The Holiday Season is here and the shopping has begun! I was in Target this past weekend, the toy choices are overwhelming and expensive! What are the best toys for your child? Which toys will be fun and valuable for your child’s development? It is difficult to decide what toys are the best choice!
I can remember feeling like toys in our house multiplied every night. SURELY we didn’t have THAT many stuffed animals yesterday! Too many toys results in a child who doesn’t play with anything well, they become overwhelmed with the number of toys. Parents also can fall into the trap of buying the newest flashiest toy on the market. We all love our kids, so why wouldn’t we stand in line to buy the “most popular” toy of the season? Many of these flashy toys encourage a child to play passively, using no imagination or creativity. Toys should allow a child to play in several different ways. A child should be able to decide how to play with a toy, the toy should not determine how a child plays. Play is a child’s work, it is through play that a child learns how the world works. As you make that holiday wish list, here are what I think every child needs in his playroom. You might be surprised!
- Blocks and construction type toys
Wooden blocks, cardboard bricks, Legos, and magnetic tiles are all great choices. Depending on your child’s age, you will see children build towers, knock towers over, sort blocks by color, create designs, make roads for cars and tracks for trains and more.
- Art supplies
Creative juices start flowing when a child has a blank piece of paper, crayons, paints, markers, stickers, scissors and any other item you can find in the craft aisle to help with their masterpiece. Blank paper rather than coloring books will provide more encouragement for a child to create. Children age 2 and older love to create on an easel which allows for larger muscle movement which makes drawing and painting easier.
- Books….lots of them!
Provide books in bins so children can see the front of them. The front of the book will interest a child more than the words on the spine of the book on a shelf. Provide books that have flaps, pop ups, and colorful pictures. A corner with a small chair or big floor pillow encourages reading.
- Play kitchen supplies and other child sized house hold items like keys, phones, brooms, rakes etc.
If space allows, a play kitchen is a great investment. Play food, dishes and utensils and other child sized household items encourages great imaginative play and cooperative play with others.
- Doll stroller or shopping cart
All children like to push dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys around. Toddlers and preschoolers are “gatherers” and a doll stroller or shopping cart provides a way for them to collect “treasures” on walks outside or around your home.
- Dress up clothes
Role play is a great way to encourage imagination and development of social skills and empathy. Keep those Halloween costumes out all year in an easily accessible dress up box.
Puzzles help a child learn to problem solve, develop patience, practice persistence, and develop spatial awareness.
- Medical kit
Play helps a child work through scary or anxiety producing experiences. All children like to give Teddy or Baby a check up and/or shot after a visit to the doctor.
- Musical instruments
Children love to create music. Drums, xylophones, tambourines, shakers all help develop rhythm and a love of music. Children exposed to music and rhythm often are more successful in Math!
- Tools and play household items like a broom, vacuum, lawn mower etc.
Boys and girls love to hammer and build with “tools”. Allow your child to build. This is the basis of STEM education. Children also love to take on the roles they see at home, let them participate in chores and pretend with toys that look like Mom and Dad’s tools. A Swiffer or dust cloth is fun too!
- Tent or play house
Children love small places to hide, read, play quietly or play house, school, or camping. This play house or tent could be as simple as a large box or a blanket thrown over a card table.
- Dolls/stuffed animals
Playing with dolls or stuffed animals fosters empathy development. Pretend role play of Mommy and Daddy is very important.
Throwing, catching, kicking are all developmental milestones. Simple games with balls introduces cooperative play, taking turns and helps with fine and gross motor development.
- Shape sorter
This is a basic toy that will grow with your child. Young toddlers will fill and dump, older toddlers will sort by shape and color, and often children will use it to gather other items. Another great sorting tool is your kitchen muffin tins! Have your child sort different cereals, different colored pompons, or any other item!
- Stacking cups
This less than $10.00 toy is a bargain! This will last a child from 6 months through preschool. Children bang them, stack them, pour and dump water and sand, “drink” from them and learn size and volume with them!
Children will love to squish, roll, and create with clay. The use of hands to roll and shape creations develops fine motors skills used for writing.
- Pedal powered ride on toy
Learning to pedal is a developmental milestone for 2 to 3 year olds. Ride on toys get children needed outdoor time and exercise along with development of coordination.
- Cars, trucks, and or train
Children love toys that move. Purchase cars, trucks, and trains that are easy to handle and run on “kid power”.
