Health and Wellness

  • Outdoor Play: Why Does it Matter?

    Outdoor Play: Why Does it Matter?

    Research shows that the average American kid only spend 4-7 minutes in outdoor playing. Yet they spend 7 plus hours of time per day in front of a screen. This lack of time outside in unstructured play (no, organized sports don’t count…) is detrimental to our kids.

    To their health, their happiness, their creativity, their attention spans, their social, emotional and academic skills. 

    In an article titled “Getting back to the great outdoors” published by the American Psychological Association they quote research that connect times outside to brain development. The research states, “children who experienced the biggest increase in green space near their home after moving improved their cognitive functioning more than those who moved to areas with fewer natural resources nearby (Environment and Behavior (Vol. 32, No. 6).

    Studies have also found that the presence of nearby nature bolsters a child’s resilience against stress and adversity, particularly among those children who experience a high level of stress.

    Benefits of Outdoor Play

    • Physically healthier kids (better immunity, less obesity, more physical strength)
    • Mentally healthier kids (less anxiety, less depression, better moods and sleep)
    • Increase in attention span and creativity
    • Increase in sensory specific skills
    • Stronger ability to collaborate with others, adapt to new situations, problem solve, and negotiate–all life skills that your child will NEED to be successful in the world beyond school

    The need for risky play

    Children have an innate need for risk taking–and some research indicates that children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence (so think about when your child is older and you want them to be able to manage risk when you aren’t there to swoop in to save them).

    It also shows that lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear, inappropriate aggression, and the ability to cope with stress. 

    All of which translates into increased anxiety–this article also notes that “anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorder in children and adolescents and parental overprotection has been associated with increased rates.”

    What does risky play look like?

    Some ways you may see kids engaging in risky play are:

    • playing at heights
    • running at high speeds
    • using things in ways that aren’t intended (climbing the couch, going up the slide instead of down), rolling down hills, climbing rocks
    • walking on anything that requires balance
    • spinning in circles
    • jumping off anything and everything

    These are things we should be encouraging our kids to do.

    To read more about risky play check out the article “A Guide to Understanding Risky Play”

    A little dirt never hurt

    Pick up a copy of the book Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System by Jack Gilbert Ph.D. for a more detailed explanation of why I let my kids eat dirt (and gasp…I don’t always wash their hands after they have played in dirt even when they are about to eat).

    Basically, exposure to low level germs and microbes are actually good for your kids as they help the immune system build itself up (read this article for more immune system boosting tips).

    Professor Gilbert explains that “exposure to microbes prevalent in the great outdoors will establish a stronger, more robust immune system in young people.”

    So stop stressing about washing off every speck of dirt, let your kids eat food from the floor, and stop using hand sanitizer unless you’re in a pinch and near “real” germs like cold and flu viruses (even then warm soapy water is best!)

    There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

    This is not just a great book, but a philosophy lived by many families in Scandinavian countries and other areas of the world where outdoor play is held in higher regard.

    It’s much easier to get your kids outside when you have all the right gear.

    The right rain suit and boots can allow kids to stomp in puddles for hours.

    Rain Gear

    Some of my absolute must haves for outdoor play include the OAKI rain suit which my kids wear outside even in torrential downpour and still stay dry. Typically we wear base layers in the fall and spring as the OAKI suit is a thin waterproof material.

    We have tried both the Crocs rainboots and the Bogs rainboots.

    We prefer the bogs because they have a nice liner which makes them easy to slip on. They are also taller and made of a more flexible rubber.

    Base Layers (Layering)

    Baselayer just means the FIRST layer of clothing that is touching your skin.

    We mostly use merino wool as a base layer because the material is breathable, helps regulate body temperature and is a natural fiber.

    We love wool by Nui Organics and Sloomb because we wear a lot of wool year round, but if you just need a base layer you can get the Merino Kids thermal set by Simply Merino or these pajamas by Woolino.

    Many moms like to use fleece for warmth. Fleece is the synthetic version of wool. It isn’t as breathable as wool, but it is a great option and is typically less expensive. These are some good fleece options: The Rocky fleece thermals for girls and boys.

    Snow Gear

    For snow, we are LOVING our Patagonia Snow Pile one piece.

    We have tried a bunch of gloves and really love using these wool Melton Baby gloves underneath these POLARN O. PYRET waterproof shell gloves.

    What’s nice is you can use both of these separately or together depending on the weather.

    If your little one prefers a mitten style glove then you can get these waterproof shells and these merino mittens both by Polarn O. Pyret.

