How to Raise an Active Child

I have to admit it makes me cringe when I hear parents say things like, “My child isn’t active.  She doesn’t have any interest in sports,” or, “My child doesn’t play sports.  He’d rather do other things.” When I come back with questions like, what activities have they tried, the parent will usually only give one activity. WHAT? Over the years, my eleven-year-old daughter has been in ballet, gymnastics, on multiple soccer teams, volleyball camps, a running camp and after-school running group, and swimming teams. She’s also had tennis lessons and snow skiing lessons. My husband and I decided when she was 4 or 5 that she would be involved in some sort of activity and if we had to try them all until we found one that stuck, then so be it.

So of all of the activities above listed, which one(s) stuck with my daughter? She’s now an avid swimmer and runner but all of the other activities fell to the wayside. My daughter has been on a year-round swim team for several years now and is going to try out for her school track and field team as soon as she is able next spring. That being said, our road to her being an avid runner has not always been easy.

My daughter’s first experience with running came when I signed her up for the kids’ dash at the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. She was three years old and ran 50 yards.

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Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure

After the Kids’ Dash at the Race for the Cure, her next major running event didn’t happen for several years later. When she was 8, she ran in a kids’ marathon where she ran with a running group at her school, tracking her miles up to 25.2 and ran the final mile on the adult marathon course. A year later, I ran a half marathon in Branson, Missouri, the Roller Coaster Half Marathon and they offered a one mile run for kids. She ended up finishing in 8:25, despite the extremely hilly course during a cold, rainy morning and she had just turned 9 years old then. Sounds pretty good so far, right? Fast forward a bit from there and things went downhill quickly.

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Gymnastics is really hard if you’re a super-tall kid, like mine is

I am a runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. So far I’m up to my 40th state and I’ve been doing this since before my daughter was born. I currently run three races a year, so I’m out running quite a lot throughout the year. A few years ago she asked if she could run with me, to which I replied sure, thinking it would be a great way for us to bond. Then the whining and complaining started. She would say, “This is too hard!” and complain that she was too hot or too thirsty or too tired, and on and on. I told her before we even left the house that she would be setting our pace and if she wanted to take walk breaks that was fine. Quickly, however, I realized it just wasn’t working. She’d only last a few minutes before she was ready to walk and the whole time she would be complaining and whining. I couldn’t take it any longer.

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Running the last mile of the kids’ marathon
Instead of giving up, however, I tried a different approach. I signed her up with Girls on the run, an after-school running group meant to encourage girls to live a healthy active life and help them build up their confidence in themselves over a 10 week period that culminates in a 5k event. This worked even better than I could have imagined.. Not only did she see that she was indeed a good runner but she began to gradually build a love for running. Since that Girls on the Run 5k, she’s gone on to run three other 5k races, one of which she won second place in her age group.

Not only is my daughter a runner, she’s also an avid swimmer, her true love. At a pretty young age (two), I had put her in swimming lessons and she had always taken to the water well. So after ballet and gymnastics didn’t work out, I decided to put her on a swim team during the school months when she was in the second grade. This was the activity for her! She loved her coach and even enjoyed participating in swim meets. Since then she has had multiple coaches and has been on two different swim teams and if anything her love for swimming has only increased.

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First swim meet at the young age of 7

What is the biggest take-away from all of this? Don’t give up! If you put your child in a sports camp and it goes horribly, try another sport. If gymnastics isn’t for your child, try tennis, or basketball, or running, or ice hockey, or volleyball, or pick another sport. Keep trying until something sticks with your child. There are so many activities offered in most areas of the US that surely your child will enjoy one of them. Most of all, though, don’t wait. The younger you get your child active, the more it will become a normal part of their life.

Another piece of advice, don’t push your child too hard. Coaches are there to do their job so don’t try to coach your child or you risk turning your child away from the sport completely because it’s too much pressure. Simply encourage your child and tell them often how proud you are of them no matter what.

