Fostering healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy planet for all generations

Screenagers.PNGDid you catch the showing of Screenagers on April 25? If not, we’ve posted a handout from the movie on our Resources page offering discussion questions and activities to help families approach and find balance with technology in their lives. According to the movie, the average kid spends 6.5 hours each day looking at screens, raising concerns about the impact of too much screen time and the friction it can cause at home and school. The handout encourages families to openly discuss and negotiate screen time rules for the entire family. While the movie and handout are generally geared toward middle- and high-school kids, it’s never too early to start talking tech.

spring-vegetablesSpring is the perfect time of year to take a look at our kids’ plates and ask: Can I offer some healthier options? The answer is a definite yes! With spring produce filling markets, and summer bounty around the corner, it’s a great time to boost kids’ nutrition by ensuring a colorful variety of vitamins, minerals and macro-nutrients (protein, carbs and fats) on every plate.

To help, we’ve posted an illustration, The Healthy Plate, on the Resources page that shows how to balance your child’s plate for good nutrition:

  • Fill one-half of the plate with non-starchy veggies like broccoli, carrots, peppers, and just-ripe-for-spring asparagus and artichokes.
  • Fill one quarter of the plate with starchy foods like sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, fresh spring peas, or organic corn (once summer hits).
  • Fill the last quarter of the plate with quality protein – chicken, fish or beans, including hearty spring fava beans!

kid_cell_phoneAs younger and younger children are using cell phones, and the links between cell phone radiation and cancer, particularly brain tumors, are being investigated (see resources below), here are a few precautions you and your kids can take to temper your concerns about cell phone radiation:

  • Don’t hold the cell phone to your ear. Use the speaker or a hands-free device, or redirect your cell phone to a land line (not cordless) when you’re at home.
  • Don’t sleep near your cell phone. Power off all electronic devices at night or charge them in a room away from where you sleep.
  • Set clear boundaries with your kids about when they can and cannot use their phones. The less time they’re using their phones, the less they will be exposed.
  • Don’t carry your cell phone close to your body (like in your pocket). Put it in a bag or set it down slightly away from you when you can. (The same goes for laptops…do not place them directly on your lap.)
  • When it comes to radiation, texting is safer than talking.
  • Wait to give children their own cell phones until they are old enough to be spending unsupervised time away from you or another caregiver. When you feel they are old enough to go to the park, library or school on their own, it’s nice to know they can reach you if they need you. That said, kids without their own cell phones can still just ask someone for help or to borrow their phone. Keep in mind that we’ve been managing without cell phones for most of our existence…
  • And finally, educate yourself and your kids! A documentary was recently released called Screenagers that addresses technology (especially cell phone use) and kids. Stay tuned for information on the film coming to our District soon!

Consult the links below for research on the link between cell phone radiation and cancer:

frangrance freeVolatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature from products and pollute the surrounding air. Levels of VOCs inside homes are known to be five times higher than outside, which is cause for concern for one of the most vulnerable populations: kids.

Effects from low level exposure to VOCs include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and more severe asthma symptoms. These are treatable, but long-term exposure can increase the risk of cancer and cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Here are some simple things you can do to make your home environment healthier for your family:

  • Avoid personal products with artificial scents, such as perfumes, lotions, deodorants, hair spray, soaps, laundry soaps, air fresheners, fabric softeners and cleaning products. Avoid anything with the word “fragrance”. There are many natural alternatives!
  • Use green cleaning supplies and only fragrance-free wipes. Avoid disinfecting wipes completely! There are a lot of green cleaning products on the market, or you can always make your own. Check these resources:
  • Use zero VOC paint and try to keep your kids away from the house when you paint or get new carpet. A lot of paint is now free of VOCs, but carpets are generally not.
  • Instead of a plastic shower curtain, use a cloth curtain or install a sliding glass door.
  • Don’t buy products with flame-retardant chemicals, such as children’s clothing, bedding and furniture.

child-sleepingIs there a link between getting enough sleep and warding off winter ailments like the flu and common cold? It may seem like common sense, but there have been few studies on the topic. The New York Times Well section recently explored this question with adults in mind. To summarize, the author cited several studies that strongly suggest the answer is yes, too little and/or poor quality sleep can weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.

It makes sense that the same would hold true for kids, and indeed, recommendations for preventing colds and flu include getting enough sleep. But how much is enough? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep each night. But you know your kids, and for some, that number is closer to 12. Sleep allows muscles to repair, cells to regenerate and the brain to reshuffle hormones that affect everything from a child’s mood to their ability to focus.

Here are five ways kids can ensure a good night’s sleep.

  • Turn off the TV and other electronic gadgets at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
  • Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, away from as many electronics as possible.
  • Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

Chinese ValentineIn our last post, we challenged everyone to KEEP THE LOVE, LOSE THE CANDY for Valentine’s Day. If you accepted our challenge, you might be wondering, but how?! We did a little searching and came up with a few ideas for super-fun, candy-free cards we think your kids will love sharing with friends. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below, including a fun idea shared by PK mom Sheryl Vincent! Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section. Thank you!

  • 20 Ideas for Homemade Valentines from the blog, The Educators’ Spin On It. Yes, a few of these ideas include snacks and candy, but skip those in favor of the many other food-free ideas.
  • Kissing Lips from the blog Homemade Gifts Made Easy. Get your origami going with this clever card.
  • Rainbow Loom Valentines from blogger Kori Clark. Keep the fad alive with these groovy cards.
  • Paper Airplane Valentines from the blog No Biggie. An uplifting idea for kids who love making paper airplanes.
  • Chinese Takeout Valentines from Sheryl Vincent. As shown in the photo, fill a mini carton with a Japanese eraser, fortune cookie eraser with real fortune, and a Valentine’s Day note.

heart-of-heartsThis Valentine’s Day, the Peter Kirk Wellness Committee kindly requests that when you are buying Valentine’s cards for your child’s class (or even better, when your child is making their cards), please…

Keep the love, but lose the candy!

Valentine’s Day is about letting people know you care about them and telling them they’re special. Somehow, it’s been transformed into a second-string Halloween, where students bring home bags loaded with candy, but the messages of love are often overshadowed by high fructose corn syrup and FD&C Red 40.

WE ENCOURAGE YOU to think outside the box this Valentine’s Day and bring back the love, sans the sugars and artificial dyes.

WE CHALLENGE YOU and your kids to come up with a fun new idea for Valentine’s Day that leaves the sugar in the dust!

Send us a brief description of your healthy Valentine’s Day idea (along with a photo) to wellness@peterkirkptsa.org, and you could win a $25 PCC gift card and be featured in our newsletter!

If you have questions, feel free to email wellness@peterkirkptsa.org.