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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 >>

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Crafts Creative Arts Featured Posts Holiday Break Camps Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged School Breaks

Thanksgiving kids’ activities inspired by pumpkin spice






Get ready for Thanksgiving Week with these hands-on kids’ activities inspired by Pumpkin Spice and Thanksgiving turkeys.

Enjoy the smell of Pumpkin Spice and try one of these Thanksgiving project ideas with your kids. For a longer activity, find a 1/2 day or full day Thanksgiving camp or workshop.

What makes pumpkin spice smell so good? Betty Crocker‘s homemade recipe is combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Mix the spices together in a small bowl and let your senses take it all in.

Pumpkin slime

Kids love making and playing with slime and this recipe for pumpkin slime adds a Thanksgiving spin to it. Growing a Jeweled Rose has a simple recipe to make pumpkin slime that adds pumpkin spice to the glue and borax slime concoction.

Pumpkin slime from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Pumpkin pie spice play dough

Younger kids will enjoy this simple, homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Play Dough from Left Brain Craft Brain. With just a few ingredients from your kitchen, you can make this pumpkin spice scented play dough with your kids.

doh with leaves and pinecones
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Dough from Left Brain Craft Brain

Find Thanksgiving Break Camps >

Pumpkin spice latte for kids (coffee-free)

With this simple recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron, pumpkin spice lattes aren’t just for grownups or coffee drinkers.

Kids Pumpkin Spice Latte from Chelseas Messy Apron

Turkey arts and crafts

A simple paper plate is the center of this Turkey art from Lakeshore Learning.

Turkey art from Lakeshore Learning

Thanksgiving camp

Full day or half day camps can keep your kids engaged and busy over Thanksgiving week. Many camps have special themes for Thanksgiving Camp.

Find Thanksgiving Break Camps >

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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. 

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Adventure/Outdoors Biking Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Play/Outdoor Super Activities for Super Kids

Biking: 6 Practical Tips for Families






Whether you love a leisurely ride or a real off-road adventure, find a type of biking that appeals to your family. Here are 6 practical tips to get kids started with family-friendly biking.

Source: Flickr

By the ActivityHero Team with Guest Amanda Wilks

Kids are often tempted to spend hours of their unstructured play time glued to electronic devices. Instead, why not encourage them to go out for a ride? With many benefits for the body and mind, biking is a healthy outdoor activity that can be done at almost any age. Looking to try it out? Here’s expert advice on sizing, types, gear, classes, and specialized activities like mountain biking.

1. Get Fitted

The most important step is to measure your child’s Inseam. A bicycle inseam (or leg length) is not the same as a clothing inseam.

To measure, grab a book and a tape measurer. The child should stand with her back against a wall, spreading her feet about 6 inches apart, either barefoot or in socks. Place a book between her legs, close to the crotch to mimic the bike seat.

Measure from the top of the book (that is, the spine) down to the floor. Choosing a slightly larger bike is fine in order to leave a little room to grow into. Avoid choosing a size which is too far off the mark for your child, which would impede his ability to learn correct riding habits and even expose him to greater danger.

2. Choose the Right Bike

Depending on your interests, there are three main styles of bike: road, mountain, and “hybrid” (a blend between the two), depending on your interests.

If you’re interested in mountain biking, according to MountainBikeReviewed, you can easily find and buy sturdy bikes for less than $300, like the Mongoose Statis Comp, the Villano Blackjack 2.0 or the Schwinn High Timber. Other great mountain bike brands which are geared towards kids are Spawn, Cleary, Early Rider, Pello and Stampede. Many mountain bikes are, contrary to opinion, quite cost-effective.

For road bikes, your local bike shop should have recommendations. Online retailers like Amazon will often have many customer reviews posted. There are also online outfits like BikeExchange if you prefer doing research online.

No matter what style you go with, when the child stands over the bike, there should be a 1-2 “ space between the crotch and the top bar of the bike. Also, “a beginner should be able to plant both feet flat on the ground when getting off the bike, which ensures safety and helps with confidence,” recommends Nick Pavlakis of Pedalheads, a learn-to-ride bike camp based in Seattle, Portland, Denver and Chicago.

Ideally, the right bike choice should be made based on the wheel size, not the frame size. Use the chart below:

Wheel Size 12″ —> Age 2 -3 —> Height 2’10 – 3’4

Wheel Size 14″ —> Age 3 -4 —> Height 3’1 – 3’7

Wheel Size 16″ —> Age 4-5 —> Height 3’7 – 4’0 

Wheel Size 20’ —> Age 5-8 —> Height 4’0 – 4’5

Wheel Size 24′ —>  Age 8-11 —> Height  4’5 – 4’9 

Wheel Size 26′ —> Age 11+ —> Height 4’9

These are rough approximations and, since every child is unique, you should use these numbers only as a guide.

3. Get Essential Gear

A good helmet which protects the brain is the single most important safety feature you must have. Make sure it fits, covers the entirety of the forehead and is properly ventilated. According to Pavlakis of Pedalheads, “research shows that up to 90% of fatal bicycle crashes result from head trauma,” so using a properly fitted and certified helmet will protect the head and brain from damage, which might save your child’s life. Note that helmets are mandatory for children under the age of 16 in most areas. “Check that there is no more than a two-finger gap between your eyebrows and the front part of the helmet,” advises Pavlakis.