For resources in your area, try searching Eventbrite. Among other things such as music, they have a link specifically for sports and wellness and one for classes; both links include activities for children as well as adults. You can even search for specific events or categories or search by dates. I’ve found it to be a great resource for finding things going on in my area and when I’m traveling as well. Check out this tool to help you find events in your area.

How many of you are like me and are proud to have active kids? What activities are your kids involved in? Have you found it to always be easy to keep your kids active or has it also been a struggle at times for you?

Happy running!

Donna

Ten Tips for Traveling with Children

My daughter has been to Aruba, Greece, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, the western and eastern parts of Canada, Mexico, and about 40 states in the United States, and she’s only 11 years old. She’s been traveling for as long as she can remember. She began flying before she was 2 years old. When she was around 9 or 10, she told me when she was younger she thought everyone traveled as much as she did, and only recently had she begun to realize that wasn’t true.

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My daughter with her own backpack at the Minneapolis airport

I know traveling with children can be more hassle, more expensive, more things to pack, and logistically more difficult to plan, but the rewards are absolutely worth any negatives. Many of my daughter’s teachers have told me that her travels have allowed her to see first-hand places they’ve studied in school. Her travels have enriched her education in a way that I never could have imagined. She’s seen and done things that it took me 30 or 40 years to do and that many people will never see or do. This is truly priceless.

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Learning about physics at the Koch Family Children’s Museum in Evansville, Indiana

Over the years I have learned a few things about traveling with children and I’d like to share my top ten here.

  1. Pack plenty of things to entertain your child on the airplane and in the car. Even if you’re flying to your destination, chances are pretty good you’ll still be spending some time driving to places. Pack things like a portable DVD player, tablet, or other electronic games/devices. Books, coloring books and crayons, paper to draw on, and sticker books were also big hits when my daughter was younger. Now that she’s older, her tablet and some books are enough to keep her entertained when we’re in transit. Audible books are also a great thing to have for children, especially in the car.
  2. Start out small. Go on a road trip then take a longer one and see how it goes. You’ll quickly find out your child’s limits for time spent in the car. For your child’s first airplane ride, you probably wouldn’t want to take them halfway around the world. Take a short flight, say 2 hours, and build up from there. You’ll learn as you go what works for your child and what doesn’t work.
  3. Introduce your child to travel early. Children adjust pretty much to anything, travel included, far better if they’re younger. If traveling is something your child does regularly, it will become “normal” for them.
  4. Pack comfort items like your child’s favorite stuffed animal (unless it’s a giant one), a nightlight, and sound machine. We found having a nightlight and sound machine in hotel rooms to be very useful and they’re both small enough to easily pack.
  5. Call the hotel in advance to ask if they provide cribs or pack n’ plays (portable cribs popular in the US, if you’re not familiar). Many do provide these but sometimes for an extra fee, but many also do not. Some hotels also have other baby-related items they offer; just ask ahead of time to save you the trouble of bringing something you might not need to.
  6. When they are old enough, ask your child to research the place(s) you’ll be going to and find some things they would enjoy doing. Your itinerary  doesn’t have to be all planned out by mom or dad. We also get books from the library before our vacations so our daughter can learn about the places we will be going to.
  7. Don’t over-do it on your excersions. Americans especially tend to try to pack as many activities as they possibly can, but when you have young children you need to slow down a bit. Don’t forget to schedule activities around nap times (don’t skip them just because you’re on vacation).
  8. Try to stay at a hotel that has a swimming pool.  Children love swimming pools and if you schedule a pool break in your day, your children will thank you for it.
  9. Although this can be difficult to match with number 8 above, try to find a place through Airbnb that’s family-friendly. Often, places on Airbnb will have a full kitchen, living area, and separate bedroom(s). This of course will feel more like home and will help everyone relax a little more. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a place that will also have a swimming pool; if so, score one point for your great find and book it immediately!
  10. Allow your child some indulgences on your vacation, but don’t go crazy. What I mean is, let them have that piece of cake from the bakery but don’t let them have three pieces of cake plus skip their nap and stay up late at night. You’ll have a seriously cranky child and everyone’s day will be effected by it.
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Fun with bubbles at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta
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Eating a beignet in New Orleans

I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states, and my daughter has been with me for every single half marathon I’ve ran since she’s been born (39 states so far for me). I did run some half marathons before she was born, but she’s been with me for the majority of them. She’s been at the start, with a hug and “Good luck!”, and she’s been waiting for me at the finish, also with a hug and “Good job!” I can’t imagine not having her with me at all of those races.

