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The struggle is real. Parenting a toddler is hard and we are right there with you. There are amazing, fun filled days and... the others. Days when you aren't sure whether you have the right answers and there are tears, tantrums and more! We asked our community of Lark parents what stresses them out the most about parenting their toddler and kept hearing the same pain points over and over again.  We reached out to the Parenting Mentor, Susan G. Groner to get some expert tips on tackling this difficult age with a little more grace and kindness. 

About Susan Groner:

Susan G. Groner is founder of The Parenting Mentor and author of the Mom’s Choice Gold Award book, Parenting: 101 Ways to Rock Your World. Sue’s goal is to help parents reduce the everyday stress and anxiety that inevitably comes from parenting while guiding them in their quest to raise confident and resilient children.

1. Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

“Please don’t have a meltdown!” How many times have you said this to yourself as you’re headed out to run some errands with your toddler. Tantrums are exhausting!! Not just for your child, but for also for you, be it out in public or in the privacy of your own home. Wouldn’t it be great to avoid them altogether? Here are some strategies that might help u to be proactive:

  •  Make a list of the things that set your child off. Not getting another cookie? No more Cheerios in the box? You won’t buy her that little toy she’s grasping in the store? Time to leave the playground? You get the idea
  • Prepare your child for what to expect. “We are going to the store soon. Today we are going to buy just what is on the list. You can help me find all the items.” OR “You can draw for 10 minutes before we have to leave the house. I’ll set a timer for you. You may not have time to finish, but you can work on it later today."
  • Reinforce by repeating the plan a few times before and during the activity. On the way to the store try, “ I’m glad you are with me to help me shop. We will be get this done quickly since we are only buying what is on our list.” If this is successful, make sure to also reinforce the positive behavior.
  • Use emotion words. If you see that your toddler may be on the verge of a meltdown even if you’ve done the preparation, reflect back what you see. “ It’s hard to not get what you want, isn’t it? It can be very frustrating.” “I can see you are getting angry that we need to leave the playground. It’s not easy to stop doing something fun.” Using a tone of frustration with your toddler will let her know that you understand how she is feeling. Being sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, etc are all normal feelings.
  • HUG. If all else fails, a really tight hug just might do the trick. This tells your child that you understand that they are going through a really tough moment, they don’t have the words to describe how they feel, and most importantly, that it’s okay and you love them.
  • Ignore the judgy looks!
  • Do NOT give in! 
      2. Getting Toddlers to Follow Directions or Listen

      “Please get your shoes on.”
      “Please get your shoes on. “
      “Get your shoes on.”
      “GET YOUR SHOES ON NOW!!!”
      Can you relate? I’m sure u can! Sounding like a broken record isn’t fun. It’s infuriating and frustrating when your toddler ignores your requests. Try these simple strategies:

      • Speak at their level. This means kneeling down. Your child needs to stop what he’s doing and look at you while you speak. Toddlers may hear you from afar, but as you have experienced, they are not listening. They are engaged in something else and don’t yet have the ability to refocus.
      • Speak softly and firmly. Nobody wants to be barked at.
      • No “but’s”.  By replacing “but” with “and”, you let your child know that you understand AND that you are in charge. “I know you would like to continue playing and it’s time to get your shoes on.” While this seems so simple, it really helps!
      • Make it a game. Whether is “how fast can you…” or “I’m going to guess which shoes you are going to put on now”, this can make it fun for your child.
      3. Potty Training Troubles

      Potty training can be one of the most stressful things for parents and which is why I suggest not doing it! Why? Because inevitably, it becomes a control issue and one that you just won’t win. Your child will end up using a toilet, so instead of a bathroom battle, try these steps:

      • Make sure that your child sees you sitting on the toilet. I know that’s not going to be a problem since we don’t get much privacy in the bathroom!
      • Buy a potty. Show it to your toddler and let him know it’s for him when he is ready. You can leave it in the bathroom if u want, but don’t mention it again. Kids are smart and they will let you know when it’s time.
      • Embrace the pull-up! These were made for the transitional time between diapers and undies. Both you and your child should feel no shame around this.
      • Ignore pressure from your in-laws or other parents. Have an answer ready when asked it you have started potty training. “We are following Johnny’s lead instead of stressing and bribing. We’re not worried! It’ll happen.” Repeat that until you believe it too!

      Want more guidance from Susan? More information on her services and book below! Susan G. Groner is founder of The Parenting Mentor and author of the Mom’s Choice Gold Award book, Parenting: 101 Ways to Rock Your World. Sue’s goal is to help parents reduce the everyday stress and anxiety that inevitably comes from parenting while guiding them in their quest to raise confident and resilient children.

      Sue is the creator of the CLEARR™ method of parenting, developed through years of trial (and her fair share of errors!) with her own family. CLEARR™ adheres to the belief that parenting strategies should be grounded in six important pillars: Communication, Love, Empathy, Awareness, Rules, and Respect. This has become the cornerstone of her practice as The Parenting Mentor. You can follow Sue @theparentingmentor and reach out for a skype session at sue@theparentingmentor.com.

