The Benefits of Vitamin D for Mental Health

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When you think of vitamin D, you likely think of the sun. Does thinking of the warm sun shining on your face make you happy? Well, there’s actually science to back up the significant role that vitamin D plays on our mental health. Let’s explore

What is Vitamin D?

You may have heard vitamin D referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” before. That’s because vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to sunlight. The body naturally produces vitamin D when directly exposed to sunlight, but you can also get it through foods and supplements to ensure you have enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D to Fight Depression

Research shows that vitamin D may play an integral role in regulating mood and fighting depression. One study found that depressed people who received a vitamin D supplement noticed their symptoms improve.

Research points to vitamin D’s role in regulating serotonin and calcium for its possible therapeutic impact on depression when vitamin D levels are boosted.

Vitamin D to Fight Anxiety

A separate study of people with fibromyalgia found that vitamin D deficiency was more common in people experiencing anxiety and depression. Another study of children also found that kids who were vitamin D deficient experiencing significantly higher levels of anxiety and stress than their peers.

Vitamin D and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that causes people to lose touch with reality. This often leads to psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

Researchers have discovered that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have significantly lower levels of vitamin D than normal, in addition to being more likely to live in parts of the world with less sun exposure.

A number of studies have also found that insufficient sunlight or vitamin D supplementation as an infant increases the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.

So, how can you get some more vitamin D in your life to reap the mental health benefits?

vitamin d and mental health, vitamin d deficiency and mental health, lack of vitamin d and mental health, low vitamin d and mental health

Get outdoors!  Soak up the sun and enjoy the mood-boosting effects.  Just don’t forget the SPF!

 


vitamin d and mental health, vitamin d deficiency and mental health, lack of vitamin d and mental health, low vitamin d and mental health
Light therapy is a daily treatment that involves a dose of intense artificial light— something more commonly associated with the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, but it has also been proven to be effective for treating other forms of non-seasonal depression such as major depression and bipolar. In fact,  studies show that light therapy has similar effectiveness to pharmaceutical treatments. You can even do light therapy from home with at-home lightboxes

 

vitamin d and mental health, vitamin d deficiency and mental health, lack of vitamin d and mental health, low vitamin d and mental healthVitamin D supplements: You can purchase Vitamin D supplements at your local grocery store or pharmacy. They come in a pill form that you can take every morning to help increase and regulate mood. Ideally your levels should be at 40-60 mg/ml year round.

 

Increase Vitamin D in your diet: Try to incorporate more vitamin D-rich foods into your everyday meals, such as fish oil, milk, egg yolks, mushrooms and vitamin-d fortified foods.

 

 

The Lockdown’s Effect on Mental Health

mental health, mental health awareness month, mental health services, mental health quotes

Lockdowns, gyms being closed, holidays alone, and being separated from classmates, friends, and family members are just a few of the factors that have made the pandemic extremely hard on mental health. In fact, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic.

Let’s take a closer look now at the impact COVID-19 is having on mental health.

Anxiety and Depression During the Lockdown

Before the pandemic had even made it to the United States, it was wreaking havoc on the mental health of people in China. Half a dozen studies with more than 10,000 respondents showed that people experienced worse mental health problems than before the pandemic, including high symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Up to half of the respondents showed serious signs of depression, and 35 percent showed serious anxiety. Studies find that the stress and anxiety fueled by the pandemic also cause poor sleep, creating a vicious cycle. The more we lay awake worrying at night, concerned about the pandemic, the worse our mental health becomes.

Loneliness During the Lockdown

Stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and travel restrictions have left people feeling more isolated than normal. 1 in 7 U.S. adults said they were often or always feeling lonely in April 2020, up more than 25 percent from 2018. However, we also saw a shift to more FaceTime calls and Zoom hangouts, and these things contributed to respondents in a separate study reporting feelings of “remarkable resilience.” So, not only did they not become lonely during the pandemic, but they gained a greater sense of community support.

mental health, mental health awareness month, mental health services, mental health quotes

Domestic Violence During the Lockdown

Another unfortunate side effect of the pandemic and a major contributor to stress, shame, and anxiety is a spike in domestic violence worldwide. Sixty percent of people who were experiencing domestic violence pre-pandemic report the violence worsened during the pandemic. This is likely caused by increased stress, unemployment, spending more time at home, and shelters being forced to close their doors. The threat of abuse compounds the stress, anxiety, and fear that a lot of victims were already experiencing during the pandemic.

The Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 are Worse for Disadvantaged Groups

Researchers worldwide set out to discover what else was making people vulnerable to mental health issues during COVID-19. They found that among the risk factors were people with poor health or chronic conditions who have a higher tendency of stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Researchers also found education and income played a role. The less stable the income and education, studies showed, the more anxiety, depression, and stress experienced.

