Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top 5 Ways to Help Children With Jet Lag

Do you remember my post about packing patience in your suitcase? While that post specifically referred to "packing" patience during holiday travel, it's relevant for any travel, really. Of course you don't literally pack patience like you do clothes, but being conscious of your need to be patient is important.

If you'll be traveling across time zones with children, be conscious of the fact that it may be hard on you, but even harder on them. Especially if they're young children who don't understand why they feel lousy or can't sleep or want to sleep all the time. My children are a bit older now, so they understand why they feel terrible even if they melt down at some point.

Here are a few tips that might help you navigate jet lag:

  1. Make sure you and your children are hydrated. I find this one challenging. My kids need constant reminders to drink water and even then sometimes say they don't want any. I have to insist they drink. It gets tiring to be the enforcer but sometimes moms and dads really do know best. When on a plane, I also allow my kids to have ginger ale when that's not usually part of their diet. Avoid caffeinated drinks, though.
  2. Constantly remind yourself that if you're tired and cranky, they are too. Remind yourself to be patient. Remind yourself to be loving and gentle when they fall apart. (This one may be the hardest of all... I know my patience is thin when I'm tired). But don't beat yourself up if you lose it at some point. Apologize and tell them you're tired, too, and try to be more patient the next time. You're only human.
  3. This one happens before you depart... Allow for recovery time in your schedule. Don't schedule anything too soon after arrival. I re-learned this one the hard way. When we went to India for a wedding, we thought we had planned our arrival far enough in advance of the ceremony but we were wrecked by the big time change. Planning to arrive a few days earlier and leave sooner after the wedding would have been smarter. For our recent trip to California, we had a Sunday wedding to attend so we left on Thursday morning. With only a three hour time change, this was enough time for our kids to adjust and have a great time at the wedding.
  4. Try to get on local time as soon as possible but realize your kids may be tired or hungry at random times. Be ready to stop for a snack or return to your hotel/home base for a nap at any time. Do not try to push through. It's not fair to them or you. Who cares if you see the sights but everyone is miserable. You can go sightseeing another day.
  5. Build in plenty of physical activity and down time. Allow for quiet time with small toys, books, or games. Also allow unstructured time to run around and play outside. After hours on a plane, physical activity is a must. And children need to get outside to be healthy. Getting outside is possible in nearly any location- even in the city. Ask your hotel for a recommendation or use your smart phone to look one up. When we arrived in San Francisco, we had some food and went straight to the nearest park. I firmly believe that outside time helped us orient to our new location and adjust more quickly. For our first three days, we had a short list of things we might do, but only decided what to do based on how all of us were feeling each day. Since the weather was beautiful, those days were spent mostly outside.

Those are my top tips. What other tips do you have for navigating jet lag and time changes?

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Nature Walks With Toddlers

Taking a nature walk with toddlers, or as my young niece likes to say, "Going on an adventure" requires some amount of planning. First, there are meals and naps to consider. You can't head out on and adventure half an hour before nap time. And if its near a meal time, a picnic will be necessary. Even if you think you'll be right back, "in only 20 minutes," it NEVER works out that way. Toddlers are notoriously slow walkers. There are so many bugs, flowers, sand piles, etc, to stop and investigate along the way, after all. And then, of course, the adults may want to pose children for a picture (or ten) along the way.

The key is to keep these points in mind when making your plans. Case in point... our walk through Armstrong Woods on Wednesday. We had to get 12 people (including 4 children) out of the house and to the redwood grove (no small feat I'll tell you!)  Knowing we'd be gone across the lunch hour, we brought sandwiches, fruit, and drinks.

Yet, even with our best planning, we were off by about 30 minutes. Armstrong Woods features a relatively short trail with a picnic area at the end. We had planned to eat lunch there before turning back. Getting all 12 of us to the picnic area, however, took longer than we had anticipated. The result: hungry toddlers who refused to walk the final stretch. Luckily, we have able bodied adults who carried them the remaining distance. Once they refueled, they felt better and were able to play in the natural "caves" in the trees before heading back.

So remember to plan ahead. Even if you don't expect to have a meal while walking, bring plenty of snacks and water. And you may want to bring along a baby carrier or sling, just in case.

What other tips do you have for taking nature walks with young children?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nature Walks in the City

As most of you know, I live in the country, so spending time in nature is easy. City dwellers may think nature is hard to find, but if you take a close look, it's all around you, too. I've written about plants growing up through cracks in the sidewalk and birds on city wires before, but even I need to be reminded about the number of animals that can be observed in city parks.

Case in point: all of our animal sitings in San Francisco parks last week. On Thursday, we saw loads of gophers holes in Sutro Park and could have seen them emerge if we had been patient enough to wait. But we were on a mission to see Sutro Sam, a river otter that lives in the Sutro baths so we kept walking. And just as we walked up... there he was! Lots of other people were gathered watching for him, too- he's a bit of a celebrity in the area.

Another day, we went on an adventure to see the Bison that live in golden Gate Park. Obviously, these are not wild animals, but the kids were excited to see them. Along the way, however, we made some pretty exciting observations.

