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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.

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7 Ways Music Lessons Help Kids Excel

Looking to avoid summer brain drain? A music-loving mom shares her personal research into 7 impressive benefits associated with music lessons. Drumroll, please!

By Katie Femia

One, two, three, four … With all of the counting and time signatures, it makes sense that learning a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s ability to do mathematics and problem-solve. Years of research have borne that out. But what about socially? Emotionally? Physically? Personally? It turns out that music lessons can be an effective way to help children grow in all of these areas, too.

My own daughter began playing the piano at the age of nine. It was something she had asked us to sign her up for after she received a keyboard for Christmas the year prior. She was at the age where we expected more responsibility from her, and we were also looking for an effective way for her to channel her feelings. Music lessons have helped her in both of those areas. Being able to use her hands to create something beautiful is a therapeutic experience for her. Working with her instructor and practicing at home means she has developed more discipline and motivation to excel. As her lessons continue I am seeing growth in other areas of her life as well.

Here’s a medley of the amazing benefits that can come when children take up an instrument.

1. Improved Memory

Whether your child is memorizing the alphabet, multiplication tables, or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, they will need to be able to focus on the information and store it in a retrievable manner. Music reinforces memory in the sense that it requires the child to memorize notes along with hand/mouth movement, turning the information into a tune. Using this part of the brain often to store and recite information is important, and music lessons continue to put memorization skills into practice.

2. Stress Relief or Prevention

Artforms are a wonderful way for children to express themselves while relieving tension at the same time, and music is no exception. The hands-on experience, the practice of manipulating the instruments, and the sound of the music that is created can all help put children at ease–especially after a long day at school.My child’s music school even has a school outreach program where kids with special needs are given musical instruments to play as a form of therapy.

3. Better Focus

Traditional classroom learning typically involves long periods of sitting still and concentrating, which can be a challenge for children. Music lessons can help children improve their focus, as their concentration and attention to detail is important when learning a tune. Improved attention leads to mastery of the tune and progress on to the next one. The positive feelings that result from this accomplishment strengthen their desire and ability to focus on goals related to the classroom.

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4. Fine Motor Skill Development

Fine motor skills–for example, tasks that are done with the fingers–typically require hand and eye coordination. Learning to play a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s fine motor skills, which can come in handy in the classroom when the child writes (in print or cursive), paints, cuts, measures, glues, and so on.

5. Enhanced Self-Esteem

When a child becomes familiar with playing a musical instrument, they can feel a great sense of pride in their accomplishment. As they realize that they can entertain others and even evoke emotions through their performances, their confidence may grow even more. Every child wants to feel like they are good at or successful at something, and music lessons give them the chance to do that … and then treat others with their talent. The resulting self-esteem follows that child throughout their school day and throughout their life.

6. Lessons in Accountability

My daughter’s piano lessons are an intense 30 minutes in length, so it is important she is ready with her music sheets, notebook, and a sharpened pencil in hand when the lesson begins. She knows that stopping to find any of these items during the lesson would take away from valuable class time. The “homework” assigned by music instructors can also help create accountability in kids. At home, kids learn to make decisions on how to allocate their time to prepare for the next lesson. Children who take music lessons can carry this skill of accountability over to their classroom life, where deadlines for homework and classwork need to be met.

7. A Sense of Responsibility

Whether you decide to rent or own your child’s instrument, you will find it does not come cheap. Caring for the instrument properly is essential to protect your investment. Music lessons teach your child to be responsible for cleaning, caring for, and storing their instrument properly. The habits kids learn in music lessons can translate into increased responsibility for their school supplies, homework, and even their actions.

