5 Life Hacks for Having an Easy Breezy Summer with the Kids

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When it starts to get sweaty, let cooler heads prevail with some easy ways to beat the heat.

For most of us the summer is a really busy time: lots of birthday parties and swim lessons and vacations. It’s the time of year we really look forward to because we get to spend more time in the folding chair on a beach. If we’re lucky.

It’s about to heat up, uncomfortably so in some places. Many families are planning getaways and jump in the pool on a regular basis, all of which we recommend, but if you are in between any of those shady spots, add in these simple backups to defend against crankiness. For kids or adults.

Freeze your Fruit. Put your grapes or your cubed watermelon in the freezer, try strawberries and kiwi blended up and poured into an ice-cube tray for freezing, or if you want to be more traditional about it, use a popsicle mold. Make sure they eat that outside with their hands, preferably in a bath suit so you can just turn the hose on them afterwards!

Water Balloons. If your kids are old enough, you have to do it at least once. Toss is fun, but full-on guerilla-style water balloon combat is the most fun. Throw some squirt guns in there, because, why wouldn’t you? Make sure you pick up all the pieces and dispose of them properly since they are a choking hazard for babies and animals.

Spray Bottle. Whether you are camping high in the pines or just hanging around the house, having a spray bottle of clean water around is a really easy way to stay cool and energetic. Just a little spritz to your face or all over is all it takes. You can even put a few drops of lavender or mint essential oil and shake it up well before you use it.

Mister. If you want to get crazy and take it to the next level, you can get some simple attachments that run misting lines off your back porch, RV awning, or any other overhang. This will seriously keep your kids entertained for hours at a time, and it uses very little water.

Cold Soup. A total mom secret weapon. Throw some greek yogurt, a few avocados, a fist full of basil and a pinch of salt and pepper in the blender, thin it with a little milk or soy milk and stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Take it out and re-blend (you don’t want it frozen, just really cold). For the grownups top it off with a little salsa and you’ve basically just given everyone savory ice cream for dinner.

If everyone is comfortable, the family time is memory-making, even when the temps are into the third digits. Don’t forget your sunscreen (no matter what color you are) and have a really enthusiastic and adventurous summer.

Take the Whole Family Out to the Ball Game! America’s Favorite Pastime

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Since that day in 1839 when Abner Doubleday first stepped onto the makeshift “mound” and cast the first pitch, Americans have been captivated by baseball. Kids today may not realize the proud history of the sport but from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, baseball is in our blood. Unlike some other sports, baseball is more about strategy and quick thinking than brute force; it’s full of theatricality, but methodical and complex too.

And for kids, baseball is totally enthralling. Even if they don’t understand all the nuances of the game, the wind up, the crack of the bat and the cheering crowd are captivating for children and adults alike. Now are the season heats up, it’s a great time to introduce the kids to

Some MLB teams offer some enrichment programs like the San Francisco Giants Youth Camp, where kids can get instruction, learn about sportsmanship and visit AT&T park!

If you don’t need to live in a major city, or tickets to see your home team are outrageous (and sometimes they are) there are other ways to experience the excitement of a baseball game. During the spring and summer months, it’s easy to find a local or college league where all the elements are there.

Whether your kids are young or older, getting out into the back yard and tossing the ball around not only improves their gross motor skills, it also gets them excited about the whole prospect of baseball.

Here are some simple tips when taking the kids to watch a game:

  • The more modern a ballpark, the more kid-friendly it will be. Some of the older stadiums have old school bleachers. Bring a booster so your kids can see.
  • If they are young enough to get in free, keep in mind that you are expected to keep them in your lap.
  • Take them for a walk if they get restless. Be considerate to fellow fans and if the kids get antsy, take them for a few turns around the park.
  • Get an ID bracelet. Most ballparks have gone to lengths to make parks safe for kids, but they do still get lost. You can get an ID bracelet from the ticket counter or customer service center and that way if you do get separated, your kids can easily get redirected back to you.
  • Pro games often have some post game activities for kids. Check out the website before you go to make sure you don’t miss out on any fun opportunities designed for little ones.

