Healthy Back-to-School

The countdown is on until the 2015 school year starts for most Minnesota kids. Here are some ways parents can help kids establish good habits right from the start! KSTP asked me to share my tips with their viewers. Click here to watch the interview. 

  1. Sleep Schedules
  2. Lunch Lessons

Click here for a cottage cheese dip recipe and other healthy lunch ideas

  1. Everyday Exercise

Check out these yoga poses the whole family can do:

The Butterfly Pose

Begin sitting with your spine straight and your legs “criss cross applesauce.”

Bring the bottoms of your feet to touch and bring your fingers up to your head.

Gently bounce your knees to flap your butterfly wings and move your fingers to wiggle your butterfly antennae.

3 Legged Dog Pose

Begin in downward dog.  

Lift one leg, hold, then lower with an exhale.

Repeat with the opposite leg.

Kite Pose

Begin in Star Pose.

Stand tall with your legs spread wide.

Reach your arms out to either side.

Keeping your neck and spine straight, tip your star to one side, balancing on one leg for as long as you can.

Return to star pose with both feet on the floor.

Tip your star to the other side and hold it with your leg firmly on the floor.

Crocodile Pose

Lie flat on the floor on your stomach.  

Your arms should be in front of you with your elbows just in front of your shoulders.  

Widen your legs so they are open and roll your feet so that your heels are pointed in and your entire leg is in contact with the floor.

Lift up your chest and bend your elbows to clash each elbow with the opposite palm.

Tuck your chin and gently rest your forehead on your arms.

Reposition your body if you need to.

The ABCs of Reading to Kids

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From their brains to their hearts, the benefits of reading to kids are undeniable. It doesn’t matter if your little one is hours, days, weeks, months or years old. Study after study has shown reading is one of the best things parents can do for their offspring.

Reading to children feeds their brains. Research shows reading to kids builds their vocabulary, which, in turn, makes them more prepared to read in the future. Books contain unique words we don’t use in everyday conversation. The more exposure to different words, the better!

Reading also helps kids relax, and cuddle time helps form a bond with their parents. (Not to mention, it’s fun for parents, too!)

There’s no right or wrong way to read- do what feels right to you. In an effort to get the pages turning, here are my ABCs of reading to kids:

Add to the Library

Kids love variety (although, they may choose the same book for days or weeks on end), so build up a library of books. Share some of the classics you read as kids, like Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are and The Hungry Caterpillar. There are also great books for this generation, like Llama Llama Red Pajama, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Let them choose the book or books they want to read to give them a say in the process.

Be Consistent

Find a reading time that works and stick with it. For a lot of families, bedtime is best. You can curl up together and wind down at the end of the day. But that may not work for you; maybe you want to try mornings or after nap. Whenever you choose, try to make it a part of the daily routine so you keep it up.

Creativity Counts

I’m not an actor, but I can get creative at story time. Try using different voices for characters or even singing a story to hold their attention. You can take a night off by playing an audio book. Kids enjoy listening to different voices tell the stories they love.

It sounds simple because it is.

Parents, let’s go hit the books!

Science Figured Out What Parents Already Know: Parenthood is Tough

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Nearly every expecting couple gets the same warning. Undoubtedly, once their baby is born, they pass it on to other soon-to-be parents:

You just can’t explain how having a baby changes your life. You won’t understand until you go through it.

Pregnant couples roll their eyes, but soon after that bundle of joy arrives they get it.

In the hours after their first baby is born, parents are bombarded with new jobs and responsibilities: breast or bottle feeding, rocking, walking, constantly changing diapers. And why does that baby cry all the time?

In the following days, it’s around-the-clock feedings. No sleep. You are not on your schedule anymore. Everything is when the baby decides.

Over the next months, new parents are still sleep-deprived. Still changing upwards of 10 to 12 diapers a day. Still confused and concerned they’re doing everything wrong. And that baby is still crying. All. The. Time.

Researchers have caught on to how stressful new parenthood is, and here are the disturbing findings: Having a baby drains parents’ happiness. A new baby has a more negative effect on happiness than divorce, unemployment and even the death of a spouse.

Reread that paragraph once, but don’t really let it sink in, or it’ll be too depressing.

There’s no denying it, parenthood is exhausting. It’s draining. It’s want-to-pull-your-hair-out frustrating. But it’s also pretty funny.

I believe the key to surviving (and hopefully, enjoying) parenthood is finding the humor in the small things. It can be difficult to smile when it’s 3 am and you’re up for the fourth time that night. But, when you feel like all you can do is laugh or cry, I challenge you to laugh.

And remember you’re not in this alone. Is your back sore from carrying your toddler all day and night? Are you dying to take a shower because you feel like you’re covered in poop and snot? Do you wish Dora would shut up for five minutes??? Trust me, you’re in good company.

Spend time with other parents and share funny stories. Take time away from the kids to be with your spouse or significant other to remember what you were like before this life-altering event.

And trust me. It will get easier.

Bribe Your Child Week: Part 1

94% of parents admit they bribe their kids – everything from sweet treats, to more TV & tablet time, to a later bedtime. And they’re doling out the rewards for good behaviors like doing homework, finishing chores, even smiling in a photo! I talked with FOX9 about better ways to give kids rewards and incentives. Click here to see the interview.

Fox 9 Bribe Your Child Week

Click here for a chart to follow their progress: http://1drv.ms/1gF1pJo

Fairs, Festivals & Fun – Oh my!

Summer is winding down, and that means families will try to squeeze as much fun as we can into these precious few weeks before the school year starts again. Heading out to a fair or festival should be a fun way to get in some family time. But parents who’ve experienced more tantrums than tilt-a-whirls know it’s important to be prepared.

I present to you the Minivan Commuter’s list of Festival Dos and Don’ts:

DO Map It Out

So, you’re standing in line for the ferris wheel, and suddenly one of the kids is doing the potty dance. This is not the time to be looking around for a map. They’re not only handy during bathroom emergencies, taking a look at a map can save you and your kids precious steps throughout the day. You’ll spend less time wandering and have more time for food, rides and shows!

DON’T Get Burned

Sunscreen is a must for any outdoor summer event. What you may not know is that you should apply it a half-hour before you’re exposed to the sun to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. You should reapply every two hours or more often if you get wet or sweat a lot.

DO Seek Out Free Fun

So many fairs and festivals have free areas to play and explore. If the fair has a website, check it out before your trip. You can also ask the ticket taker when you arrive. If all else fails, look for other moms and dads and ask them if they know where there’s some free fun.

DO Eat At Home

I know I don’t have to remind you to feed your kids, but you may be tempted to go to a fair or festival hungry. You can save some cash (and some calories) by eating before you leave. If and when you do get a snack, get something the whole family can share. That way, you can sample several things rather than committing to one food.

DON’T Forget To Hydrate

Water, water, water! Most places will let you bring in water bottles for the whole family. Don’t forget to use them! A lot of kids won’t take the initiative on their own, so make sure you remind them throughout the day.

DO Establish Ground Rules

If the rides take tickets, buy a set number of tickets and let the kids know you will not be buying any more. You should also set rules for what snacks you will buy and what time you want to leave. By setting expectations up front, you’ll cut down on the whining, begging and pleading that can come with a trip to the fair.

DON’T Give In

Just don’t do it!!

DO Have Fun!

Let’s face it – if it’s hot outside, if the kids have to walk instead of being carried, if the lines are long, there will be whining. Just do your best to relax and take it all in stride. You won’t remember the frustration; you’ll remember the joy of spending time together as a family.