Layer up with season-appropriate clothing. In summer, light clothing with good arm and leg coverage will protect from sun, and in cooler temperatures, don’t forget gloves, warm socks, and a wind-proof shell.

For urban and suburban biking, invest in a solid bicycle lock.

If you want to take the whole family along but have younger children who aren’t yet able to pedal on their own steam, the most common options are: Trailers (a wheeled carriage which attaches in back of a bicycle), Pedal-less Bikes (also called Balance Bikes, where kids push off the ground to move forward), and Trail-a-Bikes (a seat plus single-wheel that attaches to a bicycle, allowing pedaling without steering capabilities).

4. Find Classes or Camps

Classes and camps will generally cover the four basic rules of bike riding:

  • Riding in a straight line without deviating from it;
  • Looking back without losing balance or swerving;
  • Stopping the bike using the brakes, taking into account the surroundings;
  • Good speed control and adapting it in accordance with the terrain.

After mastering these basics, group classes are a great way for kids to learn important skills like giving hand signals, negotiating hilly terrain, understanding road signs and dangers, following traffic flow, and practicing proper spacing between riders.

 Find biking camps and classes near me > >

As a side note, older kids will benefit from learning some everyday maintenance routines, like checking the bike tire’s air pressure, putting the chain back together, and testing the brakes, often covered in more advanced classes or camps.

More inclined to teach on your own? Here’s a helpful guide.  Remember to read up on safety do’s and don’ts. If you get to the stage where a child is nearly ready to remove the training wheels, Pavlakis advises parents to take their time: “Don’t rush the process. Taking the training wheels off too early can become a negative experience for the child and may lead to resistance in learning.”

5. Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a sport that is growing rapidly in popularity by offering excitement, challenge, and unique outdoor settings. To get kids started with mountain biking, you should remember that at the outset, your child might not have the physical endurance or the attention span needed to finish a certain route. Try increasing trip difficulty and length gradually to make the learning process smoother.

First, make sure your child is very capable and comfortable traversing flat, easy terrain. Then transition to doubletrack dirt trails with varying degrees of difficulty and topography. Plan ahead to reduce the chance of accidents. Initially choose short, fun routes that you know well and that you feel your kid can complete with relative ease. Have fun increasing the level of difficulty over time!

6. Find Focus, Stay Safe

Pavlakis recommends that beginning bikers “maintain focus and awareness at all times,” of the conditions on their road or trail to reinforce safe habits. Biking is a perfect way to leave behind the distractedness of everyday life and be more fully engaged in the present. Have fun!

On a roll? Check updated schedules and reviews of popular biking camps and classes in your area on ActivityHero.

About the author

Amanda Wilks is a writer, veteran MTB rider and sports advocate. Her passion for mountain biking dates back to her childhood, when she would join her dad every weekend for a quick ride uphill. She is now addicted to the sport and she never misses a trail. Learn more about Amanda on Twitter.

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Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

QuaranTEEN

A resource for family-focused entertainment and positivity during COVID-19. The blog, created by two Bay Area teens, is 100% free and all donations benefit the non-profit, Frontline Foods.

Two Bay Area high-schoolers, Katherine Kudriavtsev and Sarah Emberling, cooped up at home and stuck in quarantine, decided to use their time for something other than scrolling through TikTok. That’s how QuaranTEEN was born, a nonprofit creative entertainment platform for teenagers and parents to utilize during the quarantine. QuaranTEEN was created for the purpose of sharing people’s stories, spreading positivity, and providing a way for people to stay in touch and connected despite the shelter-in-place.

“COVID-19 is not only a pandemic, but also a psychological pandemic. Lots of people are feeling stressed, scared, lonely, or hopeless, because of the health or economic problems caused by COVID. We created QuaranTEEN to combat these feelings of negativity. We wanted to find a way to give everyone a creative outlet and safe space to cope with their feelings,” Founder Katherine Kudriavtsev states.

QuaranTEEN is a website that contains many fun and interactive features such as a teen blog, a community forum, entertainment quizzes, as well as a pen-pal exchange.

“Being stuck at home for months has been really hard: I think most, if not all, teenagers miss being able to go out with their friends and meet new people. We wanted to include a Pen Pal project on QuaranTEEN to give teens a way to make new friends from their very own couch, a way to continue to socialize but still adhere to quarantine and social distancing laws,” says founder Katherine Kudriavtsev.

Outside of being a platform for teens, QuaranTEEN also aims to provide relief for working parents by producing multilingual reading videos to entertain younger children, as well as a separate blog page dedicated to helping parents share tips and advice regarding childcare. There have been over 20 reading videos featured on QuaranTEEN’s “Kids and Parents” page, in English, French, and Russian, providing entertainment to children of all languages and cultures. 

“As much as everyone loves children, there are times when you just need a break, parents included! Our reading videos were made just for that! A quick, fun, and educational way to entertain your child to give you your well deserved break,” says Founder Sarah Emberling.

The Kids/Parent Page and the Teen Blog Page also give teens an interactive opportunity to volunteer as blog writers or readers for the site.

Founders Katherine Kudriavtsev and Sarah Emberling add on, “We have already received numerous amounts of teen volunteers: readers and blog writers from all over the world, reaching as far as from the Americas, to Europe, to Asia, but we are always looking for more people to become content creators on our site and expand our team! We welcome anyone who’s interested, passionate about writing, having their voice heard, or simply wants to do their part in helping people during this difficult time, to apply and join our QuaranTEAM.”

