Categories
After-School Activities Creative Arts Mindfulness

5 Fun Facts About Coloring

National Coloring Day is September 14th. Set aside time to relax and color together! Coloring is a fun activity for kids to pass time while also being a great stress reducer and artistic outlet.

Did you know?

  1. Coloring lowers stress and anxiety. 

Researchers and art therapists agree that coloring in coloring books has many therapeutic benefits.

“A 2005 study (and a 2012 replication study) concluded that people who colored in mandalas—complex geometric figures frequently seen in Hinduism and Buddhism—experienced lower levels of anxiety than people who simply colored on a blank piece of paper. The study concluded that like meditation, the act of coloring patterns can let the brain rest, decrease anxiety, and encourage mindfulness.” 1

Mental Floss
Poly Olbion by Michael Drayton
  1. Coloring books were originally created for adults. 

The earliest variation of coloring books is from as early as 1612. A long poem, Poly-Olbion by Michael Drayton, featured illustrations of maps and fun creatures. It became popular for readers to color the illustrations themselves. However, coloring books became popular soon after mostly as a way to practice art skills like watercolor.2

  1. The average child wears down 720 crayons by their tenth birthday. 

The biggest crayon is called Big Blue, and it is 1,500 pounds and 15 feet long.3 How long would it take you to use all of Big Blue? 

  1. Colored pencils can last your whole life. 

If you use colored pencils often, you may find yourself restocking them often. However, there have been colored pencils discovered that were over 100 years old and they could still be used perfectly!4 If you’re looking for long-term pencils, invest in high quality ones that won’t dry out or become faded over time.

  1. People once used bread as erasers. 

Before the eraser was invented, people used tablets of rubber or wax. To remove ink from parchment or papyrus, they used bits of rough stone to rub it off. In Japan, they used soft bread. The eraser was invented by an English engineer in 1770 who accidentally picked up a piece of rubber instead of breadcrumbs and found that it worked well to erase.5

Find coloring pages and printables with ActivityHero’s Free Super Duper Kit!

For even more color-related options, check out ActivityHero’s On-Demand activities.

1Source

2Source

3Source

4Source

5Source

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

6 Ways to Lessen Stress

Manage back-to-school exhaustion and pandemic anxiety with grace.

Here are simple techniques to help us all get back on track using meditation from our friends at LoveHero.

Is it possible that we’ve all forgotten how tiring the first week of school or just visiting the office after being away for so long, really is? The 18-month long new normal’s transition back to the old and connecting with classmates and co-workers in real life has been much harder than expected for some of us. You are not alone.

1. Start with movement

For most young kids, attempting to sit in meditation without any exercise first will be a challenge. Kids understand energy. And, energy can be used as a vehicle to meditate. Start with 5-10 minutes of energetic exercises such as jumping jacks, scissor jumps or running in-place.

2. Use positive language

While exercising, maintain a positive attitude that will get kids thinking about their ability to monitor their emotions and tune into positive feelings. Affirmations such as “I am positive!” work great for this.

3. Use breathing to channel the energy

The next step is to start slowing down the intensity of the exercises and to start replacing them with breathing. Breathe with your belly holding the breath longer and making the inhales and exhales deeper each time.

4. Sit down, breathe and focus on the heart

The other thing that kids understand well is positive emotions. In a sitting position do a few more rounds of breathing, but this time, with the hands on the heart, imagine this energy you’ve built up turning into rays of green light that are shooting from the heart.

5. Become a hero

What good is love if you don’t share it? Kids love being heroes. Use the light shooting from your heart to send love to someone or something that might need it. It can be a group of people (frontline healthcare workers), a person you love, a pet or a plant. Become a hero using your heart to uplift others.

6. Sit in stillness

Finally, sit in silence and stillness for 30 seconds or longer if you can.  It helps to play soothing music at this point. Each child is different, so start small and build your way up.

To practice more yoga and mindfulness, find a live instructor in-person or online from home with LoveHero and other yoga options on ActivityHero today. 

Categories
After-School Activities Chess Mindfulness Online Learning

5 Fun Facts About American Chess Day

Join millions of chess fans in their love for the world’s most popular board game to celebrate American Chess Day on September 1st!

Chess tournaments, clubs, and classes continue to attract devoted members of the chess community. Whether you’re a professional or a beginner, there’s something for everyone.

Chess is one of the most ancient, intellectual and cultural games, with a combination of sport, scientific thinking and elements of art. As an affordable and inclusive activity, it can be exercised anywhere and played by all, across the barriers of language, age, gender, physical ability or social status.1

  1. 2020 was a huge year for chess.

