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Teaching the cycle of life — with gardening

Gardening can be used as a powerful tool to teach children the interconnectedness of all things — including our dependence on and understanding of how the cycle of life works. It may appear to be a bit deep of a conversation to have while your family plants their tulips and herbs, nevertheless I think it’s an important connection to emphasis.

Plants are born, and once they die, they can return the next year in a new form, or grow into something else that helps the earth. This process of gardening helps children understand the concept of life and death cycles in a larger context. We are all born, we all die, and what happens to us is merely within the nature of life itself. Using gardening as a teaching tool for kids to understand the philosophical inquiries of the meaning of life may seem a bit far-fetched, but what better way to concretely show how the life works in its most natural state.

When my daughter was young, we had a garden of beautiful hybrid tea roses in our backyard and the two of us would tend them in the summer. She would help me dig up the dirt with her little bucket and we would watch these beautiful flowers bloom. On the other hand, we would also watch these flowers die at the end of the season. Every year, it would make my daughter sad. She couldn’t quite comprehend why we would tend so carefully to a set of flowers that would wither away at the end of season. Through a child’s eyes, it made me realize how truly sad it is to watch a brilliant flower slowly shrivel up and fall apart unto their inevitable death.

I explained to my little girl that the roses would return next year and that the flowers have to die in order to be born again. Explaining the cycle of life and death to a child through gardening ultimately helps when a loved one dies as well. It is a way to explain to a child that everything from a flower to a person has to die, but that it gives way for something else to be born in its place. The following year when my daughter saw our beautiful roses bloom again, it also helped to prove that the cycle of life is constantly moving and changing.

Understanding that all living things from plants to people are intrinsically a part of the same world is a connective and vital experience as well. It may also be interesting to explain that the cycle of life means that we return to the ground once we die, and become something else again.

It is hard work to tend to plants and help them grow, and ultimately is an example of how life works in itself. Next time you are in the garden with the kids, talk about the cycle of life — it is sure to be a beautiful, philosophical experience for everyone involved.

Woman of the Week: Sara L. Austin

Sara L. Austin has had a sweeping impact on children’s rights worldwide and has dedicated her life to helping kids. She is the founder and CEO of Children’s First Canada, a non-profit that focuses on educating the public and holding the government accountable regarding their policies on child poverty.

“People often ask me how I got started with this, I’ve worked with thousands of kids. I was a summer camp counsellor in Ontario and responsible to look after five or six year old kids. One of the kids told me she had been sexually abused by her stepfather and didn’t want to go home,” Austin said. “We called Children Aid’s Society and when they finally arrived, she held onto me. I had to let go and trust that we have a system that protects kids. I learned very early in life that lots of kids don’t get the start in life that they deserve. Whether as a parent or a citizen, we need to give children our very best.”

Austin launched Children’s First Canada in November 2016. “There is an idea that kids in Canada have the jackpot of life. Research shows though that we have millions of kids that are falling through the gaps. There are a lot of mental issues, and several children have experienced abuse or neglect,” Austin said. “We haven’t achieved any significant progress in child poverty over the past two decades so we are trying to build public awareness for change.”

Child poverty affects one in five children in Canada and one in three Canadian children have experienced abuse. One of the pillars of Children’s First Canada is to accomplish widespread public awareness and to have a significant impact on the media in educating people on the relevance of child poverty. “We are doing after-school programs or mentoring. We are bringing these organizations together to jointly advocate together and to bring forward solutions that are evidence based,” Austin said. “It is a combination of policy influence and advocacy to make a difference for children.”

Austin launched the non-profit in Calgary, motivated by the Children First Act, a provincial law in Alberta that protects children and is one of the strongest child protection acts in Canada. Her hope was to inspire the rest of the country to follow suit.  “I was inspired by the social innovation in the city of Calgary and the province of collective impact as well as the role of the private sector,” Austin said.

