When you look at your children, do you see a picture of a healthy, active child? The United States Pentagon just released a report stating “77% of young Americans would not qualify for military service without a waiver due to being overweight, using drugs, or having mental and physical health problems.” Even worse, this is a 6% increase from the previous study. No matter the wish of a parent or youth as to their desire for military service, this study paints a disturbing picture of the health of our youth in the United States. Where have things gone wrong and what could be some simple corrective actions?
Exercise is a word many people dislike. But reframing the chosen exercise activity as a family outing, such as a daily debriefing walk to discuss the day’s events or an indoor activity such as a basic yoga class at a local gym or via video at home, can be a fun, purposeful way to incorporate physical activity without it seeming like “exercise.” The point is to increase the activity level of not just the youth but also the parent or guardian.
Replacing sugar sweetened beverages with water or fruit-infused water is an easy way to decrease excessive caloric intake and provide better hydration. Water is a basic need of the body and performs many roles from joint health and nutrient delivery to cells to regulating body temperature and proper organ functions.
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future research indicates that persons who frequently prepare meals at home eat healthier. Eating more fruits and vegetable with attention to healthier preparation methods can lead to better health outcomes over time.
It’s time to paint a new picture with you as the role model. Slowly adjusting to the adoption of a healthier lifestyle can take time. Speak openly with the youth in your life and let them help to decide the changes they feel they can make. Place this in writing using SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Revisit these goals and adjust them as needed. The reward over time could be a picture of health.
In the early childhood years there are key experiences that are essential to development. Babies and toddlers benefit from sensory activities and it is important for overall health and well-being. When does sensory development start? The answer is before we are born. Everything we do as humans involves our senses. In a child’s first five years, sensory play supports cognitive development, language, problem solving, and social and emotional interaction as well as motor development. Research shows that sensory play is needed for children to develop more complex learning abilities as they grow.
During the first twelve months, an infant begins to build an understanding of their world. It can seem like a challenging time because they are often exploring with their mouth. There are some simple activities that are both safe and entertaining for babies at this age.
Baby Sensory Bin Photo Source: Julie McMillian
Sensory bins are hands-on interactive tools that use sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. A sensory bin can also be used to hide and find objects which creates an opportunity to encourage language development. Fine motor skills can be developed by using the pinching, grasping, scooping, pouring, and stirring movements with a variety of tools. Sensory bins can be inexpensive and switched out easily to create strength and hand development.
Sensory Bin Ideas
Sponges and Water
Cooked pasta with food coloring
Dry Cereal with or without toys
Oobleck (2 cups cornstarch and 1 cup water)
Outdoor sensory play is another great way to use multi-sensory experiences for healthy child development. Outdoor equipment at home or the park can be used. Simple experiences with grass, sand and water encourage exploration and creativity. A reserved child may come out of their shell when outdoors. Nature opportunities will provide health benefits of fresh air, exercise, and vitamin D.
As a care giver, you can focus on a certain skill that may be lacking in a child’s development or provide an array of activities that stimulate growth. When children can explore and try new experiences they can attach meaning and unlock key skills needed for their future. Sensory play is valuable and essential for learning and the activities are endless.
I’m BORED!” is not a statement a parent/caregiver wants to hear just days into summer break! Boredom is a feeling. The feeling of being unsatisfied or uninterested can lead to boredom. Boredom can also result from too much time on your hands. Boredom may occur when you do the same thing over and over again. Boredom can affect both physical and mental health and, let’s face it, it is not just kids who get bored!
Nevertheless, boredom, like any feeling, is important to recognize and manage. In fact, people who are good at noticing how they feel and adjusting (self-regulating) their behavior are more likely to do well in school and life, have healthy relationships, and manage difficulties and setbacks – boredom included.
How can we combat boredom? We can counter boredom with constructive activities. Constructive activities are those that require a bit of personal output, or something one actually has to do.
