Category Archives: Physical Health and Well-Being

Make the Outdoors your Classroom

puddleNow that it’s summer, my 1-year-old wants to spend all of his time outside. Before we’ve even had our breakfast, he’s running to the door, shoes in hand, shouting, “Outside? Outside?” If you’re child is anything like mine, you’ve packed up and relocated to your backyard for the summer too. Here are a few activities you can do that are not only fun, but will turn your outdoor space into a little classroom of sorts.

Sidewalk Chalk
Summer is a great time to let your little one get messy. The rain will wash away any toddler-graffiti and if your child gets a little dirty, it’s pretty easy to give them a quick douse of water on the lawn to clean up. Chalk is a fun way to explore art and drawing together. Let them draw on their own, or take turns drawing lines until you’ve created a collaborative masterpiece! Of course chalk is also a great opportunity to practice scribbling and writing letters. We like to write little messages on the sidewalk for daddy to read when he comes home from work.

Water Painting
Similar to chalk, paint brushes provide a great opportunity for writing and drawing. You may be wary of using actual paint, so why not try a clean brush and a pail of water. Wet the brush and then draw on the sidewalk for some (very) temporary works of art.

Bubbles
I think all kids love bubbles, and they are an easy and relatively cheap activity in the summer. Older kids can develop their gross motor skills chasing after and popping them, and will also develop hand-eye coordination as they learn to dip the wands and blow. Even the youngest of babies will enjoy watching bubbles, while also developing their eye sight and eye muscles as they track the bubbles floating in the air. I love this little rhyme about bubbles too:

I dip my wand, and gently blow
A tiny bubble begins to grow!
And grow…and grow…and grow…and…
POP!

Sensory Nature Walk
When you venture outside your yard, take a little sensory nature walk with your little ones. Encourage them to use their senses as they smell flowers and fresh cut grass; listen to the birds chirping; and see the clouds moving across the sky. Stop in a park and see how many textures you can find: a rough pinecone, a smooth pebble, a wet puddle! And remember to name the things that you see as you walk. A leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood is a great opportunity for some vocabulary development.

There are lots of ways to have fun this summer while incorporating some learning and literacy development, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. I am always looking for more ideas to keep my little busy-body occupied…what kinds of activities do you like doing with your children in the summer?

Pregnancy and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Pregnancy and Alcohol don’t Mix

Guest Blog Submitted by The Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network

Alcohol and pregnancy – it’s a bit of a touchy subject, conversations about which can be filled with misinformation and maybe a hint of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. With all kinds of conflicting information just a mouse-click away, it may not be a surprise that more than 10 per cent of women surveyed by the Public Health Agency of Canada reported using alcohol during their last pregnancy and that a growing number of women believe it’s okay to consume moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant.

Yet, international medical consensus remains unchanged: No alcohol is safest during pregnancy. There simply are no low-risk thresholds for alcohol intake by expectant mothers.

A number of risks are associated with drinking during pregnancy, the best-known of which is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which refers to a range of brain injuries resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol, including developmental, physical, learning and behavioural disabilities.

The most common developmental disability in North America, FASD affects at least nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Canada. Symptoms are life-long and can include learning and memory difficulties, speech and language problems, impulsive behaviour, social difficulties, sensory difficulties and, in some cases, physical problems.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
FASD is 100% preventable through abstinence from alcohol, but it’s not always that straightforward. Prenatal alcohol exposure happens for a variety of reasons, including unplanned pregnancy (up to 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned) lack of information, mental health concerns and addiction.

In all cases, knowledge, education and healthy support systems are key to successful prevention efforts. Caring partners, friends and trusted service providers, like doctors or even hair dressers, are perfectly situated to support the women in their lives to have the healthiest pregnancies possible.

Here are some ways that partners/friends can support an expectant mom:

  • Talk openly about how to achieve a healthy pregnancy, including abstinence from alcohol
  • Show solidarity by reducing or eliminating your own alcohol intake during her pregnancy
  • Take the initiative to plan social events and activities that don’t involve alcohol. So much of our social lives involve alcohol, and moms-to-be can easily feel left out from the fun.
  • Know where to find help if your partner/friend is struggling with giving up alcohol or making other important lifestyle changes during her pregnancy.

 

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WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Need more information on alcohol and pregnancy, FASD, supports and other resources? The Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network is a non-profit society that engages and mobilizes the community toward a healthy response to the issue of FASD. Visit www.calgaryfetalalcoholnetwork.com to learn more about the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, FASD, diagnosis, supports for individuals, families, professionals and more.

Halotherapy and Early Childhood

Daily commute to work...

The daily commute to work…

It seems we’ve been labouring through an endless Winter this 2014. Especially in Calgary, this means even colder, dryer weather than we’re used to, which can come with a lot of problems, especially for sensitive little ones. This month I had the chance to check out Calgary’s ONLY Halotherapy/Speleotherapy Centre — “Salt Crystal” to see what they can offer to families struggling with these side effects of Winter (or this really miserable Spring).

Halotherapy essentially boils down to what we can call ‘Salt Air Therapy’ — a practice that might seem counterproductive given that some of us associate salt with dryness. However, Salt Crystal caves and the Dead Sea have been popular destinations for naturopathic and holistic healing for centuries, and even many of our coastal Canadian friends can attest to the difference that air quality can make in daily living. Saline sprays, salt scrubs and other treatment methods aim to mimic the benefits of sodium and magnesium-rich settings, promising better breathing and healthier skin. Given what seems to be a hesitancy in North America towards natural remedies, however, I went to Salt Crystal prepared to take any and all information with… well… a grain of salt.

