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Parenting Resources

5 Ways for Working Moms to Plan Around Their Kids’ Schedules

working moms schedule tipsPhoto by Flickr user tombothetominator

Working moms, we salute you.

You juggle your kids’ schedules. Your spouse’s schedule. Your work schedule. And that tiny, sometimes-depressing thing you still refer to affectionately as your social calendar (even though it’s mostly filled with play dates . . . the ones with moms you like).

As a mom today, managing time is a full-time job. That you have on top of your actual job. And on top of being a mother, a.k.a. full-time job number one. Today, women’s roles are larger than ever before.

For women in full-time jobs, it is impossible to be around for our children around the clock. So, we strike a balance. While it is important to make time to be with our children as much as possible, and we find ways to maximize that time, we also ensure that our children are in safe hands and well looked after when we’re not around.

But how do we manage it? How do working moms juggle motherhood and career and strike a healthy balance between the two?

1. Create a Fool-Proof Schedule

working moms schedule tips make a perfect schedulePhoto by Flickr user Joe Lanman

Sure, there are days when you cannot get your child to ballet no matter how much kicking and screaming is involved. But having a schedule of activities for your children after school (and a schedule with your spouse, family, or babysitter to get them there) can give you the space you need not only to get your work done, but get some chores done at home and get dinner ready before the evening chaos begins.

It can be a headache to work out the perfect schedule yourself, but ActivityHero has recently added a calendar feature that makes things much simpler. When you’re shopping for activities, save them and compare everything you’re considering side by side to see how your son’s baseball lines up with your daughter’s self-defense. That way you can choose providers that fit time wise and geographically without a lot of complicated charts.

2. Get a Well-Trained Baby Sitter

working moms schedule tips babysitterPhoto by Flickr user FamilyTravelCK

Baby sitters are lifesavers to parents with full time jobs. An experienced sitter will not only fill in for you when you are away but ensure that your baby gets proper care and necessary attention. And in some ways, a well-trained sitter is better suited to take care of your child because s/he has been trained in the art of childcare.

But a baby sitter doesn’t need to be a personal sitter; it’s really anyone who watches your baby for you, including day care and summer camp staff. For many parents these options are not only more cost-effective, but also socialize your child so you have to worry less about scheduling play dates.

Either way, with experienced hands taking over the reins from you when you take off for work, you can be better relaxed and be more productive at work.

3. Avoid Doing Overtime by Bringing Work Home

working moms schedule tips bring work homePhoto by Flickr user k.streudel

Overtime makes you stay longer than necessary at work and reduces the time available for you to enjoy with your kids. If possible, take the extra work home.

This is ideal for parents who can work from home. Bringing work home makes it easier for you to leave early from work to spend more time with your children. You can take care of work after your child has retired to bed and you get your alone time. If you kids are old enough, you can have “homework” time together.

4. Cut Down on Your Lunch Hour

working moms schedule tips take less lunchPhoto by Flickr user stevendepolo

The less time you waste over lunch and idle talk, the more time you have on your hands. With the extra time, you can cover more work and finish early. Spending the extra time on work gives you more time to spend on your children.

While this is not to say that as a working mom you have to give up on your own entire social life to spend time with your children, save lunch breaks or extended chats with co-workers for special occasions instead of everyday. They will feel more special and meaningful that way, and you really will find more time to get your work finished early during the day.

5. Compromise

working moms schedule tips compromise at workPhoto by Flickr user jim.greenhill

Sometimes, you might have to delay what you want to make space for something else. If working late will qualify you for a promotion but cause you to reach home when your children are already asleep, you will have to choose between giving up the promotion until your child is older and better adjusted or working out a schedule with your spouse or a baby sitter that allows you to get your work done while your child is cared for.

Whenever possible, work out an arrangement with your boss. In some cases, it might mean taking a personal day when your child needs to go for vaccinations or taking ‘sick’ days when your child is not feeling well at the expense of sick days for when you are actually sick. All in all, it requires understanding and bargaining from all parties involved.

It is ultimately up to you to prioritize which comes first or which is more important, though it can often feel like you receive one type of pressure at work and another one from other mothers, or women in general. Remember, that with promotions come bigger responsibilities and less time with your children and loved ones.

Whatever time you have to spend with your kids, spend it wisely.

 

Guest blogger Virginia Cunningham is a writer based in Los Angeles, California, who has found ways to work full-time at home with her children. She currently blogs about vitamins and other supplements for the Canadian pharmacy NorthWest Pharmacy.

5 Ways for Working Moms to Spend More Time with Kids

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Need Indoor Kids Activities? Try An Indoor Obstacle Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 4
Photo by Flickr user embank

Right now, the Northeast is snowed in, the Midwest is bracing for a storm, and the south is being pummeled by a tornado. While even adults feel stir crazy in these conditions, children need indoor kids activities to get through the boredom.

Taking your kids outside to play is one of the best parts of parenthood. But sadly, sometimes inclement weather, allergies, or other factors keep everyone inside. And finding indoor activities to engage, entertain, and exercise small children can be challenging.

But we did find one winning activity, something that requires no special equipment and can be different every time you do it: the indoor obstacle course.

The Indoor Obstacle Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 2
Photo by Flickr user wsilver

Our daughter (now 3) absolutely loves these. We design a course that will take her all around the house, combining physical tasks with puzzles, treasure hunts, and other mini-challenges. When her brothers are a bit older, we’ll add some excitement with time trials, but for now, she’s content to just go through and do it.

In my experience, the execution of an obstacle course is just as important as the planning. We want to make it a special, exciting, and urgent experience but let her have some fun with it too.

  • First, we keep her sequestered while setting up the course (to build the anticipation).
  • Next, we do a little walkthrough so that she knows what to do at each stage. A 3-year-old is never going to remember on her own.
  • Then, we cheer her on as she goes through.

Planning the Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 1
Photo by Flickr user Mr Conguito

The first thing I do when designing an obstacle course is lay out the path the course will take through the house.

Then I dig into the toy box or play room for the obstacles: ride-on toys, jigsaw puzzles, dolls, balls, tea sets, anything.

