Balance Technology With Outdoor Play Time for Healthier Kids

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Many children are too busy tweeting to go outside and hear a real tweet. Kids today spend an average of seven hours per day using electronic media but only four to seven minutes outside in unstructured outdoor play time.
“The importance of media in today’s world is indisputable, but a sky’s-the-limit approach to technology can have a powerful downside for kids if it’s not tempered with something more down to earth,” said Lindsay Legendre, manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There movement — an effort to get more children outdoors more often.
Research shows that spending time outdoors makes kids grow lean and strong, enhances their imaginations and gives them time to let off steam and just be kids. The Kaiser Family Foundation says children who spend too much time with technology are more likely to get fair or poor grades. As a result of research like this. NWF’s Be Out There movement created the “Outdoor Play for Every Day: A Parent’s Guide for Overcoming Common Obstacles to Kids and Outdoor Play,” which is loaded with tips and activities to help parents overcome the lure of technology and other common obstacles to getting kids outdoors.
Consider the following suggestions to maximize outdoor time while making peace with media and technology:
* Monkey See/Monkey Do. Set a good example about limiting tech time, and your kids will be more likely to follow suit. Talk to your kids, and let everyone have a say on the amount of time that screens will be used each week so ground rules are clear up front.
* Pay to Play. Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside. Len Saunders, author of “Keeping Kids Fit” and father of two, suggests that for every hour of physical activity, kids earn 30 minutes of tech time.
* Let ‘Em Pick. Offer kids a set amount of screen time each day and let them decide how to use it (watch TV, play video games or surf the web). If the weather is nice, and they want to trade their screen time for playing outdoors, they can bank their screen time for use on a rainy day.
* Go Geocaching. Take your kids on an outdoor adventure that combines popular GPS technology and a treasure hunt. Don’t have a GPS? There are several smart phone apps that can do the trick. Learn more at www.Rangerricktrails.com.
For parents who want their kids to enhance their physical and mental health by playing outside more often, the Be Out There Parent Guide is a valuable resource. Find the Guide and more ideas for enjoying outdoor time at www.beoutthere.org.

Internet Safety 101: How to Protect Your Kids Online

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – It is no mystery that technology allows kids to gain 24-hour access to the media, but a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation discovered the average kid spends 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media. Through using multiple media at one time such as music, TV, movies, the Internet, video games and texting, kids can actually pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes.
Although these ways of socializing and communicating can be enriching, they do come with certain risks. Kids can become victims of online bullies, predators, hackers and scammers.
“The Internet has great potential for kids in terms of knowledge and resources, but we take seriously the job of teaching our youth how to navigate it safely and properly,” said Dan Rauzi, senior director, technology programs at Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA).
BGCA has partnered with Sprint to address these issues and help better prepare young people to navigate their world — both real and virtual. Sprint’s online resource, www.4NetSafety.com, offers free tools from experts that address the dangers that young people commonly encounter online and encourages positive dialogue about Internet safety. In addition, www.myclubmylife.com — BGCA’s website for teens — includes a special Media Safety section that has more information and teen-friendly resources to further promote Internet safety.
It’s important that your child be aware that the fundamentals — what we say, how we say it, and why we say it — are the same online and off. Here are some tips for discussing Internet safety with your family:
Create an honest, open environment. Kids look to their parents to help guide them. You may not have all the answers, and being honest about that can go a long way.
Initiate conversations. Even if your kids are comfortable approaching you, don’t wait for them to start the conversation. Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online.
Communicate your values. Be upfront about your values and how they apply in an online context. Communicating your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations.
Be patient. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run.
For more information, visit www.4NetSafety.com.