Vital Self-Care Tools

  • If you can’t physically see loved ones doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself. Lean on virtual chats with tools like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.
  • Physical activity is vital for mental health so make sure to make time for it even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. We can mental health, mental health awareness month, mental health services, mental health quotesnever underestimate the power of physical activity on our mental and emotional well-being.
  • Taking a moment each day for positive reflection will ensure that a part of each day has been dedicated to your well-being.
  • Don’t hesitate to create a support system with friends, family and others who can relate.  Seek out online support groups.
  • Talk to your health care professional who can guide you through these difficult times and give you more resources.
  • Eating a healthy well balanced diet will create a positive environment from inside out.

Effects of Lockdowns on Teen Nutrition

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Covid lockdowns have either been a hit or miss amongst teenagers. Some have taken these lockdowns as an opportunity to self-improve, while others have fallen into poor habits. Many have found themselves binge-eating and snacking frequently due to boredom, oftentimes these snacks are not the healthiest choices either. In addition, the lack of physical activity along with poor eating habits and nutrition will further result in a major increase in diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular pathologies, etc. in the upcoming generation of young adults.

Symptoms of Poor  Teen Nutrition

 

teen nutrition, nutrition lessons for teens, how nutrition affects teen's mental health, daily nutrition for teens

Poor nutrition alone in teens can result in:

  • Skin problems (acne)
  • Poor bone health
  • Decrease in growth
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Mental health issues
  • Emotional health issues
  • Increased weight
  • Decreased energy

Furthermore, proper nutrition has been proven to help improve mental health and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and overall increase emotional health and energy. Being in lockdown, many teens have been experiencing a range of mental health issues, all of which can be bettered with proper nutrition. In a study conducted in 2013, it was found that teenagers who avoided eating processed foods and sugar while consuming a diet that consisted of a large number of vegetables, fruits, fish and grains had a 25-35% lower risk of developing depression than those who had poor nutritional diets.

How to improve teen nutrition and overall health

teen nutrition, nutrition lessons for teens, how nutrition affects teen's mental health, daily nutrition for teens

The challenge is not only in the choices that teenagers are making, but also for parents and families to create a healthy food environment and help guide these adolescents to develop the fundamental skills of good eating habits and proper nutrition. Although poor nutrition can cause life-long damage, awareness and action can reverse/avoid many of those damages from carrying on into adulthood. Luckily, there are many ways that teens can improve their nutrition and overall health. Some ways to do so include:

  • Eating three balanced meals everyday with healthy snacks in-between.
  • Increasing the amount of fiber eaten. This is beneficial because fiber is more filling and will lessen the urge to binge eat or snack.
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • Limiting the consumption of red meat. Chicken and fish are great alternatives to red meat due to the fact that red meat contains more saturated fat.
  • Switching out juices and carbonated drinks for water.
  • Physical activity. It is important for teenagers to get at least 60 minuets of exercise daily. Exercise is essential because it helps with muscle gain, weight control, improve mental health, and reducing the risks of developing health conditions and heart diseases.

Snack Ideas

teen nutrition, nutrition lessons for teens, how nutrition affects teen's mental health, daily nutrition for teens

To conclude, here are some examples of easy snack switches to help improve your nutrition.

  • Chips -> Kale chips
  • Chips/crackers and dip -> Vegetables and hummus
  • Cookies -> Fruit with nut butter
  • Ice cream -> Frozen Greek yogurt covered fruits
  • Chocolate -> Trail mix with dark chocolate

 

 

 

A Natural Approach To Hyperactivity & Focus In Kids

signs of attention deficit disorder

It is normal for kids to be boundless bundles of energies.  Constantly playing and imagining.  Usually it is something considered positive.  However, for some kids this boundless energy can interfere with their ability to concentrate, stay still, and learn to their fullest in school and can be signs of attention deficit disorder.

Inattention, hyperactivity, difficulty following instructions?  All of these can be signs that will prompt parents and teachers to consider evaluating a child for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Although there is great value in a proper medical evaluation to get your child care and attention they need, we should be cautious of labeling hyperactivity as pathologic or “bad.”

Whether your child is showing signs of attention deficit disorder or has officially received a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, there are some great options to try prior to turning to medication.

Nutrition & Diet

The first and most impactful place to start is diet.  Our current diets, and especially “kid friendly” diets, tend to be very carbohydrate heavy.  Lacking in fats and proteins.  Cereal, toast, waffles for breakfast.  Granola bars, crackers, fruit gummies, and yogurt as snacks.  Sandwiches, wraps, pasta, nuggets for lunch and dinner.  These are all very carb heavy choices.

This is not to vilify carbs as a food group.  However on their own they can cause problems.  Carbohydrates get broken down into sugar or glucose in the body.  Glucose is quick burning energy, meaning you get a fast boost in energy followed by a crash.  These crashes signal panic in the brain which can cause us to become cranky, upset, tired, and unable to focus.  Carb heavy diets also fuel sugar cravings as a way to “correct” the blood sugar crashes.  Click here to learn about he impact of Healthy Food for Kids and Easy Tips to Help Your Children and Teens Eat Healthier.