Everyone loves baseball, no matter where they are from or which teams they are rooting for, being a part of an enthusiastic crowd and watching the team do their thing is without a doubt, thrilling. Kids love to be a part of the action, to learn how the game works and to gorge on peanuts and do the wave. A ball game is outrageous fun for everyone and that always counts as a win.

Baby Sign Language: The Benefits Behind the Gesture(s)

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Teaching sign language to children as young as six months old has become more and more popular over the past decade. This practice of using modified gestures from American Sign Language is appropriately referred to as baby sign language, and research suggests that it might give a typically developing child a way to communicate several months earlier than those who only use vocal communication. This can help ease frustration between ages eight months and two years — when children begin to know what they want, need, and feel, but don’t necessarily yet have the verbal skills to express themselves. Children who have developmental delays might benefit, too.

Infants who learn baby sign language are also thought to gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Feelings of anger due to an inability to communicate may not occur as often, and anyone who’s had a frustrated toddler throwing a tantrum can certainly see the benefit in that. Having the ability to sign could be a lifesaver when a child is too distraught to speak clearly. It may also actually facilitate the acquisition of verbal and written forms of communication later on.

Parents say that signing is rewarding, and aids bonding because of the need to make more eye-to-eye and tactile contact. Also, as children age, it may be easier and perhaps kinder to reprimand the child in public using sign language, saying “no” for example, and equally can become a way of giving praise privately.

If you decide to implement the use of baby sign language with your child, Mayo Clinic offers these helpful tips:

  • Set realistic expectations. Feel free to start signing with your child at any age — but remember that most children aren’t able to communicate with baby sign language until about age eight months.
  • Keep signs simple. Start with signs to describe routine requests, activities, and objects in your child’s life — such as more, drink, eat, mother and father.
  • Make it interactive. Try holding your baby on your lap, with his or her back to your stomach. Embrace your baby’s arms and hands to make signs.   Alternate talking and not talking while signing. To give signs context, try signing while bathing, diapering, feeding, or reading to your baby. Acknowledge and encourage your child when he or she uses gestures or signs to communicate.
  • Stay patient. Don’t get discouraged if your child uses signs incorrectly or doesn’t start using them right away. The goal is improved communication and reduced frustration — not perfection.
  • Stay verbal too. As you teach baby sign language, it’s important to continue talking to your child as well. Spoken communication is an integral part of your child’s speech development.

As you can imagine, not only does taking part in baby sign language provide the discussed benefits, but it can flat out just be a lot of fun for the whole family too. Even parents may learn a thing or two – not only some signs, but also greater insight into how your children can communicate, and how to better reciprocate that.

Philanthropy 2.0: 5 Ways to Model Giving Back to Your Community for Your Family and Your Company

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Spring is a great time to take stock about the big picture and explore ways that you can leverage your standing to make a difference.

We are entering a new era of altruism in business and it’s no accident that women are gaining positions of power in steadily increasing numbers. We still have a long way to go, but one of the many benefits of female presence in business is a less competitive and more collaborative workplace environment. In short: women care about their families, employees, their community, and the state of the world, and they don’t separate business from personal when it comes to compassion.

As we move into the warmer months of 2016, it’s a great time to assess your individual position in your community, as well as your company’s role in the larger business landscape. The central question is: how can you help?

The following suggestions are ideas to play with, ways that you can contribute reasonably without re-writing your whole playbook. No one is suggesting you quit your job to picket fracking, but helping with a clean water project, that is totally doable.

1. Partner Up.

If this is not part of your wheelhouse as a business already, make sure you examine ways that your business can extend its positive influence in your locale. This can be as simple as inviting a non-profit to an event, doing pro-bono work for local businesses, or working within your city or town to improve basic infrastructure everyone relies on. Again, this doesn’t have to be a mountain of a project; it can be as simple as hiring an artist collective to paint a mural on the side of your building. The key is showing your community that your business recognizes its responsibility to its neighbors.

2. Kickstart allowance.

This is another easy one that you can do at home, or at work. Create a Kickstart allowance and delegate a member of the family or an employee to cruise the Kickstart campaigns, and cull a top five list once a month (make sure the campaign deadlines time up with yours). By the end of the month, everyone votes on who gets the Kickstart allowance. If you make the donation through work, make sure you also notify everyone who won the allowance and keep them updated on the campaign’s progress.

3. Volunteer.

One of the things that families really enjoy is going to the local animal shelter to walk dogs. There are also thousands of other opportunities to sort kids clothes for clothing drives, feed people at homeless shelters, give blood for emergency service providers, and well, the list goes on and on. A few hours of volunteering gives you an altruism high you and your team can ride for days.

4. Have a Voter Education Party.

Whenever elections roll around, we all scramble to read up on the propositions and candidates, or worse, we don’t. There is nothing more uncomfortable than getting to the booth and realizing you don’t know the issues. No matter what your affiliation is, you can have a gathering with drinks and snacks after work and read over the election literature together. Sometimes, people actually divvy up the measures and read up on them so at the voter education party, each person can go over the pros and cons of each vote on the ballot. This doesn’t have to descend into a political debate, in fact to ensure that doesn’t happen, let everyone know that all viewpoints are welcome but the point is simply knowing the facts. The goal is for people to go into the voting booth confident that they are doing their civic duty.

5. Source your home and your company with conscience.

As you are making everyday decisions about your ongoing purchases, ensign a family member or an employee to do a little research into the products and processes you are using. For example, does the company that makes your copier have recyclable ink cartridges? When you have an event catered, can you source the food locally? These are little details and you might not always be able to balance the budget with the environmentally-friendly options, but always keep in mind that part of our power in the marketplace is our purchasing power, and by choosing the biodegradable soap over the chemical soap, we are showing the market where our priorities are. This is a crucial lesson we can impart on our children as they become older.

Don’t underestimate the impact that modeling values and making small energetic contributions has on those around you, particularly, your immediate friends, family, and employees. Get your family and your team in on your philanthropy brainstorm and you will be stunned at the creative ways people can come up with to help. As business leaders, it’s part of the responsibility to govern wisely, to stay informed, and to inspire a brighter future. And as women, we come to that naturally.

Me Time: How Executive Moms Carve Out Essential Alone Time

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Any mom with a high power job will tell you: if they don’t get their rest, their exercise, and quality time alone, it’s no more Mrs. Nice Gal. But how do we make that time with all the deadlines, meetings, and pressures of the workday, plus the daily demands of families? As more and more women enter top positions in the business world, the business world itself is changing. We examined how these female decision-makers have gotten creative with their time, energy, and effort so that they can afford to take that much-deserved time for themselves. Here are some effective strategies:

Identify when you need alone time

This is the first and most important thing we just don’t do. The symptoms are obvious: sore neck, diminished patience, and a lack of focus, just to name a few. Take a breath when you get here. Tell yourself you cannot do it all at this very moment and it will all be there when you get back. Then take a look at your calendar and block some time out for something calming, fun, or energizing.

Don’t mistake exercise for alone time

Staying healthy and energized is crucial, but it’s not the same as alone time. Alone time is for enjoyment, unwinding, learning, and relaxing. The objectives are very different and even if alone time only happens for an hour a week, it’s about feeding your soul.

Shift your schedule according to your own productive clock

Short bursts of concentrated attention are the quickest way from A to B. Give up on multi-tasking, and practice immersive focus during your peak windows of productivity. That way, your highest priorities in terms of work are met first, and you can allocate other lesser tasks among your team. Some moms get crafty by taking calls from overseas partners very early in the morning, then they have time for a leisurely breakfast with the family before school. You are the boss, so you determine the clock.

Flex day

This is a key piece of creative scheduling, a day every week, usually Thursday or Friday, where you have no set tasks, where you can pick up the work-related loose ends, but you might also schedule yourself a massage or take a long walk and listen to your favorite music in the middle of the day.

10-minute mindfulness

This is a practice that has caught on like wildfire among management professionals. If you don’t have the luxury of the 30-minute walk, shut the door, sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Even after just three minutes, you will feel your body relax, and your mind will follow. There are some great apps that can walk you through it in the beginning. This counts as alone time.

Outsource

Most executive moms hire a cleaning service, but there are all kinds of other domestic details that hog up time and don’t require your expert hands. For example, get pre-prepared meals delivered to your door, so you are still involved in the food but not julienning the carrots for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a personal assistant, employ Task Rabbit for pesky things like dry-cleaning, art hanging, furniture moving, or other one-off chores. If you have teens, they can also pick up the slack as part of their weekly responsibilities.

