Category Archives: Kids

The Importance of Physical Education For Kids

The Importance of Physical Education For Kids

IMG_6837This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Parenting is somewhat of a social experiment, especially when you have multiple kids with different personalities. But as a mother to four kids there are a few certainties that have worked across the board for all of mine. If my kids don’t get enough sleep, they are a mess the next day. If they are hungry, they get cranky, and if they don’t get the opportunity to get out and do something active each day, they get rambunctious. My kids are much more likely to settle down and concentrate when they have had the chance to get some exercise at some point in their day. I feel like those are all pretty common findings among parents. My husband is a physician specializing in cardiac imaging, so he comes at the importance of physical activity from not only a behavioral perspective as a parent, but with knowledge on what a healthy heart looks like. And he comes home from work emphasizing how important physical fitness is to our overall health. I am thrilled to partner with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in advocating for expanded physical education in schools.

Active kids simply learn better.

Our elementary physical education teacher, Ms. Carr taught all four of our kids. Her energy and enthusiasm helped early on to nurture their enjoyment in being active. It became clear to me watching my children thrive, and become more confident under her guidance, how important establishing healthy habits is during primary school for kids. My youngest is now in middle school, but PE is still one of his favorite subjects, and Ms. Carr will always be one of their all time favorite teachers. More recently our state of Rhode Island passed a bond supporting improved parks, bike paths, and recreational areas. As parents, having safe, natural spaces will help to give us more opportunities to augment the 100 minutes per week of physical education required of schools in our state.

Regular physical activity has been scientifically proven to have positive benefits to both body and mind, yet it is too often one of the first programs to be cut from school budgets. It is associated with longer life, lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and even some cancers, physical fitness lowers the risk of mental health problems, and it has been shown to improve academic performance. These benefits are true for all children, no matter where they live, in a rural or urban setting, regardless of race, ethnic, or socio-economic factors. Where a child lives should not dictate their health. Unfortunately, racial and socio-economic inequalities leave many schools without the resources necessary to provide physical education to their kids.

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Research shows that kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day yet only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. Parent polls show that 95% understand the importance of incorporating PE into the school curriculum. That means that we, as parents, need to raise our voices and make sure that we are looking out for all children in our country by advocating for the inclusion of Physical Education in every state under the federal education law Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. If health and physical education are not core components of the plan, programs will not have access to the funding needed to keep them running.

Our children are the future, and it is up to us as parents to make sure that we are laying the groundwork for their ability to best succeed. Expanded physical education positively impacts the physical, emotional, and mental health of our children, while improving their academic performance. Learn how you can help to give all children the best groundwork for success with increased PE in your community by visiting the Voices For Healthy Kids website.

March 22nd is World Water Day

March 22nd is World Water Day
Clean Water / Collecting water in rural Haiti

Photo: Elizabeth Atalay

March 22nd is World Water Day, a day to bring attention to the over 600 million people in the world without access to clean water. Access to clean water and sanitation are key to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty, and  women and girls are the most highly impacted when lacking those basic human necessities.

In many areas girls miss out on school because they spend most of their day walking miles to collect water for their families. Girls who do make it to school often drop out once menstruation begins due to lack of facilities. UNICEF reports that approximately 6,000 children die of water related diseases every day, most under the age of five. 

Clean Water / water pump in Haiti

Photo: Elizabeth Atalay

WaterAid is the leading international nonprofit in the clean water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and has called on Congress to oppose the proposed 28.7% cut to funding for the US Agency for International Development and Department of State, proposed in the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint. WaterAid states that this action is “out of line with America’s priorities, US moral leadership, national security interests, and the needs of poor and vulnerable people worldwide.” I stand with WaterAid in calling on Congress to fully fund international assistance.

The recently launched WaterAid #GirlStrong campaign takes aim at the inequalities faced disproportionately by women and girls who live without clean water and proper sanitation. Access to clean water opens up access to better health, and more time for education.  It is estimated that somewhere around 260 billion dollars are lost from the global economy due to reduced productivity and health care costs from illnesses linked to lack of clean drinking water, poor sanitation, and hygiene. Watch the video below to see more reasons why access to clean water needs to be a priority for all.

#WorldWaterDay

How To Tell The Future

How To Tell The Future

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At times wouldn’t we all love to know how to tell the future? No one knows exactly what the future may hold for them, but I am sure that I’m not the only one who wonders about it often. We learn that although we can’t predict what may happen, that what we do today will impact our tomorrows, we also learn that even then sometimes life has a way of changing the best laid plans! One thing we know for sure about planning the future is that when it comes to our kids, when we #InvestinChildhood, it pays off. According to Save the Children, kids  who are enrolled in Early Childhood Development programs are more likely to enroll in school, plan their families, become productive adults, and educate their own children than those who don’t.

Fortune favors the prepared mind.-Louis Pasteur

Infographic_31It has now been proven that early education is essential to help kids get on the right path in life. Not all children are born into the same opportunities, but if given the right tools, the playing field is leveled.  September is Bright Futures Month for Save the Children to champion the investment in childhood and provide children with the early learning essentials for a bright future. Given the right tools all kids can learn and thrive to their full potential.

