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Celebrate National Picnic Month by Going on a Picnic with the Family

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family on a picnic

A picnic is a great way to spend time with family

Everybody celebrates Independence Day in July. But, what many people don’t know is that we also celebrate National Picnic Month in July, too! Going for a picnic is an excellent time to embrace nature and breathe in fresh air. It is also a great opportunity to bond with friends, family and loved ones. While a picnic is understood as a simple excursion with meals eaten outdoors, there are some interesting facts about the origin of picnic that not many of us are aware of.

  •  The word picnic was taken from the French word “pique nique” which refers to an outdoor meal. The first picnics took place in the Middle Ages when the members of the upper class society would “dine out” or eat their meals outdoors during a hunt.
  • The first recorded use of “picnic”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in a letter written by Lord Chesterfield to his son in Berlin in 1748. The word picnic here was used in the sense of a social gathering.
  • In the early 1800’s, picnic was already being used to refer to a social meal eaten outdoors.

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6 Benefits of Summer Camp for your Kids

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Are you one of the many parents looking for the best activities to keep your children occupied and productive over the summer? One of the top options is a summer camp.

summer camp

Sending your child to a summer camp can help their growth and development.

Summer camp is more than playing and having fun. It features various activities which provide new learning opportunities for children. It teaches and develops valuable skills that a child can carry with them for the rest of their lives. If you didn’t have the chance to go to a summer program as a child, you may not realize the educational, inspirational, and fun kind of experience it is.

Thinking about sending your child to a summer camp? Here are some good reasons why you should.

Summer camp helps kids develop a unique interest

Several camps cover areas and subjects which are not taught in school. Schools don’t usually offer lessons regarding archery or video games! But there are some summer programs that specialize in these areas. So if your child is interested to learn something that’s outside of the normal school subjects, it would be a good decision to send them to a summer camp. A camp is also an excellent place for them to discover an interest they may not have realized before.

It helps develop a child’s social skills

A summer camp provides kids a perfect opportunity to build meaningful friendships. It teaches campers how to get along with other campers. It may not be easy at first. Your child may feel hesitant and a little scared. But the environment and activities provide helpful opportunities for children to practice their independence. This helps improve their confidence and build social skills.

In a summer camp, a child learns and develops conflict-resolution and risk-taking skills. They learn how to make decisions on their own without their parents’ help.

It develops self-confidence

In a summer camp, kids are encouraged to leave their comfort zones and participate in all activities possible. A camp teaches a child that it is okay to fail and to make mistakes. It helps them identify their limitations as well as discover the things they can still improve on. It allows children to face challenges and take risks in a supervised, safe and supportive environment.

The experiences your child can get from a summer camp equip them with lifelong skills they can use to be successful in their future endeavors.

It provides plenty of time for unstructured play

Unlike a preschool or a daycare center, a camp is where your child can enjoy unstructured play and activities. It is where they can enjoy being free from the daily stress and routine of school life. They have plenty of time for just playing, having fun and carefree living while learning creativity and social engagement.

It keeps them physically active

Today, most children spend a majority of time on their screens – televisions, tablets, laptops and mobile phones. And too much screen time is not healthy.

Summer camp is an excellent way to keep your child physically active, in a secure place, interacting with their peers. Camps encourage them to try healthier and more enjoyable activities, such as swimming, hiking and more.

summer camp

Kids enjoy attending summer camps.

It allows a deep dive into new skills

Even if your child’s area of interest is being taught in their preschool or daycare center, sending them to a summer camp can help them in further learning of a new skill. A summer program can give your child the opportunity and the time to be more immersed in a specific learning. If your child wants to hone their skills in arts, gymnastics or football, look for the summer programs which focus on these areas. Check out the camp descriptions so your child can deep dive into the things they love!

Summer camps benefit your child in more ways than one. You’ll find the benefits go far beyond just having fun and games. Summer camps do a good job of teaching valuable lessons children won’t get anywhere else.

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How To Celebrate National Bike Month With Your Kids

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Ask just about anyone and they can usually –and vividly — remember when they first learned to ride a bike!

It’s just something you never forget…

Learning to ride is fun!

Learning to ride is fun!

No matter how long it’s been since you hopped on a bike, National Bike Month provides the perfect reason to get back out there and ride again!

Here’s how to celebrate that amazing invention, the bicycle, with your kids… and start a new healthy habit as a family!

Getting Started

Begin by setting out the rules for safe biking. Even if your kids aren’t old enough to really remember everything you’re telling them, repeat the rules for safe biking to them every time you go out. When they see you following the same rules you’re telling them to follow, it will encourage them to do the same.

