The best things we can do for ourselves are often the hardest to do…
like taking the time to stop and listen and breathe.
but this is what we need, and so here’s a little reminder, to come and let go…
Minnesota summers are a bit of an indecisive sort. Mostly full of sun and fun, they surprise you when you go to bed sweating from the humidity and wake up chilled by a fresh cool breeze.
This morning it is at least twenty degrees cooler than last night. I opened all the windows and now I sit with my feet on the coffee table, my feet too cold because of the cross-breeze caress. Last night I wanted to take a cold shower before bed, the stickiness was so thick in the air.
It feels so good to open the windows after that kind of heat. It’s so refreshing to receive a pleasant surprise from something you can’t control. A gift from Mother Nature, kissing your toes.
A fawn crossed the highway in front of us as I took my three small kids to daycare this morning. My three year old repeated over and over that it was her baby deer. Her brothers argued, she insisted. She does that. I’m so grateful.
I wondered where the baby deer’s mama was, her doe. Her safe place. I recently came across another fawn in a ditch and it maaaawed the loudest braying sound. I would have put money on a doe cutting through the nearby trees any moment, so we didn’t wait around. A doe gone mama bear, I don’t really want to be on the receiving end of that.
The way the baby called for her mama hit my heart-gut like a fist. (Or a kick from a mama bear doe.) Something visceral, mysterious, and instinctual rose up in me as the mother I am. I wanted to answer to that sweet fawn in the tall grass. And it made me so grateful I can answer to my three fawns on drives and any other place that their guttural maaaws come calling.
Last weekend I had my oldest son, Miles, all to myself for a day. We walked around our small town and stopped in shops and restaurants. We went to a few art studios. We had lunch and we talked, and I even let him order a rare orange soda. He drank only about a quarter of it and I kept asking why. Finally he admitted, with a little shrug, that he figures that “it isn’t very good for his organs.”
Um…well, okay, I said. You’re right, smart boy, but please don’t worry too much about having a treat now and then. It’s just every once and a while and not every day or anything.
Miles is nine years old (and he’s apparently going on forty-five). I told him that I agree that orange soda isn’t good for his body. Then I apologized for brain washing him against sugar, and we laughed. We joked around and talked a while longer and then continued our walk around town.
I thought about this later and I guess that despite my (inevitable) guilt for making my child worry, I’m proud of that kid. And I’m grateful that despite how it seems, kids do listen to the things their parents say, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I mean, it’s not like every time I’ve said no in the past it’s been easy. My little ones whine and fuss and roll their eyes just like the best of ‘em. They want sweets! They want candy and gum and ice cream and cake. They aren’t interested in moderation or my reasons for why cake is for special occasions.
I thought they were hearing, but not really listening.
When I think of all the many things there are to teach my three small children about their bodies, life, the world around them, being kind, being active and doing it all well? Honestly, it’s too overwhelming. It is yet another aspect of parenting that I’m learning to navigate with more surrender than control.
Miles reminded me that it doesn’t have to be hard to teach my kids to make good and healthy choices. He boosted my belief in them, more than in myself. Kids want to be healthy and they want to have fun. There’s more than enough room for both.
We were so happy to have Sookie Lioncourt reach out to us and offer this guest post for our blog! Read on…
5 Awesome Apps That Teach Kids to Stay Healthy
Get your kids off to a great start!
A few years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move Campaign to end childhood obesity within our generation. As part of these efforts, the Apps for Healthy Kids challenge was born, drawing app developers to join in the fight against childhood obesity. Since then, hundreds of apps have been created to aid parents in getting their children to travel the road to wellness early.
Every parent knows that the journey towards health and wellness can be extremely challenging. There’s a constant struggle to get your kids to drink enough water, eat enough greens, and get the right amount of sleep. They’re always full of energy, and they always want to be playing all the time, but luckily, we can use that playfulness to our advantage! Use these five apps to help get your kids to eat right, sleep right, and play right!
1. Pick Chow!
According to the nutritionists at Marks & Spencer, studies on toddlers and preschoolers have shown that children often don’t get enough protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A through D because they don’t know where to get them. Often, even though their parents know what food items are rich in the nutrients their children need, they find themselves struggling to find food that their kids will enjoy. Pick Chow! has found a way to put 2 and 2 together, allowing kids to create their own meals and build their own Eat Well plate. Parents are notified of the choices their children make, and are even treated to recipes that make use of the food items selected by their children. This way, they can cook up the dishes their children want, and still get them the vitamins and minerals they need to grow up healthy and strong!
