Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benefits of Yoga for Children

Many thanks to our guest contributor, Amy Williams, for another great article!


by Amy Williams 

Being a child today is not the same as growing up when we were kids. Our children are faced with many more stressors at a much earlier age than any previous generation.  They engage in ‘school’ and social groups before they can walk and talk, begin playing sports earlier and with higher performance expectations, talk about college prep and SAT scores prior to hitting puberty, face temptation from every direction with unlimited access available at their fingertips, and every bit of their angst and typical preteen awkwardness is captured on social media for the world to witness. This doesn’t even include the historical difficulties children have always had to face.

In other words, being a kid today is tough. Fortunately, there are some simple remedies to help combat all the negative stressors in their young lives. One of the best is getting them involved in yoga. It is pretty commonly known that yoga builds muscle, improves posture, reduces stress, enhances mood, and increases focus in adults. These benefits are being found to be even more meaningful for children when taught correctly and practiced regularly. Yoga has been shown to help children mentally, physically, behaviorally, and socially.  It teaches skills that support them at home, in the classroom, on the playing field, and in their relationships. In turn, these are skills they will be able to carry into their adult lives.

One of the primary aspects of yoga is teaching mindfulness. This influences children by cultivating a peaceful mindset, enhancing concentration and focus, teaching tools for stress management, reducing anxiety, and encouraging kindness.  For example, yoga teaches children to utilize deep breathing, to clear their minds of negative thoughts, and to have patience with their poses. It teaches them to accept where their body will currently let them go, as well as how to cooperate with other children in the class who may be at different levels. It teaches acceptance and positivity without competitiveness.

Additionally, yoga is an excellent way to increase self-esteem and body awareness as young children learn what their bodies are capable of doing. By maintaining and increasing flexibility and strength as they grow, they become more confident and self-assured while also learning self-discipline.  Posture and muscular development improves, as well as their overall physical and mental health. Adding even more benefit, there are child specific yoga classes that encourage creativity as they are guided to imagine different settings and create their own poses.

The benefits of yoga for children are bountiful and very easy to implement. Whether you find a yoga class for your child or do it with them at home, start with the simplest poses such as cobra, mountain, tree, and downward dog.  Child’s pose is also appropriate, as the name itself proposes. These are easy for children to master and are packed with benefits. As your child becomes more involved and their skills increase, you can add more poses and create your own routines together. Ultimately, they will be able to continue with an independent yoga practice as they journey through the teenage years into adulthood, reaping the benefits along the way.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Developing Motor Skills with Outdoor Spring Activities


By Amy Williams

Spring is in the air and that means green grass, fresh flowers, and sunny days are here at last. As the remnants of winter finally melt away, the warmer spring weather is a welcome reprieve from those long unending days of being cooped up inside. This change of seasons provides you with the perfect opportunity to get outside and explore fun activities to develop your children’s motor skills in a supportive and natural environment. 

Motor skills are broken into two main categories – gross and fine motor skills – each focusing on different muscle groups and movements. Gross motor skills focus on movements that are large in nature and require the larger body muscles to move. Running, jumping, skipping, and throwing are good examples of these skills. While these are important skills to develop balance and stability, fine motor skills are also needed. This skill set uses smaller muscle movements often found in the wrists and hands. Fine motions help kids write, tie their shoes, open doors, and zip their coats. 

Our child’s happiness and well-being makes it important for us to include plenty of opportunities to develop gross and fine motor skills by building them into their routines. It is recommended that we work on developing motor skills at least 3 times a week. Thankfully, Mother Nature has given us the perfect spring backdrop to make this a reality.

Here are some fun ideas for building motor skills:

Play a game of shadow tag. Use the sunlight to play a fun running game of tag. Take turns being “it” and try catching each other by stepping on the other person’s shadows. This is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon and learn about shadows in the process.

Visit the park. Take advantage of the local playground and use these neighborhood gathering spots as a resource this spring. Encourage kids to learn how to swing, climb equipment, or run around the play areas to provide opportunities to use gross motor skills.

Hop to it! Encourage motor skills with a game of hopscotch. This game combines both groups of motor skills in a fun and entertaining game. Have children draw the classic ladder of boxes on the sidewalk with chalk to practice writing and controlling the smaller muscles in their hands. Then, take advantage of the throwing and hopping to strengthen gross motor skills. The beauty of this game is its adaptability for all levels and varieties of fine motor skills.

Have a ball. Today’s children might love their technology, but they still enjoy playing with balls. Play a game of catch or kick the ball back and forth. For more fun, branch out and teach the kids how to bounce or dribble the ball.

Blow up some fun. Nothing says spring like bubbles! Allow kids to blow, chase, or pop the soapy orbs to develop hand-eye coordination while encouraging the use of large muscles needed for running.