Our volunteers share their personal reasons for joining the team, “QuaranTEEN reminds us that there is more to this pandemic than just statistics and death counts. At its heart, the thing that is going to get us through this is people. Not statistics. Not feel-good advertisements. Not corporations. People. By writing for QuaranTEEN, I hope to be able to be that reminder. A reminder that behind all the sorrow and death, people are still there, ready to reach out and offer their support,” says Talia Ostacher, blog writer for QuaranTEEN and incoming senior at Henry M. Gunn High School.  

Fellow blog writer Julianna Chang agrees, “During this time, it’s essential that teens have a creative outlet to post, share their feelings, and interact with other teens. I often find myself bored and wanting to do something useful, but I can’t seem to find the right place to go and spend my time.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity overall to help others during this time in a unique way,” Los Gatos student Priyanka Pulikeshi says.

Reader and Blog Writer, Clementine Devaux of Menlo Park High School states, “I really love the website and how there is so much to offer: quizzes, blogs, and more! It’s really fun to be apart of this, so I can help as many people as I can during quarantine, whether it be giving people ideas for things to do to cure their boredom or donating.”

Although QuaranTEEN is 100% free for use, QuaranTEEN accepts donations through their GoFundMe. All donation proceeds go directly to supporting Frontline Foods, a non-profit organization aiming to aiding local small businesses/restaurants that have been hit hard by shelter-in-place measures, as well as feeding front line healthcare workers. QuaranTEEN’s mission is to raise as much money for Frontline Foods as possible, to help support local Bay Area businesses, as well as feeding the essential heroes who continue to work in this time. The recently published QuaranTEEN has already raised $300 for Frontline Foods, and is aiming to get to $1,000 by the end of the month.

“Frontline Foods is an amazing non-profit organization. It helps keep small businesses from being economically destroyed and shut down by the pandemic, and it helps feed and boost the morale of essential workers, all at once! If you’ve enjoyed using QuaranTEEN, like our initiative and site, or have the means donate, it would mean so much to us if you could help us reach our goal of $1,000 for Frontline Foods by donating to QuaranTEEN’s Go Fund Me!” Founders Katherine Kudriavtsev and Sarah Emberling say.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Vacations

5 Tips When Kids Won’t Listen






Does it feel impossible to get your child’s attention? Does your child tune you out when you have something important to say? When you are frustrated because your child is not listening, try these 5 tips to make communicating with kids more productive and get kids to really listen.

By Wendy Chou

Susan Stone Belton is a noted author and speaker on family and parenting issues. Her book, Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk, has excellent advice for saving our sanity, one day at a time. Here are some of the tips we learned from the book.

1. Talk less

Fewer words will have more impact and staying power. Remember the saying about drinking from a firehose? Kids are better able to process directions when you prepare your main point in advance and stay laser-focused. For many parents, this doesn’t come naturally. But that’s OK, because –guaranteed — you can get in a lot of practice! Keep trying. And do keep the tone neutral or positive, rather than negative.

2. Listen more

Role model the way you want your kids to listen to you. Don’t interrupt or be dismissive. “If we want our kids to listen to us, we need to listen more. We need to give our kids our full attention. We need to feel that what they are saying is important. We need to be patient and listen to their entire story,” says Stone Belton. She recommends a strategy called “Listen and acknowledge; then respond.” With a billion things running through a parent’s head at any given moment, it’s easy to tune out the things our kids are telling us. Monkey see, monkey do.

Kids who feel heard are more likely to reciprocate. So slow down and really absorb what they are saying before responding. A thoughtful response shows a child that what they said matters to you. The child may not be able to move past their own thoughts until they feel heard and understood. It also prepares them to listen to you.

3. Use non-verbal cues

When children are absorbed in their task and don’t respond to your voice, try another approach. Getting close and putting a hand on their shoulder makes a big difference in getting someone’s attention.

With younger children, get down on one knee to be at their eye level, which can create a better connection.

4. Seek out opportunities for communication

Family schedules can get packed, so making connections with each other sometimes needs a little forethought. The classic example is nightly conversations around the dinner table. But even if you’re on the go, parents can still connect with kids in the car — say, on the way to soccer practice or choir rehearsal. Other kids may enjoy talking about the day’s events just before bedtime.

Know your own kids and when they feel most comfortable opening up. Some kids open up more if you’re not even there — for instance, through text messages or written notes — because these forms of communication are more neutral and less emotional. Make a mental note of what works for your family. These everyday moments, especially added up over time, are valuable!

5. Schedule in low-tech “no phones” time

Sometimes all we need is a digital break to be able to reconnect with each other. For some pointers, check ActivityHero’s blog post on how to turn off distracting smartphones.

Susan Stone Belton is a parenting/family coach and author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her website is: http://susanstonebelton.com/

Families: ActivityHero is your convenient online destination for kids’ after-school activities and summer camps. Browse schedules, read reviews, and book your whole summer with our easy registration form.

Wendy Chou is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Kitchen Science: Easy and Fun Experiments Straight from the Cupboard






You don’t need spendy science kits to have fun with your kids and teach them (or learn with them) about science at home. Never fear – you don’t need special tools or any deep knowledge of chemistry to take on these projects. Your kids will be thrilled to be doing science with you and you can be excited that they’re doing something educational and spending a few minutes away from video games, texting and TV. There are endless possibilities for at-home science or online science classes to do experiments with things you already have in your cupboards or that you can buy for less money.

