New Research on The Importance of a Consistent Bedtime

Click here for other posts on sleep and children.
REPOST FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 30, 2013, 4:44 a.m. ET

New Study Shows Why You Should Get the Kids to Bed on Time

Going to bed at a regular time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, recent research shows.

By Samantha Reddy

A large study published in June found that young children with an irregular bed time fared worse on cognitive tests several years later. Sumathi Reddy explains on Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.

Going to bed at the same time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, a recent study found.

Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.

The latest study considered other factors that can influence bedtime and cognitive development, such as kids skipping breakfast or having a television in their bedroom. After accounting for these, the study found that going to bed very early or very late didn’t affect cognitive performance, so long as the bedtime was consistent.

“The surprising thing was the later bedtimes weren’t significantly affecting children’s test scores once we took other factors into account,” said Amanda Sacker, director of the International Center for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at University College London and a co-author of the study. “I think the message for parents is…maybe a regular bedtime even slightly later is advisable.”

The researchers suggested that having inconsistent bedtimes may hurt a child’s cognitive development by disrupting circadian rhythms. It also might result in sleep deprivation and therefore affect brain plasticity—changes in the synapses and neural pathways—at critical ages of brain development.

Sleep experts often focus largely on how much sleep children get. While that is important, “we tend to not pay as much attention to this issue of circadian disruption,” said Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t involved with the study.

Insufficient sleep and irregular bedtimes may each affect cognitive development through different mechanisms, Dr. Owens said. “The kid who has both [problems] may beat even higher risk for these cognitive impairments,” she said.

The study, published online in July in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, examined data on bedtimes and cognitive scores for 11,178 children.

The children were participants in the U.K.’s Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative longterm study of infants born between 2000 and 2002.

Mothers were asked about their children’s bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 years of age. Nearly 20% of the 3-year-olds didn’t have a regular bedtime. That figure dropped to 9.1% at age 5 and 8.2% at age 7. Mothers were also asked about socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and family routines.

When the children were 7 years old, they received cognitive assessments in reading, math and spatial abilities. The poorest test scores were recorded by children who went to bed very early or very late, and by those who had inconsistent bedtimes, said Dr. Sacker. But once other factors in the home were taken into account only the inconsistent bedtime was associated with lower scores, she said.

A consistent pattern of sleep behavior mattered. “Those who had irregular bedtimes at all three ages had significantly poorer scores than those who had regular bedtimes,” Dr. Sacker said. This was especially true for girls who didn’t establish consistent bedtimes between 3 and 7 years old.

Yvonne Kelly, a co-author of the study and a professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said the researchers aren’t sure why girls seemed to be more affected. She noted that the difference in scores between these groups of girls and boys wasn’t statistically significant for the reading and spatial tests, but it was for the math test.

“I don’t think for one moment that boys are immune to these things and girls are more affected,” Dr. Kelly said.

The researchers didn’t have data on the total number of hours children slept overnight because mothers weren’t asked about what time the children woke up.

In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University.

Dr. Paruthi said the good news from the study is that the majority of the children went to bed at a consistent time, reinforcing advice from sleep specialists. “The younger the child is, the better it is to get into the habit of a regular bedtime,” said Dr. Paruthi, who wasn’t affiliated with the study. She recommends a 15-minute, pre-bedtime routine to help the brain transition from a more alert to a quiet state.

And in order to keep the body’s internal clock in sync with the brain, bedtimes on weekends and in the summer should only stray from the normal time by an hour or less, Dr. Paruthi said. “The internal clock in the brain and the body like to have consistency every day,” she said.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy@wsj.com

Kombucha: Fermentation, Fungus, Bacteria Goodness!

IMG_2221 So, the truth comes out. I’m kind of a nerd.

I made this bacterial fungal fermented tea at my house that is supposed to be full of probiotics and other good stuff and I’m super excited. I was even more excited until I found out it could make you sick or kill you (very rare).

But then I figured that people have been doing this for thousands of years so how bad could it really be. Also, one of the arguments is that there haven’t been any human studies (only animal studies and, interestingly, Kombucha did not harm rats and in some instances resulted in health improvements on the little guys).

