KaBOOM! $1 Million Play Everywhere Challenge

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This article is courtesy of PRWeb, please share your comments below…..

kidsunningtogetherCompetition will fund play spaces in unexpected places in cities across America. Linking Families and Communities has been selected as a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge.

In July, Linking Families and Communities was selected as a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award outside-the-box ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

Linking Families and Communities created an innovative plan to make the grassy area surrounding the bus stop at 9th Street and Central Avenue into a playscape for children and families that includes playable art, games and music. The Downtown Fort Dodge Playscape was selected as a finalist out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide. Winners will be announced in early fall, 2016.

The Challenge, developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving. Linking Families and Communities’ idea came from a passion for getting kids more involved in movement, music and art.

“The playscape will be beautiful and useable, with everything meant to be touched and played on, from the art to the musical instruments and the large spheres. We want children, families and adults to use it, whether it’s while they wait for the bus, at an event, like Market on Central or are just walking through the downtown area. We want people to stop and play awhile. Children need to play; it is how they learn best and we want to encourage families to play together. Strong children and strong families equal strong communities” said Elizabeth Stanek, Executive Director of Linking Families and Communities.

“We were astonished at the number and quality y of the applications we received,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “To us, it shows a huge, untapped potential to reimagine cities with kids in mind, and boost their opportunity to get the play they need to thrive. And when kids thrive, cities thrive.”

Kids need play to grow up healthy, resilient and ready for life. Research shows play is vital to healthy brain development and is pivotal to how kids learn problem-solving, conflict resolution and creativity–in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults. Yet today, too many kids, especially those growing up in poverty, are missing out on play because of families’ time pressures, the lure of screens, and a lack of safe places to go. Meanwhile, evidence shows missing out on the chance to play puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school.

“We’re thrilled at the possibility that Fort Dodge’s kids could win this fantastic new opportunity to learn and develop from play,” said Stanek. “If we’re selected as a winner, we hope it will be just the beginning of a larger effort to make play a way of life for kids and families in our community.”

Winners for the competition will be selected in fall 2016. To learn more about Linking Families and Communities’ ideas for making play happen everywhere, contact Elizabeth Stanek at 515-955-5437 or visit their website at http://www.linking-families.com and ThisIsFortDodge. To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, including a gallery of ideas for what Play Everywhere could look like across the U.S. please visit http://kaboom.org/playeverywhere

10 Reasons Outdoor Play Is Crucial To Healthy Child Development

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twokidsunThe iconic image of the idyllic American childhood was, not so long ago, based around the idea of spending long summer days playing outside and exploring the neighborhood until the streetlights were illuminated. Today’s fear-driven culture might make it difficult to send your kids outside for the entirety of a day in good conscience without supervision, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be relegated to a lifetime of staring blankly at a television screen, playing video games or cooped up in a community center to stay safe. When safe, sane practices are adhered to, time spent playing outside is not only fun, but also essential to your child’s healthy development and growth. These are ten of the reasons why you might want to think twice before discouraging outdoor play, and how spending time outside is actually good for your kids.

Honing Motor Skills – Kids need to run, jump, swing and tumble in order to hone their basic motor skills, something that just isn’t as easy to do in the restrictive confines of structured, indoor play. Even if your child isn’t able to safely roam the neighborhood with a group of his friends, he still needs plenty of outdoor time to push himself physically so that he’s able to refine those skills.

Vitamin D Absorption – While it’s imperative that kids are properly protected from the sun’s burning and potentially cancer-causing rays, it’s also important that they get 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure in order to fight off vitamin D deficiency. Unlike vitamin D in supplement form, it’s impossible for a child to naturally produce too much vitamin D in response to sunlight, so letting your child play outside for even a few minutes is typically the best course of action when it comes to combating deficiency.