The Power Of Fats & Proteins

Each meal and snack should be balanced with a carbohydrate, a fat, and a protein.  Carbohydrates should be coming primarily from your fruits and vegetables, rather than from grains.  When you add fats and proteins, you prevent these lows in blood sugar.  This is because fats and proteins are slower burning sources of energy.  You’ll get your initial boost from carbohydrates and then instead of crashing, the fat and protein take over.

healthy fats and proteins

Healthy fat in particular is a great source of fuel for the brain.  Whereas carbs tend to be fuel for the muscles.  Healthy fats include nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados, fish, olive oil, and coconut oil.  High quality cheese and plain Greek yogurt can also be good sources of fat and protein.

It is also worth mentioning that some kids may have food sensitivities which can cause inflammation in their body.  Inflammation makes it very difficult to focus.  If the above changes aren’t helping, this may be the next step.

Lifestyle Considerations

Keep your kids as active as positive.  Children are constantly growing and developing their brains and motor skills.  If they have unused energy, they will not want to sit still and focus so provide them with an appropriate outlet.  Consider allowing kids outdoor time or physical play time prior to asking them to sit down to do school work.  Also, consider exercise balls as alternatives to chairs for school work.  This provides a physical outlet for unused energy so that they can focus more effectively.

Signs Of Attention Deficit Disorder Linked With Screen Time

We are also now seeing new studies that show the impact of electronics and screen time on hyperactivity in kids.  Preschoolers exposed to two hours or more of screen time daily were 7 time more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.  Screen time, outside of school specific requirements, should be limited to less than 2 hours per day.

Signs Of Attention Deficit Disorder Linked With Screen Time

Dr. John Demartini Discusses Mental Health, ADD & Family Relationships

Avoid  screens for the first two hours after waking up and for the last two hours before bed.  This prevents blue lights from impacting your child’s circadian rhythm which controls their sleep quality and wakefulness.  Also, children should not be using screens when they are eating.  Over stimulation and multitasking will make it difficult for your kids to focus on just one task.  Click here for to read, “Is Today’s Technology Destroying Your Health?”

Natural Alternatives To Drugs

There are several great nutritional supplements and herbs that have been shown in research to be effective alternatives to common pharmaceutical recommendations.  However, you should always consult with a health care provider prior to starting anything with your kids.  Just because something is natural does not mean that it is the safe or effective for your child.  Allow an expert to direct you.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Or Fish Oils

These are a great option for improving brain health and focus.  They have been shown to improve attention in both kids diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and in kids without the diagnosis.  Omega-3s are great anti-inflammatories and reducing inflammation in the brain allows for better functioning and concentration.

Herbs

There are also several herbs that can be used as natural alternatives to medications.  Saffron has recently been shown to be just as effective as methylphenidate in improving inattention and hyperactivity.  Ginkgo biloba, Panax Ginseng, and Bacopa monnieri are additional herbs that have been shown to improve attention and hyperactivity.  Although, they were not compared to standard medications.  For more information, click here to read, “Backyard Medicine – Grow Your Own Natural Remedies”.

Final Thoughts

It is important to remember that a natural approach is all about treating the root cause.  With inattention and hyperactivity, it is not about calming down kids and making them focus.  It is about finding out why they are having trouble to begin with and addressing that concern.  The process will take time, but the results can last into adulthood.

If you are looking for a more natural approach for your kids, the best place to start is with a consult with a health care provider.  This ensures that recommendations are tailored to your child’s specific needs.  Just because something works for one child, does not mean it will for every child.  Everyone needs an individualized health plan designed for their unique constitution.  Click here to access our Family Health Center Directory to locate a health professional near you.

The Author – Dr. Melissa Bucking ND

I am licenced naturopathic doctor serving the Halton region in Ontario.  Health education and empowering my patients to take control of their own health is something I am very passionate about.  I have a special interest in digestive health, cognition & brain health, as well as fertility.  Book a free 15 minute consult today to learn more about my approach and how I can help you!

Diabetes Education For Children Living With Type 2 Diabetes

diabetes education

Aссоrdіng tо thе CDC (Cеntеrѕ Fоr Dіѕеаѕе Cоntrоl & Prеvеntіоn), approximately 2 mіllіоn teenagers in thе United Stаtеѕ hаvе рrе-dіаbеtеѕ.  Furthermore, thе numbеr of сhіldrеn who are dіаgnоѕеd with type 2 dіаbеtеѕ is rаріdlу increasing.  Sadly, the average аgе of оnѕеt of people living with diabetes іѕ gеttіng уоungеr.  In fact, did you know that tуре 2 dіаbеtеѕ didn’t exist аt аll until 1926?  AND, іt wаѕ соmрlеtеlу unhеаrd оf іn children untіl vеrу rесеntlу.  Thіѕ іѕ ALARMING and why diabetes education is so important!

Whу Do Sо Mаnу Chіldrеn Hаvе Tуре 2 Diabetes & Prе-Dіаbеtеѕ?