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      Summertime and the living is … sweaty? It doesn’t have to be, though, even as the temps crank up. With a few smart, simple strategies, savvy parents can keep their little ones cool and comfy, even in the heat of summer—without holing up in the air conditioning until fall arrives. From breathable clothing designed especially for babies and children to nifty hacks that keep a stroller chill, here are seven easy ways for active families to beat the heat and keep your cool all summer long.

      1. Plan activities for early in the day or late in the afternoon.

      For many on-the-go families, summer’s balmy temps beckon for plenty of outdoor time, from a sand-and-sun beach trip to backyard play dates. But it’s wise to plan activities—especially ones that involve the kiddos running around outside—for the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays aren’t as bright, hot, and harmful. (Bonus for parents whose little ones are still napping: A mid-day siesta is an ideal time to stay inside.)

      City dwellers, especially, should aim for the a.m. to get out and about, since concrete sidewalks and buildings absorb heat all day and make afternoons toastier than mornings.

      2. Choose clothes wisely.

      With no heavy jackets, sweaters, and gloves to mess with, simpler summer wardrobes are a relief for many parents. Not all kid clothing is made equal, however. Lark Adventurewear is specially designed to keep kiddos comfy and cool, with eco-friendly, breathable fabric made of bamboo and cotton—and no synthetics or chemicals. Their kicky Pocket Shorties are ideal for active mornings at the playground, afternoon picnics, and everything in between; pair them up with a Pocket Tee for the perfect pint-sized outfit that can go the distance all summer long. Meanwhile, easy-open kimono-type styles, like the featured Lark Activewear rompers, make diaper changes and clothing swaps a breeze, especially for the babes in the bunch who aren’t quite walking yet.

      And, in the spirit of summer, Lark Adventurewear comes in cheerful, gender-neutral colors and fun prints—with three new offerings for the season.

      3. Protect little ones’ sensitive skin.

      Sunscreen is a must-have for any summer outing—especially with little ones, whose oh-so-soft skin is far more delicate and sensitive than adults. Be sure to coat kiddos with sunscreen made especially for children anytime you go outside, and stash an extra bottle in the car, diaper bag, and stroller so you’ll never be stuck without it.

      Another easy option for avoiding sunburned arms: Choose breathable long-sleeved shirts that won’t heat up even in warm temps.

      4. Get spritz-happy with a mini spray bottle.

      A fun, hands-on way to let the little ones keep themselves cool? A simple spray bottle they can spritz themselves (and each other!) with. This hands-down winner will keep them refreshed and entertained: They’ll still get the cooling effects of the water without the competitive vibe (and soaking sprays) of squirt-style toys. Go for a mini size that will be easier for tiny hands to squeeze, and sit back and watch the H2O action.

      5. Go for frozen food

      Ice cream is a beloved summertime treat for kids of all ages. But for a healthier everyday choice, opt for easy-to-freeze treats like frozen yogurt popsicles and fruit (like grapes). They’re a cinch to make (little ones can help, too), pop in the freezer, and pull out for a quick, cooling snack.

      6. Use some chill strategies for the stroller.

      The stroller is a staple for any family with little ones. But in the summertime, the ride can become a little, well, heated for pint-sized passengers, since poor ventilation can lead to extra perspiration and cranky moods. Ward off sweaty backs by making sure kiddos are wearing breathable, moisture-wicking clothing and make sure to use the cover to provide maximum shade protection. And to really earn some literal cool points with your kids, stash a couple of frozen water bottles alongside them in the stroller. (Make sure the bottles are wrapped in a light towel to absorb condensation and that the lids are screwed on tight, and you’re good to go.)

      7. Seek out safe spots for splashing.

      While the local pool and nearby swimming hole are great spots to take a dip and cool off, they require parents to stay laser-focused to keep their children safe. A more laid-back option for chilling out? Local splash parks or splash pads, as they’re sometimes called, with fun water spouts and other features that keep kids cool and entertained for hours—no submerging (or worrying) involved.

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      The health benefits of getting outdoors are well documented. Even a simple 30-minute walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for your overall well-being. And making time to get outdoors is more important now than ever, as people of all ages spend an increasing amount of time on smartphones and tablets.

      As devices become more integrated into a child’s development, it is more important than ever to make outdoor activity a regular part of life from an early age. When people aren’t exposed to outdoor activities at a young age, they often struggle to pick them up later in life. In the same way that kids grow up using and learning on devices, participation in outdoor activities should be an integral part of childhood.

      Once kids get older it isn’t always easy to get them outdoors. Sometimes a hike or bike ride doesn’t seem as exciting as winning a battle on their favorite video game or watching a new YouTube video. Below are seven tips that will make it easier to pull your kids away from the tube and put down the controller.

      1. Be Prepared and Consider the Weather

      When you take kids outdoors, the adventure will quickly come to a halt if they get extremely hungry or thirsty. Bring a backpack with snacks and drinks, or for extended trips make a picnic lunch. It’s also a good idea to have some first-aid supplies just in case. Everyone will be much happier if you’re able to treat minor scrapes.