Encouraging Imaginative Play – Playing with the same set of toys in the same room every day doesn’t give your child much room for imaginative, creative play, which is essential to both cognitive and social development. The great outdoors, however, offers an almost endless array of inspiration for invented games and make-believe scenarios.

kidsunningtogetherAcquiring an Appreciation for Nature – Kids who rarely spend time outdoors grow into adults who generally don’t spend much time outdoors, causing them to effectively miss out on all that nature has to offer. Encouraging play that takes place outdoors allows your child to become accustomed to and gain an appreciation for nature, and no television show or Internet video can replicate that.

Learning the Importance of Environmental Stewardship – The children of today are the stewards of tomorrow’s environment, and they need to learn the importance of caring for the planet from an early age. Get your kids outside and talk about the environment and all the ways that it needs to be protected while enjoying the great outdoors. Before you know it, you’ll have an active, eco-conscious youngster in the making.

Expending Energy – Shouting, climbing, jumping and running aren’t encouraged indoors. In fact, these activities that are so necessary when it comes to expending energy and blowing off steam are usually downright forbidden inside the house. Letting your child burn off some of that energy outside has benefits for both of you, as well as any fragile belongings in your home.

Exploring and Investigating – Kids need to encounter new and interesting things to keep the spark of natural curiosity burning, because that curiosity is an essential part of both creative thinking and a thirst for learning. There’s not much to explore between the couch and the refrigerator, but your own back yard can be a veritable goldmine of activity and wonder.

Pushing Boundaries and Taking Safe Risks – No parent wants their child to engage in risky behavior, but safe risks are an essential part of learning and confidence building. Kids who push their own boundaries by testing their abilities are more confident, more active and less likely to suffer from the low self-esteem that plagues so many of today’s youth.

Reducing Exposure to Germs – There’s a reason why colds and flus seem so abundant in the winter time. When stifled in rooms with little fresh air and relegated to close quarters with others, germs spread from host to host with ease. Outside, airborne bacteria can be swept away on a light breeze, rather than finding a new home in your child’s body.

Fulfilling Kids’ Need for Freedom – As a parent, your first instinct is to keep your child as close and as safe as possible. While it is your job to ensure that no harm comes to them, it’s also important that you allow them enough freedom to explore and assert a bit of independence. Letting your kids roam the lawn, even if it’s fenced in and you’re standing on the porch, or play on the playground while you’re sitting on a nearby bench, can fulfill a bit of that need for freedom that’s so important to their growth and development.

– Submitted by Molly Cunningham of Live In Nanny.

Can Pilates Play A Role In Combating Childhood Obesity?

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By Katy Reeve

boytouchingtoesAny physical activity reduces the risk of childhood obesity but there is a special reason why Pilates is considered for the job. All parents will agree that a child of 2013 is not as active as a child of 90’s. It seems hugging the couch for extended periods has its price! Let’s admit it, technology plus the lack of healthy diet is turning our kids into couch potatoes. Thankfully some schools have realized the implications of childhood obesity and they are introducing healthy activities like Pilates exercises to motivate more children.

The idea is to reverse the effects of childhood disorders that are on the rise. To be honest, obesity is not the only concern. It’s even more frightening to know about the secondary disorders that arise due to obesity. Pilates can be a healthy diversion when a child suffers from anxiety symptoms, attention deficit and hyperactivity. Since a modern child is getting lonelier and self-absorbed, a group Pilates session will be a nice opportunity to socialize and make friends.

Why Pilates

For one, Pilates do not emphasize on the spirit of competition. While most kids will love to compete, the comparatively inactive ones would feel left-out. Moreover, Pilates focuses on balance, flexibility and core strength – things that are missing in today’s over-burdened and stressed out kids. In other words, Pilates will serve as an antidote for over-weight kids as well as those who are prone to obesity.

Pilates sets the beginning for other physical activities. A child who is well-versed in basic Pilates will be motivated towards other sports later on. However they should not be compelled to pursue sports as a career. Pilates or any other sport can set the trend of a fitter lifestyle in later years during, and after child growth. An active child is less prone to getting over-weight This way Pilates will play a major role in combating obesity.