Fantastic Foam

One bar of basic Ivory soap (must be this brand)
Microwave safe plate

The experiment:

Unwrap the bar of Ivory soap and place it in the center of the plate. Turn the microwave on and just watch what happens. The soap will begin to bubble and puff up, then will expand to 10 times or more its original size. It’s incredible to watch. Expect a lot of oohs and ahhs from the kiddos. Once it’s splendidly large, turn off the microwave and open the door, but don’t touch! It will be hot.

Wait a few moments then use a pot holder to pull out the plate. Wait about 5-10 minutes for it to cool then your kids can touch it, break off chunks and even wash their hands with it. While they wonder at the feel of exploded soap, you can explain the science behind what they saw and are now feeling. The soap will get a bit harder once it cools down, but it will stay in the shape it expanded to.

The science behind the phenomena:

Ivory soap is whipped up with air, that’s why it’s so much lighter than other brands of soap. The microwaves interact with the water molecules inside the air pockets trapped in the soap. The water molecules turn to steam and that increases pressure on the soap and breaks down the outside. It then puffs out for the same reason that popcorn kernels do when they’re microwaved. Cool, huh?

Breathless Balloon

What you’ll need:

Round balloons
White vinegar
Baking soda
Twist ties
Empty 16 oz water bottles
Funnel

The experiment:

Using the funnel, have your kids pour two tablespoons of vinegar into the balloon. Secure it tightly with a twist tie close to the lump of filling. Next, rinse your funnel and use it to fill the water bottle with a cup of vinegar. For littler kids, you can do this prep work for them or help out with the sloppy parts, but ages five and up should be able to do all this on their own.

Stretch the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle with the twist tie still in place. Once it’s snug in place, undo the twist tie and let the baking soda fall into the vinegar and watch the balloon inflate as if by magic. Your kids will be amazed. Once it’s done, they can remove it and knot it off and it will stay inflated just as if you blew it up with your mouth.

The science behind the phenomena:

Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When combined, there’s a chemical reaction that breaks apart both original substances and forms new ones. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and vinegar is acetic acid and water. This chemical reaction leaves you with water, salt and carbon dioxide. It’s the carbon dioxide that fills the balloon. Recognize CO2? That’s the stuff we breathe out.

Elephant Toothpaste

Hydrogen peroxide (regular will work but for a bigger reaction, get 6% from the beauty store)
Liquid dish soap
Food coloring
Packet of yeast
Funnel
Bowl
Cake or foil pan
Plastic gloves
Empty 16 oz water bottle

The experiment:

Use gloves to keep peroxide off your kids’ skin and make sure your kids don’t get it in their eyes. Use the funnel to pour ½ cup peroxide into the water bottle, add ¼ cup dish liquid and a few drops of food coloring. Gently swirl the bottle to blend the ingredients. In the bowl, mix the packet of yeast with a bit of warm water and leave it for 5-7 minutes until it’s foamy and active.

Put the bottle into the center of the pan to control any mess and then use the funnel to pour the active yeast mix into the peroxide/soap mix. Then stand back and be amazed. You’ll get a foam that expands up and out of the bottle like a gush of toothpaste out of a tube. Standard peroxide will give a thinner foam. Let the kids touch the foam and bottle to feel the heat that comes with the chemical reaction!

The science behind the phenomena:

Hydrogen peroxide has lots of oxygen in it and when you added the yeast, it served as a catalyst that remove the oxygen really fast and created tons of bubbles. Because it also produced heat, it’s called an exothermic reaction. The products left over are just soap, water and oxygen, so it’s safe for your kids to touch – but don’t let them get it in their mouth or eyes.

Clean up tips

When disposing of your science experiments, you can keep the Ivory soap around, just chip it up and put it in a bag for hand washing or toss it in the trash if you don’t want to keep it. The baking soda and vinegar from the breathless balloon can go straight down the drain – they’re harmless. The elephant toothpaste leftovers can also go down the drain since it’s just soap and water.

And, you never know, your kitchen science experiments may inspire one of your kids to be the next Neil deGrasse Tyson or Mary Leakey. If these science experiments are a big hit, there’s no need to stop here. Check out online science classes or science camps for more at-home projects and experiments.

Find online classes in science and technology  >>

Categories
Crafts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged School Breaks

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts For Kids

Charm your kids with these festive St. Patrick’s Day crafts and activities. With a little luck, your kids will be busy for hours!

St. Patrick's Day Crafts for Kids - Leprechaun Binoculars - ActivityHero

Upcyling Crafts

One of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day crafts are these adorable binoculars made out of simple household products. All you need is a couple empty toilet paper holders, colorful craft paper, kid-friendly scissors and tape. Your kids will be off searching for leprechauns in no time!

Turn Art Projects into an Annual Tradition

Another fun and easy St. Patrick’s Day tradition is to build a leprechaun trap. The best part is that there is no wrong way to create your magical contraption. An old shoe box, an empty jar or even an empty paper towel roll can be upcyled and reused. Don’t forget to add some lucky charms or gold coins as bait for your elusive leprechaun!