While people were staying at home during the pandemic, chess was the perfect way to connect with others online. Chess enthusiasm in the US spiked even more with the release of the incredibly popular Netflix Series, The Queen’s Gambit

With no in-person events to attend, chess masters streamed themselves playing chess. Online chess platforms were overwhelmed with new players. The number of games played on online in 2020 were up 66% from pre-pandemic times.2 

  1. Computers are now better than people at chess. 

In the late 1980s, computers became capable of beating strong chess players.  In 1988, the computer Deep Thought became the first computer to defeat a grandmaster in a tournament game.3 Now, even the world champion doesn’t stand a chance against the leading computer. 

  1. All schoolchildren learn chess in Armenia. 

Starting from 2011, chess was taught as a school subject just like reading or math in Armenian schools. It’s the first country in the world to include chess as a subject in primary schools. With all the benefits that chess has for kids—creative thinking, spatial reasoning, and concentration—it’s no wonder that this country has made chess a compulsory class for everyone. 

  1. There are over 2,000 variations of chess. 

Most believe that chess began over 1400 years ago in India.4 However, as it’s spread across the world, games like Chinese chess and Japanese chess have evolved to become popular games as well. Today, international chess is standardized by the International Chess Federation, which was started in 1924. 

  1. Ben Franklin loved chess! 

You can thank founding father Ben Franklin for American Chess Day. Although the United States Chess Federation started in 1939, Ben Franklin was an avid chess player and even published an essay about the benefits of chess in 1786. 

Celebrate American Chess Day by joining a community of chess players, whether you’re just beginning or an experienced player.

Find kid-approved chess classes and camps on ActivityHero>>

Source1

Source2

Source3

Source4

Categories
Featured Posts Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

5 Ways to Start the New Year Right for Kids

After a year of school shutdowns, schedule disruptions, and social isolation, many families may be looking forward to a fresh start. Here are some ideas for kids to take on 2021 the right way with health, education, and mindfulness.

2020 was a challenge for many families, and for many kids that can come with increased stress and anxiousness. Helping children manage physical and mental health is especially important this year. Look for ways to make 2021 their best year yet!

2021 Goals for Kids and Teens

Here are 5 steps towards a year full of growth and joy.

1) Physical Exercise

Exercising every day can help kids manage their sleep schedule, improve their mood, and decrease stress. This can be a healthy habit for the whole family in 2021 – hiking, biking, going for walks, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together. 

Kids Yoga Classes

Other exercise and fitness classes for your child include:

Dance: Kids of any age can participate in a dance class or have a dance party in a fun, safe environment. Many classes are for beginners and explore many different styles of dance, like hip hop, ballet, and jazz.

Martial Arts: Martial arts classes help build confidence, leadership skills, and resilience while providing a fun space to stay active.

Yoga: Online yoga and exercise classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.

See All Fitness Classes on ActivityHero>>

2) Nutrition

Nutrition and healthy eating is important for all ages. Establishing a good relationship with food is knowledge that kids can use for their whole life.

Getting started with cooking at a young age is a great way for kids to start learning about nutrition. Being in the kitchen can also help with independence, help picky eaters, and spark creativity.

Cooking Classes: Instructional classes with expert teachers bring kids through recipes while teaching kitchen safety, cleanliness, and art.

DIY Recipes: Have fun with recipes on your own time, with video tutorials to help you out!

3) Schedule Relaxing Activities

Along with exercise and nutrition, making time for enjoyable and relaxing hobbies has many benefits as well. A new year is the perfect time to explore something new, whether it be art, music, writing, or gaming.

Art classes for kids

Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.

Music Classes for Kids: Music is a great activity that anyone can pick up for fun, whether it’s learning an instrument, singing, or dancing.

In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!

See All Online Classes on ActivityHero>>

4) Mindfulness and Meditation

Look forward to a year of emotional health and reduced stress. Yoga, exercises to reduce stress, and meditation can all help to prepare for the ups and downs of 2021. Even five minutes of breathing or mindful exercises a day can help to develop healthy emotions and resilience.

Kids Mindfulness Classes

See Mindfulness on ActivityHero>>

5) Staying Connected

Many kids had to learn to navigate technology this year to attend school and socialize with friends. Live online classes or calls are a great time for kids to safely interact with each other and work together on fun activities. After feeling isolated this year, it is important to make time to keep connections this year.

See Social Skills and Social Media on ActivityHero>>

Along with encouraging kids to reach out to others, be aware of the risks of the online world. Teach your kids about cyberbullying and staying safe on the internet.

