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The 9 Best Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

The 9 Best Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

Summer is the time when kids build memories. And kids will look back at vacations, day trips, picnics and other outings with nostalgia. But that's not all they'll remember. They'll remember the bad (e.g., being bored at home, fights with siblings). And so as parents we want to help them make every day in summer something they'll want to remember.

And while these everyday summer activities may not necessarily inspire idyllic childhood memories of summer, they will happily fill those long summer days spent at home. Work-at-home parents, in particular, need ideas for enjoyable summer activities that school-age kids can do on their own.

Of course, parents also will want to add in more special activities, like vacations, summer camp or these free summer fun ideas to build those fond memories.

When you're working at home, playing outside is probably not the first activity that comes to mind. Supervising outdoor play can take time out of your workday. But kids that are cooped up inside all day only get rowdier and rowdier. Spending a little outdoor time with them can allow them to blow off some steam and nap later. When they are a little older and nap time is a thing of the past, you may be able to watch from a window while they play outside. So, work some of these 5 outdoor activities for kids into your routine.

Art, much like getting outside, can feel counterproductive to getting things done. It's messy and can use supervision. Setting up an art space — with paper, coloring books, glue, scissors, colored pencils, and crayons are all readily available — will encourage kids to make art part of their daily routine, while making it easier to clean up. But even if you have an art space, you might have to provide some inspiration in the way of ideas and easy summer craft projects.

Typically, kids get new toys during the holiday season, right in the middle of the school year when they often don't have time to play with them. By the time summer rolls around, they are forgotten or, worse, broken. But if you choose your children's toys wisely this does not have to be the case. Toys can provide lasting enjoyment all summer.

Good old-fashioned board games and cards can keep kids busy while you work. Of course, for some games, you'll need to have more than one kid in the house to play. However, there are some games for one and brainteaser games that can keep one child occupied this summer, and you'd be amazed at how many things a kid can do with a deck of cards. If your kids are old enough to play outside unattended, don't overlook outdoor fun like shooting a game of HORSE at the driveway basketball hoop or sending them out to play tag.

Reading for enjoyment every day is a great habit to teach your kids. And summer — without the fatigue of homework and school activities — is the time to instill the reading bug. Summer reading is an activity that's good for just one kid.

Join the local library summer reading club. Try wordless books for new or struggling readers. Buy comics or magazines for your kids. Setting aside a certain time every day for reading helps get kids in the habit. Join a summer reading program or start your own.

Audiobooks and podcasts are for more than just summer car trips. Listening to audiobooks promotes a love of literature while keeping kids engaged for hours, and it's easier for some kids than reading a book.

Today it is easier than ever to download books to a phone, tablet or computer, but you can still do it the old-fashioned way and bring CDs home from the library. And don't forget about podcasts, which are even easier to access than audiobooks.

Spending 15 minutes a day writing (or drawing) in a journal will give your child a head start on the old back-to-school question: What did you do on your summer vacation? Writing in a journal will not keep a child occupied for long periods while you work, but it's a good way to start the day or transition from one activity to another.

All summer long, have a jigsaw puzzle going somewhere in the house. And keep puzzle books handy. Puzzles keep kids mentally active. Some kids are more into puzzles than others. Don't expect them to spend hours working on puzzles in a day. Doing only a little bit of a large puzzle each day or completing a 100-puzzle piece puzzle all at once keeps kids from getting bored with it.

Of course, there are puzzle apps and computer games as well, but, as with all electronics, parents need to keep an eye on the clock to be sure kids don't get too much screen time.

If your child's school gives summer homework or summer reading, have your child work on it a little each day or each week. You'll both be happy it's finished at the end of summer when you're rushing around getting ready for back to school. Keep an eye on your child's progress, but don't give too much homework help. Working on it a little each day teaches your child how to manage long-term projects. The homework becomes an everyday summer activity rather than a monumental end-of-summer task. The purpose of summer homework is to keep kids' skills sharp, so waiting until the end of summer may mean re-learning forgotten skills. Make a plan for summer homework early in the summer, and stick to it.

References: Laureen Miles Brunelli and Sean Blackburn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can grasp or turn every meal into a lecture. But wait too long and they could pick up unhealthy habits in the meantime.

“Kids need to know that every food they put into their bodies affects them,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Parents can get that message across by talking with kids about the food they put in their bodies, why it matters, and how they can learn to make the healthiest choices.

Make sure healthy foods are the default setting for your family’s meals, and get everyone involved in choosing some nutritious, tasty options. Take kids with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Younger kids can pick out fresh fruits and veggies. Older kids can take on larger roles like choosing recipes and making a shopping list.

Explain that they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy to run, dance, and play. When you’re cooking or grocery shopping, show them different examples of these key food groups.

Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Label foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids can “green light” foods like whole grains and skim milk they should have every day and “slow down” with less healthy foods like waffles. Foods with the least nutrition, such as french fries, don’t need to be off-limits, but kids should stop and think twice before they eat them often.

It’s not just what kids eat that matters, but how much. Even very young kids can learn that the amount of rice or pasta they eat should match the size of their fist. Protein should be palm-sized, and fats like butter or mayonnaise about the tip of their thumb. When you buy packaged foods, have kids help you find the serving size. Then talk about why sticking to it is a good idea.

