Kids these days: they have so many options when it comes to sports. There are organized travel teams, it seems, for every game: soccer, lacrosse, hoops, the works. While a child?s decision about which sport to play might not be as formative as, say, picking a college, it can sure feel that way. And potentially cost as much: fees and travel expenses for some club teams skyrocket to $10,000 per year and beyond.
In trying to navigate today?s youth sports scene, any guidance helps. That?s why a new tool released Thursday by the Aspen Institute?s Sports & Society Program, called the Healthy Sport Index, couldn?t be more timely. The handy website allows families to weigh three factors in deciding what sport makes the most sense: safety, physical activity, and the sport?s psychosocial benefits. The index then provides a customized ranking of ten sports, based on where a child lands on a sliding scale of ?low emphasis? to ?high emphasis? for each of the three factors.
So say, for example, your son wants to put maximum emphasis on psychosocial benefits: he wants a sport that will help him develop social skills, cognitive skills, and otherwise enhance his mental health. He cares about a sport?s safety, but is willing to take some injury risk; so here, he falls in the middle of the scale. But he?s ambivalent about physical activity: your son doesn?t care how much energy he expends in practice. He gives it the lowest possible emphasis on the Heathy Sport Index scale. Based on this mix, the Healthy Sport Index puts swimming on top, while lacrosse comes in tenth.
Meanwhile, your daredevil daughter can care less about getting hurt, but places the highest possible emphasis on working out hard while playing her sport and developing useful life skills, like setting goals. Healthy Sport Index says: sign her up for tennis! (Cheerleading falls to the bottom here. The ten girls? sports ranked by the Healthy Sport Index are basketball, cheerleading, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. For the boys it?s baseball, basketball, cross country, football, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, and wrestling.)
The Aspen Institute, in consultation with medical experts, compiled data for the index from a variety of sources. The National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, produced by the Colorado School of Public Health, provided injury rates for various sports. For the psychosocial component, the Aspen Institute surveyed almost 1,300 high school athletes from across the country, and asked students whether their sport helped them improve in areas like sharing responsibility and patience. Researchers from North Carolina State University observed almost 700 hours of varsity practices to document the physical activity levels of each high school sport. The architects of the index were keen to account for the positive benefits of different sports, to counterbalance the downside risks.
Read more: https://time.com/5422342/best-sport-kids/Read More
Although you don’t want to get in the habit of forcing your kids to eat foods they don’t like or make them “clean” their plates, there are lots of healthy foods kids like. Parents often overlook these healthy foods and go straight to what they think are more “kid-friendly foods,” such as hot dogs, pizza, french fries, chicken nuggets, juice, and soda.
Your kids would be much better off learning to avoid those types of high-calorie, high-fat foods with foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and have calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals, including these healthful foods that most kids love.
It often seems like toddlers and preschoolers just can’t get enough milk, but as they get older, many kids start to drink less and less milk. This probably isn’t because they develop a distaste for milk, but rather because so many other drinks, including soda, fruit drinks, and too much fruit juice, become available at home.
Milk is a good source of calcium, vitamin D and protein for kids and should be a part of every child’s diet?unless they have a milk allergy.
Depending on their age, most kids should drink between 2 to 4 glasses of milk (low-fat milk if they are at least 2 years old) each day, especially if they aren’t eating or drinking any other high-calcium foods.
Like most fruits, apples are a great snack food. They are juicy, sweet (although some varieties are tart), have vitamin C, are low in calories (about 90 calories for a medium apple) and have about 5g of fiber for an unpeeled whole apple.2?
Unfortunately, apples are one of those healthful foods that can get turned into a “kid-friendly food” and lose a lot of their nutritional benefits.
Instead of giving their kids an unpeeled whole apple or a cut up ?a?whole apple, parents often give kids peeled apples, applesauce or apple juice as alternatives. Peeling the apple makes it lose about half of its fiber, and applesauce is also much lower in fiber than a whole apple and has more sugar and calories.Read More
12 benefits of outdoor play (and tips to help your child get them)
What are the benefits of outdoor play for a child’s development?
Research tells us there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on what kids actually do when they’re outside. It also depends on where kids play. But overall, children can reap many benefits when they play outdoors, including
- a reduced risk of myopia, or nearsightedness;
- greater exposure to bright light, which enhances health and mental performance;
- increased activity levels, and greater freedom to run, jump, and climb;
- opportunities for hands-on learning about physical forces and concepts;
- reduced stress levels, better moods, and improved concentration;
- more naturally-attuned sleep rhythms; and
- enhanced opportunities to learn social skills, overcome fears, and develop a lifelong connection with nature.
In addition, it’s possible that outdoor play could help reduce the incidence of behavior problems, and help fight obesity.
Here is a more detailed look at the benefits of playing outside — and the conditions that make certain kinds of play so helpful.
12 benefits of outdoor play
1. Outdoor play can reduce a child?s risk becoming nearsighted.
Heredity plays a big role in whether or not a child develops myopia, or nearsightedness. But it’s also clear that time spent outdoors is protective.
Scores of studies show links between outdoor time and the development of myopia. Kids who spend more time outside are less likely to become nearsighted (Goldschmidt and Jacobsen 2014, Rose et al 2016).
And experiments confirm that we can prevent or delay nearsightedness by “prescribing” more outdoor play. For example, in one randomized study, 6-year-olds assigned to get an extra 40 minutes of outdoor time each day were less likely to develop myopia over the following three years (He et al 2015).
Why does it help to go outside?
Researchers aren’t yet sure.
One possibility is that it provides the eyes with a break from ?close work,? like reading. Lots of close work increases a child?s chances of becoming nearsighted.
Another possibility is the eyes benefit from exposure to bright daylight. But either way, it looks like outdoor play is a good prescription for reducing the risk of myopia.Read More
They may prefer to stick to their screens, but here’s why getting outdoors matters
In the early 1980s, a Harvard University biologist named Edward O. Wilson proposed a theory called biophilia: that humans are instinctively drawn towards their natural surroundings. Many 21st century parents, however, would question this theory, as they watch their kids express a clear preference for sitting on a couch in front of a screen over playing outside.
The national panic about kids spending too much time indoors has become so extreme that the crisis has a name: Nature deficit disorder.
While calling it a disorder might be merely rhetorical, it?s clear kids spend significantly more time inside than outside. This shift is largely due to technology: The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.
Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, tells the story of interviewing a child who told him that he liked playing indoors more than outdoors ??cause that?s where all the electrical outlets are.?
Increasing parental fears about diseases and dangers of playing outside?despite evidence to the contrary?are another big factor.
And as suburbs and exurbs continue to expand, nature is parceled off more, and kids seem less inclined to spend time in a fenced-in yard, let alone jump the fence into a neighbor?s or walk in the woods. Instead, indoor activities can seem easier (no sunscreen necessary!), safer, and even more sociable for kids who are growing up with multiplayer video games and social media accounts.
Why go outside?
Recent studies have exposed the benefit?even necessity?of spending time outdoors, both for kids and adults. Some argue that it can be any outdoor environment. Some claim it has to be a ?green? environment?one with trees and leaves. Others still have shown that just a picture of greenery can benefit mental health. These nuances aside, most of the studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. While it?s unclear how exactly the cognitive functioning and mood improvements occur, there are a few things we do know about why nature is good for kids? minds.Read More
Here?s something really simple you can do to improve your child?s chance of future health and success: make sure he spends plenty of time playing outside.
There are many ways in which this generation?s childhood is different from that of the last generation, but one of the most abrupt contrasts is the degree to which it is being spent indoors. There are lots of reasons, including the marked increase in time spent interacting with electronic devices, the emphasis on scheduled activities and achievements, concerns about sun exposure ? and, for many families, the lack of safe outdoor places to play. It?s not just children; adults are spending less time outdoors as well.
Here are six crucial ways playing outside helps children:
1. Sunshine. Yes, sun exposure ? especially sunburns ? can increase the risk of skin cancer. But it turns out that our bodies need sun. We need sun exposure to make vitamin D, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in many body processes, from bone development to our immune system. Sun exposure also plays a role our immune system in other ways, as well as in healthy sleep ? and in our mood. Our bodies work best when they get some sunshine every day.
2. Exercise. Children should be active for an hour every day, and getting outside to play is one way to be sure that happens. They can certainly exercise indoors, but sending them outdoors ? especially with something like a ball or a bike ? encourages active play, which is really the best exercise for children.
3. Executive function. These are the skills that help us plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask; they are crucial for our success. Creativity falls in here, too, and using our imagination to problem-solve and entertain ourselves. These are skills that must be learned and practiced ? and to do this, children need unstructured time. They need time alone and with other children, and to be allowed (perhaps forced) to make up their own games, figure things out, and amuse themselves. Being outside gives them opportunities to practice these important life skills.
4. Taking risks. Children need to take some risks. As parents, this makes us anxious; we want our children to be safe. But if we keep them in bubbles and never let them take any risks, they won?t know what they can do ? and they may not have the confidence and bravery to face life?s inevitable risks. Yes, you can break an arm from climbing a tree ? and yes, you can be humiliated when you try to make a friend and get rejected. But that doesn?t mean you shouldn?t try; the lessons we learn from failure are just as important as those we learn from success.
5. Socialization. Children need to learn how to work together. They need to learn to make friends, how to share and cooperate, how to treat other people. If they only interact in very structured settings, such as school or sports teams, they won?t ? they can?t ? learn everything they need to know.
6. Appreciation of nature. So much of our world is changing, and not for the better. If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.