Create a backyard training course. Take direction from the popular American Ninja Warrior show and design a course for the kids. Most children love the challenge obstacle courses provide and they won’t even be aware of the fact that you are helping them work on gross motor skills. 

Fly a kite. Spring gusts can provide the perfect afternoon entertainment, and kite flying requires a combination of gross and fine motor skills. 

Grow something green. Grab some seeds and head outside to plant some veggies or flowers. You don’t need to commit to an entire garden.  A container of herbs or pot of flowers for the kids will suffice. Digging in the dirt, hauling water, planting, and pruning are wonderful ways to work small and large muscle groups.

Get artsy. Bring out the sidewalk chalk or paints to let children color the neighborhood. Unending sidewalks allow for unlimited creativity and provide chances to develop fine motor skills as they draw.

Play in the sand. Sand play is a wonderful way to encourage both sets of motor skills. Kids can dig and carry buckets to build strength, while manipulating sand helps develop finger dexterity.

How do you develop motor skills in your children?

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Creative Ways to Encourage Your Child to Fall in Love with Reading


By Amy Williams

Everyone always says that reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, but how necessary is it really? Well, as it turns out, it really is as vital as they say! Reading helps develop creative thinking skills, helps kids practice critical reasoning, gives them examples of morality and wrongdoing, and instills a strong sense of creativity. Even better, all of these goals can be accomplished before your child is even old enough to walk!

How can you get your child to fall in love with reading? Making your children sit down and read for a set amount of time each day is certainly not the answer. Getting your kids to become passionate page-turners takes a bit of work. Fortunately, we have a few ideas to make your job a lot easier!

Be Colorful Pick books that are colorful, sturdy, and have lots of visual features, such as illustrations. This will help to keep their attention tuned into the book, instead of whatever may be happening on the other side of the room.

Tag Team It Once your child is old enough to begin learning how to read, ask them to read along with you. You can take turns reading one page after another, ask them to read to a sibling, or even ask them to spell out words that they don’t understand. You know your child best so rely on your intuition in figuring out what your child needs the most!


Make It Cozy Do you have an independent reader? It might be time for you to create a reading nook where they can go to enjoy their favorite books and stories. Soft cushions, a well-stocked bookshelf, and a cozy blanket can go a long way when it comes to turning your children into lifelong readers!

Cuddle Up Kids love physical contact (and depend on it)! Take advantage of your snuggle time by using it to fill your children’s brains with words. Even just a short book can help grab their attention and get them thinking. Remember – a little bit of reading adds up to A LOT of knowledge over time!

Take A Trip There’s nothing more exciting for a child than being let loose in any kind of store. On the next rainy afternoon, take your children to the local bookstore or library and allow them all to pick out one or two books. As soon as they have finished those, you can make another trip to the bookstore or library!

Set An Example Remember – you are the best possible example for your children! If they see you reading often, chances are good that they too will become avid readers. Talk openly about your favorite books, and encourage them to start a collection of their own personal reading treasures.

Raising readers is one of the best things you can do for your children. It will benefit them in both their education and careers, and we can guarantee that they’ll thank you for it down the road.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.  

Friday, March 17, 2017


Raising Well Balanced Children: 
How to Best Support Their Journey
By Susie Walton
 
Often times when given advice as to what to do when parenting, we're left wondering, but HOW do I do this...or that?  It seems as though what may come easily to one parent, may not come so easily to another parent.  This article will be giving some suggestions on (HOW) with   Heartfelt Optimum Ways one can begin to implement some parenting skills to expand their parenting toolbox!  Or one can simply think of it like adding recipes to their existing recipe box.
 
Let's start with the most reliable predictors of adult success; according to Daniel Goleman, PhD., the most reliable predictors of adult success are not grades in high school or even a collegiate pedigree, but rather these six qualities of emotional intelligence:
  1. Empathy
  2. Optimism
  3. Flexibility
  4. Good sense of humor
  5. The capacity to function as a team player
  6. The ability to respond to setbacks
Before I go through each one, it's important to note that it will be easier for your kids to attain these if the parents model them:
 