Color Crafts for Kids

St. Patrick's Day crafts and activities - ActivityHero

This colorful art project by CraftyMorning is perfect for all ages. Create a St. Patrick’s Day themed twirling rainbow out of a paper plate. Younger children can use crayons, markers or paint and be assisted with the cutting by a parent or sibling. Don’t stop with just one – create a whole collection for home or porch decorations.

Easy Crafts with Household Items

St. Patrick's Day crafts and activities - ActivityHero

Reuse an old cereal box to create a fun leprechaun hat with just a few other easy crafting supplies like glue, craft paper and paint. St. Patrick’s a colorful holiday, so make it your own with glitter, stickers or ribbon.

How to make St. Patrick’s Day Slime

St. Patrick's Day crafts and activities - ActivityHero

Slime can be a fun craft and science project to make at home with your kids. For St. Patrick’s Day slime, add green or gold and glitter for a festive look.

According to Little Bins for Little Hands, “Mixtures, substances, polymers, cross-linking, states of matter, elasticity, and viscosity are just a few of the science concepts that can be explored with homemade slime!”

Hands-On St. Patrick’s Day Activities

If your child is a little older or not really into crafts, check out these 6 fun St. Patrick’s Day science experiments for kids from our friends at ScienceBuddies.org.

Categories
Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Comics to Learn About Science & Real-Life Scientists

A new comic reader app engages kids in stories about famous scientific discoveries.

Kids love comics, and while more and more kids are getting their information from digital devices, most kids’ content is purely for entertainment. Tinyview brings wholesome content to kids in the form of an app, and a comic series on the lives of scientists, called IN SCIENCE WE TRUST. We had a chance to ask one of their founders, Rajesh Lalwani, about the inspiration behind their brainchild.

What is Tinyview?

Print comics typically use the zig-zag pattern that can be hard to translate to smaller devices like phones. Tinyview app solves this by allowing readers to read comics by scrolling up and down on their mobile devices.

What type of content can we see on Tinyview?

Our first comic series is called IN SCIENCE WE TRUST, and it has fun stories about real life scientists and the work they have done. The first comic was written by my middle-schooler son, Rishi, and I — on the life of Nikola Tesla. Rishi loves comics and has read almost all Tintin and Asterix comics — multiple times. We created stories of Archimedes, Nikola Tesla, Ada Lovelace, and many other scientists to let kids have fun while reading.

How can reading stories of scientists help kids?

We decided to start with stories about scientists because learning about the scientists behind inventions piques the curiosity in kids and makes them more open to learning science at school. Once they have read how Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current motor, suddenly terms like AC or DC don’t seem so boring in the classroom!

We wanted to make science more personable so kids would know not just about the invention, but how the scientist created it. Kids may know Archimedes for density and his Eureka moment, but learning about how he ran through the streets naked when he had his moment makes the story more interesting and can help with remembering it. Our stories encourage readers to overcome challenges in their lives and let them know that they are capable of doing great things even when things may get tough.

Do you have any stories about women scientists?

Absolutely! We already have stories of Ada Lovelace and Mary Anning. An interesting fact about Mary Anning, a fossil collector and palaeontology, is that she was not allowed to present her findings because she was a woman. We are working on the stories of Lise Meitner, Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, Chien-Shiung Wu, and many more.

What age group is Tinyview Comics appropriate for?

Our comics are appropriate for children of all ages. If you have younger kids, Tinyview Comics are ideal for you to read to them — comics have pictures and fewer words. Children aged 10 and above may get the most out of the comics since they will have heard about the scientists in school and have more background information to supplement the comics.

Where can we get Tinyview Comics?

Tinyview Comics is a free app that can be downloaded on the app store. Go to tinyview.com and scroll to the bottom for download link or enter your phone number for a text with the link to download.

Do you have any questions or feedback you want to share with Tinyview? Perhaps you have a favorite scientist you want them to write a story about? Feel free to reach out to Tinyview at [email protected] — they are all ears and excited to hear from you.

For more ideas on camps and classes for kids, you’ll find science camps and classes and art camps and classes on ActivityHero.

Categories
Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

A News Podcast Just for Kids: KidNuz

While you shuttle the kids to and from school and their activities, podcasts are a great way to be entertained or learn something new. KidNuz is a daily news podcast for kids and we had a chance to ask one of their founders, Stephanie Kelmar, about their inspiration.

What is KidNuz and how long has it been around?

KidNuz is the first daily news podcast created for kids age 6-13. It features stories on current events and politics, entertainment, science, sports and more – followed by the KidNuz quiz. We launched the podcast last year to inspire thought-provoking conversations between parents and their children. As four busy moms with 12 children between us, we are committed to giving kids the top quality journalism they deserve. Five minutes of news that informs without bias and educates without opinion.

What gave you the idea to start a news podcast for kids?

Several years ago, my now 11 year old son began to show interest in reading the newspaper at breakfast. Sadly, the front page often contained images and/or headlines related to death and dying, wars and natural disasters. Often, I found myself tucking the newspaper away and had nothing else to offer him. As every parent knows, the news that populates today’s newspapers, cable TV stations and radio broadcasts is not appropriate for children. In fact, kids between the ages of six and thirteen have been wildly underserved when it comes to engaging, age-appropriate news and information. My kids are now 9 and 11 they listen to KidNuz everyday on the way to school.

Why is age-appropriate news important?

