Proper Nutrition for the Youth Athlete

Synopsis: Quitting time for Mom and Dad is five o’clock. Bobby’s soccer game is at six, while Susie’s volleyball game is two miles away from the soccer field and starts just 15-minutes later. This leaves little time for grabbing a healthy pregame meal. With a bit of preparation, an unfortunate trip to the fast food drive-through can be avoided.

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The pre-game meal for youth athletes does not have to be complicated. Just as parents pack a school lunch for kids, they should also pack a pregame meal which can be eaten an hour before game time or practice. A peanut butter sandwich, fruit (like an apple, orange or grapes), yogurt and carrot sticks can supply the energy needed for a youngster to participate in a sports activity. If a child is old enough to safely operate a microwave, prepare a serving of pasta or rice to be reheated. It is a solid choice as a pregame meal and it has carbohydrate intake to supply energy. It is best to caution on the ‘light’ side when it comes to pregame foods. If there is not enough time for an actual meal, let the young athlete munch on a granola bar, trail mix or pretzels.

The best drink solution when faced with the short time allotted between a meal and game activity is a non-carbonated sports drink. Many nutritional programs for professional athletes involve a game day regimen of pre-hydration via such drinks. Stay away from the sugary, carbonated beverages. Water is also a great option.

Make sure the meal the night before an athletic event is also healthy and balanced. A meal consisting of a combination of carbohydrates, a little protein and fruit can provide the stored energy required for athletic competition. Poultry, fish, beans and other legumes can supply the protein which will help muscle building and quicker recovery time for the athlete. Breads, milk and vegetables provide the carbohydrates. A healthy breakfast adds fuel as well. Cereals, milk and fruit contribute much needed nutrients.

Don’t forget the postgame nutrition. A lot of calories are burned off when a kid plays an hour or more of soccer, football or basketball. It has been determined chocolate milk to be an excellent choice after an athletic event. Some say it is better than a sports drink for replacing nutrients lost from sweat. Chocolate milk is a good source of potassium, sodium and electrolytes. The fact it takes milk longer to leave the stomach means more of the nutrients are absorbed by the body. Chocolate milk is also a great source for protein and carbohydrates which assist in muscle recovery and muscle building.

Of course, the best postgame meal is one where the entire family is involved. Take advantage of winding down with everyone involved, whether it is over one of Dad’s grilled steaks or surrounding a pizza picked up on the way home.

Golf is Only for Adults – Or Is It?

DSC_0524Synopsis: The golf course is often considered a playground for adults, but kids certainly have their place to participate in this challenging and rewarding sport.

Golf has a well-earned reputation as one of the hardest sports in the world. While the physical demands are not very intimidating, the skill required to play at a high level is immense. Many people spend their whole lives playing this great game without ever mastering the finer points of the golf swing or the putting stroke. Because of its difficulty, golf has been long thought of as a game best-suited for adults. While it is a great choice for many adults, there is more than enough room on the golf course for kids as well.

Following are a few reasons to strongly consider starting your kids out on the links at an early age.

It’s a Friendly Game

Sportsmanship is a difficult thing to teach kids, but it is a natural part of the game of golf. While you might be competing against the person you are playing with, you are also rooting for them. Etiquette is an important facet of golf, and it is something that can go a long way toward the development of a young person. Even if they don’t go on to fall in love with the game like so many do, the lessons of sportsmanship and etiquette will certainly stay with them.

Facing a Challenge

Giving your child the task of learning how to play this difficult game is something that can help them develop learning skills which will be used later in life. The ability to take instruction from a golf teacher and put it into use is not much different from taking any other kind of instruction whether in school in or in the workplace. The ability to adapt and grow is important in life, and those are lessons regularly found on the driving range and the putting green.

Independence

Perhaps one of the best things about placing young people in golf is the independent attitude that they will need to develop. There are no teammates to blame when a golf shot goes wrong, so your child will need to learn to take ownership of their mistakes and simply work hard to do better next time. These can be tough lessons, but they are also very valuable.

The Game of a Lifetime

Many people who pick up the game of golf when they are young never give it up. Golf is a game that your child can grow into, and they can continue to play it long into their adult lives. Whereas games like football and baseball tend to be over when the school years are finished, golf is something that they will be able to take with them and enjoy for as long as they wish.