Empathy
  • Understand before being understood
  • Be Heartfelt ~ see through your heart
  • Acknowledge ~ empathy creates connection
Optimism:
  • Celebrate Mistakes ~Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
  • Gratitude feast: each person shares what they are grateful for
  • Look for the gift ~ the silver lining
Flexibility:
  • Go with the flow
  • Keep things simple
  • Self Care ~ taking care of yourself helps you become a better parent
A Good Sense of Humor: 
  • Have fun
  • Keep it light
  • Don't take yourself too seriously
Capacity to Function as a Team Player:
  • Discover each family members strength 
  • Encouragement feast ~ each person shares what they love about each person
  • Mind Trust ~ when you have a problem with a family member you go to the person
Ability to Respond to Setbacks: 
  • Allow Children to Have Their Feelings
  • Natural Consequences ~ If We Allow A Child To Experience The Consequence Of His Acts, We Provide An Honest And Real Learning Situation
  • Self Reliance
Allowing your children to have their feelings sets the foundation for their self-reliance!!  Why?   Because as children go through life, their ability to respond to setbacks is primarily based on their ability to move themselves through all of their feelings.  When a child can move themselves from one feeling to another, they are building a very rich and strong internal guidance system.  This guidance system is what guides them to move closer to or away from someone or something.  It is what guides them into or out of situations that are healthy or unhealthy and when in an unhealthy situation (or setback) to move themselves through it.  Over time, and with enough experience, their trust in their command of their feelings develops self-confidence!  This process is done primarily through Natural Consequences...so let those consequences (when in good reason) play out.  This requires the parent to be aware of his/her feelings in order not to mix their own emotions into the child's process.  Parent's often times want to make it better or take care of the child (hoping that their child doesn't have to experience sadness, disappointment, anger, hurt, etc.) and the result is a robbing of their children's rich opportunities to build their own emotional muscles!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Books on Love and Friendship




Many thanks to Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs, for allow us to share her article on books on love and friendship!

By Cindy Hudson

Love comes in many forms: between parents and children, between siblings and other family members, among friends. And Valentine's Day is a good time to celebrate the love all around us with books that focus on special relationships of all kinds.

Here are a few books to check out for several age groups.

Picture Books
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle - as Flora and the flamingo dance around each other, they learn about the power of friendship and how friends can bring out our insecurities as well as help us overcome them.

If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond - Special moments moms and dads would hold onto if they could are featured, things like singing lullabies, holding a child's hand, kissing cuts and scrapes, and finger painting.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn - This modern classic helps reassure children that their parents love them even when they can't spend the day together with them.

Ages 9 to 13
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White - Louis the trumpeter swan may not have a voice, but he knows how to let the ones he cares about feel his friendship and love.

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanna Rocklin - Oona comforts her younger brother, and helps him learn to read while nursing their sick cat.

Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg - Clare learns from villages in Malawi to honor loss by celebrating life.
Teens
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker - Laugh out loud funny look at what happens when two teens are paired up in a mock wedding during senior year to teach them about responsibility.

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar - When Alton is roped into turning cards at bridge games for his blind Uncle Lester, he ends up learning a lot more than how to play cards.


Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick - Amber is an eternal optimist, despite her difficult life, which is why she is driven to help people others often ignore.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inspiration for the New Year


Many thanks to Susie Walton for this beautiful article on inspiration!  

by Susie Walton

When I was asked to write about this topic my first thought was, "Where does my inspiration come from?" Immediately what came to me was, 'my family'.
I then looked up the definition of inspiration: "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative."
My kids were my catalyst, my inspiration, to begin teaching parenting courses over 25 years ago and once again they were my inspiration to write my book, Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect our Family Lives ...25 years later they are still my source of inspiration as they inspire me to be the best that I can be and when slacking a bit, they challenge me on it.
My favorite quote is: "It Takes A Village To Raise A Child" It has been the source and inspiration for much of my life's work so I decided to turn to my village, my kids, a niece and nephew of mine, to find out what inspires them - what is behind their inspiration when parenting and what are some things that keep them inspired as parents: I am honored to share their words with each of you:

Tuffy and Gina:
Having faith in God that he would not give me more than I can handle.
Parenting is a never-ending work in progress. It's a daily learning experience. I often remind myself that while I teach my kids all about life, in the midst of the crazy, they are actually teaching me what life is all about. The attempt at perfect parenting has been a struggle of mine, yet I find comfort in knowing there are no perfect parents, no perfect children but there are many perfect moments along the way.
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:
"Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work."


Nate and Ali: 
It is the most inspiring thing to be able to wake up everyday and share new memories as a family. We have had the time of our life having all these "firsts" together the past 16 months of Willa's life. 

Becoming a parent has really enriched my relationship with my husband. To be able to see Nate interacting with our daughter is completely awe- inspiring and pure magic. I get inspired seeing so much of him in her.  As I watch her, I get to imagine what my best friend was like as a child.


