The bedtime story
Burden or blessing?
By Wendy Hobday Haugh
Bedtime story. As a first-time mother, those two words filled me with wonder, conjuring up cozy images of soap-scented, pajama-clad children snuggling contentedly against mama as darkness descends. My imagined scene was dreamy and serene . . . a lilting storyteller’s voice coupled with a child’s contented sighs. But as my storytelling years unfolded, the reality of bedtime became something which, for a short time anyway, bore more resemblance to a nightmare than a pleasant dream.
As a toddler, my first-born, Henry, had inexhaustible energy and the attention span of a cricket. At bedtime, as I struggled to capture his attention with colorful storybooks, he’d flip impatiently forward and backwards through the pages, focusing his attention on anything but the tale at hand.
A sweeter child could not be found, but to my intense disappointment, the traditional bedtime story just wasn’t Henry’s cup of juice. Despite parenting professionals’ sage advice that I ‘read, read, READ!’ to my child, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why bother? Henry had no interest in sedentary pastimes. He was a squirmer, not a snuggler; a chatterer, not a listener. My nightly attempts to turn Henry on to the magic of books inevitably ended in frustration until one night – fed up with fidgety toddler shenanigans – I slammed the book shut, told Henry in no uncertain
terms to lie down!, and abruptly snapped off the light.
Side by side, we lay in the tense darkness.
Why can’t bedtime be serene? I cried silently. How can I capture Henry’s interest – and spur his imagination?
Amazingly enough, at that precise moment inspiration struck.
“Let’s try something new!” I whispered, hugging him close to reassure him that ‘The Grouch’ had vanished. “I’m going to tell you ‘The Story of Henry’s Nice Day’.”
Instead of reading a tale that meant little to Henry, I began recounting chronologically, in storybook fashion, the adventures of his very own day – events which engrossed him totally because they were his. He’d lived them, first-hand.
Beginning with breakfast and ‘Sesame Street’, I worked my way through backyard explorations, grocery market excursions, playtime with friends, and mischief with cats. I didn’t censor anything, either. If Henry did something dangerous or dreadful, or if I’d scolded him, I mentioned these events, too, but always in an upbeat tone without judgement or rancor.
Almost immediately, an amazing thing happened: Henry stopped squirming! Fascinated by my nightly accounts of his own life, Henry became totally enchanted. Spellbound, he settled down and listened intently, night after night. And if I forgot to mention some little tidbit, he was always quick to chime in and remind me!
Recounting everything – good and bad, naughty and nice – helped to instill within Henry early-on a philosophical sense of perspective. Blunders are a normal part of everyday life – and they do not diminish a parent’s love! The trick is to recognize mistakes and learn from them.
Henry quickly came up with his own name for our nightly ritual. “Let’s talk the nice day, Mommy!” he’d whisper excitedly as bedtime approached. Just hearing his breathless enthusiasm filled my heart with joy.
Looking back, it seems ironic to me that a moment of intense maternal frustration not only led to a heartwarming solution to a problem but helped to create a precious bond between mother and son. Henry and I continued our nightly ritual for three full years which happily, my son’s attention span lengthened dramatically. By kindergarten, he was a voracious reader – and a highly imaginative storyteller!
With college and grad school behind him, Henry is off on his own now. But to this day, when one of us happens to mention “the nice day”, a secret smile passes between us as fond memories of darkened bedrooms, warming sheets, and quietly lilting words reassure mother and now-grown son that each and every day of one’s life is, truly, an adventure to be cherished.
Wendy Hobday Haugh, a freelance writer from Burnt Hills, writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults.
Tips for a healthier lunch box
Packing a healthy lunch for your children is a great way to get them the nutrients they need to power through the school day. Unfortunately, lunch boxes are often filled with packaged ‘convenience’ foods like full-calorie soda, chips, and cookies. This can add up to a lot of excess fat, sugar, sodium and calories that may contribute to long-term health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. These extra calories may also make kids sluggish or cranky in the afternoons.
When deciding what to put in your child’s lunch box, it’s a good idea to include foods from different groups. Focusing on variety not only makes lunches more interesting, but also helps your children enjoy a balanced lunch that will provide the energy and nutrients they need to grow, play, learn and stay healthy.
The basics for a healthy lunch box
Try to include:
1. One serving of vegetables or salad and one serving of fruit (fresh, canned or dried can all count).
2. One serving of a low-fat or fat-free milk or dairy item such as a low-fat cheese stick, a yogurt cup, or some cottage cheese.
3. One serving of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, peanut butter, beans or another protein source.
4. A healthy drink such as water or 100 percent juice.
Easy, quick ways to pack a balanced healthy lunch with punch!
