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Why Kids Need Sleep to Learn and Grow

Sleeping-Toddler

For many children, sleep is an obstacle.

Kids of all ages resist sleep, often because they think they have more exciting things to do than rest. At a young age, children don’t want to slow down and sleep, preferring exploring and learning. Teens may have so many commitments, assignments, and social engagements that they don’t feel they have enough time for it all — taking time away from sleep.

Although kids often put sleep at a low priority level, it’s important for parents to encourage healthy sleep habits. Children and teens need sleep to learn and grow healthy, and establishing healthy sleep habits in childhood can help your kids maintain good sleep for a lifetime.

Good sleep is a secret weapon for school success
— and it supports healthy growth as well.

When kids sleep, their bodies work on growing, restoring, and mental processing. Human growth hormone, which supports growth and regeneration, is released late at night and is best supported by deep sleep. New ideas and information are processed into memories during sleep, helping kids retain what they’ve learned each day.

When kids get enough sleep, they’re more alert and able to face the challenges of the day. They can better retain and organize new information learned throughout the day, and they are more emotionally and physically prepared to bounce back from stress.

When kids don’t get enough sleep, everything is more difficult. Children may experience difficulty with alertness, learning, and memory, which can be particularly detrimental at school. They may struggle emotionally, resulting in tantrums and outbursts from feeling too tired to deal well with frustrations throughout the day.

The Trouble With Teen Sleep

Teens, in particular, are in a danger spot for sleep deprivation. Their circadian rhythms shift in puberty, pushing bedtimes back — but they still have to wake up on time for school. Most U.S. middle schools and high schools start the school day before 8:30 a.m. This often leaves teens without enough rest, building up a sleep debt every night.

Teens who don’t sleep well may experience moodiness and are more likely to face poor grades, obesity, and the dangers of drowsy driving. Especially dangerous is the increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide associated with sleep deprivation in teens. Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in unhealthy risk behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, and using drugs.

How Parents Can Support Healthy Sleep

  • Make sleep a priority. It’s easy to let a busy schedule chip away at sleep time, but it’s important that you make sleep a priority. Determine how much time your child needs to sleep at night, and plan your schedule from there. You may need to prioritize sleep over other activities.
  • Create a healthy sleep environment. Give kids a good place to sleep. Make sure their bedroom is clean, comfortable, cool, dark, and quiet. This can support healthy sleep, making their sleep environment relaxing and inviting.
  • Encourage healthy sleep habits. Teach kids good sleep habits at an early age. Encourage them to maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Help them avoid sleep pitfalls that can interfere with good sleep, such as consuming caffeine or heavy meals late at night, or using screens just before bed.

Kids Love Riding Horses, and Dads Should Too!

Equestrian families know riding and caring for horses can be good motivation for getting kids outside and into something other than video games and bad music. Horses raise the bar, and ennoble kids’ outdoor adventures.  Grooming and caring for horses while practicing riding can be a good way to help kids defeat obesity, set goals, learn proper nutrition as they master horse-person ship to build confidence in and out of the ring.

Horse riding students

Kids, especially preteen girls dream about horses day and night, and they doodle these animals in their sketchbooks. Horses are in our nation’s blood. Canada has wild horses and our culture is filled with equestrian myths and ceremonies, like the Sable Island Horses and the RCMP Musical Ride. These creatures are magical to our children, even more magical than they are to the rest of us. Horses make wonderful childhood companions. Children are naturally attracted to them, and that makes horses great bait for boisterous boys and girls and reason enough to spend the day outside at the stables.

The cast of Heartland on CBC reminds us every week of the quality of life on a horse farm. The drama that perplex these characters fascinate our teenage children. One of the most compelling aspects of the character driven show are insights into Alberta regional horse competitions, and the way the horse people desire the glory of performing and winning trophies at these events.  As our children watch these young people perform and achieve their dreams, it motivates them to seek glory in their own endeavours, be that horses or performing arts, mathematics, creative writing; CBC Heartland is a model that encourages teens to seek excellence in any discipline.

Boy gets riding lessons indoors at riding academy

Children riding horses also come to understand and participate in the many activities involved in caring for a horse,. grooming, hefting buckets and saddles, and cleaning stalls. This  can make for a great upper-body workout as children learn how important good diet, veterinary check-ups, dental work, and regular exercise are to a horse. It may just cause them to consider their own health needs, and the disadvantages of choosing improper feed for their own bodies.