Then a friend of mine made an interesting point. She said, “I figure the large population of people making Kombucha at home IS our human study.” Very wise. If Kombucha were killing people right and left we’d be hearing a lot more about it. The Bird Flu and West Nile Virus get a lot more attention than home-Kombucha-making ever has so I figure I should be good to go. I have been told that if you’re immuno-suppressed or compromised this might not be the drink for you.

The only thing you really need to watch out for is the mold and there are a lot of pictures and descriptions on the web to help you with that. The samples below do NOT have mold on them. Based on my research, I have deemed these healthy Kombucha samples.

IMG_2223 IMG_2234 IMG_2246

MOLD

Although you might think the above three pictures of the same bottle of Kombucha is moldy, it’s not. That big blob of stuff is called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). The scoby eats the sugar and ferments the brewed tea that I added to it. The brown specks are from loose tea that made its way into the jar. The white part is actually smooth, not fuzzy like you would see on cheese.

If it is fuzzy like the mold you find on cheese or bread then you throw everything out and start fresh. I looked for information telling me I might die from the mold but I couldn’t find anything that remotely suggested that, so that was comforting.

So here’s some good info: “Mold tends to grow especially when the Kombucha mushroom is lifted out of the liquid by its own gases. Keeping it covered with liquid in the later stages, i.e. when the new Kombucha mushroom starts growing, can successfully prevent mold from growing.” (Wikipedia)

With each batch a new round white disc grows on the top. This is the new Kombucha “mushroom” as some like to call it. Also, I read that it is important to disinfect and clean your hands and the jars with white vinegar, not soap. Somehow soap can lead to the introduction of bacteria.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Below are various views of the same jar of seven-day fermented Kombucha. You’re not supposed to fiddle around with the stuff while it is brewing. I did take a peek a few times to make sure I didn’t see any mold growing. It was interesting to watch the bubbles start to develop as the yeast and bacteria were eating up the sugar. Similar to the process of rising when you make bread.

IMG_2220 IMG_2238 IMG_2221

MAKING THE KOMBUCHA

IMG_2231

So the way you make Kombucha is to brew about a quart of tea and dissolve a little over a cup of sugar in the warm liquid. When it is warm (not hot) add it to the scoby that is resting in your gallon jar in a few inches of water or Kombucha from the last batch.

Fill the remainder of the jar up with water leaving a few inches of room at the top.

Cover the jar with a paper towel and put a rubber band around the top. This is to prevent fruit flies from getting in. I had fruit flies in my kitchen from the compost and they didn’t bother my Kombucha in the dining room at all.

The Kombucha needs to be stored in a warm, dark place. Some people store their Kombucha in a dark cupboard but my cupboards are all full so I left it on the dining room table with a towel over it to keep out the light.

Brewing takes a minimum of seven days. The further out from seven days you go the more acidic or vinegar-like it gets. I prefer it a little sweeter so I went right up to seven days and then took it out.

I have a second jar I’m going to let go until 10 days so I can see what the difference in taste is. If you let it go several weeks it will get to some vinegar like state and you can do something with that but I’m not sure what. You can also experiment with green and black teas. Some say they need to be caffeinated. Teas with oils as flavors (like Earl Grey) are not recommended as they can harm the scoby.

Flavors from fruits can be added later, after the brewing is done, but I haven’t tried that yet either.

SCOBY HOTEL

IMG_2249

On the left, the jar with the paper towel on it has a scoby on the bottom. This is my scoby hotel where I am going to store my scobies for use as I want them. The jar on the right is the one that I haven’t poured into jars yet and am going to let ferment for a few more days.

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT IS DONE

Below you will see the plastic and glass jars that I poured my completed Kombucha into. I will store them in the fridge until I’m ready to drink them. I’m hoping they won’t lose their carbonation in the larger containers if I only drink some at a time. I think it will be like any soda. If there is a large amount of air in the container, the Kombucha will eventually lose its fizz.

IMG_2254 IMG_2256

Refrigerate, drink and enjoy! I know I will. Hopefully I’ll survive 🙂

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kombucha-tea/AN01658 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha http://kombuchablog.com/kombucha/

Smallest Theater In Minneapolis? Maybe…But Also One of the Best!

open eye theater 2

www.openeyetheatre.org

I love taking my child to the theatre and I’m pretty sure she likes it to. However, the major children’s theater in Minneapolis/St. Paul, despite its amazing performances, can be pretty pricey. Tonight I discovered a new, community-based theatre that I fell in love with. The theater is the Open Eye Figure Theater and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

The show we saw was Milly and Tillie, and it truly was silly.

