Posts Tagged ‘ADHD’

When You Can’t Take Any More, Take Your Toddler Hiking

Friday, October 17th, 2014

When You Can't Take Any More, Take Your Toddler Hiking

When I had my second daughter, my first was a toddler: Old enough to undress herself just as I was ready to leave the house, young enough not to listen most of the time. Old enough to take off her shoes in the car, young enough that she still had zero sense.

My toddler bounced off the walls at home, but I felt frazzled and unsafe everywhere we went because she wasn’t reliably holding my hand or listening to me. I felt like all I did all day was nurse the baby and yell, “No! Don’t! Get off there!” at my older daughter. I decided we needed to get out of the house, but we had to go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to contain her or we might both end up in tears. So we went for a hike.

It worked. We had an hour to and hour and a half of time that day during which I was not parenting. I didn’t have to say, “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t go over there!” or “Stay with me!” once.  She got to run and explore and let her curiosity about the world take over. She got a few boos-boos. She ran out of my sight and got scared enough to return. She slept like a baby at nap time, and the baby did, too.

There are so many benefits to getting your kids outdoors. Being outdoors can calm ADHD symptoms, lower stress levels and anxiety, improve distance vision, and raise levels of Vitamin D, helping protect against future illness.  Not to mention the myriad of organic learning opportunities out in nature.

If you’ve never hiked in your area before and don’t know where to start, just google “family friendly hikes in [your city]”. It’s a great idea to try the trail out on your own before you load up the kids, and always check weather

conditions before you go.  Remember that kids get cold faster than adults. Follow the rule you used when they were babies and dress them one layer warmer than you are wearing.

Here are a few tips for hiking with a toddler:

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  • Explore the trails on your own first to make sure they are safe. If you can’t do so, trails marked handicap accessible are a great place to start.
  • Park near a potty.
  • Make sure you have a first aid kit in the car, as well as extra clothes.
  • Put shoes on them that they can’t take off, and clothes on them that they can get dirty.
  • Expect to do more following than hiking—toddlers are very close to the ground and everything is very interesting down there!
  • Let them run ahead and be independent if you feel safe doing so.
  • Don’t go in any further than you are prepared to carry everyone back.
  • Try not to say “No” or “Don’t” while you’re hiking. Make it a relaxing time for you both. Let them explore and experience natural consequences if you can do so safely.
  • Once you find a spot you love, look into a membership or pass to that park to make visiting cheaper.

Once we found a spot that worked for us, we went back again and again. I like variety, but my daughter loved knowing the trail and what to expect. Baby wearing was a lifesaver here, as I could nurse the baby or let her fall asleep on my back and not worrying about getting us home in time for naps.

I found hiking to be a very refreshing and necessary part of my week. Toddlers can be so frustrating when you have to divide your attention between them and anything else. Our hiking time was a time when I could quit correcting and just enjoy her, and as it turned out, that was exactly what I needed.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who can usually recapture her sanity on a hike.

How to Make Your Child Hate Reading

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

How to Make Your Child Hate ReadingWhen my son attempted kindergarten, I was told that he was “unteachable” by someone in the school district. My son has ADHD and SPD and can learn easily when he is allowed to move. I promptly removed him from school and decided to teach him on my own. I spent 15 to 30 minutes a day teaching him to read using a book that was recommended to me. Within five or six months he could read quite well. I had proven the school district wrong! I had won! 

However, I quickly realized that something was not right. He hated reading. He was in tears at the thought of reading. I had made a big mistake.

Over the course of the next two years, I backed off on forcing him to read. I would ask occasionally to see if he would read. He was improving without instruction but was not showing any more interest.

Eventually I noticed him reading little things–signs, movie titles, video game instructions. Sometimes I would misread something in front of him and he would correct me. I would act surprised, “Oh! I didn’t know you could read that. Great job!” I started leaving comic books out, specifically Calvin and Hobbes. I allowed him to play Scribblenauts, a video game where you type in the object you want and it appears. His imagination soared and his reading and spelling quickly improved. I never pushed him to read but I gave him lots of opportunities.

He started taking books with him in the car so he could finish reading a chapter. He came to me and read me an entire Calvin and Hobbes storyline about Stupendous Man. He’s now reading chapter books about The Lego Movie and My Little Pony.

It took nearly two years of patience for him to embrace reading. During this time I learned that many children aren’t ready to read at the early age that they are being required to read. At a time when our country is pushing for early literacy, we need to push back and realize that our children will read when they are ready.

Shannon Smith is a homeschooling mother of two who enjoys crocheting and cold weather.

Why We Ditched the Food Dye

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Why We Ditched the Food DyeWhen my son was a toddler he was unpredictable. He had violent outbursts and inconsolable meltdowns that seemed to come out of nowhere. By the time he was 4, I had read a library of parenting books and hadn’t gotten very far. There had been many suggestions that he had ADHD, though he was too young to diagnose. I was looking for natural remedies for ADHD when I came across many, many articles suggesting that artificial food dye can affect susceptible children behaviorally.

With nothing to lose, we cut all artificial food coloring from our food. This isn’t as easy as it seems. Colorful candy is obvious. Marshmallows are white so they should be fine, right? Nope! Many use blue dye. Frozen waffles and canned rolls use multiple colors.

However, we did it. Within two weeks we had a different child. He was happy. He could communicate when he was upset. He no longer lashed out when angry. This change was worth it!

Halloween came a few months later and we weren’t sure how to handle it. We decided to let him have colorful candy just this once. The next day was the worst I have ever seen him–but it reaffirmed why we were doing this. Now for Halloween we have a system where he picks out candy ahead of time and we do an elaborate swap game when we get home. Birthday parties are also tricky to navigate between the juice, decorated cake, snacks and treat bags. I send him with his own ice cream sandwiches and pure apple juice.

However, we were still experiencing very bad days that would send us pouring over the ingredients of everything he had eaten in the last 24 hours. One ingredient kept popping up: annatto. Annatto is “an orange-red dye obtained from the pulp of a tropical fruit, used for coloring foods and fabric.” It’s found in many things that are yellow/orange–think Goldfish crackers and yellow cheddar.  I did some digging and found that despite it being a natural coloring, some children react quite severely to annatto, including hyperactivity, self-harm, agitation, irritability, and incontrolable defiance. My son throws himself into walls and floors and people while loudly babbling incoherently. He is unable to answer most questions asked of him. He often has to sent to his room for safety–both his and his little sister’s. Annatto’s out.

So, where do we shop? What do we buy? I shop exclusively at my local natural food co-op– check here to see if you have one nearby. Over the past 4 years we have found marshmallows, frozen waffles, canned rolls, even chocolate candy with a colorful candy shell. We even make a version of marshmallow Peeps. The only ingredient I have to worry about there is annatto; foods with artificial dyes are not sold there. There is nothing missing, except the tantrums.

For more information check out Die, Food Dye, and read this study on just how much dye is in a brand name foods.

Shannon Smith is a mom to two children.