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D.I.Y. Natural Easter Egg Dyes


A symbol of rebirth and renewal, eggs are closely associated with spring and Easter. Dyeing these iconic orbs is a popular spring pastime that yields a beautiful decoration, protein-packed treat.

With so many people interested in making their own healthy pantry staples at home, we thought it would be fun to share one of our favorite seasonal D.I.Y. projects: natural dyes for Easter eggs!

You'll start with perfect hard-boiled eggs, plus a few ingredients you likely have in your home already. Natural dyes are easy, and you can even create custom colors if you want to get creative!
Posted 3/15/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 8 comments   8,477 views
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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 : 36 comments   39,340 views
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5 Foods I Never Feed My Children


One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet.  Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww!  What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives.  My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around.  My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food.  So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
 
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home.  I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods."  If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.   
 
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most.  Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later.  I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain.  My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me.  Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog.  Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?
Posted 2/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 114 comments   38,088 views
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How to Ace the Parent-Teacher Conference


It was November 2010, my son's first grade parent-teacher conference.  I entered the room with my realist hat on and sat down in the tiny chair at the table with the teacher and my husband.  I was ready to hear positive feedback about my son's academic performance and likely some less than positive feedback about his silliness in the classroom (that was his pre-Kindergarten teacher's word for his very excitable-but-hard-to-bring-back-down personality).  I was prompt, aware, and ready to go.

What I was not prepared for was the teacher's opening line: "He is the impetus for all of the problems around him." 

She did not appreciate his silliness nor his desire to help (albeit, untimely) those around him during work time.  Ten seconds.  Eleven words.  Ten gallons of tears. 

Luckily, I have become a more seasoned parent-teacher participant.  Armed with more conference experience, anecdotal accounts from teachers, parents, and teacher educators, and published research on parent-teacher conferences, I can now offer some fresh perspective on the parent-teacher conference.  
Posted 11/28/2012  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   8,948 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   10,930 views
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Is Your Child's School Commute Safe?


Walking to school can be a great way for kids to get some exercise and socialize with friends out in the fresh air. It helps get their heads straight for the school day and allows them to decompress on the way home after long hours behind a desk.
 
But for parents, it's hard to know when a child is old enough to walk alone safely.
 
The school district in which I live only offers busing for students who live more than two miles from school. My soon-to-be kindergartener is very active--he plays tee ball and has run kids' races--but I'm not sure he'd be able to walk four miles daily. I'm also fairly certain I'm not willing to ask him to, considering the lack of sidewalks in our neighborhood and on the couple of larger roads he would have to cross to get to school. For us, age 5 is too young. But growing up in a very small town, I had friends who lived on the same street as our elementary school who, even as kindergarteners, made the short walk home alone every day along the tree-shaded sidewalks. Every situation is different.
 
Posted 10/17/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   6,943 views
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Tips to Help Young Athletes Eat Healthy


Back in the 1980s when I was playing high school and college sports, there weren’t a lot of healthy options when my teams would travel to tournaments or meets. Standard options at concession stands included hot dogs, chips, candy, and soda. Back then, bottled water was nowhere in sight. McDonald’s was the typical bus stop choice on the way home because they were the only fast food chain coaches could count on.  Meals were burgers that came with fries and a soda. To substitute milk for the soda would cost you extra and courtesy cups for water were the size of three ounce Dixie bathroom cups. Many times my mother would send me off with a snack of nuts and raisins or orange segments to try and balance things out.
 
My college volleyball coach selected Wendy’s as her restaurant of choice when we were on the road each weekend because they were the only fast food option back then with a salad bar. Coach didn’t pay for soda, fries or desserts like a Frosty out of the team budget, which helped a little. However, it was still a choice of a hamburger or the salad bar as our meal option. Today we know that not every salad bar is diet-friendly but back then only the nutrition majors like me knew the strategies for salad bar survival.
 
Unfortunately not that much has changed today. Busy lives continue to make healthy eating a challenge for a young athlete. Weekday practice schedules cause families to grab Food on the Run on their way to the next event.  Parents spend weekends sitting at soccer and football fields or ball diamonds causing children options like “walking tacos,” candy or chips from the concession stand or the after game snack provided by a team parent.
 
With snack food and hectic schedules continuing to influence young athletes for several decades, it isn’t any surprise that an article published online in April for the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that parents tend to be dissatisfied with the healthfulness of food offerings at youth sport settings.  Here are some tips to help keep your young athletes active and healthy at the same time.
Posted 10/8/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 4 comments   6,117 views
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Backpack Safety 101


Do you know how much your child's backpack weighs?
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your child's weight. So, if your kindergartener weighs 50 pounds, his backpack should be no more than 10 pounds when it's full.
 
Posted 10/3/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   5,858 views
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7 Life Lessons My Kids Have Taught Me


I just sat down on a Matchbox car. My lunch today included peanut butter and jelly. The last movie I saw in the theater was something by Pixar.
 
