Health and Wellness

  • Outdoor Play: Why Does it Matter?

    Outdoor Play is Important

    Research shows that the average American kid only spend 4-7 minutes outside playing vs the 7 plus hours of time spent a day in front of a screen. This lack of time outside in unstructured play (no, organized sports don’t count…) is detrimental to our kids.

    To their health, their happiness, their creativity, their attention spans, their social, emotional and academic skills. 

    In an article titled “Getting back to the great outdoors” published by the American Psychological Association they quote research that explains that “One of the most influential longitudinal studies, led by Cornell University environmental psychologist Nancy M. Wells, PhD, found that children who experienced the biggest increase in green space near their home after moving improved their cognitive functioning more than those who moved to areas with fewer natural resources nearby (Environment and Behavior (Vol. 32, No. 6).

    Similarly, in a study of 337 school-age children in rural upstate New York, Wells found that the presence of nearby nature bolsters a child’s resilience against stress and adversity, particularly among those children who experience a high level of stress.

    Benefits of Outdoor Play

    • Physically healthier kids (better immunity, less obesity, more physical strength)
    • Mentally healthier kids (less anxiety, less depression, better moods and sleep)
    • Increase in attention span and creativity
    • Increase in sensory specific skills
    • Stronger ability to collaborate with others, adapt to new situations, problem solve, and negotiate–all life skills that your child will NEED to be successful in the world beyond school

    The need for risky play

    Children have an innate need for risk taking–and some research indicates that children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence (so think about when your child is older and you want them to be able to manage risk when you aren’t there to swoop in to save them).

    It also shows that lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear, inappropriate aggression, and the ability to cope with stress. 

    All of which translates into increased anxiety–this article also notes that “anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorder in children and adolescents and parental overprotection has been associated with increased rates.”

    What does risky play look like?

    Some ways you may see kids engaging in risky play are:

    • playing at heights
    • running at high speeds
    • using things in ways that aren’t intended (climbing the couch, going up the slide instead of down), rolling down hills, climbing rocks
    • walking on anything that requires balance
    • spinning in circles
    • jumping off anything and everything

    These are things we should be encouraging our kids to do.

    To read more about risky play check out the article “A Guide to Understanding Risky Play”

    A little dirt never hurt

    Pick up a copy of the book Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System by Jack Gilbert Ph.D. for a more detailed explanation of why I let my kids eat dirt (and gasp…I don’t always wash their hands after they have played in dirt even when they are about to eat).

    Basically, exposure to low level germs and microbes are actually good for your kids as they help the immune system build itself up (read this article for more immune system boosting tips).

    Professor Gilbert explains that “exposure to microbes prevalent in the great outdoors will establish a stronger, more robust immune system in young people.”

    So stop stressing about washing off every speck of dirt, let your kids eat food from the floor, and stop using hand sanitizer unless you’re in a pinch and near “real” germs like cold and flu viruses (even then warm soapy water is best!)

    There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

    This is not just a great book, but a philosophy lived by many families in Scandinavian countries and other areas of the world where outdoor play is held in higher regard.

    From personal experience, I find it’s much easier to send my kids outside when I know they have all the right gear.

    The right rain suit and boots can allow kids to stomp in puddles for hours.

    Rain Gear

    Some of my absolute must haves for outdoor play include the OAKI rain suit which my kids wear outside even in torrential downpour and still stay dry. We typically wear base layers in the fall and spring as the OAKI suit is a thin waterproof material.

    We have tried both the Crocs rainboots and the Bogs rainboots.

    We prefer the bogs because they have a nice liner which makes them easy to slip on and because they are taller and are more flexible rubber.

    Base Layers (Layering)

    Baselayer just means the FIRST layer of clothing that is touching your skin.

    We mostly use merino wool as a base layer because the material is breathable, helps regulate body temperature and is a natural fiber.

    We love wool by Nui Organics and Sloomb because we wear a lot of wool year round, but if you just need a base layer you can get the Merino Kids thermal set by Simply Merino or these pajamas by Woolino.

    I also know a lot of moms who use fleece for warmth, which is the synthetic version of wool–it isn’t as breathable as wool but it is a great option and is typically less expensive. These are some good fleece options: The Rocky fleece thermals for girls and boys.

    Snow Gear

    For snow, we are LOVING our Patagonia Snow Pile one piece.

    My son has a little bit of a complex about gloves and really needs to be able to use his hands effectively otherwise he gets very frustrated.

    So we have tried a bunch of gloves and really love using these wool Melton Baby gloves underneath these POLARN O. PYRET waterproof shell gloves.

    What’s nice is you can use both of these separately or together depending on the weather.

    If your little one prefers a mitten style glove then you can get these waterproof shells and these merino mittens both by Polarn O. Pyret.

    For serious snow play we have been using, and loving, these Stonez Mitts. They cinch at the wrist and elbow and are super warm and SO easy to put on.

    As for hats I strongly recommend a baclava this like one from SmartWool, or a hat that pulls down over the ears.

    Our favorite snow boots are Bogs. I would recommend either the Bogs “Slushie” Snow boots or the Bogs baby waterproof boot. They are super easy to walk in and really protect their feet from the cold.

    I challenge you all to purposely send your kid outside to get dirty or play in weather you normally wouldn’t.

    Set up a water table and with a couple buckets of dirt and a shovel.

    Let them dig a hole for you to plant something with their bare hands (and don’t freak out when you see them then stick their dirty fingers in their mouth or their nose).

    Bundle them up and send them outside in the snow (watch them from the shelter of your house if you need to).

    Put on those rain suits and boots to stomp in puddles and run around in the pouring rain.

    Just get those kids outside. Every. Single. Day.

    If you want to join a really cool challenge, check out the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge!

    If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.
    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:Type of Play for Development100 Simple Things to do Outside With Your KidsToy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)

    The Power of Play

    What I’ve Learned about Early Childhood Education

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  • 100 Positive Things Parents are Experiencing Right Now

    Right now our world is filled with news about a virus spiraling out of control. Whole cities shutting down. Families being quarantined. Schools, businesses, restaurants and parks closing indefinitely. It’s a horribly stressful time for everyone.

    That said, it is in these times that it is the MOST important for us to look for the positives. There is always a silver lining.

    In just a few days, parents all over the country (and the world) have had their worlds turned upside down. Often having to work from home while also trying to continue their children’s learning.

    Read this list to see what parents have found to be unexpectedly amazing about having their family stuck at home.

    100 Positive Things Parents are Experiencing Right Now

    1. Discovering that your child has an incredible talent you never saw before.
    2. Being able to play with you kids during a lunch break.
    3. Drinking hot coffee with your significant other instead of in the car on the way to work.
    4. Being able to read your kids books before bed.
    5. Enjoying more meals together.
    6. Slow mornings that allow for a little reading, play or conversation before “going to work.”
    7. A longer shower.
    8. Comfortable clothes all day. Hello leggings!
    9. Learning new ways do elementary math.
    10. Introducing your kids to old movies.
    11. Reconnecting with nature, going on hikes, and bird watching.
    12. Teachers showing their ability to adapt.
    13. Parents showing their ability to lead their child’s education.
    14. Cancelling of standardized tests.
    15. Kids having time to engage in true play.
    16. More opportunities home cooking.
    17. Extra time with kids before they start formal schooling.
    18. Perfect time to potty train!
    19. Time for daily snuggles.
    20. Kids are able to sleep until their bodies are ready to wake up.
    21. Kids can slow down and enjoy breakfast and lunch.
    22. Watching your older children help support their younger siblings.
    23. Children making friends with kids around the country.
    24. Practicing language skills with children across the globe through online video chats.
    25. Grandparents tackling new technology to be able to see their grandkids.
    26. No alarms going off in the morning.
    27. Not having to pack lunches and snacks every morning.
    28. Being able to finally have a conversation with your teenager.
    29. Kids helping to cook and trying new foods while at home.
    30. Coming to the realization that your family is WAY over scheduled.
    31. Connecting with college aged friends and family to provide supplemental educational opportunities.
    32. Letting go of housework and reconnecting with family.
    33. Having extra time to learn new skills (riding a bike, knitting, gardening)
    34. Kids recognizing just how responsible and productive they are when they put their minds to something.
    35. Kids learning how to self-regulate their own schedules and take responsibility for their work.
    36. Having time to pursue passions outside of academic curriculum.
    37. Kids having ability to work on school work at their own pace without fear of judgement.
    38. Watching your kids take on projects just because they are interested in the topic.
    39. Being able to witness your child’s true ability shine through.
    40. Doing everything in pajamas.
    41. Wearing no real clothes so less laundry!
    42. Feeling like you finally understand your child’s needs, strengths and weaknesses and how these impact learning.
    43. Realizing homeschooling is not half as bad as you imagined it would be (in fact sort of liking it).
    44. Raising expectations for practical life skills and children rising to meet those expectations—hello laundry help!
    45. Breathing in more fresh air.
    46. School aged children starting to learn to play again.
    47. More awareness of amount of screen time.
    48. Being pleasantly surprised by what your child knows and can do.
    49. Learned to let go and let children do more for themselves.
    50. The ability to be a part of your child’s every day education and watching them grow.
    51. Breastfeeding moms not having to pump while at work!
    52. Learning that life needs to slow down and that we are rushing through moments that should be savored.
    53. Coming together to do all household work.
    54. Seeing first hand what classwork genuinely excites your child and what does not.
    55. Mid-day dance parties.
    56. Hearing your kids say they are actually enjoying learning.
    57. Being able to lean into the subjects and content you’re interested in and do them with your child.
    58. Sleeping in!
    59. Being aware of self-care while my children are watching.
    60. Siblings being able to spend more time together playing and learning.
    61. So much extra time to read and do things your enjoy.
    62. Actually laughing together.
    63. High fives from your kid when they figure something out.
    64. Whole families being able to take walks together.
    65. No fear of missing out.
    66. Being able to catch up on tasks and projects you’ve been putting off.
    67. Being able to discover new learning tools that you didn’t know existed—opening up a new world of learning for yourself and your child.
    68. Less arguments and no rushing to get dressed and out the door to catch the bus.
    69. Communities coming together to share resources, get creative and support each other in so many ways.
    70. Learning so much about your child’s real interests and passions.
    71. Being able to teach your child things you love to do.
    72. Realizing it’s okay to not know how to do something and figuring things out along the way (while your child watches)
    73. Learning to appreciate the flexibility in schedule of having kids home.
    74. Connecting on such a personal level with teachers and parents.
    75. Developing a new found respect for what teachers do every single day.
    76. Feeling a sense of pride for conquerer the learning curve of homeschooling.
    77. Learning to be more intentional with our time and resources.
    78. Becoming more aware of how your family can be more eco-conscious.
    79. Kids engaging in real authentic learning.
    80. Having more face to face and quality time with your family.
    81. Older siblings are being given the time and space to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
    82. Children of all ages learning practical life skills!
    83. Knowing what your kids are learning, not just hearing about it after the fact.
    84. Not worrying about whether or not your kids are eating enough at school.
    85. The ability to catch up with friends who you’re normally too busy to call.
    86. Realizing that you have been way too caught up in your career to appreciate all the good things.
    87. Committing to being grateful for all the good things in your life.
    88. Not having to wear make up.
    89. Getting in hours more of outdoor play every day (even as a family!)
    90. People generally being kinder and trying to help others in their community.
    91. Being able to have more one on one time with your kids.
    92. Kids being able to work in any position they feel comfortable in (standing, pacing, laying on the floor)
    93. Watching your children become more creative.
    94. Being able to witness your child’s firsts.
    95. Paying more attention to your health and wellness.
    96. Feeling a sense of togetherness and community since everyone is going through the same thing.
    97. The pride and joy parents are experiencing when they come up with a really great project to do with their kids.
    98. More people considering how their behaviors impact the lives of others.
    99. Appreciating the mess that your kids make because you have no where to go and aren’t as stressed.
    100. Developing a totally different outlook about how learning should look, sound, and feel.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:

    How to Continue Your Child’s Education During School Closures

    Covid-19: Tips for When School Is Closed

    30 Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside

    100 Outdoor Activities to Do with Your Kids

    Top 10 Must Have Art Supplies

    Type of Play for Development

    Risky Play for Kids

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    Read More

  • Covid-19: 5 Tips For When School is Closed

    Covid-19 School Closures

    As Covid-19 spreads across the U.S., schools and businesses are beginning to shut down. Employers are asking for parents to work from home and schools are expecting children, at all grade levels, to continue learning at home.

    Many public school districts are nowhere near ready to provide adequate online or distance learning. That, in and of itself, is a serious issue considering it’s 2020. But that discussion is better left for another day.

    Right now, we are witnessing the biggest homeschooling social experiment the U.S. has seen since our country started compulsory schooling in the state of Massachusetts in 1852. 

    The hardship that parents will feel is going to be brutal. Our country is inadequately prepared to help already disadvantaged families who will bear the brunt of this pandemic. Schools are worried about closing because of the amount of homeless and food insecure children they serve. Districts are scrambling to find ways to continue providing basic necessities to children in their school community. That is sickening.

    Finding childcare when you have to work in order to get paid, is going to be near impossible. People are going to go to work sick because they can’t take time off–for lack of paid sick time. It’s going to be an utter ❤️ show.

    All this said, we must try to find the positive and continue to practice gratitude.

    We have parents who are now home with their kids and who have a unique opportunity to re-engage in their children’s education–Not a teacher? Have no clue how you can support your child in learning? Remember that YOU are where it all began. Take this time to re-connect.

    Learning doesn’t mean schooling. There are so many ways you can support your child at home. The most important thing is to step back and follow their lead and find a rhythm.

    Kids do thrive on predictability so try to think about how you can structure your day. You don’t have to be ridgid about it, but it might make life easier for everyone if you come up with a rhythm that keeps you moving forward.

    1. Ask them what excites them about school

    Is it art? Science? Reading? Gym? Start there.

    Pinterest up some art or science projects. Let them make their own creation with whatever art materials you have laying around. Watch what they create and build on it. Did they draw an animal? Find something to read about that animal.

    Did they create something abstract? Look up a Youtube video about abstract art.

    Let them come up with an experiment you guys can conduct at home. Talk about it. Have them write about it. Read about it.

    Do they love to read? Let them read. When they are done ask them questions. Have them draw the main character and write about the character’s personality. Look up graphic organizers for characterization, plot, theme (based on your child’s age) and you will find tons of activities for them to do relating to literacy. Read non-fiction. Check out Newsela for articles that allow you to customize by reading level. Do some research with them related to any content found in the article. Look at related pictures and talk through what you’re reading. Model engaging in content. Use phrases like “I wonder” and “What do you think….”

    Do they love physical education class? Do you have a backyard? Kick them outside for a few hours. Make an indoor obstacle course with couch pillows, step stools, boxes, painters tape. Get them doing something active. Have them shoot paper balls into a basket. Set up empty bottles as pinballs and let them do some house bowling. Do a workout together. Try yoga or pilates. There are tons of free videos online and you don’t need any real equipment.

    Are they budding mathematicians? Direct them to Khan Academy where they can do self-paced lessons online (just don’t let them sit online for hours on end).

    2. Involve them in your day to day

    You don’t have to do anything particularly academic if you don’t want to. You can simply involve them in your day to day. Talk to them about some of the tasks involved in being an adult (age appropriate of course).

    This is the perfect time for them to learn life skills. Have them help with laundry, or unload the dishwasher, or help fold clothes….let them make a grocery list and look up prices online. Give them a budget and see if they can add everything up and stay within that budget. Bake something from scratch and have them figure out converting measurements.

    Sit down and eat together. Drag out the meal to talk about the shape, size, color, texture or taste of different foods. Do a blind taste test or try out a new recipe and sample ingredients along the way.

    3. Get them outside

    Get. Them. Outside. Just not in public. Here is a list of 100 things to do outside with your kids  Some may not apply considering we should be trying to practice social distancing.

    4. Let them get bored

    Regardless of age, give your kid(s) time and space to be bored. Let them sulk. Let them complain. Give them encouragement to figure it out. Let them play, build, imagine, write, and create. Let THEM figure out how to spend their time with NO input from you. Figure out a particular time of day that works best for your family and keep it consistent.

    5. Keep screens to a minimum

    It might be VERY easy to let screens take over. Especially if you’re not used to limiting screen time in the afternoon when your child is home from school, or you’ve never had to because they are always in after school extracurriculars.

    Maybe your child has online school work to do. Or you’re having them do Khan academy math work. Maybe they are doing a coding app on an iPad. All fine. Just make sure you set limits and engage in these other activities that allow you to re-connect and re-engage in your child’s education in a meaningful way.

    Is your child’s school closed? How are you coping? What activities do you have planned to help pass the time? Head over to our Facebook group to chat with like-minded families.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:

    30 Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside

    100 Outdoor Activities to Do with Your Kids

    Elderberry Syrup Recipe

    Top 10 Natural Medicine Cabinet Must Haves

    Top 10 Must Have Art Supplies

    Type of Play for Development

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    Read More

  • Advice for Mothers Everywhere

    The problem with parenting experts

    So I started writing this blog because I feel like I have a ton of advice to give. I love giving advice. Seriously. Maybe it’s because I love to teach people. Maybe it’s because I find happiness in helping others, especially mamas. Maybe it’s because I just like to hear myself talk? I don’t know. But I do know I happily dish out advice to anyone who will listen. Here’s the thing though. I’m no expert on parenting. I mean I have three kids. I’ve read a ❤️ ton about all things parenting and education related. But I don’t think one can be an expert on parenting nor would I ever claim to be an expert on parenting. I think you can be an expert on trying to be the best possible parent. You can be an expert learner of new information. But you cannot be an expert on parenting because it’s ALWAYS changing. So yes, you may become an expert on having a two year old, but then guess what? Your two year old turns three (which is a beast of an age–but please reference my recent post about reframing our perception) and now you’re royally screwed because you aren’t an expert on having a three year old….or you have one kid, and you’re killing it. Then kid two comes along and it’s all over.

    We ALL struggle

    Over the past few weeks I have been trolling moms groups. Reading posts (sometimes responding) and just trying to get a better feel for what other moms, especially newer moms, are struggling with. And honestly, what I’m seeing makes me pretty sad. I see so many mamas posting about feeling anxious, ashamed, overwhelmed, or not confident about their abilities as a parent. It isn’t always an overt expression of these feelings. It often comes out subtly–in the way they phrase a question or how they caveat their post with “please excuse the messy couch in the background.” It makes my heart hurt.

    Top 5 pieces of advice for new mamas

    Vocalize your accomplishments

    One of the best things I did as a new mom was tell myself something I did well every single day for the first few months. Sometimes I was literally like “I made time to brush my teeth today!! Whoop!” and sometimes it was a little more deep. I had to talk myself up because after the first few weeks of maternity leave, there wasn’t that constant support of people cheering you on or lending a helping hand. **And I FULLY recognize that many people don’t even have that. If that rings true to you, and you’re still keeping on with a smile on your face then you are a better mom than I am….I don’t know what I would do without the help that I have–so you all are the real rockstars**

    Take a freaking shower and a nap

    Seriously. Let someone hold the baby for a few minutes or bring the little baby bouncer and stick it on the floor in the bathroom while you shower (we love the BABYBJORN bouncer for it’s slim footprint and portability). Let the sink sit full of dirty dishes while you take a nap. I know it’s hard. You feel like you have to do all the things, but you don’t. And the people that care about you won’t give two ❤️ about the way your house looks.

     Accept that you’re going to hate your significant other for a while

    I’m talking loathe. Like you’ll be nursing at night, while staring at your sleeping partner, and be secretly plotting how to suffocate them with your pillow. It’s NORMAL. It’s hormones. I mean unless you actually hate your significant other, that’s a whole different story. Express your feelings to other mamas and I can guarantee they will chime in with all the ways they have plotted the death of their loved one. It passes. Mostly. I advise you pick up a book called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids— it’s a game changer.

    Don’t feel guilty about being constantly annoyed at your pet

    This is one you may not have heard but it happens (and I know other moms who have experienced this). You just have such little capacity to be touched or needed from anyone other than your little one. Your dog being underfoot in the kitchen when you’re trying to make a simple meal for yourself (maybe your only meal of the day), or needing to go out right when you have just sat down after standing and rocking the baby for an hour, or barking and waking you up JUST as you’re falling asleep for a nap (and you know you only have 45 minutes or less before baby wakes up). All these things can drive you up the wall. Again, normal. Give yourself some grace and ask for help in caring for anything and everything that isn’t your new baby.

     Recognize signs of PPA and PPD

    This is a big one. I see so many mamas posting stuff in moms groups that screams that they are dealing with postpartum anxiety or depression. It’s so common and there are so many ways it can present itself. For example, with my first I started using an app to track all his feedings, and diapers, and sleep. I remember sitting up at night nursing him while simultaneously trying to type information into this app. It was ridiculous. I should have been enjoying my baby and observing him for cues and instead I was hyper focused on getting it all down to a science. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that she had to stop using the tracker because it was giving her anxiety that I realized, holy ❤️ this is causing way more anxiety than it should be. My advice is to RELAX and observe your baby–follow their cues. You will KNOW when your baby is hungry, you don’t need an app to tell you that. Here’s the thing. If you find it hard to relax about anything, then you need to talk to your doctor. Some of it is just first time mom nervousness, but when someone points out that you’re driving yourself crazy doing something and you can’t stop even though you know it’s not healthy, that’s a sign you need to speak with your doctor. I struggled with PPA and PPD without recognizing it, even though I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder a long time ago, so please just be aware of your mental health and check in with someone. Keep in mind not all doctors are on board, and some may try to tell you it just baby blues from your hormones (which definitely could be the case), or that you’re just anxious because you’re a mom and that comes with the territory (I actually had a doctor say this….) so make sure you get a second opinion, reach out to other moms, or flat out ask for a referral to a mental health professional if you need to. ALWAYS feel free to reach out to me here or on social media if you need to vent, rant, ask for help, cry, whatever…. I’m here and available to support you.

