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Healthy habits: Integrating movement into your day

Children need to move and be active.  Current learning theory tells us that movement helps learning. When children move around it helps to store information more efficiently. Movement also helps some students who may have trouble learning in the traditional teaching format. Getting up and moving helps children to integrate the information they are taking in and form new pathways in their brains to access this information. This is IMG_4827why integrating movement throughout the day for children is so important.  Children who spend time being active are more likely to have better cognition, memory, and a reduced likelihood of depression.  So, in addition to helping improve your  physical well being, movement also helps with mental health.

As a part of forming a new healthy habit, find ways to make movement a part of your family’s daily schedule at home.

Tips for making movement a habit in your home:

  • Set an example for your children by staying active yourself
  • Pick several activities you enjoy so that when one becomes boring or you are unable to do it you can easily have another activity. ( for example: Running, Biking, Hiking, Yoga, and Canoeing)
  • Schedule the activities instead of just squeezing them in if you have time. This ensures you will make the time
  • Get friends involved. This can make it more fun and keep you accountable
  • Measure progress (for example set a goal to participate in a 5k run, sign up for a competition, or download an app to keep track of your personal progress
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Child Sleep Routines and Mental Health

A big part of having a happy healthy child is having a regular and consistent sleep routine. Because of busy schedules, homework, lack of a routine, etc. children often don’t get enough sleep.  The amount of sleep required by children is more than adults need and may be surprising to some parents.   The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has made these recommendations: Preschoolers 10-13 hours, Grade schoolers (age 6-12) 9-12 hours, and teens 8-10 hours per night.

Lack of sleep can cause many different problems for children such as headaches, irritability, lack of concentration, and even depression. The well rested child will be able to do much better in the school environment than the one that is tired and lacking sleep. For some parents it may appear that their child isn’t tired until later at night this may be one reason you don’t think your child needs that extra sleep. Don’t let this fool you. Even if your child doesn’t show signs of being irritable or cranky from lack of sleep, they could still suffer consequences.  Children are still growing and need that restorative time so their brains and bodies can grow.  Researchers have found that lack of sleep in children could negatively effect their brain development (Lack of Sleep May Disrupt Development of Child’s Brain, National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016). Because this is such an important aspect of your child’s life, parents are encouraged to find ways to create healthy routines.

One way to ensure your child gets enough rest is to determine what time they have to wake up in the morning and then set a bedtime that allows for the appropriate amount of hours of sleep.  For example setting an 8:00pm bedtime allows your child to wake up at 7:00am and get 11 hours of sleep.  Once the bedtime is set, it is important to stick to it and follow a routine. A routine can be as simple as telling the child when to start changing, brushing teeth, etc. so that they can be in bed by the set time. Some parents like to include a story at bedtime as well. If you do this, make sure you start your routine with enough time so that it can end with your child getting into bed at the time you decided upon. If you follow the same routine on a regular basis, then you will find it starts to flow more naturally and helps the child recognize when it is getting close to time for bed. This will help with falling asleep faster and getting the rest that is needed for a happy and healthy child.


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Parenting 101

 

The title is a bit of a misnomer since there is no manual on parenting. Well there are but I can’t say that any one book or person can tell you everything about parenting your own child. Each family is different and every child requires a unique parenting style. Even within one family you could use different techniques for different children. The problem is that we don’t all have several tricks up our sleeves or know what to try next when our usual parenting style isn’t working.

If you are a parent then I’m sure you’ve been in a place of self doubt at some point. We all want to do our best for our children.  When you first held your child in your arms, I’m sure you did not envision sleepless nights, piles of homework, and fights over too much screen time. You probably pictured spending quality time with your child and activities that brought joy to both your lives.

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So how does reality start to vary so much from your dreams?  Making the choice in how to response to your child is hard when it’s dinner time and everyone is hungry (including you) and your child starts to have a meltdown.  Instead living the dream you end up trying to keep it all together. Most parents spend a lot of time making sure the needs of everyone are met: do they have food, clean clothes, school work done, etc.  So time for fun becomes lost in the shuffle.  That’s why so many people want a guide tell them what to do. How to get back to the picture of parenting that seems joyful instead of stressful. It’s hard but not as hard as it sounds. It just takes some time and a clear plan on how to get there.

Parenting 101 is just a way of saying where do I start? What’s the first step in bringing joy back into parenting?  Well here is one way of breaking it into manageable steps:

1.  The first step in making the changes you want in your life and the life of your family is really defining what is important to you. If you are struggling with quality time with your loved ones, then that would be the priority.

2. After defining what it is important to you, the next step is coming up with a goal.The goal you come up with must be something that is achievable and works for you. If you set a goal of 3 hours of quality time per day with your children but in reality you only have one hour of time to spend, then your plan will fail.

3. Once you have a goal, you must make a plan on how to get there.  Finding the right person for support is key. That person can help you come up with the plan and make sure that when you run into bumps in the road you have help.