I paid full price for our tickets and I believe the total was around $15.00 for both of us. So, given the price and the extras you’ll soon find out about, I was awestruck at the quality of the performance and how the whole experience was truly tailored to children, while keeping adults engaged as well.

 

THE THEATRE
The whole theatre seats 90 people. It is so cute and warm and inviting! Notice the benches in the front. They are about six feet from the stage so the little ones can really get in on the action.

open eye theater 3

TICKETS
Tickets are available on-line or in person on the night of the show.  They also had a “pay what you can” option that you could select on-line. Furthermore, they have a “no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay” so just show up for the show you want to see and pay what you can. They are bound to have empty seats.

LOCATION
The theatre is just east of 35W between Franklin and Lake Streets. It looks like a renovated warehouse. From the outside you wouldn’t even know there was a theatre if it weren’t for the chalk drawings on the sidewalk outside. The inside is so warm and cozy and quaint…Just a great feel to it.

PERFORMANCE
This particular performance used both stage actresses, puppets and silhouettes or shadow puppets. The pace was good and the energy amazing. Child and adults alike were entertained for the duration.

The theater was only about a two-thirds full and there was plenty of seating available upfront on the low couch-like pews that are meant for the younger set. If you’re interested in showing up for a performance at the last minute, I would say go for it! Otherwise you can pre-order your tickets on line and just give them your name when you arrive. They have a printed out list of names. Nothing fancy. No frills.

EXTRAS!
The best two things about the Open Eye Figure Theatre (besides the price and the quality) are the sidewalk chalk that children can use before and after the performances and the free ice cream cones that they handed out in the lobby following the show. The show was only 45 minutes long so no intermission was needed. We had a choice of butter brickle or strawberry ice cream in a cake cone. Many patrons hung outside after the show, chatting and socializing.

open eye theater 1

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
While we were waiting for the performance to start a little six year old Latina girl came in and plopped herself down in the front row. One of the three staff came over and checked in with her to see if she was by herself. When she said yes, the staff person said, “That’s okay. That’s cool. Just checking.” I introduced my daughter to her and they became fast friends, getting water together, sitting next to each other on the bench, holding hands while getting ice cream. The little girl said she lived in the neighborhood, which is economically and socially challenged. It was so nice to see that she had a place to go on a Saturday night that was safe and free. During the course of the show I learned that she had seen the performance before. She consoled my four year old during the thunderstorm scene and when Tillie was dressed like a shark she told my daughter that the shark wasn’t real, that is was actually one of the sisters.

I would say this is truly an under-explored community gem…a great place for families, kids and friends, and a community service. Bringing art and drama to low income families. If you have a chance, take your family to see a performance at the Open Eye Theatre. You won’t regret it and your wallet and your spirit won’t either.

Tamarack Nature Center: A True Childhood Learning Experience

IMG_2140

This is a view overlooking the large, multifaceted play area (aka Discovery Hollow) of the Tamarack Nature Center located in White Bear Township, Minnesota. Tamarack Nature Center is run by one of our local counties and is a 20 minute drive north from the downtown area. It consists of three main areas: the Waterway area, the Log Play area and a huge vegetable and herb garden. (There is also a large “Garden Kitchen” which I assume they use during the camps and summer programs.)

Here is a sign marking the water way areas. There are two sources of water that feed into the sand beds. One is up higher and the other down lower.

IMG_2130

The best part of Tamarack Nature Center is the Waterways. They have a huge sand bar that is fed with water by human operated systems. When the water goes off, one touch and you can turn it back on. It goes for about a minute and so you get to keep turning it back on as the children desire. (My four year old learned how to turn it on so that made things easy.) The water was also REALLY cold which was nice for such a hot day. As you can see, the children were enjoying the water and sand play both viscerally and intellectually, depending on their age and desired play activity.

IMG_2127 IMG_2116

Here are a few shots of a Dad and his son making a dam in the water area.

IMG_2134   IMG_2132

In addition to the water and sand area there was a more shaded area with logs and branches that the children could move around to create forts or whatever their imagination desired. I saw a father instructing his young child on the physics of paddling a canoe while sitting on a log with a stick-for-a-paddle in hand!