Previously, Austin worked at World Vision and held a number of positions including Director of the President’s Office and Policy Advisor for Child Rights and HIV/AIDS at World Vision Canada, Senior Advisor for Child Rights at World Vision International, and Manager of Operations at World Vision Thailand.  “I started researching children in South East Asia and I was directly interacting with children in prostitution and brutal child labour,” Austin said. “We can’t treat children as objects, they are experts in their own lives. They have their own views on how things can get better. It has been a consistent thread throughout my career.”

One of Austin’s proudest achievements was creating the ‘Optional Protocol’, an international UN law that allows a child, or an NGO, to act on behalf of the child to launch a complaint if their human rights aren’t being protected through international law. The protocol was passed in 2014. “The law had been discussed for children for decades, but it hadn’t been developed. That was what prompted me to do my master’s degree at Oxford University,” Austin said. “It was a bittersweet moment, but at the same time the Canadian government didn’t support it and still hasn’t signed onto the protocol. The new government has pledged to sign onto the protocol and we are following the government to hold them accountable.”

Along with helping children, Austin is also a huge advocate for women. She won the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) top 100 award in 2010 and also sits on the advisory board for the organization. “WXN celebrates women leaders across the country and their motto is ‘We inspire smart women to lead’,” Austin said. “They celebrate women from all walks of life. They provide mentorship opportunities as well.”

When Austin is taking a break from work, she loves to go skiing with her family and be out in nature. She also enjoys biking and hiking in Calgary. “Having a family keeps me grounded every day. I flew home and it was nice to come home to my own son and be reminded everyday how lucky I am to provide for and care for my own son,” Austin said.

Austin is a leader for advocacy relating to children and she teaches us how to stick up for the people who need us most. Her life-changing impact on an international and national level makes Canada a better place for kids to live in and gives public awareness to the fact that child poverty still exists today.

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How to handle March Break on a budget

As parents, we often hear ‘I’m bored mom’ or ‘why do we never do anything fun?’ when the kids are stuck at home. Instead, here is a survival guide to March Break that includes tips on how to entertain kids kids and celebrate the week off school on a budget.

March Break is here and there are many free or discounted events going on around Toronto to entertain kids on their days off from school. Are your kids bouncing off the walls at home? It’s important to get them out of the house and exercising — too much TV will just make them cranky or hyper. The City of Toronto is offering free swimming during March Break and free indoor leisure skating at their facilities. You can also simply go for a walk or a hike in a local ravine or park. My daughter and I like to walk in the ravine near our home and learn about different types of nature in the woods. This promotes a sense of attachment to nature from a young age and also helps us get fresh air.

If you have budgeted for March Break, head to the Ontario Science Centre, which is hosting a special exhibit on the biomechanics of the body, or pay a visit to the Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto. There are many indoor play zones with bouncy castles, tunnels and mini golf located around the city too in case the weather takes a turn and going outside isn’t possible.

Want to try something with a bit more of an end result? Try scheduling some spring clean or bring donations to a Salvation Army. My daughter made special art cards for the kids that would receive her old toys to prepare for our planned donation during March Break, which made her feel included and excited to give her things to kids that need them more!

Finally, put those aprons on and get messy in the kitchen. Baking and cooking healthy snacks always makes for a a fun afternoon or you can break out the arts and crafts after to complete the messy day. Children love art and collaborative projects always turn out to be pretty special bonding experiences.

No matter what, remember to enjoy the time with your kids and don’t feel guilty for not spending thousands of dollars on a luxury March break vacation. Most children just want to hang out with mom and dad and have a good time. Even if you can only take a couple days off work to enjoy quality time with the kids, it will be fun for the whole family to herald in the spring.

How should parents deal with child bullying?

Parenting challenges you in unexpected ways. Recently, my daughter confessed to me that a boy is bullying her at school for being vegan. This little kindergartener is a constant source of sorrow for the other kids, teasing and kicking other children at will. My daughter has mostly managed to escape his abuse, but not since he discovered she was vegan.

