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Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

Learning through Meal Prepping: Five Benefits of Encouraging Children to Pack Their Own Lunches

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Letting children assist with packing their own lunches can be beneficial. You can teach your children about responsibility and portion control and boost their creativity and decision-making skills by inviting your children into the kitchen with you for a lesson. Here are five benefits of allowing children to help prepare their own lunches.

It emphasizes portion control. Bento-box lunch containers are an easy and exceptionally helpful tool for teaching your child about portion sizes and meal organization. When your children select their lunch items with you, provide them with a bento-box container and explain what healthy meal portions look like. They can use the bento box to pack their lunches, which helps them visualize and be aware of the portion sizes they are packing.

It introduces the importance of nutrition. Your children’s favorite go-to treats, such as fruit snacks and cookies, don’t necessarily make some of the healthiest snacks. When they’re in the kitchen with you, teach them about what the key food groups are and how those food groups keep their minds and bodies well nourished. Provide different vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy products, and let them choose what to put into their lunch bags. Guide them to pack meals with all the food groups.

It aids in independent learning and decision making. When your children are preparing their lunches with you in the kitchen, give them options for what to pack. Allow them to choose from two or three different things. Do they want a chicken sandwich, a turkey sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Do they want carrots or cucumbers? Do they want strawberries, apples or grapes? Once they decide, let them gather and pack their choices, and then help them focus on the next food group. Once you establish a routine, they will make quicker decisions. Picking their own meals lets them feel independent and accomplished.

It boosts creativity and introduces the art of cooking.
Getting your children into the kitchen at a young age helps them start cooking and learning the steps it takes to create a meal. Instead of providing them with premade and wrapped turkey sandwiches, let them make some with you. Start by letting them select the bread, get out the condiments and select the meat, cheese and toppings they want on their delicious sandwiches. This shows them how much time, effort, creativity and skill it takes to make a proper lunch.

It teaches responsibility, routines and time management. Whether you pack meals after dinner or after your children get home from school, make sure to schedule a meal-preparation time that works best for your family. Meet in the kitchen at your designated time, and start preparing the lunches. By establishing a routine, such as meeting every night or twice a week at 7 PM, you will be familiarizing your children with following a schedule, helping them plan meals. If you want to make meal preparation more fun, consider getting a small chalkboard or whiteboard to keep in your kitchen. Have your children write out the days of the week and the foods they want in their lunchboxes each day. This can keep you organized, and it encourages your children to start planning meals.

8 Ways to Make a Weekend at Home Feel Like a Family Vacation

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You don’t need to go anywhere to capture the vacation vibe.

Spring and summer school breaks are coming up, and while many of my friends hop on the first plane, train, or rental car outta the city year after year, my family and I have found ourselves stuck at home many times in the past. The thing is: We’re all feeling it, the vacation itch. That’s why I like to bring the vacation vibe to us for special weekends. From decor to activities–and most of all, mindset!–we make weekends at home feel like the best family vacation ever.

Unplug

This is a tough one (at my house, anyway), but at least try. Put your phones, tablets, and computers in a drawer–padlocked if necessary–and spend the weekend like you’re on a desert island, devoid of news updates, texts, and annoying robocalls. You will survive, and maybe even feel refreshed.

Change the Decor

Go nuts with colorful flowers and funky lighting, and hide your regular artwork and rugs to take “your house” out of your house. So maybe you’re not at a fancy hotel in the Swiss Alps, but you’ll barely recognize your digs and will have a blast setting up (and then luxuriating in) this alternate universe.

Eat Exotic Foods

Roll your own pasta (it’s not as hard as it sounds!) and toss in a little Puttanesca sauce to bring the flavors of Naples to your kitchen. If you’d prefer to take a break from cooking, order a lavish Mediterranean meal or a Spanish feast if there’s a tapas restaurant in town, or get something decadent online, like Russian caviar. And don’t stop there. Go the extra mile by bringing in exotic dessert or candy to go with it. After a wedge of Turkish Baklava or a box of Baci (y’know, the delicious Italian chocolates that come with a message inside), you’ll feel like you spent the day anywhere but home.