- Farm or other toy with animals
Farm animals, dinosaurs, and/or zoo animals are a great way for children to learn about animals, habitats, and encourages imaginative play. Dinosaurs are often a favorite too!
- Family games
Even preschooler can participate in family games. Think Candyland! (not my favorite, but there are many choices out there!) Board games help a child develop skills in handling winning and losing, taking turns, and cooperative play. Board games are much more valuable than video games which do not provide as much person to person interaction.
And yes, sometimes just a large box or two, plastic containers or a few laundry baskets will provide hours of entertainment and imaginative play for your child! Toys do not need to be expensive! Remember that a toy is only valuable if your child plays with it! Quality is more important than quantity of toys. Often the best toys don’t come with batteries. And most important, allow your child to play freely…a child who plays well is learning!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Do you have a parenting worry list? I do….even with adult children I still have a list of things that I “worry” about. Everything from “Are they working too hard and getting enough sleep?”, “Are they safe when they travel?” to “Are they really happy?” is on that list! I really believe that you never really exit that parenting role completely, so maybe there will always be a few items on my worry list. There are few things that bring more anxiety to a parent than their worry about the safety of their child. At the top of many parents’ worry list is the fear of their child being abducted or sexually abused. The statistics can cause most of us to lose sleep….in general most studies show that about 20% of adult females and about 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual abuse incident. The U.S. Department of Justice states that 90% of the victims know their perpetrator in some way. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2020 91% of missing children were runaways, 5% were family abductions, 1% were lost children, 3% were young adults between age 18 and 20 and less than 1% were nonfamily abductions.
With this knowledge, we as parents may need to change the education we are giving our children. Maybe the traditional Stranger Danger is not the most valuable approach to keeping our children safe. Let’s start empowering our children, not teaching by fear. Let’s move to teaching our children that they own their body; they are the “boss” of their body and they must keep it safe and healthy.
So how do we start?
Respect our children’s feelings.
Beginning at age 5 to 6 months, many infants experience stranger anxiety and between 18 months and 2 years most toddlers experience separation anxiety. These are normal developmental stages, but we need to respect those feelings of anxiety. Introduce “strangers” or new faces slowly, don’t force your child to go to someone he or she is unsure of or sneak away if you are leaving your child with a babysitter. Sit down, slowly introduce, help your child feel comfortable and if you are leaving, say good-bye. This is the first opportunity to say to your child, “I am listening, I understand you are scared or uncomfortable.” This respect of their feelings builds trust allowing your child to share these feelings verbally later. This builds a trusting relationship between adult/parent and child.
Don’t force a child to hug or kiss anyone even a family member.
Help a child determine what is appropriate touch for the people around them, forcing sends an unsafe message of the child not being “the boss of their body”. Give choices to help them determine what is socially appropriate and comfortable for them.
“Say high to Aunt Susie, give her a hug or high five.”
“Say good-bye to Grandma, give her a kiss, hug or high five.”
“Say thanks to the lady at the bakery, give her a high five or thumbs up for the cookie.”
“Thank the librarian for helping you find the book about dinosaurs.”
These prompts help a child learn the when and with whom hugs and kisses are socially appropriate and comfortable for them. This allows your child to feel ownership of their body. There are many reasons why a child might be uncomfortable or shy with new people or family members. It is fine for them to decide between a kiss, hug, high five, fist bump, thumbs up, or a simple thank you is most comfortable for them.
Call your child’s body parts the correct name.
Cute nicknames for private body parts teaches children that those body parts are embarrassing or uncomfortable. When children are uncomfortable talking about their body, they are less likely to share about their body. We don’t want to increase secrecy or uncomfortableness about a child’s body or sexuality. Call it what it is….and don’t react with anger when the “potty humor” begins with a toddler or preschooler. Ignore this and it will soon pass!
Begin talking about “private body parts” at about age 2.
Potty training is the perfect opportunity to introduce a concrete way for children to understand where their “private parts” are. Tell your child that their private parts are where their bathing suit covers. Explain that no one but Mommy or Daddy, or a doctor or nurse when Mommy or Daddy is there, should look at or touch their bathing suit area. Casually speak of their private parts when bathing, changing for the pool, or using the bathroom.
Introduce the concept of “Good Touch/Bad Touch” around age 2 or 3.
Remember this should include that a good touch makes you feel good and a bad touch hurts or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable. Bad touch is not only in the bathing suit area, this can include hitting, shoving or even stroking an arm or back that just doesn’t feel right. Give your child permission to say “stop hitting me”, “don’t shove me in line”, “I don’t like being tickled”, and even expand this to hurtful words, “When you called me that, it hurt my feelings.”