As a parent, how do I deal with this little bully? I can’t directly confront the child myself as I would if someone was teasing or kicking me, but I also cannot just let it go. Bullying is one of the most devastating things kids can go through in school, and it can have traumatizing effects if not dealt with properly. It does fall to parents to manage it and ensure that all the appropriate parties are aware they have a bully in their midst.

This leads to step number one; telling the teacher and/or daycare. Having open communication with the school and daycare teachers will help the problem. Most times, they simply aren’t aware that a child is being bullied in the first place. If the teacher seems dismissive of the problem, don’t be afraid to go to the principal. Your child matters and putting up a big stink about bullying is necessary to protect kids from harm.

If the bullying continues despite informing teachers or daycare instructors, the next logical thing to do would be contact the child’s parents. This can be difficult to do because parents want to think best of their children, and it is hard to admit when your child isn’t acting appropriately. At girl guides recently, another little girl tried to exclude my daughter from playing in a group of girls and luckily, my daughter held her own and played with another child. I could tell she was upset though and decided to step in after the fact. Being friends with the little girl’s mom, I decided to approach her about it. I made sure to not accuse or blame in any way, and having a friendly rapport with her helped a lot. It is important to build relationships with other parents, so that if there is a problem, it is much easier to speak to the other parent openly and honestly. If this isn’t possible or the parents aren’t receptive to being friendly, contacting them in the most polite and calm way possible is the best way to get the results you want.

Other suggestions include preparing your child against bullies through open communication. After both incidences, my daughter and I had a thorough discussion about how bullying is bad and is often a result of the ‘bully’ being insecure and sad. We also discuss how important it is to walk away from a bully, to be brave, and to tell the teacher. Practicing what to say in case a bully teases her helps her feel more prepared. Now, when someone teases her for being vegan, she knows and understands from our discussions that it is because she is different, but in a good way. Bullies often pick on kids that are vulnerable or different. I try to help her understand that being different is great and she should feel empowered for being known as the token vegan at school.

For younger kids, the book “Have you filled a bucket today? A guide to daily happiness for kids” is a great read that helps promote good behaviour towards others. The story explains that everyone has a bucket and filling other people’s buckets with love and kindness will make you happy. Alternatively, if you are mean and selfish, or you take from people’s buckets, then will be unhappy. It is very simple and helps kids relate better to the abstract explanations of emotions.

Bullying is a common problem that kids and parents are forced to deal with on a regular basis, and being prepared will help. Overall, I try to give my child as many compliments a day as I can to help boost her self-esteem. I try to not stick to compliments solely based on appearance, but compliment her intelligence and skills as well. A child that feels better about themselves can be better armed against bullies, and I want her to feel protected and loved.

What are your solutions to dealing with bullying as a parent? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Is Toronto stuck as the child poverty capital or can it raise a village?

Toronto is one of the most liveable cities in the world, but if you live in poverty with your children, it’s quite a different story. Ranging from long daycare subsidy waitlists, high rent, extraordinary transit costs, and expensive food, raising a family can seem nearly impossible.

Child poverty is a difficult pill to swallow and Toronto has been dubbed the Canadian capital in a report called ‘Divided City’ that was released in early November 2016. The report said that Toronto has the highest rate of low-income children in an urban area at 26.8 per cent.

Two years ago in November 2015, Toronto approved its first-ever poverty reduction plan after a report was released entitled ‘The Hidden Epidemic’, which outlined the impacts of child poverty in the city. Though child poverty has decreased from 29 per cent in 2009 to 26.8 per cent, it still impacts specific neighbourhoods in Toronto. The 2016 report is the first update since ‘The Hidden Epidemic’ and shows that child poverty has decreased overall, but is now concentrated to particular areas such as Regent Park, where 58 per cent of children live in low-income households. Families struggle to pay rents, using over 30 per cent of their income on rent (the threshold to be considered low-income) and children end up missing out on important recreation activities and parents struggle to feed their kids.

