As we welcome the new school year, we, as parents have the opportunity to start it right. With messages of, “Rush here, hurry there,” and “I must get from one activity to another,” the pressure of over-scheduling our children (and ourselves!) can dominate our day-to-day activities. Why do we, as parents, feel pushed to over-schedule?
One reason seems to be that many adults feel that an abundance of structured, goal-oriented activities will help prepare children for a top-ranking college and a successful career. Another view is that children who are exposed to an array of “enrichment” activities will be better prepared for adult life. A third explanation is that many parents believe the earlier you expose a child to structured learning, the faster he or she will learn and the more academic they will be. It is not uncommon to see parents enroll pre-school children in multiple extracurricular activities and accelerated academic programs in hopes of getting a step or two ahead.
However, according to experts in the field of child development, this is just not so. Recent scientific research supports the theory that self-initiated, unstructured creative play is the single most important activity that young children can engage in to develop at all developmental levels, including neurological and cognitive growth.
Children today have half as much free time as they did 30 years ago, notes a national study of 3,500 children ages 12 and under, released by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Contrary to popular belief, doing “nothing” is not necessarily wasting time. In fact, having time to observe, explore, fantasize and engage in imaginative play is extremely productive. It is exciting to think about this unstructured time as an opportunity to become more resourceful, self-reliant and resilient. In addition to independent, free play, there are endless opportunities for hands-on, intellectually-stimulating activities parents and children can do together (see “Unstructured Fun” sidebar).
Often, the joy of just being a kid is taken away when we pressure and over-schedule our children with activities. It can also lead to many physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, insomnia and anxiety attacks. Children need time to be creative, dream, imagine, play, and interact with other children without adults directing the activity. And, it’s even okay for children to be bored once in awhile.
While there is no “right” number of activities for every child, it is important to make sure your child is not over-scheduled and has plenty of downtime. Make a plan to carve out some unstructured time each and every day. It’s certainly okay to enroll your child in a structured activity, and as the child gets older, even more than one. The key is to find the right balance for each child.
If you notice your child presenting two or more of the following behaviors on a consistent basis, he or she may not be getting enough downtime. If so, it might be a good idea to re-evaluate his or her schedule. (Source: Scholastic.com)
Here are a few hands-on and mind-stimulating activities the whole family can participate in together. Adapt these activities, as needed, depending on the age of your child. Also, ask your child for his or her ideas for more activities. (Source: PasadenaISD.org)
• Take outings to interesting places, such as the library, museums, parks and hiking trails.
• Make a scrapbook together of places you visit (older children may enjoy keeping a journal).
• Allow children to plan menus and help with grocery shopping.
• Bake and cook together.
• Play sports and games indoors and outside.
• Play board and card games.
• Encourage your child to create his own game and play with him.
• Provide a variety of creative experiences such as arts and crafts, music and movement, and performing skits or plays.
• Encourage child to find and use recycled items for art activities and games.
Sharon Long, M.S., is the Parent Education Coordinator, Prevention Services at Centers for Youth & Families.
(Pictured above: Participants at a previous Central Arkansas JDRF Walk.)
Put on your running shoes and head to one of these active events for families, all happening this Saturday, Sept. 20. The events will support various organizations, from JDRF to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
1. Central Arkansas JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes at Dickey-Stephens Park: Celebrate the fundraising efforts led by families, schools, hospitals and businesses throughout the state. This year's walk will be held at the ballpark, and will occur rain or shine. Festivities begin at 8 a.m., and the walk kicks off at 9 a.m. Walkers will march along the Riverfront Park trail to the Clinton Presidential Center and back. Participants can also snack on food, listen to music from B98.5, and take part in children's activities. 8 a.m. Sept. 20. For info, click here.
2. Corner Store Country Run at War Memorial Stadium: Come dressed in over-the-top country attire for the 5K fun run (stroller-friendly!) and stick around for a free, family-friendly country fair with live music, food, refreshments, carnival games and giveaways. One hundred percent of proceeds will benefit charitable causes, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, and additional funds will be donated to other organizations in Little Rock. $30, online registration $25; family of four $75, children under 8 free; first 500 to register will be free. 7:30-11 a.m. Sept. 20. For info: (501) 663-0775, CornerStoreRun.com.
3. MEMS 5K at Two Rivers Park: Run through the park on this USATF-certified course. Registrants will receive a commemorative race T-shirt (while supplies last), race bib, and goodie bag. Snacks will be available at the finish line and awards given for the top three finishers in all age groups by gender. Proceeds from this race benefit The September Fund. The fund was established as a living memorial to the brave police, firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians who perished on September 11, 2001. The fund gives a one-time scholarship to first-year college-bound children of any first responder in the 100.3 the Edge listening area. $25. 5-7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. For info: (501) 605-2654, 5KRun.MetroEMS.org.
For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.
The play is a high-energy adaptation of the classic picture book from P.D. Eastman, in which speedy dogs race in cars. Several central Arkansans are included in the canine cast, including Aleigha Garstka as Blue Dog, Jeremy Matthey as Yellow Dog, Courtney Bennett as Red Dog and Mark Hansen as MC Dog.
Today, Little Rock Family is giving away two family four-packs to see the show. To enter the contest, simply visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/LittleRockFamily and follow the instructions! The deadline to enter is 3 p.m. today (Sept. 16), and the two winners will be announced on our Facebook page at 4 p.m.
The musical officially opens on Sept. 19 and continues through Oct. 5. Performance times are 7 p.m. Fri., & 2 p.m. Sat. & Sun. Tickets are $12.50.