Tell your child “you are the boss of your body”.
Empower your child to keep their body safe and healthy. When you buckle into a car seat or put on a bike helmet, talk about keeping their body safe, when you give them a healthy meal talk about fruits and vegetables keeping their body healthy. Tell your child they are in control of keeping their body safe and healthy. You want your child to value and take care of their body and learn to set healthy boundaries. This belief of “being the boss of their body” can empower them to say no to risky or dangerous activities when they are older.
Role play how to respond when someone hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
“Stop hitting me, that hurts!” “ Stop! Those words hurt my feelings.” “Stop touching me!” Role playing helps your child have a plan. If you see an incident at the park between children, give your child the words to say, don’t immediately “fix” the situation unless it is dangerous.
The more often the topic is addressed the more comfortable your child will be. When you are giving baths, or dressing for the pool, casually mention where your child’s private parts are. When you are on the playground, talk about how to react if a child pushes in front of a line for the slide or says something unkind. Keeping the tone casual keeps the conversation safe and open making it easier for your child to share.
Don’t talk about strangers, talk about “tricky people”.
We all interact with people we don’t know every day. We don’t want children to be raised in fear of everyone they don’t know. We know most abductions are by people a child knows or is at least familiar with. A “tricky person” is someone who is either familiar with your child or has become familiar by speaking with them and gaining their trust. Tricky people don’t feel like a scary stranger but may try to trick a child into a situation that is not safe. Instead of talking about “stranger danger” talk about the feeling of “uh oh”. Teach your child to trust their gut, when something feels uncomfortable teach them to say “no” or “stop” and leave. Tell your child to share with someone they trust when they have that “uh oh” feeling.
Help your child interact with “strangers” when you are with them in a safe situation. Encourage older children to order their dinner at a restaurant, help younger children introduce themselves to a child at the park, help your child say hello to the librarian or store clerk. Point out when a “stranger” was kind or helpful. People we don’t know are a part of everyday life and most are good people who will help your child if needed! Fear is not the solution to keeping your child safe! Teaching your child to listen to that inner voice or “uh oh” feeling is a key to staying safe.
Teach the difference between a secret and a surprise.
Be sure you use the correct terminology and reinforce that families do not have secrets. A birthday gift for Dad is a surprise, not a secret. Children should never be told to keep a secret from their parents.
Have at least 5 adults in your child’s life who they trust.
Help them surround themselves with safe adults who love them. Children need adults other than their parents who will protect them and listen to them. This is especially true as your child enters school. These adults can be grandparents, close friends, an Aunt or Uncle, a teacher, a pastor or minister, there are many trusted adults who care for your chid.
Establish safety rules.
- I will always play where I can see my mom, dad, or responsible adult who is with me.
- I never go anywhere with anyone without checking with my mom or dad or responsible adult who is with me.
- I will never eat any treat without checking with mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
- I am the boss of my body. I can say yes or no to anything about my body.
- Everyone’s bathing suit area is private.
- I don’t keep secrets and no one should tell me to keep a secret from mom and dad.
- If I get lost I can stay in one place and call for mom or dad or go find another mom to help me. (every child knows what a mom looks like, in most situations this is a safe individual for a child to ask for hep)
- Grownups don’t ask kids for help (“Help me find my dog”, “Help me carry this to my car”) If they do, I must ask for permission from my mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
- I listen to my voice inside or the “Uh oh” feeling. If something feels bad or wrong I will stop, yell for help, and tell mom and dad.
Good books to help with your conversations:
I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private By Zack and Kimberly King
Miles is the Boss of His Body By Samantha Kurtzman-Counter Abbie Schiller
Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
We want our children to grow up confident, safe and happy….empowered that they are able to navigate this world successfully. Living in fear never results in someone who feels confident and happy. Protect your child by empowering them!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Sippy cups are everywhere…there are aisles and aisles of them at most discount and baby stores. Cups with soft spouts, cups with hard spouts, cups with valves, cups without valves, cups with straws, cups with handles, and cups of every color and size. Choices, choices and more choices! Once again it seems a parent needs a class on how to choose a sippy cup. I am going to make it easy for you….
Sippy cups are a transitional cup…..Transitional! That means it is a cup for a child to use for a short period of time when transitioning from a breast or bottle. Children are developmentally capable of drinking from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3. Capable if we allow them to develop the skill.
