Get Fit Together Family Activity Guide (Giveaway)

We know that children are little mimics – they will copy behaviors that they observe and repeat words that they hear (nearly every parent can attest to this with stories of awkward situations involving particular word choices not appropriate for 5-year-olds to utter). So if mom and dad relax in front of the TV after dinner, chances are that’s going to be the preference for the kids as well. But, if mom and dad instead say it’s time to do something fun together after dinner, that helps create an environment where activity is normal and encouraged. Family Hiking in the Woods

While it can be hard with busy lifestyle – whether it’s work, or scheduled activities like music lessons or sports – you really have to make the time, otherwise it’s too easy to put things off until the next day. Block time on the weekend – whether it’s an hour or half the day – and do something fun as a family. Go for a hike, go for a bike ride on a trail, go geocaching, discover a new park – just go. Do something. You can even let the kids decide – chose between a hike or bike ride. Go for a walk after dinner. Just get out together.

Keep in mind, this isn’t your time to get your daily exercise in. You’ll get too frustrated if you’re focused on “miles” and the kids are wanting to look at the pretty flowers by the side of the road. It’s about them. It’s about spending time together as a family. Let them discover their world and enjoy re-discovering the world through their eyes. And, if you’re hearing them complain, “It’s too long to walk! Are we there yet? Why can’t we play our video games!” that’s actually a sign they’re bored. So think about how you can keep it fun. Play a game of I Spy. Make up stories. Do some research and find out the history of the place before you go.

That said, remember kids do need breaks. Kids younger than 5 usually need a break every 15 minutes. So if you’re planning an hour hike, that could easily turn into a two hour venture. For elementary age kids that usually turns into a break every half hour. You know your child best, but aim for under-doing rather than over-doing. Trying to do too much can make it a frustrating experience for kids, and one they’ll not want to repeat.

When you’re thinking about what to do, remember they may not like everything you try so expose them to a lot of different things – biking, hiking, ice skating, roller skating – you never know what might click. And help them remember it’s not about doing things right. It’s about having fun and laughing. It may be challenging the first time the family tries things, but that can also help create fond family memories (“Do you remember that time dad tried roller skating?). And, it’s also a good way for kids to see even adults have to practice and work at an activity.

And, you’ve heard it before, but it’s always a good reminder to use sunscreen and sun protection, and any safety equipment like helmets you may need.

So, what are some ideas you can try? Check out Wisconsin’s State Parks, find out what’s going on around Wisconsin, learn some simple things to do around home or explore our Exercise for Kids Pinterest board.

They’re only young for a fleeting time so enjoy every moment of it while you can. When you make a family habit of doing things together when they’re young, they’ll continue to enjoy doing family activities as they grow. And, there is a special bonding that takes place when you’re active together. A simple walk with the dog can turn into an hour spent laughing and learning more about what’s going on in your child’s life. It’s a gift for the whole family.

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway

Leave a comment below with your favorite place for a family hike or bike ride.

Prize: 1 - Picnic package including a picnic blanket, water bottle and sunscreen.
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

About Judy Hilgers, RN, BSN and Ellen Heiser, MS
Judy is a clinic nurse with the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic. Ellen is Clinical Exercise Physiologist at the the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic.

View all posts by Judy Hilgers, RN, BSN and Ellen Heiser, MS
Posted in Activity, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Campfire Safety Guide

Campfire SafetySummer nights are perfect for having a campfire with your family. You can sing songs, tell stories and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. Keep your campfire experience fun and safe with these tips from the UW Health Burn Center:

  • Always have an adult around. Children should never build a fire alone
  • Keep the campfire small so that you can manage it
  • Choose one person to be in charge of adding wood to the fire
  • Do not throw or use flammable liquids on a fire
  • Never throw trash on a fire
  • Keep a safety zone of at least 3 feet when standing around the fire. You can use long sticks to roast marshmallows.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to stop, drop and roll. Explain to your kids that if their clothes accidentally start on fire they should stop, cover their face, drop to the ground and roll around to put out the flame.
  •  Have plenty of water and a shovel nearby in case the fire starts burning outside of the fire area. If you don’t have water, you can use dirt!
  •  Never leave a campfire unattended.

When you are ready to leave, pour water on the fire until the hissing sound stops and make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch. Remember what Smokey the Bear says: “If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!”

What is your family’s favorite campfire activity?

Posted in Safety | Tagged , , , , ,

Swimming in a “Waterproof” Cast (Giveaway)

Blue Arm CastThis giveaway is no longer accepting entries. Congratulations to our winner Jeanne

Broken bones are a common injury for children during the summer. It’s important to help your child take care of the cast until it’s time to get it removed.

The number one rule of casts are to keep them dry. This includes  “waterproof” casts, too since these cast are NOT really waterproof. The outer shell is water resistant, but the cast has openings on each end that lets in water.

To prevent skin problems, your child should avoid water and keep the cast as dry as possible.  If water gets underneath the cast it can hold the water next to your child’s skin since the inside is slow to dry. Also, chlorine from pool water can burn the skin as the water evaporates.

If your child’s cast gets wet:

  • Use a hairdryer on the cool setting to speed drying.
  • If still wet after 24 hours, call us at (608) 263-6420.

If your child goes swimming:

  • Flush cast with tap water for 10 minutes to rinse out the chlorine.
  • Use hairdryer on the cool setting to speed drying.
  • Do not swim every day; allow the cast to dry for 24 hours before swimming again.
  • If still wet after 24 hours, you are in pain or see a rash under the cast, call us at (608) 263-6420.

These photos show what can happen to your child’s skin if their cast is not kept dry. These types of injuries may become infected or cause permanent scarring.

Learn more about taking care of casts and splints and what to expect when a cast comes off.

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway

Leave a comment below with your suggestion for ways to keep cool (and dry) with a cast during the summer.
Prize: 1 – $10 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

Posted in Safety | Tagged , , , , ,

Helping Ease Summertime Anxiety (Giveaway)

Summertime Anxiety

This giveaway is no longer accepting entries. Congratulations to our winner Kati

How can having no school, going to bed when they want, and sleeping in be causing kids anxiety? It may seem counter intuitive, but it’s true. And if your kids are showing signs of being restless, irritable and maybe even reluctant to go do things , chances are they may be feeling anxious. Kids need a framework for their day. If there’s ambiguity – too much unstructured time or unpredictability – there’s increased anxiety.

Put into perspective – kids go from the highly structured five days a week, nearly every hour of the day of knowing exactly where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing. Summer arrives and suddenly the day is wide open. And while parents may think that’s a good thing – to take a break from the rigid structure of the school year – kids will start to become agitated and restless because they need something to grab onto in order to organize their day.

To start providing some framework,  stick to the basics – keep bed time and meal times the same. And while sleeping-in may seem like a great thing, limit it to an hour or hour and a half max. Any longer and it can offset the sleep cycle.

A Family Calendar

Sometimes kids attend camp during the summer, and through camp kids will get the routine they need coupled with activities that help keep them engaged physically and mentally. But, for kids who might be at home with a parent, grandparent or nanny during the summer, it can be easy to fall out of any kind of routine.

Develop a weekly calendar that’s easy to see, like on the front of the refrigerator. It isn’t meant to schedule the kids as much as during the school year, but rather, provide a basic layout of what the week will look like.

To create the calendar, split each day into morning and afternoon. Then assign activities to days based on four categories:

  • Physical exercise – bike riding, swimming, etc.
  • Brain exercise – reading, workbooks, things that use academic pieces
  • Social Interaction – time with family and friends, playdates, etc.
  • Playtime – unstructured creative, relaxing and fun time

An example of a week might be Tuesday and Friday mornings are brain exercise time. Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoons are physical exercise time. Thursday morning is social playdate time.

You can always add more time to each category, too, like having additional playdates, or spending more time reading. Having items written down helps ensure stuff gets done, and reminds kids that they have a mix of activities, just like a school day has different classes mixed in with recess and lunch.

Providing structure and variety helps kids know what to expect while still allowing for a fun and relaxed day. There is still room for the staying in PJs, or watching cartoons. Just set expectations like, “Everyone dressed by 8:30am” or “Cartoons from 7:30-8am.”

Most parents are aware of how reading, spelling and even math skills decline over the summer if kids don’t actively use those skills. The calendar can help ensure that time is being spent on those activities, instead of being put off to another week. Find ways to make it fun like math puzzles or reading new books, and talk with your kids about what they’re learning to show them you’re interested and value the time too.