IMG_2138

In general, the park was also just plain beautiful. It sits on a very large piece of undeveloped land. Here’s a shot looking out over the field just adjacent to the play area.

IMG_2141

This was another little area. I assume they use it for presentations or for preschool activities and the like.

IMG_2137

Not far from the play area the rocks and flowers were a source of attraction as well.

IMG_2112

I love the windwill and this view of the park.

IMG_2135

Inside the Nature Center itself there was also a large room with live animals (turtles, salamanders, bees). It had a beautiful high ceiling and lots of windows looking out over the meadows and the bird feeders. There was a kids’ corner with books and nature puzzles.

I believe there are also paths to walk and more nature sights to see. I look forward to our next foray into the Tamarack Nature Center! Perhaps in the winter?

Tamarack Nature Center
Tamarack Nature Center provides two classic (no skating) trails, one 4K more difficult loop, and a 3K easier loop. There is also a 1K practice loop. Ski through beautiful prairie, woodland and marsh with abundant wildlife. A visitor center with restroom facilities and ski rental is available during open hours, Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Access is from the Nature Center parking lot off Otter Lake Road. (Ski lessons available at Tamarack Nature Center)

https://parks.co.ramsey.mn.us/tamarack/Pages/tamarack.aspx

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

Kids on screens

This article illustrates a major problem in today’s society of child-rearing: Parents don’t see screen time as an issue with their children. According to this research article, content is a concern to parents, but QUANTITY? Not so much.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-study-parents-use-20130604,0,7254966.story

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

By Deborah NetburnJune 4, 2013, 6:35 p.m.

Among the zillions of decisions that moms and dads make about how to parent,  it might seem that determining the appropriate amount of time young children can spend watching TV and playing on tablets and smart phones might be big one.

But it turns out that’s not the case. Most parents of children younger than 8 don’t give the matter much thought, researchers from Northwestern University found in a recent study.

Just 31% of the 2,300 parents surveyed expressed concern about their children’s media and technology use, while more than 55% of parents said they are not worrying about the amount of time their children spend staring at screens much at all.

And while 38% of parents said they were fearful their children could get addicted to hand held devices like tablets and smart phones, 55% said they aren’t sweating it.

(If you are anything like me, and have had the experience of trying to pry an iPhone out of the clutches of a screaming 2-year-old, you are now feeling very out of sync with your fellow American parents).

“It was completely surprising to me,” said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development and the lead researcher on the study in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a generational shift. What we are seeing is a generation of parents who recognize that what kind of content you are exposing your kids to matters more than how much.”

The study, titled Parenting in the Age of Digital Media, held other surprises as well. For example, although 71% of parents had a smartphone in the home, nearly the same percentage said they did not think that having a smartphone or tablet device made parenting easier.

The study also revealed that most parents do not rely heavily on digital devices to distract their children. When Mom or Dad needs a moment to cook dinner or clean up the house, parents said, they are more likely to set their kid up with a toy or an activity (88%), a book (79%) or TV (78%) rather than handing over a smartphone or tablet (37%).

“Parents have a lot of tools they can use and media and technology are just one of those tools,” said Wartella.

Finally, the researchers found children’s media use is largely determined by the media environment that the parents have established in the home, rather than the result of a media obsessed kid clamoring for just one more show, or just one more app.

Of the families interviewed for the study, 38% fell into a category the researchers dubbed  “media-centric.” These are families where the parents enjoy watching TV and using the computer and smartphone at home, spending an average of 11 hours a day looking at various screens. The children of these parents, on average, spend four hours and 40 minutes a day looking at screens, the researchers found.

Some 45% of families fell into a “media-moderate” category where the parents spend a little less than 5 hours a day looking at screens. Their children, in turn, look at screens just under three hours a day.

And children in “media-light” families, where parents spend less than 2 hours a day looking at screen media, look at screen media themselves for an hour and 35 minutes on average.

“Instead of a battle with children on one side and parents on the other, media and technology has become a family affair,” the researchers conclude.

Meditation goes mainstream

Meditation goes mainstream

http://m.startribune.com/?id=209378341

With doctors prescribing it and scientists swearing by it, you clearly don’t need to be a monk to meditate. Enthusiasts have even given it a new name:”mindfulness.”