Every course includes several key elements:

  • Physical exercise. Running, crawling, pushing, or riding toys between obstacles helps burn off some of that near-limitless energy. For example, our daughter might have to load a bunch of blocks into her Vtech Alphabet Train” and then ride it through the “tunnel” made by pulling the chairs out of our dining room table.
  • Mental challenges. She’s getting a bit old for toddler jigsaw puzzles, so we’ll mix it up by hiding some of the pieces, or having her match certain colors. We might also have a guessing game, a word game, or have her draw something on paper.
  • Dexterity skills. Some of the obstacles require speed and/or hand-eye coordination. A row of balls has to be speedily tossed into an equal number of buckets. Blocks need to be stacked, loaded, or unloaded. One of my personal favorites is having her reassemble her play tea set (tray, saucers, cups, spoons, etc.) and carry it to the next part of the course.
  • Interaction. Even though it’s just one child doing the obstacle course, everyone else is involved. At any moment, the course might call for her to run and kiss mommy, pull one of her brothers in a wagon, or run and “serve tea” to one of her dolls.

Extra Credit

indoor kids activities obstacle course 5
Photo by Flickr user vblibrary

For an extra bit of fun afterward, she usually likes to design an obstacle course for me. And that, if possible, is even more fun!

Have you ever tried to design an obstacle course for (or with) your children? How did it go? Does it seem like something they’d like?

Guest blogger Dan Koboldt spends most of his time picking up toys, but also writes about baby sleep training and parenting twins and multiples.

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Super Activities for Super Kids

Camp Director Diaries — AcroSports Preschool performing arts organization

Here at ActvityHero, we believe that kids’ activities such as camps and classes encourage kids to grow, learn, and discover new hobbies and passions.

Acrosports in San Francisco offers gymnastics, tumbling, trampoline, and so much more. We interviewed preschool camp director Dharam Khalasa about his start with the program.

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Tell us a little bit about how you got started with Acrosports.

Acrosports is a gymnastics, circus and physical performance arts organization originally founded by Russian acrobats who defected from the Moscow Circus.  I first came in the doors looking for a class for my preschooler back in 1993, but soon I fell in love with the place myself and signed up for adult gymnastics instruction.  After several years of training, I began to coach and eventually took over management of the preschool program.  My daughter went to Acrosports’ Circus Camp every summer for years and had the time of her life.  She loved the chance to make a show out of all the skills she’d been learning during the week.

What surprises or delights kids and parents about your camp? What sets your camp apart from the rest?

Acrosports’ Preschool Camp is a half day version of Circus Camp, and the highlight is the circus performance at the end.  Parents are always surprised and delighted by the range of skills and the focused unison choreography our young campers perform.  Our secret to keeping campers’ attention is that they love to move and we give them every opportunity to move in fun ways.  We have trampolines, a trapeze, rings, bars, rope swings, tunnels and climbing equipment to inspire full physical engagement.  Our playful, enthusiastic coaches work with the campers to create an encouraging environment for all children to contribute, which always shows up in the cohesiveness of the final performance.  I have been directing these camps for over 7 years now, and I never get tired of seeing these shows.  There is nothing cuter than a group of 4 & 5 years old dressed in their choice of costumes tumbling to their heart’s content.  Their high energy and pure joy is one of the wonders of the world.

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For more information about Acrosports including current schedules and how to register, check out their listing on ActivityHero!

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Why It’s Physiologically Vital for Kids to Play Outdoors (and 5 Easy Ways to Do it)

kids play outdoors 1
Image © Kassandra Brown

When parents call me for parent coaching services because the are having trouble with disrespect, inattention, poor behavior, poor follow-through, and poor listening, one of the most common questions I ask is “What’s your relationship to play outdoors?”

The Importance of Movement

Getting outside and playing builds balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination. When we don’t practice, we lose these skills. (This is true for adults as well as kids.) I’m amazed at how after a day on the computer, I’m not really in my body. I’m more likely to bump into walls, trip over my feet, and make poor word choices.

I’m not used to interacting with human beings if I’ve been typing all day. It takes effort and concentration for me to shift back into my body. When I get outside and toss a ball with my girls, I have to exert effort to track it. And I’m an adult with my brain wiring largely in place.

For kids big muscle and outdoor play may be even more important since their brains are still forming neural connections so rapidly. If they don’t practice moving their bodies and connecting with the earth while they are young, it will likely be harder for them to develop coordination later.

Movement makes people happier and healthier in more ways than just cardiovascular fitness:

  • When we move we breathe more deeply, bringing in more oxygen and cleansing our bodies more fully of carbon dioxide.
  • Our joints get lubricated through movement, our muscles get stronger, and our proprioception (felt sense of where we are in space) gets better.
  • The horizon is farther away and our eyes get to focus up close and far away, making the eyes stronger and less likely to need glasses.
  • Running, jumping, walking and playing take the focus off of small muscle tasks like writing, art, computer work, computer games, and crafts, letting those fine motor skills muscles relax and recover while giving the bigger muscles a chance to get stronger and engages different parts of the brain.

Sounds great, right? Moving around outside generally makes people happier, less frustrated, and healthier. Here are some simple ways to practice right now. No toys or accessories needed.

5 Easy Ways to Play Outdoors

kids play outdoors 3
Image © Kassandra Brown

1. Visit Local Water

We have a pond we like to go to for swimming, playing in the mud, hanging out with friends, and challenging our ‘ick’ factor. Catching frogs and crawdads gets us closer to nature. Watching the snapping turtle and water snake give us a better respect for the non-malevolence of nature and how to co-exist with it.

2. Engage in Winter Fun

Making snow angels, cracking ice at the pond, and sledding are good winter activities. Broom ball, hockey and ice skating are good for slightly older kids. It’s so vital to get outside, get some sun and fresh air and feel free of the confines of indoors in the winter.

3. Volunteer at a Local Farm

We like to visit our friend’s farm. They have three daughters close in age to my own girls. These three girls are responsible and helpful on their farm. They do not just play with the animals. Children also need to learn responsibility, and taking care of animals or plants outdoors is a good way for them to learn to care for another living creature. The best way to teach them this? Have them see other people their age being responsible as well as seeing you volunteer, help out, and learn even if you’re not good at it yet.

4. Take Quiet Time Together

Familykids play outdoors 2
Image © Kassandra Brown

Try going for a walk together at sunset. This is good for babies in arms (wear them) and older children. As a quiet bonding activity that the whole family can take at their own pace, evening walks can help with the transition from daytime frenzy to nighttime quiet. Bikes or scooters allow bigger kids to go a head at their own pace. To make it more special, you can have a shared destination or even a dinner picnic at the end of the walk.

5. Relish Spontaneous Moments

My daughter and I chased the trash truck for a half hour around our neighborhood. We were both barefoot because I thought we were just going out onto the porch for a moment to watch the truck at our house. Instead we enjoyed lots of laughing and fun watching the arm come out of the truck over and over again and pick up the trash cans. We made the driver’s day too.

What do you like to do outside? What activities bring you together with your kids? Let us know in the comments.

Kassandra Brown is a parent coach and yoga teacher living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural Missouri. She coaches through Skype and phone and commutes with her two feet while walking outside.

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Supermoms in the Spotlight

Summer Camp Diaries — Spotlight Blogger Shawn L. Fink of Awesomely Awake

Here at ActivityHero, we believe that kids’ activities including camps and classes help kids to grow, learn, and discover new passions and interests.

We interviewed inspirational writer Shawn L. Fink of Awesomely Awake about her favorite childhood memories from summer camp and what she looks for in a camp for her own kids.

What is your favorite memory of camp from childhood?

I attended 4-H camp as a girl and my favorite memory of that time was sitting around a ginormous camp fire singing songs, chanting and enjoying a traditional American Indian campfire ritual — with a modern spin, of course.

How did that camp help make you who you are today?

From the age of 8 through high school, I happily boarded a bus to go away to summer camp for a week. The only time I cried was when it was time to come home. Camp taught me a fierce level of independence. Or, perhaps I was born with that and camp only supported that personality trait. Camp gave me best friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Camp gave me confidence, originality and a respect for people I would not ever have met otherwise.

What’s the most important thing you learned from camp?

Camp taught me to think for myself. There were adults — and they became mentors — but ultimately, I had to be self-sufficient at a very early age. From packing my clothes to showering and taking care of myself, I had to learn to do for myself what my mother might have done for me. I am a very self-reliant, independent woman, almost to a fault, and I can’t help think that my years at camp may have deeply contributed to that. I am grateful for it immensely.

What is the most important thing you think kids learn from camp?

My daughters are too young to attend overnight camps as I did but they have been in several classes and are currently in gymnastics. What they are learning is that there is more to life than learning and working. They are figuring out what makes them happy, what fulfills them as people and I think that’s the most satisfying benefit of any extracurricular activity.

What do you look for in a camp for your children?

I look for price because I have twins and they almost always have to do the same thing. I look for positive adults who lead the class. My standards are pretty high. We cut out of swim lessons pretty early because the adults just weren’t warm and friendly. I also look for what makes them happy. If I’m dragging them out the door, then it’s not the right fit. If I can’t get them to practice at home, then it’s not the right fit. We have to trust that they know what is best for them.

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Want to see more of Shawn’s work? Check out Awesomely Awake for inspiring posts & projects and her book, The Playful Family.

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Learning Games for Kids: Turn Off the TV and Turn on the Brain

Amidst the quickening pace of daily living and the ever-expanding influence of technology in our children’s lives, it’s easy to see how “family time” could become a thing of the past.

Where we once spent time with our siblings and parents, in today’s rapid society we are often so focused on what’s happening next (or trying to tune out in front of a box) that we often forget to take in the moment and enjoy each other’s company.

With President’s Day and February break on the horizon, now is the perfect time to plan ahead easy and inexpensive ways your family can enjoy each others’ company together at home – namely learning games for kids. Try these fun yet educational kids’ activities to keep you all entertained, bring you closer and help improve your children’s growth and development.

Family Game #1: Silly Stories on the Spot

learning games for kids silly stories
Photo by Flickr user woodleywonderworks

For many, specified “family time” with activities and learning games may be too much of a change to the normal routine. But this simple game is a great way to get started. Finish a meal together with this fun yet creative game.

Each family member contributes to an ever-evolving story. It’s easiest if an adult member of the family starts with either a sentence or a few paragraphs, introducing a potential story line. Then, one by one, go around the table each adding just one sentence to the ongoing plot.

The story can go for as long or as short as you like, but by having each person contribute, all members of the family feel involved. The learning game also promotes creativity, listening and speaking skills.

Family Game #2: DIY Scavenger Hunt

learning games for kids scavenger hunt
Photo by Flickr user Jonahhonahhandmade

If your family likes to get out and about, a great way to build up excitement about and interest in family time is to create a scavenger hunt.

Build a list of things that must be found and hid them in your house or yard (or make note of where they are). Ask your children to create their own basic map for the hunt that they can then track their findings on, and let your children start collecting.

A great way to build further upon this activity is to encourage the children to write a story about their findings and share it with the rest of the family over dinner.

Family Game #3: So, How Was Your Day? (With a Twist)

Learning games for kids alphabet
Photo by Flickr user Laineys Pepertoire

Write the letters A – Z on individual pieces of paper and throw them into a bag. Have each member of the family pull one letter from the bag. Now, any and all words starting with that letter are off limits for that family member.

Then, go around the table and each making one statement about your day. At no point can a word begin with the letter chosen from the bag. For example, if you choose the letter ‘W’, you cannot say anything in your sentence that starts with ‘W.’ (i.e. “Today I went . . . ” would have to become “Today I travelled.”)

Each round, you can increase the stakes by taking more letters out of the bag each round. Or cut family members from the circle if they accidentally use their letter until you’re left with one winner.

Family Game #4: Make-Your-Own Bingo

learning games for kids bingo
Photo by Flickr user Nikkorz

Bingo is a great learning game for kids for even the smallest of family members as they angle to have the winning grid. Create your own home bingo for a family night of fun.

Outline a grid on paper and choose numbers from a bag to keep things simple. Learning to match numbers to their spoken names is a good challenge for early learners.

To increase the stakes for slightly older children, add an additional challenge to be the first person to reach a certain score (thus encouraging addition skills).

Family Game #5: Jumbo Hangman

learning games for kids hangman
Photo by Flickr user rightee

A popular game through the decades, the classic “Hangman” remains a fun and engaging learning game for kids that encourages word use, spelling, and patience!

Create a large-scale game on butchers’ paper and pin up on the wall. Let each family member pick a topic and their own word for guessing. To boost morale or balance out different age groups, you can also play in teams.

You can also couple up with a drawing game like and have team members guess what the artist is drawing through the hangman framework. By combining the two games, you can create ‘rounds’ and add more of a game-show feel to the evening.

Ngaire Stirling leads one of Australia’s largest parenting communities and is among the most respected names in fun and educational kids activities in Brisbane, Australia. Her community, Brisbane Kids, has over 30,000 members. Ngaire believes in everything in moderation (especially screen time), except quality time with kids; she has as much as she can, as often as she can.

Learning Games for Kids

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

What Are the Best Summer Camps for Your Child’s Personality?

Any parent can tell you that all kids are truly one-of-a-kind. So how does a parent go about picking the right summer camps for their unique child?

Not all little girls want to be ballerinas at dance camp, and all boys are not fit to be a star at sports camp. Not only do different activities help keep kids active and healthy; they also help build self-confidence, creativity, and are a great form of stress relief.

Explore All Summer Camps >>

Step 1: Ask for their input

Perhaps your daughter has caught the fever for archery after seeing Katniss and Princess Merida in action, or the last season of The Voice has your son belting out tunes that beg for voice lessons. While parents have the final say in what activities kids will pursue, keep in mind that all kids should be allowed to have their own personal goals and preferences.

Step 2: Assess their personality

Another way to help choose summer camps for your kids is to take cues from their personality traits. For instance, a child who longs to explore might not find foreign language camps as exciting as an outdoor adventure camp. Here’s a few recommendations on how to find the perfect summer camps for your child:

How to find a summer camp

Explore All Summer Camps >>

Encourage your kids to explore and check out all of the different camps and classes in your area on ActivityHero!

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Quick Easy Ways to Limit Kids Sugar Intake

With the excitement of holiday breaks, the everyday hustle of school, work, and activities can seem overwhelming. One great way to help your kids cope through it all is to make sure they are getting proper nutrition.

According to the Mayo Clinic, while kids are eating less sugar today than they were in 2000, they are still getting close to 16% of their daily calories from sugar. Ideally, sugar should be limited to 5 – 15% of daily calories.

Children who eat whole foods that are low in sugar are more successful in school and have an easier time paying attention, according to Dr. Ann Kulze (via She Knows).

Like most parents, you’re probably attentive to how many sweets your kids eat, but do you know other ways to cut out sugar and help your kids succeed? It can actually be easier than you think to limit kids sugar intake.

Let’s examine meal by meal:

Breakfast

Depending on what you’re kids are already eating for breakfast, here are a couple quick substitutions:

  • Substitute homemade oatmeal sweetened with honey for instant oatmeal.
  • Trade sugary cereals for homemade granola made with honey and coconut oil.
  • Offer eggs and toast instead of a “breakfast substitute” drink.

But if your kids aren’t big on breakfast or are always in a rush in the morning. Use this banana trick. When you have bananas that are going bad at home, store them in your freezer and use them to make real fruit smoothies. Smoothies sweetened with honey or agave nectar can quickly become a family favorite.

Lunch

Opt to make your kids’ lunch so you can keep track of what is in them. It’s a good rule of thumb to eliminate all food and drink sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

  • Include truly whole fruit and nut bars (try Larabars) instead of the common sugary ones.
  • Check the bread you are using for high fructose corn syrup and find a bread that doesn’t have any.
  • Use all natural almond butter sweetened with honey as an alternative to peanut butter.
  • Cut up or peel whatever fruit you are including in their lunch to encourage them to eat it. Kids are more apt to eat a peeled orange.

To make sure that kids don’t completely blow off your packed lunch, make sure to add something sweet as a treat – but a healthy sweet! Include their favorite fruits as treats, like strawberries or grapes. They won’t miss the sweets if there are fruits they really like. Pack what is in season as it will be sweetest.

After School Snacks

Snack foods are the worst danger zone in terms of kids’ sugar intake.

But it’s important to change it up and be creative to keep your kids interested in healthy snacks. All natural almond butter with bananas on whole wheat bread is hearty fuel if your kid participates in after school sports. With the added bananas they won’t even notice they are missing the jelly or the sugar in their peanut butter.

Or if they’re allergic or not into nut butter, thawed frozen fruit is pretty juicy and delicious over plain yogurt. Re-purpose the homemade granola from breakfast as a crunchy yogurt topping.

Five more quick snack ideas to keep in rotation:

  • Buy and offer whole wheat crackers.
  • Read the ingredients and check for added sugar.
  • Set out cheese cut in cute shapes.
  • Use celery, almond butter and raisins to make “ants on a log”.
  • Dried fruit is a perfect substitute for fruit snacks if your kids are hooked on them already.

Dinner

Make dinner from scratch even if you don’t have a lot of time. There are a lot of quick meals you can keep supplies on hand for.

  • Bake chicken with asparagus
  • Make a pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole
  • Use a crock pot to slow cook large batches of food you can serve several times in one week such as chili, chicken and rice, pot roast, and soups.

Most sugar reaches your kids’ diets through processed foods so if you are making dinner yourself you will skip all those tablespoons of added sugar in pasta sauce and canned soups.

In place of sugary desserts, serve wholesome sweet foods like fruit or yogurt or offer a small dessert. Encourage your kids to savor one small bite of chocolate, just one cookie, or a tiny dish of coconut milk ice cream as a treat. If you model these behaviors yours kids will learn to get on board, especially if you make it fun.

The Results

By making these small simple changes you will quickly start cutting all the extra sugar out of your kids’ diets and help them feel better and be more focused at school.

If you need more ideas, you can find thousands of healthy recipes at thefoodee.com and nearly every question you have about healthy eating can be answered at marksdailyapple.com.

This is a guest post by Molly Heckendorn, parent of Hudson, healthy eating advocate, and real estate agent in Dallas, TX.

Categories
Super Activities for Super Kids

Camp Director Spotlight: Wanderers Camp






Wanderers Camp in the San Fransisco Bay Area offers 5-7 day sleep-away camps, day camps, and backpacking trips, for kids grades 2-8. While kids at other SF Bay area camps are stuck in one place, these campers spend their days touching tide pool starfish, finding huckleberries, spotting tule elk, playing among the redwoods, rock climbing on granite, and camping and backpacking in remote wilderness areas throughout Northern California. We interviewed founder Kurt Gantert about the camp’s beginnings and missions.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started the camp.

I grew up backpacking, canoeing, skiing, etc. in upstate New York.  My parents were very outdoorsy and loved to take me and my brother out on long trips into the wilderness of the Adirondacks in northern New York.

I remember having a natural affinity for the outdoors, but those first backpacking and canoe trips were pretty hard.  A big, heavy pack on my back, long miles of hiking, the bugs, rain, etc.  However, the positives of those experiences far outweighed the negatives.

I felt so proud of hiking far and pushing myself to get to the top of a peak, or paddle across a huge lake.  The food tasted better out in the wilderness, the smells of the forest were amazing, learning how to survive outdoors and being self-sufficient, the feeling of freedom, seeing wildlife up-close, learning about the natural history of the areas we camped in, and the calm and serenity of nature were some of the things I became aware of being in the wilderness on those trips.  I could go on, but these experiences early in my life were very formative.

During my late teens and early twenties, I worked at a summer camp called Pathfinder in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada.  It is a boys canoe tripping camp that will be 100 years old this year.

I worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor at first and eventually graduated to become a canoe trip leader there.  As a canoe trip leader, I led 3-15 day canoe trips for boys ages 7-15 into the wilderness of Canada.

These trips were very challenging, but fun and life-changing in many ways for both the staff and the campers.  I saw the campers gain confidence, physical strength, learn teamwork and leadership skills, and much more.  The experience working at Pathfinder made me want to pursue a career in the outdoors.  After seeing how transformative these trips were for the boys, I was sold on doing this for a living.

After 10+ years experience working as a backpacking guide, ski instructor, natural history educator and program director for numerous outdoor education and adventure travel companies, I felt like I was ready to start my own camp.  It was a dream I’d had since working at Pathfinder, and I felt like I was finally ready to go for it.  I was settled down and married with 2 kids in San Francisco.  I was enjoying living in SF, but was realizing that my family I weren’t spending a lot of time in the outdoors because our lives were so busy with work, school and social events.

I read the book “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv and it was the final inspiration for me to start the camp.  Louv’s book was about how modern children weren’t spending as much time in nature as the previous generation and it was having some serious negative effects on their mental and physical well-being.  The book had given me a focus for my camp: re-connecting children to nature!

Are there any special lessons or experiences you are trying to provide during the camp?

Wanderers is focused on connecting children to nature by:

  • Hiking and exploring spectacular places.  At Wanderers, we take the kids to all the places my staff and I love to go.  We go to spectacular waterfalls, fun creeks, beaches, high alpine lakes, and mountain peaks in some of our favorite national and state parks in Northern California.  I get inspired by these places, and I think kids do too.
  • Having fun in the outdoors.  At Wanderers, fun is a very important ingredient to connecting to nature. Fun = games we play, creek exploration, beach time, tidepooling, building forts, nature art, skits, night hikes, s’mores, campfires, rock climbing, etc.
  • Challenge.  I like to challenge the campers because nature is not something that is just pretty to look at, but also rugged and challenging.  To understand and connect to nature, I think kids need to work hard and accomplish something.  Examples of challenge are rock climbing, long hikes, peak ascents, group initiatives, etc.
  • Natural History Education.  I like to teach the kids at least some aspects of the natural history of all the areas we travel to.  It gives them more of a “sense of place” or an understanding of the uniqueness of the area they are in.  Some examples of the natural history lessons we cover are:  redwood ecology in Armstrong Redwoods, geology of Yosemite Valley, what is a watershed? in the Marin Watershed district, natural history of Tule Elk in Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

There’s plenty more lessons and experiences Wanderers provides, but these are some of the most important.

What surprises/delights the kids (or parents) most about your camp? What sets your class/camp apart from the rest?

I think what surprises most kids about their Wanderers experience is that they generally come away from it with a love of spending time outdoors with a group.

Many children going into camp are a little hesitant about camping, long hikes, bugs, being away from mom, etc….however, by the end of the week, I’d say 99% of the kids come away from it being surprised at how much they enjoy being outdoors in nature.

I think what sets Wanderers apart from many other camps is that we are a completely mobile camp.  This gives us the flexibility to go to almost anywhere we want and gives the kids a chance to experience some of the most spectacular places in northern California.

At most other camps, kids are tied to a building or a campus….which I think limits the experience, especially if it’s supposed to be about nature immersion.

We are also unique in that our groups rarely exceed 15 kids.  This also allows us to have a great staff to camper ratio (usually about 1 to 3) which makes it a safer experience than most camps as well. This small group experience also allows the kids more of a chance to bond with each other and have a more memorable group experience.

We also hire very qualified outdoor leaders, which, I think sets us apart as well.  Our leaders must be 21 yrs +, have a clean driving record and background, good experience leading groups in the outdoors, a Wilderness First Aid and CPR certification and love working with kids.

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Wanderers Camp in SF Bay Area is now taking registrations for summer trips. For more info and their current schedule, check out Wanderers Camp on ActivityHero.

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
After-School Activities Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

5 Tips for Getting Your Children Excited About Kids Sports






Kids excited about sports baseball cookies
Photo by Flickr user VensPaperie

These days, it can be pretty tough to get kids to do something as simple and engaging as playing kids sport.

Though it seems slightly crazy, throwing a ball around or running around with friends will often take second place to video games, TV, cell phones, and the internet.

Many parents despair at the time their kids spend in front of a screen when they themselves spent their childhoods playing outside with nothing but nature and friends for amusement (and maybe a ball and some roller-skates if they were lucky). And the frightening statistics about obesity levels don’t help.

Getting kids excited about sports so they voluntarily switch off the TV can be tough, but it’s a challenge we all need to face up to. The National Center for Health Statistics has found that 30 percent of American adults are already obese (some 60 million people) and no one wants that for their child.

The effect of exercise on overall health is a pretty compelling case for getting your children into kids sports. And getting your kids excited about sports now is an excellent groundwork for a healthy and happy future. But it’s not always easy going.

Here are 5 tips to get reluctant kids away from their LCD screens and excited about kids sports.

1. Make it Fun

Kids excited about sports boy playing tennis
Photo by Flickr user KrissZPhotography

Both kids and adults will respond far less positively to any activity that feels like a chore, so making exercise fun is a great way to get kids excited about it.

Classes like Zumba, which incorporates dance moves into exercise, are ideal for making the experience one they will want to repeat, as well as developing a sense of rhythm and physical confidence.

2. Join in Too

Kids excited about sports family basketball
Photo by Flickr user xcode

This doesn’t mean that you need to start stepping in for your kid at sports games and classes, criticizing them when they don’t kick high enough, or shouting at them from the sidelines!

Instead, take a healthy interest in the sports your child is interested in – play tennis with them to help work on eye to hand coordination or join a combined kids and adults softball team. Play together for some healthy bonding time, like a family basketball game, once a week.

The exercise will be good for everyone and it’s one of the few times you can bond without other distractions.

3. Let Your Child Decide

Kids excited about sports horseback riding
Photo by Flickr user micmol

You may love horseback riding, but does he?

There’s probably nothing less motivating for a kid – particularly those of a certain age – than being told that they have to do a certain sport (or a certain anything).

Whether it’s because it’s a sport you wished you had excelled at as a child, or one you think they have talent for, forcing kids to do something they clearly don’t want to do is rarely constructive.

That’s not to say: let off the hook. Make it clear that some sort of sport is compulsory, but let them choose the one that is right for them.

4. Set an Example

Kids excited about sports join in
Photo by Flickr user CaptQuirk

You may run in to problems with getting your kids to exercise if you never do any yourself.

Why should they get up off the couch if you never do?

The best way to lead is from the front, so start setting your own exercise goals. Share your achievements and the positive effects sports and exercise have on your life with the rest of your family.

5. Encourage Them

Kids excited about sports encourage them
Photo by Flickr user PanARMENIAN_Photo

Although you don’t have to be a hard-as-nails soccer mom or dad, pushing your child to be better than everyone else, a measure of encouragement goes a long way when it comes to getting kids into sports.

Help them set their own goals, whether it’s being good enough to join a team, or learning a new skill. Willingly shuttle them around to practices and matches.

A positive attitude to your kid’s interest in sport will make them want to take it further.

Guest blogger Amy Sawyer writes for Go Mammoth sports leagues.

Categories
Contests Supermoms in the Spotlight

Are You the Next Top Mom Blogger?






Mom blogger with laptop
Photo by Flickr user Luke Redmond

Mom bloggers have gone from a cultural phenomenon to a high-powered commercial force. No longer are posts just about your own baby’s first steps or favorite foods. Mom blogs are full of expert reviews of the best baby products and practical, tried and tested advice on childrearing, homemaking, and handling the demanding balance between motherhood and life.

Bloggers, like the venerable Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) or Stephanie Morgan and the ladies at Modern Parents Messy Kids, have their own books, TV shows and products. Others, like the clever marketing gurus in the Clever Girls Collective, have banded together into a powerful force for brands looking to reach out to their wide audience of moms.

The Mom Blogging Hidden Gems

But through all of the content, all of the posts, all of the words . . . it’s easy to get lost.

Everyone has their favorite sites, the ones they check into every day either because they love the bloggers voice or advice or because these sites are one-stop-shopping for everything they need to know. But some sites stand out by providing crazy compelling content or super-niche but useful ideas.

And we want to find these little-known but soon-to-be-big mom bloggers.

Do you know any?

Top Up-And-Coming Mom Bloggers of 2013

Hip mom with kids
Photo by Flickr user ~PhotograTree~

Here at ActivityHero, we not only want to make busy mom’s lives easier by keeping children engaged in enriching activities, but we also like to recognize moms for all of their hard work.

So we are on the hunt for the top new mom bloggers to recognize them for their awesome contribution to the community.

If you know someone (or are someone) who fits the bill, let us know!

What We’re Looking For

We’re looking for blogs that have that something special that makes you want to bookmark the site the second you stumble across it. Maybe they haven’t been around that long, maybe they’ve recent revamped, or maybe they’ve come back from the baby number two (or more!) hiatus. Bloggers who have not yet received an award.

You tell us! Who are your favorites?

Do you have a blog (your own or otherwise) to nominate for our contest? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
Crafts Hiking Holiday Break Camps Ice Skating Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

8 Great Holiday Activities You Can Do With Your Kids






Christmas break and other holidays can leave kids bored or blue. Beat cabin fever with these low-cost family-fun activities that kids of all ages enjoy.

By Jennifer Moore

 kids winter holiday activities

The holidays are one of the best times of year to promote family bonding, and doing activities as a group can help strengthen those ties even more. Keeping your kids’ brains and hands busy also makes for fonder memories, since boredom and cabin fever are sure-fire triggers for sibling squabbles. The following are a few activities that cost little or nothing and can be enjoyed by children of all ages. With each one, think about your own favorite holiday activities from childhood, and use those fond memories to add your own special touch.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >

 

Get Crafty


From Flickr user sararuthberry

Start making holiday crafts, tree ornaments, wall ornaments, and frames. You’ll get keepsakes you can bring out every Christmas, and your kids will get a kick out of seeing their crafts on display for years to come. (Be sure to have your child add their name and date to each item.) Even if Christmas is over, creating decorations is a great way to keep kids busy during the break. Plus, you can see what areas of the house could use some extra adornment next year, then make items just for those spots. This is also a great time to do minor repairs and touch-ups on decorations from years-gone-by.

Stir Up Some Fun

Kids of all ages love to cook, and the holidays are the perfect time for parents and kids to bond while baking. Get out the cookie cutters, icing, and edible decorations (such as sprinkles and candy letters), and create unique cookies, cupcakes, and candies. If you’re not much of a baker, purchase a gingerbread house kit and have fun decorating it. Clean-up tip: If you’re not planning on nibbling on the gingerbread house later, you can adorn it with old candies that are left over from Halloween or school goodie bags.

Have a Movie Marathon


From Flickr user DavidDMuir

Don’t forget family movie night! A dreary or cold day is the perfect time to pull out all of those must-see holiday classics. Or break out the new DVDs that the kids recently received as presents. This is especially great when siblings are tiring of each other or when they don’t like to play the same games. Having the “shared experience” of watching a movie will provide siblings with an enjoyable interaction. Plus, they’ll have something to discuss later, such as favorite scenes, lines, and characters from the film. If they tend to bug each other, be sure to have them be bookends, with you sandwiched between them as a buffer.

Soon-to-be classic holiday movies > >

Throw a Goodies-Be-Gone Party

The best way to get rid of extra Christmas cookies is to invite some of your kids’ friends over. This may seem like a lot of work when you’re already trying to amuse your own children all day during break, but it actually may give you time to regroup while the kids show friends their new toys and games. You and your spouse can take turns supervising the play date, while the other does chores … or relaxes with a good book.

Get Out of the House


From Flickr user Michael Allbritton

It’s easier to get rid of cabin fever if you don’t spend the whole break in your “cabin.” If you live in a place that gets winter weather, then go out and enjoy the snow. Building snowmen, making snow angels, having snowball fights, and even constructing snow forts or igloos are all classic family activities because they just never stop being fun. But if you live in sunny California or Florida, winter is also the perfect season for a family walk in the neighborhood, a sing-along with the local kids, a hike in a local wildlife refuge, or a sight-seeing trip to a local tourist spot. Check out local travel guides and newspapers to see what family-friendly events are coming up.

Boost Kids’ Brainpower

School’s out, but that doesn’t mean your children have to stop learning. For kids who love tech, sit down together and check out interactive games on websites like ABCya.com, PBSKids.com and DiscoveryKids.com. Or plan an educational family outing to a nearby planetarium, zoo, children’s museum, or state park. Many such locations offer free talks from experts, guides, or rangers. (Kids don’t need to know that they’re educational!) You can also document the visit with photos, then research fun facts on wildlife or relevant subject matter when you return home.

Beat Boredom With Board Games


From Flickr user Crazybananas

When you ask adults what they remember most from their childhood, many will place “family game nights” among the “best nights of their lives.” Though kids will love playing against you on some of their video games, they’ll also get a kick out of playing those “old-fashioned” games from your childhood. Get out the Monopoly board or play Clue. Even a game of Scrabble can be fun when you divide the family into teams — particularly if your teens are obsessed with Words with Friends.

Burn Off Some Kid Energy

Many public parks set up ice-skating rinks for the winter, complete with cheerful Christmas lights and skate rentals. Or simply grab some hot cocoa, soak up the holiday music, and sit and watch the skaters twirl by. Not a fan of ice? Hit the roller rink or ski slopes instead. Or try a physical activity that requires less athletic talent, such as bouncing at a trampoline park, or a different kind of skill, such as playing laser tag. These latter options may be less holiday-oriented, but they’re just as good at burning off holiday-cookie calories and kids’ excess energy.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >

Jennifer Moore is a mother of three, juggling work, kids, and family time. Promoting family time is usually a job that falls on Mom’s shoulders, but the benefits are long-lasting, keeping a family united over generations.

Categories
Parenting Resources Supermoms in the Spotlight

Best Mom Blog (and Dad Blog) Posts of 2012






Snowman family
Photo from Flickr user Joe Howell

1. Do You Suffer From I’m-so-busy-itis? (The Happiest Mom)

“There are some mothers I know who claim to be so chronically over-run with items on their to-do list that I sometimes wonder: how is it even possible to have so much to do, not just sometimes, but constantly?”

2. Grass: Greener. The Truth About the Mommy Wars (Mom-101)

“Every time I stare at one of these mothers, I think, what I would give not to be racing back to the office right now. What I would give to be here instead with my girls sharing a croissant. And surely, one of the moms looks at me and thinks: What I would give for a whole 10 minutes to walk through these halls by myself.”

3. Back to Basics: 5 Life Skills We Forget to Teach Our Kids (Dad-O-Matic)

Hand holding
Photo from Flickr user The National Guard

“My kids are now in their twenties and starting their own adult lives, and as I look at the things that are truly important to them on the journey into adulthood, I am reminded about some things they need to know that ultimately may be more useful than how to manage their Facebook presence.”

4. On-the-Go Momma’s Guide to Finding Inspiration (On-The-Go Momma)

“What started out as a very natural desire to teach our children well and be significant in their lives actually becomes self-realization on a personal journey toward meaning and significance.”

5. Former Future Girl Scout Feminist (Julie and Martin)

“I respectfully disagree with Rep. Morris’ accusations and deeply-felt convictions that a national organization dedicated to the empowerment and education of life skills for girls is a contributing factor in the ruination of the American family.”

6. Anxiety and Motherhood – Can You Separate the Two? (Beccarama)

Family hugging
Photo from Flickr user o5com

“I always envisioned myself as a mom who watches with ease as her child climbs alone to the top of the monkey bars, or who can introduce led feeding at 6 months, or who is fine with my kid licking the city streets (germs are good immune boosters after all!). It is not these actions that actually scare me, it is the fear itself.”

7. Teach Your Children Well (Huff Post/50)

“What started out as a very natural desire to teach our children well and be significant in their lives actually becomes self-realization on a personal journey toward meaning and significance.”

8. Storytelling 101 (Modern Parents Messy Kids)

Family drawing
Photo from Flickr user Childrens Book Review

“Today I would like to share with you a simple yet super-fun storytelling form that uses paper. I call them the ‘Tear-and-Tell’ tales. It is really pretty neat to see how a single piece of paper transforms into something entirely different.”

9. A Short Story About Self-Harm (Actually Mummy)

“She had always spoken to the little girl in a mature way, ever since she was born. Had she unwittingly set her baby up for a lifetime of feeling pressurised and inadequate? By reasoning with her and explaining complicated words and concepts had she condemned her to feeling like she was never good enough for the rest of her life?”

10. The Great Balancing Act: A Time to Speak Up (Playground Dad)

“This phenomenon is a silent issue because men are not vocal in discussing and advocating for solutions to this challenge we face as working fathers. Working men also cannot have it all it appears.”

What have your favorite parenting blog posts of the year been?

Categories
After-School Activities Events Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

San Francisco Camps to Keep Your Kids Active Over the Winter Holidays






Are the kids looking for something fun to do during the holiday break over Christmas and New Years? Check out some of these fun winter camps for kids in the San Francisco area!

Cooking ‘Round the World Winter Camp, Oakland & Alameda.
Kids discover America’s deliciously different regions by cooking & eating! Campers go home with a binder of recipes, a new apron & perhaps a yearning for travel!

 

 

 

Spring Down Equestrian Center, Portola Valley.  Horseback Riding during the holidays! They have two, one week sessions of camp scheduled during the holiday break. Campers will learn everything about horses from the hoof up: safety,  grooming & tacking up, riding, how horses think, taking care of horses and much, much more.

 

 

 

Spartan’s Sports Camp, Mountain View. Basketball players in 5th-8th Grade get to learn valuable skills from Mountain View High School coaches and alumni in this half-day camp. Shooting, ball-handling, and defense will be among some of the skills covered in a high-energy, fast-paced environment. This is a great opportunity to tune-up skills prior to the winter youth basketball leagues.

All Star Baseball, Santa Clara. Great for beginning and intermediate players. These camps emphasize individual skills with basic fundamentals, team play, and overall fitness while experiencing the joy of the game.

If these camps aren’t near you, search for the latest schedules on ActivityHero using our date search.

Do you know of a great camp that is not listed here? Leave a comment!

Categories
After-School Activities Supermoms in the Spotlight

Camp Chrysalis in Berkeley Helps Kids Discover and Appreciate Nature






Camp Chrysalis is a Berkeley-based camp for kids 8 to 15 years of age. In its 30 year time frame, it has helped teach kids about their native surroundings and built many young friendships based on kindness and respect. Camp Chrysalis is offering a special camp this winter season for kids interested in skiing and snowboarding. The camp will run from December 28 – January 4 and is open to kids 12-18 years of age. Click here for more details.

We asked founder Lee Tempkin a few questions about Camp Chrysalis.

Camp Chrysalis helps young people explore the rich and diverse natural environments of California.

ActivityHero: Tell us a little about yourself and how you started the camp

Lee Tempkin: I’ve been teaching for 40 years primarily as a 5-7 grade teacher and was a middle school director for 8 of those years. I’ve been leading outdoor education trips with kids for over 35 years and started Camp Chrysalis 30 years ago with my deceased partner, Michael Rossman. A former director at our independent school asked me to start a summer program and Michael was the science naturalist at our school. We were very excited about joining forces and creating a camp for the students from our schools in an outdoor and overnight setting. It was a natural fit, and we began camp with two sessions at two different natural environments. Within a few years, we had decided to focus on the three rich environments that we go to today. Over the years, our camp has grown but still holds on to its roots in appreciating the wonderful natural environments of the redwoods, the coastal tidepools and sand dunes, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Fifteen years ago we started a backpacking session that changes location every year to continue to deepen the camping skills and connections with campers that begin in the core sessions. Often campers start with Big Sur, move on to Mendocino and then to Sierras before going backpacking with us in the  backpacking session.

AH: Are there any special lessons or experiences you are trying to provide during the camp?

LT: Besides developing an appreciation and knowledge of the natural environments, we work very hard with campers to develop a feeling of community and personal responsibility to  themselves, to each other, and to the environment as future stewards of the earth. LNT (leave no trace) principles are balanced with learning to use the plants and other natural resources of each of these environments. We strive to develop a balance between these two perspectives. Campers are broken into four small groups of about 8 campers and a staff mentor and meet daily to deepen their connections. They also do projects and activities together each day often with another group. They help with daily tasks including cooking dinner, building the camp fire, etc.

The other experience that we want to give young people is the feeling of working with real tools to create real objects of personal value. They are involved with cooking and learn the basics of helping prepare meals for the group, and they also learn how to use many craft and woodworking tools like saws, drills, files and other real tools to create jewelry and other personal items for themselves or their family. They learn to use flint and steel, make leather bags, create their own journals filling pages with water colors, poems and natural observations. They’re kept really busy within our camp structure that also gives them time to relax and hang out with each other.

AH: What surprises/delights the kids (or parents) most about your camp?

LT: Parents often mention how much their children have grown up after a week at camp and how they take more responsibility for themselves. They’re also very impressed with the stories about and knowledge of the environments that we camp in. When campers bring their parents to these sites, they have a huge amount to share with their families. Parents also love the songs that the campers bring back. We have a songbook of folk songs and some modern additions that campers take home with them every session.

AH: Anything else you’d like to add?

LT: It’s been a pleasure to have influenced so many young people over the past thirty years and several have written their college essays about the importance of camp in their lives. Over the years, we’ve kept the camp small to keep its intimacy and feelings of community strong in camp between campers and the staff as mentors of young people. We take our responsibilities as mentors of young people very seriously and have many returnees who come back year after year, so we see them grow and mature into young adults in the ten years that many stay with us. In addition, many continue as staff over the years and then influence the next generation of campers. It’s a fabulous cycle that keeps the camp culture stable yet dynamic. Some parents say that we’re a well kept Berkeley secret. We have some enthusiastic parent comments on Yelp.

For more information on Camp Chrysalis and their upcoming winter snowboarding/skiing session, check out Camp Chrysalis on ActivityHero.
Written by Sarah Antrim