    For serious snow play we have been using, and loving, these Stonez Mitts. They cinch at the wrist and elbow and are super warm and SO easy to put on.

    As for hats I strongly recommend a baclava this like one from SmartWool, or a hat that pulls down over the ears.

    Our favorite snow boots are Bogs. I would recommend either the Bogs “Slushie” Snow boots or the Bogs baby waterproof boot. They are super easy to walk in and really protect their feet from the cold.

    My Outdoor Play Challenge

    I challenge you all to purposely send your kid outside to get dirty or play in weather you normally wouldn’t.

    Set up a water table and with a couple buckets of dirt and a shovel.

    Let them dig a hole and plant something with their bare hands. Then don’t freak out when you see them then stick their dirty fingers in their mouth or their nose.

    Bundle them up and send them outside in the snow. You can watch them from the shelter of your house if you need to.

    Put on those rain suits and boots to stomp in puddles and run around in the pouring rain.

    Just get those kids outside. Every. Single. Day.

    Ready to join an amazing challenge? Check out the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge!

    If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.
    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:
    Type of Play for Development
    100 Simple Things to do Outside With Your Kids
    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play
    7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)
    The Power of Play
    What I’ve Learned about Early Childhood Education

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  • 100 Positive Things Parents are Experiencing Right Now

    Right now our world is filled with news about a virus spiraling out of control. Whole cities shutting down. Families being quarantined. Schools, businesses, restaurants and parks closing indefinitely. It’s a horribly stressful time for everyone.

    That said, it is in these times that it is the MOST important for us to look for the positives. There is always a silver lining.

    In just a few days, parents all over the country (and the world) have had their worlds turned upside down. Often having to work from home while also trying to continue their children’s learning.

    Read this list to see what parents have found to be unexpectedly amazing about having their family stuck at home.