A cup should be introduced at about 6 months when a child starts solid foods. I have always recommended a sippy cup with a hard spout and without a valve. I now feel that a child should use a straw cup over a sippy cup. Children often use sippy cups like a bottle. Their heads are tipped back and they suck on the spout just like a nipple. When children suck, their jaw, lips and tongue all move simultaneously. This motion does not allow the jaw, lips and tongue to work separately which is necessary for speech. The tongue also is in a forward position pushing on the teeth, which can cause a misshapen mouth and a tongue thrust. This all can result in problems with speech and articulation. The use of a straw cup will often prevent this from happening.
So, introduce a valveless hard spout sippy cup with meals at about 6 months of age. Start working with your child to use a straw cup. Usually by 9 months of age a child is able to use a straw. You can start by using a cup that can be squeezed, put gentle pressure on the cup to bring fluid up into the straw. Try using an open or lidless cup with meals and save the straw cup for times that you are away from the table and want to prevent spills. Your child can also practice with an open cup in the bathtub…no worries about spills there! So parents, let go of that sippy cup! Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup and use a straw cup when spills need to be prevented. Their teeth and their speech will thank you. Relax, there will be a few spills, but there is no reason to cry over spilled milk!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
By: Cindy Love MSN CPNP
The introduction of solid foods is often an exciting time for babies and parents. Is there anything cuter than your baby sitting in a high chair with food spread from ear to ear exploring the new taste of sweet potatoes? Having access to healthy food is key to a child’s proper growth and development. With the recent reporting of the presence of heavy metals in most commercial baby foods, parents are adding another worry to their parenting worry list. Toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury are often found in soil and water. So, food grown in this soil will take up these contaminants. Additional contamination can occur during manufacturing and packaging of processed foods. Children’s developing brains are more likely affected by these heavy metals which can affect learning and behavior. Parents need to remember many things influence a child’s brain development and this heavy metal exposure is just one of them. However, any way that we can limit our child’s exposure to these contaminants will be a benefit.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the low level of heavy metals found in baby foods are most likely a small part of a child’s overall exposure to heavy metals. We as parents need to work on limiting this exposure in all aspects of our children’s lives. So what can we do to prevent the exposure?
- Buy organic? Buying organic does not prevent heavy metal exposure. Some of the baby foods tested that were labeled organic actually had some of the higher levels. Organic food will limit pesticide and chemical exposure but not heavy metal exposure.
- Make your own baby food. Making your own baby food will help limit any heavy metal contamination from the manufacturing and packaging process; but this will not prevent the contamination of the food from the soil and water.
- Limit your child’s rice intake. Arsenic exposure is seen in diets high in rice content. Rice cereal often is one of the first foods introduced to babies. Choose instead a whole grain cereal such as oatmeal, wheat, or barley. Many toddler foods/snacks such as puffs, combination meals (chicken, vegetables and rice), and teething cookies (Mum Mums which are rice rusks) are high in arsenic. Choose snacks like puffs made with other grains, cheese cubes, frozen fruit to help with teething pain, and combination meals without rice.
- Serve a variety of foods. This provides a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins which will lower the exposure of contaminants from single food choices. Sweet potatoes and carrots have some of the highest levels of contaminants, so including many other vegetables along with sweet potatoes and carrots will lessen exposure. Wash all fruits and vegetable well in cool water before serving.
- No juice for children under age 1. Very limited juice for children over age 1 (4 to 6 oz/day). Juice, especially apple juice, has higher levels of contaminants than the whole fruit. Choose the whole fruit which has more nutrients and fiber.
- Do not use rice milk as a milk substitute for toddlers and older children. Rice milk contains significantly high levels of arsenic. If your child has dairy allergies, talk to your pediatrician for other choices!
- Serve fresh whole foods. This is always better both for nutrition and the prevention of exposure to harmful additives and heavy metals during processing and packaging.
- Serve fish that is known to be lower in mercury. These choices would include light tuna, salmon, cod, and white fish. Fish is a healthy source of protein!
- Don’t smoke or vape. A child’s second hand exposure (breathing in the smoke) or third hand exposure (clothing of a smoker/vaper) will increase exposure to cadmium and lead.
- Check older homes for lead paint. Exposure to lead through chips/peeling of lead paint is the most common way for children to develop high lead levels.
We can’t prevent 100% of a child’s exposure to these heavy metal contaminants, but we can do our best to limit the exposure. Do your best, provide whole fresh foods as often as possible, limit the amount of rice based snacks and foods, and serve a variety of foods… then relax and enjoy that sweet face covered in food grinning at you!