Band together

There are certainly moms in your area in the same boat, and having a group where you can bounce ideas, trade off with school pick ups and sleepovers, and call if there is an urgent need– this kind of networking is sanity itself. It may take a little time, and your children will often determine who your friends are by proxy, but there are plenty of online networks and communities too.

Trade alone time blocks with your partner

Utilize that healthy give and take with your significant other, even if you have to schedule out alone time a few weeks in advance. It’s a basic generosity that when reciprocated, you will appreciate it that much more. Get into a rhythm of knowing who is in more need of that break and be flexible. As long as both of you are sensitive to the other’s stresses, you will work better as a team.

Line your kids’ activities up with your alone time

If they have soccer or dance, that’s when you nip over to the café for a latte and a good book. Check out an art gallery, or even go window shopping. Feed your brain a little while they are immersed in their after school projects.

Mini-vacay

When you can squeeze it in, take an entire day just for yourself. Go wine tasting, shopping, or do a yoga retreat or a day spa. Spoil yourself rotten and shut off your phone. Really, you deserve it. The world will not fall apart.

As mothers, we are programmed, partly by nature and partly by nurture, to fret over our families and feel guilty going off on our own. Now we also fret over our companies at the same time. We don’t take that time because we think it’s shirking responsibility or we won’t enjoy ourselves because we’ll just worry the whole time.

However, when we do allow ourselves that time, we find we are much more on it at work, we are more present and patient with our families, and we have something to talk about with our friends. Really taking that time does everyone a favor. Especially you.

Lifelong Readers: 5 Kid Bloggers to Encourage Your Little Storyteller

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Everything about reading is changing: the medium with which we read, the content we read, even the style of storytelling changes. It can be challenging for books to compete with the wow-inducing movies and videogames that offer so much stimulation and immediacy. However, in this era of digital everything, the ability to write and read well has never been more important.

For middle schoolers who have trouble following a narrative, sometimes a more exciting alternative is to write their own story. Kids are producing some of the most interesting content on the web today, content that is, obviously, very relevant to other kids. And making their own is a way of “backing them in” to the concept of storytelling with words and images. Here is a list of kid bloggers doing some exceptional and inspiring work that you can show to your kids.

1. Crème de la Crop. She started blogging when she was 9, so by now at the age of 12, Indonesian fashion blogger Evita Meh is pretty great at it. She covers other topics and her photos are really artful and beautiful.http://jellyjellybeans.blogspot.com/

2. Kidblog. This site can help your child start their own blog! It’s very easy and intuitive, you will be amazed by how fast they pick it up: http://kidblog.org/home/

3. Spencer Tweedy. Son of the famed Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Spencer is a musician himself and a budding photographer. http://spencertweedy.com/

4. Gloson Blog. Gloson is a tech guru from Malaysia. At 13, he is interested in social media and he also has a page entitled “Funny Poetry”. http://www.glosonblog.com/

5. LibDem Child. Maelo Manning is a 12 year old Londoner who comments on politics.http://libdemchild.blogspot.com/

The great thing about blogging is that kids feel capable of developing their own unique voice and seeing their own expressions unfold over time. They also become interested in reading other peoples’ work. This is a great re-entry point for books, because now they are given a context. A lifelong reader has a great relationship with all forms of content and one way to help foster that is to invite them to produce their own stories and interests.

6 Things that Kids can do to Volunteer as an After School Activity

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We would all like to do more to help out. Here are some ways we can encourage our kids to make it a habit.

Some of us have more free time than others, and as busy parents, we often wish we could volunteer or be more available to those we care about. But for kids who get out of school at 3pm each day, those couple hours before homework and dinner can be put to good use in the community or at home. Here are some helpful ideas that can be fun and rewarding.