      When kids have a positive first experience in nature, they’re much more likely to be interested in further adventures. To help ensure it’s a good time, avoid going out in bad weather. If kids wind up cold, wet, and miserable, you’ll struggle to coax them out again.

      2. Start Small

      If a kid has never been camping, the idea of a weekend campout under the stars may be overwhelming. Start with an overnight trip or just an evening camping in the backyard. This will help ease fears about sleeping outside, and it will give kids confidence that they can sleep with the sounds of nature.

      Take this conservative approach with any outdoor activity, whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, or canoeing. Don’t ask kids to tackle difficult terrain at first. Instead, keep it simple with a trip to an interesting feature or overlook, and work your way up to the more challenging trails.

      3. Turn a Hike into a Scavenger Hunt Encourage kids to help create a checklist of plants and animals they might see on the trail. Nikoline Arns

      Before you set out on a hike with kids, get them to help you research the different types of plants and animals you could come across. Make a checklist and hit the trail. This is also a good way to introduce a Leave-No-Trace approach to nature since they don’t collect the items. Having a checklist will keep them engaged during the hike and develop a greater appreciation for nature. Award bonus points or a special prize for spotting that rare salamander along the creek, a red fox creeping through the trees, or any other unique feature or creature.

      4. Make a Game of It

      Kids are competitive, and outdoor games are a perfect way to eliminate some screen time. Many state parks have frisbee golf courses, or you can find an open field for a game of football or soccer. You can even create a game that incorporates nature—that flowing creek is perfect for a pine cone race.

      You can even play a game of hiking hide-and-seek. Someone hides behind a rock, tree, or another object about 15 to 20 feet ahead on the trail, while the rest of the group seeks while hiking. Rotate hiders as you move down the trail. It’s a twist on the traditional playground game that keeps the hike fun and exciting.

      5. Use Helpful Apps

      There are plenty of apps that can enhance the outdoors for your kids. When you download the free app from Geocaching.com, you can turn a walk in the woods into a hi-tech outdoor treasure hunt. With geocaching, you use a GPS or smartphone to locate a hidden object or container, known as a cache. In Alabama, you’ll find some pretty create caches, like the Jolly Green Giant’s oversized possessions on Green Mountain and Huntsville Mountain in North Alabama. The hunt for the cache will get the kids excited about being outdoors and introdcue them to new places.

      While part of getting outdoors is to help reduce screen time, apps that enhance the outdoors for your kids are readily available. It’s possible that a trail or astronomy app could kickstart a lifelong love of nature.

      6. Teach Kids New Skills Start with the basics when you introduce kids to outdoor skills and activities. Michal Vrba

      When you introduce kids to bouldering, mountain biking, or any other outdoor activity, remember to start with the basics. Also, make sure it’s something that they’re genuinely interested in. Talk to them to find out what activity they would like to try.

      If they suddenly want to start bouldering after that birthday party at the indoor climbing gym, take them to the closest boulder field, and just watch other boulderers. Join the rock-climbing gym and talk to some experts so they can hone their skills indoors before their first climb.

      Take a similar path when introducing kids to mountain biking. Keep them engaged in the process of buying a bike and equipment; don’t just do it for them. This will create a sense of ownership with the sport and make it their own. Don’t push too hard on the trails at first. Instead, make sure they’re having fun and learning. It won’t be too long before you and the kids are making downhill runs together.

      7. Be Patient

      Every kid is different. Some will take to the outdoors right away, while others might need to be coaxed to expand their boundaries. When people try something the first time, whether it’s putting a tent together, starting a campfire, outfitting a backpack, or paddling a kayak, there will be bumps along the way. Encourage kids to overcome difficulties, but also allow them to walk away if they’re overly frustrated, tired, and truly not having a good time.

      As kids learn to overcome fears and negotiate obstacles, they become more resilient mentally and build confidence. As they explore trails and paddle rivers, their time outdoors will also help them stay fit and it will put them on the path to a healthy lifestyle. And, when you help kids develop a love for the outdoors, it’s something you can share with them for a lifetime.

      Written by Hap Pruitt for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL.

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      Keep the little ones occupied for a bit, then teach them the importance of sharing… these delicious flapjacks with you.

      There’s been a big ol’ brouhaha around kids’ snacks to kick off the year, with a Change4Life campaign telling parents to limit kids’ snacks to 100 calories, with a two-a-day max. Except one crucial part of the advice always seems to be left out in the press. It’s a rule for packaged snacks.

      So when Amelia Stewart – food writer and founder of Cook First, a way of teaching people how to eat healthily in an uncomplicated way on a tight budget – suggested to us that we share her recipe for a simple, healthy, entirely unprocessed flapjack, we jumped at the chance. It’s not just a great alternative to packaged snacks – it’s also a fun way to spend time with the kids.

      “These flapjacks are a great way to get your kids into cooking,” says Stewart. “Don’t worry about little fingers or creating a mess; there are no knives or complex kitchen equipment involved. This recipe also provides an opportunity for you to engage your children in the sugar debate and show them how natural fruit sugars can taste just as great while being less harmful.”

      I tried the recipe with my three-year-old and the measuring, pouring and stirring held her attention throughout. I’ve even had a request to make them again.

      Even better, the recipe accommodates guys like me who fall short of domestic goddess status. Could’t find jumbo oats, but boxed rolled oats worked; couldn’t find dried apricots but a raisin mix did the job; couldn’t find… well, you get the idea.

      Of course you don’t need to have kids to make these delicious flapjacks. In fact, you’ll probably be able to whip up a batch by yourself in less than ten minutes once you’ve run through the recipe a few times. And you won’t have to share.

      Healthy Banana Flapjacks Ingredients (Makes 12 Servings)
      • 2½ cups (around 225g) jumbo oats
      • 2 very ripe bananas
      • 1 apple
      • ½ cup (around 80g) mixed seeds
      • ½ cup (around 75g) raisins and dried apricots
      • 1tsp cinnamon
      • ½tsp ground ginger
      • 50g butter or ½ cup (around 125ml/100g) coconut oil
      • 3tbsp runny honey or maple syrup (important if making for children under 1 years old)
      Method
      • Line a small baking tray with baking paper and turn on the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Measure the oats, seeds and raisins and place in a bowl. Then chop up the apricots and add them to the oat mix. In another bowl, mash the two bananas with a fork. Then coarsely grate the apple into the bananas and add the cinnamon and ground ginger.
      • Next, take a saucepan and place it on a low heat. Add the honey and butter or oil. Once the butter has melted, add the banana/apple mix and the oats/dried fruit mix. Stir well until the honey and butter or oil has completely covered the fruit and oats and it’s all well mixed. Pour this mixture into the baking tray and flatten with the back of a spoon or spatula so that the flapjacks will be the same height all over.
      • Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, until the top starts to go golden brown. Wait until it has completely cooled, then slice and enjoy!

       

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      Funds (or lack thereof), unforgiving work schedules (to secure said funds), nasty weather—all sorts of realities and contingencies can conspire to keep our wanderlusting, adventure-starved selves shackled to the boring old neighborhood of home. You crave soaking up sea-of-mountains views, running back-of-beyond wildwater, trekking that ingeniously routed thru-hike you’ve had schemed out for years; what you get is suburban humdrum, small-town stifle, big-city jungle, sprawl-scape bleh.

      Except—except! Every place, even the most paved-over, has its latent wildness, its reminders of the old world of rock and wood and water and bone that many of us go chasing out in the backcountry, where it’s easy to see and touch. Key into the lay of the land with fresh eyes, and you’ll find everyday adventure right there in your very own zip code.

      Furthermore, you’ll come to learn, or relearn, that your very own zip code has not been domesticated or concreted or dollar-stored to death—not entirely, no matter where you live. Every city park or farmland windrow has its great horned owl, you might say, and streams drain to the sea even when they drain underground.

      Without further ado, a few ideas for digging into familiar landscapes and finding their wild heartbeat when you’re in between wilderness forays.

      Arboreal Safaris Hit the streets (or the country roads) on a neighborhood tree safari. JR P

      Trees serve as vital organic touchstones of history in human-centric landscapes: relic native old growth that hints, ghostlike, of pre-settlement ecosystems; aged veterans planted as treasured seedlings at bygone homesteads; street trees wearing healed wounds—broken boughs, spiral scars, deadwood tops—from some long-ago hurricane or windstorm or even unsuccessful attempt to fell the thing in the name of progress. There are trees scattered among our city- and town- and farm-scapes where passenger pigeons roosted, or bison took siestas; which American Indians warped as saplings to indicate direction; from whose hulking boughs hung lamps or executed criminals.

      So hit the streets (or the country roads) on a neighborhood tree safari, and see if you can’t track down the biggest or tallest in your area, or particularly old specimens (which aren’t always particularly large ones)—often evidenced by heavy or twisted branches, thick and patchy bark, hefty burls, and/or ragged, partly shattered canopies.

      Good places to look for standalone native old-growth ancients—and more generally large and old trees—are long-standing city parks and cemeteries, both of which commonly retained a few pre-existing shade trees upon establishment. Some towns and cities maintain Heritage Tree programs that can clue you into particularly venerable, champion-sized, or otherwise noteworthy trees.

      Tracing the Flow Follow hidden springs and creeks to stumble upon new discoveries—or, at the very least, a sense of the wild in urban environs Joe deSousa

      Moving water threads a landscape like nothing else, and tracing its flow feels like (a) unlocking a code and (b) mapping a primal bloodstream that links your home turf to fantastically remote points of ocean and atmosphere. Study the map and locate the nearest waterways, and identify where they rise and to which larger watersheds they belong. Then go follow them, or at least accessible reaches of them, on foot—as best you can, anyway, without trespassing or putting life and limb at risk.