Switch It Up

Do you usually eat dinner in the dining room? Try a picnic on the bedroom floor. Maybe you’ll get leave some crumbs, but that’s what the vacuum is for. Similarly, skip your queen-sized bed and have a slumber party in the living room or under the kitchen table (maybe vacuum first, in this scenario).

Bring Camping to You

If you have a yard or garden, pitch a tent out there and eat dinner under the stars before cozying up to sleep. Once you’re zipped inside a tent, you really won’t notice if you’re in your yard or atop the Rocky Mountains. This way has some added conveniences in that you can wash your hands after they get covered in s’mores and the beer will stay cold in the fridge.

Have a Rave

Glow sticks: check. Bubbles: check. Techno: Well, my daughter will make sure it’s Selena Gomez–but, check. If you can’t make it to Ibiza this summer, turn out the lights, have a fashion contest to see who can come up with the wildest outfit, and boogie down till sunrise.

Throw a Film Festival

Pick a theme, from beach movies to French thrillers, and hunker down for a lazy weekend of nothin’ but movies. Create a themed cocktail or amuse-bouche for each film and see if you can borrow a projector from a friend to get the full experience. To really build a retro vibe of a drive-in movie experience, serve a classic snack like Entenmanns’s Minis Apple Snack Pies–what’s more of an American staple than apple pie made by a baked goods company founded in 1898?

Make It a Spa Weekend

Go to Sephora and load up on sheet masks, then start lighting scented candles, ripping off rose petals, and running a hot bubble bath. If you really want to feel decadent, find a local masseuse who does house calls and turn those muscles to mush in the comfort of your own home.

*This piece is sponsored by Entenmann’s.

 

This article was written by Alex Richards from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

7 Sneaky Ways to Make a House Kid-Friendly

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Anyone else’s home victim to a messy (albeit adorable) tornado of a child? Same. But today we’re here to remind you that you don’t have to sacrifice on style to master function. Take this apartment by designer Jess Gersten: While luxe and immaculate at first glance, every last decision was made with her tiny clients (a six-month-old boy and three-year-old girl) in mind. Lucky for you, we’re spilling her secret pro tips below. 

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

ROUND-EDGE FURNITURE

No bumps and bruises in this tactile living room. Every piece of furniture that lands at toddler eye level or below was selected for its soft edges. See: the circular glass coffee table, the twin club chairs, the wooden accent table, the mid-century lounger.

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

WOOD

Gersten relied heavily on hardwood furnishings, which are super hard-wearing, impervious to stains and easy to wipe down in a pinch. (Also, no need to put a needs-to-vacuumed rug beneath a dining table when you’ve got those gorgeous floors.)

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

LEATHER (& FAUX LEATHER) UPHOLSTERY

The one question to ask yourself: Is this easy to wipe clean? The foyer bench seat is sealed leather, which makes it a safe spot for the kids to kick off their shoes after coming inside from the park. In the living room, the cushions and seat backs on the sofa sectional are also clad in easy-wipe faux leather.

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

VINYL WALLPAPER

Wall treatments are a gorgeous design statement—but they’re easy prey for grubby fingers and errant magic markers. The solution? Easy-wipe vinyl wallpaper from Elitis, which Gersten used across accent walls in all the bedrooms.

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

WOOL RUGS

We know what you’re thinking: Beige rugs in a kid zone?!  But all of the pale carpeting in this home is strategically 100 percent wool. Fun fact: Wool is effectively stain-repellant thanks to the natural lanolin oils in its fibers. Translation: Wool doesn’t soak up spills like other materials do—and it’s the easiest material to steam clean as needed.

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

DOUBLE DUTY DECOR

Think fashion and function when it comes to pieces they’ll outgrow. The teepee in the girl’s room, for example, is both a fun design note as well as storage solution and activity hot spot. In addition to a cute indoor playhouse, toys and mess can be quickly tucked inside at cleanup time. 