Therefore, before your summer vacation takes a nosedive, think of ways to ward off the doldrums. Know, too, that watching too much screen time can only make boredom worse because screen time, for the most part, is a passive type of activity/entertainment. While there is certainly a place for passive engagement (watching a movie, for instance, or reading a book), you do not have to do anything! Moreover, when the body and mind are not actively engaged for hours on end, things can go downhill… quickly. Many find actively or constructively doing something satisfying can enlighten your body, your mind, and your soul.
Think about it… while reading a book is passive, your mind is 100% active; the same goes for a movie or your favorite show. However, being engaged, like talking to someone about what you are watching or reading, takes the passive activity to a new level; talking about the activity makes it more constructive because you get really involved in it by sharing. It’s the non-participatory part repeated hour upon hour that can cause the negative effect. The body needs a balanced diet of both passive and constructive activities.
Constructive activities help activate your body, mind, and soul. So, before boredom happens, take a proactive approach to finding a solution before the problem starts. Of course, the internet is full of ideas; some of them are quite good! Personally, I like the approach where the set up requires a few easy to use resources that can quickly engage the user.
Parents and caregivers should help model the behavior they want their charges to follow. Knowing a few tricks to turn passive activities into constructive ones will help the long, hot summer be the best one yet.
Families across the country are adapting to the challenges in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Families with children face even more challenges. The task of keeping children occupied, and attempting to keep up with schoolwork, monitoring “screen time,” feeding, etc. is NOT easy!
Nonetheless, it is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance. We can help make lemonade out of lemons, even in the face of a pandemic by focusing on the positive. Adults can model a whole host of problem-solving skills for children of all ages. We can also show children how to be flexible, how to make do and improvise, and how to be compassionate.
As we all work though adjusting to a new normal, know that WFSU public television has expanded their educational services by providing emergency at-home learning content to assist families, students, and teachers throughout their viewing region during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires Public Media (WFSU) to serve everybody, everywhere, every day for free. WFSU Public Media is doing just that.
WFSU Public Media is working hard pursuing their education mission, clearing their normal daytime schedules, broadcasting grade-appropriate instructional programming, as well as creating and curating educational games and other online content. WFSU educational television programs are geared to helping children succeed in school and in life (https://wfsu.org/education/).
The new daytime WFSU At-Home Learning block of programs begin at 6 a.m., focusing on preschool to 3rd grade learners. You will find “Wild Kratts,” “Daniel Tiger,” “Curious George” and other classic PBS KIDS programs.
At 11 a.m. programming shifts to target middle and high school students. Programs like “Nova” focus on science, “The Great American Read” on English Language Arts, “Masterpiece” on British literature and “American Experience” on U.S. history, just to name some of the PBS programs featured.
Plus, WFSU is working with local school districts to ensure that they can link students to these resources and utilize PBS Learning Media, an online repository of content that is aligned to Florida curriculum standards.
Additionally, WFSU, knowing that their youngest viewers and their families count on the entertaining and educational programs normally shown on the HD channel in the daytime, moved the PBS Kids 24/7 channel, to one of their digital services available free over-the-air and also to Comcast channel 203. It is also live streamed on the WFSU website: https://wfsu.org/education/watch-live-wfsu-pbs-kids-360/.
WFSU Public Media is also providing critical assistance through public safety communications and local programming that gives our communities trustworthy information about every aspect of the health emergency.
Thank you, David Mullins, general manager of WFSU Public Media, including the Florida Channel, and Kim Kelling, director of content and community partnerships at WFSU Public Media. Your timely assistance to every person in your viewing area is much appreciated.
WFSU – TV, Channel 11: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Hamilton, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Suwannee, Wakulla counties and Georgia counties Decatur, Grady, Thomas and Seminole.
