Tag Archives: kid

Backyard Fun!

backyardWhen summer arrives do you see even less of your kids than you did during the school year? Too many American children, tweens and teens spend those extra hours of free time indoors playing with technology, rather than engaging in healthy outdoor activities. Even when you know where your kids are, you may not understand what they’re doing with all those devices and game controllers.

This summer, why not help your children get excited about a healthy and fun time outdoors? You can make your backyard the neighborhood hotspot that no kid can resist by providing three key ingredients to a great summer: fun, food and friendship.

Fun in the sun

To compete with smartphones, PCs, tablets and other digital devices, you need outdoor excitement – the kind that only water can provide. Installing a backyard pool may not be practical for everyone, but a backyard water slide is a great substitute.

Easy to set up and use, a water slide is a cost-effective way to create outdoor fun this summer. For example, we love H2OGO! backyard water slides for their modern but comfortable products. They feature the Speed Ramp, an inflatable launch pad that creates a smooth belly-flop landing at the start of the superfast 18-foot slide. A Splash Lagoon funnels water throughout the entire slide, reducing friction and increasing speed. Learn more at www.bestway-global.com.

Food for fun

All that water sliding and other fun activity is going to make kids work up an appetite. They’ll need fuel so they can keep having fun. Look for fare that is easy, kid-friendly and nutritious. For example, instead of serving high-fat, high-sugar ice cream, consider frozen fruit or fruit pops. Replace sugary, calorie-laden sodas with flavored water. For kids who crave crunch, replace chips with fresh-cut crisp fruits like apples and kid-friendly veggies such as carrots or cherry tomatoes. You can serve them with a variety of delicious, yogurt-based dips. Whip up a nacho platter that incorporates low-fat shredded cheese, fresh salsa and lean protein like beans or grilled chicken.

Friendship and fun

With your backyard gaining the reputation of the neighborhood hot spot for great food and fun, you may notice some new faces showing up. Encourage children to engage in games that can help them get to know each other and create new friendships with others in the neighborhood.

Some of the simplest games are great ice-breakers. One game that’s great for getting to know each other is to have kids stand in a circle and toss around a bean bag or small ball. The child who throws asks a question – such as “What’s your name?” or “What’s your favorite sport?” – and the child who catches has to answer.

Another fun idea for older children is a biography building circle. Kids sit in a circle and start with one child making a simple statement about himself, such as “I like to play baseball with my dad.” The next child in line adds his or her own information by building off something the first child said, such as “My dad is an airline pilot.” The play continues with children each saying something new that is somehow linked to what the last child said.

Each of these activities will help keep your child healthy and happy this summer. Inspire them to grow and make good choices by fostering outdoor play in your own backyard!

Transform Your Picky Eater!

Few things cause more parental frustration than trying to get a picky eater to enjoy a well-rounded diet. Whether your child has been picky all his life, or, out of nowhere is now turning up his nose at healthy foods he previously adored, it’s easy to feel like your failing as a caregiver.

“I think we need to remember that it is developmentally appropriate for children to not only move in and out of enjoying certain foods, but also to test limits and boundaries with their parents around refusing to eat what we give them,” says Dr. Aimee Gould Shunney, a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and family medicine.

20941719_originalA parent herself, when Shunney’s son goes through phases when he eats only certain things, she tries to remain consistent and optimistic.

“I believe it’s part of my job as a mama to keep a positive tone in my voice as I offer variety, explain the importance of protein for muscles and smarts, and sing the praises of eating a rainbow – even after a full day’s work while going up against a tired first-grader who only wants dessert,” she says. “I think the biggest mistake we make is when we just give up and give in because, well, it can be exhausting.”

To help parents win the food fights and bring peace to the dinner table, Shunney offers five simple ideas for transforming a child with finicky tendencies into an amazing eater with optimal nutrition.

1. Cook more.   Cook for your children and make their dishes simple without lots of sauces and spices. If possible, let them help you cook so they can be part of the fun. Cooking whole unprocessed foods will ensure your family is getting the biggest nutrition bang for your buck. There will be less sodium, sugar, additive and preservatives as well.

2. Eat more veggies.   Present them with choices: Would you like carrots or red peppers? Pickles or olives? Try starting dinner with a raw veggie plate and let your kids select what they want. It’s a healthy appetizer that makes eating whole foods a regular part of the meal routine.
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3. Pick your protein.   Find three protein meals your kids like and use them often for dinner and lunches. Peanut butter and jelly should not be an everyday option. Other ideas: Alaskan salmon burgers, organic chicken strips and eating breakfast for dinner that includes a protein like eggs. Choose animal products that are pastured and fed organic feed. If you eat beef, choose grass-fed – this will provide better fats for your children’s development, immune system and cognitive function, as well as help you avoid exposure to chemicals and antibiotics.

4. Supplements.  Supplements are really important for kids – even ones who eat well. A good multivitamin can help bridge the gap for a picky eater. Add in an omega-3 EPA and DHA supplement which has numerous well-researched benefits in areas like childhood immunity, behavior and attention, cognitive function and emotional well-being. Try a vitamin D supplement – 400 I.U. for breast-fed infants, 500 I.U. from 1-3 years old, 800 I.U. from 4-8 years old, and 1300 I.U. from 9-18 years old.

5. Show them. Teach them good eating habits by modeling good eating habits. Share your favorite foods. Sit down at the table and eat. Love your veggies. Relish your protein. Don’t overdo it on starch. Take it easy on dessert. Drink water. Enjoy your food.

“We often take health and nutrition way too seriously and it stops being any fun. I believe that eating food is one of the supreme joys of life, particularly when it’s eaten with people you love!” says Shunney. “Planning meals, preparing food, eating it together while talking and laughing – even the clean up – can all be fun if we make that our intention. The more fun it is, the more our kids will want to participate, and the more they do that, the more engaged they will be around food and family.”

Extracurricular Gardening

Beginning in April 2012, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy teamed up with Grandin Court Elementary School to begin an after-school Garden Club for students interested in learning about gardening and growing food.
Teachers and parents wanted to spruce up the raised beds at the school and use them as a hands-on learning exercise. At first, they worried there might be limited student interest in such an “uncool” activity like gardening. But that spring, kids were playing outside, handling worms, and learning how to care for plants- and they loved it!
They saw how the items on their dinner plate were parts of living plants which took time and effort to grow. They were proud of making the school grounds more beautiful by planting flowers. The Green Thumbs Garden Club quickly grew to over 40 students. A second season of the club was planned for the fall so that all of the kids who wanted to attend could do so. Students and their families were also invited to tend the garden over the summer.

gc2With funding from the Roanoke Kiwanis Club, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy built new gardens at Westside Elementary in 2014 and Highland Park Elementary School in 2015. Each new garden works towards an ultimate goal, to help students who participate in the garden clubs gain a better understanding of what they are eating. With more awareness of the different types of plants and what plant parts people can eat, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy hopes to encourage students to be more adventurous in what they eat and to be unafraid to try new things.
Last year, project manager Meagan Cupka helped students plant corn at Westside Elementary. When she poured the seeds into her hand, one young student cried out, “That’s just corn!” Many students had no idea that the yellow kernels they eat are actually seeds. That moment is just one of many that illustrates how important this educational program is for young people.
This project continues to reconnect kids to their environment and provide them with a space where they can play and learn about the world in which they live. For more information on the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy and their after-school garden clubs, visit www.blueridgelandconservancy.org/garden-clubs.