Cookies: More Than Just A Christmas Tradition

When I was little I loved to sit in the kitchen while my mom baked.  I could just watch for hours.  She always had something delicious coming out of the oven, and I loved to see the process.

As soon as I could I wanted to join in the fun and start baking myself.  Whether it was rolling pie dough, frosting a cake or adding chocolate chips to the cookies it made me feel like I was helping and connecting with my mother…sharing one of her passions.

This was especially true at Christmas time.  Every year we made traditional Christmas cut out cookies.  Usually mom would make the dough and the kids got to roll, cut and decorate the cookies.

Sometimes all four of us helped.  And sometimes it was just me.  I would take on the challenge of decorating all of the cookies by myself if nobody else wanted to help.  If there was any way I could participate in the baking I would.

Thanks to my mom to this day I have a passion for baking (and writing about food and nutrition).  I am happy to be passing that passion on to my own children.  I am a firm believer in getting your kids in the kitchen from a very young age.  And what easier way to start than by making cookies?

You don’t have to wait until your kids are older to have them help.  My daughter helped me with her first batch of Christmas cookies before she was one!  And she has loved our countless hours together in the kitchen ever since.

Now she is four and is a bit more help.  It is so fun to watch her progress every year in her decorating skills from haphazard sprinkling to careful placement of chocolate chips for eyes on a snowman.

Don’t let gender get in the way of your baking fun, either.  My one year old son already has a passion for baking.  He begs to bake every single day almost as soon as he gets out of bed.  Which is how we ended up making our first batch of Christmas cookies this year just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Making Christmas cookies is a tradition I had with my mom and one that I now have with my kids.  But it’s not just a tradition.  It’s a way for us to spend time together.  It’s a way for them to learn some basic baking skills.  It’s a way for them to feel helpful and needed.  And it’s a way for me to teach them about homemade, real food.

The look and taste of our cookies have changed over the years along with our view on health and nutrition.  No more bleached flour and margarine cookies.  We use real ingredients and make our own frosting.  We’re still working on replacing those lovely sprinkles.  But regardless of the ingredients our tradition stays the same.

Spend some time in the kitchen with your kids this Christmas.  Let them make a mess.  Let them have fun.  Let them be creative.

Maybe you’ll spark a passion in them for baking.  Maybe not.  But you’ll definitely make some lasting memories and have an opportunity to connect with your children.  Making Christmas cookies together is a great Christmas tradition…eating them is a fun one too.

Worried about creating unhealthy habits by baking treats?  Have no fear.  Feed your kids real, nourishing food from the start and they will develop a taste for healthy food.  My son was grain and sugar free until he turned one.  Now at 19 months I can’t even get him to taste a bite of anything we bake.

Even if your kids do enjoy the treats it’s a great opportunity to teach them about moderation and the importance of nourishing foods.

What Christmas traditions do you have?  Do you have a favorite cookie recipe for Christmas?  How do you get your kids in the kitchen and teach them about real food?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Thankful At Every Age

We are all busy.  We all get stressed, anxious and worn out, especially around the holidays.  There are parties, kids, meals, work, errands, etc.

Add to an already crazy life the onset of colds and flu, homework and school schedules and attempting to keep your holiday festivities full of real, healthy food.  I’m guilty myself of trying to do too much and then feeling overwhelmed.  A negative attitude sets in and life gets even tougher.

This year I want to make our holidays different.  What if instead of trying to take on the world we simply stop and give thanks?

This is a great lesson to teach your children.  We can and should be thankful at every age.

I took a moment recently to sit down with my four-year old daughter to find out what she’s thankful for.  She made her own thankful list (as you can see).  Then I did the same.

It was a great exercise to do together.  And it made me smile to see that our lists were quite similar.  Right down to being thankful for ice cream.

Focusing on what we have instead of what we want or what is going wrong is wonderful at Thanksgiving.  But it shouldn’t stop there.

Try focusing on being thankful when you’re making your Christmas lists or buying presents.  Try focusing on being thankful when the little ones are sick and you’re not sure you can manage one more sleepless night.

photo courtesy of my daughter

Try focusing on being thankful EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It is a great habit that will impact your whole day and have a positive influence on your children and everyone around you.

It doesn’t cost money.  It doesn’t take much time.  It doesn’t involve a change in your diet.  It is not complicated.

But it can help you lead a happier and healthier life.

Take a moment today to think about, talk about or write about what you’re thankful for.  You may be surprised by how blessed you really are and how much joy there is in your life that you’ve been overlooking.