  1.  Help a neighbor with the yard work. If you live near a retiree or a grandparent, have your able bodied drop by once a week and rake leaves or trim hedges. Even 30 minutes is an act of kindness, a little outdoor time and always deeply appreciated.
  1.  Tutor a younger child. One of the best ways to learn is to teach, a wise teacher once said. When older kids help out a younger sibling or a neighbor, they not only cement their own skills, but they take a certain amount of pride in being able to effectively relay information.
  1. Crafting Holiday Gifts. Children love making things anyway, why not get the jump on the holiday season? Try homemade bath salts, soap and soap dishes, or a photo collage.
  1. Raise Funds for Charity. There are many ways to raise money for a good cause that don’t involve going door-to-door with a box of year old candy bars. Now with crowd sourcing and social media, kids can start their own campaigns or do grass roots work right from their laptop or tablet.
  1. Community Garden. Urban food growing projects are picking up steam all over the country and there is always work that needs to be done. Kids of all ages love to get their hands in the dirt and learn how to grow things. Bonus: picky eaters will often be more apt to try new things if they have grown them first.
  1. Animal Adoption Programs. Humane Societies always need volunteers and some even have programs for kids to come in and spend time with the animals, feed or even walk dogs.

Contributing is good for kids and while they may resist the idea at first, they will eventually find something that offers them the lasting satisfaction of a job well done. It also helps them take a break from their own busy schedules and keeps them active. And that helps everyone.

Top Five Executive Tips Learned from My Eastern European Parents

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When you’re a child, input from your parents can at times seem unfair or unrealistic based on your inexperienced views on life at that given time.  But as you grow and develop, your gratitude does as well, and you realize just how much impact these lessons can really have.  

While I did greatly respect my parents even when I was young, a lot of the accuracy and influence of their actions and advice didn’t truly hit me until I was an adult, wearing many different hats and trying to keep things in balance.  My parents’ Eastern European upbringing and experiences were different than my own in the U.S., but our home here was none-the-less an Eastern European household, and my siblings and I were raised with English as our second language.  I was also exposed to my parents’ Eastern European ways, and the wisdom that resulted – amazingly useful life lessons that were ultimately handed down to me.  The fact that my parents didn’t just talk the talk, but also walked the walk, provided a greater illustration, especially to a child, and even to recall now.

I’ve had some time to not only appreciate these lessons, but to also put them to good use in my own adult life.  It’s important that as business leaders, women support each other, in a similar way to how my parents’ unique experiences and input have supported me.  So let me share with you a glimpse into some of the invaluable teachings my parents have brought into my life:

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#1: When you first wake up, wake up!  If you snooze, you lose.

This may sound a bit silly initially, but you will quickly see what a real difference it can make.  When that alarm goes off each morning, it’s time to get up and get started with your day.  When you snooze, you are essentially missing out on officially starting your day on the right foot.  Splash cold water on your face, wake up, and face the day – straight on.  This solid piece of advice that gets your day off to the right start probably came from the fact that in the village my parents were raised in, there were no options.  If you didn’t get up for the day, you didn’t eat.   

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#2: Work is work.  If it were fun, it would be called fun. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to enjoy your work, but you always have to remain realistic that work is work.  This comes from the mentality that there needs to be a solid work ethic driving your life.  You should tackle your job with pride and get it done to the best of your ability.  I well remember my dad coming home from his 30+year position, and every night, we would ask how his workday was.  The answer was always, “Work is work,” and then the conversation was over.  In some ways, he left that at the job, and was then able to be fully engaged with our family.  This principle was crucial for me to learn first-hand.  While at the time, I did want to know more, hear the work stories, etc., now I can clearly appreciate leaving the office at the office, following suit with my own family.

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#3. The Hostess with the Most-ess; always be ready to host.

I don’t know any self-respecting Eastern European household that isn’t host-on-the-go ready.  While I may not have inherited the skill to be able to duplicate recipes on a dime, the always-ready-to-host mentality is forever engrained.  Eastern European households are always this way, and it sets a strong example for both being a gracious host in your own home, and also in the office setting.  Properly welcoming people sets the type of warm tone and environment we all want, supporting communication, comfort, and productivity.

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#4. Live within your means: Budget and budget wisely.