Horses are Huge in Every Child’s Eyes

Learning to ride and care for an animal that’s twice their size can really empower children.  The horse trainer turn riding instructor is primarily a human trainer who can boost the confidence of their young riders through encouragement and compliments, highlighting areas where they’re gaining new skills and rewarding them for showing improvement.

At the end of most six or eight week riding lesson packages there’s usually an option to compete in a horse show which formalizes the training and is a real gauge of proficiency. But competing in public doesn’t necessarily mean entering into formal competitions. For students taking riding lessons there are a dozen challenges everyday, and each horse is both partner and judge. The riding instructor is the facilitator and trainer – the best riding instructors plant goals in their – finality

But when competing the risks and rewards are doubled. The value of perseverance and dogged determination, hard work, the rewards of empathy, how to deal with disappointment and losing, while also experiencing the sweet taste of success are all aspects that come into play.girl poses on horse in riding academy

Our Child has a Pony and Friends at the Riding Club

Sometimes our child is just happy brushing his pony or helping to muck out, and that’s okay. Other days he’ll ask for a ride and we hope his confidence continues to grow. He’s made a good friend in his pony.

New environments are a great way to help them make friends. Riding can lead to social-life benefits and meeting new people that could develop into life-long friends.

2006 Research from American Youth Horse Council uncovered a significant positive relationship between horse skills and life skills development.

Sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council, the research found that equestrian activities do indeed enhance a range of life skills in children. The study looked at youngsters involved in 4-H, Pony Club, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, and the National High School Rodeo Association.

Results of the study, published in February 2006, found a significant positive relationship between horsemanship skills and life skills.  A sample of 982 youth between the ages of twelve and eighteen, all active in the above youth equine organizations, found that handling, riding, and caring for a horse or pony can develop a host of positive traits in a child, including responsibility, accountability, patience, levelheadedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline.

When the whole family gets involved, the time spent together with horses can enhance the bond among family members and become the stuff of treasured childhood memories. Moreover, the benefits of horse involvement are enduring, as a child’s “horse habit” can evolve into a rewarding lifelong hobby.

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oakville custom home builder

What I Learned Making DIY Backyard Ice Rink

“This isn’t the first time I’ve made a backyard ice rink on my property”, says Keith Travers Eastview Homes, Oakville area contractor, “we’re a hockey family.”

Its a breathtaking accomplishment. As I came through the back of Keith’s suburban bungalow, I spotted the attraction in the backyard. Behold twelve hundred square feet of ice, six inches thick, rimmed with plywood boards.

Keith Travers in his D.I.Y. backyard ice rink in Toronto

Proud of his accomplishment, Keith boasted “You’ve got to come back in the evening when its all lit up and we have all the neighbour kids over playing hockey, and free skating”. He pointed out the mercury vapour lamps (same as in the local arena but smaller) that he has affixed to poles on the perimeter.

“Next year I’m gonna add some benches on both sides.” Keith says, “That’s one thing I learned. There’s always a crowd here by the steps.”

Keith’s backyard is perfect because the contractor made it that way; the area was specially leveled and landscaped and all the small trees were removed when he first bought the property a few years ago.

The rink boards were cut last year. They’re 4×8 plywood sheets ripped lengthwise into eight foot long boards. Keith could have used cheaper materials, particle board OSB, but he had some 3/4 inch plywood left over from a job and he knew the ice rink was a project he’d be repeating for years to come. The braces, two on each board, are more perishable; they’re made from salvage cut from old pallets and other bits of scrap wood.

Keith learned last year to run the hydro for the lights first- the power cords are safe from sharp skates under snow and ice, right on the ground. Keith also evolved a sound system this winter; he has two small stereo speakers plugged into a radio in the kitchen.

TIMELINE of a backyard ice rink – first you clear the area and run power for lights and put up the boards.

“I leave the grass long in the fall in case we get a good snowfall, and I can do the snow pack method to save the liner.’ There are two methods of making a liner. First, if there’s a lot of snow the you can use the snow pack method, which involves tramping down the snow with your boots until its hard packed and will hold the water.

Or you can buy some very large sheets of thin plastic and fashion your own pool liner or in this case a ‘rink liner’. Painters’ drop sheets are too thin and the wrong size. They won’t work unless you can figure out how to bind them together with duct tape to create a watertight surface. The thicker the plastic, the easier the tape applies, right up until the plastic is too thick.

The hardest part for Keith this year was just waiting for the ground to freeze as the weather by the lake is so variable.

