Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School, Back to Routine

By: Christine Cox, The Choosy Mommy

Maybe your children are already back to school, or they will be heading back in a couple of weeks. It can be a happy and exciting time, but also a stressful time for both children and parents. Even though my daughter is only going to pre-school, I have to get us back into a school routine to make sure she gets everything done prior to leaving for school and is happy when we get there. The summer time really got us off our regular routine so it is time to hop back on board the school routine train!

Routine is Important for Any Age

No matter what age your children are, developing a daily routine can help keep their life organized and help eliminate chaos from yours. Children like routines that are predictable, regular and consistent. And since young children don’t understand time in minutes and hours, it is better to have a routine in place so they understand what event happens next.

Routines can also help children during difficult times of the day like when they first wake up in the morning, nap time, or bedtime. When children know what to expect when they wake up, there will be less arguments and they will learn to complete tasks before they can start other plans for the day.
And same with nap time and bedtime. By doing the bedtime routine prior to sleeping, they will feel more comfortable and prepared to calm their bodies and mind for sleep.

Implement a Routine

It is never too late to implement a routine, especially if a big life event is about to happen for the child – like going to school. No matter if this is your child’s first year going or their 12th, going from summer time to school time can be a hard transition. Implement a routine that you can keep on track with year-round (this is where I need to improve). Here are some easy routines that children can follow every day, regardless if they are going to school or not, to help with their day.
  • When your child wakes up in the morning, make it a routine to go to the bathroom first and use the toilet. Wash their hands next and brush their teeth while they are still at the sink. When they are finished with their teeth, have them move on to face washing and brushing their hair.
  • Don’t let them hangout all morning in their pajamas. After they are finished in the bathroom, have them change into their clothes for the day. When you get them changing out of their pajamas and into other clothes, it is a trigger action to confirm that their day is starting.
  • Many children wake up very hungry. 8-10 hours of sleep is a long time without eating for anyone, especially a young child. Have them eat a nutritious breakfast right after the bathroom routine.
  • At this point, children might be ready to be on their way to school. If your child is still in pre-school or a half day school program and starts in the afternoon, now might be a good time to encourage free play or do something fun together.
  • When your child gets home from school, have a routine in place to make the transition from school environment to home environment easier. If that means putting their backpacks in a certain place and going over paperwork together on the couch then do that. Maybe it is finding a healthy snack and going on a walk outside together. Whatever it is, ease the transition because school can be very stressful for children of any age.
  • And finally, the bedtime routine, which can be the hardest of all. Children are busy little people. Getting them to calm down and relax their mind and bodies after a long day can be so hard. Start bath time at the same time every evening. After the bath is over, implement a routine: pajamas, teeth, book, then bed for example. Or if your children are movers like mine, bed time yoga is fabulous! You could also go over what will happen tomorrow in your routine so that your child knows what the plan is. 

I hope that this school year is wonderful for your children and you, the parent. This time goes so fast so it is important that we make the best of it!

What are your daily routines like when your children go to school? At what age did you start a routine? How much does your routine change from school to summer time?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From Dance Dance Revolution to Pokémon Go: How Electronic Games and Fitness Have Evolved Together into Exergaming

By: Dr. Linda Carson, CEO, Choosy Kids

In 2005, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was a video game designed primarily for arcade entertainment but actually became known for pioneering the concept of total body engagement in a video game. Rather than sitting with a hand-held controller on the couch, DDR required players to stand up and be the controller and score points in the game by moving their feet on a floor mat. DDR quickly became a leader in a games for health trend. It was one of the first electronic games to be looked at as a health tool by researchers, and it was used in school Physical Education classes, and even in classrooms to help students with coordination. Soon after, we saw the Wii Fit game console – marketed as a fitness tool with games that could help the player lose weight and stay fit. Unlike DDR, the Wii, made it possible for players to keep track of their fitness, weight goals and other statistics by using a platform at their feet.

Today we have the Pokémon Go app, a game that isn’t being marketed as a fitness tool (yet) but rather a game that lures players outside to get moving with their cell phones in hand. This app, combining reality with virtual reality, is not played indoors on a TV or in an arcade, because it is mobile! Pokémon Go gets families and people of all ages out of their homes and into the fresh air! So what is it with electronic games and fitness that when mixed together keep people coming back for more exercise…I mean fun? How do you keep healthy habits (created through this type of play) going when the hype of the game fades?

As someone who was involved in a ground breaking study of the use of video games for total body activity, I saw firsthand what an electronic game can do for its player’s health. Our study, led by Dr. Emily Murphy, specifically targeted children in West Virginia, a state that is consistently among the top three in the country for obesity. Our study showed that DDR can have a long-term health and financial impact on its players by reducing obesity levels and instilling better lifestyle habits at an impressionable age. Specifically, we demonstrated that DDR is an effective tool in combating obesity, inactivity, and subsequent health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.

The University of Calgary Exergaming Research Centre and the American Council on Exercise, also state that exergaming works as a fitness tool. Their studies were focused upon adults. According to WebMD, “When used at intermediate or high intensity, exergaming can indeed improve fitness -- though some exercise games make that easier than others. A moderate 3 mph walk burns about 4 calories a minute, or 120 calories per half hour.” The good thing is that these ‘exergames’ are getting people up and moving. However, the hard part is keeping the attention of the player long enough to make this movement a healthy habit.