Swap the white bread for whole wheat varieties for added boosts of fiber. Whole wheat bread can also be more filling.
If your kids are bored with the traditional sandwich, try whole wheat pita or flatbread/tortilla wraps that you can quickly turn into sandwich swirls.
Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives such as lean turkey or chicken breast.
Sneak veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, or shredded cabbage in between slices of lean turkey or ham on a sandwich or in a wrap.
Use peanut butter in moderation: 2 tablespoons (about the size of a ping pong ball) provides about 190 calories and 16 grams of fat.
Try using a thinner layer of peanut butter and substituting jelly with banana or thin apple slices for a healthier spin on an old favorite.
Skip high-fat mayonnaise. Consider a small serving of reduced fat mayonnaise or skip it entirely and try using something with more flavor and fewer calories like mustard instead.
Pack a salad
Make it colorful: start with a base of dark greens then load up on bright veggies such as pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots.
A salad can be more than just a side item. To make it the main entre, include a lean protein like hard boiled eggs, beans or grilled chicken.
Pack low-fat or fat-free dressing in a separate container to prevent the whole thing from getting mushy. Kids can drizzle it right on the salad before eating.
If you’re not a fan of washing, chopping, and preparing salad, consider making it easier by buying bags of lettuce or precut carrots or make extra salad for dinner and just pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Make a cold pasta salad made from whole wheat noodles leftover from the previous night’s dinner–put in a portable container and voila!
Mix plain brown rice with canned beans or shredded lean meat for a high dose of protein and fiber.
Pack hummus with fresh veggies and whole wheat pita triangles or flatbreads for dipping.
Include low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese with carrots, cherry tomatoes, fresh berries, or melon. This makes for a calcium-rich, high-protein lunch.
If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Many juice drinks contain no more than 10% juice and are mixed with a lot of sugar.
Water and low-fat milk are the best drinks for children. They can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool and will usually be defrosted for drinking by lunch time.
Swap traditional fried chips for baked potato or corn chips.
Pack salt-free, dry-roasted almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts to provide kids with a dose of heart-healthy essential fatty acids–be sure to cap the serving at cup since nuts are high in calories.
Try a lowfat or light yogurt in exchange for the full calorie varieties targeted at children. If you’d prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, try packing fat-free plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit.
Select whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugar – take a look at the food label and choose the ones that contain less than 1g of saturated fat per serving and are no more than 35 percent sugar by weight. To figure the percentage of sugar per serving, divide the grams of sugar by the gram weight of one serving and multiply this number by 100.
Aim to make snack treats occasional rather than everyday items. A small serving of animal crackers are lower in fat and sugar than regular cookies, doughnuts, brownies and other baked goods.
Packing a quick lunch when there’s no time
Piece together things that don’t need any preparation…a whole piece of fruit, a lowfat yogurt, individual packs of baby carrots, and sliced turkey wrapped in a tortilla is a great balanced lunch.
Save time by packing leftover rice, beans, chicken, salad, and other healthy options into lunch containers at dinner time.
If you’re looking for pre-packaged lunches, aim for those with no more than a few hundred calories and the least amount of saturated fat, transfat, and sodium.
Number one for fun
By Linda McClain, CTA
Thinking about taking the family on a vacation this year? Concerned that tighter security measures translate into longer lines at the airport? Could the thought of more hassles and possible plane delays affect your decision to travel as a family?
Think positively. The American dream of travel is a privilege worthy of passing down to the next generation. It’s not just the realization of people and places we can learn about. It’s forging memories that last a lifetime. Count to 10. Plan that trip! www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm.
2010 commandments of family travel
1. Be realistic about how much you can see and do when traveling with your children. It’s much different than traveling solo.
2. Brief your children about your planned destination. Share a movie or story to arouse their curiosity and enthusiasm.
3. Get the family involved by scheduling activities and tours. This is important when traveling with teens.
4. Select a vacation that meets the needs of your family. A river cruise or wine tour could be incredibly discouraging for children.
5. Plan wisely by packing the essentials. What if your child wants to tote toys and electronic devices along? Limit quantities to avoid losing them en route.
6. Be willing to reconsider daily activities. If the kids begin to misbehave, it may be a signal to give them more downtime.
7. Are you prepared if the kids get bored easily? Stash a puzzle book, travel game, music and snacks in a separate bag for an occasional diversion.
8. Never leave your child unsupervised or unattended, even for a minute.
9. Remind your children that their behavior counts. It’s important to be polite and respectful when traveling.
10. Bring a couple of nightlights along. If your child awakens during the night, it’s reassurance, when in a strange place.
