All Entries For children

Why All Kids Need Recess


Do you remember elementary school recess?  Can you conjure up vivid images of your play time?

I think I jump-roped around the globe over the course of my elementary school  recess hours.  The traditional, two-people-hold-one-jump rope game was my forte.  I can even hear the song in my head: "Strawberry shortcake, cream on top, tell me the name of your sweetheart..."  The group then sang out a letter of the alphabet with each jump.  Hopefully, if the boy you "liked" started with an S or T or W, you would be able to jump long enough to land on the right letter. 

As children, we looked forward to running free during that period of time during the day.  No hall pass.  No permissions needed.  Little teacher interference.  Fresh air.  Pure and simple play.  That was the 1970s and 1980s for me.  Over the course of the past two decades, however, fewer children have been able to experience the freedoms of recess.   

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the decrease in recess for children has been increased academic expectations.  In a nutshell, in came academic standards and out went recess.  It made sense to many: If there are higher demands academically and more accountability of schools, teachers, and children, then recess (the perceived "perk") must go. 
The problem: Children need recess!   
Posted 2/27/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 37 comments   43,229 views
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Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes: Help Your Children Embrace Theirs


How do you define family? 
This is the seemingly simple question that I ask college students in my adulthood and aging course when we begin to talk about family.  As they offer definitions, I jot down phrases on the board in the front of the room.  As we move along, students’ definitions become broader and more inclusive. 

In 2013, the reality is that there is not one model of "family."  In fact, there are not even two or three models of family to which we can turn in order to neatly and easily complete our list.  Children may be biological or adopted or fostered; raised by parents or grandparents; have no siblings or half siblings or step-siblings; have heterosexual or homosexual parents; have two parents who have remained married or up to four parents who represent blended families.

In fact, approximately 40% of children have divorced parents.  Two and a half million children experience the death of a parent before the age of 18.  About 1.8 million children in the U.S. are adopted.  The past four decades brought changing divorce and marriage rates, more women in the workforce, a longer life expectancy, more reproductive technologies, delayed marriage and childrearing, more alternative family patterns.  Frankly, there is no norm!

Posted 1/25/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 25 comments   12,232 views
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How to Help Children Deal When Tragedy Strikes


Our nation faced an unthinkable tragedy on the morning of December 14.  The school shooting in Newtown, CT, instantly became something that we could not wrap our brains around.  We try, but the answers that we seek do not come.  We struggle to comprehend it as adults and as parents, to choose the right words when speaking with our children, and to figure out how we can protect those around us who are more precious than anything on earth.

On the one hand, it seems an impossible task to try to write anything that can even remotely address people’s needs in response to the horrific  news that has been plastered on our television and computer screens, our mobile devices, and the black and white print around us.  On the other hand, it feels inappropriate to write about anything else at this time. (I began writing this less than 24 hours after the event.)
In the aftermath of a tragedy that is beyond our comprehension, people’s initial shocked reactions include the questions: "How could this happen?"  "Why?"  "Who would do something like this?" Even those in the news media, visibly shaken by the event as they reported on it, asked those questions.

With time, we can come up with intellectual answers to these questions that focus on the identification of the perpetrator, realization of the individual’s background and history, and a piecing together of the events that led up to the incomprehensible.  And with time, an increasing amount of the factual details will come together to tell a (perhaps fateful, and definitely tragic) tale. 

The emotional dealings with the aftermath are a much different matter. 
Posted 12/17/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   7,015 views
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How Important is Strength Training for Kids?


Should children and adolescents strength train? For years, many said "no", believing that it could damage a child's growth plates, thereby stunting their growth. The risks of injury seemed to outweigh any benefit that strength training could provide. But there is growing evidence that strength training is very beneficial for children and could be an important part of their exercise routine.
Posted 12/7/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 34 comments   14,310 views
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5 Easy Ways to Show Kids How to be Thankful


Gratitude can be a difficult thing to teach but a vital lesson for children to learn.
 
Psychologists have found that people who regularly say thank you and remember to be grateful for things in their life tend to be happier and more optimistic. They can't say there is definitely a cause-and-effect relationship between gratitude and happiness, but counting your blessings certainly doesn't hurt.
 
Teaching gratitude is something that should happen all year; however, the holiday season quickly can prove whether the lessons have been a success. The good cheer of the holidays can disappear in a whirl of greed and gluttony. That's true for all of us, young and old, but it's especially apparent when children, the prime gift recipients of the season, act ungratefully.
 