Categories
Featured Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness On-Demand Parenting Resources

A Teens Guide to the Social Dilemma

Has social media been sneaking into your brain? Many teens are spending hours scrolling through perfectly filtered photos, obsessing over likes and shares, or encountering virtual bullies. Teens are going down a “rabbit hole” online, experiencing the tricks software developers use to keep people on Instagram, Snapchat, video games and other media. 

How can we build healthier relationships with technology?Max Stossel, Head of Education for The Center for Humane Technology, illustrated some of the specific ways technology is designed to be addictive & distracting, provided tools to help combat these designs, and showcased a much needed discussion among peers about the impact of phones & social media on our lives during ActivityHero’s free event, The Teens Guide to the Social Dilemma.

Watch Max Stossel’s presentation available on-demand >>

Max’s Top tips for Social Media Well-being

  1. Turn off all notification except from people you care about
  2. Unfollow every account that makes you feel badly about yourself 
  3. Delete toxic apps 
  4. Use a physical alarm clock 
  5. Get the phone out of the bedroom at least an hour before you go to sleep
  6. DF Youtube: an extension to make YouTube a more kid-friendly place (distraction-free, without suggested videos) 
  7. Practice mindfulness to know yourself; what are you thinking and feeling?
  8. Give an 8-second hug a day! 

#mysocialtruth
Share your stories on Socialtruth.humanetech.com


Q&A with Max Stossel

Transcribed from The Teens Guide to the Social Dilemma

Q1: What is the recommended time per day to spend on social media? How do we strengthen the emotional awareness of teens, should we slowly reduce screen-time or just stop?

There is no golden rule for the amount of time. I think it’s far more helpful to look at in terms of life. What role is social media serving for us? Is it entertainment? Are we aware of these mental health challenges? Are we doing other things? Are we doing the things we need to do with our lives? Some people do report saying “I have this one hour a day when I’m not going to just go on in a mindless moment. From 7 to 8 [o’clock], that’s going to be my social media time because I like social media.” Some people like doing it this way.

Especially for younger kids, these mental health challenges are real. To me, it’s just not worth the cost in the younger, middle school-age years. I don’t believe it’s worthwhile. And in terms of developing that emotional resilience, parents know better than me. I believe, especially in schools,  looking into those curriculums and focusing on those topics is going to be practical. In this next generation, we’re going to need to know ourselves and our emotions to thrive in the digital world. 

Q2: Is there an age where you think it’s ok for kids to be on social media?

I’m one person, with one person’s opinion, but I have spoken to a lot of parents. I have spoken to a lot of parents who have been very glad they have delayed. I have not spoken to parents who believe they wished they gave it earlier. For me, I would wait until at least high school. Our adult brains are hardly capable and it’s doing a number on our mental health. 

It doesn’t mean don’t talk about it, or don’t have the conversations about it until high school if you’re on it, like sharing, and using it in your life. I could not build a better self comparison machine than social media. 

To be honest, the idea that porn won’t seep in is not honest. People believe, it’s not my kid, but it’s a box with the entire internet on it. Everything that comes with the entire internet is involved with that box. We want the golden bullet – we want to have the good and not the bad. I think a more honest approach is recognizing this is really a lot and we haven’t as a society figured out good guard rails for ways of doing this thing yet. Let’s approach it honestly as a result.

Q3: Can you please discuss the YouTube rabbit hole and how does affect my brain?

YouTube is deciding with it’s algorithm, based on all your information, to figure out what’s the perfect piece of content that will get you watching. It doesn’t particularly care what is good for you, will make you smile, what will make you care, make you any of these things. What it cares about is you watching. Oftentimes that’s just like the most out-there extreme radical idea. And then we start believing what’s out there, not true things, and it messes with our sense making of the world. YouTube DF is a powerful tool so you can just turn off the recommended videos. So you can go to that one video that you meant to watch, and watch it, and then go about doing your best. And we might find now and then, as the slot machine, “I found something I really like!”, but if we turn off the recommendations we will be much happier. 

Q4: I recently started my own YouTube channel, how does it affect me? I mostly post my own content. 

I am an artist and a filmmaker; I use social media. I use it to promote. At your age, you can probably relate to this – you post something and then how does it feel? You are asking yourself “are people liking this?” “are people engaging with it?” I think one of the hardest things to do as someone creating content on YouTube, is to actually stick to doing to what you want to do. Not let “how many views did this get” drive what you’re making, everything you’re doing, because then you’re not really doing it because you want to do it. 

