Importance of Movement in Kids

In 1999 a teacher named Phil Lawler in Naperville, Illinois read an article that stated the health of US children was declining due to inactivity. Looking inside the school gym he saw a lot of kids that were in fact inactive. He decided to shift the focus of the ph

ysical Education class to cardiovascular fitness. Once a week students had to run a mile. Assessments were based on effort and reaching personal bests rather than skill. Non-athletes were allowed to train on bikes. He also brought in heart rate monitors to ensure the students were pushing themselves. “Your goal is to run your fastest mile…your average heart rate should be above 185.”

While this improved their performance within the school (lessons were re-shuffled to ensure those that required the most concentration were at the beginning of the day), since 1999 it has also made a huge impact on their results internationally. Academically this school performs way above any others in the area. In 1999 the 8th graders scored 1st in the world in science and 6th in the world in Maths. US schools as a whole ranked 18th in science and 19th in maths, with some areas scoring last in the world.

 

How does exercise improve learning and brain function?

Exercise encourages our brain to work at its optimum level, it causes nerve cells to multiply, connections between nerves are strengthened and they are also protected from damage. We get more oxygen and blood flow to the brain and a release of endorphins which are happy hormones that reduce stress and improve our mood.

In children, exercise has been shown to reduce restlessness and hyperactivity, decrease symptoms of ADHD, improve moods and immunity, and it also improves sleep which further enhances all the other benefits listed. It has also been shown to increase energy levels. Imagine if your child began the day with more energy, a better mood and was more settled. Imagine how much better their ability to learning would be.

Movement particularly from birth to 3.5 years is essential for laying down appropriate pathways for learning and development. It is how the brain learns to relate to the world around it. Movement develops optimal posture, eye movement and control through balance and co-ordination, better reading and better fine motor control which is crucial for handwriting.

 

How to get kids moving

  • Walking or riding a bike to school. Even if you live too far away to walk/ride the whole way, park a little distance from school and walk/ride the remainder
  • If there is time to watch TV in the morning, there is time to send the kids outside in the backyard. Bike riding, jumping on the trampoline, running around, kicking the footy, whatever it may be
  • Get to school early and play on the playground before going into class
  • Give them goals
    • “See how long it will take you to run around the backyard” and time them while you’re getting yourself ready. Then do it a second time and see if they can beat their time
    • “Go outside and see if you can get 10 goals” or “See how many goals you can get in a row” (Basketball, soccer, football)
  • Organise friends to walk/ride with before or to school
  • Ask them what activities they like and incorporate these into the daily or weekly routine
  • Get the family up 20 minutes earlier to ensure there is a little more time before school

While exercise in the morning is the best time for learning, any time is better than not at all. Even after school limiting screen time is so important for many reasons besides getting the body moving more.

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Macronutrients for Kids

MacronutrientsNutrients are foods that we need for energy, growth and bodily functions. ‘Macro’ means large, so ‘macronutrients’ are needed in large amounts in our body. ‘Micro‘ means small. Micronutrients are required in small amounts in our body and they include vitamins and minerals.

Macronutrients include:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrate

There are ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ types of each of these groups.

Many children are missing out on the protein and fat groups, particularly at breakfast time. Throughout the day they are also consuming more of the ‘unhealthy’ types than ‘healthy’ types, particularly when it comes to fat.

Protein…

…is essential for growing children. It is used for muscles, tendons, organs, skin, hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). With the running around, focusing and thinking, communicating and learning children do at school, adequate protein is hugely important to optimise their school performance. Increasing protein at breakfast time and in their lunchboxes is critical. The usual breakfast of cereal or toast, followed up by some fruit, then a vegemite sandwich at lunch won’t contain near sufficient protein for your child’s learning capabilities. Adding an egg to breakfast, some seeds (nuts when outside of school) or a container of dip such as hummus will make sure they start the day right. Eggs are a perfect snack and can be eaten whole, or made into patties, muffins or quiches that are bite size and perfect for lunch boxes.

Fat…

…is an essential macronutrient for brain and nervous system development. The types of fats that are in snack are foods are trans-fats or hydrogenated fats. These are the ‘unhealthy’ fats and can be found in biscuits (sweet and savoury!), snack foods, store bought cakes and muffins, chips, margarine, salad dressings,  and in high amounts in take away foods. Trans fats increase our risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, which many mistakenly believe doesn’t matter in kids as “they’re still young”. But with the rates of obesity rising, heart disease in children is also increasing. “Healthy” fats are generally unprocessed. Olive oil, coconut oil, oil from fish and plants such as avocado are all good for you.

Carbohydrates…

…are also best consumed in their most unprocessed form. The best type of carbs? Vegetables! 🙂 The worst type? Sugar 🙁  Processed cereals such as Nutri-grain, Coco-pops and Froot-loops, which are popular with the kids are extremely processed, contain large amount of sugar and minimal protein and fat. While Weet-bix is lower in the sugar count, it is unfortunately also unbalanced in macronutrient status. Mueslis containing nuts and seeds, eggs and wholemeal toast with toppings higher in fat and protein are much better alternatives at breakfast time.

Give it a try!

It does take some experimenting and trial and error due to the fussy nature of some children. But the long term health benefits and good habits beginning early most definitely do pay off. Not just in health but behaviour, academic performance and emotional stability.

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Chocolate Smoothie

Chocolate Smoothie


This chocolate smoothie, packed full of goodness went down really well with the kids. I saw a few sneaking back for a second serve. The first time I tried it was in the Thermomix. I made the full amount and it came out to over a litre of smoothie, so it will need to be scaled down if you’re not feeding a family. The second time I tried it, I did scale it down and used the Magic Bullet, not the thermie. It took a long time to blend and even then there were chunks of dates and some ice. The Thermomix is second to none when it comes to processing something as hard as ice, but it can be done if you’re patient and don’t mind chunks. Obviously I would recommend the Thermomix for all it’s other functions. If you’re interested in taking a look at the Thermomix and perhaps even hosting a no-obligation demo, send us an email and we’ll pass on Larissa’s details.

