Month: April 2013

More Support for the Out of Doors (Nature and Children)

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20 Reasons Why Playing Outdoors Makes Children Smarter

http://www.houstonfamilymagazine.com/exclusives/20-reasons-why-playing-outdoors-makes-children-smarter/

By Stacey Loscalzo

Author and clinical psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison, writes, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” It is through unstructured, open-ended creative play that children learn the ways of the world. While playing outside, children explore with all their senses, they witness new life, they create imaginary worlds and they negotiate with each other to create a playful environment.

1. Outdoor play is a multi-sensory activity. While outdoors, children will see, hear, smell and touch things unavailable to them when they play inside. They use their brains in unique ways as they come to understand these new stimuli.

2. Playing outside brings together informal play and formal learning. Children can incorporate concepts that have learned at school in a hands on way while outdoors. For example, seeing and touching the roots of a tree will bring to life the lesson their teacher had taught about how plants get their nutrients.

3. Playing outdoors stimulates creativity. Robin Moore, an expert in the design of play and learning environments, says, “Natural spaces and materials stimulate children’s limitless imagination and serve as the medium of inventiveness and creativity.” Rocks, stones and dirt present limitless opportunities for play that can be expressed differently every time a child steps outside.

4. Playing outdoors is open ended. There is no instruction manual for outdoor play. Children make the rules and in doing so use their imagination, creativity, intelligence and negotiation skills in a unique way.

5. Playing in nature reduces anxiety.Time spent outside physiologically reduces anxiety. Children bring an open mind and a more relaxed outlook back inside when they are in more traditional learning environments.

6. Outdoor play increases attention span. Time spent in unstructured play outdoors is a natural attention builder.Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for longer periods of times are significantly more successful after time spent outside.

7. Outdoor play is imaginative. Because there are no labels, no pre-conceived ideas and no rules, children must create the world around them. In this type of play children use their imagination in ways they don’t when playing inside.

8. Being in nature develops respect for other living things. Children develop empathy, the ability to consider other people’s feeling, by interacting with creatures in nature. Watching a tiny bug, a blue bird or a squirrel scurrying up a tree gives children the ability to learn and grow from others.

9. Outdoor play promotes problem solving. As children navigate a world in which they make the rules, they must learn to understand what works and what doesn’t, what line of thinking brings success and failure, how to know when to keep trying and when to stop.

10. Playing outside promotes leadership skills. In an environment where children create the fun, natural leaders will arise. One child may excel at explaining how to play the game while another may enjoy setting up the physical challenge of an outdoor obstacle course. All types of leadership skills are needed and encouraged.

11. Outdoor play widens vocabulary. While playing outdoors, children may see an acorn, a chipmunk and cumulous clouds. As they encounter new things, their vocabulary will expand in ways it never could indoors.

12. Playing outside improves listening skills. As children negotiate the rules of an invented game, they must listen closely to one another, ask questions for clarification and attend to the details of explanations in ways they don’t have to when playing familiar games.

13. Being in nature improves communication skills. Unclear about the rules in an invented game? Not sure how to climb the tree or create the fairy house? Children must learn to question and clarify for understanding while simultaneously making themselves understood.

14. Outdoor play encourages cooperative play. In a setting where there aren’t clear winners and losers, children work together to meet a goal. Perhaps they complete a self-made obstacle course or create a house for a chipmunk. Together they compromise and work together to meet a desired outcome.

15. Time in nature helps children to notice patterns. The natural world is full of patterns. The petals on flowers, the veins of a leaf, the bark on a tree are all patterns. Pattern building is a crucial early math skill.

16. Playing outdoors helps children to notice similarities and differences. The ability to sort items and notice the similarities and differences in them is yet another skill crucial to mathematical success. Time outdoors affords many opportunities for sorting.

17. Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems. Healthy children are stronger learners. As children spend more and more time outdoors, their immune systems improve decreasing time out of school for illness.

18. Outdoor play increases children’s physical activity level. Children who play outdoors are less likely to be obese and more likely to be active learners. Children who move and play when out of school are ready for the attention often needed for classroom learning.

19. Time spent outdoors increases persistence. Outdoor games often require persistence. Children must try and try again if their experiment fails. If the branch doesn’t reach all the way across the stream or the bark doesn’t cover their fairy house, they must keep trying until they are successful.

20. Outdoor play is fun. Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing.

 Bio: Stacey Loscalzo is a freelance writer and mother of two girls living in Ridgewood, NJ. She and her girls have been getting outside to play for nearly a decade.

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Breastfeeding for Six Months Can Significantly Cut Risk of Cancer Death

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Breastfeeding for Six Months Can Significantly Cut Risk of Cancer Death—As Can Less Alcohol and Staying in Shape, Study Finds
By Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff

PostsBy Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff | Healthy Living

Breastfeeding is good for you, study says.

Women still confused by the breast milk vs. formula debate may want to listen up, as a new study has found exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least six months could cut your chances of dying from cancer and all other diseases by 17 percent—and death by heart disease alone by 8 percent.

The mass study, published online Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined breastfeeding and other lifestyle recommendations from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and its umbrella World Cancer Research Fund International and their effects on nearly 380,000 people in several European countries over 13 years.

It found that both women and men could cut their risk of death on average by a third, simply by adhering to one or several healthy lifestyle choices: keeping lean but not underweight, eating a plant-based diet, being active for at least 30 minutes daily, avoiding sugary drinks and highly caloric foods, lowering meat intake, and limiting alcohol intake.

But findings on the additional breastfeeding recommendation for women represented perhaps the freshest recommendation in the mix.

“No previous study has investigated the association between breastfeeding and mortality in the mother,” lead researcher Anne-Claire Vergnaud told Yahoo! Shine. Dr. Vergnaud, of London’s Imperial College faculty of medicine, added that a previous study found “failure to breastfeed” related to an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes and other conditions.

There are several connections between breastfeeding and longevity, AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham explained to Yahoo! Shine. “Longer breastfeeding means fewer menstrual cycles and reduced lifetime exposure to the hormonal factors, especially estrogen, that influence breast cancer risk,” she said. “Physical changes in breast tissue that accompany milk production provide some protection as well.” She added, that the shedding of breast tissue during lactation and the cell death after also decrease cancer risk, “because cells have potential DNA damage get shed before they can spark the cancer process.”

There are even benefits for the baby, Dr. Higginbotham said, as breastfeeding decreases the likelihood that a child will be overweight during early adulthood, and being obese or overweight are major risk factors for seven different kinds of cancer.

Currently, only 16 percent of women in the U.S. exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, according to the CDC. That percentage jumps to 36 for those exclusively breastfeeding for three months, and 47 for those who breastfeed for six months but combine it with using other nutrition sources.

For the study, researchers examined the data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC), one of the world’s largest ongoing studies of diet, lifestyle and cancer. At the end of the study, nearly 24,000 participants had died of various causes. Participants in the highest healthy-lifestyle score category (5-6 points for men, 6-7 points for women) had a 34 percent lower chance of death than those in the lowest category (0-2 points for men, 0-3 points for women).

But even adhering to just one of the lifestyle recommendations—developed by AICR and WCRF in 2007—can save your life, according to the report. Maintaining a healthy BMI, for example, can lower your risk of disease-caused mortality by 22 percent, while eating a plant-based diet can lower it by 21 percent.

“We’ve known for years that following AICR’s lifestyle advice could cut the worldwide incidence of cancer cases by about one-third,” Dr. Higginbotham said of the study results. “Today we have evidence on mortality, which shows that this same practical advice could also save millions of lives from cancer and other chronic diseases around the world.”