We start [creating content] because I love XYZ and that’s why I’m going to make videos about it – I love it. But, then we start to get more into “this one I liked it, but it didn’t do as well, maybe I shouldn’t do it” like that and then the outside world starts to govern what you’re creating, what you’re making. And you start to care so much more about what everybody else thinks. That’s what to look out for. and it’s hard. It’s hard so get together with some friends and be like “hey we’re going to support each other”. Let’s make sure that we are actually doing this because we want to do it. If we [create content] for getting the likes then it becomes so addictive, literally addictive. 

I have YouTube videos with millions of views and it’s endless. If you want to have one you want 5 and 10 there’s no number that is satisfying. It’s an endless treadmill. I want more more more more more and it never ends. So you can beat it by just posting what you actually want to post. Try and do what you actually want to share and not think about how good it does. Doing this is easier said than done. 

Q5: What is the right age for kids to start gaming (i.e. Roblox)? Parent says “I’m very confused when my child says he plays for achievements.” 

I mean I think that’s a similar example to what I was explaining with Halo. I just needed to get to the next level, I needed to accomplish it! Especially for young boys. Life is confusing for teenage boys and in Halo I know that “I do this one thing that is really hard, and then I get to the next level.” In life everything is scary and hard. Life doesn’t have an experience bar in that way.

What age is right? I think some games can be really educational. Games are obviously really really fun. My best advice would be – I would not compromise on the “just one more game because I’m going to lose.” The systems are designed so that you lose. When it’s dinner, it’s dinner like in the real world. Real world takes precedence over the video game world. And to recognize we are going to set limits because we know how easy it is to fall into the radicals of these games. Set and stick to those limits, make it an open conversation. Kids should have a voice in this. They should say what’s working and not working. It should be not a dictatorship, but a conversation. 

Q6: How can you tell a teen is addicted to social? “My teen is says he’s not addicted to social, but he plays Discord and Roblox. I have noticed after he spends hours playing, his personality changes. He does not want to accept he is addicted.”

I am not a mental health counselor. There are many resources on our website that might be helpful. But your child has to be ready and willing and admitting that there’s a problem for any of this stuff to work. So having these conversations – talking about some of these resources, asking those questions, like “notice how it’s making you feel?” Also, they are probably afraid you’re going to take it away from them. This is a real problem that tends to exist.

Opening the conversation is the way to start. Some of these games are really disturbing because there aren’t actually enhancing something on a human level.

Are we learning something from it? Or is this just engaging? We have not approached this well as a society. Social media just happens to be a strong pull. It’s a journey. Hug your kids and tell them you love them. It’s not a solution but I have seen in my work it has been very helpful. 

Q7: How can I monitor what they’re doing on their phone without infringing on their privacy ?  

That question makes me laugh. Monitoring what they are doing on their phones, is infringing on their privacy. We want the best for them. This is a good example of creating trust and opening conversation. 

You can try, you can put all of the monitoring software on there. But they will be able to get around all that software. Conversation can be one of the best. And for me, delay is the answer. Try to delay until high school to start introducing this stuff into lives. For me the mental health risks are not worth it. 

Q8: Whenever I play video games and I am done, I always feel like there is nothing else to do and I feel bored. Then I want to play it again. 

Try creating your own game, find new things. There are skills in life – video editing, photography, etc that you can choose to try rather than playing Fortnite. Find a replacement hobby, but have the expectation that nothing will hit you as hard as Fortnite. 

Resource Links:

The Center for Humane Technology
Stayfosucd – site blocker for Chrome
Gamequitters.com/hobby-tool/
ActivityHero.com – find new educational or enrichment activities that build useful skills, like coding, video editing, web design, art, music, and more.

Watch Max Stossel’s presentation available on-demand >>

Categories
Featured Posts Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

5 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety in Kids

Stress and anxiety is common for both children and adults. Butterflies before a piano recital or feeling nervous about a big test is a normal reaction to a stressful situation or event. As parents, we can’t eliminate stress in our children’s lives – only teach them how to manage it. 

Triggers that can cause stress in children include major life changes such as moving or divorce, family financial problems, peer pressure or bullying, body changes, and worrying about schoolwork. Helping our children form coping strategies at a young age will set them up for long-term success as they encounter education, career, social, and financial decisions. 

During 2020, the number of children expressing stress increased with schedule disruptions, school shutdowns, social isolation, virtual learning, and health concerns. According to a parent survey on ActivityHero in September 2020, 86% of children reported feeling anxious during the prior 6 months. 