In my own personal experience, both my parents worked hard to put their kids first.  Each of us received a college education and a car when we turned 16, and this on the budgets of two middle-class workers.  To this day, I still am puzzled on how they did this, while leaving work at work.  They were able to stretch their budget and all while not incurring debt.  Quite frankly, this is still a mystery, but if I go back in time, my parents didn’t go on vacations, spend on fancy cars, or even go out to eat more often than once or twice a year.  It is those little things sometimes that add up, and they were incredible financial planners.

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#5. Family first, no matter what. 

Last but not least is family first.  While all the above are in motion, you can’t lose sight of setting your priorities straight.  If you can stay focused and organized, and also prioritize, a lot of your efforts will fall into place for not only you, but for the benefit of your entire family.  My parents saw a lot of changes in their lives, as we all will, but your family is there no matter what.  Don’t lose sight of that, even on rough days.

One of the nicest ways any of us can honor our parents or show our gratitude is by taking and keeping such gems of wisdom, passing them along to others, and putting them to use, no matter where our own lives take us – in business and beyond.  Keeping these tips in mind during the course of a busy day helps you to have perspective, maintain balance, and prioritize with heart.

The Farmers Market and the Future of Family Health

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For some of us, getting the kids to eat is a herculean task. We usually give up and resort to pizza or mac and cheese because at least that’s something, right?

Not to chide, but it’s not. Children in the US are suffering from diseases that are a direct result of poor nutrition. In 2014, an estimated 29.1 million Americans had diabetes.

The slow food movement is a response to commercial, artificial, mass-produced food that has wrecked havoc on our nation’s health and even our sensibilities. Drive-thrus and TV dinners have diminished the value of cooking and eating together as a family. And corporate groceries have replaced the ancient tradition of meeting in the town center to buy and sell surplus. The farmers market trend hopes to counteract the side effects of big agriculture and big business, and communities nationwide have responded with enthusiasm.

In 2013, there were over 8,000 local growers markets nationwide.1

What does that mean for kids? A whole new way of eating. Actually, more of a return to the old way.

Alice Waters is the proprietor of the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, CA, and is often credited with spearheading the slow food movement in the US. Beyond her Michelin Stars, she is also responsible for the Edible Schoolyard Project, which provides children from kindergarten to eighth grade with a culinary education. Kids not only get to an introduction to the diverse bounty of fruits and veggies, they also plant and cultivate and prepare meals.

Check out what the kids at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School are doing as part of the Edible Schoolyard:

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Waters started the project because she was acutely aware that most school age children don’t know that a potato makes a french fry. She understood that food presents children with all kinds of learning opportunities: math, history, science and geography are all woven into agriculture. The program doesn’t place so much emphasis on cooking and farming as a vocation, but rather uses food as a touchstone to explore other subjects.

Working with plants and preparing food is a full sensory experience that introduces smells, textures and flavors. The more exposure children receive, the more likely they are to try new things, to experiment with tastes, and to think of cooking as a basic skill when they participate in planting and harvesting. Plus, they get to be outside and interact with community.

Some tips for broadening your child’s palette:

  • Give them a little spending cash and let them pick out one favorite thing and one thing they have never tried.
  • Try fresh fruit that they can help blend with yogurt and make into popsicles.
  • Encourage them to ask questions; farmers love to talk about their products.
  • Get recipes. Farmers are veritable wellsprings of information on how to prepare tasty meals with their ingredients. Ask them how they cook their food.
  • Pick a few of your kids’ favorite meals and incorporate fresh produce.
  • Enforce the “No Thank You” bite. They only get to refuse it after they have tasted it.
  • Keep trying. Pediatricians say that kids need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they will eat it. Parents often give up after one or two tries.
  • Try different colors.
  • Don’t make it into an issue. Sometimes insisting will backfire.
  • Enjoy it yourself. Sometimes a little peer pressure goes a long way. When the rest of the family is clearly enjoying themselves, kids want to get in on the action.

For busy families, making the shift from processed, pre-made food can seem like a hassle, but there are so many advantages to visiting your local farmers market, and many of them are fun! Not only are you doing something together, you are interacting with your community, supporting local agriculture and ensuring your family gets their vitamins.

Resources:

  1. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/

Greening Your House: 7 Easy Things Exec Parents Can Do to Reduce Waste, Conserve Energy, and Save Money

Teach you family good habits that will have a positive impact on their health, and the health of the planet.