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Most of all my advice for parents traveling with children is just have fun and roll with the punches. Things can and do go wrong on vacations, just like life when you’re not traveling. The more you can go with the flow and the less you stress out about things, the more fun you will have. Isn’t having fun the main reason we all go on vacation anyway?

Knott’s Berry Farm, an Amusement Park in California

On a recent vacation to San Diego, we decided to include an amusement park in our plans. In the greater Los Angeles area, about a one and a half to three hour drive from San Diego are the following amusement parks:  Universal Studios Hollywood, Pacific Park, Disney California Adventure Park,  Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Adventure City, and Disneyland. There’s also LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad and SeaWorld in San Diego. With so many to choose from, how do you choose just one?

It really depends what you’re interested in. My daughter is a huge roller coaster fan so I was looking primarily at roller coasters in making my decision. It was a tough decision between Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Knott’s Berry Farm is only about an hour and a half from San Diego but Six Flags Magic Mountain is about 3 hours from San Diego, so I chose Knott’s Berry Farm largely on proximity. However, Knott’s Berry Farm has eight “aggressive thrill” rides, so I knew it would be a good choice for our family.

Roller Coasters

There are ten roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm, six of which are rated “5, Aggressive Thrill,” with 5 being the highest and the other four are rated “4, High Thrill.”  To me, one of the most crazy was Montezooma’s Revenge, which goes from from 0 to 55 mph in just 3 seconds, travels through a giant, seven-story loop — once forward, then again backwards.

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Montezooma’s Revenge
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Sierra Sidewinder takes you backwards up the first hill

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Xcelerator’s top speed is 82 mph, which you hit in only 2.3 seconds!

Experiences

There are many different kinds of things to do including Pan For Gold, the Blacksmith Shop, the Old Schoolhouse, Snoopy/Peanuts Gang Meet & Greet, Western Trails Museum and more. Plus, there are several live entertainment shows throughout the day including Camp Snoopy Theater and Frontier Feats of Wonder! Stunt Show.  I personally love the Snoopy/Peanuts theme throughout the park. Some other aspects of the park reminded me a little of Silver Dollar City, an amusement with a “wild west” kind of feel in Branson, Missouri.

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I love the Snoopy theme at the park!
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Stagecoach ride anyone?  You don’t see these at most amusement parks!

Thrill Rides

If roller coasters aren’t enough for you thrill junkies, there are two more rides that are considered “aggressive thrill rides.” Supreme Scream rockets riders straight up to a record-breaking 252 feet in midair, before blasting them straight down in three seconds at gravity-defying speeds topping 50 mph and after experiencing three seconds of total weightlessness. You bounce halfway back up the ride’s structure before returning to the launch pad. La Revolucion swings you 64 feet in the air (over 6 stories high) to 120 degrees in both directions, while spinning you continuously at up to 9 RPMs. Between the inward-facing inverted seating and the combination of the swinging arm and rotating gondola only people with iron stomachs can ride this one!

Children’s Area

The Children’s Area is a generous 6-acres full of more than 30 rides and attractions. One of my favorites is Woodstock’s Airmail, a child-sized version of the park’s Supreme Scream (mentioned in previous paragraph).  Obviously, Woodstock’s Airmail is much tamer than Supreme Scream, and it’s cute to watch.