And, keep in mind the calendar is meant to be very flexible. If kids get an invitation to go to the waterpark on a library day, that’s okay. Or, perhaps they have summer camp on a particular week. The schedule is really the default schedule – it is what happens when there is nothing else going on.

Create a Menu of Activity Ideas

Once you’ve created a calender, the next step is to develop a menu of activities that fit within the categories. It’s like when you go to a restaurant. You know you’re hungry and so you look at the menu and choose an option that sounds the most appealing. It’s the same concept – create a menu of activities that fit within each of the categories, then when a particular category is scheduled on the calendar, you can look at the list and choose an item. With a variety of ideas, it enables kids to mix it up from day to day. And, when kids come to you saying, “I’m bored,” you can point them to the list.

For summer activity ideas follow UW Health Kids on Pinterest.

Family Responsibilities

On the calendar, it is also good to identify time spent for family responsibilities (or chores depending on the terminology you prefer). Again, it can be flexible. But giving kids tasks like picking up their room or helping with the dishes gives kids the message that they have responsibilities and that their contributions are important to the family. Accomplishing the tasks also helps with their self-confidence and creates a feeling that they have done something important and valued.

Warning Signs

All kids will have anxiety from time to time, but when should you start to wonder if there’s more concern? Irritability and avoidance are common signs of anxiety. You avoid the things that make you anxious and consequently, you won’t want to participate in activities or try new things. That might mean not wanting to go on play dates or joining kids in new activities , and instead, spending more time alone at home playing games on the computer.

Speaking of screen time -

Video games, television, even texting can be addictive. And it can be hard for kids to turn it off. Without structure and limits, kids could easily go six hours or even more playing video games. But balance is critical. It’s not that kids can’t have any screen time, but it definitely needs to be limited. Playing video games all day can lead to your child’s thinking becoming more narrow and rigid instead of flexible and creative.

Think about it in terms of physical exercise – you don’t just exercise your upper body to stay healthy and fit. Instead, you do exercises that work all parts of the body. The brain is the same way. You need to have a variety of activities – math, spelling, social interactions, and new experiences etc. – to give your brain a good work out to optimize both mental and physical health.

Having basic consistency and structure to each day gives kids a sense of security and stability, even tho you may hear them complain from time to time that it’s boring. In other words, you know you’re doing a good job when kids say, “We do the same thing all the time.”

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway:

Leave a comment with your favorite boredom busters or Pinterest board with activity ideas.
Prize: 1 $10 Target gift card
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

Helping Ease Summertime Anxiety (Giveaway)
About Marcia J. Slattery, MD
Marcia Slattery, MD, is a UW Health child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Director of the UW Anxiety Disorders Program.

View all posts by Marcia J. Slattery, MD
Posted in Parenting, Prevention | Tagged , , , , ,

Too Cool (for Life after High School)

Too Cool for High SchoolWe all love watching movies where the mean, popular teen gets what’s coming to them at the end and the underdog gets carried off the football field/basketball court/etc. on the shoulders of peers (ah, Mean Girls). Is this real life or do the popular kids end up riding off into the sunset with the guarantee of success and happily ever after?

It should come as no surprise that what 13 year olds think is cool may differ from what 20-somethings think is cool. According to a study published in the June edition of Child Development, 13-year-olds who engaged in a set of behaviors deemed “pseudomature” were routinely described by peers as cool and popular. These behaviors include early romantic relationships, placing high value on attractiveness, and participating in minor rebellious acts, like shoplifting or sneaking in to a movie. But by the time they reached their 20s, the same people who at one time were atop the teenage social stratum were often characterized as socially incompetent and in unhappy relationships. Also concerning is that some of the pseudomature behaviors that were deemed as cool can lead to other long term consequences: early sexual activity is associated with increased rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and early substance use is associated with increased problem use later in life.

What is the lesson in this study? Adolescents (and some adults) place way too much value on social status. Luckily, you do not have to be forever defined by your teenage self. Teach your teen that there’s more to life than popularity. Encourage them to focus on hard work and close friendships that are not based on superficial qualities like reputation or looks. Talk with them about consequences of risk taking behavior. And maybe show them 13 Going on 30, Back to the Future, and Revenge of the Nerds.

Too Cool (for Life after High School)
About Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Dr. Paula Cody is fellowship trained in adolescent medicine and is a pediatrician at the UW Health John Stephenson Teenage and Young Adult Clinic.

View all posts by Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Posted in Parenting | Tagged ,