Start with some of the big things like family, friends, a good job.  Then every day start focusing on the little things like a healthy home cooked meal or a refrigerator stocked with farm fresh eggs or a hug and kiss from your spouse and kids.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of each day.  This holiday season challenge yourself to truly be thankful.  Then teach your children to do the same.  It’s a healthy habit that can be done at any age.

What are some of the little things you’re thankful for?  How do you focus your family’s attention on being thankful instead of always wanting around the holidays and throughout the year?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

When It’s Cold Outside Get Crafty Inside

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a fan of cold weather.  I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life.  But I still don’t like the cold.

I do believe it’s healthy to get outside as much as you can…so we do.  But it’s also nice sometimes to stay inside.  So as soon as the weather gets cooler I’m looking for fun indoor activities.

Around here that means it’s time to get crafty.  Here are some easy fall crafts and activities to do with your kids or by yourself!

  1. Paint with fruits and vegetables – Slice any fruit or vegetable to use as a stamp.  You get all different shapes and sizes.  Plus you can use up produce that is getting old.
  2. Make placemats with wax paper – Use leaves or color a picture and place them between two pieces of wax paper.  Iron the paper until both sides stick together.  Trim the edges.
  3. Make all of your fall/Thanksgiving decorations from nature – Go on a scavenger hunt in your yard or a local park to find sticks, pine-cones, leaves, rocks, etc.  Then get creative making decorations with them.
  4. Make Christmas cards and gifts – It may be early for some, but if you start making cards and gifts now you’ll be less stressed when Christmas approaches.  Plus you’ll have unique, heartfelt, homemade gifts for your friends and family.  Homemade baked goods and spice blends make great presents, as do crafts that you and your children create.
  5. Paint pottery – Find a local paint-your-own pottery studio (like Naked Plates) and create your own masterpiece.  This is a great thing to do with your kids.  Make a serving dish together and use it at all of your holiday gatherings.  Your kids will be so proud.
  6. Make Halloween costumes – There’s still time!  Instead of spending a lot of money to buy a costume, let your kids help make their own.  See how creative you can be using what you have at home.  Is that a fairy princess chef I see?
  7. Recreate the first Thanksgiving – Have your kids help make pilgrim and Indian costumes.  Read about the first Thanksgiving and put on a play.  You can even make a mini feast of what they may have eaten.
  8. Make a countdown chain – Make paper chains to count down to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then let your kids cut one ring off each day.
  9. Make art with food…and eat it! – Provide an assortment of sliced fruits, vegetables, nuts, crackers and dips (nut butters, pesto, hummus, etc.) and let your child get creative.  Make a picture on a plate (maybe a face or an animal or even something abstract).  Then eat it!  You can take a picture to capture their creation.
  10. Write a book – Help your child write their own book.  Fold blank paper.  Let them create a story.  If they are young you can write the story as they tell it.  If they are older they can write it themselves.  Then they can illustrate it.  After the book is finished read it together…over and over.  It’s a great way to help them be creative.

Fall is a wonderful time to be outside, breathe the crisp air and see the beauty of nature.  But it’s also a great time to be creative with your kids inside.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to stir their imagination and spend quality time together.  Plus you can get some of your holiday preparation done in advance.

What sort of fun activities do you do indoors once the weather becomes cooler?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Book Review: Crazy Makers


Why have the mental illness and mental disorder rates increased in recent years? Is it the food we eat? Or just as important, the food we don’t eat?

According to Carol Simontacchi and her book “The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children” it does. This book not only attacks the food industry for putting chemicals and toxins into our food, but shows us as shoppers how we are starving our brains with foods that have no nutrition and chemicals that can have damaging effects.

Book Description:

With obesity becoming one of the fastest-growing worldwide epidemics, and manufactured food fueling that trend, The Crazy Makers is timelier than ever. This updated edition includes a new chapter on autism, as well as revised material that illustrates just how much the industry has changed in a few short years.

Based on extensive research, epidemiological evidence, and a formal study of schoolchildren’s eating habits, The Crazy Makers identifies how the latest food products may be literally driving us crazy. Carol Simontacchi offers the reader nutritional primers and recipes to help counteract the problems facing us and our children every time we sit down to eat.

I like the way this book is set up as it starts at the very beginning of life with a chapter for pre-natal nutrition, moving on to infant nutrition, kids, teens and finally adults. I think this book would be especially beneficial for those parents that have children who are chronically sick or unruly children doctors want to medicate, as she shows different ways that kids can have food sensitivities that doctors don’t check for.