Unfortunately, with budget cuts the poverty strategy has been put on the back burner and important investments for children such as affordable housing and funding for recreation and daycare subsidies is facing debilitating cuts. The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Family Service Toronto with Ontario Campaign 2000, Colour of Poverty and Social Planning Toronto came together to create the updated report to emphasize the need for City Council to stick to their poverty reduction goals and avoid cuts as much as possible.

One of these goals needs to be affordable housing. Currently there are nearly 100,000 people on the affordable housing waitlist and helping families to obtain housing needs to be a first priority to help reduce poverty for families. If most of your money goes towards paying rent, it is nearly impossible to escape the spiral of poverty. One third of families with children under the age of 18 live in unaffordable housing. The report also highlights that a lone parent living on Ontario Works would have to pay 107 per cent of their income in order to live in inner-city Toronto. This pushes families out to areas with less transit and away from many of the jobs in the city. Affordable housing in inner-city Toronto needs to become a priority immediately.

One solution that City Council discussed in the Executive Committee is the poverty reduction goal of providing low-income TTC fare cuts. This will help transit users to better afford their commute to more available jobs and help alleviate the pressures of living a low-income lifestyle. Executive Committee passed the ‘Fair Pass Program’ that would lower the adult single fare by 33 per cent and the adult monthly pass by 21 per cent unanimously. The program, if approved by council, will be implemented in March 2018.

Though the city is working towards implementing small measures as a part of their poverty reduction program, all cuts that involve children-led programs including housing, recreation and daycare subsidy, need to be avoided. Oftentimes, it seems that children get left behind in the wake of transit-focused initiatives when it comes to the city council budget. Most importantly, affordable housing solutions need to be offered immediately, including portable housing, recognizing the need for affordable housing based on using more than 30 per cent of a parent’s income on rent and changing rent control guidelines.

Children are the city’s most important priority and putting them first is the only way to make Toronto Canada’s best city. Every child deserves to play in a safe home without pests, and learn how to swim or play tae kwon do. Families also need access to healthy food and equitable employment opportunities where their children are in safe daycares so that parents can obtain employment or go to school. Only when Toronto loses its reputation as the child poverty capital will it be a safe place for families to live. Only at that point will the city of Toronto truly be a considered a village that raises a child.

Parent vs. Winter: A mother’s candid take on the struggles of snow pants

I love winter. When snowflakes begin to fall, all I want to do is cozy up with a warm peppermint hot chocolate and have a snowball fight in the park. As November comes to an end, I look forward to the snowy days ahead, and then I remember.  Two horrible words that all parents of young children shudder to hear: snow pants.

Getting all of the winter layers on a small child is similar to trying to get a spastic jack Russell into his sweater and booties. It involves chasing said child around the house, pinning them down to get their snow pants on, and then desperately hoping that they don’t tell you that they have to go to the bathroom once all the gear is finally on (this results in a frantic removal of all the snow gear to avoid an accident).

The struggles of the evil snow pants vary according to the age of the child. When my daughter was an infant, picking out the snowsuit and fitting it was quite easy because she was mostly immobile. Getting the puffball into the car seat with all the extra layers was quite the opposite. The other problem was the howling tantrums that ensued after I cruelly prevented my daughter from sucking on her toes (a favourite baby pastime).

As children grow older, the challenge of winter clothes changes and arguably grows more difficult. Toddlers are akin to baby raptors and love to run with their legs out to the side much like the creepy monsters that once inhabited the planet. In other words, they are fast and wily when it comes to avoiding winter clothes, often outwitting the most able-bodied parent with their evil plots. Getting winter clothes on involves having to hold them down with your legs and hoist the snow pants on while they try to get away. Luckily, they haven’t quite figured out zippers yet, so as long as you are fast, the snow pants will remain on. Mittens be damned, buy 20 pairs because you will be replacing them often.