Teach them the following tips for safe biking:

  • Keep your tires well inflated – match the pressure that’s listed on the tire itself.
  • Inspect your brakes before setting out to make sure they’re aligned and working properly
  • Keep bolts, bearings, and chains greased
  • Wear a helmet at all times, making sure it fits you well and isn’t too loose
  • If you plan to ride at night, wear bright, reflective colors and use a light
  • For trail riding, stay on the right side, pass to the left and use your voice or a horn to alert people and other riders that you’re planning to pass
  • Use hand signals and obey traffic signals, always stopping at stop lights and stop signs
  • Make eye contact with drivers to be sure they see you
  • Ride with the traffic, not against it

Note: Before venturing out, add more reflectors to your bikes – and any clothes you’re wearing. And consider adding flashing reflectors to improve visibility

Set Your Course

To make National Bike Month a fun time for you and your kids, have a plan. Your activities will be determined, in large part, by the biking skills your kids have.

If, for example, you have young kids with little to no experience riding a bike, you’ll obviously be focused on teaching them how to ride a bike. Give them ample time to practice their new skill.

Older or more confident riders who may be up for a challenge might enjoy:

  • setting up jumps in the backyard
  • going “off-road” on nearby bike trails
  • holding a “bike rodeo” with the neighborhood kids where they can take part in:
    • obstacle courses
    • jumps
    • a “balance beam” made from lines drawn on the ground that riders need to stay within
    • “paper boy” – riders toss rolled up newspapers into targets such as large trash cans, baskets, tubs, etc.
    • slow races – points deducted for each time their foot hits the ground before the finish line (builds up their balance and coordination)

Riding a bike is a childhood rite of passage that you don’t want your kids to miss… so get on out there and ride with them!

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How to Celebrate National Nutrition Month at Home and School

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“Invest in Yourself – Buy Nutrition” was the theme for the first National Nutrition Month. It was created in 1973 by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The ADA is known now as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It actually started as a week long to begin with, but has expanded to a full month to reach more people.

This month of awareness is meant to help everyone focus on the many benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, of which nutrition plays a key part.

There are a lot of ways to celebrate National Nutrition Month both at home and at school. Looking for the best way to help the information be effective and stick? Make it fun!

Here are a few ideas to help you get started.:

Create a theme for each week which focuses on a particular aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

For example:
Week One – MyPlate – what it is and how it can help you eat healthy food
Week Two – Why choose whole grains?
Week Three – How to read nutrition labels
Week Four – Get moving every day!

Supermarket scavenger hunt

Take a class field trip to the local supermarket (or parents, take your kids shopping with you) and make a game out of finding healthy food choices.

Using an “I spy” type of game, give the kids clues about the food you’re talking about.

For example, you could say, “I spy something orange, it grows in the ground and is a bunny’s favorite food”.
Or, “I see something that’s bright red, grows on a tree and is delicious in a pie.”
Another way to have fun learning about nutrition? Have the older kids come up with their own clues that they can then share with the younger ones!

Make your own plate

fruits and nuts

Find creative ways to achieve a balanced diet.

  • Using MyPlate as a reference, give each child three paper plates. Cut out images of food from magazines, or use some grocery ads.  Ask them to put together three healthy meals (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • Once they’ve completed their meals, discuss the reasons why they chose the foods they did.  When applicable, ask them what would have been a better option. Discuss portion size too!
  • Combine efforts where possible. Get the entire school or family involved in supporting your efforts. One way is to coordinate what you teach in the classroom – or at home – with the school nutrition staff.
  • In the cafeteria, focus on a healthy food choice each day. Hang up posters showing a particular food item. Include the nutritional benefits, and show suggestions on how to serve the food.
  • At home, use a new food each week – or several times per week – in your family meals to expand your child’s palate. This helps open up discussions about why some foods are healthier choices than others.

Note: The school’s website, social media, newsletters and morning announcements provide wonderful opportunities to share information and reminders about what makes a healthy food choice.

Volunteers

Think about people in your network who can add to the conversation about nutrition. Know a local chef? Ask them to come in and discuss how they prepare foods for their clients.  A physician or a personal trainer can discuss the impact of eating foods that give you energy.

Other ideas

Partner with the local library to provide nutritional education opportunities through story time events, coloring contests and/or activity sheets for kids.

Get kids involved in a food donation campaign to your local food pantry or shelter.

Put together a lesson plan discussing the science behind baking. Discuss what ingredients are needed, why they’re needed and what happens when they’re used.

Classroom and/or school vegetable projects. Have kids choose their favorite vegetable, and plant the seed in a small container. Have them take it home with them at the end of the school year so that they can plant it somewhere at home (assuming the season is right for planting!)

