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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Get Your Family Active! by Emily Patterson

(Picture taken from

Daily Physical Activity: the Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle
Tips for Getting Your Family Active

Experts suggest that young children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  Unfortunately, many children are not nearly as active as they need to be.  It is clear that along with poor diet, physical inactivity has contributed to the large increase in childhood obesity in the United States in the past 20 years.  The following statistics are unsettling:

·         Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese nationwide.
(Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
·         The percentage of obese or overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states. (Source: Trust for America's Health)

Research has shown that children who develop basic motor skills such as throwing, catching, kicking, are more likely to grow into healthy active adults.  Whether the activity be at home with their parents or at their child care facility with their friends, studies have shown that daily physical activity helps children academically as well.  

Dr. Stephen Sanders (director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida and member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board), says that children do not necessarily learn physical skills on their own.  He has found they need guidance and assistance from adults, challenging activities, and opportunities to practice and refine physical skills.

So, what can parents do to teach their children about the importance of being physically active and help them learn these necessary skills?  Trying the tips below will help you and your family create a fun environment for physical activity and will contribute to everyone’s physical health.

Getting Your Family Active:

Be active with your children: Don’t just send your children outside to play--be a role model!  Go outside with them and participate in games and other activities that require physical exertion!

·         Use sidewalk chalk to create your own four-square or hopscotch grids; blow bubbles then chase them around the yard to see who can catch them; go on a walk around the neighborhood or through a park as a family; play music and dance inside or outside; and when the weather is nice put on your bathing suits and run through the sprinklers.
·         Promote a feeling of success when you play with your child.  If your child is not yet able to successfully throw and hit a target, encourage them to move a little closer so they can be successful.  Skills are acquired incrementally.  Children who do not experience success have a tendency to quit and not practice.
·         Acknowledge their efforts with specific comments.  No matter what your child’s skill level is, be a supportive coach.  They will benefit from your encouragement.

When children come into the world, physical activity is at the very center of their lives.  They have a mission to learn to crawl, walk, run, throw, catch, and kick.  If they are going to enjoy participating in physical activities now and as adults, they need to build on that foundation of success and enjoyment that begins in infancy.  So, grab a ball, badminton racket, or jump rope and set aside time each day to play with your child!

Contributed by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools

Monday, April 18, 2011

Looking to Create Community (and Healthy Meals)? Try A Meal Share! by Jennifer Gannett

One day, over a year ago, I realized that meals were becoming annoying and stressful: my goal was to create healthy, inexpensive, low waste, plant-based meals for my family and myself-- but I was getting exasperated with the amount of time I was spending chopping veggies and performing the necessary kitchen work each day.  When  we sat down to dinner as a family, I-- tired and cranky-- would be not-so-secretly assessing what my family was eating and feeling really bummed out if they didn't seem to like what I'd made.  All in all, not a pleasant dynamic.  I decided to approach another busy friend about potentially doing a meal trade, and she was willing to give it a go.  It worked out so well that we ended up incorporating a third family and it feels like a terrific rhythm has been established. 

In our meal share group, each family is responsible for cooking for the two other families on their assigned day (currently Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays).  A sampling of meals that have been delivered to my door over the past few months include Tamale Pie; Lima and Edamame Soup; Pad Thai; Quinoa, Kale and Bean Stew; and Carrot Polenta with Sausages and Peppers.  Some of the benefits:  The meals are all very good and healthy.  I really appreciate that I can take a couple of nights off from cooking without having to go out to a restaurant or order take-out.  My son has expanded his palate in a way that is startling (and heartwarming). We are saving a lot of money-- I no longer have to be in the market so often for the meal that night or something that I forgot (and of course, I cannot tell a lie: I would always spend more money than I'd planned to).  Preparing food in this way is also an energy saving measure, as we all aren't cooking on our own individual stoves or with our ovens etc. But perhaps one of the best things to come away from this experience is the peace of mind I have on Mondays and Wednesdays as I know our family will get a break from the kitchen stuff while still eating a delicious meal, and that is a true gift. 

Meal share groups are really catching on!  The New York Times wrote a piece last year entitled Saving Time and Stress with Cooking Coops  (I couldn't have titled it any better myself).  The article lays out the different ways that meals can be cooperatively shared and prepared together.  Beloved foodie site Chowhound offers yummy ideas for vegetarian meal share dishes here.  There is even a Montclair, NJ-based site called Cooking With Friends, which emphasizes communal meal preparation.  Our meal share group has its own blog called Suburban Vegan Meal Group, which is a year-long experiment in chronicling our meals and cooking experiences.  Readers of Your Greener Future will probably especially appreciate our entry about how we transport meals in the most environmentally-friendly way (hint: it involves tiffins and spaghetti sauce jars!).  Because we all live within a mile of each other we often try to bike or walk our meals to each other.

One last note, and that is that I think two things have been essential to our experience.  The first is that we all eat a vegan diet for ethical and environmental reasons and therefore have no qualms about cooking without dairy, meat or eggs.  Having meal sharers in your group that are on the same page is very important. The second key to success is that we are very flexible with our schedules and deliveries.  Sometimes one of us might need to skip or substitute a night, or maybe we're running a little late (or we've made dinner early in the day and we're delivering it at lunchtime).  It has never been a problem.

So give a meal share a try! Cooking together or for others is a great way to build a sense of community, try out new foods and alleviate some of the burden of domestic life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

6 Tips For A Safer Yard by Safe Yards Montclair

The Forsythias are blooming, and that’s a good sign that it is time to start working on 
your lawn. Remember, you can have a beautiful lawn without using chemicals that may 
be harmful to health and the environment. 

Six tips for a safer yard this spring:
1) Use eco-friendly, organic lawn care practices on your lawn. 
View a step-by-step plan for doing it yourself 

2) Hire an eco-friendly, organic lawn care service: 
Email Safe Yards Montclair for a list of such local services at 
Please first review their suggested questions to ask the services you contact to ensure 
that they meet your needs. 
3) Find out what is in the lawn chemicals you use 
(or that your service uses). 
Read the label or ask your service for the ingredient names. Then do your own research 
on the toxicity and environmental effects. See the lists here.

4) Be a good neighbor: 

a. When you put synthetic pesticides on your front yard yourself, your neighbors might 
not know they are there. Put a sign on your front yard, so your neighbors won’t let their 
dogs sniff your lawn or kids play on it. And, don’t let the chemicals run-off onto the 
b. Let your neighbor know when your lawn service will be spraying pesticides 
(if they do that). The spray can drift inside their homes without warning (and inside your 
home as well). 

5) Read the label directions carefully if you purchase lawn 
products yourself. 
Don’t put more product on your lawn than suggested by the manufacturer. 
You can damage your soil and add excess chemicals into the environment. 
6) Take off your shoes. 
Some studies suggest that lawn chemicals can be tracked into your home and found 
on floors and carpets.* 

Did you know that Quebec and Ontario, Canada have completely banned the sale of 
synthetic pesticides? 40 New Jersey towns have gone pesticide free on their public 
parks to reduce everyone’s exposure. And this year, New Jersey passed the nation's 
strongest fertilizer law that restricts the use of chemical fertilizers. 
As residents, we can look for ways to reduce our own usage this spring to help protect 
our drinking water, health, and the environment.  

Join SafeYardsMontclair in taking the Safe Yards Challenge at and learn ways 
you can contribute to pesticide reduction in New Jersey. One yard at a time.

Enjoy the spring weather!