My daughter is now five years old and can get her own snowsuit on! This is a miracle after years of wasting 20 minutes on winter gear. But the war of the snow pants has not ended here. Now begins the era of the fashion diva. Even though black snow pants are discounted 25 per cent compared to the hot pink option, my daughter falls to the ground as if I’ve destroyed her when I hold up the black pair. Everything must be pink or purple. The boots, the snow pants, the mittens and if I stray from this ensemble, a level five tantrum begins. I don’t need to elaborate on what happened the day we only had black mittens because she had lost the previous five pairs of pink ones (we were extremely late for school).

Currently my daughter sports a purple felt jacket that goes to her ankles and makes her look like a three-foot 1940’s Russian baroness. She refuses to wear a shorter coat. Over the years, I have learned to pick my battles and it is honestly entertaining to watch her strut down the sidewalk in all her glory while also looking distinctly like a mini-Michelin man. Other tips I have picked up now that the toddler years are behind us also include putting an extra hat and mitts in her backpack and asking her if she needs to go to the bathroom before we start putting snow pants on.

I always add on an extra 10 minutes on our winter walk to school because walking with snow pants is no easy feat. My daughter can barely put her arms down because she is wearing so many layers, and that means we must trek slowly. On the other hand, if she does fall from a slippery sidewalk, her puffy winter layers provide some protection from the fall.  Soon enough, we are used to our winter routine, but of course there are initial growing pains when winter first begins.

In the war between parents vs. snow pants, snow pants always wins. The trick is to laugh at the necessary annoyances of keeping our children warm. Winter can be a wonderful thing with the right attitude, and who better to help us crabby parents get excited about snow days then our little children? As long as they don’t scream too much, right?

Enjoy the winter, and remember, stay warm!

New portable housing for domestic abuse survivors and their families

Imagine packing your belongings in the middle of the night and waking your children to escape the place you call home. Frightened and without any place to go, 3,491 women and 2.724 children arrive at the doorsteps of emergency domestic abuse shelters each night. About 300 of those women and children are turned away.

Once they actually get up the courage to leave their abusers, survivors of domestic abuse and their families face a number of challenges. They must find a safe place to go, obtain a new home and all while living with the fear that their spouse is trying to find them. The government of Canada and Ontario are trying to help the situation by investing $20 million over two years into the Survivors of Domestic Violence Portable Housing Benefit Pilot project. The pilot project will provide 1000 survivors of domestic violence per year with immediate affordable housing.

As is stands, when women and their children find temporary housing in an emergency shelter it can take several months to find another place to live. Going back home is often not an option. This leaves families stranded in very unstable living situations. Domestic abuse survivors are placed on the waitlist for rent-geared-to income and must wait for social housing to become available. Though domestic abuse victims are given priority on the waitlists, the state of social housing waitlists in Canada leaves many of these families stranded for months.

It also leaves the victim of abuse in a vulnerable situation because they don’t have access to permanent housing. In Canada, 26 per cent of women who are murdered by their spouse have left the relationship and half of these women are killed within two months of leaving their abuser. Women are also six times more likely to be killed by an ex-partner than a current partner, placing the victims in a vulnerable situation after leaving their abuser. Women and children are still in danger after leaving an abusive partner, and obtaining safe housing is paramount for their safety.

The federal and provincial government are taking steps in providing better resources for domestic abuse survivors and the affordable housing situation. Though the new pilot program is a step in the right direction, more efforts to provide victims of domestic abuse with optimal support is of upmost importance.

How to make moving schools an adventure

Moving schools as a kid can be daunting and scary. It can also be daunting as a parent, watching your child walk away into a new place.

My daughter and I are moving across town and she will be starting a new school in a week. It is going to be a tough transition from school to school, but I have a few ideas on how to make the change smoother. The number one priority for me is making sure my daughter feels that moving is an adventure rather than a terrifying reality. I’ve been really positive about the move every time we talk about it (though as we all know, moving can be VERY stressful), and I tell her the fun and new recreational activities and school events she will be a part of in our new neighbourhood.