How to Incorporate More Fruit Into Kids’ Meals

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Getting kids to eat fruit can be a challenge for many parents — but it doesn’t have to be.
Fruit is a great source of key vitamins, antioxidants and energy. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of American children do not consume enough produce.
Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian specializing in family nutrition, knows that parents are always looking for more ways to incorporate wholesome fruits into children’s diets. Here are some of her fruitful tips:
1. Let children pick their own fruit. Giving kids a few options to choose from will make them more likely to eat one of them at mealtime. Consider taking your child to a farmer’s market or the produce section of the grocery store so he can become familiar with the large variety of fruits available and pick a few new ones.
2. Serve fruit for dessert. Show kids that fruit can be just as tasty as candy or cookies for dessert. Try frozen bananas, mandarin oranges, or pineapple; mango smoothies, or watermelon balls for some fruity treats.
3. Make fruit a habit. Incorporating fruit into every meal makes it a routine that’s easy to keep. For breakfast, put berries or bananas into cereal or on top of whole grain waffles. For lunch, put pear slices on a peanut butter sandwich, serve “cantaloupe smiles” or let your child scoop out a kiwi. Filling up on fruit will make children less likely to be tempted by empty-calorie snacks.
4. Make it easy. Kids are more likely to eat fruit when it’s easy to “grab and go,” especially when it’s already packaged into manageable portions. Keep fruit front and center on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf, where kids can see and reach it.
5. Give kids a lunchtime option they already enjoy that includes fruit. The new Lunchables With Fruit (www.lunchables.com) provide a full serving of fruit with Dole Mandarin Oranges or Pineapple Tidbits in 100 percent fruit juice. The new line includes four kid-favorite varieties, including Peanut Butter + Jelly Sandwich; Turkey + Cheddar Cracker Stackers; Ham + American Cracker Stackers and Extra Cheesy Pizza.
6. Make fruit fun. Make fruit kabobs, fruit cut into shapes with cookie cutters and yogurt fruit parfaits to entice kids to eat more fruit. Working together in the kitchen with kids is time well spent.
7. Parents -; eat more fruit! Setting the example of eating more fruit is a powerful way to get your kids to also. Positive encouragement helps, too.

Sprinkle a Little Magic on Your Child’s Bedroom Wall

From the tiniest of tots to tweens and teenagers, a child’s bedroom is a reflection of their identity. Kids often have strong opinions about their likes and dislikes when it comes to their rooms, which can pose decorating challenges for parents: one year, the little one is all about Winnie the Pooh; next Buzz Lightyear may capture his imagination. It’s hard for parents to keep up, let alone create an environment that reflects their children’s taste – and do so within a budget.

How to Add a Magical Touch To Your Child’s Bedroom

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – From the tiniest of tots to tweens and teenagers, a child’s bedroom is a reflection of their identity. Kids often have strong opinions about their likes and dislikes when it comes to their rooms, which can pose decorating challenges for parents: one year, the little one is all about Winnie the Pooh; next Buzz Lightyear may capture his imagination. It’s hard for parents to keep up, let alone create an environment that reflects their children’s taste — and do so within a budget.
A solution can be found in a new collection of wallpapers, murals, borders and wall decals from Disney, the company that has brought beloved characters to life for generations. Best of all, this particular collection was created like building blocks that both capture the magic of the Disney Universe, and allow favorite characters to be added and subtracted according to a child’s changing whims.
The foundation of the collection is wallpaper, since nothing creates an environment more quickly and affordably than covering all four walls. Designed to remain relevant as the child grows, the wallpaper patterns feature enduring classic stripes, scrolls and geometric shapes in a range of soft pastels and rich, saturated colors. Certain patterns, such as a whimsical Mickey Mouse silhouette, are subtle and sophisticated interpretations of iconic Disney motifs that also work well in other rooms of the house.
Disney characters make wonderfully grand appearances on murals, borders and peel-and-stick wall decals. Borders and wall decals can layer on top of the coordinating wallpapers or stand on their own. Murals (starting at $149) are 6′ x 10′ and make a delightful decorating statement as a feature wall design. Versatile wall decals (starting at $12.99) can be repositioned, removed and reused and are great for toy chests, cabinets and headboards as well as walls. Adorable and affordable, they won’t break the bank when a new character strikes the child’s fancy.
Visit www.RoomMatesPeelandStick.com to view the Disney collection, order samples or purchase Disney wallpapers, wall decals and murals. The site also offers photos of decorated rooms with instructions on how to get the look.

"Sandwiched" Caring for Kids and Parents? Here’s Help!

