Gardening Tips: How to Make the Garden More Children-Friendly

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gardening

gardening

It is a great idea to let your children play outside whenever possible. However, in order to do this safely you will want to think first of all about how to keep your garden safe. There are lots of hazardous things lurking in your backyard like bugs and toxic plants, dirt, and even tools left lying around the garden.

There is no reason to have a garden that is filled with danger and risks, as there are some easy safety tips you can follow. Doing this will give your kids a great place to enjoy where they can play and bond together in the fresh air without you worrying that something bad might happen. This way you’ll also get to enjoy some quiet, adult time while the kids are playing outside.

Fence It In

Possibly the biggest potential danger for any kid is that of an open garden that doesn’t have any fencing or gates around it. In this case, there is always going to be the risk that they just wander off, or that a stranger or dangerous dog enters your garden. You never know what could be passing by your garden when children are outside, playing.

By simply fencing in your property you can then let the kids play outside without any worries. If you don’t like the idea of using fencing all around the garden then you could try using plants or trees in some parts of it, to form a more natural barrier. This way, you’re not only creating a beautiful green space, but you’re also filtering the dust and noise coming from the street.

The most important thing is that you don’t need to keep a close eye on the kids every single second while they are there. If it is a completely secure area then they will have a wonderful place in which to play safely whenever they want to.

Use a Shed

If you work with power tools or have lots of gardening tools around then these can be extremely dangerous for the younger members of the family to come across. Of course, you don’t want to give up working around the house if it is a hobby that you enjoy carrying out.

The simplest solution to this problem is to just start using a good garden shed to store anything in when you aren’t using it. This means that once you finish each job you just need to store everything away until the next time you need it.

This will also give you the added benefit of keeping all of your tools safe and free from damage when you aren’t using them. Just put a good padlock on the door and you will have the perfect place to store your stuff away from the elements as well as away from curious children.

Take Out Possible Hazards

hazards

Each garden is unique, so there is the chance that you have some hazards in there that need to be considered on an individual basis. The best way to do this is to try and look at your property from a child’s point of view, which could mean getting down on your hands and knees to assess the possible dangers there.

For example, is there a swimming pool, a toxic plant, or a giant cactus that could be dangerous for a toddler who is wandering about there blissfully unaware of the risks? Just a few minutes of looking around the garden should be enough for you to identify the main risks that need to be taken out as soon as possible.

Don’t forget that things that are completely innocuous for an adult can be potentially extremely very dangerous for a little kid. Just because you don’t immediately see the risk doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Always think twice before placing that large flower pot on a higher place where it can be easily knocked down by children playing around it. Everything must be secured and all heavy objects must be placed on the ground.

Remove temptation

Children are tempted to climb trees, fences, jump over holes and do all sorts of things that seem out of the ordinary. By adding toys specially created for the garden (a house for playing, a sand pit, trampolines, and so on) you remove the temptation of doing things that are not safe. Kids will still get to jump and run around, but in a safe environment where they are protected from falling too hard.

Also, if kids still want to climb the trees, you could always consider a tree house. You can add steps that lead to the house so kids won’t fall off the branches.

By making your garden a more child-friendly place you can relax while the little ones have a great time playing out there. 

 

5 Excellent Tips For Choosing The Best Workout Routine

Do you have a hard time getting motivated to work out? You’re not alone. When you decide to work out, you don’t want it to be something that you dread. It is important that we listen to our bodies and participate in the workout that excites us, motivates us, and makes us feel great. If you have always hated running, then doing something that involves running probably isn’t the best choice. Try to take an activity that you enjoy (swimming, biking, etc.) and turn it into a workout! I have found that if I do a workout that is too much out of my comfort zone or I don’t feel good doing it, then I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. Working out should be your time to work on you, your body and your health.

Check out some tips below to help you find the best workout routine to match your lifestyle.

Best Workout Routine: woman fitness

Image courtesy of PourquoiPas at pixabay.com

  1. Define your goals

As Winston Churchill once said, “He (or she) who fails to plan is planning to fail.” First before beginning any type of fitness or workout routine, you need to define what goals you want to achieve. If you’re running a marathon, then you should define that goal from the beginning so you can follow a workout plan to succeed!

If you want to focus more on your well-being and health as a whole, then a yoga program might be the best choice for you. It’s all about what you want to achieve. That’s what I love about fitness – you can do whatever you set your mind to. Our bodies are so amazing and are capable of so much!

  1. Start small

If you haven’t worked out in a while or you feel like you may be out of shape, it is important for you not to overwhelm yourself with a hard workout right away. If you do too much on the first day of your workout routine , then you may be too sore to work out in the next few days and that may cause you to lose motivation altogether.

If you need to take breaks during your workout, don’t feel bad. Listen to your body! Just imagine how great you will feel when you don’t have to take those breaks later on in your workout routine. I always feel awesome and so motivated after a workout. If you ever lack the motivation to get started, just think of that awesome feeling you get after those endorphins are released. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

  1. Stick with your routine

The best workout routine is the plan that you actually follow through with. You may find that you need more variety in your routine and want to switch up your workouts every other day. However, you might find a workout that offers a total body workout that you can’t get enough of!

Best Workout Routine: fitness gym

Image courtesy of markusspiske at pixabay.com

  1. Pack a workout bag in advance

If you have a busy schedule and have to get your workout in before or after work, then pack a workout bag the night before. This way you won’t have any excuses for when it comes to working out. I will admit I have definitely used this as an excuse before but I have found that when I hold myself accountable by packing a bag I am more likely to do the workout I have planned.

Some people don’t have time before or after work, so they work out during lunch and eat a light lunch when they get back.

  1. Stay motivated

Along the fitness journey, you might hit a plateau and feel like you are not seeing improvement in the areas you had hoped. If this happens, just keep pushing forward and stay motivated to accomplish what you have set out to do.

I have a group of friends who I stay connected with through a text message group that we call “Fit Friends”. We use this to stay motivated, share our workouts, and sometimes even schedule our workout sessions together. I am very competitive so when I am working out with a friend, I will usually push myself harder than I would when I am alone. I am a big fan of group fitness classes for this reason.

When you are beginning a new workout routine, the best advice I can give is to stick with it and stay motivated. Think about your end goal and what you want to achieve! Now, let’s get fit!

By Guest Author: Lauren Byrd

Lauren is a contributing writer for Orangetheory Fitness. She regularly produces content for a variety of lifestyle and fitness blogs. She loves to spend her free time traveling and being active.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Identify Hidden Danger And Health Risks in Your Home

One of the most important things in the life of every parent is making sure that their child is safe and healthy. This is why most parents take very seriously the issue of childproofing their home and taking appropriate precautions and safety measures that would ensure the wellbeing of their children.
But what most people are not quite aware of is the fact that danger lurks everywhere, even in the most unexpected places. Certain house plants that are perhaps held in the living space for decoration, or even as an air purifier are known to carry a lot of health risks with them. Also, some foods, which are seemingly safe and are consumed on a daily basis, could cause a great deal of damage to your children’s health. This is why it is crucial to be informed about all the dangerous properties of said foods and plants, the health risks they carry, but also about the ways to overcome these obstacles.

What Are The Most Dangerous Foods?

junk food

Image source: Wikimedia.org

When talking about the dangers of certain foods, it is important to define what the term dangerous actually means in this context. The foods which are labeled as dangerous are mostly the ones that promote an unhealthy lifestyle, do not hold any great nutrition value and could cause some severe health conditions. This food is commonly called junk food and is one of the leading causes of obesity in children. Not only this, but there are also some foods which are risky for small kids and toddlers as they could present a choking hazard like hard candy, popcorn, seeds, whole grapes, nuts or any large chunk of food that could cause asphyxiation. Food allergies are another thing which could propose a great health risk if not noticed in time.

Possible Health Consequences of Certain Foods

food allergens
Image source: Wikimedia.org

According to a study conducted in the US, it is now considered that nearly one-third of all children and adolescents are overweight and obese. This is a consequence of consuming junk food on long-term basis. Not only this, but these foods are known to increase the cholesterol levels in the body, clog the arteries, contain enormous quantities of sugar, artificial sweeteners and other preservatives which slowly poison the body. This is mostly damaging for children as it prevents them from fully developing and it creates a good foundation for future heart failures, strokes and other severe health conditions. This issue should be addressed on time by creating a balanced diet so your children would be able to get all the essential nutrients needed for a fully functional organism. Also, it is a good idea to test your children on different foods so you would be able to prevent common food allergies and their consequences which could sometimes be fatal. Problems with asphyxiation could easily be prevented by giving children small portions of foods, in a moderate manner and making sure to cut their food in small pieces, especially while they are still quite young.

Dangers of House Plants

dangerous house plants
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Dieffenbachia_bauseii_a1.jpg

While most houseplants that people keep in their living space are considered to be perfectly safe, there is certain plant life that could propose a health risk especially for young children and even your pets. While some are more toxic than others, for those who are not aware of what kinds of dangers lurk behind these seemingly harmless objects, the consequences could be severe. Sometimes, even the slightest touch of leaves, petals, berries or even sap and juices could create a big problem. Some of the most harmful plants are the philodendron as it could cause some severe skin conditions; oleander which is extremely toxic and can cause dizziness, arrhythmia and can even be fatal if eaten; pothos which can cause various skin conditions, vomiting and even diarrhea and all kinds of ivy and lilies as well which are known to cause some severe swelling, skin irritations, headaches, burning sensations and stomach issues. Quite logically, another plant species that proposes a great deal of risk for children are of course cacti, because of their thorns. Most of these plants are quite easy to grow, have different positive properties and are also used to beautify the space. Not many people think about the dark side of these colorful plants which are known to cause some serious health conditions if not handled carefully. This is why these plants represent a great risk for small children, as they could easily be distracted by the beautiful leaves, vivid and bright colors and would not even consider that something as beautiful as that could harm them in any way.

How to Address the Issue?

The best way to address the issue of safety concerning these specific plants is to keep them out of reach of children and pets. The best solution is to grow these plants in specific parts of the house where children will have no access. Also, it is a good idea to try and educate your children about the harmful properties of certain plants if it so happens that they encounter them somewhere else. Not only this, but things like fertilizers and potting soil should also be handled with care and kept away from small children. It is not uncommon for small children to try and eat whatever they encounter, so it would be best to keep harmful substances out of the house. Teach your child to always wash their hands after approaching plants. What is also crucial is to learn how to handle all of these plants properly but also to always have a number of the 24 hour emergency care nearby, so you would be able to act quickly in a case of urgency.

 

Most people are not even aware of all the possible health hazards we are surrounded by every day. This is why the best way to avoid certain conditions and possible health problems is to become informed about all the negative properties of the things that encircle you. This can become quite overwhelming at certain times, especially when you are a parent, as suddenly you have to become cautious about every little aspect of your life in order to keep your children safe. But once you learn how to handle these issues and how to properly address them, it will become much easier to lead a healthy and safe life, without worrying too much about all the negative aspects of everyday problems.

How To Find The Best Hair Donation Charity

Not so long ago, I shared a post about easy ways to donate to charity that don’t actually involve money. There were a number of options listed there, but now I would like to focus on hair donation in particular, as I myself have recently done so as part of my usual biennial routine.
Before Hair Donation, Front ViewBefore Hair Donation, Rear View
Before I had my hair cut, it had grown to about halfway down my back, about the same place it is every two years when I donate. I usually get ten to twelve inches cut off to where my hair is about halfway down my neck. As my hair is a renewable resource for me, this is a great way to contribute that many people don’t even consider.

I used to donate to Locks of Love, until the rumors started going around about them charging for their wigs which are supposed to go to sufferers of severe illnesses such as cancer who lose their hair due to radiation treatment. After further research, it is clear to me that while they do give some free wigs to needy families, they charge on a sliding scale for most of them. They also sell any hair that is sent to them which cannot be used. I have mixed feelings about the practice of selling the usable hair on a sliding scale, but have chosen not to use them any longer.

After Hair Donation, Front ViewAfter Hair Donation, Rear View
I had my hair cut at the Milan Institute of Cosmology, but was extremely disappointed with my experience. My hair was cut at least an inch too short, leaving it at the top of my neck instead of halfway down, and it was left extremely uneven, but I don’t want it any shorter so will have to fix this issue when next I cut my hair elsewhere. This might have been partially excusable if it were a student cutting my hair, but it was actually one of the instructors. I don’t recommend this school.

In addition, they asked me if I wanted to leave my hair with them to be picked up, but they said that they give it to Locks of Love, so I declined, and will be sending my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths instead. They are a charity for adults instead of children, but in my eyes are a bit more trustworthy, and for those who are uncertain about hair requirements, theirs are less strict. For example, they’ll take a minimum of eight inches compared to ten for Locks of Love and others. You can find the submission guidelines for all charities mentioned at the end of this post.

There are several hair donation charities to choose from in the United States, so the best suggestion is to view their submission guidelines and find the one that fits you best. If you color your hair, some won’t take it, although Pantene Beautiful Lengths will take it provided it is not bleached. Most will not take chemically treated hair, dry or brittle hair, gray hair, or hair that is too short.

If you are not in the United States, I know very little about hair donation in other countries. However, it is definitely worth investigating if you want to donate a renewable resource for a worthy cause. Keep in mind it usually takes 8 or more ponytails to make a wig, but the more people donating, the more wigs they can make. They have to work hard to match the thickness, texture, and other factors, so the more they have to choose from, the more people can benefit from our contributions.

Have you ever donated your hair to charity? If so, which one? Why did you choose that organization? Share your thoughts with all of us in a comment. If you haven’t, would you consider it? Hair donation is a great and unique way to help those in need, especially children.

See the following links for hair submission guidelines for several organizations. Keep in mind that these organizations often have to dispose of hair donations that do
not meet these criteria, so be sure yours follows them before cutting off your ponytail to donate.
Wigs 4 Kids Hair Donation Guidelines
Locks of Love Hair Donation Guidelines
Pantene Beautiful Lengths Guidelines

9 Important Baby Shower Essentials For New Moms + Dreft Amazinghood Giveaway

This post contains a giveaway for new and expectant parents. Enter to win via the Rafflecopter form below. This post was sponsored by Dreft in partnership with Sean and Catherine Lowe from the Bachelor, who are expecting a baby of their own. You can follow along with their journey as new parents by following them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at the following URLs.

Sean and Catherine Lowe in front of Dreft Amazinghood sign
Reality TV couple Sean and Catherine Lowe celebrate their pregnancy at the Dreft “Loads of Love” baby shower, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in New York. Visit Dreft.com and the brand’s social channels for more information about the couple’s parenting journey. (Diane Bondareff/Invision for Dreft/AP Images)

Sean Lowe | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Catherine Lowe | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Dreft | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Follow the #Amazinghood hashtag and use it on your social media posts to join in on the Lowes’ journey as new parents.

To that end, I’d like to share with all of you some items that I feel are important must haves for your baby shower registry, as well as why they are so important. I hope that you all find these suggestions useful and informative.

Burp Cloths

Burp cloths are definitely an important product to have around with a new baby. Spit up is a normal part of babyhood, and unless you want to be changing your shirt regularly, you’ll want some good ones. I recommend thicker cloths, or else it may just leak right through to your clothes anyway. Some people have even been known to use receiving blankets as birth cloths if they have babies that spit up more than usual. You can fold them to make them thicker and still take up more space than the average burp cloth. New parents already have to do a lot of laundry, so anything you can do to minimize it is a good idea.

Bottle Warmer

If you plan on feeding your baby formula or pumped breastmilk, a bottle warmer can be very important. It is not safe to microwave a bottle to feed a baby, as even a short time in the microwave can heat the milk unevenly and cause hot spots which can harm your baby. Instead, a bottle warmer will heat it evenly and remove this risk. If, however, your baby is like my son, and absolutely refuses to wait while you warm a bottle, my own doctor informed me that while most babies are given warm milk, there is no medical reason why it must be warmed, and if they’ll drink it cold, it is okay to give to them that way. My son was very impatient, and almost always had his milk cold, unless it was freshly pumped. Still, a bottle warmer is a handy gadget to have around, and if you can get on top of the schedule to warm it just before your baby wants it, it should work out very well.

Nursing Bra

If you plan on feeding your baby breastmilk, whether it is by direct breastfeeding or using a pump, a nursing bra can help. Instead of having to move it out of the way, all you have to do is unclasp the front of it while keeping the bra on to give your baby access or to insert breastpump shields through it. My son would not latch for breastfeeding, but this worked well for me pumping.

Breast Pump

Speaking of pumping, there are a lot of great reasons to use one of these. If you plan on feeding your baby breastmilk, they may not be with you 24/7, whether it is because you are working, your child is staying with another relative, or you have some sort of emergency. It is a good idea to pump and bottle your own breastmilk so that others can feed your baby whenever you are unavailable. A dual electric breast pump is highly recommended, and while a hospital grade one would be ideal, they can be very costly, and it is fairly easy to find one that is near hospital grade for a quarter of the price if you shop around. These are very useful and well worth the price.

Dreft Laundry Products

Sean and Catherine Lowe holding Dreft Onesies
As mentioned above, when you have a new baby, you will be doing a lot more laundry than usual. In that case, a good line of laundry products like those offered by Dreft will be instrumental in meeting your laundry care needs. In addition, Dreft laundry products are much gentler on baby’s skin, which is even more important for those with skin conditions like eczema. Dreft was recommended to me when my son was diagnosed with eczema, and his eczema has not been as bad since I started using it.

Sean and Catherine Lowe from The Bachelor also prefer to use Dreft laundry products, stating that “Dreft Newborn detergent was a must have. Their parents used it, their friends recommended it, and the smell of freshly washed baby clothes has made them even more excited for the little one’s arrival.”

Dreft’s line contains three main products, Dreft Stage 1: Newborn, Dreft Stage 2: Active Baby, and Dreft Blissfuls, all of which are formulated to be perfect for the stage of babyhood your child is in.

Dreft Newborn is the #1 choice of pediatricians, and as with my son, is often recommended by dermatologists. Dreft has been trusted by moms for over 80 years, and is gentle on the skin but tough on stains. It has a light baby scent, is hypoallergenic, and can be used in both standard and high efficiency washing machines. Definitely a great product to have around when your baby arrives.

Don’t forget to enter the Dreft Amazinghood giveaway via the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post.

Books

Child's bookshelf
Books are a must for children of any age, but often times parents don’t consider them as an essential for babies, who can’t read yet and haven’t learned to identify shapes, colors, and pictures, but books are one of the most important things you can have, and something many households are lacking. Your baby will learn to speak by listening to you, and reading to them can be very soothing and help them pick up on spoken language. In addition, you can use colorful picture books to teach them what things are or even just to entertain. Literacy is an invaluable aspect of our daily lives, and if you can give your child an edge by exposing them to books from the very beginning of their lives, you will be doing them a big favor. As your baby grows, they will develop an interest in specific things, and you can nurture that interest by getting theme specific books, but as a baby, books on almost anything will do. Clearly you don’t want to read them a college textbook, but simple short stories about almost anything will be great for your baby. Try to select books that use real words, as opposed to made up ones too much, as your baby will learn language by emulating what they see and hear from you. Give your baby the best start possible by giving them genuine, correctly used language to emulate.

Stroller With 5-point Harness

Strollers are extremely important in babyhood as it will take about a year before your baby learns to walk, give or take a few months, and even then they won’t be able to go very far very fast, so longer walks will require a stroller, but many people underestimate the importance of a 5-point harness and settle for a 3-point one. The difference is that a 3-point harness only goes between the legs and around the hips, while a 5-point harness goes over the shoulders as well. It is much more safe and secure, and babies can be very fragile, so whatever you can do to keep them more secure is always a good idea. I once saw someone at the airport who was pushing a baby in a stroller with no restraints at all, and the child almost fell out. Don’t let this be you. Be sure to go with the added safety of a stroller with a 5-point harness, and always be sure to use it.
Baby Safety Gate(s)

Plastic Baby Safety Gate
When your baby starts exploring, which they may do sooner than you think, it is definitely important to ensure their safety by using a baby gate to keep them away from places that may be dangerous. This is especially important at stairways and in dangerous rooms of your house, like the bathroom, which may have countless hazards for a new, curious baby. Figure out how many of these you will need for your home before your baby arrives and stock up. You’ll be glad you did because you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing your child is safe.

Play Yard

It’s also a great idea to ensure your child has a safe place to play in your home. Many people by small play pens, but babies outgrow those very quickly, and then you need to get something else. However, if you try what I did when my son was a baby, you can actually get a fenced play yard. Some even have a gate that can be opened and closed, instead of needing to be stepped over. You can often buy two of the same kind and double them up for even more room as well. This allows you to fence off a safe place for your child to play and makes it much easier to keep track of what they are doing. Since safety is the most important factor in caring for a new baby, products like these are also essential to ensure your child can have fun while staying out of danger.

I hope that you find these suggestions useful when planning for your own new little one. What other products would you suggest as essentials for a new baby? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Dreft Logo
This post and giveaway were made possible by iConnect and Dreft. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

Dreft Baby Shower Giveaway Package
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Helpful Tips About Kids And Screen Technology

boy on computer

Are you wondering whether to get your child a tech device such as a tablet or a phone? Or do you have kids who already have phones or tablets but you’re worried about the amount of time they’re using them? Instead of being fearful of your kids’ involvement with the digital world, you can learn how to deal with it and maintain your positive relationships with your children.

It’s important to realize the effects that technology and social media can have on our children and on our families. Because digital devices are not going away, and because there is much value associated with them, we have to learn how to live with them. We need to know how to introduce them to our children and how to help them become self-regulating so they don’t become addicted. We need to help them know how to connect with others, and enjoy life outside of their devices.

Speaking of time with you, in order for you to parent your kids successfully around the use of screens, developing a positive relationship with your child beforehand is extremely important. Children need firm limits that they can depend on. Don’t be afraid of taking charge because you’re afraid of displeasing them. They need you to guide them and to be a good role model.

What do I mean by a good role model? Because kids are so aware of what you’re doing, you should use your phone in the way you’d like them to use theirs; you must have some balance in your life and be able to have activities unrelated to being online.

Consider your answers to the following questions:

  1. How much time are you spending on your own phone?
  2. Do you have your phone in your hand at all times? Or on the table at dinner or when feeding the kids or breast feeding?
  3. Do you answer your phone when you’re with your kids, interrupting talking with them or playing with them?
  4. Do you have regular play times with your kids or, if they’re older, times when you sit and talk with them, play games, read stories or engage in activities outdoors away from technology?
  5. Do you take time just to “be”, without your phone, computer or tablet, perhaps going for walks, and meeting friends?

If you find you could make changes in your own phone or tablet use, start to do so before bringing more technology into your family.

toddler on laptop

What is the best age to introduce tablets, computers and cell phones to your kids? If you’re thinking of getting a screen device such as a tablet for your child, make sure that he is over two years, and that you’ll play with him in other ways than on the device. Get him outside for a walk, or to the park. Limit the time he spends watching TV.

When deciding on getting your child a cell phone, ask yourself:  is she mature enough? How is she doing in school? Does she get along with brothers and sisters? Does she have friends in her life? Can you trust her to take responsibility at home such as looking after pets or babysitting younger siblings? You must have positive answers to these questions and listen to your inner voice to make this decision.

The time could be right if your child is happy and seems well-adjusted, when she is asking for a phone, and when you are modeling a balanced use of your own phone, keeping it turned off for meals, playtime with the kids and conversations with family members.

Before buying a device for your child, sit down and have a discussion about its use. Many families draw up  formal agreements that lay out the guidelines for use of the device. They forbid having it turned on at mealtimes, during homework periods, and after bedtime.  Remember that this is your phone. You’re paying for it and are in control of it. You need to know the password. You can keep the charger under your bed so that you are the one who charges it, or lock it away for the night to avoid the temptation of late night calling. Your child needs to agree to the contract and may have some helpful input as well. Make sure that your tone is neutral, without dictatorial overtones. Although you have the last word, this is a family agreement, and when kids have some say, they’re more likely to co-operate.

The US National Crime Prevention Council website on cyberbullying has an excellent article, “Cell Phone Savvy”. It has a suggested agreement that can be printed out and used for setting up cell phone use. It also lists some important websites you can access for more information on phone use and family safety. Such a contract would be used with love, as well as firmness and consistency.

As part of your agreement, internet security should be front and center. Kids must not give identifying information to strangers, should not post their phone numbers and addresses. In fact, they should be told not to respond to anyone they don’t know and to tell you when anything worries them. Discuss texting, and the dangers of texting while driving or walking.

 

teens exercising without phones

As parents, you want to have some face time with your kids. You want to teach them to have time away from their devices to interact with their family and friends. You want them to have balance in their lives, to develop an internal self-regulator so that they can be part of the real world, developing relationships, conversation skills and empathy for others. You can do this only if you build a close connection with them so that they listen to you and want to cooperate.  Spending time with your kids, listening to them without criticism and judgment, encouraging them by recognizing the positive things they do, all help bring you closer to them.

 

family tobogganing

Think carefully about your goal for your family. Hopefully you will aim for balance, so that, every day, there will be times the whole family will turn off their devices and relate to each other face-to-face. Plan tech-free days or weekends for the whole family so that face-to-face relationships flourish. Continue bedtime stories or talks to keep in touch with your child’s life at school and out of the house. You want to instill in your kids a consciousness of having intervals in their lives of online and offline activity so that they can learn to become self-regulating.

The following are some ways you can manage screen time in your family:

  • keep computers in the main area of the home
  • take phones away for play dates
  • have a rule that there are no phones at a meal and that phones must be turned off
  • teach good manners, such as not being on a phone when in the presence of others who aren’t on their phones or other devices
  • keep bedroom doors open when kids are on the internet
  • limit group homework on tech devices
  • set a timer, especially when kids are small and just being introduced to screens. Make sure they understand how long they’ve been on and that they either time themselves or get off when you tell them. Monitor older children too.
  • be calm and don’t be afraid to negotiate. Don’t let fear overcome you.  Rules can be a family matter with everyone contributing. If you are always negative, your kids won’t come to you with problems and will be fearful that you’ll take their device away. Encourage them to come to you with their concerns and stress that you are always there for them.

Digital technology and the internet are here to stay. We need to focus on the positive things that they can do, but know that children need firm, consistent parental guidance and support in order to learn how to use their devices appropriately and have balance in their lives.

 

Carolyn Bond is a parenting coach and author of Parent with Confidence: Power Tools for Bringing Up Great Kids. She has an extensive parent education background and raised her own four great kids with the approach she writes about. She has coaching programs and a blog at www.howtobringupgreatkids.com. Her book can be obtained at www.parentwithconfidence.com.

How To Stringthen Sisterly Bonds With Fun Activities

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Sisters share a powerful bond formed over time, and as a mother, you want your daughters to have the kind of relationship where they will always look out for each other.

You may recall unique memories of your own sister. Remember the time that your sister gave you a haircut? Parts of your head were bald. You returned the favor by flushing her favorite toy down the toilet, thereby flooding the bathroom, too. Your mom made you both clean up the bathroom, and your sister turned it into a game to make you laugh. Now, it’s a funny story that you tell over the holidays.

There are many horror stories that siblings have about each other, and there are many great memories, too. Kids will laugh about both kinds of memories as adults.

You want your daughters to create a strong bond of sisterhood, but you also don’t want to be in your mom’s position — walking in on a half-balding child and the other with a pair of scissors in hand. Here are five activities to get the sisterhood blooming:
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1. Fix up an old piece of furniture together. They may help repaint a chair with bright colors or decorate a chest to store toys within for a shared room. Repurpose a piece of inherited furniture. Use a drop cloth to protect your floor when sanding or painting. Combine their favorite colors. One sister can hold a stencil while the other fills it in with a paintbrush.
The sisters will have an opportunity to learn how to plan things together, from choosing the colors to sketching out how the project will look in the end. Even if they end up covered in paint instead, fixing up an old piece of furniture together will be a great memory.

2. Make sock puppets out of stray socks, and then have a puppet show. It never fails: Mismatched socks are the official family look. You’ve tried to have your kids match their socks, but there’s always a stray. What do you do with all those mismatched socks?
Turn stray socks into sock puppets and have a puppet show, of course! Striped socks make great zebras. One big button and one smaller button make funny eyes for an owl puppet. Enjoy your daughters’ laughter as they make funny zoo animals and silly monsters out of socks.
Let each girl come up with names and stories for every sock puppet they create. Get the whole family involved with the storyline. Once the sock puppets are complete, rig up an old red sheet and let the show begin!

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3. Make a memory quilt out of their baby clothes together. Include scraps of a comfortable sweater you wore as a new mother. Create squares of their old blankets and clothes. Older children can measure and cut the squares. Younger children can match colors and squares together.
Making a memory quilt together is a fantastic way to honor their favorite memories growing up and keep their loved ones close by.

 

4. Host a huge sleepover. Not two girls. Not three girls. You want the entire floor of the bedroom (or the living room) to be filled with girls in a massive sleepover. It’s easy to plan a sleepover, whether it’s the first or fifth one.

Bonus: You’ll also have a bunch of parents who will owe you when you need a night to yourself. So buy some aspirin and get ready to have a fun-filled night that those girls will never forget. Play truth or dare! Do makeovers! Watch age-appropriate scary movies.
Here are some alternative sleepover ideas. Consider having a backyard sleepover with tents. Make s’mores and have a scavenger hunt. Do you have a pool? That pool is now the sea and the girls are pirates. Arg!
Every little girl deserves a massive sleepover at least once. It’ll be something the girls talk about for years to come.

5.  Make a weekend activity box. Let the girls write their favorite outdoor and indoor activities, which are to be reviewed and approved by you first, of course. The girls will decorate an old shoebox together with glitter, markers and cutouts. There are so many ways you can reshape a shoebox!
Let them each take turns drawing from it every weekend. This is a way to get their input on family activities and have them work together with less arguing over what activity is chosen.
These activities for sister bonding will get the girls to know each other better, as well as help them learn how to work as a team. Who knows? One or both of them may stumble upon a craft idea they like so much that it becomes a hobby.

Bonding activities create memories, but also help the girls learn more about their unique personalities. What sister bonding activities do you suggest? Let us know in the comments!

 

Fabulous Fitness Tips That Easily Fit Your Lifestyle + Giveaway

This post includes a giveaway. Read on to learn what you can win and how to enter.

Holding 25lb dumbells in each hand, curling at the elbow
Everyone has a different lifestyle, whether you’re on the go or spend most of your time at home. Many people want to lose weight and/or improve their fitness, strength, agility, endurance, etc., but are either not sure where to start, don’t have the time, or simply have not been strongly motivated. These fitness tips will help you on your way to a healthier you.

More Physical Activity

Stability ball for fitness
Even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, you can make minor changes to your lifestyle that will have significant benefits. Instead of sitting on your couch or at your desk, try standing as much as possible. You can even get a Sh”>standing desk at which to complete your work and burn a few more calories by standing instead of sitting. If you must sit, using a stability ball instead of an office chair can be helpful as well. It can strengthen your core muscles, improve your posture, and even be a source of simple workouts when you’re between activities.

In addition to standing instead of sitting, it is advisable to get moving as much as possible. Even if you just take a five minute break every hour and go for a brief walk, it is better than nothing. If you’re able to walk and do whatever you need to do at the same time, then maximizing your activity is always a plus. If you have the opportunity to run or jog instead of walking, take it, no matter how brief it is. Every little bit helps.

higher intensity physical activity

In addition to increasing your activity and trading more sedentary activities for more active ones, increasing the intensity of your activitie can be helpful as well, even in short bursts. For example, let’s say you are going for a twenty minute walk. Every few minutes, ramp it up to a jog or run for thirty seconds to a minute, then slow it back down. This will cause what is known as the afterburn effect, which throws your body into overdrive and causes it to continue burning calories for some time, even after your workout is complete.

Short, Effective Workouts

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Time is something that very few of us actually have in great supply. This is where companies like MASHUP™ can help out with their Booya Fitness workout videos, which are each about fifteen minutes and can fit into almost any schedule. Whether you only have time enough for one or you can make a mixed workout of three or four of them, they are a great tool for doing high intensity workouts that burn fat and they have videos for a wide variety of goals. Some of the videos require accessories such as a yoga mat or a set of hand dumbells, but before you even play the video, you can see a list of things you will need. I was able to try these for free in exchange for this post.

MASHUP™ is offering a free 30 day membership to Booya Fitness to one lucky reader. You can enter to win this prize via the entry form below. You can learn more about their videos by watching this video preview or by watching this free full length sample of one of their videos. These video workouts are an effective tool for people of all levels of experience and fitness.

Eating Fewer Calories

The average person consumes around 2000 calories per day, if not more. However, if you are trying to lose weight, lowering your calorie consumption can help. It is estimated that 3500 calories is equal to about a pound, so if you cut your diet down to about 1500 calories per day, you’ll lose approximately a pound a week by calorie reduction alone. It is advisable never to eat fewer than 1200 calories per day, as it is difficult, if not impossible, to get adequate nutrition at this level.

Exercising and burning off the calories does not give you a free pass to eat whatever you want, however. Just because you burn the 500 calories that you would eat fewer of during a day doesn’t mean that you eat the whole 2000. Here is my method for balancing calories burned and consumed.

My base rate is 1500 calories per day. I try not to exceed this if possible, though I don’t stress about counting every calorie, but rather estimate, as stress itself can cause weight problems, among other things.

When I work out, I estimate how many calories I burned, and I even try to guess a little low. For example, research on the web shows that using a weighted hula hoop burns approximately 7 calories per minute, so a 20 minute workout burns approximately 140. I’ll even undershoot that and say 120 just to play it safe. Then I divide that number in half and that is how many extra calories I can consume that day, in this example 60. If I burn 500 calories, I can eat 250. This way I am still burning significantly more than I consume.

Eating Higher Quality Calories

Reducing your calories alone is not enough. Improving the quality of your calories consumed is important as well. Cut down significantly on junk food and replace it with healthier snacks.

When choosing fruits and veggies, choose those which have the most effect at the least calorie cost. Bananas are great, but they are one of the higher calorie fruits. If you need the potassium, then go for it, but other fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and grapes are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and low in calories, which makes the calories you consume from them higher quality.

Potatoes are another high calorie, starchy food. They can be consumed some, but if you find you are someone who eats them frequently, cutting them down significantly may improve your fitness efforts as well. Exchange them for other, healthier foods.

If you’re a picky eater like me, especially with vegetables, try blending them into a smoothie to get the same effects without even tasting them. I usually make smoothies with orange juice or another type of juice, mixed berries, and a bit of spinach, zucchini, or cucumber to get my vegetable servings without even noticing they are there. Smoothies are a great, low calorie but high quality solution for me, and they can make great meal replacements or snacks.

As you can see, there are several minor lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health and fitness. You can use one, a few, or all of them, depending on your own personal lifestyle and your personal fitness goals.

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Don’t forget to enter to win the free 30 days of access to the Booya Fitness videos. If you find you like them and they are beneficial to your fitness routine, you may find the membership well worth the price.

What other fitness tips would you like to share with us? Which of the above tips are you currently using now or intend to use in the near future? Share your thoughts with all of us in the comments below.

Images Courtesy of MASHUP™ and Wikimedia.

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