At least with games like Pokémon Go, it is bringing families together to participate. I have read countless stories of parents saying that they are their child’s eyes and ears for safety while playing the game and they allow their child to follow the map (another great learning experience with this game!) Other parents have praised the game saying they haven’t seen their child want to be outside this much in a long time and they are walking and running around more than ever! All great things!

When the fad or novelty of the game fade, it is up to the parents to keep the momentum going for joyful activity and healthy habits in their children. Maybe it is finding a new game that doesn’t involve any electronics, or just ask children to create something totally new. Try encouraging your family to eat healthy meals together while talking about the new habits you are creating as a family. Even if the fun of the game fades away, still try to encourage your family to get outside and get moving. Playing with your children makes memories that last a lifetime. And don’t forget, Choosy has plenty of songs and activities for you that encourage active play (indoors and outdoors)!
Have you and your family jumped on the Pokémon Go app craze? Have you noticed a difference in activity for your children? What else are you doing to encourage healthy habits and the continuation of moving forward with your family’s newly found love of getting outside and exercising?

About the Author: Linda Carson, Ed. D, is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, LLC, and the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University. An award winning, nationally recognized expert, Dr. Carson has devoted her career to promoting healthy preferences for young children and the adults who make decisions on their behalf. Click here to learn more about Linda.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Barbie Doll Perspective

By: Christine Cox, The Choosy Mommy

“I weigh 41 pounds!” exclaims my soon to be 4 year old Capri from the bathroom scale. Her dad laughs. “You are getting so big.” And I think to myself, she has no idea what 41 pounds really means, besides it being a number that randomly pops up on the scale. But when will this number matter to her? She is so innocent about her body image and those around her, although she thinks it is fabulous that both of her grandfathers look like Santa Claus with their big bellies (and for all she knows, that is what grandfathers are supposed to look like)! But at this age, many little girls are starting to play with dolls, especially Barbie, that portray a body image that can’t be physically achieved and isn’t realistically healthy. When does the Barbie doll perspective start to do more harm than good for girls?

It seems in today’s world, girls, even pre-school aged girls, are influenced more and more by celebrities, characters, brands, toys, shows, etc. The power that these influencers hold can seem like it is beyond a parent’s power to educate. But here is the thing, when specifically talking about Barbie, I believe it is solely up to the parents to teach their children what is best about this toy…she can be anything she wants to be and to not take her shape and looks into consideration. Essentially, girl power! Let’s talk a bit more in depth about Barbie’s image though, the thing that seems to effect girls the most.

Managing a healthy lifestyle starts at home at a young age. Parents do have the power to guide children in the right direction as far as what is and is not healthy for their growing bodies. This doesn’t mean girls shouldn’t play with Barbie (or boys shouldn’t play with superheroes for that matter) because Barbie doesn’t set realistic body image goals for them, but instead means the parent should use Barbie as a teaching tool for what a girl could achieve in the world.

In my home, Barbie represents the many careers a woman can have and when you work hard, you can have the luxuries that Barbie has (the cars, homes, boats, clothes, etc.). I have heard Capri say that her Barbie is a mommy, a doctor, nurse, vet, teacher, works at the grocery store and post office, etc. And that is because I actively engage with her during Barbie playtime. We learn about the different jobs Barbie has and never once has she even mentioned that Barbie is “skinny” or “pretty” or “tall”. And now the “curvy” Barbies are a hot commodity but she hasn’t ever noticed their difference in the store.

I was truly a Barbie girl. Through and through it was the thing I asked for most for birthdays and holidays. My mother recently expressed to me that she never told me when she thought I was gaining too much weight. Those pre-teens years were stressful enough and she didn’t want to be a negative person. Instead she educated me on what was healthy for my body and helped me find activities to do that secretly burned calories (because I thought we were just having fun). But she does remember a time that I yelled at her for not telling me that I was gaining too much weight. Puberty! But was I comparing myself to my favorite toy, Barbie? No. I was comparing myself to my peers.

So back to my original question of when does the Barbie doll perspective start to do more harm than good for young girls? Studies show girls as young as 4-6 years old start to worry about their weight and could possibly look to Barbie as a body image role model because she is trendy and a popular toy among their age group. However, I feel that this can all be reversed when parents are involved in active playtime, pretend time and properly communicate about a healthy lifestyle with their children and beyond into their teen years. When parents are the role model, girls won’t need to look to a doll for how they should aspire to look.

This wonderful toy should be looked at as just that…a toy. I don’t feel the Barbie doll perspective could have an effect upon young girls if the parents educate them on what a healthy body is and that people come in all shapes and sizes. The earlier we educate children on this, the better the chances are that they will ultimately be comfortable with the beautiful bodies that belong just to them, and that they will prefer to live a healthy lifestyle.

About the Author: Christine Cox is the blog master for Choosy Kids. She has always had a passion for writing and is honored to contribute her work to this blog. Most of her writing inspiration comes from her daughter, Capri, who is fun-loving and full of energy, and son Cam, who is learning new things everyday. Click here to learn more about Christine.

Choosy's Blog Archive