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – On one hand, you have aging parents less able to care for themselves every day. On the other, your own children with schedules so difficult you can’t find a spare minute. And you’re caught in between.
You’re not alone. You’re part of the over 20 million Americans “sandwiched” in between generations, caring for both your own children and your parents.
As a “sandwiched” caregiver, you often bear the brunt of the financial and emotional strain that occurs when the needs of your aging parents must be balanced with those of your children.
If you are faced with this situation, an abundance of resources are available to help when you can’t always be there:
* Eldercare Services: The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s mission is to help older persons, and those with disabilities, live with dignity and choices in their own homes and communities as long as possible. A variety of tools may be found at www.n4a.org.
* Mom’s Meals: Mom’s Meals brings convenience and good nutrition to independent seniors by preparing, packaging and shipping fresh-made, ready-to-eat meals directly to a customer’s door. Whether still in their own home, homebound after a health crisis, or even in an assisted living facility, these meals are created by chefs and dietitians to meet the nutritional needs of seniors, and include options for low-sodium, low-fat or low-carb diets. Visit www.momsmeals.com or call 866-971-6667.
* National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers: Having difficulty assessing your parents’ medical needs and finances? Check out www.caremanager.org. It will help you identify local programs and services to meet those needs.
* National Association for Home Care & Hospice. If your parents have become unable to fully care for themselves, yet they would prefer to remain independent, home health care may be the answer. The site www.nahc.org helps navigate the options.

Is Your Child the Next American Artist?

The Company Store, celebrating its 100th anniversary, recently announced the launch of its Kids’ Design Contest, a program geared at inspiring creativity while supporting art education and charitable work among America’s youth. Under this initiative, The Company Store will accept original artwork from children ages 12 years and under. The winning piece will be transformed into a comforter print for their ongoing Buy One, Give One Comforter Donation Program in which The Company Store donates a new comforter to a homeless child for every comforter sold.

Help Your Kids Re-focus on School

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Help Your Kids Re-focus on School

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – As the school year passes the halfway point, some kids may get distracted from their studies. If you and your kids want to re-focus on school success, here are some suggestions for kick-starting learning:
* Commit to learning. With your children, come up with one or two major goals that you want to accomplish for the remainder of this school year. Raising that algebra grade? Getting homework done on time and turning it in the next day? Organizing a study area at home? Using a planner regularly and efficiently? Agree on some age-appropriate rewards and consequences. Commit to a family-centered goal that education is important to all of you, and work together to support, encourage and help each other.
* Set up helpful routines. Give your kids the consistency of fairly regular routines (weekends and holidays can be breaks). Bedtime, wake-up, study, homework, play, family time — kids rely on these routines, and the structure helps them to feel safe, know what’s expected of them and be successful.
* Help them organize. Organized kids do better in school than haphazard kids. Help them to set up their planners (written or electronic), to keep their notebooks and backpacks neat and orderly, to break up large assignments into smaller ones so they don’t seem overwhelming, to maintain a work space at home that’s actually workable and not a disaster area, and to stick to the goals you’ve set together.
* Maintain healthy habits. Healthy kids are better learners. Help your children by monitoring their screen time (TV, video games, cell phones, etc.), making sure they’re getting enough sleep, insisting on their good eating habits, making sure they’re involved in regular and aerobic exercise, and sticking to the goals and routines you’ve established.
* Be a good role model. Kids learn from their parents. If they see that you’re organized, focused on what’s important to you and your family, staying healthy and being true to your values, they’ll pick up some pretty important life lessons.
* Don’t give up. Let your kids know that you’re serious about these goals and that their school success is as critical to you as it is to them.
* Get help early if you need it. When your kids show that they’re having trouble despite your best efforts, get help early. Ask a teacher or guidance counselor for help. Get a tutor. Find a “study buddy” for your kid. Just get help before the little problem grows into a big one.
* Ask other parents. You’re not the only one trying to keep your kids on track. Learn from parents who’ve been through this, teachers who’ve guided hundreds of kids and others whose opinions you respect. No one has all the answers, but all of us have a lot of ideas.

Help Your Kids Choose Tooth-Friendly Foods

You probably know that sweets and soda are bad for your children’s teeth, but have you stopped to think about what foods are good for their teeth?

Some foods support kids’ dental health. Keep these foods in mind the next time you pack your children’s lunches:

•    Look for vegetables high in vitamin A. Veggies like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, broccoli and carrots are high in vitamin A, which is important in the formation of tooth enamel. Try packing baby carrots in children’s lunchboxes or making homemade, baked sweet potato fries.