WFSG – TV, Channel 56: Holmes, Washington and Walton counties
Can I go outside during the Coronavirus Pandemic? Is it a smart idea? As we are instructed by the CDC to isolate ourselves and embrace social distancing, we may start to feel a little restless or stir crazy after staying inside for a long period of time. Spring weather is great, especially in the mornings and evenings, here in Florida. Normally we would be entering a time when people are the most active outdoors. This year we must be a little more creative when deciding what we can do to enjoy daily activities outside of our home.
Family playing outside Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Children usually need no encouragement to go outside. Youth that spend more time outside have positive outcomes with their health by interacting with their natural environments. They are curious about the world around them and their experiences outside will benefit them in regard to a positive attitude toward their environment. Adults have those same benefits but tend to forget or not have time in everyday life as it gets busy.
Therefore, the question is, what can we do that will keep us at a distance and be educational and productive? If you live in less populated areas, you might plant a garden, build an outside project that you have been putting off, enjoy a picnic, or hike and sight-see through the woods. If in the city and able, go for a walk or jog with your dog, take a bike ride or do some yoga especially if you are missing the gym. Your medical professionals will be glad you are participating in some physical activity and breathing in some fresh air. You might want to get in a lawn chair and just relax and soak up some vitamin D from a few minutes in the sun.
If you have recently become your child’s teacher, you can have learning activities outside. Science and math can be integrated by building a house out of natural resources, allowing students to collect materials and build while fostering creativity. Talk about ecosystems of trees and plants and how they might provide a home for insects or animals. Students could take a piece of paper outside and define what they see in their yard, integrating spelling and vocabulary, or write a short story based on what they hear and observe.
We are living and facing challenges today that we probably have not encountered before, so it is a good time to find an outlet to relieve stress and detour the onset of depression. The web is full of ideas for all ages if you run out of inspiration and some days we do. Remember to keep a safe distance from others, wash your hands frequently and follow your local guidelines but don’t be afraid to try something new that may be out of your ordinary routine. It might turn out to be your favorite hobby.
For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF IFAS county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publications:
Friendships are an important part of life, and friendships can have a tremendous impact on our personal well-being and overall mental and physical health. Social isolation can lead to depression and loneliness. The relationships that we build with our family and friends can affect the quality of the friendships that we develop over our lifetimes. Some people thrive socially and develop deep, meaningful connections with others, while others only maintain distant friendships. However, it is important for us to help our children learn to develop these important social skills. Researchers have long documented links between the quality of relationships between family members and their relationships with their peers. Participation in team sports can have lasting benefits, including responsible social behaviors, good sportsmanship, strong leadership skills, academic success, and self-confidence.
Parents can form lasting friendships while supporting their kids in youth sports. (Photo source: Laurie Osgood, UF/IFAS Extension)
When It Comes to Youth Sports, Parents Don’t Always Behave Themselves.
As team sports become more competitive, there is increased attention placed on the negative aspects of team sports, mainly parental expectations and behavior. Having spent a large part of my life sitting in the stands watching my children play team sports, I have developed deep, long-lasting friendships with the parents of my children’s friends. These friendships are often maintained between parents long after our children put away their soccer cleats. Of course, overbearing parents can take the fun out of sports for our children. Many children drop out of team sports because they are no longer having fun and participation becomes too stressful.
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Kids Develop Positive, Warm Friendships?
Continue to nurture and support the friendships that you have established throughout your lifetime.
Be a good sports parent by showing support to your child.
Model good friendship skills. This will help youth understand social competence.
Be happy and have fun at your child’s competitions.
Minimize pressure & don’t coach your child from the sidelines.
Nurture the youth’s ambitions, but don’t let them get too wrapped up in the competitiveness.
Be respectful of your child’s teammates, coach, opponents, and the game’s rules and traditions.
It is our job as parents to teach our children social skills to help them grow as individuals, not just athletes. As parents it is our job to nurture their emotional and physical development. Even as adults we must continue to stay connected with our friends and families. As we grow older, good friendships can prevent loneliness, improve our health, boost our well-being, and even add years to our lives.