Before Picking a Youth Sports Team, Consider These 3 Things

By Brandon Capaletti

With summer now here, many parents’ thoughts are changing from school and spelling tests toward soccer games and T-ball practice. If you are looking to enroll your child in a sport, here are some important considerations to help you choose the right sport, team and coach. youthfootball

Choosing the Right Sport

The first step in choosing a sports team is choosing the sport itself. Some considerations to make include:

  • Your child’s interest, temperament and physical abilities
  • Your schedule
  • The cost of equipment and participation

As you look at these basic factors, strive to find a sport that balances your child’s abilities, goals and needs, as well as the needs of your family. Often, parents will choose a sport based on their child’s interests and physical capabilities, and this is a great way to introduce a child to athletic events. Just make sure to consider other factors, like cost. Some sports, such as football, come with a significant cost because of the gear required. Volleyball, track and field, and swimming or diving are some of the cheapest sports, with football, baseball and hockey topping out the list of expensive sports. Parents pay an average of $671 per year on the fees, equipment and other costs of youth sports.

Another consideration to make is whether your child is best suited for a team sport or an individual sport. Team sports teach children the value of teamwork and encourage them to work with others to reach a particular goal. Individual sports, like gymnastics or swimming, may be better for children who are driven to push themselves or who have a hard time with the winning and losing aspect of sports. With individual sports, however, the social benefit of playing sports is diminished, as is some of the learning to work as a team.

Choosing the Right Team Continue reading

How Play Changes from Toddlers to Teenagers

By David Reeves

toddler_playOne of the most interesting aspects of raising or caring for children is the opportunity to watch the way they change and develop, and much of this is seen in the way they play. Young toddlers spend time learning fine and gross motor skills while playing in tandem, but not necessarily with, their peers. This gradually progresses until pre-teens and teens are more interested in the social aspects of their play, having mastered the motor skills long before. When considering playground equipment, an understanding of these changes is crucial.

The Evolution of Play

How does play evolve? It seems to develop alongside the child’s physical and emotional growth. Children begin truly playing, rather than just exploring playthings, in their toddler years. From around the time they start walking until they hit the preschool, children are spending most of their time perfecting their gross motor skills. Walking, climbing, dancing and jumping are all favorite activities. Throwing and kicking balls are also popular playtime. Children this age may play with other children to the point of dancing at the same time or mimicking movements, but you will observe little in the way of cooperative play.

kid_playThat begins to change around age three. During the preschool years, children begin to “pretend play” in earnest. They enjoy playing with other children and engaging in pretend activities together. While the motor skills are fairly well developed at this point, children can still be a bit unsteady on their feet, so they prefer smaller items to climb on.

Once children hit the elementary school ages, from six to nine years old, they become increasingly social, yet are still fine-tuning those gross and fine motor skills. During these years, risk-taking behavior is common. Children want to jump higher, run faster and climb higher than they have in the past. Their play is largely group-oriented, even if the group is somewhat small.

Once children hit the pre-teen years, from nine to 12 years old, they start to develop some independence in their play, yet still enjoy playing with other children. These are the years when children may begin to outgrow some childhood pastimes, like dressing up or playing pretend fantasy games, in favor of more strategic play activities and games, like organized sports or more difficult board games. Once they hit teenage years, play is almost entirely social, although some kids still enjoy physical challenge. Organized sports are quite popular with teens. Continue reading

Childhood Obesity: A Mom’s Perspective

By Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC

As a concerned mom, I am very aware of the challenges of childhood obesity with my own kids. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember and it wasn’t until my adult life that I’ve been successfully able to keep off 147 pounds. My husband has had the same challenges as well. Studies have shown that kids whose parents are overweight or obese are at much higher risk for becoming obese themselves. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found five risk factors for childhood obesity. The main risk factor was parental obesity. Thankfully, I read these statistics when my kids were babies. I was aware and determined to do everything I could to make sure to introduce healthy eating and activity into our family.

Many kids today spend hours in front of a screen. Their screen time often includes watching television, playing video games, interacting with social media, and cruising the Internet. During this sedentary time, kids are also seeing unhealthy food and drink advertisements. The combination of the sedentary behavior and the increased likelihood of unhealthy snacking during that time is a very concerning risk factor for obesity.

In a company, leaders are the examples and establish the standards for staff. The same dynamic exists for families. Parents are the role models, the example for their children, and set the standards. As parents, if we eat healthy and incorporate activity into our regular routine, our children see that and it becomes the norm for them too. Our parental influence has a huge impact for behavior and habits in our kids.

Activity with your family is a double bonus for quality family time and building healthy habits that will last your children a lifetime. Here’s a few ways you can do just that: Continue reading

Middle School with Zamzee

By Timothy NguyenTim

My affiliation with Zamzee began roughly in 2011, when the Zamzee team made an appearance at my middle school. I was in 8th grade back then and the idea of an activity tracker that measures your steps intrigued me, as I was unfamiliar with idea to begin with. The enthusiasm of the Zamzee team and their persuasion quickly whipped me on board, and before you know it, the meter was on the way to my doorstep.

