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Best Friends. Whether they’re called a BFF, a best buddy, an old-school blood brother or some other name, most children know there’s a difference between an acquaintance, a friend and a best friend by the time they reach Kindergarten. My best friend growing up was Mika – I remember meeting her on the lawn at a park during lunchtime at school and we both bonded over our height and being half Asian.

While children are capable of being friends with lots of different kids, they tend to gravitate toward and spend more time with those with whom they have the most in common. Often, that results in kids pairing up into “best friends” – the friend who understands them most, listens, provides a reality check or just has their back.

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Exercise is often the last thing on the minds of many new moms, especially when taking into account what to do with a little one while you workout. You may be surprised to learn that there are a wealth of exercises you can do with your baby!

Many women celebrating the early months of motherhood share the same complaints: fatigue, lack of energy, and an inability to “get going.” The irony is that daily exercise has been proven to help increase stamina and improve bodily functions.

Exercise has many benefits for new mothers that extend beyond physical fitness. Increased mental improvement and ability to cope with stress and anxiety as well as more energy are additional benefits of postpartum exercise. There are many exercise options that involve working out with your new addition.

Consider the following benefits of exercise for moms:

  • Healthier and stronger bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Reduction in body fat and controlled weight level.
  • Increased mental improvement, reducing occurrences for postpartum depression, anxieties, or stress.

Dance with your Baby
Literally. Wear your baby and dance yourself in shape.

Yoga
Yoga is a workout option that helps to increase range of motion, muscle tone and breathing. Babies often enjoy the up and down movements involved when changing positions in yoga.

Walking
Walking with baby in a stroller or in a carrier is an exercise that can be performed at your own pace. You are able to control the length and intensity of each walk, increasing each of these factors as you build endurance. There may also be some stroller walking groups in your area.

Postpartum DVDs
If you’re not yet ready to work that body in public, consider using a post partum exercise DVD.  If you are self-motivated and feel like you are more likely to get it done in the comfort of your own home.

Other workouts
Your baby can be incorporated in other, more typical forms of exercise as well. Airplane ride, crunches, baby leg lifts and flying baby all provide entertainment for your baby as well as exercise for you. Using your baby in these exercises also provides extra resistance, such as if you put your baby on your stomach or lap when doing crunches.

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Soda in a sippy cup? NOPE! But researchers say that when a baby’s bottle or cup is filled with juice — even the 100 percent, all-natural, no-sugar-added stuff — parents might as well be pouring Pepsi. Last night I was filling my nieces sippy bottles with “fresh cold” water as they like to call it (a.k.a. bottled cold water fresh out of the refrigerator)….was it a little over the top to pour super cold water in a bottle? Not really when I thought more about it.

Many people mistakenly believe that as long as you are drinking fruit juice, it’s healthy even though it’s sweet, but this is a dangerous misconception that is fueling the rising rates of weight gain, obesity, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes in the United States and other developed nations.

Consumption of sweetened beverages has been associated with the rise in childhood obesity. The USDA’s publication “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010” estimates that obesity rate in children age 6 to 11 increased from 4 percent in the early 1970s to 20 percent in 2007 to 2008. Many factors have contributed to this disturbing statistic, including beverage intake. This reminds me of many children who drink juice over soda because parents might think its healthier, but isn’t it a lot of sugar? What happen to water? What’s really better – soda or juice?

Though healthy in moderation, juice essentially is water and sugar. In fact, a 12-ounce bottle of grape soda has 159 calories. The same amount of unsweetened grape juice packs 228 calories.

Quick Tips: Fruit Juice is NOT a Healthy Beverage

  • First off, most fruit drinks on the market should be more aptly named flavored sugar-water, because many contain next to no real juice.
  • If your fruit juice is actually labeled a “fruit drink,” “fruit beverage,” or “fruit cocktail,” it’s because it does not contain 100% juice.
  • In fact, according to the Discovery graphic, on average fruit drinks contain just 10% fruit juice!

Make Your Children Aware
As a parent, it’s important to talk to your kids not only about the health implications of drinking soda, but also those from drinking all sugary beverages such as fruit juice and fruit drinks.

  • Children’s exposure to TV ads for sugary drinks from Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010.
  • MyCokeRewards.com was the most-visited sugary drink company website with 170,000 unique youth visitors per month (42,000 of whom were young children and 129,000 were teens); Capri Sun’s website was the second-most viewed site, attracting 35,000 young children and 35,000 teens per month.
  • Twenty-one sugary drink brands had YouTube channels in 2010 with more than 229 million views by June 2011, including 158 million views for the Red Bull channel alone.
  • Coca-Cola was the most popular of all brands on Facebook, with more than 30 million fans; Red Bull and Monster ranked 5th and 15th, with more than 20 million and 11 million fans, respectively.

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So What Should Your Child Drink? Kicking your kid’s soda habit starts at home.
Instead of soda or juice, offer your children water or low-fat or non-fat milk. As children age, their calcium requirements go up, not down, so your growing child should be drinking plenty of milk, too. To help your children cut back on sugary drinks, don’t stock them at home. This will help them understand that sodas are for special occasions, not a daily treat.

4 IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT JUICE VS. SODA 

Caloric Intake
In terms of calories, soda and juice contain similar amounts. A 1-cup serving of cola contains 91 calories, whereas the same size serving of orange juice contains 122 calories. In terms of fighting childhood obesity, neither beverage offers a clear advantage. Combined with reduced physical activity, consumption of either beverage sets up the scenario for weight gain.

Nutrient Intake
Juice offers a clear nutritional advantage over soda. A 1-cup serving of cola contains virtually no vitamins and only trace amounts of calcium, iron or phosphorus. A 1-cup serving of orange juice, on the other hand, provides over 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C. It is also a good dietary source of potassium and vitamin A. Cola has 22 g of total sugar to orange juice’s 20 g. By consuming juice rather than soda, you have the satisfaction that you have chosen the healthier beverage.

Caffeine Content
One concern you may have with soda is its caffeine content. The actual amount varies with the type of soda. A cup of cola contains about 64 mg of caffeine. By contrast, coffee contains 60 to 150 mg. Consumption of caffeine can cause headaches and dizziness in some individuals. The risk also exists for caffeine toxicity. A study from University of Miami researchers, published in the March 2011 issue of “Pediatrics,” explains that high consumption of caffeine in children with existing health conditions such as diabetes or behavioral disorders can lead to adverse effects.

Obesity
Soft drink consumption has increased 300 percent from 1988 to 2008. A study from Wayne State University School of Nursing in Michigan, published in the February 2008 issue of the “Journal of the School of Nursing,” reports that between 56 to 85 percent of school-aged children consume at least one soft drink daily. The study also points out that for every soft drink consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times. Juice doesn’t fare much better. A study from the University of California, Davis, published in the November 2002 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” found that fructose consumption was also associated with weight gain and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. These findings suggest that consumption of all sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited in children.

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You and your kids will have so much fun with these pool noodle activities! A pool noodle is a tube of polyethylene foam, sometimes with a hollow center. The noodles are commonly used during swimming for play and exercise but have many more uses. The foam is soft, yet strong-featured and makes a great tool for creative game play out of the water. Foam noodles do not cause damage to people or gym floors, are super cheap and can be cut apart to make game accessories.

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“Mom. Are we there yet?”   Summer traveling have you stumped on how you will entertain your children on long car rides? They can be miserable when your children are bored. Here are a few games to help pass the time and keep your sanity on these hot days and long family car trips! This familiar question of “how much longggeerrr?” is heard by moms and dads everywhere and fills them with dread as it is usually a signal their little ones are getting bored. Make it a stress-free car journey!