Preparing your child for school success includes outings like this! School readiness is not just about letters and numbers!
It is that time of year when parents are beginning to look at preschools for next year. Sometimes I feel that there is more pressure on parents to find “just the right preschool” than deciding on a college! Preschool is a must for some children, but it is NOT a must for every child. Studies have shown us that children who have engaged parents who read to them and provide various activities at home but don’t attend preschool are not at any academic disadvantage. Some recent studies continue to show us that any academic edge a child may receive from preschool may fade by the 3rd grade.
So, do I think preschool is a waste? Absolutely not, I feel it is very advantageous to those children who have fewer opportunities. I also think that with Kindergarten now being a full day, a year of preschool often helps children adjust to the rigor of school. It has become more necessary for children to have at least one year of preschool to help with the adjustment, prepare the child for following directions, learning to sit still for periods of time, and the general routine of school. However, I do think that the choice of preschool attendance for 2 and 3 year olds from families who are able to provide outings, hands on activities, and reading at home is an option. Many children LOVE their preschool experience, and Moms often enjoy some time to themselves. Children also can learn very valuable social skills and have the opportunity to participate in some play activities that are not always offered at home like finger-painting and other messy play. However, everything that a quality preschool offers can be offered at home by a loving, involved and active parent, if they would like. At times I think parents are sent the message that they are not capable of providing the necessary experiences for their child to develop well and be successful in school. Parents feel inadequate in the task of preparing their preschooler for academic success. This is simply not true. Attending preschool will not insure that a child will be more successful in school and unfortunately will not guarantee admission to Harvard! More important than letters and numbers, a preschooler needs to develop life skills, social skills, self-confidence, and emotional maturity to be successful in school. To help with success in kindergarten, a child needs these basics:
- Good physical health so their natural abilities can grow and mature.
- Appropriate emotional maturity and self-confidence so they can accept new challenges.
- Good language skills so they can ask questions and participate in group activities.
- Good social skills so they will be able to share and interact with other children.
- Good listening skills to be able to follow directions.
- Familiarity with letters, letter sounds and numbers.
- The ability to sit still for short periods of time.
We are finding that a child does not need a structured academic program in a preschool; he or she needs the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills. Children who do not have that opportunity at home will benefit from a preschool program.
Young children learn best through playing, exploring, and discovering. Imaginative play will actually improve high level thinking which improves a child’s chances of school success. Forcing pencil and paper academics and academic drills too early might actually decrease a child’s natural desire to explore and learn!
What makes a good preschool?
- A preschool should be convenient for parents! If it causes stress to get to school because of location or time of day, it will not be worth it to you or your child.
- Children should be active in the classroom playing and/or working in groups or stations.
- There should be hands-on materials and activities available. Pretend play items; dress up clothes, water play, easels, painting, clay etc.
- Children should have individual time and group time with the teachers. There should be 1 adult/teacher for every 4 to 5 children.
- Children should have their work displayed in the classroom…and it should not all look the same! Children should have the opportunity to be creative with projects.
- The learning of numbers and letters should be embedded in activities throughout the day, not in concentrated lessons or drills.
- There should be outside play daily (weather permitting).
- There should be a developed curriculum that provides some structure to the day.
- Teachers should have an Early Child Development background/education.
- There should be a stable teaching staff with little turnover.
- Music should be incorporated into the curriculum.
- Daily life skills should be incorporated into the curriculum like buttoning, shoe tying, putting on jackets, picking up toys, sitting for short periods to listen and following directions.
- There should be opportunity for children to socialize in play with other children freely learning sharing, taking turns, and other social skills.
- Children should be read to in groups and individually.
- “Field trips” to experience the world should be included in the curriculum. Trips to apple orchards, parks, the zoo, nature centers and other community destinations are important.
What can you do at home?
- Provide time for imaginative play. Be sure that you have toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
- Provide time to use paint, clay, scissors, crayons, chalk, water play, and other tactile fine motor play.
- Provide outdoor play daily (weather permitting).
- Expose your child to the world by going to the grocery store, post office, library, zoo, park, nature center, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and other places. Talk about your outings!
- Read daily. Provide books that your child can “read” alone.
- Talk about stories that you read. Ask your child what will happen next! Let your child tell you the story.
- Provide music. Sing songs and dance.
- Point out letters on signs, talk about funny words, find words that rhyme, talk about the sounds that words begin with.
- Point out numbers, count items when playing, incorporate counting into everyday life.
- Have a routine at home; following routines will help when your child has structure and routine at school.
- Allow your child to dress himself. Practice buttoning, shoe tying, independently going to the bathroom, hand washing, and other independent life skills.
- Give your child directions to follow. Start with one step directions and then move to two steps, and three and four step directions.
- Give your child developmentally appropriate chores or responsibilities. (Pick up toys, carry dishes to the sink, put dirty clothes in the hamper etc.)
- Provide sorting and sequencing opportunities. Use a muffin tin for your child to sort different cereal, colored pompoms, letters, or other items. Let your child help you sort socks!
- Help your child recognize his or her name in print.
- Talk about shapes your child may see around the house or outdoors.
- Provide opportunities for your child to play with children his or her own age.
We all want our children to be successful in school. I believe however that the most important skills our preschool aged children need are not academic but social. Children are very pliable; we can teach a child to do many things at a very young age. We can teach a 2-year-old to recite numbers and letters, and we can even teach many 4 year olds to read….but I question at what cost? Will our children develop those skills that are truly needed for success in school? The skills that will allow him or her to problem solve, interact socially in a respectful and appropriate manner, follow directions and listen, and think with innovation and creativity; those are what are most important. So whether your child is in preschool or at home, be sure you are opening up the world to him or her, not pressuring academics too early and then your child just might end up heading to Harvard! What are your thoughts?
The New Year often has us looking at goals and resolutions. I am not a big fan of New Year resolutions, they often set me up for failure. I am a big fan of New Year hopes. There is something about new beginnings that gives me a bit of excitement. I always liked the beginning of a new semester, the start of a new sport season, opening a new daytime planner, even the start of a new day. There are so many possibilities with new beginnings. 2021 is no exception……
My hope for all of us is a lot more happiness and health in 2021. How do we get there as a family? There are a few simple things we can do which can truly make a difference in our life and our children’s lives.
Sleep…we all need it. Without it we are less patient, more irritable, less energetic and actually less healthy. Studies show our risk for obesity and cardiac disease increases with poor sleep habits. Bedtime routines for our children and ourselves are very important. Think bath, book, bed! Good for adults too!
Cook together, eat together and don’t skip breakfast! Starting the day off right with breakfast that includes both carbohydrates and protein is important. Keeping blood sugars from crashing improves learning and behavior in both children and adults. Life is better when we aren’t “hangry”! We also know that children who help out in the kitchen are more likely to eat what is prepared and families who eat together are better connected and children are more likely to do better in school and have less behavioral problems.
Move! Exercise improves health and mood. Feel good hormones (endorphins) increase with movement. A brisk walk outdoors, a dance party in the house, playing at the playground, a quick game of basketball on the driveway or soccer in the yard makes everyone feel better. Physically tired children and adults sleep better too! It feels so good to be physically tired and not just mentally exhausted!
Unplug! Decreasing screen time can increase happiness! Put down the phone, turn off the TV, get off social media and this can result in more movement, less mindless eating, more conversation with family, and less competitive parenting/comparisons through social media. You will be more present instead of viewing the world through a screen. Get those board games out, sit and read, or simply share your day in conversation and improve the mood of your family!
Plan a little fun, be spontaneous, celebrate everything! Sometimes we need to simply plan a little fun. Do something a little out of the ordinary. Eat ice cream for dinner. Families that work fun into daily routines are happier. Why not celebrate “over the hump Wednesday” or “Fun Friday”? How can you make “Taco Tuesday” a little more fun? Keep it simple, but planning fun or a little crazy into your life can bring some welcomed stress relief and laughter into a week.
Outside everyday! Sunshine, fresh air and a little nature are all mood boosters for children and adults. There are very few days that the weather is too bad to be outside. There is no bad weather, just bad dressing! Hot or cold, dress for it and get a little fresh air.
Forgive and forget. We all need a little grace. Life is not perfect and neither are we. We will make parenting mistakes, our children will disappoint us, we will lose our temper, our children will throw fits or be sassy, and some days are more challenging than others. Forgive yourself, forgive your child, don’t hold grudges, start over every day or multiple times a day. Move on and hug your child, your spouse and yourself. Don’t dwell on the negative and your day will always be better.
We all can eat a little healthier, move a little more, enjoy the outdoors, unplug from our screens, give a little grace to others and hug a bit more. As I look at 2021, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we all can live a little better and love a little more. Be joyful!