Being a mom has given me a greater appreciation and a deeper love for my own parents. I get inspired everyday thinking about the things I can't wait to share with Willa as well as the things my parents shared with me. I get to be a child again!!! I get to rediscover the world again!!! However, my challenge is to not get ahead of myself...it's hard for me to pace myself because there is so much of the world I want to show her right now!!! It's hard to stay in the moment, I find myself getting excited about doing things with her in the future that I miss out on what is happening right now.  There is such an excitement of a new day where I get to help her learn new things!!! It has inspired me to educate myself more, as I want to fulfill her physical and developmental needs that are changing by the millisecond!!!! It has made me want to be the best version of myself for her. This is a constant challenge. She reminds me of my values and who I am at my core.
Luke and Bre:
It is the best and without a doubt the HARDEST thing I've ever done. I love the challenge of trying to make everyday fun and stimulating for my kids. Parenting tests my creativity, patience and yet, never amazes me how much love I can feel for another person. To be able to see these little pieces of perfect develop their own personalities and all the while my job is to try and teach them to be good, kind, loving and compassionate people. To hear my kid say "please" and "thank you" to a complete stranger without being prompted feels like such a WIN. The days are long and the months seem to fly by and day in and day out, without fail, I realize that kids are born to LOVE. They are programmed to know nothing other than LOVE. I realize as a mom how many amazing people we have in our lives that love our kids and how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love and support.


Adam and Tracy:

Things that inspire my parenting:  
-Being away from my kids and missing them
-Your Infinite Life classes
-Remembering that the days are long but the years are short
-Remembering that hard work with parenting now will pay off later when my kids are older
-Remembering that everyone deserves everything they want in life


Kam and Jamie:

Knowing that what I do and how I treat other people are teaching my kids a lot more than the words that come out of my mouth inspires my parenting. I know I don't always have the perfect way of saying something or teaching a specific lesson but I always go back to the golden rule. I try my very hardest to lead by example: focusing on giving to, listening to, and loving on others so that my kids will see how one should act. Recognizing that we can only really mess them up as kids (cause they are born so darn perfect) I'm constantly trying to stay aware of being non-judgmental, and try not to influence them with my beliefs but allow each of them to form their own beliefs and be the best person they can be. And to be honest, it also inspires me to know that no matter how hard I try, I'm going to mess up (lose my temper and yell, literally after the 30th Time of asking them to leave their dang muddy shoes outside), but the best part is that kids are the quickest to forgive and love me anyway (thank God). 
We had a great speaker in church a few weeks ago that said something that resonated with me - he said, we have no right to be in self-pity when there is so much hurt in the world - and then he quoted the great John Wooden and said, "MAKE EACH DAY YOUR MASTERPIECE". Bottom line, we are all so blessed to have the families that we do, healthy kids, live where we do, and have all the love that surrounds us. That should be inspiring enough to go out and be the GOOD each day and live life to its fullest with no regrets, with kindness and respect for all. And teach our kids those same values along the way.
So there it is... I am so honored, blessed and inspired to call these people my sons, daughter in laws, niece and nephew.


Some Tips on Inspiration:

R. Kay Green wrote a blog, 'What is the true meaning of Inspiration?'
Here are 3 steps to inspiring others:
  1. Act and Show
  2. Provide Others with a Blueprint
  3. Become a Mentor
On a personal note, one way I was able to bring back my inspiration in those days where I found myself overwhelmed, yelling and being grouchy with my kids was at night, when they were finally asleep, I would go into their rooms and look at their angelic faces. Every single time a wave of love, inspiration and joy would make itself known to me again.


I now invite each of you to take a moment to reflect on what inspires you along with what will be your inspiration for 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Value in Volunteering with Your Family



We are entering the holiday season, a time of family rituals that you make look forward to all year long. One family holiday ritual that you may not have considered is volunteering. Volunteering creates unity, builds team, and opens your heart to your community and those in need.  It teaches your children compassion and empathy.  Here is an terrific article provided by Mother Daughter Book Club on the benefits of volunteering and how to find an organization that matches your family's values and interests.

Thinking about volunteering with your children but not sure if it's right for your family? Consider that volunteering has been shown to not only teach children compassion for others, it can also boost their self-confidence, help them learn new skills, and help them meet people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look for projects your family can get involved in.
Make sure the activity is good for the age of your child. Even younger kids can help organize a neighborhood blanket and towel drive for an animal welfare agency or collect canned goods for the food bank. Your kids also may be willing to give up gently used books or toys they have outgrown. When possible, bring your kids with you when you drop off items you have collected so they can see who benefits.
Consider these three broad categories when looking for places to volunteer: human welfare, environmental welfare, and animal welfare. Choose what most interests your family, and you are more likely to have your kids get excited about volunteering.
Think about volunteering more than once with the same organization so you can see the changes your work makes over time. For instance, if you join a work party at a local park several times, when you visit the park afterward you may be able to see others enjoying the trees you planted or the paths you cleared.
No sure how to find opportunities in your area? Here's a list of national organizations that list opportunities searchable by zip code and interest area: