Tuesday, November 22, 2011

10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Up and Moving This Winter

With all the publicity childhood obesity is getting these days, I find myself keeping an eagle eye on my kids’ waistlines. Especially because my daughter inherited the family tendency to be short and chubby, poor kid. Getting them out and moving in the summer is easy. Between the pool, the park and a yard full of cats, nudging them out the front door is a piece of cake.

Cats. Best bribe to go outdoors ever.

In the middle of winter, when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the wind’s whipping so hard you lose feeling (everywhere) between the front door and the car, it's a WHOLE different story! Getting them to go outside then is more like fruitcake than Devil’s Food. It’s distasteful. Hard to swallow. And nobody else in your family wants a piece of it.
Deep in your heart, can you really blame them?
So now you have an entire winter spent inside, bored kids climbing the walls and the television and computer conveniently placed as a clever distraction. Don’t talk yourself into just turning on the TV and letting them go. Here are 10 tips to keep your kids up and moving when the snow starts falling down.
1)      Pick up a membership. Anywhere. The YMCA and the Children’s Museum of Play are responsible for 90% of my sanity during the winter. It keeps them entertained, gives them a place to run and gives us all a fighting chance to get through the cold weather in one piece.
2)      Get them involved. Dance. Basketball. Swim team. Karate. Chances are, there’s someone near you that offers any and/or all of the above. Take advantage of it.
3)      Have playtime daily. There’s not a kid in the world that doesn’t love to play tag or wrestle in the living room. It’s a matter of taking the time. Sure, it’s going to cut into your schedule, but isn’t having healthy, happy, tired kids worth it?
4)      Make an obstacle course. Build an obstacle course around your house and time the kids as they go running through it. Change it up daily.
5)      Kids’ fitness videos are your friend. There have been a lot of mornings that have found all four of us crouched on the floor doing yoga. Mommy & Me Yoga and other, similar programs are a great way to let your kids expand their horizons, stretch their muscles, burn some energy…and let you get in a workout at the same time.
6)      Put a mattress on the floor. They’re going to need to jump on it. Trust me on this one.
7)      Have a dance party. Turn off the television, put in a CD and see what happens.
8)      Stock up on NERF shooters and fun noodles. The chance to stalk their siblings through the house is practically irresistible. Kids love to play with each other. Save your pillows and give them the safe tools to do it.
9)      Invest in a Wii. Video games aren’t my favorite solution, but even I’ll admit that Wii boxing makes you break a sweat. Just make sure it’s something that keeps them up and moving.
10)   Get out. Find an indoor playplace. Hang out at Chuck E. Cheese. Go out running errands. Just getting out of the house, even if you’re in the car as often as not, is going to help them burn energy and keep those little legs pumping.
What’s your best advice for keeping your kids moving when winter rolls around?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kids and Guns: Child’s Play? Or a Disaster Waiting to Happen?

The first time I pulled my kids out of a game of cowboys and Indians, the neighbors thought I was crazy. When I confiscated any water gun that wasn’t bright orange and see-through, my relatives looked at me like I was nuts.
My kids have heard the “Guns aren’t toys, and they shouldn’t be treated as such” so many times, they could recite it in their sleep. These days, they just roll their eyes in my general direction.
No, I’m not one of “those” people. I’m not going to stand outside and picket a gun store. The whole “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” thing? The right to bear arms? I’m right there with you.
Heck, I live in a part of the country where it’s totally kosher to skip school the first day of hunting season. People near and dear to me have, against my better judgment, wandered out into careers in law enforcement. I definitely appreciate the value of a good firearm.
But accidents happen. But you can’t predict the unpredictable. But kids act without thinking all the time. And that’s how people get hurt.
Kids Don’t Always Differentiate Between Toys and the Real Thing
I’m a firm believer in nature over nurture when it comes to behavior. Especially behavior around a firearm. Kids who spend their entire lives around actual, honest-to-goodness, could-go-off-and-kill-someone guns learn caution at an early age.
Kids who spend their formative years pointing plastic guns at each other’s heads are going to have to be re-taught when the time comes to use the real thing.
While we’d love to think that our habits change with the situation…they really don’t.  I was reading a post from a mom the other day who’d always been comfortable with toy guns. She freely admitted, however, that she’d made the rules expecting toy guns to be the only kind her kids would be around.
It was a decision she regretted when her son pointed an (unloaded) pistol at her head.
Maybe I’m a Little More Irrational Than Most. But I Have My Reasons.
Let me backtrack just a little here. I don’t allow firearms in my house. I don’t have them. I don’t allow people to bring them into the house. I’ve been known to have conversations with the local police on the front steps because I didn’t want a gun in the house where my 1 year old, my 3 year old and my 5 year old running around. (My neighbors were interesting. Don’t ask.)
Those are my house rules. Keep it in mind if you come to visit.
However, I’m also looking around for a firearm safety course for my 10 year old to take this summer. And his brother and sister will follow in his footsteps at some point after that. When I’m fairly certain they can follow directions well enough not to get themselves killed.
Contradictory? Not as much as you’d think. I learned how to shoot a lot earlier than that. (What? Just because I don’t like guns doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use them!)  Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like curiosity and carelessness are the foundation behind just about every gun related accident in the country today. It’s my hope that by teaching my kids that guns aren’t toys and should be handled with respect from the very beginning, I’ll never get the phone call that one of them put a bullet in another kid because they were messing around.
What do you think? Do you allow your children to play with pretend guns?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who Picks Your Kids' After School Activities?

Studies have shown that after-school activities are an important part of this complete childhood. They make them into responsible citizens, teach them the value of teamwork, blah de blah de blah blah blah.

I’m not disagreeing. I’m a big believer in getting kids involved. My calendar can tell you all about it.

Recently, however, I ran into a bit of a parental moral quandary. The kids are talking about wanting to take tae kwon do at the local YMCA. I’m all for the idea. Martial arts will, I believe, go a long way toward teaching them discipline, respect and how to defend themselves…all MUCH more applicable, from a practical point of view, than learning how to macramé.

I just have NO idea where we’re going to squeeze it into our schedule.

Something’s gotta give. The question is, what?

Feeling Selfish Here…

It would be so much easier if they could just get a job...

Personally, while I love the scouting program around here, I think the kids would get a lot more out of martial arts. It’s nothing personal. They have great programs. The leaders are amazing. The kids are making friends. I just feel like I spend more time doing paperwork and going over schedules than actually getting down and dirty with the kids.

To be fair (and the reason I’m waffling so badly), it’s not entirely their fault. Scout activities happen on the weekends, for obvious reasons. That means any weekends find the kids split in three different directions. While Princess C can go on her merry way, the boys need a parent along as often as not.

That’s easier said than done around here. If I’m not working on the weekend I usually have a to-do list as long as my arm, and the kids are paying the price. While we still get in plenty of family time on one end of the day or the other, late mornings and afternoons are pretty much shot.

Princess C's been waiting for a new Brownie sash for the last two months, because we can't get to the Girl Scout store. We completely missed fundraisers, and next weekend will mark the third Tiger event in the last 6 weeks my youngest has had to miss because neither his dad nor I are free to go.

Granted, the last month has been insane, but still.

Tae kwon do would be easier for me. Selfish, but true. Except for testing, there are no weekend hours. I can drop the kids off at practice and pick them up (and use the hour in between to put in a little gym time of my own). Which makes me wonder if I’m leaning so heavily in favor of trading up for them, or for myself.

The kids love scouts. Absolutely love it. G-money’s been waiting for two years for his chance to get in on it. It doesn’t feel fair to pull him out when he’s just getting started, but we’re not going to be able to do both. And I’m at a complete loss, so let me ask you. How do you pick and choose your kids' after-school activities?