So try it. Do what our parents did: send your children outside. Even better, go with them. And do everything you can to be sure that every child can do the same.Read More
To iPad or not to iPad, that is the question. At least for the digital age parent. Whether you are the parent of a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler or a school-aged child, the question of whether the child should use an iPad (and how much!) becomes ever more pressing, especially as similar-aged children huddle around tablets at restaurants, concerts, sporting events and almost any place where both children and adults gather together. In fact, the few holdouts where you don’t see a mass of children focused on the digital world are those places that focus on the child: the playground or the swimming pool.
Is this good for our children? Should your child use an iPad? Or should you avoid it?
Let’s start with something that isn’t quite obvious to everyone: it’s good for a kid to be bored. This applies to the two-year-old, the six-year-old and the twelve-year-old. One thing the iPad shouldn’t be is the end-all-be-all cure for boredom. There are much better ways to respond than handing the kid an iPad.
It is not about the cure. It is about the hunt for the cure. Kids need to stretch their creative muscles and engage their imagination. They can do this by playing with dolls, drawing with crayons, building with play-do or Legos, or any one of hundreds of other non-digital activities. In this way they not only engage their creativity, they learn more about their own interests.
Kids Need to Interact With Other Kids
Imagine a world where every time a toddler argued with another child over a toy they were both given a tablet. When would they ever learn how to be frustrated, how to overcome conflict and how to share? These are some of the dangers pediatric psychologists fear when they warn against tablet use. It is not just a question of how much (or little) the child is learning from the tablet, it is also what they aren’t learning when they are using the tablet.
Children learn through play. And an important element of this is interaction. Children learn by interacting with the world, from learning to open a door by twisting a knob to learning how to deal with frustration when a headstrong playmate takes a favorite toy or refuses to play a favorite game.
The Displacement of Learning
One thing these two concepts have in common is how they displace key elements of learning and child growth. It isn’t so much that the use of the iPad is doing harm to the child ? in fact, iPad use can be good ? it’s that time with the iPad can take away from other vital lessons the child must learn.
While children gathered around an iPad are being social in the sense that they are together, they aren’t being social in the sense of playing with one another. This is especially true when each child has their own device and are thus locked into their own virtual world. This time around the iPad takes away from time that could be spent playing outdoors, using their imagination to defend a make-believe castle or simply telling each other stories.
And this is just as true for the lone child as it is for the group of children. When a child is playing with an iPad, they aren’t feeling the tactile sensation of opening a book and touching the letters on the page. They aren’t building a fort with sheets and chairs, and they aren’t baking an imaginary cake for their baby doll.
It is this displacement of learning that can become the true danger of the iPad when it is used too much.
The answer: Yes. Sort of. Maybe. In moderation.
It seems everyone has an opinion on the iPad. We have people arguing that tablet use by toddlers is tantamount to child abuse and those who believe there are good educational uses for them.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is a little confused, having updated their longstanding policy that screen time should be avoided at all cost by those two and younger to a more nuanced approach that we live in a digital world and that the content itself should be judged rather than the device that holds the content. Which sounds nice, but isn’t quite a practical guideline.Read More
Parents have been advised to limit media consumption, but research suggests it?s the nature of it that matters.
For many parents in the digital age, battles over screen time and devices have become a depressing part of family life, and knowing how much is too much has become a moving target.
Whether it?s three-year-olds throwing tantrums when the iPad is taken away, seven-year-olds watching YouTube all night, nine-year-olds demanding their own phones, 11-year-olds nagging to play 18-rated video games that ?all their friends? are, or 14-year-olds who are never off Instagram, every stage of childhood and adolescence is now accompanied by its own delightful new parenting challenges.
Up until a few years ago parenting advice centred around the concept of ?screen time? quotas with a Goldilocks-style sweet spot of two or so hours of screens a day, beyond which media use could become harmful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommends a maximum of one hour of ?high-quality programming? for children under 6, but thereafter simply encourages parents to ?place consistent limits on the time spent using media? and designate screen-free time as a family.
It?s unclear whether that means four hours playing a video game on a Sunday is okay, or whether it is better to have three 20-minute sessions with the iPad than one hour-long session. Is it really that bad if my 18-month-old watches a couple of episodes of the Twirlywoos before dinner?
Many parents will be relieved to hear that recent research suggests that it?s not so much the length, but the nature of the screen time that matters. Whether it?s passive TV or social media monitoring, active video game playing, socialising with WhatsApp, or getting creative in iMovie.
Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who specialises in the concept of ?digital nutrition?, likens media diets to what?s on our plates: rather than counting calories (or screen time), think about what you?re eating.
?It?s not just about whether you consume any potential digital junk foods, but also your relationship to technology and the role it plays in your family life,? says Brewer. ?We know that using screens to soothe or pacify kids sets up some concerning patterns of relying on devices to calm or distract a child (or teen, or adult) from their experience of unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions ? so we want to avoid using screens to placate tantrums, just like we want to avoid eating ?treats? to calm emotional storms.?Read More