2. Easy Eater 2
Children have been fans of virtual pets since the early 90s, when Tamagotchis captured their hearts. Easy Eater 2 helps parents use this to their advantage, by assigning each member of the family one of 5 unique pets, which they feed the same things they eat on a daily basis. Whenever healthy food is fed to the pet, the owner of the pet earns Grub Bucks, which can be used to purchase stylish costumes and accessories for their pets, or even unlock new pets altogether. This innovative use of the virtual pet genre has earned the game’s developers special features by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America, Forbes, and Fortune magazine.
When the internet became popular in the early 2000s, a wealth of websites that offered virtual pets to children became popular. Fitter Critters finally found a way to incorporate this love for online virtual pets with teaching kids to start eating healthy. The game is played over the course of a few weeks, for minutes at a time, which makes it ideal for classrooms that make use of technology. It even comes with an accompanying unit plan for teachers who are trying to teach their younger students to eat healthy!
Brought to you by the team behind Playful Planet, the award-winning app Storyland Yoga: Condor Trek helps children start off on their wellness journey by mixing the benefits of yoga with the benefits of interactive play. Children are often averse to the idea of exercising, and many kids think that yoga is boring. With Storyland Yoga, however, kids are able to learn the many different yoga positions as they embark on a journey to save a baby condor. Storyland Yoga also teaches children to become more aware of their environment and allows parents to begin talking to their kids about living a sustainable lifestyle and respecting nature. The app also helps parents who want to know how yoga can help their kids. [Editors Note: We did mention our app to our guest blogger, but didn't ask her to include it here...so, thank you Sookie!]
In an age where most children prefer to sit on the couch and play their games on the phones and tablets, it’s refreshing to see a game that encourages children to get on their feet and start moving! MotionMaze combines the fun of solving mazes and collecting items with the benefits of walking by putting kids in control of a cute character that needs to be led from one point in a maze to the finish line. The game also comes in seasonal versions such as the Holiday Adventureand the Trick or Treat version, each equipped with themed characters and mazes. It’s an excellent way to get your kids to start walking again as they challenge themselves with solving the mazes, leading their characters to the end with their own steps.
What other apps have you used to help teach your kids to be healthy?
Sookie Lioncourt lives with her sister-in-law and 2 nieces. During her free time, she spends ample time playing with the little ones, and ensuring that they’re actively playing and eating healthy food. Sookie enjoys using various children-related apps to ensure her nieces are in tip top shape at all times. More tips from Sookie can be found on her blog.
Spring is in the air!
Spending time in nature is good for your children: research has shown that it has many benefits on a child’s physical and psychological well-being, which include greater physical health, more creativity, reduced stress and improved concentration. There’s no easier way to get your child interested in nature than building a wildlife garden for them to explore, and by encouraging your children to get involved with planning and creating the garden , you will help give them a sense of responsibility towards their environment.
Planting the beds
There are hundreds of wildlife-friendly plants to choose from which will encourage an abundance of birds, bees, butterflies and insects to visit your garden. However, be careful which plants you choose for a childrens’ garden – there are some that are loved by birds for their bright tasty fruit but are toxic to humans, such as red baneberry and deadly nightshade. Good choices for attracting butterflies are alyssum, the ‘butterfly bush’ (Buddleja davidii) which can be planted in a pot, and both candytuft and marigolds which are easy choices for children to grow themselves from seed. The birds will love crab apples, elderberries and field scabious, and the bees will flock to lavender, love-in-a-mist and pretty michaelmas daisies.
Resource: Explore the Butterfly Conservation website with your child.
Another easy way to attract wildlife is to create a wildflower patch, perhaps in a raised bed or a neglected corner. Wild flower seeds can be bought in shakers or packets and are easily sown by the children in spring – these give a wonderful spread of bright and beautiful colours throughout the summer which will attract all manner of butterflies and insects.
Feeding the birds
Children love to leave food out for the birds and to watch them eat. Breadcrumbs, peanuts and seeds are all good choices, as are half eaten apples and chunks of cheese. Having a bird table, hanging feeder and apple holder will encourage different species to visit the garden. Robins, doves, sparrows and pigeons will be drawn to the table, with finches and tits drawn to the hanging feeders. Encourage your children to put out a little food on the floor too, as this will attract wrens, blackbirds and thrushes. Fresh water should also be left out, as this can be hard to find especially during the cold winter months.