Courtesy of Jessica Gersten Interiors

KID ‘ZONES’

Keep the messiest activities (see: snack time, arts and crafts) to a designated spot for a solid defense against major messes. This child-size Jens Risom dining set is the first place these kiddos flock to because they have ownership over it—and it makes them feel like tiny grown-ups!

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Tricks to Have a Screen-Free Hour with Your Kids

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We get it: Your family has fallen into the bad habit of spending hours on the computer (and iPad and TV and phone) every day. No judgment. Take baby steps: Put down the electronics for an hour and try these (actually fun) activities to reconnect with the tiny humans in your house.

Make something delicious
The only thing kids love more than Angry Birds and Call of Duty? Eating something sugary. So tell them you’re going to help them bake a half cookie, half cake. And that it has rainbow sprinkles. Extra credit: While you’re watching the cookies bake, have them help you wash the dishes.

Do a family reading circle
Maybe your kid loves to read and prefers that to Minecraft. (Didn’t think so.) Get an age-appropriate book they haven’t tackled yet and each read a paragraph or page aloud, passing it around the room.

Play “Roses and Thorns” at dinner
First, sit down at the dinner table. (Yes, we feel you, it seems daunting.) Have everyone go around the table and name their “roses” (things they liked) and “thorns” (bummer moments) of the day. Keep this game in heavy rotation and you’ll never have the “How was your day?” “OK.” exchange again. 

Play a board game about feelings
Sit cross-legged on the floor to play the Ungame, which is a board game with no winners, just a pair of dice, a meandering route to move your little plastic player piece and a set of cards that ask questions like “What are the four most important things in your life?” or “When do you feel most relaxed?”” It’s an amazing icebreaker that helps you learn the secret inner workings of your kid’s mind.

Turn a neighborhood walk into a scavenger hunt
When was the last time you went on an adventure after dinner? Do it tonight by turning a neighborhood walk into a scavenger hunt, with a challenge to see who can find the prettiest rock or locate the yuckiest bug. (Older kids can look for higher-up treasures like leaves or birds.) 

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Six ways to raise a resilient child

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Helping our children navigate the stresses and strains of daily life is more important than ever. Figures released in November last year by NHS Digital show a worrying rise in young people’s mental health problems; sadly, my experience as a GP confirms this. One in eight children aged between five and 19 in England has a diagnosable mental health condition; the prevalence of emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression, has risen by 48% since 2004. “The pressures young people face range from school stress, bullying and worries about job and housing prospects, to concerns around body image,” says Emma Saddleton, helpline manager at the charity YoungMinds.

While we may not be able to remove all these challenges, we can pass on skills to help young people cope with stress and adversity. “It’s what’s known as resilience,” Saddleton says. “The ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped positively by them.” Our brains respond to the information around us, so resilience can be taught, modelled and nurtured at any age. “By doing this, through strong support networks and encouraging communication, we can help young people understand when they feel down and know what they can do to make themselves feel better,” she adds.

As a parent myself – I have a son of eight and a daughter of six – it’s something that’s high on my agenda, and I’ve discovered some effective techniques. Crucially, they don’t require you to overhaul your parenting style, but simply to make a few tweaks that will help your children thrive.

Have one-on-one time with each child, without distractions

I have a full-on job, two school-age children, and an elderly mother to care for, so I understand that we’re all busy; I’m not trying to pile on the guilt. But I’ll never forget what my daughter, then four, said one day. We were working on a jigsaw, but I kept nipping to the kitchen to check my phone. When I rejoined her for the third or fourth time, she rightly observed, “Daddy, you’re not really here, are you?”

