Including Outdoor Play On Busy School Days

Including Outdoor Play On Busy School Days

Thank you CLIF Kid for sponsoring this post. Be sure to check out the new CLIF Kid Zbar Filled and encourage your kids to get outside and play!

School is officially back in session, and with it comes hectic schedules and long days. With both kids in school this year we are adamant on making sure they get enough unstructured outdoor play. We are advocates for free play and understand the importance of children getting ample time outdoors. There is plenty of research linking childhood obesity, depression, and lack of motor sensory skills, are attributed to the lack of unstructured outdoor play.

While an education includes the core subjects, there is much to be learned on the playground. Kids can take away conflict resolution skills, risk versus reward, and effective communication. These are all important skills that need to be included as part of a child’s development. Since the reduction of recess time in school’s across the nation, we have seen an increase in child social deficiencies and anxiety. Social skill will serve our children well into their future, and the future of our nation. It has been estimated that children need a good three hours of outdoor play per day. This can seem impossible for families to achieve this with such tight school and activity schedules. So here are a few tips..

Not All Play is Planned

CLIF Bar

The opportunity to truly “play” may strike on a moments notice. You may run into a friend while grocery shopping and wind up on a full play date before you know what hit you. In order to discourage turning down these spontaneous (and usually memorable) opportunities, it’s important to set yourself up for success. One of the ways we ensure we embrace each moment is by carrying supplies in our trunk. There is always a change of play clothes, shoes, socks available in a container.  That way if we are out and about in school, church, or whatever fancy clothes you may own; we don’t have to turn down a good play sesh. I also keep fresh and fun snacks on hand all the time so I’m not worried about getting stranded with hungry kids. The CLIF Kid Zbar is a delicious soft baked snack bar my boys enjoy, and I’m on board with their organic creamy nut butter as a source of protein. My boys love the Zbar’s and often look forward to play dates so they can share their favorite flavors. They come in Double Peanut Butter, Apple Almond Butter, and Chocolate Peanut Butter. All flavors are full of nutritious ingredients like oats and nut butters, certified USDA organic and non-GMO, and free from ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. These are a snack kids are excited about and parents are happy about.

CLIF Bar

CLIF Bar

CLIF Kid

Recognize an Opportunity

Life is busy, and hectic. Schedules can be maddening, and often back us into rigid little corners with zero room for breathing or taking it easy. Not all play is obvious, sometimes it comes in a messy and inconvenient little package. The magic that unfolds once you can let go and understand what is truly happening beneath the surface (imagination, personal assertion, finding one’s own voice, problem solving), it’s hard to turn your back on this good stuff. It’s what life is made of. You only get one childhood. Think about the memories that stick out most to you. I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve a television or video game. It happened outside, on a playground, dancing in the rain, building mud pies.

CLIF Bar

 

Use What You’ve Got

We don’t all have a ton of time to search for the most insanely perfect excursions. Most folks are lucky to squeeze in a park play date after school and before dinner. Locating all of the best natural parks in your area and surrounding school, will help you fit in on your way home, near your church, or around your job. If the park isn’t an option you can scour local museums, gardens, or hiking trails. Hiking, biking, or taking a simple walk together are all great ways to get your fix of mother nature. Simple is best with kids, once we complicate matters it reduces the chances of it happening more frequently. Another option is to gather a group of moms as passionate about play as you are and take turns watching the kids at the park. This way everyone gets what they need. Creating a potluck group of friends to meet at the park  or beach for dinner is a wonderful way to encourage outdoor time.

CLIF Bar

CLIF Bar

Play is a child’s way of working out the stresses of every day life. If we rob our children of this inherent right, what sort of adults are we creating? If kids have no way to work out what they are experiencing what’s going on inside, what are we really showing them?

“It is easier to repair a child, than it is to repair an adult.”       – Frederick Douglass

CLIF Bar

Essentially yours,

Erika

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Kids Lunch Box Ideas for Back To School

Kids Lunch Box Ideas for Back To School

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GetCheesy #CollectiveBias

School will be back before we know it and the lunchtime struggle is real. Making the effort to  provide your child with a healthy and nutritious lunch they will enjoy can be a tough task. Especially when you are trying to keep things new and exciting for picky little palates. I do my best to keep from packing a sandwich with deli-meat each day. These tips have helped me develop fun and creative kids lunch box ideas and themes for the summer, and I’m ready to start creating more for back to school time. It’ll be here before you know it..