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  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the new IQ

    The Importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

    One of our main goals as parents and caregivers should be to guide the child towards independence. As hard as it is to accept, our little ones will, all too soon, be off and dealing with life’s challenges.

    In order for true independence to emerge, kids need to feel confident and in control.

    We now know that one of the biggest predictors of a child being successful and happy is their emotional intelligence.

    Stephanie Pinto, an Australian based former speech pathologist and certified emotional intelligence coach, says that, simply put, emotional intelligence is “a person’s ability to be aware of their own emotions as well as others’ emotions, and how they can use this information to guide their actions and behaviours in day-to-day life.”

    Of particular interest to parents, she notes that “EQ is fast becoming more important than IQ in the classroom.”

    Components of Emotional Intelligence

    There are five components of EQ.

    1. Self-awareness
    2. Self-regulation
    3. Social Skills
    4. Empathy
    5. Motivation

    While all five of these components are crucial to success, the one I want to focus on in this post is the idea of self-regulation.

    Self- Control vs. Self-Regulation

    We often hear parents talk about self-control, but that isn’t the end all be all when it comes to emotional regulation.

    It’s important to understand that self-control is about being able to stop yourself from acting impulsively.

    Whereas, self-regulation is about reducing the intensity and the frequency of those impulses allowing you to take appropriate action.

    How kids learn self-regulation

    Anyone with toddlers knows that kids are not born with this ability. Far from it. Toddlers and preschoolers often show us huge emotions.

    They throw themselves on the floor sobbing because you didn’t give them the right color cup, or because you told them they couldn’t eat dog food. The screech and squeal in delight at you blowing a bubble or because they got to stomp in a mud puddle.

    So how can we help kids learn to self-regulate when they seem to feel everything so deeply?

    Simply by providing them many opportunities to help them identify the emotions they are feeling and give them a chance to practice strategies for coping with those emotions.

    Stephanie notes that “Kids who learn and regularly practice self-calming strategies like deep breathing and positive affirmations are well on the road to developing a great level of emotional intelligence.”

    Developing EQ in Kids

    Here are some specific ways we can help children develop a strong EQ.

    • Openly talk about our own emotions and model self-regulation.
    • Read books that directly talk about different emotions (Check out The Color Monster, B is for Breathe, or The Way I Feel).
    • Encourage your child to identify the emotion they feel, or identify it for them if they are too young.
    • Create a space for them that is specifically dedicated to helping them calm down. You can read more about this type of space here.
    • Pick a self-calming strategies to try–deep breathing is a great one for kids–they can use a finger to slowly trace their thumb, going up one side as they breathe in and down the other side as they breathe out. Then they can trace their other fingers using the same method.

    The role of play in developing self-regulation

    It comes back to play, as it so often does.

    Twentieth century Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky famously discussed the role of play in the development of self-regulation.

    He explains that in dramatic play or make believe play, children create imaginary roles and then act out those roles. Often times, these roles are of adults–Doctors, Firefighters, Superheros, a Mom caring for a baby. Within this role play, children must act specific to this role and work to inhibit behaviors that do not align with their role. This takes emotional regulation.

    The research also shows us that kids are able to better regulate their behaviors if given a play task; being asked to be a lookout vs just asking them to stand and wait.

    Parents can capitalize on this by turning directions into “play tasks” and by providing plenty of opportunities for children to engage in pretend play.

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  • Homemade thieves essential oil blend

    The history behind Thieves oil blend

    Thieves oil blend is a common blend of clove, rosemary, cinnamon, eucalyptus and citrus oils that is often used to help fight germs and boost immunity. The blend is said to be inspired by a 15th century band of thieves who covered themselves in these aromatics so they could steal from people who died of the bubonic plague. None of them contracted the disease, and when they were caught they received a reduced sentence for sharing the secret blend that kept them safe.

    Common household uses for Thieves

    People use thieves blends (all the major essential oil companies make a similar blend) for many things around the home. The most common are diffusing, especially during cold and flu season, mixing with a carrier oil and applying topically if you are getting sick, and using the blend to make a cleaning solution.

    Here are the directions for each of these uses:

    • Diffuse 10-15 drops in a diffuser during cold and flu season. I love this diffuser by doTerra but there are a ton of options that are less expensive or blend better with your decor.
    • Mix with a carrier oil and apply topically (to feet or chest) when sick. I like Plant Therapy fractionated coconut oil–it’s reasonably priced and I love their essential oils. The National Association for Holistic Therapy recommend 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil for infants and young kids, and anywhere from 15-60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil for adults (depending on the oil and your level of tolerance–people with sensitive skin would use less)
    • Make an all purpose cleaning solution by adding 10-15 drops per ounce of water and a splash of witch hazel (this acts as an emulsifier and allows the oil and water to mix better) to a glass spray bottle. Use to clean whatever you would normally clean with an all purpose cleaner.

    Oils you will need to make your own Thieves blend

    You will get all kinds of opinions on “the best and highest quality” essential oils–you can do you own research but I have found that there are a few high quality brands that are great and affordable (and on Amazon–yay Prime!) I love Plant Therapy and Aura Cacia is a close second. These are the ones I own and use to make my thieves blend.

    The recipe I use is below. Enjoy and stay healthy!