As you can see there are a lot of ways you can drive home the importance of a healthy lifestyle, while making it fun and memorable.

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Healthy Eating, Your Kids and National Snack Food Month

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February is National Snack Food Month. This is the perfect opportunity to show your kids how healthy snacks are the best snacks for their growing minds and bodies!

Let’s face it, kids aren’t always enthusiastic about healthy eating.

But both parents and educators know the more interested and involved a kid is with what they’re trying to do, the more enthusiastic and engaged they’ll be.

This makes for easy teaching and better retention – a win-win for kids and the ones teaching them!

And it is possible to get them interested in trying new foods – if you make “fun” the name of the game!

Here’s how:

national snack food month

They’re watching you

Like it or not, your kids are always watching what you do.

If they see Mom and Dad choose – and enjoy – healthy foods and beverages, they may be more open to trying something new.

Focus on the food’s benefits

Talk about the benefits of the food on your child’s plate, not the fact that it’s “healthy”. The idea that something is “healthy” is a distant concept for a child, especially young children. Tell them something like “the cheese will give you strong muscles” or “make you powerful”, or whatever phrase you think will appeal to your child.

If they have a favorite superhero or sports figure, try to find a way to tie their attributes (e.g. strength, speed, etc.) to the benefit of eating the food.

Eye appeal

Think color, crunch, and healthy fats.

Make the food as appealing to the eye as possible:

  • combine different colors
  • use different cuts (e.g. round disks vs thin strips)
  • try different flavors (mozzarella, cheddar)
  • cut and/or arrange into fun shapes

Make it a game

Take the kids grocery shopping. Ask them to help find vegetables and fruits in every color of the rainbow.

Once you’re home, have them help you prepare the foods for quick snacking options throughout the week. Bagging their own portions helps them feel more involved.

Let them decide

To get kids more excited about eating healthy foods give them several healthy choices for at least one of their meals.

For example, if it’s lunch time, let them choose among options such as pitas, wraps or English muffins made with whole grains. Offer lean ham, turkey or chicken and low fat cheese slices for the filling.

Let them help

Research has shown that kids who spend time in the kitchen will choose a wider variety of foods and tend towards decisions which are healthier.

Give your kids age appropriate tasks in the kitchen to expose them to all of the aspects of their food preparation. When possible, let them put together their own meals as they’re much more likely to eat their own creations!

Keep trying

Research has shown that it takes as many as 15 tries before a kid will try a new food. So if they turn their nose up at a new food, keep introducing it and eventually they will give it a try. Even if they don’t like it the first time they try it, over time their taste buds develop and change. They may grow to like it.

Snack ideas

There are thousands of great, healthy snack ideas for kids. Here are just a few:

  • “Ants on a log” (celery filled with peanut butter and raisins)
  • Fresh or canned fruit (canned in 100% juice) served with low fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese sticks or cubes
  • Whole grain crackers or rice cakes topped with peanut butter or thin cheese slices
  • Popcorn (air-popped)
  • Quesadillas (whole wheat tortilla stuffed with low-fat melted cheese)
  • Baked tortilla chips
  • Whole wheat pita bread with hummus
  • Fresh fruit
  • Applesauce
  • Homemade trail mix (portioned)

Set the rules

Give them beverage choices such as water, low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice (portioned) to keep them hydrated. Require they ask before they grab a snack.

To promote mindful eating, insist that snacks be eaten at the table or in the kitchen, not in front of the TV or computer.

Getting kids interested in eating healthy foods isn’t always easy, but it is always worth the effort!

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August is National Eye Exam Month: 5 Ways Eye Health Affects Your Child’s Performance in School

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August is National Eye Exam Month, it is also the month most kids get ready to go back to school. With both things in mind, getting a comprehensive eye exam should be on your back-to-school checklist.

As a child’s body grows, their eyes go through changes. Sometimes, these changes are gradual. So gradual, that the child gets used to the change without noticing it. Your child may not have any problems with blurry vision or headaches. An annual back to school eye exam will ensure your child’s health, development and school performance. In the spirit of National Eye Exam Month. Here is how eye health affects your child.

School Performance

pediatric vision test

Take your child for an eye test

The most obvious reason to have an annual exam is to ensure your child can do well in school. If your child cannot see at a distance, they will miss out on critical information presented on a board or screen. For kids who cannot see things close up, reading and written assignments become a challenge.

You may only detect a problem when your child’s grades start to slip. Having an annual exam will detect eye issues before school even starts. It should become a normal part of your back-to-school routine.

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