Austin Kids' Directory Blog

5 Fun Ways to Get Active With Your Kids

5 Fun Ways to Get Active With Your Kids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 5 children in the United States has obesity. With September being National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it is a great time to discuss fun ways parents can keep their children—and themselves—physically active.

Here’s the thing: Children with obesity are more likely to carry the medical condition into adulthood, which could potentially lead to debilitating physical and mental problems, including diabetes and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

What can parents do to help ward off obesity in their children? For starters, energy balance is critical. Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, eating the ideal amount of calories, and partaking in regular physical activities—which can be a ton of fun if you follow our recommendations below.

* Introduce your children to nontraditional sports. Think skateboarding, mountain biking, and canoeing. Not every child excels at the most common sports like football and baseball, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t athletic—it could just mean they haven’t found their niche. Luckily, Austin is jam-packed with trails and waterways for your kiddos to test their skills.

* Walk, don’t drive. Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, the temps are at that sweet spot when walking is a much more viable option—so lace up those tennis shoes, and the next time your family decides to visit your local hangout, why not walk instead?

* Make a new family rule: No sitting still during TV commercials. Can you imagine the fun this rule might ensue? Encourage your kids to dance, do jumping jacks, stretch, or anything else that prevents them from sitting still. Bonus: You don’t have to completely cut out television time with this rule.

* Design an obstacle course. Three-legged races, hurdles crafted from old blankets, bean bag tosses—these are all activities you can create with items you likely already have in your home. Watch as your child’s imagination takes off as they come up with even more challenges.

* Play a modified version of “I Spy.” We all know the original version of this game, but here’s a new spin: Make a list of items in your neighborhood that you want your child to “spy,” then go for a walk in hunt of the items. Want to make it even more interesting? Put a time limit on the search in order to encourage your child to get moving!

If you have as much fun as your children will while participating in these activities, don’t worry—we won’t tell.

This article was written by Diane M. McCullom, the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 17 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.

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Why Is My Child Having Trouble Sleeping? Orthodontics May Be Able to Help

Why Is My Child Having Trouble Sleeping? Orthodontics May Be Able to Help

Getting the right amount of sleep has an incredible effect on childhood development. Over the last 20 years, science has given us insight into the importance that sleep plays in the function of the human body, and we now understand that we have just barely started to scratch the surface. How we breathe and sleep, along with what we eat, have dramatic effects on growth, learning behavior, mood disposition, hormonal harmony, disease state, and memory. Often the dental professionals are the first to notice that your child might not be getting the necessary amount of sleep to be healthy.

Sleep Is Vitally Important for Your Child’s Growth

We cannot live without sleep, and a significant proportion of the population is sleep deprived. While we are able to survive with this deprivation, the quality of our lives is affected and the health implications are tremendous. Children are particularly affected by sleep deprivation. Not enough or poor quality sleep impacts children’s mental and physical development and their general health. Mood swings, behavioral problems and cognitive problems can all be indications of poor sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation. Getting the right amount of sleep helps children deal with the normal anxieties of everyday life, alleviates unnecessary stress, improves memory, and helps increase the ability to focus. These factors are particularly important when it comes to your child’s academic success.

Children who get the recommended amount of sleep go to school ready and eager and able to learn. They get better grades, are able to engage in healthy ways with other kids and adults, and participate in more extracurricular activities. On the other hand, children who lack sleep usually have harder times focusing, are prone to moodiness, and show a lack of desire and motivation for activity and social engagements.

I want your child to be the healthiest he or she can be, and that means getting the right amount of sleep. Dentistry is not just about creating pretty smiles, even though it’s extremely pleasing to see toothy grins that reach from ear to ear. The teeth and oral hygiene have far-reaching effects on the well-being of the body, and sleeping is no exception.

What Role Does Orthodontics Have in Healthy Sleeping? More Than You Think

Many times, professionals in dentistry are the first to hear about sleep problems. After learning about issues sleeping, we look for signs of sleep breathing disorders and any obstructions that could be impeding the ability to breathe and therefore affect the sleep. According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea affects more than 20 million Americans, causing sleep deprivation and impacting every aspect of individual health and daily life. Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing for several seconds, which results in several nighttime awakenings. Because of these repeated interruptions, these patients (children or adults) suffer from lack of sleep.

Because dentistry and orthodontics alone cannot eliminate all the causes of sleep breathing disorders the dental professionals work together with a team of other specialists. Dr. Tamez, the Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist, works closely with us to help entire families reach their genetic potentials and thrive. As a team, we strive to improve your family’s well being, from physical health to mental health. Sleep is a part of that holistic approach, as it impacts every aspect of your family’s life.

We’re Here as a Team to Help Your Family Sleep Better

It’s never too late to begin to breathe and sleep to your full potential, but there is no more pressing a time than in early childhood as it can impede physical and mental growth. However, no one doctor can accomplish this goal. It truly takes a coordinated team of committed professionals. We want your child to be able to have a healthy, happy, and successful life, reaching his or her full potential. It’s getting the right amount of sleep that will help your child achieve their dreams in life. Please give us a call to find out how we can help 512-863-8580 or visit our website at

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Thinking About Preschool?