Kids love having information and sharing what they know with their peers. Parents need a trusted resource that’s won’t expose their kids to news that’s scary and unpredictable. Not only is adult-oriented news not geared to kids intellectually, it could damage them emotionally. According to a 2017 report by Common Sense Media, “News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News”, 63% of kids say “the news makes them feel sad or depressed, angry or afraid.” As kids can easily feel scared by the violent images they see and stories they hear, they deserve a newscast all their own.

How can learning about the news help kids?

Elementary school is a time when kids begin to dig into the world around them and a prime time when parents can begin to safely expose them to worldly events. And as former television news journalists, we understand the importance of presenting unbiased information. KidNuz is nonpartisan, but parents don’t have to be. Our podcast contains daily, digestible nuggets of news that parents can use to help their kids develop critical thinking skills. One of our goals is to help create the next generation of engaged citizens. Why? Because kids are curious, the world is fascinating and knowledge is power.

Tell Us Something You’ve Learned Since Starting KidNuz

Erik Burmeister, the Superintendent of Menlo Park City School District, and his son are regular KidNuz listeners. In fact, Burmeister says that if he fails to play the podcast within the first two minutes of getting into the car in the morning, he’s “quickly scolded.” His son also really enjoys the KidNuz quiz and listens intently (and quietly!) in the car, so he can get the most correct answers. In addition to enjoying the podcast himself, Burmeister has identified an important educational value to the podcast: “What listening to and discussing Kidnuz with my son has reminded me is that listening is a skill we can practice. Listening is a skill we can hone. If we can find tools that make building listening skills fun and engaging…why not?”

Where Can We Listen to KidNuz?

Our podcast is free and you can find it on our website www.kidnuz.com. And since we know parents are busier than ever, you can sign up to receive a daily reminder by text or email. KidNuz is also available on Stitcher and Radio Public or you can subscribe on Google Play and iTunes.

Find kids writing and journalism camps and classes

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
Academics After-School Activities Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Sports Super Activities for Super Kids Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Organizing Hacks Perfect for Back to School






Prepping for back-to-school means juggling after-school activities and loads more stuff. These 5 organization hacks will keep your family organized and ready for anything.

By Jillian Chamberlain

happy girl with organized folders

Where are my shin guards? Did you sign that permission slip? I can’t find my sheet music!  When you’re trying to get kids out the door and to their after school activities, time is at a premium. Taking a few minutes now to modify your organization process can help streamline things when you’re in a rush. Here are some of our favorite ideas from parents and caregivers who’ve been there, organized that.

1. “Stuff Station” — The One Place to Keep Everything

Photo Credit: IAmNotTheBabysitter.com

There’s so much to keep track of during back-to-school season, it gets overwhelming. When school is back in session, so are all of those music lessons, soccer practices, and martial arts classes. As parents of active children, you are guaranteed to be dealing with more STUFF. How do you keep it all straight and teach your children to be responsible for their things on any given day? Keep it all in one place, and color-code it! Your kids’ activity station can come in many different shapes and forms, but here is one ‘stuff station’ idea we thought was appealing to the eye and highly functional. Check out this and more organization hacks from IAmNotTheBabysitter.com

2. There’s a Bag for That

Source: Momtastic.com

Once you create a ‘stuff station’ for homework, permission slips and projects are sure to add a hook for an after-school activity drawstring bag. If you have a child with a lot of various interests, consider making an individual drawstring bag that is designated as the one place to keep any and all equipment for each sport or lesson. On Mondays and Wednesdays, your child knows to grab the yellow drawstring bag with their shin guards and cleats for soccer. On Thursday the red bag is ready at the door for martial arts. Momtastic.com has a great DIY tutorial for customizable drawstring bags. So simple!

3. Car Homework Station

Homework happens. If there’s one thing to dread with the start of the new school year, it’s the renewed battle over nightly homework assignments. Convincing kids to sit down and do their work is one of the hardest parts of a parent’s job. One way to get them excited about homework is a comfortable and creative space dedicated to them…even if that is in the car. Consider creating a homework station in the car so that your little ones can knock out some homework while you’re on the road.

4. After-School Snacks on the Go

Kids start school relatively early in the morning each day. That means a big gap between lunchtime and after-school snack time. Kids need to refuel, and every parent knows how difficult it can be dealing with cranky, “hangry” youngsters. StuffedSuitcase.com has made it easy to steer clear of junk foods and other unhealthy quick fixes by gathering some easy-to-assemble snacks to keep ready in the car. After-school snacks can be healthy, fun and mobile!

5. Organize Your After-School Schedule, Too!

Searching ActivityHero on a phoneActivityHero can help you find local activities that work with your child’s calendar — and nurture his or her interests! Whether your child likes to dance, sports, outdoor recreation, music, or computers, ActivityHero makes browsing and registering easy.

Getting organized is about clearing the space and time for your family members to meet their needs and find focus, in whatever way works for you!

Search for after-school classes near you >>

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Play/Outdoor Super Activities for Super Kids

7 Clever Ways to Keep Kids Cool on Hot Days






The best summertime activities help your kids beat the heat while having a blast. Here are 7 fun ideas to try out!

By Madison Lee

Everyone loves summer: clear blue skies, long days, and the sun shining brightly. But sometimes the heat is just too strong, and what would’ve been a beautiful day to go to the park turns out to be a sweaty, sitting-on-the-couch, blasting-the-air-conditioner kind of day.