4. Beyond creating a realistic goal and plan you must be given the tools for how to make it succeed. You may come up with a plan but have no idea on how to make it work. This is where that support person comes into play. This person should be someone with experience in that area and an ability to be available to you to provide support along the way.

Using these steps to start making meaningful changes at home will lead to better results. The best result is when you start experiencing more periods of joy in your parenting.

 


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Holistic activities for your child- Wet felting

Wet Felting- This is an activity that can be done with all ages. It’s fun for adults and children and helps to incorporate sensory activities with artistic expression. You can create something out of your wet felted balls or just make them for fun and use them to play with. The possibilities are endless.

The reason for incorporating these instructions on my blog is to allow families, parents, caregivers, etc. ideas of activities that you can do with your child that are not centered on media. This activity is great for those that need more sensory experiences as well as those that like to get messy!

Items needed:

  • Wool
  • 1 container warm water
  • 1 container cold water
  • Liquid soap

The first thing you need is some natural wool. It can be any color that you choose.

Wool

Wool

After you have selected your wool spread it out so that it looks like a flat piece. If you want to mix colors lay the colors together making one flat piece of wool.  See the picture above that has several pieces with mixed colors.  You then start to roll the wool into a ball keeping it as tight as you can. This is the basic shape you will start with.

Once you roll it into a ball you will need two bowls of water. The first bowl should be as warm as possible but still comfortable to put your hands in. Add a few drops of liquid soap to this bowl. This will help with agitation. You want to put the ball into the warm water and roll it around with your hands. Keep rolling. This helps the fibers of the wool to start “felting” together. This will make the ball stay in the shape of a ball.

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When you have the ball as tight as you like you then stick it in the cold water.  This will help the felted ball to set and you will be rinsing out the soap that’s in it. If you want to get it a little tighter you can also “shock” the wool by putting it in the cold water and then go back to the warm water to continue working on it.

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You can make as many as you like and use them for counting games, garlands, decorations, necklaces, anything your imagination allows.

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A light in the darkness

The winter blues are difficult to beat.  How do you stay happy when it’s freezing out?! For many people the winter can be a very hard time. Finding something to get out of bed for in the mornings is hard.  This time of year makes me want to stay under the covers and stay in bed all day. I feel very much like an animal in hibernation. I don’t want to move or do much of anything and getting motivated is extremely hard. To combat this I make sure the house is warm in the mornings when I wake up.  Then I plan a few motivators into my morning routine as well. For me coffee is a nice warm treat that I reward myself with after getting up.  These are simple solutions and help me. This doesn’t mean that for everyone the solution is that easy.

For some people motivating themselves is an almost impossible task and if you are prone to depression this time of year can be a trigger. Noticing a change in your mood early can help you to try and combat the sad feelings.  If you really can’t find anything to get yourself out of the darkness of winter then it’s time to reach out for help. Talking to a family member or friend is the best place to start. Friends and family should also look for warning signs that someone is not just down because of the winter but possibly clinically depressed. Spending time with a loved one may be enough to combat the depressed mood. If not, there are many professionals that can help. The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone.  Many people suffer from depression and mood disorders.  Feeling alone leads people to isolate themselves even more which makes it hard to get help.  If you allow others to know what is going on you are able to start on your journey to recovery. It also helps people who might be feeling the same way but are afraid to speak up.   Taking the first step out of the darkness and onto the lighted path of recovery is hard but very worth the work.

If you have suffered from depression and are now in recovery please share your stories with others. This helps to bring a face to depression. It also gives hope that you can survive it. Please share your inspirational words and advice with others to help bring their suffering out of the dark and into the light.

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Breathe

Breathe- this seems like a simple thing to do. We all breathe or we would die. However, we don’t all take time to stop and focus on our breath. What does that mean? Taking the time to really breathe and let yourself just “be” is one of the best ways to ground yourself.

At times when your mind starts to fill with thoughts and plans and things that need to be done, taking a step back and just focusing on your breathing can help you gain control. You can try it at any time. Challenge yourself to spend a whole minute on breathing. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about keeping the time. The first time you try it is hard but it does get easier.

Trying to find a few minutes each day to just sit and “be” is not always easy. “Being” and not doing is hard for people who are so used to multitasking and running from task to task never taking a break. Minds often start to wonder and think about other things. That’s not a bad thing but try clearing your mind and just focusing on the breathing.

A person who has practiced breathing can use it in many situations. Grounding yourself in the present can be helpful for reducing stress and increasing your ability to concentrate on one task. Often, focusing on so many different things at once means that none of those things gets our best work.

Breathing can also be the one thing that saves a person from losing their temper. When a discussion becomes emotionally charged, responses seem automatic and are often not ones we like. When a person is able to take a breath and think before letting an automatic response take over, then that person has more control. The response can be more rational and planned instead of automatic. Then the situation can be diffused or dealt with in a way that doesn’t lead to regrets.

One of my favorite benefits of breathing is that you get time to be with yourself. You can appreciate just being you. You can clear your mind of all other thoughts and just relax. Even a few minutes each day is restorative and can help you feel more ready to deal with whatever else you have to handle during that day.