Chіldrеn used to grоw uр еаtіng whоlеѕоmе healthy fооd.

  • Eggѕ dіdn’t соmе wіth hоrmоnеѕ and thеу соntаіnеd lоtѕ of omega-3.
  • Oаtѕ didn’t соmе рrе-сооkеd, dеfіbеrіzеd, аnd lасеd wіth trans fаt, hіgh fructose соrn ѕуruр, аnd ready to bе nuked.  Oаtѕ and оthеr grаіnѕ wеrе slow сооkеd.  Full оf fiber аnd nutrіеntѕ.
  • Cows ѕtіll ate grаѕѕ аnd wеrеn’t shot up wіth hоrmоnеѕ and аntіbіоtісѕ.  In addition, dаіrу products wеrе еxtrеmеlу healthy and nutritious.
  • Bееf and сhісkеn ѕtіll tаѕtеd lіkе bееf and chicken.  They wеrеn’t full оf hormones and аntіbіоtісѕ.  Bееf USED TO BE аn excellent source оf оmеgа-3 whеn соwѕ still аtе grаѕѕ.
  • Kіdѕ drank hоrmоnе-frее mіlk with аlmоѕt еvеrу meal.  NOT ѕоdа рор аnd alleged “fruіt juice” full оf hіgh fruсtоѕе corn syrup аnd artificial сhеmісаl flаvоrіngѕ.
  • Dinner did not come рrе-расkаgеd іn a bоx loaded wіth trans fаt, high fructose соrn ѕуruр, аnd additives lіkе MSG to mаkе uр for the loss оf actual flаvоr.  Nо meal included gеnеtісаllу mоdіfіеd, hіghlу processed, dеhуdrаtеd, and ѕоmеtіmеѕ reconstituted in раrt “vegetables.”
  • Real vegetables with rеаl nutrіеntѕ аnd real fiber came straight frоm thе gаrdеn оr from nеаrbу fаrmѕ.  Almоѕt еvеrу family knew how AND participated in the аrt of ‘рuttіng uр‘ fruits аnd vegetables fоr the winter.  They wеrе still full оf fiber, nutrіеntѕ, аnd yes TASTE.

Snacks

A tурісаl аftеr ѕсhооl ѕnасk wаѕ a ріесе оf fruіt, a peanut buttеr ѕаndwісh WITHOUT thе trаnѕ fаt or hіgh fructose соrn ѕуruр mіxеd іn!  Or, as a special treat, a fеw home mаdе сооkіеѕ mаdе frоm ѕсrаtсh wіth wholesome іngrеdіеntѕ with a glass оf hеаlthу milk.  I ѕhuddеr whеn I really stop to thіnk аbоut whаt kіdѕ еаt fоr ѕnасkѕ today!

Physical Activity

Children uѕеd tо walk tо school.  Wаlk tо the mоvіе theater.  Walk to thе store.  They had LONG rесеѕѕ where thеу participated іn рhуѕісаl асtіvіtіеѕ.  Rаn аrоund аftеr ѕсhооl and PLAYED OUTSIDE.  Thеу ѕсrеаmеd, thеу yelled, thеу jumреd for jоу. Thеу were ACTIVE.

Stress!

In general, сhіldrеn used tо be FAR LESS STRESSED.  Kіdѕ didn’t wоrrу аbоut being ѕhоt by their сlаѕѕmаtе.  Sсhеdulеѕ wеrе not ԛuіtе ѕо hectic.  Kids didn’t hаvе to grow uр ѕо fast аnd wоrrу аbоut аdult matters quite ѕо ѕооn.

In thе most generic ѕеnѕе, I doubt іt is аnу big mуѕtеrу whу ѕо many kids are developing diabetes – оr at lеаѕt іt shouldn’t bе!  It іѕ mоѕt сеrtаіnlу related tо the сhаngе іn dіеt, thе drаmаtіс dесrеаѕе іn рhуѕісаl асtіvіtу, and thе еlеvаtеd сhrоnіс stress.

What All Parents Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes Nutrition

Living With Diabetes & Diabetes Education

Wе need to еngаgе thе media!

Use them to get thе truth оut and discuss the need for diabetes education!  Trаnѕ fаt, high fruсtоѕе соrn syrup, gеnеtісаllу mоdіfіеd and food аddіtіvеѕ.  All thе rеаѕоnѕ for thе lоw quality dаіrу products.  Thе reasons fоr low quality mеаt рrоduсtѕ.  The dangers оf mоdеrn mаѕѕіvе-ѕсаlе рrоfіt-drіvеn fооd processing, еtс, еtс… If wе can’t ѕаvе оurѕеlvеѕ, lеt’ѕ trу to ѕаvе оur children оr оur сhіldrеn’ѕ children. Click here to read, Are You Eating Junk Food Without Realizing It?

We need tо DRAMATICALLY сhаngе the dіеt of our сhіldrеn.