Climate change has become a central topic at both UN and the dinner table. If your children are school age, they will likely be focusing on this important issue in class. While none of us can save the world on our own, there are many things we can be doing at home to help lessen our impact on Mother Earth.

As parents, we want to set our children up for a future that is brighter, healthier, and more peaceful than our own. Need some pointers? These are simple but effective changes that you can institute to save energy and money while reducing your personal footprint.

1. Bring your bags for shopping.

Many cities now have initiatives on the ballot to outlaw plastic bags altogether. Plastic bags require 12 million tons of oil to produce annually, only 1 in 200 is ever recycled, and biologists now estimate that every square mile of ocean has approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it1. Yuck! Consumers are getting wise to this and realizing the convenience of using reusable bags for transport as well as glass containers for food storage instead of sealable bags. Within a month, it will be habit to throw your shopping bags in the back of your car. Retailers really appreciate it too.

2. Shop at you local farmer’s market.

There are so many reasons to seek out your local producers and give them your money. 1) The food didn’t burn fuel flying from Argentina to get to you, 2) It’s often organic and less expensive than at your chain grocery store, 3) it’s a really fun family outing that can incorporate shared meal planning for your week, and 4) you get delicious, healthy, fresh food that helps support the people in your community.

3. Swap disposable bottled water for filtered tap and get a heavy-duty glass bottle.

Store bought water may be the most successful marketing campaign of the last 30 years – to our detriment. Through persuasive advertising, soda companies convinced the public that municipal water was dirty and bottled water was pure and straight from the source, when in fact, it’s the opposite. Bottled water is less regulated than most city water, and it takes three times the water to manufacture one container of the same amount2. So every time you drink one bottle of disposable water, you are consuming four. For home or in the office, get your own BPA-free high-density plastic or reinforced glass bottle saves water, petroleum, and landfill.

4. Insulate your water heater and turn it down to 120° F.

You can dial back your spending on utilities with this quick fix, as well as replacing your shower head with an efficient water-saving fixture, and upgrading your thermostat, because the latest models are programmable and can actually talk to your smart phone. Many utility providers also offer incentives to replace older water heaters.

5. Use your skylights and windows during the day.

Isn’t it weird that we construct our homes so that we have to use power to light them? Opening up your curtains and blinds can reduce down the time that your lights are on, and replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs also saves a significant amount of energy. Something else to keep in mind: with a day or two’s worth of disruption, you can have sky tubes installed, letting concentrated natural light in through your roof, replacing your overhead lighting during the. It brightens the house beautifully and in the long-terms saves you electricity. Bonus: this is also mood enhancing, especially during the winter months.

6. Get into gardening.

By planting small bushes or trees strategically around the house, you can cut down on your heating bill in the summer. While few busy working parents have time to really do it up in the garden, having a compost bin and keeping a few evergreen herbs plants around is astonishingly simple and means that your food waste is not trash, but easily converted fuel. Bonus: you get fresh herbs for most of the year.

7. Say goodbye to junk mail and go paperless.

The average household in American receives 41 pounds of junk mail a year!3 If you happen to be a coupon clipper, use the Internet; those same retailers offer great deals online. Companies have carte blanche to send you as much useless paper as they want, as long as they have your address. Non-profits like GreenDimes and 41pounds.org can streamline the process of taking you name off of all those mailing lists. In addition, sitting down for just a few minutes and selecting the paperless billing options for your credit card, phone, electricity, and gas bills saves you time and saves them paper. Less clutter, less waste.

All these greening suggestions will innately save time, resources and, frankly, guilt. You can feel good about your home and illustrate pro-action to your kids. Moreover, with bigger projects like solar power, improved insulation, and eco-friendly roofing, you can put them on your list for the future as worthy investments. By the time our children are adults, HVAC and fossil-fuel powered vehicles will be a thing of the past. Making these changes now puts us incrementally closer to a cleaner, greener world.


References:

1. http://www.reuseit.com/facts-and-myths/learn-more-facts-about-the-plastic-bag-pandemic.htm

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norm-schriever/post_5218_b_3613577.html

3. http://www.livescience.com/11357-10-ways-green-home.html