      Maybe you’ll find a spring rising mysteriously in a patch of campus woods. Maybe you’ll be able to visit an important confluence, or link a familiar golf-course pond with its parent drainage. Maybe you’ll stumble upon a rare free-flowing creek, or flashy ephemeral freshets rushing down embankments or ditches after a major deluge. Maybe you’ll chance upon a pocket-size swamp—invariably an oasis of pocket-size wilderness.

      Spend enough time parsing out the headwaters and throughways of local drainages, and you’ll likely familiarize yourself with one of the hiding-in-plain-sight fundamentals of local topography: the high point and the low point of watershed. For some reason—and maybe it’s some blood-deep impulse—that seems important to know, even if the drainage divide comes mantled by subdivisions, and the low-lying outflow is some grungy culvert under the railroad berm.

      Roosts, Gangs, and Other Avian Adventures Great blues commonly nest in colonial rookeries, or “heronries”. Suzanham

      There’s a pretty decent chance that, if you live somewhere in the Lower 48 States, you’re not far from the prowling shallows of a great blue heron or two. Huge and primal-looking and generally shy as they are, these spear-billed, ruff-throated wading birds readily stalk along urban and suburban rivers, ditches, lakes, and ponds, staying surprisingly low on the collective human radar given their freezeframe abilities, camouflaged postures, and bottomland predilections.

      Great blues commonly nest in colonial rookeries, or "heronries" (which is the kind of word that’s fun to write but hard to say). Ask around—or keep your eyes peeled in late winter and early spring for overhead pterosaur-esque herons toting branches—and you may be able to track down a local heronry along some river or swamp. These tend to be situated in tall trees, not uncommonly dead ones; cottonwoods, given their great height and proximity to water, make classic heronry groves. Heron rookeries may be viewable by paddling, or from some nearby terrestrial vantage—binoculars, naturally, come in handy. On the skyline, heron stick nests manifest as hefty but scraggly clumps in deciduous canopies, quite conspicuous when you know where to look, given nesting activity usually gets underway before the heronry trees fully leaf out.

      Once you’ve found a heronry, you can keep tabs on it throughout the nesting season—great blue heron nestlings look very much like wacky dinosaurs—though as the canopies fill out your view naturally diminishes.

      More ubiquitous and much more conspicuous than the stately great blue is the American crow. Crows make reliable year-round entertainment given their intelligence, visibility, and thorough exploitation of human-dominated landscapes, which they inject with inherent wildness courtesy of their raw calls and inky raggedness. It’s easy to block out those harsh caws as part of the continuous ambient racket of city and suburb, but if you strive to keep one ear tuned to crow chatter, you’re likely to be rewarded at some point with one of the more dramatic commonplace wildlife spectacles: mobbing.

      Crows don’t take too kindly to the presence of a bird of prey, and raise a cacophony of yelling and scolding as they surround an unfortunate raptor, bringing it to bay in treetops and chasing it through the air in boisterous squadrons. If you hear a great communal crow ruckus, there’s a good chance there’s a hawk or owl in the vicinity, and if you track down the black-feathered horde you may well spot it—especially if you wait patiently for the mob to flush the raptor into harried flight. The most fever-pitched crow mobbing seems reserved for the great horned owl, Public Enemy No. 1 in the corvid sphere. (Because horned owls are mostly nocturnal and tend to stay cloistered away during the day, a crow mob is often the best way to actually see one of these "winged tigers," plenty common in town and city.)

      Another cool crow tradition? Mass winter roosting. Crows will roost in the hundreds or thousands during the winter months for reasons not entirely understood, and many such aggregations are situated in urban areas. Come evening, you’ll see crows streaming overhead in a common direction, and if you follow you might find a whole fluttery mess of them gathered in trees or on rooftops. Very likely this is not their actual nighttime roost but a pre-roosting staging ground that they’ll gradually—often in small groups—depart from en route to communal sleeping quarters elsewhere.

      Both crows’ raucous swarming of red-tailed hawks or horned owls and the winter sundown flights to thousands-strong roosts can go surprisingly unnoticed by citydwellers in their midst. The same goes for urban creeks and old trees tucked in the parkway boonies. But they’re there—ready and waiting for your attention, and your spirit of close-to-home adventure.

      Written by Ethan Shaw for RootsRated.

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      When to take the phone or tablet away and how to do it peacefully.

      There’s no way to fight the advance of the digital age and no matter how frustrating it is that your four-year-old is already more tech-savvy than you will ever be, it’s important to let kids take advantage of the wonders that technology now offers.

      However, too much of a good thing certainly applies to kids and technology, thanks to the negative effects on the development of social skills.

      We spoke to Clare James, psychotherapist for Natural Nurture nursery, about the impact screen time can have on children and asked for her advice on the best ways to limit that screen time.

      How much time should children spend in front of screens and what problems can develop when this is exceeded?

      The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that the maximum a child should spend in front of any device is one to two hours per day. That would be the maximum.

      We’re looking at child development in interacting with the “other”. So when the child is on the screen, the interaction is with swiping the screen. They don’t have the interaction of eye contact with the other, or the intonation of voices and matching facial cues with what’s being said. Children are now coming to pre-school and regular school and they can’t read the facial cues of the teacher or another pupil. They become quite self-absorbed and therefore they’re not able to relate to the other.