Other Rides

Voyage to the Iron Reef is a 4-D interactive ride where you shoot at creatures with your “freeze ray” and it’s a fun ride for the whole family. There are also two water rides, Timber Mountain Log Ride and Bigfoot Rapids, a whitewater river raft ride.  Also a family-friendly ride, Calico Railroad departs daily from Ghost Town Station for a round-trip tour of the park.

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The Christmas decorations were nice and not overly done.

With all of these options, it’s hard to fit everything you want to see and do in one day.  We arrived at the park shortly after they opened and stayed until they closed and still didn’t do many things.  I was surprised at just how much there is at this park.  You could easily stretch it out to two days and not be so rushed and you would definitely be able to see and do everything that way. We only had one day and had to prioritize what we wanted to do.

Bottom line, would I recommend going here?  Absolutely.

Admission Tip:  buy your ticket online 3 or more days in advance online and save $31 per ticket off the front gate price of $75.  Adult tickets are $44 if purchased three or more days in advance and $49 if purchased 2 or less days in advance online.  Single day tickets for children ages 3-11 or adults 62 or older are $42 if purchased online, saving you $3 over the gate price.

Knott’s Berry Farm

Girls on the Run Interview

My daughter participated in Girls on the Run last fall and I was curious about her feelings about it now that some time has passed and she has since then participated in some other running activities.  I recently conducted an interview with her that will follow but first some background information.

Girls on the Run is a program found in every state in the United States that teaches girls in grades 3-5 (grades 6-8 is their Heart & Sole program) about nutrition, positive influences, and emotional and physical development. There are several core values emphasized including teaching girls to embrace their differences and find strength in one another.  They also add in some running at the meetings of course.  Girls meet after school twice a week in a 12 week program that culminates with a Girls on the Run 5k.

Here is the interview:

Me:  “What kinds of things did you do at Girls on the Run?”

Daughter:  “We talked about different ways to stay healthy and we talked about staying active.  We also ran on a school track where we met.”

Me:  “Can you tell me about the actual running you did?”

Daughter:  “Personally, I didn’t like the running part.  I like when people push me to run and they didn’t do that.  They were slacking in that, so I didn’t like that about Girls on the Run.”

Me:  “What do you think your coaches could have done differently to make it a better experience for you?”

Daughter:  “Maybe they could have pushed us more, made us run harder rather than just say go run.  I think they should have pushed us harder instead of just telling us to run and then watch us run.”

Me:  “So the coaches didn’t run with you?”

Daughter:  “They did run with us.  One coach would be watching and the other would run with us.  They would switch off so one coach would watch and the other would run.”

Me:  “What about girls who were anxious about running or who maybe hadn’t ever ran before?  Do you think pushing them would have been too much?”

Daughter:  “I think it really depends on the girl.  Some girls were obviously forced to be there by their parents and didn’t want to be there.  They wouldn’t have liked to be pushed.  But there were some girls who seemed like they would have done better, gone faster, if the coaches would have pushed them.”

Me:  “So maybe they should have made the runs more individualized to suit different girls’ needs and abilities?”

Daughter:  “Yeah.  Definitely.”

Me:  “What did you like best about Girls on the Run?”

Daughter:  “I think I really liked that although a lot of the girls there didn’t want to run, the coaches didn’t hold me back with them.  They let me run as much and as fast as I wanted.  It was nice to just get out and run.”

Me:  “What did you learn from Girls on the Run?”

Daughter:  “That I’m a lot better runner than I thought before.  You were right when you told me I was a fast runner.  It gave me more self-confidence in running.”

Me:  “Would you recommend Girls on the Run to other girls?”

Daughter:  (hesitation) “I don’t know.  It really depends on what kind of a challenge they’re looking for and why they’re running.  It depends if they’re running for exercise or to get faster at races.”

Me:  “So would you say Girls on the Run is best for girls who have never really ran before?”

Daughter:  “Yes.  It’s kind of a warm-up.  After Girls on the Run, if they think it was fun, they can look into another program or run with a parent that runs.”

Me:  “Thank you very much for your time and your insight.”