Kids Friendly Pilates

happychildrenPilates is associated with mind and body health and if kids practice Pilates exercises regularly, they can develop into healthy and strong adults. Kids Friendly Pilates exercises are low intensity exercises that focus on eliminating obesity-related issues like shallow breathing, bad posture and muscle tightness. If your child remains slouched at his computer for hours, he is likely to develop a hunched back which may persist forever. Simple Pilates poses and exercises inspire children to be more agile and straighter rather than slumpy or inactive.

Nicole Kantas, a Pilates instructor, pointed out, “The metabolic rate of an active child is higher and this reduces unhealthy fat deposition”. She further states that Pilates burns more calories from the mid-section or the core. As a result, the child gets toned muscles. Since Pilates is not similar to gut-crunching Cardio, it’s a safer way to reduce or eliminate childhood obesity.

– Katy is a blogger and a strong fitness advocate. She believes fitness and beauty goes beyond losing a few pounds of weight or applying creams to look picture-perfect. It’s more about internal care, core strength, body sculpting and feeling good inside out.

Finding Play Areas In Unique Places

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kidsexercisevectorFrom Your Health Journal…..”A fascinating article from News.com.au (from Australia) called Close roads to let kids out to play – which discusses a very important topic, lack of play areas for children. With cutbacks to physical education, recreation programs, longer hours at school and home work, and many other extra-curricular activities, limited space for play is an important topic. Childhood obesity continues to rise – heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, weak joints, low self esteem, and other chronic illness all tie into lack of physical activity available to children. The article points to one expert who suggests using ‘safe’ roof tops and ‘closing’ city streets as play areas. The article suggests if there are no spaces to build playgrounds, other alternatives need to be used. Please take the time to visit the News.com.au web site (link provided below) to read the complete article.”

From the article…..

City streets should be closed to cars in afternoons so children can play and rooftops should be turned into safe play spaces, a world leading health and planning expert says.

The proposal by Dr. Karen Lee targets a severe shortage of places for children as schools go high rise, crowded classrooms don’t have enough space for jump rope competitions and residents fight playground plans. Dr. Lee is New York City’s award-winning healthy urban planning expert, who has helped reverse childhood obesity rates in the city and will address NSW government planners today.

She said Sydney’s severe play space shortage could be easily dealt with by opening city roofs and streets to fun.

Space-strapped cities such as Sydney, with neighborhoods that were “fully built”, could host “play streets” for children to skate, ride bikes and scooters without car danger, she said.

“If there is space to build playgrounds and parks then we should do so but we have neighborhoods, already fully built, and we may not have enough play space for the kids,” she said.

Dr Lee said it had worked successfully in NYC, where single blocks were closed to cars at certain times.

“It can occur weekly or every day at certain times and it is opened up for children to play,” she said.

Dr Lee said soccer lessons could be held and neighbors meet to get to know one another.

There was strong evidence that having space for active play increased physical activity in children and adults.

To read the complete article…..Click here

Reasons For Recess

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boydribbleFrom Your Health Journal…..”A great article this week by Kellie B. Gormly in TribLive called Reasons For Recess. There has been so much talk about childhood obesity – as we discussed many times today, too many children have illness related to it. Cutbacks in recreation programs as well as Physical Education are having a negative impact on the health of children. There seems to be less and less time for activity. Recess is also having it cutbacks, as some school districts are cutting back on this as well. It is one of the most favorite times of the day for kids, as they get some physical activity, exercise, socialization, and it actually enhances cognitive skills. Recess is more than being just idle, goof-off time on the monkey bars, it benefits children‘s minds and bodies. Withholding recess can stunt healthy development, according to a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The article also suggests that safe and supervised recess is available in about 73 percent of elementary schools regularly — offers children physical, emotional, social and cognitive benefits, such as improved classroom behavior, a better attention span and interaction and bonding with other kids. Please visit the TribLive web site (link provided below) to read the complete article. Please support your local schools recess program!”