Consider music as a summer enrichment activity which can prepare your child to succeed in the classroom when the next school year rolls around. There are options for every budget and level of experience, so do some exploring and what might interest your child! Find summer music camps near you at ActivityHero.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Must-See Museums from the Midwest to the West Coast

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When traveling with children, it is always fun to scout out interesting places to take them. Children love to learn and see new things. Museums offer an educational experience and a chance to form fond memories as a family. From the Midwest to the West coast here are some must-see museums for families:

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

museum-of-science-and.jpgChicago Museum of Science and Industry is a highly interactive museum located on Lakeshore Drive in the city of Chicago. Children can experience Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb or drive a huge John Deere combine through a crop field. They can even take a ride through a coal mine!  Their engaging website offers interesting online educational activities, such as a drag-and-drop laboratory.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum

You cannot go to Missouri without visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Nearly everyone is intrigued by the pioneer days of our country. Here you can learn more about the “Little House” series author Laura Ingalls Wilder and how the pioneers actually lived, as well as look around her two homes on her Rocky Ridge Farm.

Chicago Children’s Museum

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Located on Navy Pier in Chicago, the Chicago Children’s Museum has three levels of fun educational activities that are sure to keep your children busy in mind, body and spirit. For your hands-on learners, try the Tinkerlab. Your dinosaur lovers will love the Dinosaur Expedition. For those who need to climb, try the Treehouse Trails. There’s something for everyone!

Wonderscope Children’s Museum in Kansas City

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Wonderscope Children’s Museum in Kansas City offers children the opportunity to play with water in the H2O exhibit. Other highlights include Farm to Market, Lego Ocean Adventure, Tinkerspace, and Amazing Airways. Kids can let their light shine in the Performance area. Your children are sure to be entertained for hours! Admission is a nominal fee. 

WOW Children’s Museum Lafayette, Colorado

Want to make your kids some slime? What about homemade bubbles? WOW Children’s Museum in Lafayette, Colorado, has some online activities you can do at home with your children. In person, here are some of their popular exhibits: Bubbles, Pirate Ship & Lighthouse, Pulley Chairs, Stage & Puppet Theater, Dance & Yoga Studio, Forest of Light, Blowing in the Wind, Build It!, Market, Garden (which is seasonal) and SunSational Energy & Science.

Discovery Museum in Las Vegas

Like many other museums, the Discovery Museum in Las Vegas offers you the chance to host your child’s birthday party there, school tours and enrichment programs just for kids. Their newest exhibit arrived on Jan. 31 – Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear! and will be there until May 31st. Sounds pretty scary, eh? Their other exhibits include: The Summit, Eco City, Fantasy Festival, Patents Pending, Toddler Town, Solve It, Water Town, Young Art and It’s Your Choice.

Treehouse Museum in Ogden, Utah

Children ages 3- 10 will love the playful options at Treehouse Museum in Ogden, Utah including knights and castles, a diner, the rodeo, life-size chess, multicultural exhibit, and plenty more to spark the imagination. And, of course, a large pretend treehouse. This museum offers daily “Step on Stage” interactive theater programs for families. The Art Garden provides visual arts programs using a variety of media for your children’s enjoyment.

Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

Fun-filled informational exhibits like the living roof and kid-friendly tidepools enable children to learn more about the world in which they live. There is also a live rainforest with butterflies and parrots, a penguin tank, a giant tank featuring sea life found off the California coast, and a planetarium. At the Early Explorers exhibit, kids can learn about the cove and the Galapagos. There is also a fifteen year old albino alligator named Claude. Locals and tourists alike love this museum.  More can be found at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Zimmer Children’s Museum in L.A.

Children will be excited to participate in Rhythms of the World learning about different instruments around the world, Mark Taper Foundation Aid and Rescue Center, Construction Zone, Blue Bagel Cafe enjoying cuisines from different countries and so much more at Zimmer Children’s Museum in L.A. The video below gives you a quick sneak peak.

National Parks

Instead of being inside a building, our National Parks are a living museum that are constantly changing. Several times a year, the National Parks have free admission, and even on the days that there’s an admission fee, the sight of places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other National Parks is well worth the visit.