The most profound part of this book for me was that on teens and how food intolerances show up for them. And how it affects their mental function.

Even as adults we’ve seen some great changes in our own mental health at our house as we’ve changed our diets.

A great book – I’m glad I have this one in my personal library.

 

{and if you need the guidance of a natural health professional, make sure to check out our resources page!}



All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

Kids Rainy Day Activity

Rainy day

Being stuck inside with the rain falling and thunder booming, especially after such overly warm spring weather, can cause even the most well-behaved child to go a little…..beserk. I know my two got so used to being outside for hours everyday, that now with the cooler weather, we struggle to find things to do to fill up the day.

To keep at least a little bit of sanity in the household, I usually pull out my rainy day bag of tricks. Reading some extra books, painting, playdoh, and sometimes if it’s warm enough they’ll ride their bikes in the garage.

Homemade Ring Toss

I found this one via Pinterest and A Little Learning for Two on the last rainy day we had, and what a blessing it was. A few paper plates had been sitting in our cupboard (I bought them when I went to a conference – easy cleanup for Todd!) and I dug out my old paper towel holder.

Putting it together is as simple as cutting circle in the middle of the paper plate and letting the kids color or paint the underside.

And here I thought playing the game was going to be our morning activity. But instead, my kids spent almost an hour coloring their masterpieces.

And not only does this activity fill up time during the day, it’s also a great way for kids to get their creative juices going, their imaginations expanding as they make up their own rules and games, and of course help to teach and re-teach patience as we wait our turn.

One bit of advice though – tell your kids this is a throw away game. I just can’t get my five year old to toss them, and oh how I’ve tried. Most recently I tossed them in a box meant for the garbage and somehow he found them. And was less than thrilled with me.

 

What are your favorite rainy day activities?

 



All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

A Few Of My Favorite Books

Booksphoto:Shutterhacks
I love, I mean LOVE to read good books. I am obsessed with educational books (non-fiction) I will devour any and all subject matter.  My husband laughs at me because if I am reading a really good book I literally can not put it down, I have to finish it in record time.  I love to learn new ways to eat, parent, stay healthy, care for my family, organize, etc…  Sometimes it is hard to decide what books are worth spending my precious time on though.  I thought a list of some of my favorite books for us Natural Moms would be helpful!  I have the two most important subjects, to me, below, Marriage and Parenting, without a good foundation in these two areas of my life the rest doesn’t really go well anyways.

Parenting

If you had all the free time in the world I still don’t think you would have time to read half of the parenting books that are available!  Everyone has an idea about how to raise your kid.  I remember when I was pregnant with my first (and had free time because I had no other kids) I read dozens of parenting books!  Yikes! I was so confused by the time he was born, I felt like I was always doing something wrong and I was for sure he was going to turn in to an axe murderer if I didn’t follow all the rules from the books.  Luckily he has turned out to be a great kid and at the age of 14 he is not an axe murderer!  I did not follow all the rules from those books, but I did take some good ideas and they helped me out over the last 14 years, raising all my kiddos.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, Sears

The Five Love Languages (for kids), Chapman

Parenting With Love and Logic, Cline/Fay

Marriage

Marriage can be a difficult thing to navigate if you don’t have good role models to follow.  My Husband’s parents and my parents are both divorced and we did not want to follow down that path.  Since over 50% of marriages end in divorce we knew we would need some good information to prevent being part of that statistic.  We personally rely on God for our guidance so some of these books do have a biblical basis, but even if you are not a Christian these books have great information!

Intended for Pleasure, Wheat

Love Life for Every Married Couple, Wheat

Personality Plus for Couples,Littauer

Like I said I have oodles of favorite books, these are just a few of them!  It is so hard to only pick a few because I usually take a little something from each book (and forget the stuff that doesn’t mesh well with me) but the books here are chuck full of goodies so that is why they made the top of the list!

Tell me what your favorites are………..

How to Prepare for the Upcoming Homeschool Year

photo:cybrgrl

If you are a Homeschool Mom you know that there is ALWAYS something to be working on, preparing for, planning out, studying up on, buying, etc….

I thought it would help if I laid out a short version of my yearly schedule so those who are new to homeschooling, thinking about homeschooling or are curious about homeschooling could see what our family does throughout the year.  I am trying to draw your attention to the summer months, when most “teachers” take time off, us homeschool teachers need to be using that down time to the best of our ability!  I am by no means saying this is the only way or even the best way to lay out your time and efforts but this is one way (our way) and we have adjusted and tweaked it every year.