Eliminating аll trans fat аnd hіgh fruсtоѕе corn ѕуruр іѕ a good step in thе right dіrесtіоn.  Thеѕе аrе роіѕоnѕ thаt CAUSE diabetes.  Eаtіng оrgаnіс eliminates gеnеtісаllу mоdіfіеd оrgаnіѕmѕ.  Stop buуіng рrосеѕѕеd fооd.  Put ѕоmе REAL fооd оn thе table!!!  Teach оur сhіldrеn better eating hаbіtѕ.  Bоусоtt ѕсhооl lunches until they еlіmіnаtе the рrосеѕѕеd food, trаnѕ fаt, high fructose соrn ѕуruр, genetically mоdіfіеd оrgаѕmѕ, еtс….Click here to read, How to Encourage Children to Eat Vegetables.

We nееd tо bе a LOUD vоісе!

Bring bасk rесеѕѕ and physical activity tо оur сhіldrеn’ѕ lives.  Mауbе thіѕ ѕhоuld bе lеgіѕlаtіvеlу mаndаtеd.  Get thе PTA’s and оthеr parent оrgаnіzаtіоnѕ involved.  Speak оut at local public meetings.  Eduсаtе уоur nеіghbоrѕ, frіеndѕ, аnd fаmіlу.  Click here to read, Is Today’s Technology Destroying Your Health?

Find ways to еlіmіnаtе ѕtrеѕѕ frоm оur сhіldrеn’ѕ lіvеѕ.

Hеlр them lеаrn tо cope bеttеr with stress.  Try to сrеаtе аn environment where they gеt mоrе sleep.  Click here to read,  5 Natural Solutions For Coping With Stress!

There are many things that are out of our control when it comes to our children.  However, after reading this article, I hope you are able understand and more importantly implement this knowledge.  Living with diabetes doesn’t have to be in your children’s future.

Asthma In Kids Can Be Decreased By Just Doing This!

Asthma In Kids

Every parent wants to do what is best for their children. But, is having a family dog, a good idea, especially when it comes to asthma in kids? Well, I strongly woof you to appreciate that Fido has served your children well and has actually reduced their chances of developing childhood asthma!

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a sporadic inflammatory disease that affects the airways and the lungs and is one of the leading chronic inflammatory diseases in children worldwide. Often, it presents as tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and wheezing sounds.  It can be very scary to experience!

kids health

What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is often triggered by airborne environmental and genetic factors that include:

Asthma cannot be cured completely; but with a proper lifestyle, it can be well managed and controlled. However, what if we could drastically reduce the risk of developing it in the first place?

How dogs can reduce the risk of childhood asthma

Asthma Study

Research confirms that having a family dog could have several health benefits, including decreasing your child’s risk of developing asthma. According to a research carried out by Dr. Tove Fall, a professor of epidemiology at the Uppsala University, children from the time of birth, raised with dogs, had an estimated 15% decreased asthma cases than children who were not raised with dogs.

This Swedish nation-wide study tracked 650,000 babies and found that babies who live on farms or have frequent exposure to farm animals within the first year of life, can reduce their risk of asthma by 52%. The results were robust and independent of parental asthma or whether the child was first-born.

Furthermore, kids who grow up with family dogs have a 15% lower risk of developing asthmacompared to kids who did not grow up with a dog.

Later, a 2018 follow up study was done to determine if the sex of dog or number of dogs would have an impact on results and here’s what it showed.

  • Children exposed to female dogs had lower risk of asthma compared to those exposed to male dogs.
  • Children with two dogs or more had lower risk of asthma than those with one dog only! 
best dogs for kids

In Conclusion

What we have learned from these studies is that pregnant women and young children can safely play and share time with farm animals and dogs knowing that it may indeed be serving them well. Especially when it comes to asthma in kids! The idea is that animals provide the body exposure to germs and microbes which improve immune function

However, if your children are older and have allergy induced asthma from dogs, adding a family dog to the equation is not the answer!  Research showed that exposure within the first year of life reduced the risks of asthma. This doesn’t necessarily mean your family can’t have a dog. There are some low to non-shedding breeds that some allergy and asthma sufferers are not sensitive to. These breeds include but are not limited to:

It is important to meet and share time with a possible future fur-family member to test allergy sensitivity before making the commitment. If you are thinking of planning a family in the future, maybe having Fido join the team first would be a strategic health move! 

Other Articles You May Enjoy

Activities For Toddlers In Quarantine

Activities For Toddlers

Looking for activities for toddlers to do during quarantine, keeping them occupied, engaged AND learning? Check out these top tips and resources!

As you already know by now, the Coronavirus outbreak has already affected most parts of the world. This has resulted in special measures being put into place in an attempt to ‘plank‘ the spread of the virus such as the closing of schools and daycares. With no clear date in sight of reopening school doors, parents are now being challenged to come up with new and creative ways to keep their children occupied, engaged and learning from the comforts of their home.