From the article…..

On a frigid day with temperatures in the teens, a group of spirited kids spend their recess running around a gym shooting baskets, even scoring a few three-pointers.

Joseph Anania, 8, stops to take a breath, and explains why recess is his favorite part of the day at Shady Side Academy Junior School in Point Breeze.

“Because I get to run around with my friends and play,” says Joseph, a third-grader from Fox Chapel. “I wish we had recess all day.”

Whitney McVeagh — who likes to play games like Four Square and Knockout and ride the swings — enthusiastically agrees.

“I like that you‘re able … to spend time with your friends and do anything you want,” says Whitney, 10, a fourth-grader from Point Breeze. “At some point, you need to get out your energy.”

The kids are on to something, experts say.

Recess — rather than being just idle, goof-off time on the monkey bars — benefits children‘s minds and bodies. Withholding recess can stunt healthy development, according to a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician who was a lead author on the statement, says that safe and supervised recess — which, he says, about 73 percent of elementary schools provide regularly — offers children physical, emotional, social and cognitive benefits, such as improved classroom behavior, a better attention span and interaction and bonding with other kids.

Murray’s examination of decades-long studies for the Academy supports recess for many reasons, including physical fitness, which is important when childhood obesity is so common, he says. Recess, he says, helps a child‘s cognitive process in the same way, for instance, as a coffee break for adults: It breaks concentration from work, releases restlessness and allows someone to return to work with a refreshed mind.

Kids at recess learn skills in collaboration, Murray says, as they play rules-based games with other kids.

“This is very mindful play time, and it‘s very constructive,” a Murray, a former professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University in Columbus, where he now works in the school‘s department of human nutrition. “This is part of what makes the child into a functioning adult: It‘s the opportunity to work with other kids and learn to get along. That is as important of a lesson that you learn at school as math and reading are.”

To read the full article…..Click here

Getting Kids Outside

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From Your Health Journal…..”A interesting article today from the AZ Daily Sun via The Philadelphia Inquirer by Sandy Bauers about getting children outside. With childhood obesity on the rise, and children showing risk factors for heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, weak joints, and lower self-esteem, it is very familyrunningimportant to get our children out and about. The article points to the fact that children now spend 1 percent of the day outdoors, and 27 percent with electronic media. Where ‘children and play’ were natural companions many years ago, the trend has switched to ‘children and technology’ as the better friends. As great as technology may be for advancements in medicine, entertainment, and communication, it is causing a young generation to be more sedentary. The lesson here is to encourage your children to get outside and enjoy nature. As a family, go for hikes, walks, camp out, or even just window shop along your street. Please visit the AZ Daily Sun web site (link provided below) to read the complete article. I enjoyed it a lot, and hope you do as well.”

From the article…..

Ken Finch delights in asking people to recall happy childhood moments spent outdoors.

Invariably, they involve nature: climbing a favorite tree, wading in a stream, catching fireflies in a jar.

But this works only when his audience is older than about 30. If they’re younger, they were born after a divide — the time childhood in America changed. For the worse.

No longer did they run outdoors on a Saturday, coming home only when the streetlights went on.

More and more, they stayed indoors. Research shows children now spend 1 percent of the day outdoors, and 27 percent with electronic media.

There are a lot of reasons — urbanization, parental fears, more structured activities, and so on.

But it’s bad because being outdoor confers many benefits. Studies have shown that kids gain coordination just in navigating the uneven terrain. They learn decision-making skills and gain confidence. Vigorous play counteracts obesity. It’s not just about the kids. It’s about the planet. Kids’ relationship to nature will influence everything from what kind of car they drive to how they vote when they are adults.

So now, groups are advocating a return to the outdoor childhood. Their mission: No Child Left Inside.

In October, the National Wildlife Federation announced a goal to move 100 million kids “from their indoor habitat.”