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  • Top 10 Natural Medicine Cabinet Must Haves

    Fall is here and that means sickness season is back in full swing. As much as we try to keep our kids healthy during cold and flu season it’s inevitable that they will get sick at some point. Below are my top 10 must haves for your medicine cabinet.

    Top 10 Natural Cold and Flu Must Haves

    Elderberry syrup: This is something we try to give the kids daily–as often as we can remember. You can read all about it here. It’s an amazing immune boost, very simple to make (if you choose) and PROVEN to help the body fight cold and flu. If you want to buy it I would recommend this one.

    Dye and alcohol free pain medication: Dye and alcohol are two things kids just don’t need. So when you feel like they need medication choose something that doesn’t contain unnecessary ingredients. For acetaminophen I like Little Remedies and for ibuprofen I get the berry Motrin. Acetaminophen last 4-6 hours and ibuprofen last 6-8 hours. Make sure you only use ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Motrin) for children over 6 months of age. Also, always consult with your pediatrician before giving any medication to your little one.

    Chest rubMaty’s chest rub is my go to because it’s made with all natural ingredients vs the standard Vick’s. We use this on the chest and throat, and also the feet (and then cover with socks).

    Snot sucker: You can either get the popular Nose Frieda (I can’t handle that–too much of a gag reflex) or my favorite the OCCObaby I like the OCCOBaby because it’s battery operated so I don’t have to actually suck out snot and it does seem to get way more gunk out than the Nose Frieda.

    Saline nasal spray: I recommend getting the value pack! This stuff isn’t just for congestion. It’s amazing for coughs too. It helps move everything along. Our pediatrician recommended doing it 5-6 times per day during a virus that presented with a nasty cough. I thought it was excessive but it worked! We usually spray this stuff, wait a few seconds and then do our snot sucker.

    Stomach remedies: Ginger tea, probiotics and Activated charcoal!! All these are medicine cabinet necessities. Stomach viruses are my biggest fear. And it’s almost inevitable that someone (and likely all of you) will come down with a stomach virus during sick season. They are SO ridiculously contagious and just literally the devil.  Ginger tea helps calm the stomach and is great to give kids if they are having trouble keeping fluids down (add some honey, try it iced if they are wanting something cold–sometimes cold drinks are best when the stomach is upset). Probiotics help bump up the good bacteria in your gut to help fight the bad stomach viruses/bacteria making you sick. I do like Mary Ruth’s spray but it is pretty expensive so if you are looking for a less expensive option try this one. Activated charcoal may absorb the bacteria or virus that is causing stomach issues .

    Sore throat relief: Propolis Throat spray for dry cough and sore throats or good old honey–especially if you have Manuka honey–are my go to things for sore throats. I also make my kids a “medicine water” that is 2-3 ounces of hot water, a pinch of cinnamon and a big squeeze of honey. They love it and it helps soothe their sore throats.

    Ear infection relief: Ear infections are often caused by viruses and thus will not respond to antibiotics (antibiotics are strictly for treating bacterial infections). The standard of care USED to be to automatically prescribe antibiotics for ear infections but it not anymore because we are over medicating and developing resistance. Often times ear infections go away “after antibiotics” because they would have gone away anyways on their own. Remember it takes a few days for antibiotics to work, and it takes a few days for the body to natural fight off viruses….That said, Garlic drops for ear pain and infection will go a long way to speed up the process. We also use a warm compress on the ear and take the kids to the chiropractor (no they don’t adjust their necks….).

    Epsom salt: Baths are so relaxing for kids (and adults!). I love to give the kids baths to help them relax, if they are having a hard time going to the bathroom, if they are sick or cranky. Really warm water is an amazing–and underrated–healing treatment. Epsom salt helps rid the body of toxins and relaxes muscles. I love Dr. Teals for myself and they have a kids version that is made with lavender essential oil to help soothe and promote sleep.

    Magnesium: Getting good sleep is one of the BEST ways to allow your body to fight illness. Most of us are lacking magnesium so we give a magnesium gummy and if they are having trouble sleeping or feeling sick we also use magnesium lotion.

    Other medicine cabinet favorites (that aren’t necessarily cold and flu related)

    “Antibiotic” cream made from Manuka honey–great for cuts, scrapes, burns, and splinters.

    PATCH Bamboo bandaids— bandaids made from a natural material that are compostable and biodegradable. I love that they have multiple versions based on the type of boo boo you’re dealing with.

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  • That Mom Life Elderberry Super Syrup Recipe

    Elderberries have many benefits, and this elderberry syrup recipe contains just seven ingredients – several of which support immune health.

    Benefits of Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

    Elderberries have been known for hundreds of year as a super immune booster; and research shows that not only was Elderberry “shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus” but it reduced “the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days.” Additional research supporting the health benefits of elderberry products can be found here.

    Not only does this syrup contain elderberries, but it also contains five other ingredients that support immune health.

    *Click on each ingredient to purchase if you want to make your own*

    Dried Elderberries: small berries that are packed with immune boosting properties such as antioxidants and vitamins.

    Echinacea: a flowering plant that has been used for centuries to fight illness–research shows it can help increase white blood cells which help the body’s immune system fight infection.

    Cinnamon: a spice that’s been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Cinnamon has high levels of antioxidants and is also an anti-inflammatory.

    Cloves:spice that is high in antioxidants and has been shown to have antiviral and antimicrobial properties.