Without healthy stress management, chronic anxiety could lead to behavioral and physical symptoms in children: (medlineplus.gov)

  • Decreased appetite or other sudden changes in eating habits
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Nightmares or Sleep disturbances
  • Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
  • Sudden changes in behavior that are out of character
  • New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
  • Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight (separation anxiety)
  • Not able to control emotions; Aggressive or stubborn behavior
  • Unwilling to participate in family or school activities

Stress management for Kids and Teens

Here are 5 ways to help your child manage every day anxiety and take healthy habits into adulthood:

1) Good Sleep Routines

Sleep is essential for your body and mind to recover and reset from the day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 9-12 hours of sleep a night is recommended for 6- to 12-year olds. Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Set a schedule and bedtime routine for consistency. For younger children, this could include a “wind down” time of bath and story time. For teens, limiting screen time and gaming before bed can support more restful sleep. 

2) Physical Exercise

At least 60 minutes of exercise a day can have many health benefits for children, including relieving stress. This is a healthy habit for the whole family – hiking, biking, surfing, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together. 

Other fun, non-competitive exercise and fitness classes for your child to manage stress (and burn off extra energy), include:

Kids Yoga

Yoga: Online stretching and yoga classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.

Dance Party: Toddlers to teens can enjoy a fun dance party, connecting in a safe environment led by an engaging instructor. Many dance and movement classes have fun themes and do not require any previous dance experience.

Karate: Introductions to martial arts classes online do not require previous experience, and can be a confidence builder for children.

We’re here to help your child become even more engaged, strong and optimistic during this unique time.  We know that grit, resilience and laughter have never been more important than right now.

– Family Karate Online

See All Fitness Classes on ActivityHero>>

3) Schedule Relaxing Activities

In addition to exercising your body, scheduling relaxing activities can also relieve mental stress. Art, music, journaling, and other relaxing hobbies all have therapeutic benefits. The most important reminder is to make sure there is zero pressure – these should be purely for fun!

Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.

In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!

See All Online Classes on ActivityHero>>

4) Breathing & Meditation

If your child is starting to feel overwhelmed, teaching them breathing exercises can help them work through their feelings. Taking deep breaths, visualizing themselves in a calming place, and listening to relaxing sounds are all strategies to help them refocus. 

“We started using online classes on Activity Hero after schools closed and I was furloughed. My son especially enjoys Vibras Meditation (now LoveHero). Positive messages and empowerment are so good for kids right now (and always I guess.) The instructor is great and we will continue even after things move to the new normal.”

-Parent Review

See All Meditation & Mindfulness Classes on ActivityHero>>

5) Model Self-Care and Positive Thinking

As parents and adults, modeling self-care and positive thinking is probably the hardest habit to implement. However, our children observe and absorb more of our adult stress than we realize. Some strategies include:

  • Talk with your children about how you have dealt with stressful situations and encourage dialogue about how they are feeling. Tip: Conversations can be more natural if you engage when your child doesn’t have to look directly at you – riding in a car, walking the dog, or sitting on the beach. 
  • Be mindful of your reactions; take a deep breath before responding to stressful situations. 
  • Avoid negative thinking; Model behaviors of self-care instead of self-doubt for your children.
  • Be Aware: Children are spending more time online and it’s important to understand (and teach) the dangers of cyberbullying, social media addiction, and predators. 

If at any time you feel your child may have chronic anxiety or depression, please consult your healthcare provider. Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. If you need help finding treatment, visit MentalHealth.gov

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Online Learning

5 Ways to Help Kids Focus During Online Learning

Sit still. Pay attention… These seem like easy concepts, but these days while kids are attending school or an online class from their bedroom or kitchen table, it’s especially hard for kids to focus and listen to a teacher who is online.

ActivityHero sought out the guidance of Chaia May, an early childhood educator and writer. Her daughter was also struggling with ADHD and was “intensely fidgety and anxious” as a child. Chaia gives us five easy ways to use sensory integration to help kids overcome wiggles and wandering thoughts.

  1. Fiddle Away! Choose your “Tactile”

Give kids something in their hands to fiddle or squeeze. Very interestingly, pressure to the fingertips can help a child focus (imagine prayer beads) and also facilitates speech in speech-delayed children. Let them choose amongst things such as a double-balloon filled with cornstarch or a stress ball.

  1. Push with your legs!

Tie an elastic band around the four legs of their chair. As the child pushes against it with his or her feet, they work their ligaments and muscles. It also gives kids who like to rock in their chairs an alternative so that they don’t fall over!

  1. Sit on a bouncy chair 

We have the fewest nerve endings on our bottoms, so we are most passive when sitting. 