Make no mistake – golf is a tough game, whether you are a kid or an adult. However, most kids love the challenge that golf presents, and it is a game that will allow them to spend plenty of time with their friends. Consider enrolling your child in a golf camp or program to see just how much they can learn from this great game.

 

Communicating with the Coach

232323232fp83232>uqcshlukaxroqdfv7944=ot>2477=875=394=XROQDF>266-533924252ot1lsiThe coach isn’t just some person who stands in front of the kids barking orders. Children’s sports coaches are multi-talented leaders who are there to help their team succeed, teach the rules of the game, impart good sportsmanship and be supportive. That said, coaches aren’t perfect – and neither are you or your child. There will be times when you have to bring up a touchy subject or strike up a not-so-pleasant conversation. Knowing how to effectively communicate with the coach is a must-do for every parent of a young athlete.

Talk Off of the Field

You don’t appreciate the way that the coach just yelled at your child when he sat back and didn’t go after the soccer ball. Should you march up to him and speak your mind? Absolutely not. Unless something is happening that puts your child’s (or another child’s) safety in jeopardy, wait until the game is over. Waiting does two things: 1. It gives you time to calm down and think about what just happened. You can prepare what you are going to say and say it without blowing up., and 2. It doesn’t make you seem like ‘that’ parent. You know, the parent who flies off the handle and cusses out the coach in front of the team. Everyone, including your child, is watching you. Act as a role model, keep calm and wait for the right time to talk.

Set a Goal

Whether the problem is the coach’s or your child’s behavior, you need to have a clear goal in mind before starting a conversation. Obviously, coming up with a solution is the overriding objective for any communication with the coach. With that in mind, break the problem down into specific issues. For example, your child whines every time that he has to go to practice. The goals for your conversation with the coach might be to find out if there is a problem with your child and his teammates or get ideas on how to handle the whining.

Listen

What does your child’s coach have that you don’t? An insider’s opinion. The coach may see and know things about your child’s sports play that you don’t. Before jumping to point out flaws or correct coaching behavior, let the coach talk. For example, you’re not thrilled with the lack of playing time that your child is getting. You don’t understand why the coach isn’t putting your child on the field and you’re ready to do something about it. Step back and start by asking what’s going on. It’s possible that your child asked to sit out or that there’s a perfectly acceptable reason.

Work as a Team

Both you and the coach have one common goal – your child’s success. You’re a team, and need to act like one. Remind yourself (and the coach, if needed) that your child’s needs come first. Even if you don’t agree with everything the coach says, you need to keep an open mind.

Communicating with the coach is a fact of life when you’ve got a child who plays a sport. Initiating a conversation in an appropriate way and knowing what to say during your discussion can save time, face and your child’s team-time fun.

 

7 Steps You Can Take To Reduce Your Child’s Risk Of Injury

All parents worry about their children getting injured. As the parent of a sporty kid, you might find yourself worrying about this more than most. You’ll be pleased to hear there are simple steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of injury on the field.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is seeing your child get hurt. Even just a graze on the knee can be heartbreaking to witness, and most parents would swap places with their child in a heartbeat to protect them from pain.

All children suffer the odd injury, and this risk is increased if your child spends a lot of time doing physical activity. That doesn’t mean you have to simply accept that accidents will happen? Well, there are things you can do to try and keep your child safe from injury. Here are seven steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of injury on the pitch:

#1: Trust the Coach

This is probably one of the most important steps you can take to keep your child safe. The coach will be responsible for your child’s welfare during games and practices, so make sure you can trust the person coaching your child’s team. The coach should be properly trained in best practices, as well as being first aid trained.

#2: Check The Equipment

Don’t just join the team closest to your house; make sure it is a reputable one. If you’re happy with the coach’s commitment to safety, next it’s time to check the equipment. Does it look safe? Is it regularly monitored for wear and tear? Is the pitch in good condition? These are all important questions to ask yourself before selecting a team for your child to join.

#3: Use The Right Kit

Hand-me-downs might save you money, but they could be putting your child in danger. When it comes to footwear and protective gear, your child needs to have gear that fits properly. A badly fitted helmet will not provide the same level of protection as one that is the right size for your child.