I Spy
“I spy with my little eye, something red.” This easy-to-learn game is perfect for preschoolers, and can keep them entertained for unbelievably long periods of time.  Choosing an object that they can see and giving them the first letter also helps with their spelling and encourages them to look around and take in the sights.

I’m Going on a Picnic
This alphabet-based memory game is great for kids 5 and up. You don’t need a game board or any materials. The game can be played with as few as two players, but it’s more fun when the whole family joins in. The first player says “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…” followed by something that begins with A, such as apples. The second player repeats what the first person said, but adds something that begins with B. So she might say “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples and bananas.” And so on with C, D, and the rest of the alphabet. If someone forgets an item, she is out. To be fair, feel free to be lenient and give hints to younger players. The last player to be able to recite all the items on the list wins.

20 Questions
This easy-peasy game is great for younger kids, thanks to its straightforward rules. Player One thinks of a person, place or thing. Everyone else takes turns asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. After each answer, the questioner gets one guess. Play continues until a player guesses correctly.

Telephone
This is great if there are a large number of people in the car, school trips being perfect. One person starts by whispering a sentence into their friend’s ear and it then goes all around the car with the last to hear required to repeat it to everyone else. It is very fun and shows how “rumors” can change very easily from one person to the next!

Treasure Hunt
This game is great fun for the kids and requires minimal interaction from you while on the journey, so you can concentrate on driving. Before leaving give each child a list of objects such as cow, sheep, red car, church, castle and ask them to mark each one off as and when they see it along the way. Of course, there will be a prize for each of them at the end of the journey if they have all succeeded in the task and it will keep them quiet for hours as their eyes will be glued to the window!

iPad or Kindle or Tablet
With the explosion of tablets on the market in the last few years many parents have invested in the new technology, some of which cost as little as $100. They are great to hand over to the kids before embarking on a long journey because they are packed full of games that will keep the kids busy. Most have an app store from which you can download several games beforehand with the kids, so they can simply access these on the go.

License Plate Game
When we were kids, everyone seemed to play the license plate game on family road trips. Armed with a pad of paper, we would write down the name of each state as we spotted it. The goal, of course, was to nab all 50 states. If we were lucky, we’d bag the Canadian provinces, too.

The game of silence
This one really works a treat and gives parents a few minutes of peace and quiet. Simply put, the child who can stay quiet the longest wins a treat. The longer they are quiet, the better the treat becomes. It could be considered bribery but, in a car full of screaming kids, anything goes!

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Spanking is in the news again.   The old saying is if you spare the rod you’ll spoil the child. But a new study finds spanking a child may do more long-term harm than good.

The study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found a high percentage of American parents spank or slap their children. And it suggests children who are spanked, hit, or pushed as a means of discipline may be at an increased risk of mental problems in adulthood — from mood and anxiety disorders to drug and alcohol abuse.

It equates harsh physical punishment with increased mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, severe personality disorders and even depression.  Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders. Approximately 2% to 7% of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment.

Some people might even say that spanking turns into abuse later in life.

Many parents don’t believe in it and feel that punishment is a “time out” or sitting in the corner that can do good – even taking away a Nintendo or PS3 or the TV is enough of a punishment for many children today. The reality is that many parents say they do and would use spanking as a form of discipline. So what is the right tactic?

Parents’ right to use physical punishment has been abolished in more than 30 nations, but not in the USA or Canada, says the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment, endorsed by the United Nations and others.

For the study, Afifi and colleagues analyzed data from a government survey of 35,000 non-institutionalized adults in the USA, collected between 2004 and 2005.

About 1,300 of the respondents, all over age 20, were considered to have experienced physical punishment as children. They reported that they had, sometimes or more often, been “pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house.”

But some family researchers argue that spanking, used properly, can be appropriate discipline.