Finch is head of Green Hearts, a national nonprofit that wants to restore the bonds between children and nature. Recently, he spoke at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia’s Roxborough neighborhood.

His talk — spiked with cartoons, such as the one with adults in a car exclaiming, “Look! Free-range children!” — was a plea to get kids back out in nature. And not just in nature, but interacting with it. (Find tips for parents at www.greenheartsinc.org)

Too many natural areas have too many rules, he said. Don’t run. Stay on the trail. Instead, what kids need is “rough land that adults don’t care about, where you can whack a tree with a stick.”

He was in the right place. The Schuylkill center, known for its nature programs, will begin a nature preschool in the fall.

To read the complete article…..Click here

Protecting Your Kid From Psychological Effects And Bullying

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By Joyce Del Rosario

meangirlsAccording to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, up to 50 percent of all kids are bullied at some point during their school years.

We used to think that bullying was no big deal – it was something you learned to live with and grow past – but ongoing research and a number of high-profile tragedies related to bullying have caused experts to change course and treat it like the serious problem that it is. Bullying can not only leave physical and psychological scars that can last a lifetime and prevent people from living up to their full potential, in some cases it has led to kids harming themselves or others.

Luckily there are ways for you to fight back and protect your children so that they aren’t forced to suffer the worst of these effects. Here are several techniques recommended by experts to protect bullied kids from the psychological damage it can do and stop the bullying once and for all.

Pay attention. Your child may not want to admit to you that they are being bullied, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be signs. Watch for long sleeves and baggy clothing that may indicate that they are attempting to hide bruises and other kinds of physical damage done to them by another kid. And if the bullying consists more of threats and other kinds of psychological damage, look for signs such as trouble concentrating, fear of going to school, increased sickness, anxiousness, low self-esteem, and even depression.

Show your acceptance. Studies have shown that kids who felt like they were accepted and loved by their families are far more likely to bounce back from bullying and not fall prey to depression or suicidal thoughts. Positive things that you can do to show your support include things like praising them and putting them in situations and positions to have positive emotions, talking to them and hanging out with them, and finding interests that you can share together.

friendTeach problem solving skills. Too often, bullied kids simply don’t know how to respond, or they can’t see that they have multiple options available to them. Parents can help with this problem by instilling in their children the ability to look at situations logically and think through each potential course of action before they go through with it. Will it be more beneficial to ignore the problem or to retaliate? Could they diffuse the situation by making a joke or talking honestly with the person bullying them? Each of these actions could be helpful in some ways and hurtful in others, but by thinking the situation through, your kid can avoid making an emotional mistake that they regret and causes further regrets or embarrassment.

Make yourself available. Many kids won’t want to come to parents to talk about bullying because they are embarrassed to talk about it, so it’s difficult to force them. What you can do, though, is make sure that they know you’re available. And if they do start to talk about it – even if it’s at the most difficult possible time for you – do whatever you can to set aside what you’re doing and listen to them. It’s hard enough for a kid to push themselves to talk to their parents once about something like this, so you might not get a second chance if they feel like you’re not really listening.

Listen, don’t talk. One of the best things that you can do if your kid comes to you is simply listen to what they have to say and take them seriously. Even if the problem doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, the fact that they’re talking about it means that it is important to them. Let them get the entire story off of their chest without interrupting, and show them that you’re listening with your body language. For some kids, simply being able to vent to you about the situation will be a weight off of their shoulders that will allow them to feel better about themselves and what’s going on.

Follow up. While it’s great if your kid feels better after talking to you, if the bullying is serious you need to make sure that you follow up with them to see if it’s still going on. It may also be wise to alert school officials so that they can be on the lookout for the bullying and put a stop to it. In some cases, vigilant teachers and administrators may even be able to do this without drawing attention to the fact that your kid told you about the situation so that they won’t have to feel like they had to “tattle” to solve the problem.

– Joyce Del Rosario