Article by: Jeff Strickler , Star Tribune

Updated: May 29, 2013 – 6:08 PM

When the Rev. Ron Moor began meditating 30 years ago, he did so in secret.

“When I started, meditation was a dirty word,” said Moor, pastor of Spirit United Church in Minneapolis. “[Evangelist] Jimmy Swaggart called it ‘the work of the devil.’ Because of its basis in Eastern religions, fundamentalists considered it satanic. Now those same fundamentalists are embracing it. And every class I teach includes at least a brief meditation.”

The faith community isn’t alone in changing its attitude. Businesses, schools and hospitals not only have become more accepting of meditation, but many offer classes on it. Meditating has gone mainstream.

Why? “Because it works,” Moor said.

Adherents have been saying that for centuries, of course, but now there’s a difference: Scientists can prove it.

Propelled by technological breakthroughs in neuroscience enabling researchers to monitor brain activity, the medical community is awash in studies showing that meditating has beneficial physical effects on the brain. Those studies are being joined by others demonstrating that advantages include everything from raising the effectiveness of flu vaccines to lowering rejection rates for organ transplants.

“Meditation has become a huge topic” in medical circles, said Dr. Selma Sroka, medical director of the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Alternative Medicine Clinic. “The health benefits are so strong that if nothing else, people should learn the relaxation techniques.”

The practice is being embraced by an audience that isn’t interested in its religious contexts, typically Buddhist or Hindu, but is fascinated by its mechanics and techniques. Sroka compared the West’s co-opting of meditation to what happened to yoga, which came to this country as a spiritual discipline and has morphed into a form of physical fitness.

Some would-be meditators opt simply to ignore the religious element, said Mark Nunberg, co-founder of Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis. Although his center is a Buddhist organization, at least half the people who enroll in classes are there just for instruction in meditation, he said.

“It’s the same practice” whether it involves religion or not, he said. “It’s training the mind to be in the present moment in a relaxed way. It’s the most practical thing in the world; some might even say it’s just common sense.”

What’s in a name?

You don’t have to call it meditation. In fact, Sroka said, a lot of people would prefer that you don’t.

Terms such as “mindfulness stress reduction” and “relaxation response” are less threatening to some folks. They also make it easier to introduce the practice in offices and schools, where even a tangential reference to religion can raise red flags.

Since 2001, doctors doing their residencies in HCMC’s family medicine program have been required to take a class in meditation, not necessarily to pass on the information to their patients — although they are encouraged to do so, Sroka said — so much as to help them deal with the stress of their jobs. At first, the program ran into resistance. Then the hospital quit calling it meditation.

“I think a lot of it is in the language,” she said. Because of meditation’s association with Eastern religions, “members of other religions often are uncomfortable with the term. People want to know that I’m not selling them a religion.”

The scientific community’s interest in meditation springs from tests in which electrodes attached to subjects’ heads show their brains calming down during meditation, lowering stress levels and increasing the ability to focus.

The tests are generating so much interest that leading experts have almost become rock stars. In October, 1,200 people turned out for a lecture by Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. Davidson is a professor at the University of Wisconsin who has been on the cutting edge of using neuroscience to monitor meditation-induced changes in the brain.

He is convinced that the brain can be trained to deal with stress the same way a muscle can be conditioned to lift a heavy weight.

“Training the mind can lead to changes in the brain,” he said.

Flexing your mind muscle

On the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, the Mindfulness for Students club meets every Friday for a 90-minute meditation. Attendance tends to surge right before finals.

“It’s a great way to deal with stress,” said Stefan Brancel, a junior who is president of the club. Meditation “makes you capable of stepping back and taking a bigger perspective instead of getting lost in the stress. Once you step back and see the situation for what it is, you can react to it.”

The surge in scientific research focuses on brain imaging. The best known device is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which produces color-coded cross-section diagrams showing how the neurons in the brain are firing.

Davidson has used this imaging with Tibetan monks. While his findings have been stunning, questions arise over their applicability to the general public. Studying the brain waves of people who meditate for several hours a day is comparable to measuring physical fitness in Olympic athletes, critics say. The results might be impressive, but what do they mean for the average person?