#4: Use Sunscreen

Sunburns may not sound like a sports injury, but many children play sports outside without wearing sunscreen. Sunburns can leave your child in pain and cause a lot of discomfort. If your child constantly plays without applying sunscreen he or she will also increase their risk of more serious skin conditions later on. Sunscreen is an important part of protecting your child during outdoor sports.

#5: Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up before a game, and taking the time to cool down afterwards, can protect your child’s muscles from injury. Make sure warming up and cooling down is a part of your child’s regular sports routine. Speak to the coach to make sure that they are warming up safely, and that the team cools down together after each session.

#6: Stay Hydrated

We all need to drink extra water when we exercise. One hour of exercise means you need to drink an extra six-ounce glass of water. If you don’t have water at hand, it’s all too easy to forget this. Dehydration is serious and could leave your child feeling unwell, especially in warmer weather. Make sure you send your child with a bottle of water to each game, so she can have it nearby when she gets thirsty.

#7: Rest

Rest is very important for young athletes. Make sure your child gets enough time each day to wind down and rest. If he’s rushing from one activity to another all day long, he’s more likely to feel tired while playing and is more likely to make a mistake that can result in an injury. If he does sustain an injury, make sure he rests until he is fully recovered. Rushing recovery can backfire, leading to an even longer recovery time when a secondary injury is incurred.

 

Five Benefits of Tennis for Young Athletes

IMG_3601Synopsis: Enrolling young children in tennis will not only expose them to a great sport now, but could also could lead to a lifelong passion for this popular game.

While in the United States tennis might not be as popular as sports like baseball or football, it remains a great option for young athletes. As a parent trying to decide which sports will benefit your children the most, be sure to consider tennis as an option. Following are five benefits of choosing tennis as one of your child’s sports.

#1 – Great Exercise

There is no doubt that tennis is great exercise. Rather than the long, sustained running that is seen in sports like soccer or track, tennis players run quickly in short bursts throughout a match. At the end of the day, however, they have worked as hard (or harder) than players in any other sport. The conditioning gained through tennis can apply to a number of other sports, as tennis players develop lateral quickness, change of direction abilities, and more. A young person who goes through a season of tennis practice and matches will certainly be in excellent physical condition when they are finished.

#2 – Learning Skills

One of the best things about enrolling your children in sports is giving them the opportunity to learn specific skills. In the short-term, they learn how to play the sport. In the long-term, they develop the ability to learn how to complete a task, which is something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. There are a number of skills taught to young people on the tennis court, including footwork, forehand, backhand, serve, volley, and more.

#3 – Solo Endeavor

When talking about singles tennis, the player is all alone on the court against their opponent. For a child, this can be difficult at first, but it helps to develop a self-reliance that can be valuable later in life. There is nowhere to hide on a tennis court, so the player is required to step up to the challenge and perform their best.

#4 – Path to College

While a college scholarship should never be the main motivation for participating in junior athletics, the path to such a reward for tennis players is less-crowded than it is in other sports. Even if a scholarship isn’t attained, the opportunity to continue playing tennis on the small college level exists for many high school team members.

#5 – Lifelong Sport

Much like golf, tennis is a sport that can be continued on into adulthood. Tennis courts are available in many public places, and it is an activity that can often be enjoyed for free. Remaining active in tennis later on in life is a great way to stay in shape, enjoy some friendly competition, and spend time outdoors. Plenty of young tennis players will fall in love with the game and continue to play it for decades to come.

Keeping Sports Kid-Friendly

ry=400Unless your young child is on their way to the Olympics, sports should be more about fun and learning than the serious stuff! You’ve seen the parents on the sideline of the soccer field screaming “Go! Go! Go! Get that ball. Get that other kid out of the way!” And, that’s at a preschool game. Then there are the high-profile cases that the media picks up on (like the hockey dad who shattered the glass barrier). Instead of shouting, screaming and throwing tantrums to get your child at the top of their game, try the opposite. Keeping sports kid-friendly is a must-do when introducing athletics to young children. How can you help to keep the fun up and nix the training tirades?