Use the bouncy ball chairs and build up their core muscles. If their core is strong, it helps their back and their shoulders. Supporting their weight helps keep their whole body strong and more alert. Also, a little bouncing break adds to vestibular stimulation. 

  1. Pedaling for mind power! 

Get one of the mini-bicycles that you can peddle that fit under your table or take breaks every half hour or so and do the “bicycle” on the floor. Or use training wheels to prop up a kids bike like this clever mom on Facebook. 

The magic of the bicycle is that when you are using opposing arms and legs, the mind cannot wander. 

5. Carry a load and feed the muscles and mind!

Give children a load of books to carry or a few chairs to push in between classes. While they push, they are working their ligaments and large muscles. It organizes and calms the whole body and makes them stronger as well.

These tips utilize sensory integration to help the brain stay alert, calm down, re-focus on one particular thing or cancel out extraneous information. 

Did you know there are three more senses in addition to the five senses we learned about in school? The first is tactile. It describes whatever sensory information is carried through our skin. Children can be either especially sensitive to touch (hypersensory) or not feel it at all (hyposensory.) Input into the tactile system can calm or stimulate as needed.

The second is proprioceptive. This describes what signals we get from receiving input into our ligaments and muscles (elbows, knees, for example.) Pushing into them can help children (particularly those who are lightweight and don’t get that input when they walk) regulate their nervous system and not bump into things or avoid things as they seek sensory input or avoid it, accordingly.

The third is vestibular. This is what we feel when we fight or resist gravity in any way: spin, twist, lean over, or rock. Children who love to spin, climb, or rock are self-stimulating to help organize their nervous system. Just leaning over can be enough to recalibrate and re-focus.

For more information about Chaia May and her books, visit LearningPlay.org. You can sign up for classes with Chaia May on ActivityHero. 

Categories
Friends of ActivityHero Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Parenting Resources

Building Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence in Children






Natalie is a high school teenager who believes she is not smart enough. Her parents noticed her self-esteem is low and want to help her regain her confidence.

Stories like Natalie’s are not uncommon in today’s high achieving environment.  Students may be influenced by their classmates and their perception that a subject is hard or challenging. In order to help Natalie, her parents reached out to certified WISDOM Coach, Aditi Verma. Together, they worked through stories and activities to find negative patterns and thoughts. Natalie and Aditi replaced them with new, positive thoughts and Natalie’s self-esteem and self-confidence grew. She was able to overcome the anxiety that she had for tests and even started getting A’s due to her newfound confidence. In fact, all of her grades improved.

Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which an individual views him/herself as inadequate, unlovable, and/or incompetent, according to Dr. Neuman in his post on Psychology Today. To learn more about how to help families improve their child’s outlook, we spoke to Aditi, who is also the co-founder of EmpowerandHelp.

What happens when a child compares themselves to others?

When kids continually assess whether they are “better than” or “less than” others, it creates either low self-esteem if they see themselves as “less than” or can create arrogance and entitlement when they see themselves as “better than”.  Parents and educators can discuss why differences are good and we need all different types of people with different gifts to thrive. Particularly when self-esteem is low, we can help them identify their special gifts and honor their uniqueness.

Why does self-esteem and self-confidence need to be taught?

Self-esteem and self-confidence are like the air we breathe; we need it to feel alive, happy and worthy. Children with high self-esteem have a higher value of themselves and their capabilities than those with lower self-esteem. They naturally have higher self-confidence in their abilities to do things and are more prone to try to new things and take risks, they feel loved, confident, accepted and heard. Even when they make mistakes or face failures they will know how to cope with them and move on.

What are ways that parents can help kids with self-esteem and self-confidence at home? For example, if my child says “I’m not good at math” is there a way to respond to this?

If a child says, “I’m not good at math”, dive deeper into why he or she feels that way?  Is he comparing himself to other kids who got better scores? Is he getting frustrated when he is not able to solve a problem even though he is at a higher level math?  Or there is something else?

Listen to the child’s needs and brainstorm ideas together to support that need and implement the solution that child feels more comfortable with.  It could be hiring a tutor, going to additional support classes, creating a routine at home for child and parent to sit together and practice some math, etc.

How does your course help kids understand these topics?

We teach skills through a fun short story.  Kids connect to different aspects of the stories, which helps them open up about challenges or questions that they may be struggling with.

We also create some real life scenarios that kids go through to understand how to apply what they learned.  Sometimes kids provide a scenario that they faced and as a group everyone provides feedback on how to handle that. By working with the instructor, kids develop an amazing problem solving attitude that they can use on their own.