Resilience comes from relationships; children need nurturing. It’s not a magical “inner strength” that helps kids through tough times; instead, it’s the reliable presence of one, supportive relationship, be it parent, teacher, relative, family friend or healthcare practitioner. My key point is, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts. Ten minutes of fully focused attention is better than an hour when your mind is on other things. If you’re on your tablet at the dinner table, you’re teaching them it’s OK to always be distracted. And that they are not important enough for your sole attention.

One-on-one time doesn’t have to be time carved out of an already hectic schedule. Make bathtime, car journeys, meals, queues count. Chat, listen, talk about your feelings, encourage them to express theirs. Once these one-to-ones become regular, your children will know they always have a safe space to open up.

Give sleep a chance

I see so many children who are struggling to sleep, waking tired, with dark circles under their eyes. A lack of good-quality sleep is a huge driver for stress: it has a negative effect on memory, concentration, cognitive function, and decision-making.

One of the fastest ways to improve sleep – for all of us – is to limit screen time before bed. The type of blue light emitted by digital devices suppresses production of melatonin, the hormone that signals to the body it’s time for sleep. In addition, looking at screens before bed keeps us emotionally wired and stimulated, making it harder for us to switch off.

It’s a steely parent who can ban tech completely, and I don’t think you need to. But I would urge you to issue a household ban on devices at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off the wifi, if need be. (TV isn’t so bad if you need that as a compromise; we tend not to sit as close to the screen.)

Earlier in the evening, insist everyone uses “night-time mode” on their devices, which swaps the blue light for a warmer glow. You can download apps that do this (such as f:lux), too, or buy blue-light-cancelling glasses. It’s also worth switching your children’s night lights to red ones – red has the least impact on melatonin production. When I did this in my children’s rooms, they slept in more than an hour later the next morning.

Get out and exercise

We all know that regular activity is important, and that most of us, children included, need to do more of it. But what if I told you that, as well as keeping them physically fit, exercise will increase your child’s resilience? It actually strengthens the brain.

It’s well documented that exercise is on a par with medication when it comes to treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. This could be because it gets the body used to moving more fluidly in and out of the stress state. The same hormones released when we’re stressed (cortisol and adrenaline) are raised temporarily when we exercise. Regular physical activity teaches our stress-response system to recover more efficiently.

It can be a lot of fun to do this together, and I’ve learned that kids do what they see us doing, not what we tell them to. I’m a big fan of “movement snacking” – short bursts of exercise throughout the day. I’ll put on the radio before dinner and we’ll all dance around in the kitchen. Or my kids will join me doing squats, star jumps, bear crawls or frog hops. The sillier I look, the more they seem to enjoy it.

Teach delayed gratification

Resilience means understanding you can’t always have what you want as soon as you want it. It’s an important concept to pass on in the age of Amazon Prime, Spotify, Netflix and Uber. Psychology teaches us that people who can accept delayed gratification lead happier, healthier lives. Without the ability to defer pleasure and reward, our kids are losing an important skill for their wellbeing.

One of the best ways to teach it? Playing board games. These require impulse control, turn-taking, and mental flexibility. They exercise the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain involved in decision-making, emotional regulation and, yes, resilience. Board games are also a good way for you to model resilience by being a good loser.

But there are no shortage of other ways to encourage delayed gratification: learning a musical instrument; listening to whole albums instead of skipping from track to track online; mastering a new sport; even watching a TV series together week by week, instead of bingeing in a couple of sittings.

Eat the alphabet

Nutrition has a significant impact on mental health. Good-quality food changes the composition of our gut bugs, which helps send calm signals to the brain. Poor-quality, highly processed food sends stress signals instead. A diverse diet, rich in fibre, will lead to greater diversity in our gut bugs, which in turn will help make us more resilient, and anxiety and depression less likely. Persuading kids to eat more healthily can feel like an uphill battle, though, especially if they’re fussy, so this is not about becoming a top chef – just trying a few tricks that can really benefit them emotionally.