    100 Positive Things Parents are Experiencing Right Now

    1. Discovering that your child has an incredible talent you never saw before.
    2. Being able to play with you kids during a lunch break.
    3. Drinking hot coffee with your significant other instead of in the car on the way to work.
    4. Being able to read your kids books before bed.
    5. Enjoying more meals together.
    6. Slow mornings that allow for a little reading, play or conversation before “going to work.”
    7. A longer shower.
    8. Comfortable clothes all day. Hello leggings!
    9. Learning new ways do elementary math.
    10. Introducing your kids to old movies.
    11. Reconnecting with nature, going on hikes, and bird watching.
    12. Teachers showing their ability to adapt.
    13. Parents showing their ability to lead their child’s education.
    14. Cancelling of standardized tests.
    15. Kids having time to engage in true play.
    16. More opportunities home cooking.
    17. Extra time with kids before they start formal schooling.
    18. Perfect time to potty train!
    19. Time for daily snuggles.
    20. Kids are able to sleep until their bodies are ready to wake up.
    21. Kids can slow down and enjoy breakfast and lunch.
    22. Watching your older children help support their younger siblings.
    23. Children making friends with kids around the country.
    24. Practicing language skills with children across the globe through online video chats.
    25. Grandparents tackling new technology to be able to see their grandkids.
    26. No alarms going off in the morning.
    27. Not having to pack lunches and snacks every morning.
    28. Being able to finally have a conversation with your teenager.
    29. Kids helping to cook and trying new foods while at home.
    30. Coming to the realization that your family is WAY over scheduled.
    31. Connecting with college aged friends and family to provide supplemental educational opportunities.
    32. Letting go of housework and reconnecting with family.
    33. Having extra time to learn new skills (riding a bike, knitting, gardening)
    34. Kids recognizing just how responsible and productive they are when they put their minds to something.
    35. Kids learning how to self-regulate their own schedules and take responsibility for their work.
    36. Having time to pursue passions outside of academic curriculum.
    37. Kids having ability to work on school work at their own pace without fear of judgement.
    38. Watching your kids take on projects just because they are interested in the topic.
    39. Being able to witness your child’s true ability shine through.
    40. Doing everything in pajamas.
    41. Wearing no real clothes so less laundry!
    42. Feeling like you finally understand your child’s needs, strengths and weaknesses and how these impact learning.
    43. Realizing homeschooling is not half as bad as you imagined it would be (in fact sort of liking it).
    44. Raising expectations for practical life skills and children rising to meet those expectations—hello laundry help!
    45. Breathing in more fresh air.
    46. School aged children starting to learn to play again.
    47. More awareness of amount of screen time.
    48. Being pleasantly surprised by what your child knows and can do.
    49. Learned to let go and let children do more for themselves.
    50. The ability to be a part of your child’s every day education and watching them grow.
    51. Breastfeeding moms not having to pump while at work!
    52. Learning that life needs to slow down and that we are rushing through moments that should be savored.
    53. Coming together to do all household work.
    54. Seeing first hand what classwork genuinely excites your child and what does not.
    55. Mid-day dance parties.
    56. Hearing your kids say they are actually enjoying learning.
    57. Being able to lean into the subjects and content you’re interested in and do them with your child.
    58. Sleeping in!
    59. Being aware of self-care while my children are watching.
    60. Siblings being able to spend more time together playing and learning.
    61. So much extra time to read and do things your enjoy.
    62. Actually laughing together.
    63. High fives from your kid when they figure something out.
    64. Whole families being able to take walks together.
    65. No fear of missing out.
    66. Being able to catch up on tasks and projects you’ve been putting off.
    67. Being able to discover new learning tools that you didn’t know existed—opening up a new world of learning for yourself and your child.
    68. Less arguments and no rushing to get dressed and out the door to catch the bus.
    69. Communities coming together to share resources, get creative and support each other in so many ways.
    70. Learning so much about your child’s real interests and passions.
    71. Being able to teach your child things you love to do.
    72. Realizing it’s okay to not know how to do something and figuring things out along the way (while your child watches)
    73. Learning to appreciate the flexibility in schedule of having kids home.
    74. Connecting on such a personal level with teachers and parents.
    75. Developing a new found respect for what teachers do every single day.
    76. Feeling a sense of pride for conquerer the learning curve of homeschooling.
    77. Learning to be more intentional with our time and resources.
    78. Becoming more aware of how your family can be more eco-conscious.
    79. Kids engaging in real authentic learning.
    80. Having more face to face and quality time with your family.
    81. Older siblings are being given the time and space to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
    82. Children of all ages learning practical life skills!
    83. Knowing what your kids are learning, not just hearing about it after the fact.
    84. Not worrying about whether or not your kids are eating enough at school.
    85. The ability to catch up with friends who you’re normally too busy to call.
    86. Realizing that you have been way too caught up in your career to appreciate all the good things.
    87. Committing to being grateful for all the good things in your life.
    88. Not having to wear make up.
    89. Getting in hours more of outdoor play every day (even as a family!)
    90. People generally being kinder and trying to help others in their community.
    91. Being able to have more one on one time with your kids.
    92. Kids being able to work in any position they feel comfortable in (standing, pacing, laying on the floor)
    93. Watching your children become more creative.
    94. Being able to witness your child’s firsts.
    95. Paying more attention to your health and wellness.
    96. Feeling a sense of togetherness and community since everyone is going through the same thing.
    97. The pride and joy parents are experiencing when they come up with a really great project to do with their kids.
    98. More people considering how their behaviors impact the lives of others.
    99. Appreciating the mess that your kids make because you have no where to go and aren’t as stressed.
    100. Developing a totally different outlook about how learning should look, sound, and feel.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:

    How to Continue Your Child’s Education During School Closures

    Covid-19: Tips for When School Is Closed

    30 Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside

    100 Outdoor Activities to Do with Your Kids

    Top 10 Must Have Art Supplies

    Type of Play for Development

    Risky Play for Kids

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

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  • Advice for Mothers Everywhere

    The problem with parenting experts

    So I started writing this blog because I feel like I have a ton of advice to give. I love giving advice. Seriously. Maybe it’s because I love to teach people. Maybe it’s because I find happiness in helping others, especially mamas. Maybe it’s because I just like to hear myself talk? I don’t know. But I do know I happily dish out advice to anyone who will listen. Here’s the thing though. I’m no expert on parenting. I mean I have three kids. I’ve read a ❤️ ton about all things parenting and education related. But I don’t think one can be an expert on parenting nor would I ever claim to be an expert on parenting. I think you can be an expert on trying to be the best possible parent. You can be an expert learner of new information. But you cannot be an expert on parenting because it’s ALWAYS changing. So yes, you may become an expert on having a two year old, but then guess what? Your two year old turns three (which is a beast of an age–but please reference my recent post about reframing our perception) and now you’re royally screwed because you aren’t an expert on having a three year old….or you have one kid, and you’re killing it. Then kid two comes along and it’s all over.

    We ALL struggle

    Over the past few weeks I have been trolling moms groups. Reading posts (sometimes responding) and just trying to get a better feel for what other moms, especially newer moms, are struggling with. And honestly, what I’m seeing makes me pretty sad. I see so many mamas posting about feeling anxious, ashamed, overwhelmed, or not confident about their abilities as a parent. It isn’t always an overt expression of these feelings. It often comes out subtly–in the way they phrase a question or how they caveat their post with “please excuse the messy couch in the background.” It makes my heart hurt.