    Turmeric root: a plant that is related to ginger, that has been used medicainally to treat many conditions, such as breathing issues, rheumatism, pain, and fatigue

    Honey: research indicates that honey can exert several health-beneficial effects including “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidiabetic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous system protective effects”

    Elderberry Syrup Recipe

    Dosing: Children age 12 months and up should take 1 teaspoon daily, and 2-3 times per day when showing signs of illness. Adults should take 1 tablespoon daily, and 2-3 times per day when showing signs of illness. Please note: This recipe should not be given to infant under one year of age as it contains honey. You can substitute honey for blackstrap molasses for similar health benefits.

    For additional information about ways to keep your family healthy with more natural remedies please refer to this post

    Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

    DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Before using any medicine, whether traditional or modern, please speak to your healthcare provider to make sure it is right for you. Stay healthy friends!

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  • Back to school: Holistic health for kids

    Keeping kids healthy when they go back to school is a fun parenting challenge. I feel like I always have at least one sick kid between the months of November and April. Fortunately, we are all extremely healthy and our kids have built up some pretty good immune systems (I’d like to partially credit this to allowing them to play in the dirt!), so while they may get sick, their bodies usually fight illness pretty quickly.

    My family takes a pretty well rounded approach to our health which includes trying to eat less processed foods, incorporating whole fruits and veggies into our every day diet, staying active, spending time outdoors in all weather, making sure we have medical doctors that are progressive, and complementing our modern conventional healthcare with more natural alternatives.

    One of my dear friends, Kaitlyn, is a holistic health practitioner and master herbalist who founded her own organic skincare line called Zen Society (which you should check out here!) I’m partnering with her to bring you some simple ways to keep your family healthy for back to school and beyond.

    Kaitlyn Gustafson, Holistic Health Practitioner and Master Herbalist, Founder and Owner of Zen Society an organic skincare line. Follow her on Instagram @kaitlyngus

    Foods to help keep kids healthy

    One of the most important things for staying healthy is a strong immune system and in order to maintain that Kaitlyn recommends, “eating real, fresh, organic foods.” She also would encourage you to give a daily vitamin as kids diets often don’t provide them with the nutrition they need.
    Additionally, she explains that “the foods we eat now are grown in soil that’s so depleted it often doesn’t produce food with the same amount of nutrients as it used to.” So that serving of spinach 50 years ago was WAY more nutrient dense than the spinach you’re eating now (pro tip for those who don’t love green veggies: put some raw spinach into basically any smoothie and you can barely taste it–our go to is almond milk, spinach, banana, frozen strawberry, chia seeds and flax seeds).
    She notes that today’s fruits and vegetables are lacking vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper so these are key nutrients to make sure you are getting into kids diets every day. She recommends 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and while that might seem like a lot, foods like carrots or cucumbers dipped into hummus counts as two servings and you can easily get a few servings in with a fruit and veggie smoothie.
    Kaitlyn says that “there are some specific foods she strives to incorporate into her children’s diet which can help boost immunity.” She notes that it’s important to aim for fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C like “berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits.” She also suggests adding walnuts to smoothies, yogurts and cereals as they are high in omega 3 fatty acids that help fight illness.
    Superfoods should be included into the diet whenever possible. Some of her favorites are:

    • Blackstrap molasses (can be used in baking as a substitute for sugar)
    • Manuka honey (anti-bacterial properties and can even be applied to a cut instead of an antibiotic)
    • Hemp seeds
    • Chia seeds
    • Flaxseed (always use ground flaxseeds as whole seeds will just pass through your system undigested)
    • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard (all good in smoothies)
    • Wild caught salmon
    • Blueberries
    • Broccoli (my kids loves this best when roasted with a little olive oil and garlic!)

    Daily supplements for kids to help boost immunity

    One of the best things you can give your kids is a high quality probiotic (live healthy bacteria that help your digestive system). Gut health is SO important and Kaitlyn says “healthy gut means good immunity!” There are some food options that can provide a healthy dose of probiotics such as kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir, grass-fed yogurts–she prefers sheep or goats milk yogurt to cow as they are known to cause less inflammation. If these are not things your kids will eat (let’s face it, kids can be pretty particular…) then giving a probiotic supplement is a great strategy. She recommends Mary Ruth’s Plant Based Liquid Probiotic–they also make a spray one that’s easy to spritz into your little one’s mouth.
    Some other daily supplements to include are:

    But….your kid will still get sick

    So yes, all these things are amazing and will absolutely help boost immunity but that doesn’t mean your kid will never get sick. So when they do here are some more natural and eco-friendly products to help support them while they fight off illness.

    Just a  couple reminders as we head into cold and flu season. Fevers are not necessarily bad. Fevers are your body heating up to kill viruses and bacteria that are causing illness. Many times people rush to treat the fever, when in reality you should be treating the symptoms. I do use over the counter fever reducers if I feel like my little one is really suffering from a fever (can’t sleep, is super cranky) but that usually doesn’t happen until closer to a fever or 102-103. Most often, they can take a luke warm bath and that will help drop their temp enough for them to be comfortable (don’t use cold water as that can cause their body to heat itself even more to combat the cold). Also, keep in mind a fever is a temperature over 100.4.
    If I use a fever reducer I always try to use one that is dye free like the Little Remedies Dye Free Fever and Pain Reducer or the Infant or Children’s Motrin Dye Free (Depending on age–Ibuprofen can only be used in infants 6 months and up).
    **PLEASE make sure you speak to your pediatrician prior to giving any medications. They can help you decide the best course of action as well as dosing.

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  • Cloth diaper basics


    Save up to 10% with GroVia Cloth Diaper Bundles!