Related: ‘It’s been bittersweet’: three Indian women on 50 years in the UK

I like to challenge the whole family to “eat the alphabet” over 30 days. I think it’s a realistic goal to consume 26 different plant foods in a month: A for asparagus, B for banana, C for chickpeas, and so on. It turns healthy eating into a game, and encourages children to try new foods. Turn it into a competition and see who can tick off all the letters first.

Model gratitude

Instead of pestering your children with questions such as, “How was school?” and, “What did you do today?”, teach them to reframe their day.

The following is a game I learned from a friend, who played it with his daughter over dinner. Everyone must answer three questions:

1) What did someone do today to make you happy?

2) What did you do to make someone else happy?

3) What have you learned today?

I love this simple exercise for how it helps us all find the positive in every day. It teaches gratitude, nurtures optimism, and recognises kindness. It doesn’t matter what may have happened at work or school, or how stressed any of us may have felt when we sat down at the table; the whole mood seems to lift once we’ve played this game. I learn things about my kids that they’d probably never have thought to tell me otherwise. Try it. It might just become the highlight of your day.

 

This article was written by Dr Rangan Chatterjee from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Turn Washing Dishes Into a Stress-Relieving Activity

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When done a particular way, washing dishes can reduce stress and boost your mood.

Let’s be real, doing chores isn’t exactly a blast. Cleaning, vacuuming, and scrubbing the dreaded toilet may not sound pleasant, but as it turns out, at least one thing on your to-do list could be good for your mental health. So long as it’s done right.

In one small study, researchers at Florida State University had 51 student participants wash dishes. No, this wasn’t just a way to get the kids to do some housework, but rather a way to understand how mindfulness affects everyday tasks.

Half of the participants were asked to wash the dishes after reading a short descriptive dishwashing passage. The other half were asked to perform the task after reading a passage on mindfulness. The mindfulness passage read in part:

“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers concluded that participants who washed dishes in a more mindful way increased their feelings of inspiration by 25 percent and lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent. Conversely, the group that simply washed the dishes didn’t gain any benefit from completing the task.

“It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study concludes.

“I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increased overall sense of well-being,” Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program the study’s author, shared in a statement.

So, how can you turn your dishwashing into a mental break? Do as the participants did by focusing on the good things involved in the task like the sweet smell of the soap, the warmth of the water on your hands, and the feel of the dishes passing through the water. Then, just stay present in these moments and take them as a glorious few minutes to be quiet with yourself. Who knows? You may start liking your chores after all.

 

This article was written by Stacey Leasca from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 questions you should ask your kids every single day

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In today’s digital world it is becoming harder and harder to actually connect with our children. They come home from school to the waiting television and usually end up playing video games on the tablet while watching TV (no judgement, we all do it). We don’t really know our children because none of us really know how to communicate anymore.

The typical daily parental question is, “How was your day?” And the typical response from our kids is “fine,” “good,” “OK” or any other one word response they can come up with without actually thinking. This question is lame. It will always get you a one-word answer and leave you wondering why you even bothered to ask. The key to understanding our children is to trick them into talking by asking questions that cannot be answered with “fine” or “good.”

Here’s some proven suggestions that will give you true insight into your child’s life.

1. What made you laugh today?

The random things that kids find funny are absolutely hilarious. My nieces and nephews tell the worst jokes, but their insane laughter is contagious and we always end up laughing together. You know what they say; families who laugh together, stay together!

2. What made you sad today?

Hopefully the answer to this question is nothing too major and depressing, but kids have emotions too. No one likes to voluntarily share sad things that happen every day and our kids are no different, but children are also inherently honest. When asked point-blank, in a place they feel safe, they will open up. You may have to pry, but it will be worth it.

3. Who did you play with today (note that teenagers prefer the phrase”hang out”)?

As much as it may worry us, our kids’ friends will have a huge impact on who they become, which is why we have to know who they are. This is a subtle way to find out if Susie is still hanging out with bad news Bobbie or if she has found new friends to play hopscotch with during recess. When you know your children’s friends, you don’t have to hope they will stay out of trouble.