We saw loads of ducks.

 Five raccoons

 And the most exciting observation.... a nesting Great Horned Owl!
Can you see her there camouflaged in the middle?

A man nearby also told us he had just seen a coyote along a wooded trail nearby.

All in all, it was a pretty exciting adventure. We were excited and pooped out at the end of our long walk.

So even if you think there aren't many animals in your city, take a closer look. I'd love to know what you find.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Winter Fun: Showshoeing

What do you do when a blizzard socks you in and leaves you without power or running water? Go out showshoeing, of course!

Really. Get out there. You won't regret it. Look at this fun:
I know, I'm kind of a dork.

If you don't own snowshoes, late winter to early spring is typically a good time to buy them because they go on sale. I've even seen them in discount stores like Ocean State Job Lot.  My kids sure were glad to break theirs in.

Do you own snowshoes? Have you gone snowshoeing?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Blizzard Called Nemo

We've been off the grid since Friday at about 6:45 pm. Literally off the grid with no power or running water for 107 hours now. Here's why:

Our driveway on Saturday
I wasn't even able to receive calls on my cell phone. Texting worked in certain parts of the house, but barely. Luckily, we have a woodstove to keep warm and a gas stove on which to cook. But we finally gave up last night and moved to a relative's house when their power came back on.

Needless to say, blogging is not a top priority right now. I have more important things to manage. This post will need to serve for today and tomorrow's "Wordless Wednesday" post. Hopefully I'll be able to post again by Friday. 

In the meantime, we are safe and warm. I hope all of you are too.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Investigations

As we hunker down for Winter Storm Nemo here in the Northeast, I thought it might be useful to bring some previous posts about snow fun to your attention.

Of course, good old-fashioned fun such as making snow angels, sledding, snowshoeing and having snowball fights are just as good for your children. But if you want to mix things up a little, try one of these investigations.

None of these require any specialized materials (except a magnifying lens for the snowflake investigation). You probably have everything else you'll need.
  • Snow Fun  describes my kids impromptu snow investigation a couple of years ago. The focus is on properties of snow such as melting. This post will be useful to those of you with young children.
  • More Snow Fun combines Legos and snow investigations. This will be better for older children- especially those who are into building and Legos.
  • Even More Snow Fun describes how to examine snowflakes and notice their shapes. This activity needs to happen while snow is falling. 
Have you tried any of these investigations with your kids/students? Do you have others to suggest? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: What to Pack?

My family will be traveling to California for a family wedding soon. When preparing to travel, we leave a suitcase open on the bedroom floor and start tossing things in during the weeks that lead up to our departure. Right now, its piled with presents (we're celebrating several birthdays and a missed holiday while we're all together) and our "to do" stuff. You know... books, toys, and crafty bits for the plane ride.

The other day, my daughter also tossed her Bird Log in the suitcase. As she started tossing in her field guides, I pointed out that they are specific to New England, so they won't be very helpful.

Her response, "Oh yeah. But I can still bring my bird log in case I see some interesting birds there."

Of course I agreed with that comment. But what to do about the field guides? Simple. We emailed her auntie and asked her to find a few in her local library if she doesn't own one.

Sometimes a little planning ahead is all you need to keep your kids happy on vacation (and while packing).

Now if we can just see some cool birds in the redwood grove...

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Resources for Readers: New Pinterest Boards

I'm always on the look out for great resources to teach about nature and culture. When I find them, I love to share them here. Once I share them in a post, however, they end up moving down your computer screen and ultimately into the dreaded "archives" where they may or may not be read again. That's the nature of this linear medium called a blog.

One of my goals is to find ways to bring people's attention to old posts that are still useful/relevant. I'm also working on ways to share resources in one easy place. I have a "Suggested Books" page, but I'm a visual person so I prefer to see the book covers. Enter Pinterest. It seems to be the perfect option for this.

Here's a summary of my current Pinterest Boards:

  • Favorite Picture Book Biographies is my newest board. So far I have 23 pins and a huge list of new books I'll be reviewing in the coming weeks. Watch for additions. Note: There are several subjects who are the focus of multiple books (e.g Jacques Cousteau, Georgia O'Keefe, Wangari Maathi). These offer great opportunities for paired book readings.
  • Favorite Recipes highlights posts on my blog that featured recipes.
  • Favorite Nature Photos showcases a variety of photos I love. You might use them as inspiration for writing projects with your children/students.
  • Popular Nature Related Posts lists the most popular nature posts in my archives.
  • Favorite Illustrators is a shout out to some of the children's book illustrators who inspire me.
  • Favorite Adult Books is one of my early boards. I plan to add to this one soon.
My goal is to create more boards that reflect the books currently listed on my Suggested Books page, along with new books I discover. I hope you'll check out my boards on Pinterest occasionally to see what's new.

Do you have books or other resources you think I should share? Is there a board you'd like me to create? Please leave your ideas in the comments or send me an email at michelle(at)michellecusolito(dot)com

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