children playingVitamin D can promote healthy development and prevent a number of diseases and medical conditions, but many people do not get enough.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for bone growth and healthy development of teeth. This is especially important for children, who are growing. Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to rickets, which causes bone deformity and fractures, and can prevent a child from reaching his or her potential height.

Vitamin D can also contribute to a healthy immune system that can help the body fight off infections and prevent autoimmune diseases. In addition, research in adults indicates that vitamin D can lower the risks of developing heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

One of the best natural sources of vitamin D is sunlight. When the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate bare skin, they cause the body to produce vitamin D. However, with many children spending several hours a day watching tv, playing video games, or using smart phones, many do not spend as much time outside as previous generations did.

Encouraging children to spend more time playing outside can increase the amount of vitamin D their bodies produce. It is important not to spend too much time outside on a sunny day. Experts say children can spend brief periods of time outside without sunscreen, but be careful not to let them get sunburn.

If you live in northern latitudes, your children may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. People with darker skin also absorb less vitamin D from sunlight than those with lighter complexions.

If you think your child is not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight, try to incorporate more into his or her diet. Many foods contain vitamin D, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, eggs, and fortified yogurt, orange juice, milk, cheese, and cereal. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child should also take a vitamin D supplement.

snowmanEven though it’s cold outside, don’t let that stop you from spending quality time with your children outdoors. Here are some suggestions for fun outdoor winter activities.

Help your children create snow creatures. You can make a traditional snowman, or you can build a whole family of snow people. If there is not enough snow for full-sized figures, create a miniature family. You can also create animals, such as a bear, a cat, or a dog. Encourage your children to be creative and use their imaginations to create and decorate their creatures.

Build a snow fort or igloo as a family. Help your children pile snow to build walls, and cover it with a sheet for a roof.

Have an outdoor winter picnic. Bundle up and eat a warm lunch in a fort or tent or at a backyard table. Some good foods to serve include toasted peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot cocoa or soup in a thermos, and cookies.

Make snow angels. Lie down in the snow and move your arms and legs back and forth.

Paint the snow. Fill spray bottles with cold water (warm water could melt the snow) and a few drops of food coloring. All you need are the three primary colors – red, yellow, and blue. Let your children experiment with combining those three to make different colors. You may also want to let your children experiment with painting the snow with brushes.

Go for a walk together. There is still plenty to observe outdoors in the winter. If the ground is covered with snow, you can look for animal tracks. You can see where the snow has started to melt and talk about where the water is going. Talk about what trees and bushes look like without leaves and how they will look different in the spring.

Winter is a great time to have fun outdoors. Bundle up, spend some quality time together as a family, and make some lasting memories.

9 Jan 2014

Tips to Keep Your Child Healthy This Winter

In: News

childWinter is the time for colds and flu viruses. Many people with viruses are contagious before they develop symptoms, so keeping your child away from friends and classmates who are not feeling well will not necessarily prevent him or her from getting sick. Bundling up will not necessarily prevent colds either. However, there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risk of your child getting sick or to speed up recovery.

Consistent and thorough hand-washing is an effective way to prevent the spread of colds and flu viruses. Teach your child to wash his or her hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, before eating, and after coming in from outdoors. You don’t need to use anti-bacterial soap. Any soap will help to eliminate germs. You should wash your hands before preparing meals and after wiping your child’s runny nose, or after you could, sneeze, or blow your own nose. Be sure your child’s teachers and baby sitter regularly wash their hands, too.

Teach your child not to touch his or her nose or mouth, since that can deposit germs into mucus membranes, where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause illness. Teach your child to use a tissue or clean sleeve to wipe his or her nose or mouth. You should also teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of an arm to prevent the spread of germs.

Ask about your school or daycare’s policy on keeping sick children home. Most facilities require a child with a fever, the flu, an upper respiratory infection, vomiting, diarrhea, an eye infection, or a rash to stay home until the symptoms have subsided.

Be sure that your child’s vaccinations are up-to-date. You should also be sure that your child gets a flu shot.

Proper nutrition, exercise, and plenty of sleep can help to boost your child’s immunity naturally. This can help prevent your child from getting sick or speed up recovery from a cold or virus.

If your child gets sick, blowing his or her nose often can help to get rid of mucus. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest when sick to speed up recovery. Using a humidifier, especially at night and during naps, can thin your child’s mucus secretions, which can help with the cough and congestion and help your child get enough sleep. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, such as water, juice, an electrolyte solution, or milk. Chicken soup can help to soothe a sore throat and thin nasal secretions. Vitamin C won’t prevent a cold, but it can help to lessen the symptoms.

Call your pediatrician if your child experiences ear or face pain, a very sore throat combined with a fever, wheezing or trouble breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, a fever of 103 degrees or higher, or a milder fever that lasts for more than three days.

Give your child some extra TLC while sick, and remember that a cold will help to boost his or her immunity, which can reduce the number of illnesses later.

from 123rf.comScientists studying human perception believe we have up to 30 senses, including blood-sugar levels, empty stomach, thirst, and proprioception, or an awareness of our body’s position in space. Spending time outdoors allows people, particularly children, to develop many senses simultaneously in a way that is not possible when they spend time indoors with technology and block out some senses to focus on a screen. Researchers believe that the most learning takes place when more senses are engaged, such as in natural surroundings, than when the brain becomes fatigued by too much “directed attention.”

Schools that incorporate outdoor classrooms and nature-based experiential education have found significant increases in student performance in social studies, science, language arts, and math. In addition, a Canadian study found that teachers were more enthusiastic about teaching in schools that involved their students in nature. Improved teacher engagement translates into more effective teaching.

Playing in green spaces is especially beneficial to young people, since children are more likely to invent their own games and include all their peers than when they are on a playground. At-risk children have been found to improve their social skills and have a reduction in symptoms after spending time outdoors. A study in Chicago found that having trees outside inner-city housing projects reduced negative social behaviors and promoted positive ones.

Some schools are moving in a positive direction by incorporating the natural world more in the school day, but others are cutting back on recess and focusing more on academics and technology. While those areas are important, it is important to strike a balance to promote the optimal development of children.

Singing in a circle, from School's Out.Many researchers believe that children are becoming overly risk-averse due to an increased reliance on technology and parents who try to guide them in pre-determined directions, rather than allow them to explore on their own. Many parents fear making mistakes and not having their children turn out well.

One solution gaining popularity is to help children develop skills by exploring the outdoors in less structured ways through forest schools. Children in forest schools spend time outside throughout the year, in all weather conditions. The amount of outdoor time can range from a few hours once a week to all day, every day. Exploratory activities are led by children and facilitated by adults.

Children learn about cross-curriculum topics, such as nature, ecosystems, and specific plants and animals, as well as abstract topics such as mathematics and communication. Forest schools encourage curiosity and exploration with all the senses. They also promote spatial awareness and motor development.

At forest schools, children learn practical skills, such as building structures, using tools, lighting fires, and making environmental art. They also develop intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual skills; trust; self-confidence; independence; and teamwork.

Children who participate in forest schools tend to be more relaxed than their counterparts who attend traditional schools. Studies have found significant benefits for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, behavioral problems, and autism. Researchers have also found that children who have unstructured play time are more focused when it comes time to do academic work.

The first forest school was created in Wisconsin in 1927. Since then, the idea has expanded throughout much of Europe.

21 Nov 2013

Explore Nature with Your Children

In: News

outdoor photoAmerican children spend an average of over 50 hours per week indoors using electronic devices. The sharp decline in the amount of time spent outdoors has led many children to develop a condition known as nature-deficit disorder, which can lead to psychological and behavioral problems.

Exposing children to outdoor environments and activities can combat this phenomenon. Studies have shown that spending time with nature can improve mental function, reduce aggression, and help fight depression. A 2012 study by the University of Utah and the University of Kansas found that people scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days backpacking and not using electronic devices. A British study this year found a reduction in arousal and frustration and an increase in meditation when people entered a park.

There are many things you and your children can do together outdoors. Take a trip to a park, wooded area, or your own backyard, and observe the natural world around you with all your senses. Look for different types of animals, insects, leaves, trees, and flowers. Take pictures and videos and share them with family and friends. Go outside at different times of day to see different types of animals.

Give animals a new home by putting up a bird box, or leave materials such as sticks and grass in a place where animals can use them to make a nest or other shelter. Put food out for animals to eat, or feed the birds at a local park.

Collect leaves that have fallen off trees and try to identify them. If you need help, you can find many resources online. You can also identify animals, insects, trees, and flowers.

Put water in a bucket and see what types of wildlife you attract. Look for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife and try to identify the animals that made them. If you have time, you can volunteer for a wildlife conservation organization.

Have your children put away their phones and video games for a little while every day, and spend some time outdoors together. It will allow you to learn, spend quality family time, and become happier.

5.0.2While it may be tempting to keep your children indoors when the weather gets colder, experts agree that allowing children to play outside during the winter is important for many aspects of their development.

The most important benefit is exercise. According to Caring for Our Children‘s national health and safety standards, infants from birth to 12 months of age should be taken outside two to three times per day, as tolerated, for an unspecified length of time.

Toddlers (one to three years old) and pre-schoolers (ages three to six) should spend 60 to 90 minutes per day outdoors. They can spend shorter periods outside during inclement weather, but they should make up for this by engaging in more indoor play time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 60 minutes or more of aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking or running), muscle-strengthening (such as gymnastics or push-ups), and bone-strengthening (such as jumping rope or running) activities for children five and older every day. They say children should participate in these activities a minimum of three times per week.

Playing outside has other benefits. Exposure to dirt, bacteria, animals, and pests helps build children’s immune systems. Studies have shown that children who grow up on or near farms are less likely to develop allergies and auto-immune disorders.

Outdoor play also allows children to develop their imaginations – something they don’t do if they spend hours watching tv, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Playing outside also helps children develop social skills, such as cooperation, teamwork, and taking turns, as well as problem-solving skills.

Children also get vitamin D, which is important for positive moods, energy levels, memory, and overall health, by spending time in the sun. Ten to fifteen minutes of outdoor activity will give a child a daily dose of necessary vitamin D.

Even though it’s getting colder, don’t let that stop you from allowing your children to play outdoors. If they are dressed appropriately and keep moving, they can enjoy playing outside this winter, while reaping a host of benefits.

2 Nov 2013

Trampoline Fun Marred By Injuries

In: News

A company that makes trampolines says they awaken the fun-loving nature in all of us, but unfortunately, the fun is accompanied by severe danger with the rise of trampoline injuries.
98,000 injuries are reported each year according to a study by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, with more than 3,100 requiring hospitalization in a recent year.

The Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention reported that a dramatic increase in serious injuries, including broken necks, spinal cord injuries, and disabling head traumas, that resulted in permanent paralysis and death has occurred, along with less serious injuries such as broken bones and dislocations.

About 75 percent of trampoline injuries occur when there is more than one person jumping and younger, smaller bouncers have the greatest chance of injury, according to ABC News.

Trampoline injuries occur so frequently that the American Academy of Pediatrics said that trampolines should never be used at home or in outdoor playgrounds. It supports limited use in supervised training programs with strict safety guidelines to be followed.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician in New York City, told CBSNews.com, said, “The potential for serious and catastrophic injury should make parents think twice about this dangerous activity.”

If you disregard his warning and choose to buy a trampoline for your kids despite the risks, you should follow these safety rules provide by the Mayo Clinic:

• Use safety nets and pads – install a net around the trampoline and cover its springs, hooks and frame with shock-absorbing pads.
• Place the trampoline on level ground – keep it a safe distance from trees and place it in a pit so the jumping surface is at ground level.
• Limit trampoline activity – allow only one person to use it at a time and never allow somersaults or other risky moves.
• Make sure trampoline activity is supervised with spotters around the edges of the trampoline.

recess

A school in Long Island, New York has banned balls and require teacher supervision for games like tag during recess. A series of playground injuries has caused administration to put this ban into effect. The Superintendent for Port Washington Schools wants the children to have fun, but also be protected.

Weber Middle School’s ban will apply to footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, or any other equipment that may harm a child. One thing they will be allowed to play with at recess is softer Nerf balls. As for tag, and even cartwheels, adult supervision is required at all times.cartwheels

While this ban may seem ludicrous because recess is supposed to be a time for kids to have fun and be active, there is some merit behind it. Reports have shown the number of children admitted to emergency rooms with sports related head injuries has increased 90 percent over the past decade. There are also 1.35 million emergency room visits each year that are caused by sports, with nearly half of them being children between 12 and 15 years of age.

However, despite the safety risks, many students and parents feel like the ban is going too far. Many parents feel that safety is important, but you also have to let the children live their life. More adequate supervision and knowledge of safe play might be a better answer than just banning balls at recess. What do you think about the school’s ban?

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natural playground

A natural playground that was built in Houston last year is getting rave reviews from children and parents. When people visit the playground for the first time, it is something that they have never seen before.

The innovative natural playground in Trailhead Park looks nothing like a traditional playground. The one of a kind design covers almost a full acre of land and has lots of elements for the children to explore. There is a hill with a built in climbing wall, caves with fossils, and even a water pump. At the natural playground kids are doing what kids are supposed to do, climb on the rocks, dig in the sand, and are being active.trailhead park

The Director and Naturalist at the Houston Nature Center, Karla Bloem, says that even though playgrounds like this are rare, they are quickly gaining popularity. Bloem also said that studies show that children who play in nature are physically and mentally healthier than children who don’t.

Since natural playgrounds are designed to be climbed on, rolled down, and jumped off of, they are much safer than traditional playgrounds. There are far less injuries on natural playgrounds than on traditional playgrounds said Bloem. This is because on traditional playgrounds, kids get tired of using them the way they are supposed to and they start doing things that were never intended to be done and that’s when they start getting hurt.

One of the other benefits to the natural playgrounds is that it is not just for kids. One adult told Bloem that they like the natural playground because they can actively participate with their children. He is a taller, bigger person who normally wouldn’t be able to play with his kids on a traditional playground. The playground has been under construction since August of last year, but the finishing touches are almost complete.

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