In September we start our fall schedule. I sit down with each kid and we do a goal session, this is where they tell me what they want to learn that year and I tell them what I want them to focus on.  My goals are sometimes things like “I would like you to be getting all spelling words correct by the second time testing them” or ” I would like you to be half way through your math book by March”.  The kids goals usually will focus around extras, like “I want to do more hands on science projects” or ” I want to learn about horses”.

We then make a schedule based on each of our goals.  For example my Son was wanting more video game time (he only gets 60 minutes a day) and I was wanting him to work on writing skills outside of his already wonderful story writing.  So we incorporated some video game reviews, he got an extra 60 minutes of game time each day but he also had to do a comprehensive video game review for us–it was a win, win situation.  He got extra video game time, he worked on his typing skills and he realized how difficult it is to be critical, yet fair.

Our fall schedules always include reading, writing and math, anything more than that is up for negotiation.  If you would like to see a sample of my children’s schedule you may send me a message and I will email it to you (it is quite lengthy). My children also do a homeschool co-op once a week, this starts in the fall.

In January we re-evaluate our schedule. This is usually quick and painless.  The kids will let me know if there is anything they are not liking or learning from and we will adjust it.  This is also time for me to make sure we are on track, time wise, and if not we will add, subtract or swap some subjects each day.  For instance, my Son decided that the video game reviews were not nearly as fun as he was expecting, so we decided to switch to doing a blog, he LOVES it and has had a great time updating it and keeping friends and family in the loop of his teenage life, and he is still working on his typing skills and creative writing skills.

In May we usually adjust our schedule to a modified summer schedule. This schedule usually includes anything we didn’t wrap up over the Fall and Winter and anything the kids need to focus on.  For example my oldest is doing  just his pre-algebra this summer because I want all his attention focused on that, as well as mine :-).  My daughter is reviewing her multiplication facts every day for 30 minutes, because I really think that multiplication facts are something that need to be used daily or you forget them!  The end of the year is usually when we look back and make sure we met our goals, if we did, that is GREAT, if we didn’t, we figure out why.  I also like to go through all my curriculum at this time and decide if I am going to keep, sell or toss it.  I like to be able to use the same curriculum for more than one child but all my kiddos have different personalities, priorities and learning styles…so that is not always an option!

photo:CourtneyDirks

Throughout the summer I am using my free time to do a plethora of things:

*look up reviews on curriculum I am considering, my favorite sites are:  homeschoolreviews.com, homeschool-curriculum.org, homeschooling.gomilpitas.com and many more!  Talking with other homeschooling Moms helps too!

*Buy new curriculum.  This part is so fun!  It is like Christmas.  Some of my favorite places to find used curriculum is at homeschool curriculum sales, these are advertised through various means but a good way to stay in the loop locally is to sign up for The Homeschool Building’s email updates, they send out regular emails with activities and events.  I also check Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist for some good deals.

*Research extra curricular activities, camps and classes for the upcoming summer and fall.  Like I mentioned before my kids take part in a homeschooling co-op once a week so I make sure to pick out the schedule for the next year and sign up for the classes we want before they are full.  My kids always want to do an acting camp at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, so I make sure to figure out good dates for that and sign them up.  I also check around for other educational yet fun camps that may work in the schedule.  Some of my favorites are: The Blandford Nature CenterThe Grand Rapids Public Museum and Kendall College of Art and Design.

*I try to start a list of field trips I would like to do over the upcoming year.  I don’t ever get to all the field trips I want to do but if I have a list then at least if we have a free day I can go to the list quickly and have a place in mind.  Some of the activities are seasonal too, so I make sure to note that (such as Christmas around the world at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens).  Some of my favorite field trips are: Impressions 5 Science Center (Lansing MI), The Blandford Nature Center (Grand Rapids MI), The MSU dairy farm (Lansing MI), Fredrick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids MI) as well as local high school band concerts and plays.

*I try to scour garage sales looking for education tools, toys, videos and books that I can use!  Lots of people who don’t homeschool will buy their kids educational products in hopes that they will use them and then they end up in the garage sale for a great deal.  My favorites are flash cards, books, art supplies, and Magic School Bus videos (I love Ms. Frizzle)!