To help your children identify the different species that visit the garden, you can download this free guide sheet which has photos of 12 of the most common garden visitors for them to spot.
Many species of our wildlife are under threat due to loss of habitat and now rely on shelter in the millions of gardens across the UK. Children will love creating little homes for the various creatures and insects that frequent the garden – give them twigs, leaves and logs to create little dens for their creepy crawly friends. They’ll be providing bugs and small mammals with shelter as well as providing a place for small creatures to hibernate.
A pond is also a fantastic way to draw nature into the garden and your children will love helping you build it. Get them involved with marking out the pond shape using rope, digging out the dirt, adding the substrate once the liner has been put in and then filling it up with water! You should try and plant a variety of totally submerged oxygenating plants, submerged plants with floating leaves, emergent plants and marginal plants on the pond’s edge. You should also create a scalloped edge rather than straight edges, and ensure that at least one side is quite shallow. This provides habitats around the pond that offer a variety of depths, shade and temperature, helping many different types of creatures. Get the children to place stones and logs around the outside edge providing further shelter for a range of creatures.
Stuck for ideas on what to plant in your pond? Staff at Swallow Aquatics in the UK told us that Cardinal Plant Lobelia Cardianlis, Variegated Orange Peel Plant Houtunia Cordata Variagata and Umbrella Fern Cyperus Umbellatus were the top three best selling plants across their four stores. As these plants grow, water insects and creepy crawlies will start to thrive in the vegetation.
As the pond becomes even more established, you may like to download this pack which includes a great guide to ‘pond dipping’ and to the different species your child might encounter in and around the pond.
This article was contributed by Carly, a keen blogger from the UK. When not writing, Carly LOVES scouring Pinterest for home decorating inspiration, and walking her two doggies in the local park.
Child with butterfly: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23566085@N00/114039369/”>e³°°°</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Bird feeder: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/9422878@N08/6711487533/”>Bill Gracey</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
As Winter melts into Spring, the sniffles and allergies are sure to bloom in your family. Here are some natural ways to cure your family’s illnesses…
When your child falls ill with a cough or cold, it may be tempting to reach for over-the-counter remedies to relieve their symptoms. But whilst these can offer some relief, they can’t prevent colds or shorten their duration, and many have side effects. Used for anything more than a few days, they can make your child’s symptoms worse, and some government experts have questioned their safety. So what are the natural alternatives?
When your child falls ill, make sure they get plenty of rest as this helps their body to focus its energy on fighting the virus. Give your child an extra pillow as this will help the nasal passages to drain so that they can breathe more easily.
Your child’s body will be producing more mucus than normal, and this uses up moisture. By drinking plenty of fluids, not only will they stay hydrated but the mucus will be thinner, making it easier for them to blow it out or cough it up. Make sure that they avoid any caffeinated drinks as these can make dehydration worse.
Resource: Fun kid-friendly soft drink recipes
Warm drinks help to ease your child’s symptoms by loosening the mucus as the warmth passes down their throat. This makes it easier for them to cough and soothes the inflamed membranes. Offer your child soups, hot chocolate, warm lemon water with honey or decaffeinated tea and coffee to relieve their discomfort.
Chicken soup is an old-fashioned cold remedy that you might have heard of and there is some research that suggests that it does actually work. It is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory, inhibiting the movement of the most common type of white blood cell that defends against the infection. Although some are sceptical, it is fair to say that giving your child warm chicken soup will certainly help to loosen their mucus, if nothing else.
Steam works like warm drinks, loosening the mucus and relieving stuffy noses. Sit your child in the bathroom with a hot shower running, or give them a warm bath for instant blocked nose relief. Placing hot water in a bowl and allowing them to inhale it can also be very effective but be careful that they do not scald themselves on the water or steam.
Encourage your child to blow their nose regularly and not to sniff up the mucus. It’s also important that they don’t blow their nose too hard as this can cause earache. The best way for them to blow their nose is to press a finger over one of their nostrils whilst they blow gently to clear the other.
For older children with a sore throat, a salt-water gargle can offer short term relief. You can make this by mixing up a teaspoon of salt with a small glass of warm water.