4. What made you proud today?

Sometimes we are too preoccupied to fully appreciate the lint collection being shoved in our faces right at dinner time, so give your children this chance to brag a little bit and show off their creations or good deeds for the day. This also creates a killer opportunity to praise your child and to reinforce good behaviors.

5. Who made you smile today?

People are the source of true happiness and true friends will bring that joy to the forefront. The people who make your kids smile on a daily basis are the ones worth keeping around. Those are the true, lifelong friends that will hopefully be in their lives forever.

6. What’s something interesting you learned today?

This is the ultimate show and tell moment for your children. Despite what they may think, our children really are learning new things daily. This question makes them actually stop and think about what they learned and helps them internalize those things by condensing and sharing them with you.

You may be thinking there is not enough time in the day to sit and ask all of these questions and that’s OK. Tweak these questions to work for you and your family. Ask them all at once or twice a week, ask a couple each day or ask them all every day. If it is hard to talk during family dinner time, then bedtime is the perfect opportunity to review the day. Sit on the side of your child’s bed (even your teenagers) tuck them in and ask these six great questions. Try it in a way that works for you. You will be grateful you did, even if your kids do complain you’re getting repetitive.

 

This article was written by Kelsey Robertson from Family Share and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

This Easy Elf-on-the-Shelf Hack is a Dream If You Need to Declutter

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It also teaches your kids an important lesson.

Elf on the Shelf has become a polarizing holiday tradition for many working moms. Yes, it’s cute and gets kids excited for Christmas, but it’s also a pain to change the elf’s position every day. That’s why we love this popular elf idea that keeps things simple for parents and even helps cut down on clutter around the house.

A photo of the genius hack went viral after it was shared on Facebook last week. The picture shows the famous elf perched on a Christmas tree holding a sign with the message, “You got to give to get.”

The sign continues to explain to the kids that their elf “Trixie” is going to be collecting toys to take to the North Pole this year, and they will be given to other kids in need. The parents also put a basket under the tree for the kids to fill up with old toys they don’t use or want anymore.

The hack is perfect for parents who are desperate to get rid of rarely-used toys that take up space—especially since the holidays are sure to add more to the collection. While some kids may normally be reluctant to part with them, they are unlikely to say no to the elf who is delivering a message from North Pole. You can encourage your kids to get rid of clutter without dogging their footsteps up or doing the work yourself.

In addition to clearing up some room in your home, it also helps teach your kids a lesson about giving and helping others. It may even inspire them to volunteer toys to be donated to needy children all year round.

Since it was posted on Facebook last week, the photo has been shared over 158,000 times and has received thousands of comments from parents who are in love with the idea. Unfortunately, the person who first shared the photo doesn’t know where it originated, so we can’t extend our thanks to the savvy mom who came up with this novel hack.

It’s also worth mentioning you can use this trick to avoid coming up with creative ideas for rearranging the elf every evening. Just set a deadline for donations and keep him posted all season long. Now that’s what we call a win for everyone involved.

 

This article was written by Joseph Barberio from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier for Your Sensitive Kid

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Sensory smart parenting made easy.

Jayden, an active preschooler, loves the playground. After a few minutes, he’s so revved up that he starts running around, bulldozes over other children in his path, and then digs into the sandbox, spraying his little sister, Jenny, nearby. Jenny starts crying because she hates sand on her skin, and it’s sticking more than usual because she refused to let you properly rub in sunblock. She can’t stand that either. You manage to calm both kids down and head to the supermarket because you forgot to buy frozen spinach cakes, the only vegetable they’ll eat. You bribe them with cookies to behave and grab another brand of spinach cakes because they’re out of the usual one. Maybe they won’t notice? Fortunately, your spouse bathes the kids so you can make dinner, turning up the music to tune out the complaints:

“The bath is too hot!”
“You’re pulling my hair!”
“My pajamas hurt!”
“That music is too LOUD!”

Then you serve dinner. The kids are pleased with the mac n’ cheese at exactly the temperature they like but … the spinach cakes are WRONG. Jenny starts to wail and Jayden calls her a baby. And the nighttime battles begin.

Quirks vs. Sensory Issues?

Do your child’s likes and dislikes make you feel like you’re catering to a cute but impossible dictator? All of us have preferences and intolerances. But there’s a big difference between the endearing quirks that all kids have and sensory issues that make living with children SO very difficult at times.

We all learn through our senses, both the familiar ones—touch, sight, sound, taste and smell—and some that are less well known: vestibular (our sense of movement), proprioception (our internal body awareness), and interoception (our sense of physiological well-being or distress). Sensory processing refers to how we transform all of these sensory messages into useful information so we know what’s going on in the world and with our bodies so we can respond proportionately.

Some of our kids, and some of us, are wired differently. When people have sensory processing issues, their brains do not interpret sensory information accurately and reliably, so their responses may be out of proportion. They may overreact to certain sensory experiences that don’t seem to bother anyone else. They might be hypersensitive, feeling things too intensely and thus overreacting to a tiny scratch or to getting messy with glue or paint. The hypersensitive child might be fussy about clothing or food textures. A child can also be hyposensitive (underreactive), needing a lot of input for it to register in his brain—stuffing his mouth with food to feel it in there, sprawling on the floor during circle time to feel the floor beneath him, or playing too roughly at recess. Many kids have sensory meltdowns when there is too much input to process, as can happen in a busy classroom or crowded store. Fortunately there are “sensory smart” parenting hacks you can use to minimize the effect of these sensitivities.

1.Keep a journal to help you predict and prepare for sensory-related problems.

Write out where the problem happened, what preceded it, the problematic behavior and what seemed to help.

2. Create a visual or written list of the day’s events so your child knows what to expect.

Children (and many adults) feel more confident and capable when they know what’s ahead. If a disliked activity is planned, collaborate on ways to make it more tolerable such as downloading favorite music on your smartphone for your child to hear while she’s sitting in the doctor’s office.

3. Bring a bag of tricks to help your child stay on an even keel.

If you know your child gets fidgety when waiting in line, keep a supply of calming items: an unbreakable show globe, a container of putty, chewing gum and so on. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring sound-reducing earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.

4. Get them moving! Kids need to move, some more than others.

If your child is bouncing off the walls when it’s time to sit down for dinner, plan ahead and have him get intense movement before dinner such as climbing a few sets of stairs, jumping on a mini-trampoline with a safety bar (or a mat on the floor), running laps and so on. If your kid loves screens, put on a gonoodle.com or other online activity that encourages movement. Exercise keeps kids healthy and also generates those feel-good chemicals that keep kids happy too.

5. Take breaks and don’t over-schedule.

We’re all overworked and overbooked these days. We mighy be used to it, and lots of kids thrive on being busy, but sensitive kids need downtime. Keeping it together at school all day among active kids and all of those academic, social and behavioral demands is a lot to ask of a sensitive child. Taking a short restorative break in a quiet, softly lit room or taking a peaceful walk in a park after school can make all the difference!

When to Get Help

Some kids, teens and adults have sensory challenges so significant that they interfere with learning, playing, working—and the ability to parent confidently. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of children have what’s called sensory processing disorder (SPD), including those diagnosed with autism and attention deficits, as well as kids who do not have any other developmental issues. The Sensory Checklist in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which you can also download from sensorysmarts.com, will help you better understand your child’s sensitivities. A pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory challenges can help you create more sensory-friendly environments and routines while, even more importantly, building your child’s ability to better process everyday sensory experiences.


Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

 

This article was written by Lindsey Biel from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Unschedule Your Child

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It’s come to this: Doctors are now being told to prescribe play. The American Academy of Pediatrics details the urgency of the matter in a policy statement. There is a play deficit in this country, and we know it, don’t we? In articles about parenting, it seems that there’s no breed dissected more than that of the bubble-wrapped child who’s shuttled from Mandarin to fencing to organic cheese making classes until bedtime. We love reminiscing about the days when we could hop on bikes and meander for hours with the neighborhood kids (few of whose names our parents ever took the time to learn), and yearn for our kids to have that experience. We’ve learned that play enhances brain structure, helps kids practice empathy and makes them more creative and innovative.

And yet it’s strangely difficult to crack some of the structure of children’s lives. I know that I feel some pressure to add more adult instruction to my daughter’s days when I’m handed an inch-thick packet of extracurricular activities by her school teacher (“Ooh, robotics fight club”), or when other parents ask me what her schedule looks like for the fall (“Um, we’ve got Halloween?”), or when I read interviews by musicians and dancers and athletes who mention they started their paths to mastery at age three (“Argh, we’re already too late!”). To back off, it takes some real willpower and planning. Here are some tips for unscheduling your child in today’s overscheduled world.

Be Realistic

You don’t need to move to the woods so your kids can frolic in streams all day to give your family more healthy play time. There are benefits of having scheduled activities—higher self-esteem, lower rates of drug and alcohol use over time and social bonds. Some parents of middle schoolers told me that having their kids deeply involved in extracurriculars they love is what has kept them mostly safe during a time of peer pressure and emotional disarray.

The goal here is simply to protect your kids’ downtime. Denise Pope, one of the authors of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, tells the New York Times that young children need an hour of play time (which does not include dinner or homework or baths) for every after-school scheduled hour. You might set a rule for your kids such as one sport or activity per season. (I’ve decided to put my daughter in another voice class, which she absolutely loves.) You have to find the right balance for your family.

Start With a Good Playtime Setting

Dr. Robert Murray, the lead author of the AAP report The Crucial Role of Recess, tells me, “Parents can absolutely help their child find safe, interesting environments for them to explore—but it’s important to let him or her self-direct.” He suggests playgrounds, beaches and streams, woods and parks, fields, the zoo, local farms or indoor spaces where kids can pretend play with peers. Wherever you choose to go, step back and give them some “BE Time,” which he describes as the antidote to parent-directed activities.

At home, give kids access to open-ended materials to tinker with, even stuff you might see as junk. Blocks are always awesome, but so are random pieces of string, aluminum foil, masking tape, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and emptied shampoo bottles.

Prepare for the Suck

Realize that it’s sometimes hard to give kids downtime. On weekends, the first thing my daughter asks when she wakes up is “Where are we going today?” When I tell her nowhere, she whines and declares that is so boring. And then parent-friends will start texting me: “What are you up to today? Wanna bring the kids to library story time? Or princess ballet class? Or go watch a movie?”And I often want to say “Yes!” It would be easy to strap my kid into the car and do any one of those things. But it’s good to sometimes say no. I know that my daughter’s groans will eventually turn to silence, and as I do my own thing around the house, I’ll often find her cheerfully playing with her dollhouse or making something out of a cardboard box or drawing with chalk in the backyard.

Put white space on your calendar and prepare for some protests. Then find something to do and let your kids do the same.

Connect With Other Back-Off Parents

Some parents are finding that as much as they want to unschedule their kids, there’s a problem: Their children have no one to play with. Playgrounds are barren as every other kid is off at chess or tae kwon do at 3:30 PM. A project called Let Grow is addressing that issue, connecting local parents who want to give their kids more independence by doing less for them. You can sign up to find nearby families.

Once you find other likeminded moms and dads, you might consider setting up a play street, in which community members transform a residential city block a car-free space for children and families to play together, say, either weekly or monthly, or lobby schools to start their own play clubs, in which they keep their gyms or playgrounds open till dinnertime for self-directed free play.

It’s true that unscheduling kids takes a lot more work than it did years ago. But after doing it, you may very well find that your family will be less stressed and happier. And plus, it’s the doctor’s orders.

 

This article was written by shared by Michelle Woo to Lifehacker and Michelle Woo on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.