Popular family destinations from Albany, NY
Destination-average flight duration each way-best round trip cost, per person, based on travel March 2-9…Taxes additional
Orlando, Fla.-3 hours, 15 minutes (nonstop available) $214
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-3 hours, 10 minutes (nonstop available) $184.18
San Diego, Calif.-7-8 hours…$295.82
Myrtle Beach, S.C.-3 hours, 50 minutes…$226.98
Honolulu, Hawaii-12 hours…$738.97
Nassau, Bahamas-5 hours…$341
Montego Bay, Jamaica-6 and 1/2 hours…$292
Cancun, Mexico-4 hours and 35 minutes… $297
Rome, Italy-9 hours and 52 minutes…$325
Dublin, Ireland-7 hours and 45 minutes…$485
Proper travel documentation
A valid United States passport is required for anyone traveling outside the U.S.
Please refer to http://www.travel.state.gov or contact the U.S. Postal Service with passport inquiries.
If you already hold a U.S. passport, check the expiration date. It must be valid at least six months from the date of return travel, or you may be denied passage.
Depending on the destination and airline, remember to consider baggage fees of $15 to $25 per person, per bag, each way.
Southwest Airlines does not charge a baggage fee or change/cancel fee.
More family vacations packed with fun
Cruise vacations: The convenience and savings of cruising from Cape Liberty, NJ, Port of New York, and Boston, Mass. bring added value to a family vacation. Itineraries from the Northeast sail to the Caribbean, Bermuda and Canada. It’s great for those who want to save money on airfare or don’t care to fly. Book early for the best rates!
Club Med-Fifty percent off second adult or up to two kids stay free: All inclusive, endless sports and activities, gratuities included and more; U.S., Mexico, Caribbean. Go to www.clubmed.com
Hyatt Regency Aruba-Reduced rates for April travel; fifth night free, breakfast for two adults and two kids daily or second room for kids 50 percent off. Go to www.aruba.hyatt.com
Beaches Resort- An award winning sister company to Sandals Resorts located in both Jamaica and the Caribbean island of Turks and Caicos. Enjoy the luxury all- inclusive vacation of a lifetime. Supervised kids clubs, unlimited x-box games for the older kids and much more. Time intensive promotions come and go quickly. Go to www.beaches.com
Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa-Montego Bay, Jamaica
Up to two kids, 12 and under, stay, play and eat free when booked in a room with two adults. Go to www.rosehallresort.com
Adventures by Disney-Family group travel concept covering six continents.
From Alaska to Australia, Disney will transform a destination into a family adventure. Go to http://www.ABD.Disney.go.com
Disney World-When you book a five night Magic Your Way package by March 27, receive a free Disney gift card, valued between $300 to $750. Travel restrictions apply. Go to www.disney.com
Orlando Destination Wide Promotion-Kids Eat Free Card allows children, 11 and under, to eat free at over 100 select restaurants. One card per child, accompanied by a full paying adult. Card is valid for 90 days after first use. Go to www.kidseatfreecard.com
Wishing you a great year with your family!
Linda McClain, CTA, is owner of Capital Region based Linda McClain Travel Services “From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!” For more information call 372.7657 or visit www.lindamcclaintravel.net.
Resistance training for children
By Judith Torel
The new thinking in the fitness world says strength training is a huge benefit, not only for adults, but for our children as well.
Once upon a time, it was believed that resistance exercises should be avoided by pre-pubescent children, because it was thought it would damage their growth plates and stunt musculoskeletal development. Just like the advice, “don’t exercise when you are pregnant,” has gone the way of the horse and buggy, so now is the thinking for resistance exercise and children.
According to Wayne Wescott, Ph.D., progressive resistance exercise training is the best way to enhance musculoskeletal development in boys and girls. Other experts agree and also believe that resistance training has its greatest influence on bone formation if done in the prepubescent years.
Factor into the scene that today about 15 percent of our youth are obese or overweight, children who are obese have a 70 percent likelihood they will develop obesity as adults, and most overweight children do not enjoy doing cardiovascular exercise because it is uncomfortable and embarrassing for them. You have the perfect storm for choosing resistance training as exercise programming for all children, even if they are not currently overweight!
What is resistance training?
There are three main physical benefits from exercise: enhanced cardiovascular capacity, enhanced flexibility, and enhanced muscular strength and endurance. Although we tend to think that one exercise is only one “type,” most exercise methods result in multiple benefits. For instance, yoga is primarily thought of as a flexibility exercise, but it also benefits muscular strength and endurance.
Resistance training exercise is typically defined as exercise that uses your body weight and/or additional resistance for the purpose of adding muscle, increasing muscle capacity or decreasing injury risk due to muscle, tendon and ligament weakness or instability.