It all begins at home. I am personally glad to know that the research now backs up those seemingly endless evenings when I tucked in each of my four children by reading them a book!

By the age of three children growing up in poverty without books will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than their peers. As you can imagine they are starting off at a great disadvantage so that by the time they get into school they are about a year and half behind the kids who were read to. And they may never catch up.

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for building the foundations of success. By the time children reach five years old their brains are already 90 percent developed. If within those rapid years of growth children do not receive adequate care including being played with, spoken to, and read to, their social and emotional skills will likely be underdeveloped. Preschool is a lifesaver for the children who do not get those necessities at home, and it is Save the Children’s mission to help children in need get the early education  they need to succeed.Infographic_41

Save the Children’s Early Learning Platform, “Invest in Childhood” seeks to raise awareness among U.S. consumers of the early learning deficit that children living in poverty experience. By mobilizing our celebrity ambassadors, corporate partners and supporters, we shine a spotlight on this critically important issue to create a brighter future for children.-Save the Children

Last year during my interview with Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner  she talked about her visits with Save the Children to homes enrolled in the early education programs they support.

“When Save The Children rolls up and goes once a week to see them, they bring them books, they bring light, they bring life. And the main thing that I love to see is they bring encouragement for these moms.”-Jennifer Garner

We may not be able to project what the future will hold for us or our children, but it is within our power to prepare and lay down the foundations for them that we know can help lead to success.  We can also help to shape the futures of children in need by joining Save the Children to #InvestInChildhood by getting them the early learning essentials for a bright future. Together, we can help ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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A strong start is a child’s best chance for a successful future. Let’s invest in childhood today – giving children the best chance for a better tomorrow. Learn more here.

Tell your own future by downloading, printing and creating your own future teller for you or your kids!

#Blogust 2015 & Words That Matter

#Blogust 2015 & Words That Matter

photo for quoteRecently the African continent celebrated its first year with no new Polio cases on record. That milestone signifies that the world is getting closer to the once impossible to imagine goal, of eradicating Polio from the world entirely, for good. Africa’s accomplishment means that vaccine programs have worked, and now the global community is down to two remaining Polio-endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are getting close, but our work is not done. As long as Polio is out there in this ever shrinking world, it remains a threat to us all. Meanwhile, 1.5 million children still die unnecessarily every year from vaccine preventable diseases.

The United Nations Foundation Shot@life campaign is a movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are needed most.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).

As a reader and a writer, I am a natural logophile, a lover of words. Joining the Blogust’15 team this year I am thrilled that we are using words as our currency to help provide vaccines for those children around the world who need them most. As we each share our meaningful words and quotes I hope you become inspired. Inspired to action, to make a difference in the world. 

Never underestimate the power of words. Words have the ability to heal. They can pierce. Powerful worlds can start a revolution. A quote can become a mantra that guides you forward, or helps you to make sense of your world.

 Just think of those moments in your life when a passing remark crushed you, or another moment perhaps, when one made you soar.

I think of the mantras that play in my head to this day, simple phrases that my parents planted that have grown into beliefs. 

Pictured here with my brother and parents...the authors of my subconscious.

Pictured here with my brother and parents…the authors of my subconscious.

 

“There is no such thing as “can’t.”

or

“Everybody needs somebody to love.”

All these seemingly innocuous mid-conversation sentences stuck for some reason above all the others, I can’t tell you why. I can only tell you that I know that some of my words spoken to my own children will stick in the same way, and I pray that I get it right. That the positive messages stick, and grow.

Words are powerful. This month during Blogust lets use our words to give all children the chance to grow up and pass on their own words of wisdom. Immunization is one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. Shot@Life aims to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths around the world, and to give every child a shot at a healthy life.

During @ShotAtLife’s #Blogust, every time you comment, like or share a post, 1 vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000). Take action now. It is that simple to make an impact, one word, one click, one share.

Every 20 seconds one child dies from a vaccine preventable disease. Other ways that you can help are to:

Take action to support Global Vaccine funding by telling congress you care

Become a part of the movement to prevent unnecessary childhood deaths by becoming a Shot@Life Champion.

Donate to save lives. It only takes $1.00 to vaccinate a child against a debilitating disease.

SOS Children’s Villages in a #Relay4Kids

SOS Children’s Villages in a #Relay4Kids

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SOS Villages is in a #Relay4Kids

SOS Children’s Villages, Johnson & Johnson and the Huffington Post launch Relay for Kids – a virtual relay that will help provide shelter, food and medical care to children in crisis

Ethiopia is home to 5.4 million orphans and vulnerable children, as is evidenced along the streets of Addis Ababa, where it was not unusual to see groups of kids seeming to fend for themselves. I was there last summer on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project, and when we pulled into the SOS Village as one of our visits, it was strange to feel that these were the “lucky” orphans. This was the first time I had heard of the organization and was truly impressed. Technically the SOS Village kids are no longer orphans, they are taken in by their SOS Village to become part of a family and larger community. Founded in 1949 by an Austrian named Hermann Gmeiner, his vision for SOS Villages was to place children in a home where they would grow up with a mother, siblings and a community. Read the rest of this entry