Explain to older kids that while candy and cookies taste good, sugar can do their body more harm than good. (You can tell younger kids that too many sweets will make them feel “yucky.”) Then, offer fresh fruit for desserts and limit treats to two or three times a week to keep cravings for sweets in check.

We’re born knowing to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. But that’s easy to ignore when you’re surrounded by snacks and giant portions. To help kids listen to their bodies, don’t push them to have “one more bite” or clean their plate.  Turn off screens during meals, too. They distract kids from paying attention to how much they’re eating and when they’ve had enough.

If you push your kids to eat broccoli but never touch it yourself, you might need to take a closer look at your diet. Every bite you take matters. “Role modeling is one of the best ways to get your children onboard with healthier eating,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Kids who eat meals with their family are more likely to eat healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (They’re also less apt to snack on junk food.) You don’t need to lecture about nutrition while you eat. Make meals together fun. Turn on some music, choose silly games to play, or let kids invite a friend.

If you think your child needs to lose or gain weight, don’t put them on a diet. Instead, speak to his doctor. “Your pediatrician can help you discuss basic food groups, meal time behaviours, food portions, and weight,” Fisher says.

Reference: Stephanie Booth by GrowWebMD

Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes

Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” This is a famous quote from Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Intuitively, we know that perfectionism is unrealistic and restrictive, a tyrant that steals success. In fact, there are many sayings and experts that stress the importance of making mistakes for creating and achieving great things.

But still, there are many people who fear to make mistakes. According to Martin Antony, Ph.D, professor of psychology at Ryerson University and co-author of When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough, “Generally, fears are influenced by both our biological and genetic makeup, as well as our experiences.”

We model what we see, Antony said. He gave the example of parents expressing their fears over making mistakes, which a child, like a sponge, soaks up.

The messages we receive from others, including friends, employers and the media, also play a role. “The constant pressure to improve performance can have the effect of triggering fears of underperforming and of making mistakes,” Antony said. He added that constant criticism has a similar impact.



Having some fear of mistakes can be a good thing, Antony said — it can help to improve your performance. But excessive fear causes problems. For instance, you might start avoiding fear-provoking situations. “[People] may avoid social situations (meetings, dating, presentations), for fear of making some sort of blunder, and they may procrastinate for fear of not being able to complete a task perfectly”, Antony said.

Or you might engage in “safety behaviors” to prevent making mistakes. Antony defined safety behaviors as “small behaviors to protect oneself from perceived dangers.” So you might spend hours pouring over your work to make sure it’s mistake-free.

“Overcoming any fear involves confronting the feared stimulus directly”, Antony said. For instance, he and other perfectionism experts recommend people practice making small mistakes with mild consequences – and stop engaging in safety behaviors.

Changing perfectionistic thinking also is important since it’s our thoughts, our interpretations of what’s occurring around us, that perpetuate perfectionism. As Antony and co-author Richard Swinson, M.D., write in When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough, we actually don’t fear making mistakes. We fear what we believe about making mistakes. That’s what’s upsetting or anxiety-producing for us.

“Perhaps you assume that making mistakes will lead to some terrible consequence that can’t be corrected or undone (such as being fired or ridiculed by others). Or you may believe that making mistakes is a sign of weakness or incompetence,” they write.

Perfectionists tend to take such distorted thoughts as gospel. In their book, Antony and Swinson explain how readers can alter their perfectionistic thinking with these four steps:

  • identify the perfectionistic thought;
  • list alternative thoughts;
  • think about the pros and cons of both your thoughts and the alternative thoughts; and
  • pick a more realistic or helpful way to view the situation

They give the example of a man who feels embarrassed and anxious after making a joke that others didn’t seem to find funny. Initially, he thinks that others see him as awkward and boring, and won’t like him if he’s not entertaining.

His alternative thoughts are that people won’t judge him based on one measly uncomfortable situation; and they find him interesting, anyway. When evaluating these thoughts, he realizes that his friends know him well, and even though they make bad jokes, he still enjoys their company. Plus, people invite him to functions, so they must find him entertaining.

In the end, he picks this more realistic and helpful perspective: “Perhaps I need to give myself permission to make mistakes when I am talking to other people. I don’t judge other people when they say something unusual or awkward. Perhaps they are not judging me when I make mistakes.”

Instead of assuming your thoughts are facts, Antony also asks people to test their beliefs with small experiments. “For example, if someone is convinced that mispronouncing a word would be a disaster, we might encourage him or her to mispronounce a word and see what happens.”

Examining the evidence for your perfectionistic assumptions is another way to alter distorted thoughts. For instance, let’s say you believe that getting less than an A on your research paper is terrible and unacceptable. According to Antony and Swinson, “you could try to recall what happened in the past when you received a lower grade on a paper or exam. Did you survive the experience? What happens when other people receive grades that are lower than an A? Do terrible things occur as a result?”

While it might feel like your fear of mistakes is unshakeable, fortunately, there are many effective, practical strategies to overcome perfectionism. If your fear seems excessive and impairs your functioning, don’t hesitate to see a mental health professional.

Reference: Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from Psychcentral