In a sense I feel like a real estate agent who is selling the neighbourhood to a five-year old. She’s had the official tour of the street, seen the school, and I’m taking her along with us through all the steps so that she feels involved. Oftentimes, I think what scares children is feeling out of control of their own lives. As parents, we take our children from place to place without considering their choices. Though I can’t let my kindergartener make our life decisions, I can make her feel like she is a part of the change. When it comes to my daughter’s new recreation activities, it is her choice.  She gets to feel like she is in control.

Another way to help children move is to listen to how they feel about it. I like to get down on my daughter’s level (my little three-footer) and ask her how she is doing. Sharing feelings is empowering and often helps more than faking it. I’ve always asked my daughter how she feels, and it helps her feel better. She has admitted she is sad about leaving her friends at school, for example, and I responded by saying that is okay. I let her know it is perfectly acceptable to express tough emotions and responding to them is the best way to show empathy for her feelings. After discovering she is sad about leaving, I asked her if visiting her friends at her old school would make her feel better. She decided that was a good idea, and felt better after we talked and made a plan.

If kids can’t visit their old school, another method is to give your child a picture of their old school, or to make sure that your child can stay in touch with friends after you part ways. This helps the transition and makes kids feel they aren’t losing their whole lives. I have a pretty social child, but if you have a shy kid then sometimes drawing a picture also helps to communicate the feelings surrounding the move.

Even if all of these steps are taken, the reality is that the first few weeks of school will still be difficult. Change is hard, and being surrounded with new children is a transition. I plan on being very patient with my daughter in the first couple weeks of school, and if she is more testy than usual, it will be easy to see why. With social children, I hope she will make friends. If she is struggling though, planning a playdate with another child or joining activities with other kids from the school might help her along in her adjustment.

At the end of the day, change is a part of life, and all of us big and small have to figure out how to adjust to it. Even though I can still take every step possible to make sure my daughter is protected from feeling the negative side effects of moving, she has to experience it for herself. The best I can do as a mom is to love her and support her however she needs. I know I’ll tell her on the way to school that she is a great little girl and doesn’t need to worry. If she struggles to make friends at first, I’ll sit down and play dolls with her more often than usual to make her feel better. No matter what, she has me and everything else will fall into place naturally if she has support and love by her side.

What do you think is the most important step to take when moving kids from school to school? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Hitting the road with your kids in tow

Going on a road trip with kids can be a challenging experience, but if you have all the right preparations in place, it can create some of the best memories.

I am often filled with wanderlust and a desire to hit the open road, and I bring my daughter along for the ride. We have driven from Vancouver to Calgary, down to Seattle, across the great Canadian prairies to Winnipeg, and down to Chicago. We’ve also cruised through Ontario and into Quebec and New Brunswick. We have had many great adventures and some trying times as well. Throughout these ordeals, I have learned a few secrets on how to travel with my little lady.

Most importantly, be prepared for the worst. As morbid as this sounds, it is essential for the safety of your kids and yourself. Bring extra clothes in the car, blankets, a first aid kit, and a car charger in case of emergency. Also, bring a lot of snacks and water. Driving across to Vancouver a couple years ago in the summertime, an accident shut the highway down leaving us stranded on a one-way road for seven hours in rural B.C. Without snacks and water, things could’ve become quite terrible.

Another winter drive back from Vancouver left us in a freak blizzard where several car drivers teamed up and pushed our cars up a steep and icy hill. Without extra layers and blankets stored in the car, my daughter would’ve become quite cold. I always carry child gravel as well. On especially hilly drives, I have learned my lesson on how dire an upset stomach can really become. Also avoid dark drinks and messy foods. A change of clothes and hand wipes can help with a variety of spills.

Another challenge is keeping your child entertained. My daughter is five years old and talks like there is no tomorrow. It is cute, but can become distracting while driving to an unknown destination. My daughter’s LeapPad and headphones are an absolute lifesaver when driving. My daughter uses her LeapPad camera to document our trips. She mostly photographs her feet, but it is fun to see our travels through her eyes.