Resistance training exercise started with Nautilus machines, but today it has branched out to an almost unlimited variety of equipment. Strength training equipment includes your own body weight against gravity, selectorized weight equipment in a gym (think Cybex or Body Master), free weights, stretchable tubes and bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, pilates machines, and suspension equipment.
When it comes to resistance training for children, it is better to avoid the typical gym machines adults use. The machines were designed for larger body frames and setting adjustments do not include ranges for small bodies.
One note on resistance training for overweight or obese children: unlike the discomfort and embarrassment often experienced when performing cardiovascular type exercises, overweight or obese children are often able to lift heavier loads then their thinner counterparts. When they perform resistance training activities, not only is it psychologically enhancing for the youth (their self esteem tends to fly!) but it is also impressive to their peers creating a positive socialization experience as well!
The first step in getting anyone, child or adult, to consistently engage in exercise behaviors, is creating an experience making them feel good. Once this is established, it’s much easier consistently doing it, and getting the benefits!
Resistance training for children 2-5
Children are not miniature adults. Their bodies are different on a physiological level. For instance, they don’t sweat as well as adults, so they have a more difficult time regulating core temperature when exercising in the heat. Psychologically, they differ as well. They do not have the same capacity for attention . Children’s exercise needs to be creative and somewhat different from adult exercise.
Children ages 2-5 are learning about their bodies and how to control them within space and time. Engaging in structured but episodic activities is best at this age range. The children are spontaneous, but are not yet able to sustain activity. They will tire out. The best resistance training activities at this age involves weight of the child’s own body and gravity more commonly than any added resistance.
These years are also important because they are setting the foundation for behavioral patterns, likes and dislikes for their entire lives. It’s also a time of life when the children are most in contact with immediate family, sometimes exclusively. It’s very important that parents or primary caregivers are conscious of their own habits with activity and inactivity. Parents may have to push themselves to get off the couch or away from the computer on a daily basis playing home video games or go outside and toss a ball. Children tend to pick up on the behavioral patterns of the people they love at this age in addition to other sources.
Activities suitable for this age range include: free play, catching with objects including bean bags or light play balls, rolling objects, kicking or bouncing or tossing a ball, jumping, hopping, skipping, tricycles, introduction to swimming and home video games or electronic dance board games.
Resistance training for children 6-9
At this age, it is appropriate to introduce additional resistance to body weight movements and exercises. A parent can introduce their child to free weights in the form of light weight dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, elastic tubes and bands.
I love to see adults with their 6-9 year-old children in the gyms, working with free weights and taking turns doing the exercises. Not only does this reinforce the positive psychological benefits (at this age, going to the gym with dad is amazing to the child and makes him/her feel great and important!), but it also helps the child feel comfortable in the gym environment setting the psychological template for future years and linking it with “feel good” feelings. This is unlike the more common experience of being embarrassed in a gym class during team sports or activities where the child, especially those overweight, are having exercise linked with feeling self conscious and worthless if not picked for a team until last.
Other resistance training activities appropriate for this age include swimming teams, martial arts programs, batting a ball, and obstacle course type activities.
Adults may use music showing children basic exercises including abdominal crunches, push-ups on knees, or arm curls without weights. The child would do the exercise until the adult stops the song.
Resistance training for children 10-16
Children in this age range do well with exercise including goals. Themes are no longer cool and are viewed as babyish. The more adult-like techniques of using sets, reps and increasing resistance loads are appropriate.
Children may engage in structured resistance programs using free weights. Depending on the child’s body size, it may also be the time to introduce machine weights in gym settings.
A fun way to integrate resistance workouts at home is a game of Rolling Dice Fitness. You need dice, light weights, bands, tubes and/or medicine balls. Set up the game by pre-designing a wall chart that corresponds to the numbers on the dice and links each number with an exercise. For instance, 1=push ups, 2= medicine ball press-ups overhead.
To play the game, partner children and have them take turns rolling the dice. The number on the dice designates which exercise on the chart the child is to perform. The adult or the other child then sets the number of repetitions and the child has to perform that exercise at that repetition number. Then, the children switch with the other partner rolling the dice and setting the number of repetitions. Setting a limit to the repetitions in the 1-20 range is a good idea.
Resistance training is a physiologically and psychologically positive activity for children of all sizes, but especially for overweight children who have negative experiences with other types of exercise. As parents, it is important you model positive, healthy activity habits. Your behavior is sets the precedent for your children. Armed with this information, you can now actively participate in the reversal of our children’s obesity epidemic for future generations!
Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. Her office is located in Planet Fitness, Loudonville. She can be reached at 469.0815 or email@example.com.