On days like these, what’s better than keeping everyone cool and entertaining your kids at the same time? We found 7 fun ways to keep kids cool when summer heats up.

1. Make Creative, Wacky Popsicles

There’s nothing better than a cold popsicle on a super hot day. Instead of just freezing juice, test out these cool DIY popsicle recipes! This one from One Little Project is made of gummy bears and Sprite, and this ice cream popsicle bar from Jacquelyn Clark is perfect if you love cookies & cream. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, try out Got Chocolate’s chocolate covered frozen banana – it’ll be fun for kids to pick out their favorite toppings!

2. Play Water Balloon Baseball

http://www.overstuffedlife.com/2015/06/water-balloon-baseball.html

If your kids want a game to play with their friends, this water balloon baseball from Overstuffed is the perfect solution. Fill up water balloons, grab a wiffle bat, and let the game begin! Kids will get splashed and have fun competing to see who can hit the most balloons. A modified version of this, if your kids aren’t baseball fans, would be to hang balloons with string and have the kids play piñata with water balloons.

3. Paint the Fence/Ground With Water

http://happyhooligans.ca/

This is a mess free, cost free activity for the artist in your kids. You might have some old paint brushes and rollers lying around, and then all you need is a bucket of water! Happy Hooligans’ version suggests that kids try covering the entire fence before it all evaporates, or they can take a more creative approach with some pictures/words.

4. Cool Off in a Homemade Backyard “Kidwash”

http://blessmyweeds.com/

Bless My Weed’s take on a traditional carwash might take a little more setup, but the result will be well worth it. Her backyard kidwash requires PVC pipes, sponges, and tarps. There’s room to be creative with setting it up, and your kids can help build it. This will definitely keep everyone cool!

5. Engineer a Water Wall

If your kids are crafty and like to design/build, this is the perfect summer activity!. Basically, you use zip ties to secure different items to a peg board, and pour water down your path. Teaching Mama made a pool noodle water wall, which is cool because you can race marbles down the noodles. You can also take inspiration from Things to Share and Remember’s recycled-objects water wall. Hers is made of tons of random old plastic containers you might have lying around. It’s totally hands on and there are no rules — just have fun with it!

6. Set Up Water Gun Races

This Grandma is Fun reinvents the classic squirt gun carnival game in her own backyard with these squirt gun races. All you have to do is hang 2 cups from string around your backyard; across the pool makes the race more challenging, and makes kids jump in the cold water. Kids can race each other pushing the cups all the way to the end of the course using only a water gun.

7. Play Angry Birds With Water Balloons

http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/

Kids love this popular app, and now they can play it in real life! No Time for Flashcards created this water balloon Angry Birds game with her son. It couldn’t be simpler: draw out some pigs in chalk, fill water balloons, use a sharpie to draw on angry bird faces, and fire away! This game will be entertaining and beat the heat for sure.

Need ideas for indoor summer camps to keep kids busy and cool? Shop ActivityHero to find camps near you now.

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged swimming

Swim Lessons for Kids: 4 Reasons Every Child Should Learn






swimming lessons for kids
Photo by Flickr user Crieff Hydro Hotel

Swim safely this summer! Learn to recognize the 5 danger signs of drowning and find out how swim lessons promote safety, self-confidence, and more.

By The ActivityHero Team

Swimming is great way for kids to beat the summer heat. Before you hit the beach or pool, first teach children how to be safe in or near the water–including learning to swim. Here are 4 solid reasons to start kids on swimming lessons.

1. Safety

Since drowning is the second highest cause of death involving children ages 1 through 14, kids need to learn how to be safe in or near the water. With formal lessons, children learn how to swim in a safe environment, and are taught swimming strokes and basic water safety techniques like floating and treading water. For kids aged 1 to 4, a U.S. study found that risk of drowning decreased by over 80% if children had taken swimming lessons. If your child will be in or near water, make sure their lessons prepare them to do these basic life-saving skills:

  • Tread water or float for at least 60 seconds.
  • Turn in a circle and be able to locate an exit.
  • Swim at least 25 yards before exiting the water.
  • Pull themselves out of the water without a ladder present.
  • Jump into the water until fully submerged and be able to return to the surface.

Children should also be coached in common-sense safe behaviors including walking instead of running when near water, only swimming when an adult can supervise, and being aware of weather and environmental conditions.

Find kids’ swim lessons and swim camps near me > >

Meanwhile, kids aren’t the only ones who need education about water safety. Many parents think, “that couldn’t happen to my family” or “as long as there are many adults present, we’ll be fine”. Both of these are dangerous misconceptions. In fact, three-quarters of drowning deaths take place in private pools. And up to half of all kids who drown are less than 25 yards away from an adult when the drowning occurs (source). Remember, drowning children can’t yell for help or wave their arms to get attention. A child who is making no noise might be in serious distress.

To recognize the true signs of drowning, and for much more safety advice, visit this comprehensive safety guide by Moms Love Best.

Source: Moms Love Best

For parents of young children, remember these water safety guidelines:

  • Stay within an arm’s reach of your child
  • 1:1 supervision is best
  • At a party, designate an adult whose sole focus is watching the pool or hire a lifeguard

2. Strength & Fitness

Learning a swim stroke can help with gross motor skills and basic coordination. Swimming can help a child build all-around muscle strength in arms and legs.  