Pay What You Can Night will be this Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. Special performances will also be held for school groups Sept. 17-Oct. 3. Click here for more info.
For more info, call (501) 372-4000 or visit ArkansasArtsCenter.org.
Confession time: We absolutely LOVE when brides incorporate their pets into their big day festivities. It's always adorable and always funny.
Unfortunately, it's not always practical. An easily excitable and unpredictable pet may prove to be too much of a stress on an already crazy day. So what's a girl to do?
Meredith and Ryan Pettigrew set up a donation fund toward the Fayetteville Animal Shelter, where they adopted their two dogs, in honor of each guest. To keep them from feeling like they were going home empty-handed, attendees received little dog treats for their own pooches.
Adorable, right? How about your fur baby? Part of your wedding, or no? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Rachel Blackwell Photography
Let’s be honest. Going on field trips as a kid was the best part of school (the jury is still out for teachers).
The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas decided that kids shouldn’t have all the fun. That’s why this fall they’re putting on adult field trips to some of the particularly scenic spots around the Natural State. Don’t worry; most trips are suitable for your little ones, too.
You can choose from nine trips, or don’t choose and visit them all. Activities range from picnics at the Archery Fork Preserve, to canoeing the Glassy Lake Water Trail, to cutting your own Christmas trees at Terre Noire.
Once you register, you’ll receive a detailed list of what to bring and where to meet. But just like the good old days, you’re expected to pack a lunch, and your mommy can’t bail you out if you forget.
If you’re interested in getting outside of your weekend routine, call (501) 614-5088 or email email@example.com with your name, the number of participants in your party, your mailing address, phone numbers and e-mail address.
Trips start Sept. 20 and run through Dec. 6. Cost is $25 for most ventures and space is limited. Sign up early and get out there, Arkansas.
The weather is cooler, the leaves start to turn, there is pumpkin carving and hay rides, and football is in full swing. Hello, our favorite season. Another stellar part of fall is comfort food. September, October and November is the time for the warm, hearty stuff.
It doesn't get much warmer or much heartier than soup. Here are a few of our go-to soups for you to enjoy.
Homemade Tomato Soup
Tomato soup has always been a classic, and it's not expected to change anytime soon. There's just something about the simplicity of it all. And nothing ties it together like a good grilled cheese sandwich on the side. Here's a homemade recipe for the timeless class from AllRecipes.com.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Here's another classic. Whether you're not feeling too hot, or you looking for something to warm you up, chicken noodle soup has always been a go-to. Campbell's has always been associated with chicken noodle soup, so in honor of that, here's a recipe from them.
There's just something about a good chill, isn't there? The amount of chili cook-offs every fall in the South goes to show the love affair between the tasty meal in a bowl and those below the Mason-Dixon line. Put it together with a good hot dog or some Fritos and you're really cooking. Here's a recipe for an All-American Chili from MyRecipes.com.
Chicken & Dumplings
Another staple in the South, and with good reason. I mean, talk about a comfort food. And it never fails, everyone's grandma has the best recipe. Just in case yours doesn't, or you'd just like to try out a new recipe, here's one from Pillsbury.
This one is for those that think soup isn't a real meal — which, of course, it is. You've got meat, potatoes and veggies. What else do you need to constitute a meal? This one is from Chow.com.
Another great soup in the fall, or anytime of the year, is potato. There's the creaminess, the chunks of potato and the tidbits of bacon, cheese and celery. In a lot of ways, it's a baked potato in a bowl, and it's good. This one is from everyone's favorite Southern cook, the Pioneer Woman.
Broccoli & Cheese Soup
This is another great, hearty choice. With broccoli, carrots, added in with a creamy, cheesy base, there's not much you can't like about this soup. Here's a recipe from Taste of Home.
This one has come on strong in recent years. The country's obsession with Mexican-style food has finally made its way in the form of a soup. It's simple and tasty, and also gives you the spicy flair you're looking for while warming yourself up with a nice bowl of soup. This recipe is from Food & Wine.
It’s become a tradition for many Arkansans to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) when the group comes through North Little Rock during the holiday season.
Their iconic spin on the Christmastime sound will once again be showcased at Verizon Arena, but with a new twist. For the first time ever, TSO will perform their rock opera “The Christmas Attic” as a part of their Winter Tour 2014.
The 1998 album is the only one of “The Christmas Trilogy” to never be performed onstage, and it promises to be a show to remember.
“The Christmas Attic” tells the story of a girl on Christmas Eve who discovers a magical trunk filled with old toys, records, ornaments and handwritten letters, a trunk that sends her on an adventure.
Tickets go on sale Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. for the TSO Winter Tour and are available at the Verizon Arena Box Office, by phone at (800) 745-3000 or online.
Grab a glass, everyone. The Festival of Wines is back for its 11th year on Oct. 2 benefitting the American Heart Association.
Presented by the Catholic Health Initiatives St. Vincent program, the biggest wine festival in Arkansas will be held across the entirety of Dickey-Stephens Park. The evening will include local hors d’oeuvres and hundreds of wines from all over the world, provided by the Moon and Central Distributors.
A few of the restaurants on the list include Boulevard Bread Company, Cheer’s in the Heights, Table 28, Two Sisters Catering, Bar Louie, Salut, Yaya’s Euro Bistro and the North Little Rock location of the Whole Hog Cafe.
The festival will also feature live entertainment, including a live painting from a local artist, as well as silent and premier auctions, this year with mobile bidding apps.
Don’t miss one of central Arkansas’ biggest social events with a heart. Tickets are $60 in advance and $75 at the door. They can be purchased by calling the American Heart Association at (501) 707-6600 or by visiting the festival’s website.