Daughter:  “You’re welcome.  Those were tough questions! (laughing)”

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There were a lot of runners at the 5k- not just girls from GOTR
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The finish line is now in sight
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The finish line!

Top 5 Things to Do in Charleston, SC with Kids without Spending a Ton of Money

Charleston, South Carolina seemingly has something to offer everyone.  If you want a romantic escape, there are plenty of bed & breakfasts to stay at and cobblestoned streets to take a horse-drawn carriage ride with your significant other.  If you want a fun girls weekend getaway, there are plenty of options for that with cool bars and unique shops.  For the golfer, there are 19 championship courses in the area.  For the history buff, this city is steeped in history and there are historical tours and museums all over.  Finally, if you’re just looking for a fun place to visit with your family, there are loads of options for families.  Options for families is what I will delve into here.

Charleston is definitely not an inexpensive city, at least on the surface.  The accommodations are expensive, the restaurants are also on the pricey side, and you feel like you’ve won some kind of prize if you’re lucky enough to find a free parking spot or a meter with some time left on it. However, there are ways to visit Charleston and not blow a ton of money (Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank). If you’re visiting with kids, there are numerous free or inexpensive ways to have fun and keep everyone happy and entertained.

1. The beaches near Charleston, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are completely free and open to the public.  Another option for a beach near Charleston is Folly Beach.  Although I did not visit Folly Beach when I was in Charleston in August so I can’t speak of that beach personally, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are both clean and well-maintained. Lifeguards are on duty mostly during the peak summer months of May through part of September.  Check out more info at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission.  A word of warning about the waves, as they can be quite rough.  We found the water to be considerably calmer at an inlet we were able to walk to at Sullivan’s Island going through neighborhoods to the far end of the beach.  One of my daughter’s favorite things to do at beaches is to “jump the waves” with her father, so the waves were not a problem for us but I know they might be for younger children.

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Jumping waves
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The beach is a great place to fly a kite!

2. Another completely free thing that most kids love to do is play in the fountains.  There are two fountains by Waterfront Park that are great for kids to splash in and have fun.  This is especially great on a hot day.  Palm trees surround the area so parents can sit and watch their kids playing.  After toweling off the kids there are several ice cream shops within walking distance of the fountains, if you so desire.  That could also be an option for a post-dinner treat.

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What kid doesn’t love to play in a huge fountain like this one?

3. If your kids are budding history buffs, there are plenty of museums to choose from.  One option is the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon.  My daughter enjoyed being able to handle replicas of historical money thanks to a volunteer on site who gave us a bit of information about each piece.  She also got to sign a replica of The Declaration of Independence. We all thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the dungeon and learned quite a bit about the area.  If you have younger kids (around 4-6), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry might be a better fit for your family.

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Signing the Declaration of Independence
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Learning about historical currency

4. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are great options for families as well.  Although Fort Sumter does not charge a fee for entrance to the national monument, it is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for that.  Fort Moultrie is accessible by car at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island and you can buy a family pass that covers up to 4 adults for $5, with free admission for children 15 and younger.  See more information here National Parks Service.

5. While it might seem more like a splurge for many families, the South Carolina Aquarium is a nice way to spend a day or several hours. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children 3-12. The aquarium is open daily from 9 am- 4 pm (building closes at 5:00) and you could easily spend all day here, which makes it a bit more affordable considering it’s a day’s worth of entertainment. With more than 5,000 animals and exhibits like the touch tank (my daughter’s favorite) and the two-story 385,000 gallon Great Ocean tank there is plenty to see and do.  The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is set to open May 2017 and promises to  be an exciting new addition.  SC Aquarium

If your family is anything like mine, we find our beach vacations a time to unwind, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company.  We don’t plan a ton of activities like we do for other vacations.  Charleston, South Carolina is a perfect place for families to relax and reconnect while taking in the beautiful scenery.

 

 

 

New Zealand- My family’s North Island Adventure

 Next up:  Tongariro National Park

I can’t wait to go back to New Zealand and visit the South Island!