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Ideal snacks to make with children
Healthy snacks to make with childrenIn a previous blog we explored many ways of encouraging healthy eating in your children, and involving children in the food preparation process as well as having healthy snacks on hand can be an important way of discouraging binging on biscuits, sweets or crisps when hungry. Whether it’s just as an after-school snack, or for an upcoming kids party, here are a few of our favourite healthy snack recipes for making with your kids!
Octopus HoumousKids eat with their eyes just like we do, so this fun and healthy dip can be a great way to get some veg into your kids with no complaints! You will need: one bell pepper, houmous (shop bought or home-made) and one olive!
- Take a bell pepper (any colour you like as octopuses come in all shapes and sizes!) and cut off the top 1/3 of the pepper. De-seed the bottom 2/3rds and put to one side.
- Chop the top of the pepper into strips to make the ‘tentacles’!
- Spread houmous – shop bought or home-made – into a shallow bowl.
- Place the bottom half of the pepper in the houmous to make the body of the octopus, and use 8 of the pepper strips around the outside to form the tentacles.
- Chop the olive into round slices and stick two to the pepper with a little houmous to make the eyes! Kids love doing this bit too.
Avocado BoatAnother way to make a heathy food appeal to your kids! You will need: tortilla chips, one avocado, a wooden skewer and small piece of paper, half a lemon, and some sour cream.
- Half the avocado and take out the stone. Spoon out the avocado from the skin and put in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream, and squeeze in some lemon juice.
- Mash the avocado, sour cream and lemon juice together to form the dip
- Use the skewer and piece of paper to make the sail for your boat. A great tip is to let your kids decorate this while you are busy making the dip!
- Surround with a ‘sea’ of tortilla chips, and a lego pirate or two if you have any handy!
Cucumber SandwichesA super quick one, and a great way of getting more veg into your kids! This idea uses cucumbers as the ‘bread’ of mini sandwiches, and are fun for kids to assemble however they want them too! You will need: a cucumber, fillings of choice: eg. slices of cheese, soft cheese, ham, slices of tomatoes
- Slice cucumber into slices a few mm thick.
- Use a cookie cutter, or just a knife if you don’t have one to hand, to make slices of the fillings such as cheese and ham a similar size to the cucumber. If you’re feeling brave you could use tuna mayo!
- Assemble your sandwiches! Soft cheese is a great way to make the layers stick together too.
So, what are the facts?In a recent article, The Guardian published that on average, three-quarters of UK children are now spending less than an hour playing outdoors each day, based on an independent study by Persil’s ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign. The UK is not alone in this however, with other countries across the world showing similar trends, and studies in the USA also releasing figures that their children are now spending an average of 7 hours 40 minutes ‘screentime’ per day. The UK Government have expressed their ambitions ‘for every child to be able to experience and learn in the natural environment’. As part of research toward accomplishing this target, a 2-year pilot study released in 2016 found 12% of children in England had not visited a natural environment over the last year, and far less visit more than once a week. Only 8% of children visited with their school, and 22% visited without adult supervision. These results indicate that the responsibility now lies with parents to make sure they are getting their kids outdoors, indicating a generational shift from 30 years ago when children used to play outside with friends, exploring parks, woodlands or the countryside with little or no adult supervision. The result of this increasing disconnect from outdoor environments has lead to a disconnect from nature itself. In 2013, the RSPB published a three-year study, which concluded that 80% of children are not adequately connected to nature. Whether children were living in urban or rural environments seemed to have little impact on the figures, and in fact children in London were more connected to nature than those living in Wales.
Should we be concerned?So, why are the government and other organisations so worried about children spending less time outdoors? The reality is that nature is seen to have such great advantages to overall health and well-being, that the term ‘nature defecit disorder’ has actually been coined by Richard Louv in his book ‘The Last Child in the Woods’, a book which outlines some of the major benefits for children to have a strong connection with nature. It has been established that spending time in natural environments is something required not only for a child’s mental health and wellbeing, but also their physical and physiological development, and deprivation of these environments is causing development issues in the younger generation.
“Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives” – Thomas BerryWe took a look at the findings of the latest research into the benefits of nature, to see why nature really is so important to children in more ways than one:
Nature contributes to the development of children’s sensory systemsFrom the tactile experience of squelching through mud to developing spatial awareness from hearing birdsong in the trees around them, nature leads to the development of children’s sensory systems, and the development of their core strength, coordination and balance. In fact, nature is so important to this aspect of development that deprivation of exposure to natural environments can actually cause sensory development issues, such as a decreased tolerance to touch, noise, and temperature.
Time spent in natural environments can help prevent behavioural issues in childrenIt has been shown that restricted movement throughout the day, and not enough active play leads to poor development of the middle ear complex, which leads to these balance problems and reduces the brains ability to use the ears and eyes efficiently. As a result, children will find it near impossible to learn, and to concentrate for periods of time. It is even believed that this may be leading to the increase in ADHD amongst children, and that literally prescribing time to be spent outdoors in natural environments could be a solution to treating the condition drug-free.
Nature stimulates intellectual development and a love and empathy with the natural worldIntroducing children to nature at a young age leads to a greater understanding and responsibility for the natural world. Stephen R. Kellert, School of Forestry and environmental studies at Yale University has stated that ages 6-12 is a time when children are most likely to be interested in and understand the natural world. “Intellectual development at this stage is especially facilitated by direct contact with nearby natural settings, where a world of exploration, imagination and discovery becomes increasingly evident to the child”. In a world where climate change, environmental disasters, widespread habitat destruction and what could be the 6th major extinction event the planet has ever seen threaten our planet as we know it, instilling a love and connection to nature in our children could be the most important gift we give to their generation to enable them to protect our earth and their future.
Activities outdoors lead to the improvements of key skills such as confidence and decision makingA meta-analysis of data from 96 studies has shown that children who spend time taking part in outdoor adventure programmes also show significant improvements in independence, confidence, self-efficacy, self-understanding, assertiveness, internal locus of control and decision making as a result.
Natural environments teach risk managementNature provides a playground in which children can be active, explore and learn. Letting children experience more risky activities outdoors, such as adventurous play equipment or something as simple as climbing a tree, has been shown to be important to the development of risk management for a child, helping them manage their own decision making processes and learn about risk and reward as well as teaching perseverance and resilience.
Your child and natureThe combination of modern day technology, an increased social pressure for parental supervision and extra-curricular activities, and with children in school for approximately 8 hours a day, there is now a responsibility for parents to ensure that nature is something they incorporate into their children’s childhood. After school is a great time to be able to make use of local rural environments and parks, and the school holidays is a great time for children to experience nature may be further away from their homes.
Summer camps can help grow your children’s love for natureSummer camps can provide the perfect experience for children to explore outdoors, with supervision by staff who are both trained and responsible for your child’s wellbeing but also don’t represent parental figures, so children have more independence and an opportunity to explore themselves. When choosing a summer camp programme for your child, we would recommend finding a programme that provides a significant amount of outdoor activities each day. If you opt for an academic-based programme, make sure that either the mornings or afternoons are dedicated to sports, excursions, or other forms of outdoor exercise. Alternatively, outdoor-based learning and adventure programmes are perfect for helping children and teenagers to learn new skills, stay active and learn an appreciation and connection with their natural environment. A camp set in a safe, rural environment is an ideal option to ensure children experience the outdoors even when taking parts in sports and other activities, and gives young children the freedom to explore and play in an outdoor environment which may not be possible at home. Unstructured play is also often a very important component that is often overlooked. Children need ideally at least an hour if not more of unstructured play each day in order to practice social and play skills, use their imagination and challenge their bodies. This is usually represented by ‘free time’ at camp, so make sure that you don’t overlook the importance of this time when looking at a camp programme. References and further reading http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498944/mene-childrens-report-years-1-2.pdf http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-klasky/our-children-deserve-as-m_b_4791244.html https://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/connecting-with-nature_tcm9-354603.pdf
VITAMIN N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, by Richard Louv — National book launch San Diego April 19http://www.englishoutdoorcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Change.pdf
Types of screen-time As adults, we know ourselves that ‘screen-time’ can consist of several different things; for example many of us use computers at work or for studying, we watch television, we use smartphones or other touch devices. This is similar to children; different types of exposure to screen have a different effect. Broadly, the categories are as follows as according to the Common Sense Census:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
- Increased risk of obesity
- Developmental delays and learning difficulties
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased risk of loneliness and depression
- Risks of cyber bullying
- Consequences of exposure to violence and other explicit medias
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