*Read, read, read books on homeschooling.  I have favorites that I re-read, my top three picks are: 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, Homeschooling for Dummies and The Homeschoolers Book of Lists.  I also will read any new books and magazines that the library has, if I decide I love it then I will try to find it used online and buy it for my ever expanding library!

*I look at the chore chart and re-evaluate what each child does and can do.  I may add chores, switch chores or change days.  As the kids get older they can take on new, more difficult chores but they also have less free time because of harder school work and more extra curricular activities, so all of that has to be taken in to account.  In our family chores are a part of school because it is training for real life!

*This year I added looking for volunteering opportunities to my TO DO list for Summer.  I have been looking for ways my kids can learn new skills, work with others and get some time with other authority figures.  My Son has fallen in love with volunteering at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, he is helping out with the campers and doing some light and sound work!  Another great place for younger kids to volunteer is The Humane Society.

*I like to take extra time in the summer to pray about my kid’s future and ask God to lead me in the right path.  I want their time with me to be enjoyable and educational and that is a hard balance that I need God’s divine intervention with!

FYI: This is my 5th year homeschooling, my oldest Son is 13, my Daughter is 10 and I have a 2 year old Son and one on the way.

So homeschooling Moms tell me what you do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming year…………

Kick it!

Throw Away Your Television.

photo credit: clickflashphotos

 

“Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I liked to take a minute just sit right there
And tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air”  (add in your own synthesizer noise here)

Ok, don’t pretend that you couldn’t sing the rest of this song from memory!  In fact, I bet I couldn’t stop you from singing it and that it will in fact, be stuck in your head all day now.  He he he… you’re welcome.

Aren’t you so glad that you have this important tidbit permanently embedded into your cerebral storage space?  How many afternoons I wasted, staring at the boob tube.  I wish I could reprogram by brain and replace all the theme songs, junky toy jingles, and mounds of TV trivia, with important things!

Well, this is my story all about how my life got flip turned upside down…  (ok sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

I knew I wanted something better for my kids.  I knew that watching TV significantly delayed cognitive development.  So my oldest never watched any TV until she was well over 2 (unless you count watching Lord of the Rings with Daddy @ 7 days old.  A love of LOTR is an obligatory part of being a member in our family).  But as any Mama knows, the rules get relaxed as you have more children.  As I got busier with keeping house and raising our growing family, I all too often, reverted to the old standby babysitter… the boob tube.  And I justified it because I only allowed them to watch educational tv shows.

But even then, I began to notice, my normally polite girls DEMANDING certain toys or junk foods.  The childrens’ song writer turned child advocate, Raffi said “These companies want to turn America’s kids into sales agents to nag Mom and Dad.” The last straw was when my then 4yr old began singing fast food jingles when we drove past McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway!  At a time when her brain is like a sponge, what was I allowing her to absorb?

So, I immediately tossed out my TV and never looked back!!

Ok…… not quite……  I have to admit, it wasn’t that simple.  It was a process of baby steps (like most things with natural parenting, baby steps make it doable).  We started by only watching TV as a family in the evening and not allowing the kids to watch it during the day.  And then, when they switched to digital TV, we just never bothered to get a converter box.  That was a Godsend!  It forced me to take the next step and cutting out all commercial TV.

As a side note, did you know that the real dangerous part is the commercials anyways?  Surprised me a little, but really, it makes sense; those commercials during kids programming are beyond irritating!  Those toys never do what they show in the commercials. Mouse Trap was such a let down as a kid.  It took 20 minutes to set the trap only to knock it down and have to set it all back up again!

So, no converter box = no TV shows.

Instead we have a great selection of DVDs.  I’ve carefully chosen a few movies that I feel benefit my kids when they watch them in moderation.  (My 4yr old thinks she lives in a musical.  She sings about going to the potty, she sings about how much she dislikes squash, and she sings about how much she HATES to go to bed – though that one is more like a funeral dirge.)

Not having the option of watching TV all the time forces my kids to get creative.  And that leads to all kinds of interesting made up games!  And when they play those games, they learn all sorts of important life skills like…

Piloting an aircraft with no wings,

 

How to corral a herd of fuzzy haired ponies,

 

Or how to defend your self with only a stolen turkey baster……

Hey!  I was looking for that!!!

But in all seriousness, I don’t have to tell you that time spent in front of the TV is time they aren’t spending working on important things like problem solving, good communication, developing their imagination or learning to work together with a 2yr old dead set on knocking down your fairy castle.