That’s why Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing, is excited about studies of meditation newcomers. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have documented changes in the brains of novice practitioners who took an introductory eight-week class and meditated as little as 15 minutes a day.

Sroka said that the techniques can become second nature. In times of stress, “you slow down and breathe slowly,” she said. “You get to the point where you do it routinely without even being aware of it.”

Kreitzer agrees. “Mindfulness is an attitude that you carry with you,” she said. “I think mindfulness really helps us move through life with ease.”

She also challenges the notion that meditating requires a special room filled with incense, soothing music and floor mats on which practitioners twist themselves into the lotus position.

“You can sit, you can stand, you can walk,” Kreitzer said. “I wouldn’t advise doing it while you’re driving, but other than that, meditation can be done anywhere.”

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

Heartfelt Crafts: Fabric Flower Prints

pansy  IMAG1976

There was an open house at a “natural” craft store for kids this week and it was GREAT!  http://www.heartfeltonline.com/

The first project we did was to create flower prints on muslin (available at any fabric store).

Here are the instructions to make your flower/fabric print.

1. Place a piece of scrap paper on a piece of wood.

2. Put the flower on top of the paper.

Image

3. Cover the flower with a piece of muslin and start hammering gently.

Image

As you hammer, the color from the flower bleeds through.

Image

Image

To set the color in the fabric, iron it between two pieces of fabric.

Get creative and use different sizes of fabrics and different color flowers. The sky is the limit.

Frame and hang. It’s as simple as that and is really beautiful!

Skills: Appreciation of nature, manual dexterity, fine and gross motor coordination, recognition of colors, physical properties of flowers, art.

Children Can Meditate Too

ImageI LOVE this concept. Children meditating. Children engaging in stress-reducing activities at a young age. My daughter has learned “The Volcano Breath” at school.

They rub their hands together while calming and then blast them into the air with a big out breath! I use it when things are getting riled up in the household and the energy level is about to blow off the roof.

“Volcano breath, Honey! Quick, Volcano Breath!”

She stops whatever whirlwind she’s in the middle of and runs to me all smiles. She quick starts rubbing her hands together and then blast-off! 

She’s calm, if only for a minute.

This is from an article I cut out on the topic of health and mindfulness meditation:

http://ecologyhealthcenter.net/node/1064

“A few minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can help take attention away from tummy troubles of all kinds for school-age kids, too.

Here’s one way to get started:

Have your child hold a flower (or another small, pretty object) in her hands. Encourage her to pretend she’s never seen a flower before, and have her describe what it looks like, what it smells like, how the petals feel—even what it sounds like. Gaylord says that focusing on something other than symptoms brings a person’s attention into the present moment—helping her think less about stomach pain or anxiety.”

Let’s try it! Find ways to integrate “living in the moment” into our children’s live. Let’s work on those self-calming strategies if only for a few moments or perhaps before going to bed.

There’s more to explore on this topic and I’m looking forward to it. I’m guessing that nature has its own natural sedative properties…how can they be put to use in this process?!

Helping the Women of Assam, India

women weavers

Yesterday I cooked Indian food for my good friend Mili who has been raising money to help impoverished children and women in India with her annual fundraiser. This year they are supporting women in Assam (the part of India she is from) to purchase and use more efficient looms and to have better access to markets to sell their wares at fair wages. If you can help by donating something (anything really – even a few dollars), it would mean a lot to me and to Mili and to the women of Assam!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Wm9NfhD_g5c

Here’s a link to one of the dancers at the fundraiser last night.

Those who wanted to come and support and could not make it, it is still not too late… You could still help us by writing a check to AFNA (Assam Foundation of North America) and send it to Mili Dutta, 3233 Columbus Ave S, MN 55407.
 
She wanted to raise $5000 and so far they have raised $4309.

So, if you would like to support her and help her to reach her goal, then PLEASE send a check or use the following paypal link…https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=CZYN3ADB9UDM4&lc=US&item_name=Assam+Foundation+of+North+America&item_number=2000&currency_code=USD&bn=PP-DonationsBF%3Abtn_donateCC_LG.gif%3ANonHosted

 
Thank you to all who believe in social justice and helping the underserved…

 

It will only make a few minutes of your time and could make the difference in the life of a woman.

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

IMG_6867

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.