Our goal is to increase self-esteem and self-confidence so kids feel capable of facing life’s challenges and don’t give up. They learn to achieve their goals, make progress, to help and give.

Register for the next course on Building Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Categories
Math Mindfulness Yoga

Expert Tips to Ease the Back-to-School Transition ~






Don’t just muddle through the first weeks of school. Use these clever strategies from after-school teachers to help kids (and you) hit the ground running!

By Laura Quaglio

back to school

The first weeks of school loom with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Even though it’s a relief to return to the predictability of the school calendar, it’s tough not to dread the free-form anxiety that can accompany any type of change. Did you get the right binders? Will they have friends in their class? Will they like their teachers … will you? And how exactly did you manage to cram homework, after school activities (even their favorites), bathtime, and books into an evening with an earlier bedtime? Until the rhythm of the new school year is firmly established, you’ve got a recipe for general crankiness at home. It’s understandable. Expected, even. But does it have to be this way? Maybe a little. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make the switch more smoothly.

“Any time you start a new routine or transition to something new, it can bring up fear, anxiety, worry … whatever word you want to use,” says Michelle Wing, founder of the San Francisco studio It’s Yoga, Kids, located in the Presidio. “This happens for kids especially, but also for parents.”

After school program directors like Michelle have some unique insights into helping kids switch gears, adjust to newness, and cultivate a positive attitude. That’s why we asked her to offer some advice on using the ancient practices of yoga and mindfulness to help kids gear up for school, settle down at bedtime, and generally de-stress. We also talked to Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU, about her ideas for rekindling kids’ enthusiasm for learning and their excitement for the activities (after school and otherwise) that will make their coming year great.

Find after school classes near you >>

Back-to-School Tip #1: Use Yoga to Settle Body and Mind

“Yoga engages your brain, your body, and your heart,” says Michelle. That’s why it’s particularly useful in helping people deal with strong emotions and stressful thoughts. Here are a few ways she suggests using it to ease the transition to back to school.

To settle down before bed: Aerobic exercise helps burn off excess energy when kids are having difficulty calming down and falling asleep. Michelle suggests Yoga Jacks (jumping from the Mountain Pose to the Star Pose quickly, like jumping jacks). Have kids do 10 at a time until they’re tired.

Another of her favorites is Mountain Climbers (hands on floor and “running” by alternating knees to chest). Michelle follows these mini aerobic sessions with some peaceful reading time before lights-out.

To relieve stress: Breathing-based exercises are a good fit here. First, spend some time in the Astronaut Pose (lay on floor with legs up the wall and hands on belly, noticing the belly rise and fall with each breath). Just 5 minutes or so may be enough to help them relax.

Also teach kids the Lion’s Breath. This means taking a big, huge inhalation while making the eyes really big, then exhaling fiercely while sticking out the tongue to the chin (resembling a panting dog). Repeat 3 times.

To wake up in the morning: To wake up in the morning: Before getting out of bed, parents can try Body Drumming, in which they tap every part of the child’s body, from the toes to the top of the head, to wake up the body and mind.

Next, they can take a Giant Breath, laying on the back with arms extended overhead, stretching the body from fingers to toes, as though you’re trying to touch opposite walls. Wiggle the fingers and toes, then roll to the side and place the feet on the floor to stand up. Then go brush those teeth!

Find kids’ yoga classes near you >>

Back-to-School Tip #2: Rekindle Kids’ Excitement for School

Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU says that the best way to prepare kids to “get back in the game” of learning is to engage their emotions. “Get them excited about the social aspects of learning,” she suggests. When school is in session, they’ll be able to reconnect with friends they didn’t see much in summer, and they can return to fall sports or after school programs that didn’t make it into their summer plans. “Getting kids excited about attending fun after school programs will likely make the back-to-school transition easier,” she says. Ask them what they’re looking forward to in the coming months – or what new activities they hope to try in autumn.

Also reminisce about academic successes from their previous grades. “Remind your students of the fun they had working hard and being challenged,” says Emily. Did they have a History Day project they were proud of? Maybe they created a fun music video about the water cycle for their science class. Think, too, about the upcoming school subjects that might pique their interest. If they love spatial activities like building or drawing, for instance, an upcoming year of geometry may be something to look forward to.

Back-to-School Tip #3: Start Hitting the Books — Informally

To get kids’ intellectual juices flowing, pay a visit to the library or bookstore. “Check out the books on math games and puzzles,” suggests Emily. Or books with fun and innovative approaches to whatever subjects they enjoy.