As a parent of a toddler (and young baby) myself, I understand and certainly sympathise with other parents facing this same situation. It can be really difficult to know where to start and to find the appropriate tools while still obeying proper quarantine / social distancing guidelines. Especially when it comes to activities for toddlers. As such, I have put together a list of tips and resources that have been working for my family.

kids schedule

Create A Daily Schedule

If your child attended any sort of daycare/preschool/school, then following a daily schedule should be a familiar task.  Therefore creating structure and rules, like a set schedule to follow at home, is the perfect place to start.  In fact,  According to Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S, BCRPT-S (Pacific Spirit Play Therapy Resources);

“When parents provide structure, it means they are asserting and establishing their parental authority and control in a responsible manner in order to encourage healthy growth and development of their children.” –Providing Structure for Your Child: How to Assert Your Parental Authority

Start by breaking the day into blocks including tasks such as:

Depending on your child’s age you can also incorporate a ‘recess’. Perhaps this is a 15 minute break between activities to have a healthy snack, run around or let loose before moving on to the next item on the schedule.

One schedule that has been floating around and seems to tick off all the right boxes is this COVID-19 Daily Schedule.

covid-19 daily schedule

I particularly like this schedule because it incorporates all the topics I listed and gives examples on how to achieve each of them.

Another benefit to following a schedule like this is it allows the kids to still have some say.  Allowing your child to make their own choices within a given category will help keep them interested. Plus they can change up activities throughout the week depending on how they’re feeling and still get the benefits of learning. Also, when you include your children in the decision making, they are more likely to follow willingly in addition to learning a life skill.

Decision making is one of the most important skills your children need to develop to become healthy and mature adults. Decision making is crucial because the decisions your children make dictate the path that their lives take.” – Jim Taylor Ph.D.

how to play with your kids

Play And Activities To Do Together

According to Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.”

They go on to discuss the importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds.

So, what are some of the activities you can do with your child? Well, here are some of my favorite links I use to get ideas and keep things fun!

importance of reading to your children

Storytelling

There are incredible benefits of reading to your child which can start at a very young age. In fact, according to a study by Ohio State University;

“Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to. This ‘million word gap’ could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development.” 

There are several statistics and benefits which demonstrate the importance of parents reading to their children. Click here for a list of tops tips on how to read to your child in order to get the most out their literary experience.

Why do we need creativity?

Engage In Creative Tasks

Toddlers are curious and active by nature. So, you can’t simply expect your child to stay calm in the house for the whole day without any sort of proper engagement. Some great examples of activities that can keep your toddler interested and occupied include:

With such activities, you can enhance their imagination and creativity. Besides, such tasks can even help your kid discover their passion. Click here for a fantastic list of 20 ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS among additional tips and resources.

quality time with kids

Spend Quality Time With Them

Negative things always have some positivity in them. Before the self-isolation period, you may not have had enough time to be with your kids. However, you now have all the time to sit and listen to your kids. You can let your kid lead you to do what they love.

By taking such an approach, your kid will feel appreciated and in control. This can go a long way towards ensuring that your child does not get bored even when they have to spend most of their time indoors. Click here for some fun ways you can encourage quality time with your family.

Final Thoughts

You now know that even though your child has to stay in the house to meet the social distancing goal, there are still several activities for toddlers and older children you can do to keep them:

  • Active
  • Engaged
  • Stimulated
  • Learning

For another great resource for an ‘all in one’ learning experience at any age, click here to obtain Scolastic Learn At Home – day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking and growing.

Other articles you might be interested in:

Supporting Healthy Brain Development In Children

brain development

Childhood and adolescence is an important time for brain development. From the rapid growth that occurs even before a child is born, to the fine tuning of neural connections that occurs in adolescence. This is the time of life where the brain changes the most!

Experiences during this time best inform the brain on what is important and what is less important. Which neural connections it should keep and which ones are less necessary. This will set the stage for adult life. This is why it is so important for kids to have many experiences. Not only does this include all the wonderful, magical, joyful experiences of life but also the stressful, painful, uncomfortable experiences.

Provided children have supportive adult relationships and stable environments, short-term, moderately stressful experiences can help them form healthy coping strategies and wire their brains for coping with these situations in the future (1)In addition to providing stable environments and loving relationships. Here are some other ways to support healthy brain development in kids.

eating as a family

Optimizing Nutrition

Nutrition definitely doesn’t look the same for every child and changes throughout childhood as well. But here are some general nutrition tips that can help support healthy brain development once a child starts eating solid food

  1. Ensuring a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. The more variety and colour you can get in, the better. Setting an example is important here. Trying to convince a two-year-old to eat something that mom or dad doesn’t eat will likely be an uphill battle.
  2. Healthy fats.  Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, help support healthy brain development. This includes foods like; avocados, nuts and seeds. Also, olive oil, and fatty fish like mackerel, halibut, or anchovies. If you’re having trouble getting these foods in, a fish oil supplement may be helpful.
  3. Protein. This one more supports healthy muscles however is important to get in as well. High protein foods include things like fish, legumes, meat, nuts and seeds.
  4. Limited amounts of processed/pre-packaged foods and refined sugars. These foods are increasingly being shown to be linked to chronic inflammation and are usually best avoided.
  5. Sitting down for meals as a family. This helps foster connection, bonding, and the supportive environment that is so important for brain development. Especially if you can factor in some form of gratitude practice or prayer before the meal.