Thinking About Preschool?

Choosing the proper preschool environment for your child can prove a daunting task. Thinking through some of the following questions will help you narrow your choices to find a good fit for your family.

Think Philosophy
Which philosophy most aligns with your own? Think about your experiences as a child going to school and how these experiences have shaped your own values and work ethic. Which do you feel will meet your family’s needs?

Child-centered: Child-centered learning environments allow children to dictate the topics and activities they will participate in over the course of the school year.

Teacher-led: In teacher-led learning environments, the teacher creates the schedule and chooses the learning topics and activities.

Child-led: Child-led learning environments provide individual learning opportunities and align with the belief that children learn best when they are interested and engaged.

Faith-based: Faith-based learning environments provide learning opportunities that are organized according to the faith beliefs of that community.

Think Location
Do you want a location close to work? This option is beneficial for parents who have a longer commute to work. With this option, working parents have the ability to work longer hours if needed while remaining close to their child.

Do you want a location close to home? This option works well if more than one adult will be picking up the child at the end of the day or if you are a stay-at-home parent. In addition, children are more likely to attend the same kindergarten as their preschool classmates which may mean an easier transition to kindergarten.

Think Impressions
Tour a few locations. What are your first impressions? Is the school clean? What are the security procedures? Do you feel welcomed? Do the children and teachers seem happy?
Observe Interactions. How does the teacher speak to the children? Is the teacher positive and nurturing? How does the teacher handle behavioral problems? How do the children interact with each other?

Think of Questions
Ask questions relating to discipline procedures, curriculum and activities, social and academic goals, and possibilities for parent involvement. Answers to these questions will provide you with a better idea of the overall structure and educational values of the school. Additionally, you may want to ask questions about teacher turn-over, teacher education level, and on-going professional development. Schools providing growth opportunities for their teachers are more likely to have teachers who are up to date on the latest in the field of early childhood education.

Think Extras
Some schools provide enhancement programs such as dance, martial arts and gymnastics during school operating hours as well as experiences outside of the school day to connect with other families: field trips, sports activities, family fun nights, and community out-reach programs. These extra perks often help build a sense of community within the school by providing a way for your family to connect with other families.

by Susan Brunk, M. Ed. Associate Director of Curriculum, Stepping Stone School . Stepping Stone School is a comprehensive early care and education program in the Austin, Round Rock, and College Station areas that profoundly nurtures children and prepares them for lifelong happiness.

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5 Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

5 Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of summer. Luckily for Austinites, there are plenty of ways to keep cool, from a dip in Barton Springs Pool to water sports on Lady Bird Lake. Before diving in, keep in mind these sun safety tips to help ensure your family’s fun in the sun isn’t overshadowed by the potential hazards of the Texas heat.

* Time your sunscreen application: While we’re all aware of how critical it is to wear sunscreen, you may not realize that the timing of your sunscreen application plays a key role as well. Allowing 20 to 30 minutes for the sunscreen to sink in before going outdoors maximizes the benefit and provides optimal protection.

* Protect all areas of your body:
The tops of the ears, part in the hair, and back of the neck are three areas that are often forgotten when we’re applying sunscreen.

* Understand SPF: Higher SPFs don’t necessarily translate to major added benefits. When it comes to blocking harmful UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent; SPF 50 blocks nearly 98 percent; and SPF 100 blocks around 99 percent. The takeaway? An SPF 50 sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum”—meaning it also protects against UVA rays—is your best bet.

* Slather on generously: It turns out, most people aren’t applying nearly enough sunscreen as they should, which may leave them wondering why they get burned even if they feel they’re being precautious. When evaluating SPFs, testers apply two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin, but most people only apply about one-third of that amount. The general rule of thumb is to apply about two tablespoons to the exposed areas of the face and body.

* Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion: Muscle cramping, clammy skin, and body weakness are a few of the warning signs that could signal a heat-related illness.

Summertime and the outdoors go hand-in-hand, and by heeding the tips above, you can help ensure this laid-back season is filled with fond memories, minus the burn.

The author of this article, Diane M. McCullom, is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 17 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.

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The Annual Field Trip & Teacher Resource Guide is Hot Off the Press!

The Annual Field Trip & Teacher Resource Guide is Hot Off the Press!

Looking for new family activities this summer? Or are you in charge of fundraising for your child's school or group this fall? The Annual Field Trip & Teacher Resource Guide is not just for teachers! This resource is organized by categories like field trips, fundraising, school carnival planning etc. All of the important contact information like addresses, websites, and phone numbers are at your fingertips making it quick and easy to contact the advertisers listed in the guide.

This free annual publication is distributed to public and private schools, childcare locations, doctor's offices, children's retail and children's activity locations in the Austin metro area, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park and Georgetown. The Field Trip & Teacher Resource Guide can also be accessed by clicking here for an online version.

Remember to let our advertisers know that you found them in the Annual Field Trip & Teacher Resource Guide!

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