Don’t worry too much about workbooks or textbook review right now, she adds. “The procedural fluency and conceptual understanding will naturally come back with practice, and they will get plenty of that when they return to school,” explains Emily. “It’s excitement and interest that we need to cultivate.”

happy girl going back to school
Copyright: maximkabb / 123RF Stock Photo

Back-to-School Tip #4: Look into Enrichment Programs

If your student can’t get enough of math or enjoys playing with numbers, puzzles, and patterns in their free time, they might enjoy a program like the “math outreach and enrichment program” offered at San Francisco Math Circle. “We provide rich mathematical content in an engaging context, as well as much encouragement,” says Emily. “The students must bring the rest — energy, interest, and an openness to try new things.”

She adds that an enrichment program might be a great fit for students who once enjoyed a particular subject but now seem bored or frustrated by it. Maybe they aren’t challenged enough at school, or perhaps they had a negative experience in that subject with a particular teacher. You may be able to reignite your student’s love of an “old favorite” subject matter through after school enrichment.

See a list of after school activities near you >>

Categories
Mindfulness Yoga

Tired of Yelling at Your Kids? Mindfulness Tips for Families






Our kids sure can push our buttons! Here, a mom and mindfulness expert offers a 5-step strategy to break the cycle of scolding and find family peace.

By Laura Quaglio

“Mindfulness isn’t really for times when everyone’s happy. It’s a tool for dealing with breakdown,” says Michelle Wing, founder of the San Francisco studio It’s Yoga, Kids, located in the Presidio. “It allows us to push the pause button.” When something stressful happens, Michelle offers these steps: Stop! Breathe. Think. Choose love. Act.

Maybe your child just whacked her little brother because he had her toy. Or perhaps the kids are wrangling over the last cookie or control of the remote. When you feel that tension building up in your body, put Michelle’s steps into practice using the guidelines below. This process is just as useful kids as it is for adults, so teach it to your children, too!

1. Stop!

Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Pay attention to how stress is affecting you physically. Is it making your shoulders hunch and tighten? Your brow furrow? Your heart “squeeze”? Awareness is the first step in dealing with a tough situation in a mindful way, rather than falling victim to responding with a knee-jerk reaction.

2. Breathe.

Take deep breaths, focusing on exhaling forcefully. “I mean really, really big, exaggerated breaths. It takes three breaths — a full 15 minutes – for cortisol [a stress hormone] to settle down in the body,” says Michelle. Fun fact: This is why the British make tea when they’re facing a tense situation, says Michelle. Preparing tea “properly” takes 15 minutes, she explains, which gives everyone time to calm down.

3. Think.

“Accept the current situation without judgment,” says Michelle. It’s like being a reporter. You might say, “You hit your little brother because he had your toy and you feel angry.” If you did yell, you might add, “And I yelled at you, and that didn’t feel good, did it?” We need to state the facts about what just happened so we don’t let our brains trick us into thinking that “didn’t just happen,” she says. “We want to tell ourselves, ‘Oh, she didn’t really hit her brother on purpose.’ But she did, and now we have to deal with it and figure out why.”

4. Choose love.

Michelle says that this is not the time to admonish. “Every outburst and every stressful moment is deeply rooted in fear,” she asserts. “If you choose love, it will make your next actions more beneficial.” When our kids do something “wrong,” we often know why. More likely than not, it’s because one child feels like they’re not getting enough attention. Or they’re competing for resources like food or a toy. Think about the times that we, as adults, do something that’s not particularly nice, such as when we snap at our spouse. It’s not because we’re bad people, and neither are our kids. We’re just not getting something that we need, and it’s making us scared and upset.

5. Act.

Keeping step 4 in mind, decide what to do next. If a child did something wrong, reinforce the rule. We don’t hit. Hitting is not okay. Then ask: What is it you need? Or: Do you need a hug? Remind your child that if they need a hug or they want their toy back, they can just ask for it. Also try to handle future situations differently. Maybe you will tell your older child that you’ll always be sure to hug her before you pick up the baby. Or maybe you will ask your older child to help you give the baby a big hug. The more loved a child feels, the more secure they will be and the less they will act out in the future.

What if you’re the one who needs a little forgiving? Treat yourself with love, too, and try to figure out what it is that your inner, fearful child needs. Then ask for it. The more you feel loved, the happier you will be too.

Find “Mindful” Activities for Your Kids

Yoga classes offer plenty of additional benefits to mind, body, and soul. To find local after school yoga instruction for your children, visit ActivityHero.

Find kids’ yoga classes near you >>

It's Yoga, Kids
photo credit – ActivityHero provider: It’s Yoga, Kids