Colds are always associated with red, sore noses from constant blowing and this can add to the discomfort. The solution is to use just a dab of a moisturizing balm (such as Alba Botanicals Un-Petroleum Jelly) on the sore areas. You can also help prevent the soreness by offering your child baby wipes or facial tissues with lotion to blow their nose on as these keep the skin soft and moist. To make your own try this recipe.
For children aged 12 and over, Echinacea is thought to be a highly effective supplement in fighting coughs and colds. It is thought to stimulate the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells and boosting the activity of other immune cells. However, Echinacea is not recommended for children under the age of 12 as there is an increased risk of allergic reaction which may include skin swelling, hives, rashes, shrinking of the airways in the lungs, asthma and anaphylactic shock. You can find Echinacea in most high street stores, pharmacies, health food shops and online (though if you’re going to buy online, ensure it’s the real dealer by sticking with a reputable seller like Nature’s Best for example.)
You may have heard the old saying ‘feed a fever, starve a cold’. In fact, this is nonsense. When your child’s body is fighting a virus, it needs all the help it can get, and starving is never the answer. Offer your child healthy nutritious food and try to work in as many immune system boosters as you can: button mushrooms, acai berries, watermelons, cabbage, almonds, grapefruit, wheatgerm, low fat yogurt with active cultures, garlic, spinach, decaffeinated tea, sweet potato and broccoli have all been marked as having immune-enhancing effects.
Many people reach for Vitamin C at the first sign of a snuffle but does it really work? Many swear by it but some research suggests that Vitamin C may help to shorten the duration of a cold by only a small amount if taken regularly. However, Vitamin C is an important vitamin and antioxidant that your child needs to keep their body strong and healthy and it certainly won’t hurt giving them extra Vitamin C whilst they are poorly so offer them strawberries, blackberries and oranges to snack on for a Vitamin C boost.
This article was contributed by Carly, a keen blogger from the UK. When not writing, Carly LOVES scouring Pinterest for home decorating inspiration, and walking her two doggies in the local park.
Sneezing child: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/46589312@N08/4505231328/”>SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/“>cc</a>
Berries: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31817493@N08/5414933178/”>kPluto</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/“>cc</a>
5 Ways Traveling Can Bring Your Family Together
There are many benefits of traveling, regardless of your stage in life: making new friends, experiencing different cultures, learning about history and current events, savoring unique cuisines and more. Traveling as a family enables you to experience some additional benefits that can help you all come together. It might surprise you to find out that children see the benefits of vacationing together just like their parents, and grandparents, do.
1. Bonding over New, Shared Experiences
There’s nothing like having an adventure to bring your family together. Whether you’re headed across the state, the country, or the world, seeing something for the first time together is a feeling unlike any other. You’ll be able to do research into what it is you want to see and do at your chosen location, and build up the anticipation, generating excitement in everyone involved. When it finally comes into fruition, your family will be there will you to share the joy that you’re feeling, and you’ll feel more connected than ever.
2. Embracing the Bad Along With the Good
Life is full of mishaps, and smart travelers strive to take such blips in their travel plans in stride. From unexpected weather occurrences that make it impossible to stick to your itinerary as planned, to delayed flights and lost luggage, staying flexible and maintaining a sense of humor helps turn such blunders into memorable events. Whether it involves snuggling together in your hotel while waiting for a break in the weather or playing a rousing game of I Spy and eating an ice cream sundae together while waiting for your delayed flight, these unplanned experiences can help create lasting memories and great stories.
3. Learning More About Each Other
Though children often seem to be caught up in their own lives and friends, especially as they reach their teen years, this does not mean that they never want to spend time with their families. In fact, according to a Travel Effect fact sheet, nearly eight out of ten children surveyed learned new things about their grandparents when they traveled together. When you’re planning what you want to do each day, ask each member of the family what it is they want to do and see. You’ll learn new things about one another every time.
4. Spending One-on-One Time
It can be hard to do, but if you can, it’s fun to split up and enjoy time with just one other member of your family. If you have multiple children, maybe you and your partner or another adult can plan different things to do with them on a designated day. When you’re at home, it’s easy to get caught up in a routine, but on vacation, you can customize your experiences for those who you’re with. Whether you manage to carve out an entire afternoon to spend with one child, or you can only manage an hour or two, this time that is focused solely on one person can be some of the most valuable of the vacation.