      There’s also the notion that the child’s sense of curiosity is limited. They get the reward from the devices based on predictive algorithms which keeps the child almost in a trance-like state, because the dopamine reward mechanism is activated, but there’s no social engagement with the other. The child then doesn’t develop being in the world and seeing how things work.

      When you’re outside building something, you’re observing things and trying to negotiate how to work with the other. You learn skills of team-building, sharing, understanding another’s perspective, initiative, how the world works and how your body works. That spatial awareness gets blunted when you’re in front of a screen for four or five hours a day, or even less.

      Are all screens the same?

      When the child is watching TV the child has a chance to talk to the other and glance away, but when you’re looking at a device there’s no distraction and no talking to the other. It’s drawing the child in and it seems like there’s a relationship, but there isn’t. It’s manipulation rather than a relationship.

      Is it important for parents to monitor their own screen use around their children?

      Yes, it limits interaction. If you go somewhere and look at people pushing prams or with their children, they’re always looking down. The parent is looking at their phone, the child is on a device, and there’s no visual interaction. It’s become a norm for the parent. They really aren’t aware of the consequences of their actions on their children.

      What’s the best way to limit the time your kids spend on screens?

      Instead of saying “you can only have an hour today”, say “you can have two half hour sessions, isn’t that great?” Come from a place of abundance rather than limitation.

      Don’t ban it, because you can’t. Technology is important for these children, it’s part of life, but it’s not all of life. Sometimes children need some quiet time and sometimes a device can be quite soothing and calming. So you can’t knock it, but you can monitor it and say, “this is what we’re going to do now and that’s the timer. You have 20 minutes. And after 20 minutes we’re going to turn that off and do something else.” Then they learn to control their frustration levels.

      When you take these devices away when they’ve had them for two or three hours, they have had this reward system with a predictive algorithm that gives the reward intermittently to keep the child engaged and involved. When you remove that suddenly or randomly, they want it back and get very frustrated.

      The problem with this is that then you have dad or mum on the phone or devices. You have to be consistent. A child will say, “but you’re on yours!” If your children want to talk to you and you’re on the phone, don’t be surprised if they lose interest and don’t attend to what your rules and regulations are. If you’re not consistent, why should they be?

      Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach.

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      Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine, and treats patients of all ages at her Southern California private practice. She received her M.D. with honors from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She then completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern and fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP).  Dr. Marks-Cogan currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 year old son, and 9 month old daughter where she enjoys hiking, building LEGO castles with her kids, and cooking with her family. She is the chief allergist for Ready, Set, Food!

      As a board-certified allergist, I’ve seen firsthand how families struggle with food allergies. Thankfully, findings from recent landmark studies have shown that you can reduce your baby’s risk of developing food allergies by feeding them allergenic foods early and consistently, starting between 4 and 11 months of age. But early, sustained allergen introduction can be difficult. Many 4-11 month olds are picky eaters, making it challenging for parents to follow the guidelines. In addition, most infants are not developmentally ready for solid foods as early as 4 months.

      Here’s what parents need to know about food allergy prevention:


      To help make early allergen introduction easier for busy parents, I’ve compiled these 5 infant food allergy prevention tips.

      1) All Babies Can Benefit From Allergen Introduction

      1 out of 13 children suffer from a food allergy today, and over half of these children don’t have any history of food allergies in their families. Worst of all, these food allergies can be life-threatening. Since all babies are at risk for developing a food allergy, regardless of family history, the new guidelines on early, sustained allergen introduction apply to all babies. However, parents of infants with severe eczema need to consult with their pediatrician to determine if an allergy screening is required first.


      2)  Start Between 4 and 11 Months

      Scientists believe that babies’ immune systems develop either a positive or negative response to food proteins between 4-11 months of age. So, 4-11 months of age represents a critical immune window for allergy prevention.  If your baby eats allergenic foods consistently during this window, they’ll be less likely to develop a food allergy. In fact, studies suggest that delaying allergen introduction may put your child at a greater risk for developing a food allergy.


      3) Choose The Right Time For Your Baby

      Parents should introduce allergenic foods when their baby is healthy and an adult can monitor for any signs of a reaction for at least 2 hours.


      4) Consistently Feed Your Baby Allergenic Foods

      A baby’s immune system needs sustained oral exposure to foods in order to develop a positive response to them. So, if you feed your baby allergenic foods only once or twice, that won’t be enough to reduce their risk of developing a food allergy. Instead, make sure to offer your baby allergenic foods multiple times a week, for several months.  After all, in the landmark studies, infants consumed allergenic foods 2-7 times a week for 3-6+ months or more.


      5) Don’t Give Up!

      As a mom, I know how challenging allergen introduction can be. When my son David was 5 months old, I prepared egg, peanut, and yogurt snacks for him to eat several times per week (peanut, egg, and milk comprise 80% of all childhood food allergies). But this process was time consuming and frustrating -- the majority of these snacks ended up either on my kitchen floor or on his face! After this difficult experience, I was inspired to find a solution to make early and sustained allergen introduction easier for all families.