I personally am a fan of not spanking and anyone who needs suggestions on more-effective methods of discipline to a primer on USNews.com called “3 Alternatives to Spanking That Work for Parents and Kids”:

  • Focus on rewarding positive behavior rather than punishing bad deeds. Check out this video with Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Child Study Center, showing how to praise a child right with immediate, focused praise rather than the bland “good job!”
  • Time-outs work, but they have to be done right to serve as effective punishment. A good time-out is short, focused and doesn’t involve lectures after the fact.
  • Be consistent in how you discipline your children. This one’s tough for all parents — hey, we’re humans too! — but will go a long way toward making your home a haven rather than a battlefield.

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No sooner do you lift your toddler out of the car, set him down on the sidewalk, and turn to wrestle his stroller out of the trunk than he suddenly darts away. I think most moms tend to stay fit at this age because they are constantly running after their child.

Children ages 1 to 3 tend to be impulsive, so you cannot expect your teachings to ensure that your toddler always will do what is best for her. Toddlers who wander or run away for any reason are at risk and need the adults in their lives to protect them. For example, because of their small size and limited traffic experience, toddlers suffer the greatest number of pedestrian injuries, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

What are steps to keep young children safe, while allowing them freedom to grow and explore? See below.

Why Toddlers Run Away
Most children begin to walk, talk, socialize and solve problems during the toddler years. Toddlers naturally are inclined to discover and experiment with independence. However, they are not yet able to determine what is safe and have not learned to stop and think about consequences. Curiosity and lack of impulse control lead some toddlers to test their new freedom by running away, while others might wander off to look at something interesting.

Stay close to him.
If you’re in a safe, open space where you can see your toddler and he can see you, it’s okay to let him run ahead of you. Most of the time, if you don’t yell or run after him, he’ll stop on his own, turn around to see your reaction, and run back to you when he sees you’re not coming after him. But don’t take any chances if you’re in a crowded area or around cars.

Set Limits, Follow Though
Tell your toddler how you expect him to behave before you begin an errand. But make sure you really spell it out for him. Instead of saying, “Can you be a big boy and hold my hand?” say, “Remember, you need to hold my hand when we’re in the mall.” Expressions like ‘big boy’ often backfire. Toddlers turn around and say, ‘I don’t want to be a big boy!'”

Parents must make clear to toddlers that there are consequences for running away or being wild in public. Tell your child ahead of time that if she cannot stay close or hold you hand, then she must ride in her stroller for a while. Explain that when she is calm and ready to hold your hand while walking beside you, she will be allowed to get out of the stroller and try again. If she tries to run away again, put her back in the stroller and do not waiver, even if she has a tantrum.

Give Specific Warnings
Young kids often forget safety expectations midway through an outing and take off. Instead of simply shouting “Stop!” (which is actually a very abstract concept for a toddler, who has to figure out what it is he’s supposed to stop doing), give a concrete command identifying a specific body part or movement — such as “Thomas, stop your feet!” or “Stay on the grass!”  Once you’ve got your kid by the hand again, reiterate the rules.

Distract and Divert
Young children may not remember their parents’ rules and expectations while on an outing, and they might suddenly run off. Instead of chasing a runaway toddler, call his name or say a familiar word or concrete phrase that will stop and distract him. Give him a hug for coming back to your side.

Make Errands Fun
Singing, rhyming, dancing, marching or jumping can encourage toddlers to stay near you while going from one place to another. To focus her attention while out in public, engage your child by playing simple games, asking her to copy your funny movements, saying silly words to each other or playing “Can You See What I See?”

Encourage him when he does well.
When he resists the urge to run wild, reinforce his good behavior by telling him what he did well. But again, be specific. “It’s not enough to say, ‘You behaved like such a big boy today.” Encourage his actions by saying them back to him. Say, ‘I really appreciated that when I called you, you came back to me.'”

Toddlers as Helpers
Toddlers often try to run away because they are bored. Tell your child you need her help picking out groceries, returning library books or taking your dog to the veterinarian. Most toddlers love to help, so give your child a specific job and she will be less likely to wander.

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