Play Up Interests

Just because you’ve always imagined yourself as a pro basketball player, doesn’t mean that your child has to follow your footsteps. While giving your child options and exposing them to different types of sports is key, pushing them to play when they have absolutely no interest is a whole other issue. Imagine how you would feel if someone forced you to do something that you can’t stand. Would you think that the activity was fun or dread doing it? Your child feels the same way when you pick all their activities for them. Instead, try taking their opinion and interests into consideration.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not every child is meant to be a super-star athlete. While some kids excel at sports, others are not born-athletes. If your child isn’t the number one player, never scores a goal, often strikes out or doesn’t make the all-star team, don’t worry. This doesn’t mean that they have to quit. Set goals or expectations that don’t always involve winning or being in the front of the pack. For example, instead of expecting your 8-year-old to score four out of the five winning soccer goals, have more realistic goals such as try as hard as they can, stay active, support their team and show good sportsmanship.

Think About Age

Remember, we’re talking about ‘children’s sports’, and not pro football training. This is the time for your child to build a true love for the game, and not feel like he has to win, win, win. Take your child’s age and developmental level into consideration. Ask yourself if the sport, coaching and training/practices are appropriate for your child’s age. If any part of it is well out of your child’s league, it may be time to move on and try another activity.

Above all, keep a positive attitude and praise your child. Being the parent who is jumping onto the field, yelling at the coach or is barking orders is never fun – not for you and certainly not for your child.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer With Your Child’s Sports Team

DSC00364It’s almost too easy to come up with excuses as to why you can’t volunteer to help out with your child’s team. Just imagine if you did though. If you gave up some spare time to help out, how might that feel?

Time isn’t something that many parents spare. Between working, caring for the children and keeping a home, you’re probably exhausted enough as it is. Add to that the social commitments, some down time and spending time with your extended family, and you’re probably wishing there were more hours in the day.

It’s easy to come up with excuses as to why you can’t be the one to help out with your child’s sports teams. After all, you’re busy, tired and surely another parent must have more free time than you. But will you be missing out if you pass up on this opportunity to really get involved in your child’s favorite pastime?

Here are five reasons why you should volunteer with your child’s sports team:

#1: They Need You

There isn’t much money in youth sports, not at the school level anyway. Your child’s team is probably struggling to get by on a limited budget. Yes, you could cut them a check, but your time is worth much more to them. They want parents who are involved, engaged and supportive. Although you may not know, you have some skills that could benefit the team. Whether you’re a wiz at writing press releases, a an expert fundraiser, or own a van that could be used to transport equipment, the team needs you.

#2: Extra Bonding Time

Going to watch the games is great, and you’re already an amazing parent. But getting involved in the team will give you that extra little bit of bonding time with your kid. It may also give you more of an insight into what your child is like outside of home. You may see him on the pitch every week, but volunteering will allow you into the backstage area too, and that’s a very different field.

#3: It’s Supportive

Telling your kids you support them is great, but showing them is even better. What better way to support your child’s team than by being a part of it? Your child will know just how much you support them when you start volunteering your spare time to help them out.

#4: Community Spirit

One small way you can improve the world is by making positive changes in your local community. By helping out your child’s team, you are getting involved in your local community and offering the skills and time they need to offer a better service. By volunteering, you could help the team reach out to more children, improve their game and offer the children better opportunities.

#5: That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

You know what makes you feel good about yourself? Doing something worthwhile. Giving up one night in front of the television each week in favor of some voluntary work is pretty much guaranteed to leave you feeling awesome. By contributing your time, you will be making a difference in the lives of people in your local community and your own family. Go on, get stuck in and enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling after doing something good.

Fighting Childhood Obesity Through Sports

if-your-child-is-resistingIn the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 12 million children ages 2 through 19 years are considered obese. If you’re staring at that statistic and saying, “Wow! That seems like a lot,” – it is. Although the number of obese preschoolers (ages 2 through 5 years) has significantly decreased in the past few years, the rates for other age groups haven’t seen the same decline. The CDC notes that during 2011-2012, 8.4 percent of children ages 2- through 5-years were obese. In comparison, more than 17 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 11 were obese. That number inches up to 20.5 percent for the 12- through 19-year teen age grouping.

With millions of obese children in America, what can be done to stop this serious health problem? There isn’t one easy approach. Every child is different, making it challenging to give a definitive answer. That said, a combination of nutritious eating and activity can lead to a healthier lifestyle for kids of all ages. How do sports fit in to the mix? Athletics provide children with the chance to break a sedentary cycle, get away from the TV/computer/iPad/iPod/other screen and get active.

Given that sports help fight childhood obesity, it would seem obvious that anyone who works with kids would promote athletic activities. Or is it? According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only six states require physical education for students in kindergarten through grade 12. With a growing trend towards academics over athletics, if you think your child is getting his fill of sports at school, you’re probably wrong. Where does that leave you and your child when it comes to exercise and activity? You have to rely on after-school, extra-curricular or community-based sports offer kids the chance to get up, get active and fight the causes of obesity.

Using sports as a way to combat weight gain and build a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean that your child needs to be a top-tier competitor. The key in fighting obesity is to get your child active, and not push him to ‘win, win, win’. Emphasizing winning and competition over the actual physical activity may put your child off and make him shy away from physical fitness even more, especially if he is shy or not exactly a natural athlete. Instead of pushing him to win, you should encourage sports as a fun activity. The idea here is making sure that your child is active. If he’s not enjoying himself, he won’t have an incentive to get up and move.

What can you do to use sports as an obesity-fighting activity?

  • Make sure that your child chooses athletics that require actual activity. Standing around on the sidelines cheering on his team doesn’t count towards his daily activity requirement. Picks such as swimming, track, soccer or gymnastics are examples of active sports.
  • Let your child choose. Forcing him into football when he would rather wrestle isn’t going to help your child enjoy what he’s doing. Give him plenty of options and don’t settle on just one at a young age. There’s nothing wrong with swapping soccer for volleyball when the season’s over.
  • Don’t let your child quit. Switching one sport for another after the season’s done isn’t the same as giving up entirely. It’s normal to feel frustrated when a sport is new. Be a cheerleader, and praise your child’s efforts.
  • Work out at home. If your child is anxious that he won’t be able to keep up with the other kids, start slowly at home (this counts as exercise too). Race around the backyard or organize a soccer game with his siblings.

Keep in mind, the focus needs to be on getting and keeping your child healthy. If he’s already obese or has a related medical condition, always consult a doctor before starting any sports program. Let the coach know what your child’s goals are and if there are any special medical considerations to take.

What’s Too Much When it Comes to Scheduling Sports?

640Monday is soccer practice, Tuesday is swim team, Wednesday and Thursday are both gymnastics days and Friday is karate. Then comes the weekend. There’s a soccer game on Saturday at 8 a.m., followed by a swim meet start-time and a belt promotion test for karate both at noon. Your child has to miss his belt promotion because it conflicts with the out-of-your-area aqua club event. Whew! Sounds tiring, right? Four different sports at one time – is this too much? Knowing how much is too much when it comes to your child’s athletic activities is key to maintaining balance. It also allows for young athletes to have fun practicing a sport, instead of having crammed schedules and no free time .

The Overscheduling Dilemma

The thought of your child not having an after-school activity makes you shiver. If he’s not at baseball, basketball or skating, he’s probably going to be sitting in front of the TV or laptop zoning out. While this is a popular picture of the unstructured child, it isn’t necessarily true. Kids need some time that isn’t scheduled, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that packing every second of your child’s out-of-school time with sports, sports and more sports can be very overwhelming and isn’t always healthy.

Structured vs. Unstructured Activities

You may not want to overwhelm your child with extracurricular activities but you also fear excess free time. That’s why it’s important to find a balance. Structured activities, such as soccer practice or ice skating lessons do much more than just take up time, they provide a opportunity to improve motor skills, stay healthy, learn and have social interactions with peers. That said, unstructured activities don’t equal laziness or the lack of learning. Unstructured activities allow your child to think creatively and learn to know him or herself. For example, instead of having a coach coax your child into drills, they can create their own outdoor movement play game and bring on their own brand of motivation!

The Magic Number

The truth is – there is no magic number of sports activities that your child should do. Whether you’ve scheduled too much, too little or the ‘just right’ amount of athletics depends on several factors. These include:

  • Younger children (such as preschoolers and kids in elementary school) may not have the ability to focus on several different sports at one time. Throwing soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, ice-skating, basketball and tennis at a young child all at once may confuse them. Let your young child focus on one sport per season. Older kids and teens may also want to engage in fewer sports activities. This is because they need to spend more time to seriously focus on the area in which they excel.
  • You want to expose your children to all of the possibilities that the sports’ world has to offer. But, does that mean they have to try absolutely everything? Expose your children to a variety of activities – within reason. If your child truly doesn’t want to play a sport, seems distressed or refuses to go to practice, don’t push too much. There’s no medal for playing each and every sport that your community leagues offer. Instead, pay attention to the activity for which he express the most interest and make it a priority.
  • Older kids need more time for school work. If your child has two hours of homework each night, a five-day per week sporting schedule may create a situation in which their grades suffer. Keeping a balance between curricular and extracurricular activities is important in achieving success for student athletes.

Remember, balance is a must-have factor. Your child shouldn’t feel like he or she is on a never-ending merry go-round of sports activities, but also shouldn’t feel like he or she has absolutely nothing to do. Avoid overscheduling and take your children’s ages and interests into consideration before deciding how many sports they should play. In the end, sports should be exciting, engaging and educational for children. Being in balance allows this to happen without pushing your child or making athletic activities feel like chores.

How To Make Fitness A Family Priority

selfieSynopsis: Family time is precious these days, and that means you need to get as much out of it as possible. You might think you don’t have much time for fitness, but all you need to do is incorporate fitness into family time. It’s not only fun, but it will also benefit every member of the family.

If you want your kids to be sports-loving fitness fanatics, you need to model that behavior for them. It’s no good if you’re simply cheering them on from the sofa, you need to live a healthy life if you want them to, as well. It can be tough changing old habits, but if you want your kids to develop a lifelong love for good health, then it’s important you change your ways too. Here are a few tips to help you make fitness a family priority:

#1: Prioritize spending time outdoors

Time indoors is all too often spent in front of screens, and so it’s important to get out and about as a family. Make sure to spend time outdoors as a family at least once a week. The more time you spend outdoors, the better. The woods, fields and parks aren’t filled with screens and there are no comfy sofas to lounge on. There are no walls to bounce off, and you’ll soon discover all of the benefits that outdoor living can offer your family. The great thing about heading out into the open air is that you don’t really need a plan. Just head out there and see what mother nature has to offer you.

#2: Get the whole family involved

Organize a family barbecue with games for kids and adults. Find a game you think everyone will love; soccer, basketball or volleyball, and make sure the whole family participates. Split into teams, and make sure it’s done fairly. The kids will love it, and you might be surprised to discover that the adults enjoy themselves too. Make sure it’s not a competitive affair; it’s the taking part that counts.

#3: Ditch the car

Most people are aware that environmentalists and health advisors recommend leaving the car at home for journeys of less than a mile, and yet not many people actually do it. Make a pledge that you will start walking more, and get the whole family involved. This could mean walking to school, cycling to the local shops or catching a train to visit friends. It’s all about getting out there and staying active. You might be surprised to find out the difference a brisk 20 minute walk a day can do!

#4: Go swimming

Swimming is lots of fun, and it’s also a really great way to improve your fitness. Whether you live near a beach, indoor or outdoor pool, it’s time to start taking full advantage of it. Make sure the whole family goes, and try to go each and every week. Most children love swimming, and if you make it a regular and enjoyable experience, that love could last a lifetime.

#5: Don’t see it as a chore

If it’s not fun, your children won’t enjoy it. Your attitude has a lot to do with how your children approach things in life. If you see fitness as a chore, your kids won’t want to do it. If you’re passionate about it, and your kids enjoy spending time with you as you get fit as family, then it will be a fun experience for everyone.

#6: Head to the park

Playgrounds are like tiny gymnasiums for kids. Obviously they’re a lot more exciting than real gyms, because not many people get to go down a huge slide halfway through their workout. Parks are a great place for fitness because your kids can climb, run, jump and generally go wild to their hearts’ content in a relatively safe environment. Try adding in an after school visit to your local playground at least one day a week.