Eager to head to your local museum now? Museums are a valued part of our culture and get kids experimenting and thinking. Conscious parents desiring to enrich the lives of their children find museums supplement their child’s education in a hands-on way. Parents, grandparents and older children may take advantage of volunteer or employment opportunities to enhance their resume or college application. One thing is for sure, there is something for young and old from the Midwest to West Coast…at these must-see museums.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Fast & Fun Rainy Day Play Plans for All Ages

Rather than letting rain put a damper on your plans, why not teach your kids to relish the bad weather as an opportunity for indoor fun and games? Too often, when plans fall apart, kids end up in front of the TV, computer or with a video game controller in their hand. Instead of moping, try these five rainy day activities to bring your family closer together. Soon, your kids may be watching the forecast hoping for a drizzle so they can try out these fun games again and again.

Board Game Buffet

Let each child choose their favorite board game and set them all up at once. If you have a long dining room table, pop the leaf in and make it a buffet. If you want to make it more physical, set one game up in each room so everyone takes a turn at one game, then run to the next room for a turn on the next game. This ensures that everyone gets to play their favorite game while getting your kids moving on what would otherwise be a lazy day. Leave a notepad by each game to remind whose turn it is next and what order the turns progress. Set a rule that winners cleanup to spread the task around. If you have an only child, you can be their opponent and try out two player games like Battleship and checkers.

Treasure Hunt

This is a great game for little ones that don’t yet have an attention span for board games but definitely want to play. This game can be hosted by you or an older sibling. Have them step out of the room while you hide some of their favorite toys in a couple of different rooms of the house. Let them come back in and tell them the item they’re looking for such as “your teddy bear” then lead them by warmer or colder until they find it. Eventually let them hide some things for you and guide you to them through the same clues to teach them critical thinking skills. They’ll be thrilled they were able to trick you. Even if you immediately spot what they’ve hidden, play along for a couple of minutes before you spot it. Gradually make the game more difficult and soon you’ll have a master detective on your hands.

Take a Wet Walk

As long as it’s not chilly, there’s no thunder and lightning and none of your kids are sick, why not get out and play in the rain? Dig out some already stained clothes and shoes and go outside and puddle jump. Make some mud pies, go on a nature walk and get rained on. The only real health risk is lightning or slipping on something wet. It’s on old wives’ tale that getting your head wet or being out in the rain will make you sick. Take a walk around your neighborhood or go to the local park or just play in your yard. Dig out your beach stuff – including sand buckets and shovels – for making mud castles. Sure you’ll get muddy, but then you’ll have the fun of bubble baths and hot cocoa when you’re done!

Blanket Fort Film Festival

Movie marathons are great on rainy days and indoor camping is always a treat, so why not combine the two for an extra special rain day surprise? Either put a group of chairs together back to back and throw some blankets over them or just throw a couple of blankets over your dining room table to create a cool and good-sized fort. Toss in some sleeping bags and pillows and you’ve got a comfortable nest. Add a laptop or tablet with your Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming service for movies and you’ve got your own miniature cinema. Just add juice boxes and a bowl of popcorn. By creating this environment, your kids will enjoy movies the old-fashioned way without a multitude of distractions.

Make Your Own Movie

Watching movies on rainy days is great, but why not take it to the next level and let your kids make their own? Most smartphones and tablets record high quality video so you can just hand over a device, cut them loose and see what they can do on their own. Encourage your kids to recreate their favorite TV show or movie, bring their favorite book to life or even conjure up their own script. You could get involved and do costumes, hair and makeup or, if you’re brave, let them have free rein in your closet. You never know, you could be raising the next Spielberg. Once they’ve got their movie done, watch and be amazed.

There’s no reason to ever let a rainy day get you and your kids down. Keep these five rainy day ideas in mind, take them for a test run and see which works best for your family. You never know, you may start a whole new family tradition. We’d love to hear some of your out-of-the-ordinary rainy day play plans. Be sure to share in the comments below.