Click here to read, How To Encourage Children To Eat Vegetables .

brain development in children

Exercise

By this point in time, we probably all know the vast physical benefits of exercise. And yes there are studies to show that exercise even benefits kids. Not only does exercise increase self-esteem in children but it also appears to improve;

  • Cognition function
  • Executive function
  • Help in treatment of ADHD symptoms (2,3,4)

Playing outside is probably my favourite exercise for kids because as we’ll see in the next section, nature also helps foster healthy brain development. 

Spending time in nature helps mental health

Time In Nature

Spending time in nature promotes creativity and inspires wonder. When children are exploring in nature, they are learning with all of their senses. It also teaches them;

  • How to care for the environment
  • Brings a sense of mastery
  • Teaches that actions come with consequences

Activities for kids in nature can be as simple as going on a walk in the forest. Including your child in caring for a garden is also a great way to help them connect with nature. It helps them learn about consequences, build confidence and a sense of self-mastery.

meditation for kids

Mindfulness

Playing outside would cover this one too! Mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as allowing some time for kids to be bored and let their minds wander. 

You can even get involved with your children on this one and have a nightly bedtime meditation session. This would also establish a routine and contribute to a structured, stable environment that helps so much with healthy brain development. 

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Parents, try not be too hard on yourselves. Parenting is not an easy calling. It’s important to recognize when you’re trying your best and remember that your best is often enough. Some days, nutrition may not be optimal or exercise may fall to the wayside. Remember to reach out for support when you need it.

Also, don’t forget that caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your kids. Not only are you unable to care for your kids if you are unwell but you are also modeling for them how to care for themselves. 

Click here to read, 9 Ways Your Mind And Body Are Telling You That You Need Some ‘Self Love’ .

References

  1. Resilience. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/.
  2. Ekeland E, Heian F, Hagen KB. Can exercise improve self esteem in children and young people? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2005;39:792-798.
  3. Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., McDowell, J. E., Austin, B. P., Miller, P. H., Yanasak, N. E., Allison, J. D., & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial. Health Psychology, 30(1), 91–98. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021766
  4. Archer, T., Kostrzewa, R.M. Physical Exercise Alleviates ADHD Symptoms: Regional Deficits and Development Trajectory. Neurotox Res 21, 195–209 (2012) doi:10.1007/s12640-011-9260-0

Family Time Stress? How You Can Survive The Holidays

family time

When we watch Christmas movies or see images of the holidays on cards and commercials it is always the same. A family, warm and toasty around a fire. Sipping hot chocolate and listening to carols with smiles on their faces. But if the truth be told, ‘family time’ in most of our homes would be more accurately portrayed with images of us;

  • Running to office parties
  • Shopping
  • Baking
  • Decorating
  • Wrapping and exchanging gifts

Once done, we have our head in our hands as we anticipate January’s credit card bills. The reality is; we are all too exhausted and stressed to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.

It Starts At Home

The hustle and bustle that comes with the Christmas season seems inevitable. But you’ll be encouraged to know that with small tweaking of our habits and a change of focus, we can reduce our stress, increase the well-being of our families and bring joy back to the month of December.

As a leadership and family coach I am often asked how these two areas connect to each other. In my eyes it’s quite simple. Leadership begins at home.

As parents we teach our children how to lead and how to follow others. I came from a time when our parents told us to “do as I say and not as I do”. It’s not too hard to see that my generation didn’t fall for this expression. Furthermore, I don’t suspect that it will work for any generation to come. Children learn by example and tend to pick up behaviors they’ve seen modeled.

Mixed Messages

So what exactly does this have to do with bringing joy back to the holiday season? Well, in many cases, we are giving our children mixed messages. We tell them that Christmas isn’t about gifts, then we strain ourselves financially to put the latest and greatest toys and gadgets under the tree.

We communicate that they should remember others in need but become so absorbed in our activities that we don’t give back to the community. Even more, we tell them that it is important to be healthy, but we load up on treats and run ourselves ragged. So how do we begin to align what we do with what we say to send our children? How do we send a consistent message and step off this holiday hamster wheel?

Become A Great Leader

Becoming intentional is key. The greatest leaders have a strategy and as a parent this is also very important. Consider your values. What lessons and memories you would like your children to take away from their special time. For our family we have chosen to teach;

  • Connection
  • Patience
  • Self-care
  • Caring for others
  • Focus

Our strategy looks like this:

family games

1. Connection

Spend family time truly connecting with each other. Spend time talking, sharing, playing games; particularly ones that start conversations. We learn a lot about each other as we talk and at this age of technology, that is often taking away.

