Commercially prepared muffins are basically cake. Healthier muffins can be made at home using whole-wheat flour or a flour alternative and mixing in zucchini or bananas. You could also seek out a bakery that specializes in healthy baked goods and get your muffins there.

6. Prepackaged Lunches

So many parents have been tempted by the bento box craze. After all, small bites of basically healthy food very much fits with how kids eat. And often, those boxes are easier for smaller children than a large sandwich. You'd think that the prepackaged versions of these meals should be a great choice, too, but you'd be wrong. They are filled with sodium: In fact, many of them have more than the entire recommended amount of sodium that children should get daily.

7. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Most of us have internalized the message that reduced-fat foods are always better than full-fat versions. However, when it comes to peanut butter, that's not the case. Natural, full-fat peanut butter is made simply from peanuts and is chock full of healthy fats and protein. But when that fat is removed, it has to be replaced by something, and often, those "somethings" include unhealthy fats, sugar, and corn syrup. You're much better off choosing natural peanut butter or an alternative like almond butter or sun butter.

8. Sports Drinks

On a hot day when your kid is playing hard for an hour or more, sports drinks can help stave off dehydration and keep vital minerals in balance. But any other time, they're not a great choice. A bottle of a typical sports drink has 200 calories and a lot of sugar and sodium. Instead, for shorter exercise sessions or on cooler days, opt to give the kids cold water. If they want a little flavor, float orange or cucumber slices in their water bottles. This will help them establish the habit of reaching for water when they are thirsty. That's the kind of habit that will help them maintain a healthy weight into adulthood.

9. Veggie Puffs and Straws

They're made out of veggies and offers kids a snappy crunch, so you might think that veggie puffs make a great snack. But not so fast: It turns out that these lunch-box favorites are filled with refined grains like rice, soy flour, and corn flour, and those refined carbs are typically the first three ingredients, meaning they make up more of the puffs than the various vegetables used to flavor them. Need a healthier option that still provides crunch? Consider options like baked kale chips or freeze-dried snap peas.

10. Yogurt

Yogurt seems like such a healthy, nutrient-dense snack to offer our kids, and lots of yogurts are actually packed with vitamins. But the yogurt specifically marketed as being kid-friendly usually hides an unhealthy secret: up to two teaspoons of sugar in a 2.25-ounce container of yogurt! Food dyes and artificial flavors also are on the ingredient lists of popular yogurt varieties aimed at the lunch-box set. A far healthier alternative is to mix some fruit or even a small serving of jam into regular yogurt.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

7 Ways to Help Your Children Stay Focused And Succeed During Distance Learning by Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

7 Ways to Help Your Children Stay Focused and Succeed During Distance Learning

One constant challenge for families during the pandemic year has been learning how to best implement distance learning. For many parents who had never considered homeschooling, learning how to be a consistent part of their child's school day (which now is taking place at the kitchen table!) was a new experience. Children also had to very quickly learn how to cope with a very different form of school. Luckily, we have learned some strategies for helping children to stay focused during distance learning.

Know the Expectations

The first thing parents should do is determine what expectations their children's schools and teachers have for distance learning. How much time are the students required to spend online? Screen time limits should apply to all children, and for younger children especially, other types of learning are vital.

Consider Your Child's Learning Style

Not everyone learns the same way. Similarly, not all children are comfortable with all distance learning assignments. Which learning methods suit your child best? Do they do better when they are working with their teacher live on their device? Or does your child perform better when the teacher gives the assignment and then the child works away from the computer, perhaps with Mom or Dad watching? It's important to remember that there is no one best way for every student. There's just the way your kid learns best!


Kids need to move their bodies during the day. Getting the wiggles out (and I'm talking about kids from preschool to high school!) helps them stay focused when they are sitting down working. Make sure they have time to get out of their seat, run around, dance about the room, or just go play for a few minutes. Some kids even do better on schoolwork when they're standing. Try raising the computer or tablet to make an impromptu standing desk to see if that helps your kids focus for longer.

Limit Distractions

Just like with in-person schooldays, not every moment of your child's virtual school day is going to hold their interest. But now, of course, they have all of the distractions of home. And in my home, they also have the distraction of their sibling's school day and their parents' Zoom meetings! If possible, try to construct quiet zones so everyone can have a peaceful place to work. Everyone needs a pair of headphones. A clutter-free work zone with a comfortable chair can also make a huge difference!

Make a Schedule, but Keep it Flexible

Consistency and routine are important for kids (and let's be honest, for adults as well). Schedule subjects or activities your kid struggles with for times when you can actively supervise and engage with them. It's also important to schedule those activities for when your kid's focus is high and their energy level is up. For some kids, that's first thing in the morning. Other kids get off to a slow start and are better after lunch. Also, share this information with your children's teachers. If your kid is deeply involved in an assignment or activity, don't insist that they move to the next thing on the schedule.

Use Checklists

Checklists are fantastic, and you can use them in several ways. Make a checklist for every day for your child to work through. And don't be afraid to put non-academic things on the checklist. Chores like "fill the cat's water bowl" or "make your bed" absolutely should be on your kids' daily checklists. Also, many kids do better with checklists that break down each task. For example, if the teacher wants your kid to watch a video, read a supporting document, and then write a response, make a checklist that lists each step separately. This is also a great time to work with your kids on developing their own checklists, a skill they will use into adulthood and their working lives.

Be Kind to Your Kids and Yourself

No teacher wants their students to hate learning. It's OK to prioritize your children's happiness as well as their academic progress. If they are struggling with a concept or assignment, suggest a break! If distance learning is moving at a quick pace, talk to the teacher about slowing down the pace for your child. If the frustration level really gets high, you might decide that the day is over and give it another try tomorrow. On a similar note, make sure you are giving your kids consistent positive feedback for finishing assignments, completing their checklists, or acing a test. And give yourself that same positive feedback for shepherding your kids through distance learning successfully!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart