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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

Extracurricular Activities for Kids with PTSD

Extracurricular Activities for Kids with PTSD
image from blogs.longwood.edu

While it would be a better world where no children experience the trauma of abuse, loss or violence, it unfortunately isn’t realistic.

Many children all over the country deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following an exceptionally traumatizing event.  Symptoms may include depression, anxiety, nightmares, change in appetite and loss of interest in relationships and pastimes.

Even though a child may not want to return to an activity or routine that was in place before the traumatic event occurred, PTSD may also open up the door for a new life passion to develop. Sports and activities are extremely beneficial for those healing from such a hindrance, and can speed the return to a normal, healthy life.

The Science

Several studies have been conducted to determine just how helpful extracurriculur activities for kids with PTSD can be.

In a 1983 study, rap groups were used versus formal group therapy. While no formal conclusions were made, there is evidence that taking part in the musical group had a distinct benefit over just simple talk therapy.

In the 1990s through present day, studies were conducted using art therapy, sports teams and more to determine the legitimacy of activities helping children overcome their personal trauma. Some were inconclusive, while many others showed a positive turn in a strong number of participants.

Trauma & Sports

Sports are excellent for children who have been physically or sexually abused, or perhaps have witnessed an incident of violence such as someone being killed or a car accident.

Since sports involve so much coordination of the body, it may help kids feel back “in control” in such a way the traumatic event robbed them of. The more they get involved with sports, the more in control of their deliberate movements and actions they will feel.

A child who is easily startled will may become less jittery with a contact sport or something that involves a team effort of passing, throwing, stealing or catching.

Dance, gymnastics and other artistic genres that involve the body are also activities for kids with PTSD, as they again give control back to the child – allowing her to use her body in a positive way after having it signify a negative event for quite some time.

Art & Music

One of the most popular methods of healing for children is art or music therapy.

Not only does this redirect the child’s memories toward something positive, but it allows the trauma to be worked out in a creative way. A child is able to express themselves through drawing, painting or song writing – whether they choose to produce butterflies or scenes of abuse.

Either way, their creative juices get flowing and there is less room for a relapse of depression or anxiety.

Video Games

Believe it or not, video games CAN be good for your child – but only in certain instances.

Tetris specifically has been shown as one of the greatest activities for kids with PTSD. Yes, the classic block sorting game.

How can that be?

It taps into your visuospatial skills – the ones you need to see, focus and act. These skills also produce flashbacks of a traumatic incident, which everyone with PTSD greatly desires to reduce in occurrence.

While Tetris does not remove the memory, it does in fact change a person’s reaction to them. This can assist greatly in healing.

Obviously, other video games – especially those that involve violence – are not all cleared as a psychological use. Check with your pediatrician before encouraging too much game play of a specific title.

If a child has experienced a traumatic event, formal counseling and proper support from friends and family are the most essential roads toward recovery. However, getting involved in a brand new after school activity or making new friends that encourage camaraderie and an honest distraction from the past are proving to be just as important in the grand scheme of things.

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

When Kids Don’t Make the Team: Rebuilding Young Hopes

When Kids Don't Make the Team: Rebuilding Young Hopes
photo by Flickr user Projects by Sensus Capit

At some point in life, everyone desires to belong to some sort of group. When you’re school-aged, it can be even more important.

Fitting in with peers, developing a skillset with them and experiencing both victory and defeat with them is important to their young lives. But when the experience is JUST defeat – the end result can be heartbreaking.

How can you encourage your child and rebuild their self-esteem during a time of rejection or personal failing? Fortunately, it may be easier than you think.

Plan Ahead

If your child is preparing for a school play audition or football tryouts – anything where you are aware of it well in advance – sit them down and have a reality check.

There is a difference between dashing their hopes and ensuring they enter into a situation with a realistic perspective. Remind them that some will be selected, while other kids don’t make the team – and that’s okay. It’s a normal rite of passage to not be chosen for something, and everyone experiences it one time or another.

Cheer From the Start

On the day of your child’s tryout, try to send them to school with some sort of encouragement or reassurance. This may be a note in their backpack, or a text message letting them know you believe in them and are rooting for their success.

With older children, make sure you don’t do something that will rattle their nerves or embarrass them in front of the very people they are seeking approval from. A 16-year-old girl, for example, may not appreciate a pink heart-shaped post-it note on her lunch sack. Choose what is appropriate for your child and keep it discreet.

Remind them from the get go that you love them if they make the team, and love them if they don’t.

When Kids Don't Make the Team: Rebuilding Young Hopes
Photo by Flickr user Emily

Check Your Emotions

Do not overwhelm your child with your own disappointment.

Sometimes parents want their children involved in a particular activity just as much as the child himself wishes for it. Stay positive and allow them to process their emotions without piling your own onto their shoulders.

On the other hand, try not to be too blasé. Despite not making the cut, the activity may be very important to the child – so don’t try to downplay it or call it “dumb” , “not worth it”, etc.

Find an Alternative

Maybe they didn’t get the lead role in the spring musical – but can they participate in a community acting class or join up with a local church choir?

Finding a way to reroute your child’s passion while they are still able to participate in their selected genre somehow can be both healing and rewarding.

Try Again!

When Kids don't Make the Team: Rebuilding Young Hopes
Photo by Flickr user USAG- Humphreys

Encourage your child to press on if they have a realistic chance at being selected in the future.

Take caution with this approach if you’re well-aware your child has two left feet and desires to be a prima ballerina. But, if it’s the standard situation of too many kids for too few opportunities, encourage them to prepare better and work harder toward next season. A little tenacity never hurt anyone, and if your child really wants to be a part of a particular activity, then teaching them to “try and try again” may be your best approach.

In the end, the most important thing to your child is your unconditional love.

Follow the natural rhythms of your child’s typical emotional processing to figure out how to serve them best in times of rejection. Some kids will want to yell and cry, while others will quietly spend time alone and then bounce back the very next day. Every child is unique – and it’s up to you as a parent to support them in ways appropriate to their individual personality.

When kids don't make the team, how parents can help keep hopes high

Written by Sarah Antrim

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Parenting Resources

The Benefits of Group Activities for Shy Kids

image from theparentreport.com

It may start by hiding in their mother’s skirt as a toddler, and progress into a sense of anxiety so strong it inhibits everything from classroom instruction to proper socialization.

While many youngsters are boisterous and creative through imaginative play, some struggle deeply with shyness. Shyness has its positive points, but if your child is so shy that it is affecting his/her daily life in a negative way, then there may be ways to help.

When executed correctly, group activities for shy kids are very beneficial. These timid kids learn to find strength in numbers and to be accepted in ways they previously feared.

It may seem the absolute worst thing you could do is put a shy child in the middle of a team or arranged social circle – but in many instances it can also help.

Classroom Structure

While your child may never be the spokesperson of the group, they may contribute ideas to a more outgoing member of the team and feel proud where they otherwise would’ve just been silent.

An attentive teacher will recognize a shy elementary school student who is struggling, and will often try to help. At their suggestion (or yours, if necessary and appropriate), the classroom may be arranged so desks are in pairs or small clusters rather than individual rows. This allows for team work in the classroom – the various clusters of desks work together to come up with an answer, or they brainstorm together for an activity.

Leading the Way

Many shy children tend to be excellent students or independent workers.

Why not tap into these positives by asking them to mentor younger children?

Whether in the classroom or on the soccer field, the opportunity to build relationship with younger kids can make the shy child feel more comfortable and able to speak up more in other life situations. This works even better if your child can be paired with another to assist a handful of younger ones. This mentorship system is the core of the Montessori school structure – it has been known to raise confident and capable children, and in some instances, abolish shyness.

Sports Teams

Although it may seem a recipe for disaster, one of the best activities for shy kids is group sports.

They experience victories without having everything rest on their shoulders, but also learn the important lesson of other people counting on them to be confident and do well.

Team sports have proven time and again to be effective in bringing children out of their shell, and don’t include the pressure of individual sports like gymnastics or figure skating.

Theatre Arts

If your child just isn’t the sporty type, they may do well in a community theater program or something similar.

Many children’s theaters accept everyone who auditions, which means your child can experience the terrifying moment of individual attention with guaranteed positive results. If such a group does not exist in your region, then try a dance or art class where your child will need to be independent but is also set up for situations to receive praise for their efforts.

When Shyness is a Problem

If your youngster is experiencing anxiety attacks, problems even walking into the schoolyard or signs of depression, talk to your pediatrician right away.

While many kids are shy and go through life in a simpler, quieter way, shyness can sometimes lead to more serious issues. Sometimes even a one-time therapy session with a quality counselor can get to the bottom of the situation and help your little one to feel more confident and secure in who they are.

Written by Tamara Warta

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Parenting Resources

The Secret to Everything

image from newvintageleadership.com

Every day as I browse through my Twitter feed, I see post after post about “the secret to raising happy kids;” or “the secret to getting kids to eat healthy;” going all the way back to “the secret to getting baby to sleep through the night.” Secrets, secrets everywhere! These writers throw the word “secret” around like it will entice a reader like me as I scroll through my feed. Secret! I must know it! Well, I guess it did work to an extent.

Secrets, by definition are meant to be kept from people:

Secret: kept from knowledge or view, hidden (Mirriam Webster’s Dictionary)

Call me crazy, but if I had figured out the “secret” to getting my son to do long division at 9 months old you’d better believe I’d shout it from the rooftops–though I never was so good at keeping secrets anyhow. Secret recipes are handed down so that only a select few can make the perfect mashed potatoes. As a society, we are obsessed with secrets; with being part of an exclusive group that’s “in the know.” But what really bugged me the most of all these postings were the ones along the lines of “secrets to raising happy, healthy kids.” Why would we keep this information a secret from parents?

If you asked my opinion about the secret to happy, healthy relationships is that there are no secrets. Now I don’t mean unloading every personal detail about your personal life onto your kids, but not keeping things from them either. Kids imitate what we do more than we may notice, so much so that a parent who “doesn’t use curse words” might be in for a rude awakening when their toddler starts spewing that one four-letter word that slips up every now and then. When your kids notice you hiding things from them, they may begin to see it as acceptable. Thus begins the neverending cycle of secrets.

Parents of teenagers wonder why they can’t have an open and honest relationship with their budding pubescent whirlwinds of hormones, perhaps it’s because they aren’t offering the same in return. We tend to spend a lot of time asking questions and seeking answers without meeting halfway. Our kids don’t want us to be perfect, they don’t expect us to know it all–the best way to be a great parent is to be yourself, honest and true. Now this isn’t about disclosing every aspect of your life to your kids. Some things that are better kept private, meaning not making an issue in front of kids. Personal relationship issues and financial troubles are a few examples of things that should be left for closed doors.

In short, my secret to happy kids is to share as much as you can with them. And remember–secrets, secrets are no fun.

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Contests

After-school activities: Win 1 month of free classes

The kids are headed back to school which means time to settle back into a routine. You may be looking at options to figure out what activities your child might be passionate about this year. Is your child a Michael Jordan or a Mozart or a Madam Curie? Would karate be the best thing for her and where do you find these classes?

That’s where we come in! Enter ActivityHero, a website that makes it easy for you to find kids’ classes and camps near you that fit your specific schedule and budget.

But wait, there’s more! We want to help relieve the stress on your wallet this back to school season by giving out a free month of classes on us! (up to $100 value). How? Simply sign up here to enter the sweepstakes.

Want even more chances to win? Just share with your friends using the form below and you’ll get an additional entry for each step you complete (you must be signed up using the contest link first).

  • Tweet about this contest (@mention us) – 1 additional entry,
  • Write a review on ActivityHero about a class near your zipcode – 3 additional entries
  • Email your neighborhood mom mailing list, or school mailing list about ActivityHero and the contest, and forward the email to [email protected] – 5 additional entries
But first, sign up for the contest.

 

Good luck!

 

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Parenting Resources

Summer Bucket List: 10 Things to Cross off as a Family

You’ve finally got into the swing of things and all of a sudden the hot summer days are coming to an end and the kids are off to start another school year. Soak up every last ounce of summer with these nostalgic activities:

10. Go camping.

Listen… do you hear that? It’s beautiful, it’s nothing. No television, no cell phones, no video games, just the great outdoors.

Camping doesn’t have to be in the forest or out in the wilderness, the backyard will do just fine. Set up a tent and spend a night together as a family unplugged from all media and enjoy the sweet sounds of silence.

family camping

9. Catch fireflies.

There’s something so magical about fireflies that brings about a sense of innocence to everyone they reach.

When I was just a kid, my father had a business partner from Japan stay with our family. He had never seen a firefly before and was so taken with them that he decided to capture as many as he could fit into a rinsed-out mayonnaise jar then set them free in his room at night. I remember looking up and seeing what looked like a million little shooting stars buzzing about and it was just perfect… until the next morning. I wouldn’t suggest doing this unless you’re ready for a gruesome cleanup. Your best bet is to capture, collect, then set free.

8. Make icy treats.

Is it just me or has the ice cream man become a scarce sight during the hot summer days? Take matters into your own hands and make some popsicles, ice cream, or even frozen fruit like grapes or bananas.

Save the high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings because you won’t miss them, give your kids some energy they can really use.

homemade fruit pops

7. Take a family outing.

The zoo, the waterpark, an amusement park, or even just a long drive—doesn’t matter where you go just as long as you’re all there. Pile into the van, bring some snacks and coloring books, and hit the road for the day.

6. Go on a hike.

Check out hiking trails at your local forest preserve or conservatory. Chances are that your children have no clue of the extent of native wildlife that surrounds them until they see it firsthand.

5. Catch an outdoor movie.

Do you live near a drive-in theater? If not, check out events at local parks; many play outdoor movies at dusk in the summer time.

Or if you’ve got a TV that can easily be moved, plug it into an outlet in the garage or run an extension cord into the yard. Something about watching a movie outside is just more fun.

outdoor movie screen

4. Have a barbeque.

Nothing says summer quite like hot food off the grill. Hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs—so many delicious treats that are much better when charred to perfection on a summer night.

Let dad take the reins on dinner and show off his skills on the grill while the kids can help with dessert, fruit salad, and anything that doesn’t require sharp objects.

3. Go to the beach.

The sun on your shoulders, the wind in your hair, the sand between your toes… and in your suit and your bag and pretty much everything for the next month. It’s a small price to pay to enjoy a memorable day at the beach with your family.

Help the kids build a sand castle, bring a picnic, and if everyone holds up well enough stay to watch the sunset over the water. This is a memory that kids will never forget.

family beach day

2. Soak up the pool.

To many kids, summer is synonymous with the pool. Set them free to soak up as much vitamin D and have as many underwater tea parties as they can in the last few days of summer.

1. Go to a carnival.

The smell of funnel cakes and corn dogs make my nose do a little happy dance. Let the kids play some games, win some prizes, and go on as many rides as they can. This is what they’ll be bragging to their friends about when they head back to the classroom.

carnival at night

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Parenting Resources

7 Ways to Prepare Kids for Back to School

Prepare Kids for Back to School
photo by Flickr user nycstreets

School supplies can bend the budget, arranging rides to and from school is a pain, and who likes waking up to an alarm?

Let’s face it, back-to-school time can be a bummer and a half for parents as well as kids. Just when you get used to the lazy summer days, you’re back on a fixed schedule with little to no wiggle room. Sending the kids back to school can be just as nerve wracking for parents as it is for kids.

This year when the supply lists arrive and your child has just tried on her hundredth pair of gym shoes, try not to stress. When your kids see you stress they’re more likely to be stressed too. Here are some helpful ways to get your prepare kids for back to school:

Practice making friends.

New year, new class, new people—this is a big deal for kids.

Their former desk buddies may now be in the class nextdoor leaving them feeling shy and uncomfortable around their new classmates.

Help your kids build their confidence and practice their social skills by doing some role playing. Start by approaching your child and politely introducing yourself and asking a few questions. Then switch and put their skills to the test.

Get them on a schedule.

The laziness and unpredictability of summer can make the first day of school an unwelcome surprise. Let your child know ahead of time exactly when their day will end and begin. Try to ease them back into a schedule a week or two before class starts by gradually making bed time a bit earlier every night.

A good way to do this without it seeming like a chore is by making sure they stay busy all day so that once bedtime comes they’re exhausted.

If you’ve got a late sleeper on your hands, think of some fun activities to do earlier in the morning to get them out of bed.

image from sheknows.com

Teach them to play only after work.

How easy it is to throw the backpack down, plop on the couch and sit in front of the TV until dinner time.

Try to get your kids into the habit of getting their work done before play—fun should not be an entitlement and should be earned.

I have a friend who tells her kids that for every minute they want to play video games, they must first read for an equal amount of time. While she admits that they may have only been pretending to read some of those times, at least their noses were in books and not in front of the TV.

Focus on the positives.

Homework? BOO.

Waking up early? LAME.

It’s hard to see the bright side when the subject matter is school, but try to point out the positives of a new school year. Maybe they’ll make new friends and have tons of fun. Maybe their new teacher will be way cooler than the previous.

And hey, if you’re really searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, Christmas break is just a few months away.

image from blog.dhgate.com

Sign up for after-school activities.

Back-to-school doesn’t have to mean all work and no play.

The fun can continue throughout the school year by signing your child up for a creative outlet like dance or music lessons. Studies have shown that most kids who participate in extracurricular activities perform better in school.

ActivityHero can help you find the perfect activity for your child, whatever their interests may be. Just don’t let them think that their academics can slip if they get too wrapped up with a sport or activity—it is a privilege not a right and kids should have to earn the ability to participate in activities.

Meet the teacher and visit the school.

In a time where everything is new, a little familiarity can go a long way.

See if your child’s teacher will allow you to come in for a visit to get acquainted with their new surroundings.

Encourage your child to ask their teacher questions about the upcoming year—what sorts of field trips, studies, and events will be taking place? They may just uncover something to be excited about! This should help ease your child’s mind a bit and make them feel more comfortable on their first day.

image from gpb.org

Ask questions.

What is your child excited about this year?

What are their concerns?

Sometimes verbalizing worries can make a world of difference—just let them know you’re there to listen. Assure your child that all kids are nervous to start school and if any problems should arise you’re always there to help.

 

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Sports Supermoms in the Spotlight

Parents of Olympians

As the Olympics continue on in London, coverage has been focused on some sports heroes more prominently than in years previous – the mothers of the athletes in all of their screaming, gasping and whooping glory.

NBC, the exclusive primetime network broadcasting the games, has received plenty of bad press. From limiting online viewing to those with particular cable subscriptions to just flat out not showing a variety of events, they have really done one over on the games’ most devoted fans. However, many are agreeing NBC has totally redeemed itself with its incredible coverage of the sobbing parentals in the stands, anxiously viewing their sons/daughters’ performances in England.

Here are a few of our favorite examples, paying homage to moms everywhere.

Aly Raisman

image from ibtimes.com

Probably the most prolific coverage of the games has been given to Aly Raisman’s parents, whose video as spectators at team final has gone viral. Lynn and Rick have received as many hits on YouTube as skate boarding dogs and singing toddlers with their hilarious facial expressions reflecting the jaw-dropping stunts and competitive action at the Olympic gymnastics events. Aly has responded with a hint of eye-rolling and polite responses to media regarding her parents’ viral video success – but there’s no doubt that her gold-medal winning performances can be partially credited to her parents’ loving support.

Michael Phelps

image from todaysmama.com

American viewers first became acquainted with Debbie Phelps in prior Olympics games, as she was one of the first parents to truly receive media attention for her hooting, hollering and sobbing in the stands. Now that her son has broken historic Olympian records in men’s swimming, she can relax a bit – as was illustrated by her leaning against the spectator railing in relief. A devoted single mother who worked full time while driving Phelps to early morning swim practices growing up, Debbie continues to be a focal representation of Olympian parenthood.

Gabby Douglas

image from todayinlondonblog.today.msnbc.msn.com

16-year-old Gabby is the first African American woman to ever win the all-around gold in gymnastics, and her mother Natalie Hawkins could not be prouder. Their story also could not possibly be more compelling. Natalie had to make the gut-wrenching decision to send Gabby across the nation to train with a particular coach, which eventually led to not only a Gabby-shaped hole in her heart as she had to settle for a long distance mother-daughter connection, but also to her selling her own jewelry and filing for bankruptcy as well. This mom’s commitment is being reported as one of the most shining examples of committed parenting when it comes to young athletes.

Chad le Clos

image from themurdockman.com

Chad le who? That is what America was saying until the South African swimmer stole a gold medal from the seemingly unstoppable Phelps. And his father Bert is just as golden when it comes to gushing publicly over his son. Watching replays, he adorably used the word “unbelievable” and blew kisses to the TV screen. How can you not love such an underdog story with a dad as excited as this one?

Jordyn Wieber

image from detroitnews.com

Rita Wieber, the mother of Jordyn – who was expected to be “the one” to watch during the gymnastics events in London – has been on quite the emotional rollercoaster. First, her daughter failed to qualify for the individual finals despite being heralded as a shoo-in for the events. The images of Jordyn weeping after losing the chance for an individual gold were replayed countless times over airwaves, and Rita was not able to reach her daughter for hours after the devastating loss. However, despite her obvious undying support for Jordan in the arena, Rita should also get credit for another aspect of parenting – insisting Jordyn remain in public school and have a well-rounded life outside of gymnastics.

As the Olympics progress, we will undoubtedly see more emotional moms and dads as their children compete in the games. And honestly, that’s likely how America likes the broadcasts to go – showing real people like themselves experiencing the best moment of their children’s lives. It’s what we all hope for, and what we all can aspire to when it comes to unconditional love, commitment and sacrifice.

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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Sports Supermoms in the Spotlight

Olympian Moms

Sometimes you CAN have it all – as proven by the multitude of athletes that are not only Olympians but parents as well. Balancing motherhood and elite sports is no easy feat – but these women have made it look easy.

Kerri Walsh

image from elliottharris.com

Gold medalist Walsh is well known for her awesome beach volleyball victories, but at home she is simply known as mom. She takes a lot of pride in this job – so much so that she hopes to have a gold medal for each of her children – winning a third at the London games will provide an extra for the third child she hopes to conceive after the competition. She has been quoted as saying that being a mom has given her a new perspective on the world and makes her courageous enough to follow all of her dreams. Her son Joseph was born in May 2009, and Sundance followed a year later.

Kristen Armstrong

image from usatoday.com

Armstrong, who recently won gold for cycling in London, originally retired from the sport after first winning in Beijing. But after her son Lucas was born in 2010, she discovered she still had that passion for competition on the open road. Now almost two years later, she has found a reasonable balance between her own interests and those of her son’s.

Kara Goucher

image from runtheedge.com

Another example of a mom who finds the energy to do it all is Kara Goucher, who participated in the Beijing Olympics as a long distance runner and is now back at it in London. Her 2-year-old son Colton is what she credits for her ability to stay fit post-birth. Instead of enjoying much downtime, this toddler keeps her on her feet almost as much as her sport.

Christie Rampone

image from nj1015.com

While 6-year-old Ryle and 2-year-old Reece have yet to blaze their own Olympic trail, their famous soccer playing mom Christie Rampone has a life full of achievements. London is her fourth Olympics and her daughters will be in tow – cheering mom on from the stands.

Lashinda Demus

image from staysimplyfit.blogspot.com

What keeps Olympic track and field athlete Lashinda Demus running? Her 5-year-old twin boys Dontay and Duaine. She credits her husband for her healthy life combination of training time and down time. Despite the busy life of raising energetic little ones, she is not only competing in London, but is dreaming of the 2016 Olympics as well.

Getting it All Done

Just because they manage to keep it together doesn’t mean Olympian moms don’t have to experience a bit of trial and error in their lives. Many have been quoted as saying they struggled to get their bodies back in shape after having their second child and beyond. Still others admittedly wake up early in the morning in order to relish in that precious “alone time” that just doesn’t come with the motherhood package. Early rising, smart eating and plenty of emotional and logistical support from friends and family seems to be the key to success for all of these athletes.

But, in the end, no matter how many golds are won in London and beyond, their children remain their most precious prize. This is exemplified by the fact almost all of the above mentioned competitors are welcoming their little ones into the stands to cheer them on in the games.

Being childless may be easier when it comes to training and competition, but these moms know full well when it comes to their kids, they could never do it without them.

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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Two and a Half Moms

Two and a Half Moms: Chandini Ammineni

Co-founder of Activity Hero Chandini Ammineni pitches to a crowd of investors and fellow entrepreneurs.  Chandini started off her entrepreneurial career building and selling tools to Industrial Automation companies until she was convinced by Shilpa to join the ActivityHero team.

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Two and a Half Moms

Two and a Half Moms: Co-Founders

Co-founders Chandini Ammimeni, Peggy Chang, and Shilpa Dalmia enjoying an afternoon at the pool. ActivityHero was formed when Chandini joined forces with Shilpa and Peggy, each desiring a less time consuming and easier method of selecting activities for their kids.

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Two and a Half Moms

Two and a Half Moms: Shilpa Dalmia

Co-founder Shilpa Dalmia admits that one of her most challenging and satisfying roles has been raising her two kids and seeking out the best for them. She hopes that ActivityHero will help busy parents find the right after-school activities for their children.

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources Sports

Olympic Activities for Kids: Future Olympians

Becoming an Olympian is obviously no easy task, but getting started in a sport that may eventually lead to podium gold is actually easier than it may seem. Many athletes become inspired and work hard to obtain the elite level of their chosen discipline right in their hometowns.

So dream big – and get your kids excited about a new activity or improving at a current one with a little Olympics viewing and goal setting.

Gymnastics

Gymnastics is one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games. Watching gymnasts can stir the tumbling bug in your child and fortunately gymnastics happens to be a sport that is extremely accessible to youngsters.

image from spitfireseattle.com

The Easy Route

Purchase a trampoline in the backyard or some thick inflatable air mattresses. Your child can practice flips and split jumps on the trampoline as they imagine soaring high above the ground like a gymnast on the vault in London.

The air mattress is great for crash landings or can also be used to practice somersaults and other tumbling moves. Inexpensive tumbling mats are an even better option and many are available at your local sports supply shop.

A swing set with monkey bars can serve as a high bar and an old saw horse can instantly become a balance beam.

The Path to Greatness

Gymboree is a very popular business with little ones and their parents. Kids come in for “mommy and me” style classes that eventually progress to more independent skill building.

Gymnastics centers also exist in most major cities and almost every recreation center offers at least one tumbling class.

Don’t bother with private lessons or expensive leotards at first– just bring your child in for the experience and see if their interest soars or wanes.

If your child is showing a fierce commitment to gymnastics, brace yourself for both the time and financial investments required to make your kiddo the next big thing of the competitive world. Private coaching is an essential, as is logging in plenty of hours at the gym.

Ask your child’s current group class instructor for some coaching recommendations, and be sure to check references online. The Internet is your best friend when it comes to researching and confirming the qualifications of someone who will likely begin to spend more time with your child than you will.

Swimming

Swimming is another big Olympics headliner with plenty of budget-friendly ways to get your kids involved.

image from sportsworldreport.com

The Easy Route

For smaller children, a larger inflatable pool (there are ones available big enough to require chlorine and a filter) can help them practice basic moves in the backyard. And yes, maintenance is much easier than an in-ground pool.

You may also consider taking them to meets at your local high school or swim club and gauge their reaction.

The Path to Greatness

During the summer, swim team is on a lot of people’s minds; but as the weather cools many tend to drop out or lose interest. Get your child involved in a team when you’re able to and see if he/she sticks with it.

A good team for youngsters will weigh personal accomplishment over defeating other swimmers, and will also keep your child’s safety and wellbeing in mind. Swimming on even a casual team usually requires early morning practices and plenty of meets on the weekends, so it really does quickly become a sport the whole family is involved in.

Check in with your local rec center to see if they have a community swim team. Or, if you can afford it, join a private cabana club in your region which will allow for nicer resources and more individual attention.

If your child loves the water but isn’t too strong at the majority of strokes, there are plenty of ways to get creative with a swimming passion.

Speed may not be their thing but what about hand eye coordination? Synchronized swimming and water polo are great options for young swimmers who would rather play than race.

Equestrian Events

Tween girls are exceptionally captivated by the grace, strength and agility of horses, which can lead to the persistent request for riding lessons and beyond.

image from sports.yahoo.com

The Easy Route

If you are on a tight budget or unsure of your son or daughter’s long-term commitment level, start out with riding lessons at a local barn in the Western style. Western riding is easier, more affordable and safer.

If your child excels at Western, they may progress to barrel racing or another competitive sport.

The Path to Greatness

If English (jumping, dressage, racing) is their thing, then prepare to spend quite a bit more money. Attire is very specific and entry fees to the various competitions can get expensive. However, it is all worth it when your child brings home that first blue ribbon!

Whatever you do, don’t buy a horse.

This may sound like an obvious and silly thing to say, but many parents get even more carried away than the youngster and purchase one of these massive (ahem, massively expensive and needy) creatures without a second thought.

When it does come time to buy a horse, try leasing one or making friends with someone who can get you a good deal while ensuring you receive a healthy, well-tempered animal.

These are just a few examples of sports that may become a part of your daily life someday. Olympic activities for kids are a great way to figure out your child’s passion!

 

Written by Tamara Warta

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Two and a Half Moms

Two and a Half Moms: Peggy Chang

ActivityHero Co-founder Peggy and her daughter Kaitlyn “traveled” to London while at the Gymnastics Olympic Trial Finals in San Jose, CA. Kaitlyn started training for competitive gymnastics in January and now trains 9 hours a week; but it took Peggy 3 months to get Kaitlyn enrolled in a gymnastics program because she was unsure of where to go! Peggy hopes that ActivityHero will help parents find good activity providers faster so that kids can pursue their interests right away.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

7 Simple Ways to Get a Home-Cooked Dinner on the Table Every Night

The kids are seated silently and properly at the dining room table with napkins in their laps awaiting that moment when Mom enters the room with a warm turkey, fresh whipped potatoes and healthy green beans. Sounds like the perfect night at my house. Wait, no—silly me, that was a rerun of Leave it to Beaver that was on last night. This has never happened in my house.

Dinner time at my house is whenever everyone can manage to sit their butts down and I can think of something to whip up at the last minute. Chances are if it’s a matter of cleaning up the kitchen, meaning first unloading the dishwasher then reloading it with yesterday’s dirty dishes, we’re looking at a pizza or takeout night. We all want to serve a home-cooked meal to our family every night, but life tends to get in the way, time gets away from us and suddenly it’s 5:30 and we’ve got hungry kids tugging at our sleeves about filling their tummies. Sound familiar?

Busy and conflicting schedules are making family dinners a thing of the past in many households. Soccer practices, meetings running late and play rehearsals mean we are constantly on the run and shoving fast food and granola bars down the hatch whenever we have a free moment. Research shows that families that eat together not only eat healthier, but save money and have stronger bonds with one another. Making time for a home-cooked meal is not always easy, but with some simple planning and preparation it is an attainable goal.

Start with a clean slate.

Nobody wants to cook in a dirty kitchen. If you’re anything like me you might put off doing the dishes until there is nothing clean but a single fork and an old Tupperware container in the cabinet. Walking into a dirty kitchen when you’re already hungry tells you that cleaning up that mess will push back dinner at least another half hour if not more. A great way to make yourself actually want to cook in your kitchen is to clean as you go along. It’s a lot simpler and actually saves time, plus you won’t have to scrape all that crusty cheese off the bottom of the pan if you rinse it while it’s still warm. Simple enough, right?

Plan ahead.

If you take any one thing away from this read, I hope this is it. Planning ahead saves SO much time and leaves the stressful guess work out of getting dinner on the table. Every week, gather together some recipes and plan out your weeknight meals so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. What makes this even simpler is that… wait for it… yes, there’s an APP for that! In fact, there are tons of apps for that. My personal favorite is Food on the Table which combines its recipe database with a shopping list and meal planner so it does basically everything for you but cook the food.

image from siliconangle.com

Stock up on the basics.

Things like rice, beans, canned tomatoes, boxes or cans of chicken or vegetable stock, and other dried or canned pantry items are called for in most dinner recipes. If you have these basic items on hand at all times you can definitely whip something on a whim. Just remember to only stock up on the things that last, though—things like produce and meats spoil pretty quickly and are better left for a later purchase.

Embrace the slow cooker.

Repeat after me, the crock pot is my friend. I’m pretty surprised at how many people have dusty slow cookers in the back of their cabinets that they’ve never used. I have made some pretty outstanding things in my crock pot—eggplant parmesan, buffalo chicken tacos, tomato and rice soup, not to mention the most delicious pot roast you’ve ever tasted. Slow cookers are especially handy in the summer when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. It’s just so simple—dump ingredients in, turn dial to low, cover and walk away… seriously, it’s that easy. Just make sure it’s plugged in before walking away or you’ll set yourself back a few hours. Yeah, it sounds funny until it happens to you…

image from pbfingers.com

Love your leftovers.

So obviously nobody wants to eat the same old cold spaghetti in the fridge from last night’s dinner, but there are ways to be creative with leftovers. Leftover meats and cheeses can be added to omelets for breakfast, stick sautéed veggies into a quesadilla, and those tiny bags full of halved onions, celery stalks, carrots and whatever else can be thrown into a pot for some delicious homemade stock for soup. Check out Premeditated Leftovers for some fabulous ideas on how to dress up yesterday’s dinner.

Friendly freezer meals.

I really wish I would have embraced this more during my pregnancy like those smart moms did; I would have eaten a lot fewer hamburgers and pizzas! Casseroles, meatloaves, even marinated chicken and vegetables can be prepared ahead of time and frozen until its ready to be popped in the oven. Joelen from What’s Cookin’ Chicago has an amazing list of frozen meals she prepared during her pregnancy and was kind enough to share with the world.

Don’t feel bad calling in the back-up plan.

Some days, no matter how hard you try to plan ahead, time just REALLY gets away from you. Don’t feel bad if you have to throw a pizza in the oven or call for delivery from your favorite takeout spot. Hey, everyone needs a night off every once in a while and as long as it doesn’t become a regular thing it can even become a bit of a treat. In our house we make Friday nights our “special dinner night” where we order in from a favorite restaurant and watch movies. As long as dinner time is spent as a family, the effort won’t go unnoticed.

 

Written by Sarah Antrim