My children have changed me in many ways. My life isn't always glamorous, but it certainly is better for having my boys in it. Here are the lessons I've learned and good habits I've picked up since having kids.
Posted 9/19/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   6,671 views
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Healthy Kid-Friendly Favorites


Want to get your kids on board with eating more nutritious meals, but not sure where to start? How about with a week’s worth of better-for-them versions of their favorite meals? They’ll eat what you make, you get to stick to your healthy eating plan, and everyone wins!
Posted 9/14/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 6 comments   18,101 views
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Just for Parents: A Refresher Course on Surviving the School Year


A new school year is under way.  Like many of you, I have been consumed by it for the past few weeks.  School supplies, new sneakers, "back-to-school" night, homework, after-school activities, new teachers, and uniforms have all played some part in the return of school.  These topics have been discussed regularly with friends, family, colleagues, and anyone else I have seen in passing (my dentist, employees at my gym, the girl who prepares my morning chai…).  The great balancing act has begun!

For me, the opening of the school year is usually a seamless transition from summer.  But, for some reason, this year is different.  Third grade feels unlike any other.  There is an anxiety about it that I’ve not felt before (not even when I was in third grade!)  Last week, back-to-school night was outright intimidating!  I watched the third grade teachers’ Power Point presentation and I felt overwhelmed.  I simply couldn’t absorb it all: the dreaded dioramas from my own childhood; an overnight trip of almost 60 kids and only four adults (yikes); something about building machines out of household materials; and the list went on for about 45 minutes.

To be perfectly honest, I think I am writing about this topic because I need a refresher course on the ins and outs of surviving parenthood during the school year.   And, to be even more honest, it wouldn’t hurt to commiserate, find hope, or laugh along with many of you out there whose kids also just started a new school year.  Here, I will remind myself (and you, perhaps) of some important topics:
Posted 9/13/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   6,790 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   11,437 views
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CONTEST CLOSED Win a Copy of Our Healthy Lunches E-book


CONTEST CLOSED

SparkPeople want to help you get your kids off to a healthy start this school year. That's why we are giving away 10 copies of our latest e-book: A Month of Fun and Healthy School Lunches from SparkPeople, written by our very own Samantha Donohue, dailySpark blogger and healthy lunch packer extraordinaire.

Since Samantha's three children were born, she has prepared more than 8,000 healthy lunches, which means that she has also cut more than 64,000 crusts off her kids' sandwiches. She has tons of great tips and tricks for packing creative, nutritious meals that kids will like--and that won't take very much time! We also asked Dietitian Becky, who has a son in high school and a daughter in college, and Chef Meg, who has three teenage boy--including twins, for their best ideas! 

We think it's just what you need to get kids excited about packing lunch--with ideas and recipes for meals they'll actually eat.

Enter the contest today! 
Posted 8/27/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 5 comments   12,041 views
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How to Keep Your Child Safe in Cyberspace


Technology is everywhere.  Personal computers and smart phones grant us easy access to games, chatting forums, and countless threads of information that seep into every corner of our lives. 

When we think of children's cyber safety, we most often think of monitoring Internet use on computers.  And some parents do, though not enough.  One study of teen Internet safety reported that 75% of teens said that their parents almost never monitor their use. Additionally, almost one-third of teens surveyed said their parents would disapprove of how they spend their time on the Internet. 

Besides computers, other devices need monitoring, too.  Kids and teens now chat, share pictures, and watch videos on cell phones and gaming systems. Downloaded games on smart phones and gaming devices often have a chat component within them—and these games can usually be played with random online ''buddies.''

What technology does your child have access to?  What technology does your child have that allows others to have access TO your child?   Do you trust blindly or monitor closely?  Would your child know what to do if he came across inappropriate content or if someone asked her questions through a chat?

Recently, the playroom door in our house was closed.  It is never closed, so it caught my attention.  I opened it and my 7-year-old son, with his gaming device in hand, looked up with an ''Oh, no, I didn't expect you to walk into the room'' expression.   Without thinking, I blurted out, ''Put your hands where I can see them and don't move!''  (Perhaps I need to cut back on TV.)  I took his game and found that he was watching a video that was borderline inappropriate for his age—I would deem it ''okay,'' but only with adult explanation of its content.  Unbeknownst to me, the system regularly gives the (child) user notifications and access to new games, music videos, and the like. 

It became clear that a ''switch'' had turned on in his little brain, and he had to be monitored more closely than I'd realized. 
Posted 8/23/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 17 comments   12,416 views
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Parenting is NOT One-Size-Fits-All


The advice starts pouring in as soon as your belly starts to show.

First, they want to tell you how to give birth. Then, they have wisdom about how to feed the baby. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding--doesn't matter. The world has opinions and those opinions don't care what's working best for you and your child and your lives. Just when you thought no one could have any more to say about food, it's time to start solids. Actually, it probably was time a month ago. Unless you've already started, in which case, that's too early! The food advice slows only when the questions about the big developmental milestones start flowing. ''Is he walking yet? Has she started talking? Here's how you get them ready…''

And of course, there's the mother of all parenting advice: ''Enjoy them now! They grow so fast."

Some of my best parenting tricks have come from the advice of others. My sister taught me how to diaper a baby boy to prevent leaks. My mom helped me learn to ignore the small tantrums of a toddler. I got my boys to at least try everything on their plates thanks to the advice of a blogger. A preschool teacher taught me how to turn on my sons' ''listening ears'' before issuing commands. I'm all for using the wisdom of the masses to make my life easier.

But I've also gotten some really rotten advice, advice that makes life harder if only by its existence.

Posted 8/14/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   7,340 views
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