It wasn’t until late December before Keith had the courage to call the water truck service. He ordered three thousand gallons of water to make a six inch slab, and if readers are seeking to replicate this rink they can use this handy pool volume calculator to calculate their own needs. Keith learned last year that six inches is the ideal (or most efficient) ice thickness to avoid pressure cracks and create an immovable solid ice mass.

pool volume calculator

 

 

Safety is always top-of-mind when making a kid friendly backyard attraction.

Keith has evolved a more kid-friendly ice rink this year even though he claims his rink is entirely injury free. Despite the flawless safety record, or maybe to help ensure it continues, the building contractor took the time to eliminate protruding stakes and sharp edges that can cause more harm to anyone slipping, losing their balance and falling. The wooden perimeter rises about a foot above the ice surface and this year the corners and top edges are smoother and all the stakes have been hammered down flush with the top of the boards.

And finally, lets not forget, ice rink makers have to think ahead to the spring melt. Where is all that water going to go? Keith runs a line to his neighbour’s in-ground swimming pool, which is right next door and downhill. He made a deal with this friend after concerns were raised that the melting ice rink could otherwise flood both their basements.

Keith Travers – DIY Ice Rink in backyard.

Does having a property with a big backyard improve the quality of life for a young family in the summer and in wintertime? Absolutely.

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10 Unforgettable Fly Fishing Locations in the U.S.

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Lists aren’t easy. We know because it was hard setting a limit when we reviewed five of Alaska’s foremost rivers. It’s probably impossible to narrow down the country’s best fly fishing to just 10 locations, but we’re giving it our best shot.

1. Manistee River, Michigan

Its 200-mile run through the northern regions of the state’s lower peninsula ends at Lake Michigan. The river produces great salmon, trout and steelhead action especially downstream from Tippy Dam. We really enjoy the year-round crystal clear water.

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2. Penobscot River, Maine

Let’s swing east to the west branch of this river known for its world-class salmon fly fishing. The 11-mile stretch between Ripogenus Dam and the Abol Bridge presents some of the wildest angling available. We strongly suggest this one for fishing, not relaxing.

3. Connecticut River, New Hampshire

New England’s longest river offers more than 400 miles of fly fishing adventures. Whether you drift or wade, cast your luck, and sharpen your skill chasing trout, salmon and sturgeon. The Connecticut always looks its best when it’s wearing fall colors.

4. The Florida Keys

Obviously, this one isn’t a river, but we really recommend the action off Key Largo. Bogie and Bacall would definitely approve and join us for some of the finest saltwater fly fishing in the Western Hemisphere. We sound prejudice because we are.

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5. Little Red River, Arkansas

As we head back up and across the country, we have to stop in north central Arkansas. Since their introduction in the mid-1960s, ‘bows and brownies have earned their reputation as the state’s favorite sporting fish. Be sure to try the river’s stretch between Greers Ferry Dam and Pangburn.

6. San Juan River, New Mexico

We love the high country and endless plateaus in northwestern New Mexico. We go crazy for huge river trout below Navajo Dam. The San Juan River makes it on our list because it consistently produces fish in one of the American West’s most beautiful settings.

7. Glenwood Spring, Colorado

We’re including one more non-river location. This is the Rocky Mountain State’s center for amazing fly fishing action. The Colorado and Fork rivers roar through town, the area enjoys 300 days of sunshine every year, and even winter fishing is fun in Glenwood Spring.

8. Yellowstone River, Montana

You know it’s the longest undammed river in the country. You know the headwaters are filled with cutthroats. You know downstream teems with huge populations of big ‘bows and brownies. We know we’d hear from you if we didn’t include this one.

9. Snake River, Idaho

Head for the Snake’s south fork, and enjoy year-round fly fishing just 45 minutes from Jackson Hole. We favor the canyon run through Magic Valley for cutthroat, brownies and rainbows. The scenery is breathtaking wherever you fish on this legendary river.

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10. Kvichak River, Alaska

From Lake Iliamna down to Bristol Bay the Kvichak River is spotted with some of the best fly fishing lodges in the world. The river flows wild and wide and did we mention that the world’s largest red salmon run happens right here every year? Enough said.

You might not agree with all our choices, but you have to admit it’s a pretty good list. It’s certainly reason enough to keep expanding your angling horizons and checking locations off your fly-fishing adventures list.

An Insight into Fostering: The Myths and the Truths

foster children There are lots on uncertainties that circulate around foster parenting. It’s widely believed that marital status, age and personal experience are the deciding factors in whether you are allowed to foster a child. We spoke to Lorraine* to gain a better insight into the world of fostering and to have all of the common myths and truths brought to light.