At first, my P.E. teacher challenged the class to see who can earn the most points, and I believe that it was the challenge that really got me going on the device. Later on, I ended up winning the competition, and ever since then, the Zamzee meter hasn’t left my side. Many of my friends commented about the device, and I gladly explained to them how it encourages you to get active. I practically wore it everyday to school and to the gym whenever vacation came around. At the gym, I was quickly remembered because I had the meter on: I stood out.

What encouraged me the most about the Zamzee meter was the accomplishments one could achieve. I always became excited when I earned a new badge, and that factor is what drove me to stay dedicated to the meter. Moreover, other than the obtainable badges, their challenges were another prime factor that kept me dedicated. From my standpoint, I thought it was a fabulous idea that one can earn tangible rewards from physical activity. Challenge after challenge, I pushed myself to earn enough Zamz for a product I wanted. That drive eventually led me to earn enough Zamz to purchase Yurbuds from BestBuy, which I proudly use every single day, and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful. It was because of this drive for accomplishment that I found myself pushing my limit of physical activity. There was even one point where I found myself exercising within my house, something I would never find myself doing because of how small my house is. But I was doing it, because of the Zamzee meter. Continue reading

My Zamzee Experience

by Ryan Scheller

photoMy name is Ryan and I am 25 years old. I love to play all kinds of games.

I found out about Zamzee from HopeLab, and have used it for about four months. How do I know about HopeLab? I helped HopeLab create the game Re-Mission2.

I found Zamzee to be helpful in my recovery from cancer because it encouraged me to get up and moving. The device is easy to use, just put it in your pocket and plug it into the flash drive of your computer at the end of the day. The Zamzee will then upload your progress into your account.

Zamzee users can accumulate points two ways. First, Pointz are given on a daily basis, based on just how active the user is during the day. But the other reward system is called Zamz. Zamz are like dollars and are accumulated by doing special challenges that last from five minutes to one hour. The trick is that they need to be done right away, as soon as you click the “bring it” button. Earning Zamz allows the user to purchase a huge selection of items, ranging from costumes for the user’s avatar all the way up to an Xbox One for 56,000 Zamz.  Continue reading

How Playgrounds Foster the 5 Types of Play

ImageDifferent play structures on the playground engage children in different ways, whether it engages their imagination or their intellect. Well-arranged play environments should enhance children’s development by integrating learning and play in a way that’s fun but also boosts development. Here is a rundown of a few types of play and play structures and how they contribute to different experiences for children.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) categorizes play into five different types: creative play, games with rules, language, physical play and pretend play. For the most part, physical play structures, like playground equipment, contribute to children’s physical development by providing places to jump, climb, run and move around in general. Strength in gross motor development, as a result, improves in children who regularly partake in physical play.

Outdoor play structures can also include activities that allow children to engage the other types of play, such as games with rules, pretend play and creative play. Creative play is characterized by activities that let children express their feelings, ideas and thoughts by using their imaginations. Playing pretend on various play structures often features make-believe, role-playing, drama and fantasy games.

Elevated Play Components

playland-zamzee-4Elevated play components are equipment that can be approached or exited from above or below grade. For example, a climber that a child could ascend or descend is considered an elevated play component. These play structures, as you may guess, build balance and strength: two abilities that children use during play on these particular types of playground equipment. Other elevated play components, such as slides, use gravity to produce a sense of rapid descent.

Many elevated play items can be roped into fantasy and creative play as well. If an entire play structure is imagined to be a castle, pirate ship, spaceship or something similar, children are bringing in elements of drama, make-believe, role-playing and ultimately pretend play. This sort of play develops imaginations and steers young minds to think in creative, abstract ways. Continue reading

Zamzee, My Family, and Making Exercise Fun

By Virna McKinney

zamzee picture 108

One day last April I walked my son William to his classroom on the second floor of his school. By the time we got to the top of the stairs, we were both out of breath. In that moment I really felt like a failure as a mom. Walking to his classroom on the second floor was a struggle that William had to face five days a week, at least three times a day. I knew I needed to do something to help both of us, and that’s why I started looking for a way to make exercising fun.

I found Zamzee by doing a Google search for a child’s activity monitor. Since I had just joined Weight Watchers a few days before, I decided to get one for myself and both my kids. William was eight and Taylor was five at the time. They were both really excited to get started. When their Zamzees were fully charged, they started doing jumping jacks. My kids and I set challenges and ran in the backyard, or took walks around the block. During the summer break we spent hours in the backyard kicking and chasing the soccer ball. We also bounced on the trampoline, hula hooped, and jumped rope.

Pretty soon, Taylor joined a cheer squad and William joined a basketball team. Because they had their sports practice on two different nights of the week, I decided to take advantage of this time by walking around the track for an hour. But the surprise occurred when each child opted not to watch their sibling practice, but instead walk the track with me. Taylor didn’t actually walk. She ran. FAST. So that made me run too, to keep up with her. On one of our walks I set a challenge for William, without knowing he wasn’t wearing his Zamzee. When we got home I told him to plug it in to see if he had met the challenge. He said, “I forgot to put it on it but that’s ok. It’s not about the points anyway. I needed to walk.” That was a proud mama moment for me.

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