Bringing a baking tray to put on their lap for colouring and playing with toys is a good way to avoid the common occurrence of dropping unreachable toys onto the car floor (most annoying thing ever). I also recommend bringing washable markers and craft supplies that do not stain. After renting a car for a drive to Quebec City, my daughter decided to use her marker to decorate the car door and I spent a few hours scrubbing it off upon arrival.

Other creative activities include making food necklaces out of Cheerios and pretzels in advance for easy munching on the road. Using paper bags to create surprise bags with from their toys and a few cheap add-ons such as stickers or stamps is also a simple addition to a road trip if your child is getting really bored. You can also put different destinations on the bags, for example “open when we reach highway 22”. It keeps kids interested in the journey, though it could prompt an “are we there yet?” scenario.

Playing audio books or kid’s music is good family entertainment. I have many fond memories of my daughter and I rocking out to the Frozen soundtrack. As well, games such as “20 questions” can help keep your child entertained. Have your child ask you questions to try and guess what animal you are thinking of. Another fun game is “would you rather?” where you give two ludicrous outcomes and your child has to decide which one they prefer is way to pass the time. Just make sure you aren’t too distracted too drive.

Before leaving, I always have all of the toys, snacks and other supplies positioned in easy-to-reach places for my daughter and myself. Her water bottle is in her cup holder, snacks are beside her with a variety of play options and I put other toys and options on the passenger seat for easy access when she eventually drops all of her toys. Preparation ultimately makes our driving adventures fun and we love going for a cruise together.

Good luck, and remember: you do not have to stay home just because you have kids. Instead, create a wanderlust baby and hit the road in style.

My daughter and I hitting the road. By Andrea Hunter
My daughter and I hitting the road. By Andrea Hunter

How to bring out your child’s yogi bear

Kids have a lot of energy and it can often be difficult to know how to channel those hyper moments into healthy activities. I often take my five-year-old daughter to a family-friendly yoga class ad she adores it. Best of all, its a great way to help her become more centered with herself and to get some exercise at the same time.

Doing yoga with kids can be a challenge, but it can also be quite enjoyable if it is done with your child’s interests in mind. The most important factor is making it fun and not too slow-paced. Kids naturally have shorter attention spans so keep the practice quick and easy. If children are forced to do one activity for an extended period of time, it becomes very frustrating and can lead to crankiness.

Yoga can have a number of benefits for younger children, including lengthening attention span, stretching the body, and understanding the power of breath. The best part is that children are naturally flexible, so they often excel at the activity. Yoga is also very non-judgemental and helps kids feel good about themselves, especially if they aren’t great at other sports.

One of the biggest challenges is helping them understand the movements. Kids have a hard time imitating yoga stretches with long and difficult names, and oftentimes, they can’t tell their right foot from their left. A good trick is to put two different stickers on each foot to remind the child which is which.

Before you get into a routine, it’s essential to get your child to focus. Help them get all the sillies out by dancing, jumping, or even jogging around the room. Once that is complete, start with Child’s Pose. It will center and focus the kid into a little yogi. A fun way to move out of this first pose and begin the series of exercises is to move into Tree (Vriksasana). I always get my daughter to wiggle her toes, move her arms, and slowly begin to grow into a large tree that stretches nice and high. This is a good stretch to prepare for more difficult moves, and helps to center a child so they can practice yoga more effectively.

Making the yoga practice a storytime opportunity will help keep your child attentive. Turn the different exercises into a journey involving a mermaid traveling through a sea or another animal going on a journey.

Many yoga positions are named after animals, so it is fairly easy to create a routine that is kid-friendly. Cat and Cow are common yoga positions as well as Downward Facing Dog. It is nice to end the yoga practice with Butterfly, which is a calmer sitting pose. Have your child put their toes together and hold their ankles for a nice stretch. If your child hasn’t lost interest by this point, try adding a short meditation.

Doing yoga with my daughter is a great way for us to spend time together and do something that inspires a healthy attitude. It is a good nighttime activity because it helps to calm her before bedtime. It is also fun to create new and hip ways to bond with your child.

Have you done yoga with your kids? What are your tips? Post in the comments below.