5. Reconnecting With Adults
Don’t forget to allow for a little bit of grown-up time. Even on family vacations, it’s important for everyone to get the experience they desire, so that they feel rested and ready when it’s time to get back to the daily grind. If you’re traveling with your parents, for instance, maybe they can watch the kids one night while you and your partner have some time to relax and reconnect with each other. The next day, you’ll feel revitalized, and ready to spend more time with your children, and the kids will have had a chance to grow closer to their grandparents.
Sandra Mills is a freelance health and travel writer. She enjoys coming up with topics that benefit people’s health. She plans on doing a lot more traveling this year with her friends, family, and by herself.
Unique Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas
Valentine’s Day isn’t only for couples and romance. Even if you don’t have a significant other, you can still give a gift to show someone you care—especially if it has a handmade touch. Kids love Valentine’s Day, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get them thinking creatively about projects they can make and share with their friends, classmates, and teachers. Instead of trading basic cards this Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for creative and unique crafts to make and share.
Giving flowers is traditional for Valentine’s Day, but you can put a twist on that with fun, funky handmade flowers to give to someone special. Tissue paper is a great material with which to make flowers, especially for children. Adults can also have fun by selecting and arranging the paper to make traditional blossoms or outrageous, vivid fantasy flowers. Cut rectangles of tissue paper and trim around the end with pinking shears to ruffle the edges. Accordion-fold each rectangle, bunch them at the center and twist a pipe cleaner around the end to hold it together. You can even add a Hershey’s Kiss to the center for a special sweet treat.
Another way to give that special someone a bouquet of flowers is by crocheting. To make these flowers more unique, they can be attached to a schoolbag, tote or other wearable items. You can sew them on, use glue or even hook and loop fasteners, which would allow the wearer to remove the flower and swap it for another. You can use different kinds of yarn, embroidery floss, or other material to make your flowers, depending on the size and what you want to attach them to. Many free patterns for crocheted flowers are available online, and once you have the basics you can create your own.
Cards are a traditional item to give for Valentine’s Day, but you don’t have to look for them on greeting card shelves. You can make your own for a special someone, or help kids make personalized cards for classmates or teachers.
One easy idea for kids is to draw a picture, photocopy it, and then color in and add personal touches. To make these cards really stand out, create your own 3D embellishments with craft foam. Hearts—the most popular of all Valentine’s Day shapes—can be created many different ways. For kids, animals like elephants, owls, puppies, fish and more can be shaped into hearts with a little creative combination. These foam shapes can be glued down or, for a more interactive card, attached with hook and loop fasteners. This way, the recipient can rearrange the items on the card and have fun with it.
For a sweet treat, you can attach two candy canes in the shape of a heart or other candy like lollipops using double-sided tape or small hook and loop fasteners.
To give your kids a way to carry home the Valentine’s cards or candy they receive, you can make a fun treat carrier by adding cardstock to a gift bag or fabric bag in the shape of a special Valentine friend. Kids can draw faces on a large heart and fill out the rest of their Valentine friend by adding a body and accordion-folded arms and legs. Kids can also draw on and decorate treat bags for themselves, attaching rhinestone or foam hearts and other decorations. Instead of using glue, these embellishments can be easily added with adhesive-backed hook and loop fasteners, giving kids the chance to redecorate their treat carrier over and over.
Taking a tip from Alice in Wonderland, playing cards also make fun card friends for Valentine’s Day. Using the heart cards from a deck of playing cards and templates cut out from cardstock, the playing cards become the Queen of Heart’s soldiers. Even better, all the additions are temporary, so after Valentine’s Day you can return the cards to the deck unharmed.
Pipe cleaners can also be used to make three-dimensional hearts of many kinds. Twist pipe cleaners into a heart shape and add beads, wrap them in fabric and link them together, or attach them to cards or other items with glue or hook and loop fasteners for easy rearrangement. You can make a whole bundle of these hearts, big and small, to use for decorating or to embellish other Valentine’s Day crafts.
About the Author:
Stephen Ira worked as an inventor for a small manufacturing company where he developed several patents that included Velcro® brand products which led to his founding of Hook and Loop in 1989, distributing Velcro® brand fasteners across the country. Stephen’s company has grown into a business that specializes in manufacturing hook and loop products that are used in the final products in many industries around the world. Stephen is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a BS degree in mechanical engineering and specialized in machine design and solar engineering. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida where he enjoys an avid outdoor lifestyle and spending time with his two daughters.
Now our award-winning Condor Trek yoga story is available as an app! 20 minutes of fun for you and the kids, plus a fun game! http://tinyurl.com/kids-yoga-app