      I worked with a team of physicians, leading allergy experts, and parents to create Ready, Set, Food!, a groundbreaking system that can help reduce your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy by up to 80%. Our daily guided system is:

      • Evidence-Based: Follows the precise dosing used in landmark food allergy prevention studies. So, you can rest assured that your baby is consuming the right amounts of allergens.
      • Simple: Dissolves into breastmilk, formula, or puree, making allergen introduction easy even if your baby is not developmentally ready for solid food.
      • All-Natural: Contains only organic, non-GMO peanut, egg, and milk, with no added sugar or artificial additives.
      • Gentle:  Slowly increases the allergen amount over time, and introduces one new food at a time, for maximum safety based on study recommendations and pediatric guidelines
      • Maximizes Efficacy: Can help reduce the risk of developing peanut, egg, and milk allergies by up to 80%.
      • Recommended by Experts: 200+ pediatricians and allergists recommend Ready, Set, Food!

      We’ve partnered with Lark Adventurewear to make allergen introduction even easier! Use the code LARK20 to receive $20 off any Ready, Set, Food! subscription.

      To learn more about Ready, Set, Food!, and to take advantage of this exclusive offer for Lark Adventurewear families, visit the Ready, Set, Food! website here.
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      Dr. Pinkey Patel is a mom, wife and Clinical Pharmacist that has 8 years of experience in personal training and specializes in pre/post natal fitness. Aside from her full-time job, her passion lies in preparing women for birth the, post partum period and having a thriving babe. She strives to bring efficient, evidence based techniques to maintain a strong core, pelvic floor and of course, healthy baby. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, experimenting with various training regimens and traveling. She looks forward to continue raising awareness surrounding better experiences during pregnancy and post partum period! Begin following her on Instagram to learn some healthy post partum tips!
      Avoid These Top 6 Post Natal Exercise Mistakes 

      Given how precious few minutes mothers have to themselves, we can’t afford to waste precious workout time! Instead of telling you what to do, I want to talk about what not to do.

      These 6 moves achieve minimal effect or even worse, do more harm than good. Keep reading to avoid the 5 most common postnatal exercise mistakes.

      1) Crunches

      A majority of childbearing women suffer some degree of abdominal separation that lingers after pregnancy, and sadly many conventional core exercises strain the connective tissue in the abdomen, inducing or worsening the condition. Diastasis recti has real health implications, including back pain, urinary stress incontinence (think peeing on yourself) and pelvic dysfunction, not to mention the aesthetic frustration of a stubborn pooch. Exercises to avoid include reverse crunches, sit-ups, crunches, bicycle crunches, and even some classic moves in yoga (boat pose, for instance) and Pilates (double leg lifts, scissors, roll-backs). The very exercises you might be doing to “get your body back” can actually exacerbate the problem you’re trying to fix. To state it as simply as possible: any movement that bulges the abdominal wall forcefully forward will further separate the abdominal muscles, making an existing abdominal separation worse, and possibly even causing one in a previously healthy abdomen. Never brace, barrel or flex the abs forcefully forward in a bulging action.

      Stop the conventional abs exercises! A great alternative workout for core strengthening is breathing with your deep abdominal muscles in mind. These challenge you to work every core muscle synergistically.

      2) All or nothing (which usually means nothing)

      Don’t wait for that fantasized opportunity when you can get away for an hour at the gym! You could be waiting for a very long time, my friends. This will get in the way of meeting your goals. Something is always better than nothing. Each step forward is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. All it takes is less than 30 minutes of

      exercise a few days a week to improve. Squeeze in what you can, when you can. You can even include the babe! I often find it easier to get it in while everyone is asleep (granted crossing fingers for zero regressions). Personally, if I do it in the morning - I am less likely to make excuses later in the day. Often, depending on my work day and how it goes, I may skimp out later. Plus, if I kick it out of the way in the morning - I always seem to have a more productive day! Now, if you miss the morning - you can even try a lunch break at work if you can swing it. Figure out how you can carve out a mere 10-30 minutes as a gift to yourself 3-4 days per week! The reality of motherhood is that the more you come to terms with your schedule changing and being better able to adapt to the new life, the better you are at it all. Give yourself grace, some days you will kill it and some days you may feel like even doing basic tasks is exhausting. But guess what, you’re still kicking ass.

      3) Boot camp crazy

      I know women are often eager to snap back and they often immediately sign up for an intense, sweaty all-out effort boot camp. Great! But, not really. Well, you are doing something, but it probably won’t achieve exactly what you hope. All boot camps are not created equal, and and not every boot camp class is necessarily injurious, but let me remind you that injuries are common, and new moms are especially at risk. Not every “6 week green light” is a true green light. For instance, let’s say you possess a pelvic floor that is not the strongest it could be, then you go to a high intensity class that adds further stress - you could easily be taking 10 steps backwards if you injure yourself. The pelvic floor muscles are the group of muscles responsible for supporting the bladder, uterus and rectum. Think of them as a hammock holding up these organs!