    Top 5 pieces of advice for new mamas

    Vocalize your accomplishments

    One of the best things I did as a new mom was tell myself something I did well every single day for the first few months. Sometimes I was literally like “I made time to brush my teeth today!! Whoop!” and sometimes it was a little more deep. I had to talk myself up because after the first few weeks of maternity leave, there wasn’t that constant support of people cheering you on or lending a helping hand. **And I FULLY recognize that many people don’t even have that. If that rings true to you, and you’re still keeping on with a smile on your face then you are a better mom than I am….I don’t know what I would do without the help that I have–so you all are the real rockstars**

    Take a freaking shower and a nap

    Seriously. Let someone hold the baby for a few minutes or bring the little baby bouncer and stick it on the floor in the bathroom while you shower (we love the BABYBJORN bouncer for it’s slim footprint and portability). Let the sink sit full of dirty dishes while you take a nap. I know it’s hard. You feel like you have to do all the things, but you don’t. And the people that care about you won’t give two ❤️ about the way your house looks.

     Accept that you’re going to hate your significant other for a while

    I’m talking loathe. Like you’ll be nursing at night, while staring at your sleeping partner, and be secretly plotting how to suffocate them with your pillow. It’s NORMAL. It’s hormones. I mean unless you actually hate your significant other, that’s a whole different story. Express your feelings to other mamas and I can guarantee they will chime in with all the ways they have plotted the death of their loved one. It passes. Mostly. I advise you pick up a book called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids— it’s a game changer.

    Don’t feel guilty about being constantly annoyed at your pet

    This is one you may not have heard but it happens (and I know other moms who have experienced this). You just have such little capacity to be touched or needed from anyone other than your little one. Your dog being underfoot in the kitchen when you’re trying to make a simple meal for yourself (maybe your only meal of the day), or needing to go out right when you have just sat down after standing and rocking the baby for an hour, or barking and waking you up JUST as you’re falling asleep for a nap (and you know you only have 45 minutes or less before baby wakes up). All these things can drive you up the wall. Again, normal. Give yourself some grace and ask for help in caring for anything and everything that isn’t your new baby.

     Recognize signs of PPA and PPD

    This is a big one. I see so many mamas posting stuff in moms groups that screams that they are dealing with postpartum anxiety or depression. It’s so common and there are so many ways it can present itself. For example, with my first I started using an app to track all his feedings, and diapers, and sleep. I remember sitting up at night nursing him while simultaneously trying to type information into this app. It was ridiculous. I should have been enjoying my baby and observing him for cues and instead I was hyper focused on getting it all down to a science. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that she had to stop using the tracker because it was giving her anxiety that I realized, holy ❤️ this is causing way more anxiety than it should be. My advice is to RELAX and observe your baby–follow their cues. You will KNOW when your baby is hungry, you don’t need an app to tell you that. Here’s the thing. If you find it hard to relax about anything, then you need to talk to your doctor. Some of it is just first time mom nervousness, but when someone points out that you’re driving yourself crazy doing something and you can’t stop even though you know it’s not healthy, that’s a sign you need to speak with your doctor. I struggled with PPA and PPD without recognizing it, even though I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder a long time ago, so please just be aware of your mental health and check in with someone. Keep in mind not all doctors are on board, and some may try to tell you it just baby blues from your hormones (which definitely could be the case), or that you’re just anxious because you’re a mom and that comes with the territory (I actually had a doctor say this….) so make sure you get a second opinion, reach out to other moms, or flat out ask for a referral to a mental health professional if you need to. ALWAYS feel free to reach out to me here or on social media if you need to vent, rant, ask for help, cry, whatever…. I’m here and available to support you.

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  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the new IQ


    The Importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for Kids

    We now know that one of the biggest predictors of a child being successful and happy is emotional intelligence.

    One of our main goals as parents and caregivers should be to guide the child towards independence. As hard as it is to accept, our little ones will, all too soon, be off and dealing with life’s challenges.

    In order for true independence to emerge, kids need to feel confident and in control.

    Stephanie Pinto, an Australian based former speech pathologist and certified emotional intelligence coach, says that, simply put, emotional intelligence is “a person’s ability to be aware of their own emotions as well as others’ emotions, and how they can use this information to guide their actions and behaviours in day-to-day life.”

    Of particular interest to parents, she notes that “EQ is fast becoming more important than IQ in the classroom.”