Kids Lunch Boxes

The Eyes Have It

Developing minds rely mostly on their senses (sight & smell mostly) to function. Fewer things can draw kids in more than bright vivid colors and a fun invitation. My kids attend a Montessori school, and the thinking behind the Montessori method is to respect the individual by setting up an invitation to learn. The shelves in a Montessori classroom have materials laid out in a fashion that would invite someone of interest to take part in that particular lesson. The same goes for kids lunch boxes! By arranging the food in such a way that it looks inviting could be enough to get your kids munching in no time.

Organic Valley

Organic Valley Stringles and American Singles make it easy to pack individual sized portions for lunch-time snacking. Right now you can save $1.25 off any Organic Valley Cheese at your local supermarket.

Cut It Out

A simple slice of watermelon may not seem enticing to a kid. But a melon ball they can pop in their mouth and is easy to hold can be a blast. Making smaller and creative portions of food, it invites the child to take part in eating a well-balanced meal. Organic Valley products are all organic, without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides, or GMO’s. Cutting your items into fun shapes and sizes makes kids lunch boxes a little less intimidating, and a little more exciting.

Kids Lunch Boxes

Kids Lunch Box Ideas

When In Doubt, Stick It

Kids will eat just about anything you put on a stick. Our new favorite kids lunch ideas mostly involve Kids Kabobs. A simple salad may not be enough to get your child excited about lunch, but throw some spinach, string cheese, and tomatoes on a stick and you’ve got yourself a winner! My boys love finding new and interesting ways to incorporate kabob-style lunches into their school lunch. Organic Valley Stringles makes that easy by simple cutting up a cheese stick and adding it to most of the fun lunch-box combinations. You can create fruit sticks, salad kabobs, and even quesadilla on a stick. It’s become such a hit they have started requesting their breakfasts on a stick (french toast kabobs anyone??).

Kids Lunch Ideas

You can find the Organic Valley cheese products easily in the dairy aisle at your local Publix supermarket.

Essentially yours,

Erika

5 Signs Your Kid Has a Screen Addiction – How To Help

5 Signs Your Kid Has a Screen Addiction – How To Help

They are calling my generation (Generation X) the “last generation in the woods. ” We are the last group of kids that know what it’s like to play outdoors all day long until the street lamp came on. Childhood obesity is at a all time high, and the number of school-related hate crimes is astounding. The results are clear, technology is up, and compassion is at a severe low.

Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction

 

It seems everywhere you look there are devices for kids to “plug in” to keep them occupied. It starts at a very young age with the light up toys and flashing, colorful jungle gyms. We have one for the car, one for the house, one for just in case the others die out. It’s all very overstimulating, and the effects on the brain (research is finding) are far-reaching. Even the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is recommending that children don’t watch ANY television before the age of two. Many suggest much longer than that with the alarming information found in the effects of wi-fi on a developing brain before the age of nine years old.

Yet everywhere you look, children are plugged in. Plugged into iPhones, iPads, tablets, portable dvd players, you name it they’ve got it in their tiny grasp. Even billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, didn’t allow his children to have iPhones until well into their teens. Studies have found that social media can play a large part in screen addiction, but the building blocks for this issue are there long before social media is invited into the equation. Researchers have found that dopamine (the same effect drugs or alcohol have on the human brain) is released while using apps, or interacting on social media. That is why it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole once you’ve started using it. Ever log in to Facebook for “just a moment” only to find you’ve wasted two hours browsing? Luckily, there are many ways to help you decipher if your child is getting too much screen time.

 

A still moment to reflect on the day’s events, or perhaps plan tomorrow’s adventures.

Location, Location, Location

 

At the grocery store, in the car, sitting at the table in the restaurant. If you notice that all of life’s everyday mundane activities seem to draw a device into the hand of your child, then they may have a screen addiction. All of these day to day activities, although not necessarily all exciting, play a part in your child’s social-emotional development. These are necessary interactions in which your child needs to learn how to navigate. You can alleviate this by purposely removing the option of devices from these activities. Important conversations are had in these still moments, missing out on these opportunities can have damaging effects. You can begin by setting boundaries for older children, or removing the opportunity to plug in altogether from younger kids during these moments. We recently bought a new SUV, and traded our minivan that had a dvd player in it. I thought it might be tough during road trips, but it turns out we enjoy car rides together much more, and the kids have found artistic ways to express themselves instead. The amount of drawing supplies that have made it’s way into our car rides, and we love it (except for the occasional melted crayon). It can be tough when parents need a break, but the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. Look for all of the fun and silly moments to be had, and the lessons learned. It will serves them much longer than the thirty minutes of quiet time at dinner.

 

Mean Girls & Boys

 

If you notice that when you do remove the devices, or turn them off that your children look as though they’ve been posessed, they may have a screen addiction. The reason for this mean or intense behavior is because their brain is being overstimulated. Once that stimulation is removed, it can feel like an intense withdrawal. There’s no doubt about it, it feels as though the mean epidemic is larger than ever. Bullying is at an all time high (including cyber bullying), and kids are having trouble connecting with each other. The reason the popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” is such a hot topic is because it touches on many real struggles our youth are facing today. These issues are topics we have all faced growing up, only it seems it’s amplified because of the lack of social interaction and the introduction of social media. When I was growing up, if we made a silly mistake it wasn’t plastered all over and online resource for every school in the tri-state area to scoff at. Bullies were required to see the effects of their harsh words or actions immediately. They couldn’t hide behind a chat room, if they hurt someone, they had to see the effects of that hurt immediately, and suffer the intrinsic consequences by feeling terrible. Remove the person-to-person contact, and this becomes a dangerous scenario. There isn’t any compassion for a blank computer screen, and the person on the other end is up for grabs. The compassion and problem solving skills learned on the playground face to face, and the conflict resolution are what made other generations sturdy enough to handle pressure from the outside world, and grasp that today was a hard day; but there would be other days. Allowing kids the unstructured play time to work together to figure out their problems, and feel compassion for others, is crucial to healthy human development. They become the building blocks of our lives, and we draw on them in each situation of our lives moving forward. This can’t happen if kids never got to play and were constantly plugged in. You can start by reading books that encourage compassion  to our children, we’re laying the groundwork. By allowing them to figure out some of their own issues on the playground (instead of running to the rescue), we encourage autonomy. When we learn to use the right language to help describe the issues instead of placing blame or judgement, we are teaching them conflict resolution, instead of how to play defense all the time and ostracize themselves.

 

Physicality

 

In classrooms across America, children are faced with the physical effects of too much screen time. There is a reason the AAP has recommended little to no screen-time for children, the effects on the brain while staring at a glowing screen can be tough on the brain. The state your brain is in while engaged in pixelated content is the same as though you were sitting in a movie theater. Ever notice how after a few moments, you are wrapped into the screen as though no one else is in the theater? It’s because of the intense concentration that happens, we almost transcend our environment and notice nothing else. Screen time has this effect on the brain, and while the brain is in this state, it’s dormant. There is an entire part of the brain left being unused. This portion of the brain helps to control motor skills, coordination, and scanning (left to right scanning is what is the part of the brain that helps us to read, crawl, etc.). Think of a child’s brain as having dark areas (areas not yet in use), once a scent, or a feeling from touch is introduced, the brain creates a synapses, a bridge if you will to this sensation. A portion of the brain literally comes alive with a new experience tied to it, creating a bridge to another brand new experience. This is why sensorial play, and process art are so amazing for our children’s brains, it literally awakens parts of the brain that would otherwise go unused while plugged in. Movement is key to childhood development because the left to right transfer lends to the ability to learn to read later on. Movement can help develop the prefrontal cortex, which helps with problem solving and emotional self control. Without this, the brain relies on the primal part of the brain that sends “fight or flight” signals to the body, causing wild tantrums, and the inability to work through experiences.

 

Solutions

 

While these signs may seem daunting, the beauty in childhood is that it is never too late to implement healthy habits. Children are resilient and can bounce back from physical and behavioral issues with the right guidance, and more importantly the right examples. That’s the key to any lessons in childhood, an example needs to be set. One of the biggest reasons children can suffer from screen addiction is that their parents may be facing the same issue without even realizing it. How can we expect our kids to practice responsible device use if we haven’t quite learned how to put down our own smartphone? Ask yourself these questions: Am I always on my phone in front of our kids? Do I have my phone or any devices present at the dinner table, or during family time? When they see me, what do they see. One of the quickest ways to try and understand our children and their habits is by getting down to their level, and watching what their experience with us is like.

Screen Addiction
A missed opportunity to describe what you see, instead of recording it.

Screen Addiction

There are tons of great books dedicated to this issue, and resolving it.

Taking Back Childhood

Between Parent & Child

The Last Child in the Woods

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

The Hands Free Mama

Glow Kids

“The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea; the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.” -Richard Louv

Essentially yours,

Erika

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