      The fast, power moves that define boot camp style classes, place excessive pressure on the abdomen and the pelvic floor. This stress further separates post-pregnancy ab muscles and further weakens the pelvic floor. Note: if you feel bladder pressure or experience “leaking” while performing any exercise, you should not be doing it! Harness the power of science to achieve the body you want without collateral damage. Work smart, not hard!

      4) Cardio queen

      Are you sticking solely to cardio for every single workout? Whether it’s running or elliptical, or swimming, a cardio-only workout routine will not serve you in the long run.

      This can include body weight exercises, free weights or resistance bands – or all of the above. Strength training is vital. It will do more than you realize!

      To keep your metabolism ignited, to build strength and improve posture, and to improve muscle mass, you must incorporate strength training! Think of this as an investment. The more muscle you possess (and no, you will not bulk up like this), the more calories you burn at rest!

      5) Freezing and stuck in a rut

      We all have favorite activities or routines, but we have to keep challenging ourselves in new ways so the body continues to respond and improve. Our bodies are very smart and honeslty, we have to keep it fresh because as humans, we get bored. Definitely include a couple different resistance workouts each week. Take your workout outside for a refreshing change, or inside. The key is to keep mixing it up to stay focused and challenge your body in new ways, getting the most out of each minute.

      6) Assuming breastfeeding will melt it away

      Are you not losing weight breastfeeding after giving birth? Does breastfeeding cause weight loss or weight gain? In the past, I’ve had countless of other new moms say to me, “I’m breastfeeding! Why aren’t I losing weight?” Real talk ladies, doesn’t it feel like we’ve paid our dues? I mean, we spend 9 months undergoing extreme/often uncomfortable changes to our bodies and then we go through the physically demanding act of childbirth. Once we get to breastfeeding, shouldn’t we get a free pass? The one “benefit” that I’ve heard keeps so many going is its ability to help you shed that baby weight faster. I mean, everyone and their grandma reassures us that breastfeeding makes the fat “melt away”, even a recent tabloid I picked up suggested that a celebrity breastfed herself skinny. It’s no surprise we all believe that the complex postpartum weight loss journey can be boiled down to the magic of one single act.

      With that being said, there’s totally some merit to this. The love for science in me would like to elaborate on this. Like all physical acts, breastfeeding requires energy, which translates into burning calories. On average, you burn 20 calories to create 1 ounce of breast milk. If you are producing, on average, 25 ounces of milk a day, then you are requiring an additional 500 calories (burning 500 calories) a day. Now, women often feel like they are eating like a maniac in response to those increased needs, but if you didn’t, you could lose weight. And yes, some women really do lose weight through breastfeeding! However, we’re usually only told half of the story, and though your friend may be losing weight breastfeeding, it might not work that way for you. You may lose some weight and then have a stalling point! You know why? Because the same hormones that assist in breastfeeding also stall some weight loss. It is a season! The babe will not forever feed, trust me when I say that if you just try to form a habit to incorporate better choices in terms of nutrition and continue adding movement to your day - these efforts payoff when you are weaning and done nursing!

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      New Years isn't just for grown-ups anymore! If you're in the mood to ring in 2019 off with your kiddos in tow (or you just can't nab a babysitter), we've got some ideas to help you get inspired. OK, ok...so 12:00 am is way past the little one's bedtime but that doesn't mean you can't still celebrate, kids-style! 
      1. Kick off the festivities early, so everyone can get to bed at a reasonable hour (like 9:00pm)! You and your family can even make a clock like this one and change the time every hour.

       

      Photo credit: www.pinkstripeysocks.com
      2. Make a photo backdrop with props and take tons of family photos! There are lots of ideas on Pinterest.
      Photo credit: hoosierhomemade.com
      3. Create simple New Years Eve Count Down goodie bags that the kids can open every hour!

       

      Photo credit: Wiliam Warby/flickr
      4. Who's ready for Balloon Games galore! Your kids will be! Bonus: you work off some of those holiday treats :- ) 5. Write up a few simple questions to ask your child every year, and document their answers on camera. See how their responses change with each passing year!

       

       

      6. Set up an ice cream bar and mocktails like Shirley Temples or your own creations! 

      7. Throw a Glow in the Dark dance party. Get some non-toxic glow in the dark paint and make some poster board signs with your kids to hang around the "dance floor".  You can also pick up some non-toxic glow sticks for that extra special touch. Then, crank up the music so everyone can bust out their best moves!

       

      8. Help your tots understand the concept of a year by creating photo collage of family pictures from the past year- be sure to start at the beginning of 2017 and select pictures from all of the seasons. Start a tradition and make one every year!

       

      9. Play some kid-friendly party games like Charades or board games...it seriously NEVER gets old!

       

      10. Create your own "Wishing Wall" with this wonderfully thoughtful idea from buggyandbuddy,com!

       

      11. Have a New Years themed scavenger hunt or print out some New Years Eve Bingo!

       

      12. Make a family time capsule to be opened the next year on New Years Eve! Add photos, notes, letters, small toys, etc.
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