    I’ve had a few local mamas express interest in cloth diapering so I wanted to share some basics for anyone who is even curious about trying cloth. It may seem overwhelming, but once you get started it’s really not much different from disposables. There are many reasons why someone might choose cloth–not only are they absolutely adorable, but they are better for the environment and for your wallet.

    Did you know that you will spend approximately $2000 to diaper ONE baby from birth to potty training? I have probably spent about that but am currently diapering my 3rd baby AND will be able to diaper more babies (if I can get hubs to agree to that….). When we are done with diapers forever, I’ll be able to sell them and recoup some of my costs.

    There is some debate on whether or not cloth is a more eco-friendly choice as there are some cloth diapers that do not meet GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or use Oeko-Tex certified cotton (a worldwide certification that tells you textiles are safe from harmful chemicals) cotton. So it’s important to choose a brand that DOES meet these standards. I also always try to support smaller family businesses vs large corporations when possible. With that in mind, I chose to use diapers from a company called GroVia. They have multiple systems that you can use depending on your lifestyle or preference.

    GroVia diaper styles


    Save up to 10% with GroVia Cloth Diaper Bundles!

    Top left: O.N.E Diaper–perfect for overnights. SUPER absorbent and stay dry material so baby won’t feel wet. Fits approximately 10-35 lbs. I usually start using these when baby is sleeping longer stretches at night.

    Top right: Hybrid diaper shell and snap in soaker. You can often reuse the shell with a clean insert (as long as it isn’t soiled) so this is a nice option for out and about. There are three types of inserts you can buy–cotton, microfleece “no-prep” and  a disposable insert which is biodegradable (this is what we use when we travel and they are ridiculously absorbent). Fits infant through potty training.

    Bottom left: Newborn all in one–just super soft microfeece that keeps new squish skin dry. I used these from birth to about 2-3 months. They are SO ridiculously soft and easy to use when you’re changing approximately 5000 diapers a day.

    Bottom right: All in one (AIO). This is the most comparable to a disposable in terms of use. Made of organic cotton and super trim but very absorbent.

    Laundry Basics

    This is usually where people freak out. “WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE POOP!?!” Seriously y’all. You’re going to deal with poop either way–you are a parents and it’s pretty much a right of passage. Hello disposable diaper blowout on your favorite little onesie or potty training kid who  his pants. BY THE WAY. I think I can count on less than one hand the amount of blow outs we have had with cloth–but I remember like one a day when we used disposables for the first three months with our first little one.

    But for real. Poop really isn’t a big deal. Breastfed baby poop is totally water soluble so the whole diaper, poop and all, goes into the diaper pail. Once they start solids we have liners and a sprayer that makes dealing with poop simple.

    Laundry must have check list:

    Once baby starts solids and if things get real you can use a disposable liner to catch the poop. What’s nice about these is that they are biodegradable. You should still shake off as much poop as possible prior to tossing it though (you know you’re supposed to do that with disposables too, right?). These ones don’t absorb any liquid so you can use them all day even if they get peed on…. pretty cool. I’ve had the same roll for four years. You can also invest in a diaper sprayer that easily attaches to the water line on your toilet (my hubs did this in under 15 minutes). You just clip the diaper onto the shield and spray into the toilet then toss the diaper into the diaper hamper.

    Wash routine

    Another reason I LOVE GroVia is because they keep things simple with their wash routine. You don’t have to do all these complicated rinse, wash, soak, wash, strip etc…. That’s totally not necessary to get clean diapers and I think it often makes people shy away from using cloth because they think they are going to have to do this insane wash routine multiple times a week. That just isn’t true. I’ve been washing these diapers for four years using a very simple process.

    1. Turn diaper pail inside out into the washing machine
    2. Use half the amount of recommended detergent (Line “2” on the powdered Tide) and do a regular wash cycle.
    3. Follow that with a long wash or heavy duty wash cycle with the full amount of detergent (Line “4” on the powdered Tide).
    4. Throw in the dryer. You can hang dry them to extend their life but not sure who has time for that….

    Wash every 2-3 days, use mighty bubbles every 6-8 weeks or so and that’s it. My diaper look and smell as good as the day I bought them (we are starting to get some wear but that just means they are well loved!!)

    Caring for bums and such

    We use cloth wipes. We use them for EVERYTHING. To clean bums, hands, faces, counters…..the are extremely versatile. GroVia makes a great cloth wipe. I’ve been using the same wipes for 4 years now and they are still in perfect condition.

    We make a very simple cloth wipe spray using these amazing little cubes from one of our other favorite diaper company called Sloomb (they also make all the wool pants my kids wear ). We just boil water, pour hot water into one of these amber spray bottles, throw in a few cubes and that’s it. We just spray out wipes as needed. We also use this spray for wiping dirty hands and faces (it’s all natural ingredients).

    None of my kids have ever gotten a diaper rash and I think that’s partly due to using cloth diapers–they get changed more often and there are no chemicals reacting to their pee and then sitting on their skin. That’s not to say you’ll never get a diaper rash using cloth. You CAN but many times it’s from ammonia build up or using a detergent that your baby is sensitive to. But if you use the mighty bubbles a few times and then switch up your wash routine that usually does the trick. When we do have a little bum redness we use Boudreaux’s Natural Butt Paste in the GREEN tube as it is cloth diaper safe (won’t stain or cause anything to repel). We also use the magic stick by GroVia as an every day balm for the diaper area.

    Get the best in natural baby products at The Natural Baby Company

    Have cloth diaper questions? ASK ME! I’m happy to help. I’ll be posting some video tutorials so let me know if there is something specific you feel you need to visualize!

    #clothy

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