Can I become a foster parent if I’m single?

There are certain qualities that a foster parent must possess, lots of patience, empathy, supportiveness and a big heart, but surprisingly having a partner is not included in the list! Foster children are working through what’s called a transition period when they are placed into care – this is a period where they will be waiting to be either reunited with their birth parents, or placed with the right “forever family”, so it is an extremely difficult time for them that will require the upmost sensitivity – if you can provide a stable and loving environment for the child, that will cause them as little trauma as possible, then you could be the perfect candidate. So it doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, male or female.

Lorraine* is a single mother of 3, who began fostering a little over 7 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.

Can I foster if I have my own children?

One of the most common misconceptions about fostering is that people who have their own children are not suitable foster parent candidates. When speaking to Lorraine, she said “I have experience of being a parent, with 3 sons of my own I believed that I had the experience to benefit a child’s needs”. If you have your own children, it demonstrates that you are able to provide a stable and loving environment that a foster child needs. Also bringing a child into a home that already has children, who they can speak to, play with and learn from, can actually help them to acclimatise to their new home better.

fostering

Am I too old to foster?

If you are 25 years of age or older you can be a suitable candidate to foster. As long as you are of sound health both mentally and physically, then you can foster a child regardless of how old you are. Lorraine* began fostering when she was 48 years old, she is now 55 and is planning to continue to foster.

Do I have to be qualified to become a foster parent?

Before you are allowed to foster a child, there is an extensive process that you have to go through. You will be paired with a social worker who can visit you up to 10 different occasions – in this time they will complete the Form F Report, which is an in depth assessment of your family history, medical records and overall suitability to foster a child. If you pass the initial stages of the fostering process, you will also have to attend a 3-4 day course, which will prepare you for all of the different challenges that being a foster parent will bring. Lorraine* told us that “nothing can fully prepare you for the challenges and difficult times that you will be faced with as a foster parent. I have looked after so many children and teenagers during my time and every experience is different. This is such a rewarding life choice, and as long as you remain patient, open minded and supportive, you can really make an impact on the child’s life”.

Lorraine* fosters through a private fostering agency called Lorimer Fostering, but you can also foster via your local fostering authority.

*Lorraine’s name has been changed to protect her identity and that of the children in her care.

Outdoor activity, even napping, in winter leads to happier, healthier and more resilient kids…

kids-tobagganning-in-winter

Kids of all ages love to ride the toboggan down slippery, snowy hills


Well, its finally happening…

The cool, crisp air of yet another onset of winter has finally arrived. While it would be easy to light the fireplace and snuggle up inside for another long, cold winter— rather than retreat inside, we should actually be spending more time outdoors. Walking, hiking, playing, skiing, snowboarding, learning, exploring discovering and even… napping. Yes, napping. Outside.

kids-nordic-skiing

Nordic (or Cross Country) Skiing is a great way to have fun, get fit and actually enjoy winter.


While it is easy to think that winter is long, and cold and hard to endure year after year, it really is more of a state of mind than a set of circumstances we have to endure. When you take the time to actively engage in activities that force you to dress up and get outside and move around for extended periods of time, winter can actually be really fun. If you set your mind to it, it becomes a great opportunity to seek out and find ways and things to do that build resilience, shorten the season, and put you in great shape emotionally, physically and mentally.

Outdoor learning is alive and well in Sweden – a priority even. The team at the Swedish think tank Movium has been able to advance a national agenda in support of outdoor play and learning, mobility and independence.

girls-nordic-skiing

Get the kids outside skiing early on in life and you will give them a gift that lasts a lifetime.


Here in Canada, we see signs of movement in that direction. More schools and school boards are encouraging play and learning outside and creating school grounds that are healthy for kids living in cities.

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Running, jumping and all around tomfoolery in the powdery snow is a great way to burn off steam and get plenty of fresh air. Dress them up right and they won’t even notice its cold outside.


Cam Collyer, Director of Programs at Evergreen, shares what Canadians can learn from outdoor education around the world…

backyard-hockey

Back Yard Hockey rinks are a bit of work in the fall, winter and spring, but well worth the effort if you can get a cold enough winter in your area. Here in Toronto, it is hard to believe we can actually do this in the city, but it is possible if you roll up your sleeves and are dedicated to the cause.


What are you waiting for? Bundle up the kids and get outside!