So, just give it a try, commit yourself to 1 week without TV.  If you need to, do something to force yourself to keep that resolution (unplug it, put it in the garage, or hid the remote!).  You’ll realize, it’s easier to do than you thought.

I’d love to hear how your TV free week went?  What was the hardest?  Was it easier than you thought?  Did you give in a little or did you stay strong?  Did you kids have a blast making up a crazy game instead of vegging??

Go for it Mama!  You can do it!  One baby step at a time.

Kids and T.V. {can you go screen-free?}

kids and t.v.

photo credit: sarahreido

 

As a parent, I recognize the risks of TV marketing and felt (naively) confident when I first heard about “Screen-Free Week”, which takes place this year from April 18-24, 2011. This celebration is intended to raise awareness of how much time we as adults spend in front of “entertainment screen media” and encourage families, schools and communities to unplug and engage in activity together.

My family recently gave up our sub-basic cable service after realizing that the programming was not worth the monthly fee. Still, after an active day outside my children will often spend some time in front of a movie to relax. While we are taking some big steps in the right direction, I am still concerned about the consequences of saturating our children with media.

Consider the statistics:

  • According to Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children under the age of five log an astonishing average of 32 hours of screen time per week and that figure increases (sometimes dramatically) with the child’s age.
  • Depending on the source and the person, the average American consumer (adult or child) is exposed to anywhere from 500 to 3,000 advertisements per day.
  • Although figures vary widely, it is estimated that the food and beverage industry spends upwards of $1.2 billion annually to market their products to children (this figure does not include cross promotion, ads during general programming, advertising in the schools or much of the internet advertising). The vast majority of those food products were high in fat, calories and/ or sodium and very low in nutrient density.
  • WebMD reports there is a strong correlation between the amount of time young children spend in front of a TV and an increase of Body Mass Index, lower grades and higher intake of nutritionally deficient foods and beverages.

What makes screen time a negative activity?

Media and marketing messages

Big corporations are thriving at the expense of our children. They are working very hard to increase profits by product placement and commercials. Excessive screen time means they have more exposure to this very specific and targeted advertising.

Violence

More than 1,000 different studies have proved that repeated exposure to violence in certain children can cause increased aggression, desensitization to violence and general fear of safety.

Sexual Content

Exposure to sexual content in the media (even if it is only talk and not visually provocative) can significantly affect the likelihood that a young adult will engage in promiscuous activity.

Health Concerns

Many children are replacing healthy, educational and community-building activities to sit in front of a screen. This alone can negatively affect their health. However, if the programs they are watching and games that they are playing not only promotes but glamorizes behaviors such as smoking and drinking, they have added pressure to join in. Alcohol and tobacco industries capitalize on this type of pressure, enough to spend billions each year to continue advertising indirectly to our youth.

 

How much is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents keep children away from the “screen” entirely until the age of two and then limiting quality programming to 1-2 hours during the preschool years.

 

What can we do as parents?

1. Limit screen time and use incentives to “earn” the privilege. We require positive behavior reports from school in order to earn movie time in the evening. Other suggestions include reading one book in exchange for one hour of video games or TV.

2. Watch TV with your child. For a younger child, this is a great time to reinforce the educational components of programming. During primetime viewing, you can talk to your older kids about the choices their favorite characters are making or objectively evaluate the marketing messages during commercial time.

3. Find alternatives to the screen when you are distracted. Teach your child to help with chores or give them a similar activity to help them feel included in the task.

4. Choose educational programs and limit exposure to commercials. We have easy access to the library and prefer to preview videos for content and quality rather than exposing them to countless commercials for junk food or violent movie previews.

5. Create rules to encourage physical activity. For example, in our house we don’t turn the TV on if the sun is out. Another idea is to have children do exercises during commercial time or participate in an exercise video together and count that towards weekly screen time.

Be aware that while you may be convinced that limiting screen time is important, it may be more difficult to get your family to support your enthusiasm for unplugging the media. Take baby steps toward your goal… and start by challenging your family to participate in “Screen-Free Week” April 18-24, 2011. There is some great research and helpful resources available on the CCFC’s website to get you started.

 

natural living momsJana Christian, mother of two, recently transitioned to full-time stay-at-home mom. Her extensive knowledge about and passion for health and nutrition have helped her resolve her own personal health issues (including a life-threatening eating disorder and severe postpartum depression) and adjust her family’s diet to accommodate multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities. Jana takes her job very seriously and can unusually either be found at the library researching new theories or in the kitchen baking bread.

 

 



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