No one wants to have the kid refusing to thank Aunt Betty for the hand-made sweater – or even worse, declaring it ugly. Yes, we want children to be truly grateful in their hearts, but let's face it, we also want to avoid unpleasant scenes. Gratitude and politeness go hand-in-hand. 
 
Here are easy some ways to teach and show gratitude all year, and especially at the holiday season.
Posted 12/5/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   11,412 views
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Healthy Flying Tips for Families


The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and many people will take to the sky to visit family and friends. Despite appearances—a plethora of fast foods, snacks and lots of sitting around—flights and airports offer plenty of nutritious food and opportunity for activity, if you know where to look.


  • Make sure everyone eats a healthy meal before you arrive. You’ll be less likely to munch on high-calorie snacks just because they’re around or you’re bored.


  • If eating in an airport, it’s worth it to spend the time seeking out healthy foods. Look for salads, fresh fruit, vegetable-based soups, and baked or grilled chicken.
    Posted 11/4/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 13 comments   11,671 views
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Stop Apologizing for Being Different


Every day I work hard to be a good mom.  There are days where I’m proud of the job I’ve done, and other days when I’m not.   I think that kind of goes with the territory.  I know I’m not perfect, but I always try to make decisions based on what I think is right for my family.  Some of those decisions aren’t the norm, but instead of being proud of paving my own path, recently I’ve started apologizing for them.  It’s time for me to stop being sorry and start embracing my differences.
 
My daughter started kindergarten last month, which means I’ve been getting involved at school, going to meetings and introducing myself to other parents in her class.  A few weeks ago, I went to a meeting where moms were chatting about popular meals they serve for dinner.  Most of the foods they were mentioning were things my kids never eat, because admittedly, I’m pretty picky about what we have.  Most of our meals don’t come from a box or fast food drive through, and I try to serve healthy foods as much as possible (leaving room for special treats now and then.)  I stayed quiet through the conversation, because I didn’t want to come off as judging other parents.  Every parent has their own things they focus on, and one of mine happens to be the quality of our food.  When I came to pick my daughter up from a playdate a few days after this, her friend’s mom asked “What does she eat for lunch?” She named a few foods she asked if my daughter would like to eat, and my daughter had never had them before.   Yes, hotdogs are on that list.    
 
After these two experiences (as well as a few others involving the toys my children have compared to other kids), I felt the need to apologize to them.  “I’m sorry that I’m different than other parents.  I’m sorry I focus a lot on what you eat, and don’t just buy you everything you want the second you ask for it.”  When my husband heard me doing this, he pulled me aside.  “Why would you apologize for doing things for our kids that you feel are going to make them better, healthier people?  Don’t be sorry for that.”  The more I thought about it, the more I knew he was right.  My kids eat plenty of treats, just not all-day, every day.  My kids get new toys and we do lots of fun things together, even if I’m not buying the latest, most expensive gadgets on the market.  I do these things because I think they are right for my family, which is why everyone makes the choices they do.  I just need to get more comfortable in my own skin and not be so self-conscious about it.
 
The path towards a healthier lifestyle isn’t always the popular choice.  Sometimes you have to turn down seconds at the dinner table, or decide against the rich dessert that everyone else is devouring.  Have you ever felt the need to apologize for that, as if you’re doing something wrong?  Do you apologize to family or friends for making time to work out instead of things others might like you to do?  I think there’s a difference between being selfish, and just saying you’re sorry for making different choices.  In the end, we all have one life to live.  The way you make yours great isn’t going to be the same as everyone else, but that’s okay.  That’s what makes each of us unique.
 
What do you think?  
  
Posted 10/23/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 68 comments   11,599 views
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Healthy Pizza with Pizzazz!


Pizza can be a healthy choice, filled with complex carbohydrates, B-vitamins, calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C. However it often ends up being an indulgent, high fat, calorie-packed nightmare. When you’re starting from scratch (or ordering by phone) these pointers will help keep your meal healthy, while still pleasing your family's taste buds.
Posted 10/21/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 19 comments   19,527 views
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Healthy Teens Equal Smarter Teens


Whether you’re young or old, a balanced diet and regular exercise makes it much more likely that you’ll live a long, healthy life.  As if that wasn’t enough reason to get up off the couch, research has shown that the complications that come with an unhealthy lifestyle affect not only your body, but your mind, too.  Although most of us didn’t worry about these health affects when we were young (because we were invincible, right?), it’s never too early to be concerned.  Studies on adults have shown metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes) is associated with brain changes in adults.  New research shows the same effects on the teenage brain.
Posted 10/9/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 3 comments   9,198 views
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How to Squeeze in Exercise as a Busy Mom


Do you feel more like a chauffeur than a parent? We all know that exercise is important for us to stay healthy, but between cooking, cleaning up, budgeting, homework help, and—oh, yeah—sleep, who has the time?