Here is what I learned:

  • Our Bodies Need Salt : Sodium Ions are necessary to keep our bodies at optimal health — they help with nutrient uptake, maintaining fluid in our blood cells, and transmitting information in our muscles and nerves. However, the human body does not produce it’s own salt, so we need to get it from our environment.
  • Diets that are high in salt can result in High Blood Pressure and Hypertension, which can result in Cardiac complications. So eating salt can be a tricky thing to balance, and we should always monitor our sodium intake. Salt Air Therapy targets the Respiratory system though, not our stomachs, hearts, or kidneys, and delivers a dose that is much lower than our daily recommended allowance. It goes right to where the sodium is most needed and effective.
  • Salt Therapy is 100% natural, safe and drug-free. It can be used as a complimentary therapy adjunct to most regimens, or as stand-alone treatment for maintaining health. It is NOT, however, a replacement for medical treatment. There is also a list of Contraindications for Salt Therapy. Learning this was a turning point for me, as I am very wary of any treatment options that claim to be effective for every ailment, disorder, or disease, always and without fail. Knowing that Salt Therapy just won’t work for some people helped me understand the people it might work for.

And the people it might work for are a substantial number of individuals I can think of that suffer from the following conditions: Asthma, Allergies, and other Respiratory conditions (Iike a sensitivity to melting snow-mold), Eczema, Psoriasis and other skin ailments (dry Chinook winds agitate these), and Sinus and Bronchial infections. There are also a number of baby and child-specific conditions such as Croup that often see improvement with halotherapy.

On top of the possible benefitsalt castles of Halotherapy, I also just generally enjoyed my visit to Salt Crystal. Tatiana, the Owner/Operator, was kind, pleasant, and both patient and generous in her answers to my many questions (and my skepticism). The centre was clean (the micro climate of a salt room is apparently three times cleaner than a sterile surgery room in a hospital), bright, and relaxing. My Salt Therapy session left me feeling both rested and energized, and I absolutely fell in love with the fact that this is a company that has taken the time to care for our Little Ones. They have dedicated an entire room (The “Salt Castle”) specifically for family use, and the “Royal Salt Room” can be privately booked for families.

If you are looking for something to end your Winter blues (and possibly clear up a few complaints to boot), I HIGHLY recommend checking out Salt Crystal in the Varsity/Dalhousie area, just off Crowchild and 53rd.

Resources and More Information:

 

Best Picks for Active [Indoor] Play

With the fall months quickly approaching, we thought it would be good to highlight some of our best picks for Active Play — activities that you can do with your little one INSIDE your home! We often become more sedentary in the colder months; it’s not as easy to put the kids in the backyard to run around when you have to bundle them up first. And yet active play is so important to our children’s development, we HAVE to make the time to fit it in!Active Play

Active Play

But first, some info about “Active Play”!

What is it? Active Play is any sort of physical movement that gets our children (and yes, babies too!) “huffing and puffing”!

What does it do? Activities like these increase our kids’ heart rates and burn off bursts of energy (which in the long run, increase their overall energy and output, and physical health and well-being)!

How much? Most physicians recommend a mix of adult-organized and free/imaginative play activities, split between 2-3 hours a day for toddlers and preschoolers. Children should also not be inactive for more than an hour at a time!

It’s important to remember that Active Play does not necessarily require large spaces or huge chunks of time. Doing jumping jacks or running on the spot can be done just about anywhere, and a bunch of short bursts throughout the day are just as effective (sometimes even more so) than one extended activity.

  • NUMBER JUMP: Use painter’s tape (which is easily removed from most surfaces and leaves no residue) to outline numbers or shapes on your floor. Sing a song like “The Ants Go Marching” or “Alice the Camel” and have your child run to the appropriate number and jump on it (or march, or tap, etc) for the length of the song. Be prepared to do this one a few times! BONUS: It increases numeral and shape recognition as well!
  • FREEZE DANCE: Put on some of your child’s favourite tunes and dance like maniacs — but only as long as the music is playing! Periodically pause the song and have your child freeze in their last position. BONUS: The anticipation of the next freeze and the ability to hold it are a great way to strengthen emotional maturity: It’s hard to wait for the fun things we want, but we have to learn to control ourselves!
  • ANIMAL ALPHABET: Choose an animal for each letter and move like they do! Snap like an Alligator, Wiggle like a Baboon… extra points if the action and the animal start with the same letter: Crunch like a Caterpillar, Dig like a Dingo, etc. Keep active for the whole alphabet!
  • SCREEN SAVER: We know how hard it can be to limit screen time… but one of the main reasons why we try to stay away from it is because it keeps our kids stationary for too long. The solution? Re-enact what’s happening on the tube! Flip around with the little mermaid… stomp with the dinosaurs… race like Lightening McQueen. Even if it’s just for a few minutes here and there throughout the show.
  • TUMMY TIME: Our babies need their exercise too! Tummy Time can be tricky, but if you’re finding it to be a rough time, try different kinds of tummy time; try lying down on your tummy across from baby, face to face, so you can see each other and share the time, or try putting your baby on YOUR tummy, so they can see your face and feel the rhythms of your breathing. Babies also love baby faces — put them on a mirror so they can see their own!