    Components of Emotional Intelligence

    There are five components of EQ.

    1. Self-awareness
    2. Self-regulation
    3. Social Skills
    4. Empathy
    5. Motivation

    While all five of these components are crucial to success, the one I want to focus on in this post is the idea of self-regulation.

    Self- Control vs. Self-Regulation

    We often hear parents talk about self-control, but that isn’t the end all be all when it comes to emotional regulation.

    It’s important to understand that self-control is about being able to stop yourself from acting impulsively.

    Whereas, self-regulation is about reducing the intensity and the frequency of those impulses allowing you to take appropriate action.

    How kids learn self-regulation

    Anyone with toddlers knows that kids are not born with this ability. Far from it. Toddlers and preschoolers often show us huge emotions.

    They throw themselves on the floor sobbing because you didn’t give them the right color cup, or because you told them they couldn’t eat dog food. The screech and squeal in delight at you blowing a bubble or because they got to stomp in a mud puddle.

    So how can we help kids learn to self-regulate when they seem to feel everything so deeply?

    Simply by providing them many opportunities to help them identify the emotions they are feeling and give them a chance to practice strategies for coping with those emotions.

    Stephanie notes that “Kids who learn and regularly practice self-calming strategies like deep breathing and positive affirmations are well on the road to developing a great level of emotional intelligence.”

    Developing EQ in Kids

    Here are some specific ways we can help children develop a strong EQ.

    • Openly talk about our own emotions and model self-regulation.
    • Read books that directly talk about different emotions (Check out The Color Monster, B is for Breathe, or The Way I Feel).
    • Encourage your child to identify the emotion they feel, or identify it for them if they are too young.
    • Create a space for them that is specifically dedicated to helping them calm down. You can read more about this type of space here.
    • Pick a self-calming strategies to try–deep breathing is a great one for kids–they can use a finger to slowly trace their thumb, going up one side as they breathe in and down the other side as they breathe out. Then they can trace their other fingers using the same method.

    The role of play in developing self-regulation

    It comes back to play, as it so often does.

    Twentieth century Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky famously discussed the role of play in the development of self-regulation.

    He explains that in dramatic play or make believe play, children create imaginary roles and then act out those roles. Often times, these roles are of adults–Doctors, Firefighters, Superheros, a Mom caring for a baby. Within this role play, children must act specific to this role and work to inhibit behaviors that do not align with their role. This takes emotional regulation.

    The research also shows us that kids are able to better regulate their behaviors if given a play task; being asked to be a lookout vs just asking them to stand and wait.

    Parents can capitalize on this by turning directions into “play tasks” and by providing plenty of opportunities for children to engage in pretend play.

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  • Homemade thieves essential oil blend

    The history behind Thieves oil blend

    Thieves oil blend is a common blend of clove, rosemary, cinnamon, eucalyptus and citrus oils that is often used to help fight germs and boost immunity. The blend is said to be inspired by a 15th century band of thieves who covered themselves in these aromatics so they could steal from people who died of the bubonic plague. None of them contracted the disease, and when they were caught they received a reduced sentence for sharing the secret blend that kept them safe.

    Common household uses for Thieves

    People use thieves blends (all the major essential oil companies make a similar blend) for many things around the home. The most common are diffusing, especially during cold and flu season, mixing with a carrier oil and applying topically if you are getting sick, and using the blend to make a cleaning solution.

    Here are the directions for each of these uses:

    • Diffuse 10-15 drops in a diffuser during cold and flu season. I love this diffuser by doTerra but there are a ton of options that are less expensive or blend better with your decor.
    • Mix with a carrier oil and apply topically (to feet or chest) when sick. I like Plant Therapy fractionated coconut oil–it’s reasonably priced and I love their essential oils. The National Association for Holistic Therapy recommend 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil for infants and young kids, and anywhere from 15-60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil for adults (depending on the oil and your level of tolerance–people with sensitive skin would use less)
    • Make an all purpose cleaning solution by adding 10-15 drops per ounce of water and a splash of witch hazel (this acts as an emulsifier and allows the oil and water to mix better) to a glass spray bottle. Use to clean whatever you would normally clean with an all purpose cleaner.

    Oils you will need to make your own Thieves blend

    You will get all kinds of opinions on “the best and highest quality” essential oils–you can do you own research but I have found that there are a few high quality brands that are great and affordable (and on Amazon–yay Prime!) I love Plant Therapy and Aura Cacia is a close second. These are the ones I own and use to make my thieves blend.

    The recipe I use is below. Enjoy and stay healthy!

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