We strive to maintain our connectivity during the holidays.  This also helps us to understand where our children are at emotionally and can lead to helping them to have stronger mental health.

2. Patience

Slow down! Determining to not be in a rush by;

  • Planning our time better
  • Shopping online rather than the mall
  • Including the kids in activities like baking and cooking (even though it will take longer)

Overall, patience is taking a breath and not always choosing the fastest route. Rather a more rewarding and inclusive one.

self care

3. Self-Care

Keeping an eye on our health by eating well and not overindulging. Staying active, taking a moment to read, meditate or pray. Self-care is different for everyone, but the key is finding things that refill your tank. Making you feel happy, peaceful, rested, rejuvenated and good about yourself.

4. Caring For Others

We have opted to reduce and in some cases eliminate gift giving. Instead, we redirect our funds and energy to those who are less fortunate. We spend family time making baskets for families in the community, serve at local shelters and giving to toy drives.

5. Focus On What Matters

Christmas for us is a time of gratitude and appreciation. It is important that our children are thankful for what they already have. Appreciate even the smallest gifts that they are given. We set a budget and do not go overboard with items that are often cast aside in a few weeks. We also choose to reduce the number of events we attend and focus on quality time spent with each other.

family values

Quality Family Time

Christmas holds many fond memories for me growing up. I rarely can recall the gifts I was given year after year, but I have some special stand out moments of time spent with family and friends. As a leader in my home I choose to be intentional about what is modeled so that our children will learn from the example that has been set.

I don’t want my children to think of Christmas as a time of being overscheduled, burned out, broke and dissatisfied. Rather, I want them to see and learn about peace, joy and all that really matters.

Final Thoughts

This holiday season, I encourage you to be intentional about what you are modelling during your family time together. Lead them strategically. Demonstrate your true values and make this truly, the most wonderful time of the year.

How To Encourage Children To Eat Vegetables

Getting your kids to eat their vegetables can be one of the greatest daily struggles for parents.  Building healthy eating habits takes a lot of effort for parents to sometimes battle it out with their children.

Start Small & Tackle One Meal At A Time

First, start off with breakfast and work on getting sugary cereals, pastries, and dairy off the menu.  Substitute cereals for oatmeal and fruit.  Pastries for homemade muffins (recipe below), and dairy milk for almond or coconut milk to use in smoothies.

First and foremost, parents need to set the example to their children on how to eat properly.

Children easily pick up on the habits of their parents and will gravitate towards the eating style presented at home.  Take a minute and think about the kind of example you are setting for your children.  Ask yourself the following;

  • Do you make meal time a priority?  Preparing regular healthy meals as a family?  Or are you picking up takeout on the way home from work because you are exhausted?
  • What is your attitude towards food and your body image?
  • What messages are you consciously or unconsciously sending your children?
Encouraging your children to take care of their health is one of the greatest acts of love a parent can give their child.

Mindset around meals and snacks can easily be shifted to a more positive experience.  Involve the family in weekly meal planning and grocery shopping for the ingredients that will be needed for those meals.

Older children and teens can also take part in meal prep by washing vegetables and helping to prepare dinner.  Giving children a voice around their meal choices will help with encouraging healthier eating habits.  Provide your children with a choice of what vegetables they are going to eat each day.  In addition, add one wild card vegetable to the menu each week that they may not like, but are willing to try.

Click here to read, “Are You Eating Enough Colour?”

Tips & Tricks To Add Vegetables To Every Day Meals

green pineapple smoothie
  1.  Throw a handful of spinach or kale into smoothies.  Yes, the smoothie will be green, but the flavour and texture of the spinach is masked by all the fruit.

For a a fantastic green pineapple smoothie, click here to read, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day Recipes”.

cauliflower rice

2. Use the food processor to turn cauliflower into the texture of rice.  Sauté the cauliflower “rice” in a tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste.

zucchini noodles

3. Use a spiral slicing tool to turn zucchini into noodles.  It will resemble pasta and can be topped with your favourite sauce and veggies.

Grilled spaghetti squash

4. Use spaghetti squash instead of pasta to make traditional spaghetti with meatballs (remember to use grass fed beef for the meatballs).

Click here for “The Ultimate Guide For How to Cook Spaghetti Squash”.

fruit salad ideas

5. Rather than ice cream for dessert, serve a plate of fresh fruit.

Almond-Berry Muffin Recipe

As promised, below is a recipe for healthy muffins that freeze well and are easy to serve as part of a healthy breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw almonds, ground
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 12 muffin liners

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grind raw almonds until fine.
  3. Mix eggs, coconut oil maple syrup, vanilla and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Add ground almonds and baking soda. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Fold in berries and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  5. Evenly distribute batter between 12 muffin cups.
  6. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!!

Also, try this recipe breakfast muffins. It’s another great healthy breakfast idea that you can prepare in advance!