Once they learn to swim, a child has a skill that can be used to improve fitness throughout his or her life. Since swimming is a low-impact activity, it puts less stress on joints while providing a wonderful aerobic activity. Swimming can improve both strength and cardiovascular health in one activity.

3. Social Development & Confidence

Most swim lessons take place in groups, and as they learn to swim, children are also learning social skills such as observing peers and learning to wait their turn. Another benefit: socialization for water activities, as children learn the difference between acceptable behavior and rough play that might hurt someone else. That distinction teaches children responsibility for their actions. A third factor supporting social development is that children who really enjoy swimming will continue on to activities such as swim teams, in the process developing friendships which may last a long time.

Parents, check our blog post on ways to cope with the special situation where your child has a definite fear of the water. Once they move past this stage, being able to thrive in a new, unfamiliar environment is a building block for confidence. Children of all ages can benefit from the growth that comes with overcoming challenges to learn a new skill.

4. Lifelong Skills

Experts suggest that, compared to adults, children have a much easier time of learning to swim. For parents, knowing that their child has strong swimming skills will increase their ability to enjoy time around water.

When a child is comfortable in the water and swimming successfully, it is truly a rewarding feeling. A parent can feel a sense of satisfaction that they have given their child a tool that will serve them well throughout their life. 

Before you sign up for swim camps or lessons, do some research to find out more about swim schools near you. You may want to learn about instructor background, class size, teaching style, cost, and the features of their facility, including pool size or temperature.

To find top-rated kids’ swim lessons and swim camps near you, visit ActivityHero.

Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Community Service Environmental Hiking Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

Outdoor Activities for Earth Day






Getting outside is healthy for the body and the mind. This Earth Day, why not get the whole family outdoors for some memorable adventures?

By Wendy Chou

Research has shown that getting outside keeps kids moving, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Another health benefit from being out and about: added Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and is thought to help the immune system fight off infection. Some health experts say that spending time outdoors also relieves some symptoms of hyperactivity, including short attention span.

Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. It was originally created to bring attention to environmental goals like cleaner air and water. Today Earth Day reminds us to step out into nature. Try these kid-approved outdoor activities highlighting science, crafts, sports, and helping the community. Find these activities and many more in The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, an excellent user-friendly guide for kindling the adventurous spirit in all of us.

Little Scientists

Go outside at an unusual time: nighttime! Go stargazing or take a walk to admire the moon. Visit kidsastronomy.com for tips.

Start a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. If your family has a garden, generating your own rich compost (so-called “black gold”) is not only fun, but also useful. It’s also a great tool for teaching kids about nature’s version of recycling. Tips for beginners.  

Watch a sunset. Watching colors change can inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Find details on specific sunrise and sunset times at timeanddate.com

Arts and Crafts Lovers

Paint a birdhouse. Using a more natural palette such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan will help keep birds safe from eagle-eyed predators. And steer clear of metallic, iridescent, lead-based, or neon-colored paints which contain additives that are unsafe for wildlife.

Play “Nature bingo”. This game is a variation on a scavenger hunt. Create a bingo card for each player on sturdy paper or cardboard. You’ll need 16 assorted images arranged in a 4 x 4 grid: either paste on stickers, or draw/clip out pictures from magazines. Some examples are ladybug, leaf, flower, bird. After you design the bingo cards, have a blast exploring nature and looking for your items.

Make a nature mosaic. For this textured craft, first gather small items of roughly the same shape and size, like small pebbles, dried flower petals, or seeds. Take a paper plate and draw your desired shape with pen or pencil (for instance, outline your handprint). Working with one small section at a time, add a thin layer of glue and press the objects down to secure them. (If you apply glue over too large an area at once, it will dry before you’ve finished pasting.) Let dry and it’s done!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

Ready, Set, Move!

Roll down a grassy hill. Who doesn’t love doing this on a sunny day?

Go for a bike ride. There’s nothing quite like coasting along on the open road. Safety first: study the biker’s checklist before you head out!

Make homemade trail mix and take it on a hike.

Try geocaching, a modern take on treasure hunting. This activity relies on GPS technology to hide or find caches. To get started, check out geocaching.com.  

Community-Minded

Join a volunteer event. Find an organization near you (check your city or county listings) that is sponsoring an Earth Day event, such as a river cleanup or tree planting.

Visit a farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher fruits and vegetables here with less wasteful plastic packaging. People selling their wares often enjoy telling you where and how they grew their food –and sometimes let you try a sample for free.

Beautify your neighborhood. Clean up trash, prune or weed a garden, or do some other type of community service to show your appreciation for Mother Earth.

Be Adventurous Beyond Earth Day

Save the date for Kids to Parks Day, an annual event to encourage youth to get out and play in nature. Learn more: https://www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/. Getting outside isn’t just something to do on Earth Day!

Find summer camps featuring the outdoors. Camp is a great way to spend time outside. Emily Moeschler has over ten years of experience in adventure education and the outdoor industries. She is currently a leader at Avid4Adventure Camp in Boulder, CO. Her top tip: “Give your kids permission to get dirty!”

Be inspired. Have your own brainstorming session to come up with even more outdoor activities. There’s really no “right” way to explore, just get outside and have fun!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

About Wendy Chou

Wendy Chou is an environment writer and parent based in the San Francisco Bay Area.