Next time you feel too busy to exercise, try squeezing it in to your schedule with these tips.

During Drive Time
Try some isometric exercises: Squeeze your glutes, contract your abs, and work your calves by raising your legs up on your toes at red lights. Park far from your destination so you have to walk farther. Arrive early to your event, if possible, to allow time for a brisk walk.

At Programs, Practices, and Games
Walk around the facility before or after the event; look for chances to combine a class or activity with those of your children. For example, take aerobics while your daughter has basketball practice at the YMCA.
Posted 10/7/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 8 comments   13,362 views
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Get Kids to Eat Veggies by Offering More Veggies


My young kids like to be in control.  Whether it’s what they are wearing, which toy they play with or what’s for lunch, they like to make decisions.  Although it can get frustrating at times (“I’m sorry honey, we aren’t going to wear winter boots today because it’s 97 degrees outside.”) I can understand.  So much of their lives are planned out for them that it’s exciting when they get to make a few choices on their own. 
 
I’ve started involving my children more in the meal planning process.  I don’t mind cooking dinner but I hate having to come up with ideas all the time.  So I’ll ask them for suggestions, or give them choices to pick from, either in the planning stage or once I make the food.  It doesn’t bother me to make a few different vegetables and then let them choose which ones they want.  I know the food will get eaten eventually, and I like having leftovers for future meals.  I find that when given the choice, they don’t usually pick just the carrots or just the green beans.  They usually want a little of both, and end up eating more vegetables than they would have if there was just one.  A new study of adults came to the same conclusion:  variety helps increase intake.
Posted 10/2/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 12 comments   10,736 views
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Your Kitchen: Built for Speed!


We’re all pressed for time. Kitchens often go unused because it can simply take too long to cook, and seems more like a hassle than a help when you're trying to feed a busy family. In this hurry-up world, a clean, organized kitchen will get more use than a cluttered mess that’s difficult to use. Creating an efficient workspace makes for healthier, faster and more enjoyable meal preparation for everyone involved.
Posted 9/23/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   14,485 views
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The Problem of Childhood Obesity: How You Can Be Part of the Solution


The topic of childhood obesity is interesting to me, both personally and professionally.  My job is to help people create a healthier lifestyle, and I’m also the mother of three small children.  But I’ll be honest, when I see stories on the news about the latest obesity statistics, it’s easy to start tuning out all of the depressing facts and figures.  Mainstream media talks a lot about the problem (that’s become an epidemic), but not as much about the solution.  What can we start doing today, right now, in our own homes and communities to help turn this around?  What can we do to make sure the next generation isn’t the first one to have a shorter lifespan than their mothers and fathers?
Posted 9/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 14 comments   8,284 views
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Add More Veggies to Your Family Meals


"Eat your vegetables." We've heard it all of our lives, but if only it were so simple! Our bodies crave fruits and vegetables more than just about any other food because we tend to get far fewer of them than we need.

With just a little thought and a tiny bit of effort in snack preparation, you can make these nutritious foods more convenient and accessible for the whole family:
Posted 9/9/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 28 comments   15,605 views
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How to Teach (and Learn) Self-Control as a Parent


Any pediatrician or experienced parent will tell you that tantrums are just a fact of toddlerhood. Every child throws fits, and every parent struggles with how to deal with them.
 
What you're actually teaching is self-control, which is what makes it so difficult. That concept starts with you, and controlling yourself in the face of a screaming, irrational toddler is not always easy.
 
The official advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to distract, ignore and remove--in that order. On the surface, it seems simple. Distract the child when he starts fussing. If he is angry about leaving the playground, sing a silly song to redirect his attention and mood as you buckle him into the car seat. If that doesn't work and he continues to cry and yell, ignore it with the hope that he'll wear out the anger and frustration. And if that doesn't happen and he pitches a toy at your head instead, tell him sternly, ''No throwing!'' and remove the toys and other potential missiles from the car seat.
 
Simple--except you're now trapped in a vehicle with a kid screaming bloody murder because, after copious warnings that lunch was coming soon, you had the audacity to ask him to leave the playground. For food. Which he needs to survive.
 
Are you angry yet? Frustrated? Because I'm getting irritated just remembering this horrible experience--er, I mean, thinking about this hypothetical situation.
 
Posted 8/28/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 20 comments   12,943 views
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