What you need:

  • 5 Medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 200g ice
  • 30g raw cacao powder
  • 200g frozen banana (about 2)
  • 200g avocado (about 2)
  • 120g baby spinach (this is a lot of baby spinach, but it blends down)
  • 600g water or coconut water
  • 100g activated almonds (if you don’t have activated, soak them overnight in filtered water)

What to do:

  1. Process the almonds, chia seeds and dates
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth
  3. Serve with a thick straw, this is a thick smoothie

Tips:

Larissa tells me ice breaks everything up and makes it smoother. I’m going to start doing this is more of my smoothies.

Bananas are apparently easier to digest once they’ve been frozen. I always have frozen bananas in my freezer. Once they start to turn a little bit black, peel them, pop them in a ziplock bag and they’ll always be ready.

Coconut water has a lot of sugar, natural sugar, but it’s still sweet. If your after a bit of sweetness use all coconut water, but gradually swap out the coconut for filtered water.

 

This recipe comes from Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking, a brilliant book to accompany your Thermomix. See more on her website.

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Chocolate Cupcakes – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

What you need:

  • 125 g grass fed butter
  • 1 cup rapadura sugar (200g)
  • 100gms dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp coffee liqueur (for the kids party we used Crio Bru roasted cacao beans)
  • ¾ cup gluten free plain flour
  • 2 tbsp gluten free SR flour
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder (20g)
  • 1 egg, beaten

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°c.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with patty pans.
  3. In a saucepan combine butter, sugar, chocolate, water and liqueur.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool for 10 mins.
  5. Sift flours and cocoa together.
  6. Fold into chocolate mixture and stir in egg.
  7. Spoon into patty pans until 2/3 full
  8. Bake for 25 mins until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 mins.
  10. Transfer to rack and cool completely
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Gelatin Treats

Grass Fed Gelatin Snacks

Most kids love jelly. But most jelly is the aeroplane sort. Full of sugar, colours and ‘numbers’.

Grass Fed gelatin offers an easy and healthy alternative. There are so many different variations of gelatin treats. The options are literally endless. I’ve seen all sorts of juices, coconut milk, almond milk, coffee, ginger, fruit, whatever you can imagine. Use moulds, cut them in squares, store in jars and eat with a spoon, however you please.

It’s definitely not just for the kids! It makes a great high-protein, healthy snack for all ages.

Begin with:

  • 1 tbsp gelatin powder
  • 1 cup liquid

At the Santosha 1st Birthday, Amy supplied us with two flavours made with:

  • Charlie’s Spirulina Whole Fruit Smoothie
  • Nudie Apple Juice

You can use more or less liquid depending on the consistency you’re after.

Why consume gelatin?

Gelatin is almost all protein, which means it makes a great, energy boosting snack. It is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine, which is particularly important for your health.

Gelatin is derived from collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in skin, bones, tendons and muscles. Therefore collagen can help to improve skin (bye bye wrinkles!), strengthen bones and increase lean muscle mass. Collagen is found in the parts of animals we don’t often consume, like the cartilage and bones. Bone broth is a great way to extract the goodness out of these parts (see post on bone broth), but thankfully we can also easily access these nutrients in gelatin or collagen powders.

Santosha is now stocking Vital Collagen products including Beef Gelatin (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like beef) and Collagen Peptides.

Grass Fed Girl’s Easy Paleo Gelatin Treats contains many more recipes: Click here to view more details

 

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Thermomix Play Dough

Home made Playdough

Home-made play dough is reasonably simple to make. Its a great alternative to store bought play dough as you know what’s in it, it’s all natural and a much cheaper option.

This recipe can also be adapted for stove-top.

What you need

  • 250g water
  • 100g salt
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 20g olive oil
  • Natural food colouring of choice

What to do

  1. Place water, salt and cream of tartar into mixing bowl and heat 5 min/60°c/speed 3
  2. Add flour and oil and mix 40 sec/speed 4, then knead 1 min
  3. Divide dough into 3 equal portions, then line work surface with baking paper to avoid staining. Working 1 portion at a time, add a few drops of food colouring and kneed through dough. Adjust food colouring as required to create desired shade.
  4. Store each colour in a separate sealable container to keep play dough from hardening.

Tips

Food colouring may colour hands. Wearing rubber gloves while making your play dough will prevent staining

To create more colours, simply divide your play dough into as many equal portions as you like in step 3 and proceed as per recipe.

 

Recipe courtesy of Thermomix

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Book Review – Well-Adjusted Babies

Well-Adjusted Babies Book

Well-Adjusted Babies is a book I recommend to all parents of young children but especially pregnant women. It takes the reader on a well-informed journey from pre-conception, through the pregnancy, labour and birth and all the options that present, breastfeeding, through to first feeding solid foods, and more!

The information offered in the book is well-researched, evidenced-based and backed up by referenced studies, however this is all presented in an easy to read format (as opposed to some other dry and boring information based books).

Well-adjusted Babies has been endorsed by celebrities such as Miranda Kerr who reportedly continued to refer back to the book as her baby boy Flynn grew.

The best thing about this book is that you are basically getting about 10 books in one. Generally each stage of your child’s life requires another book and another lot of information. With Well-adjusted Babies you can find it all in the one place, with each stage flowing on from the last.

Claire, mother to Fergus who is 2 months old and blogger on White Blank Pages had this praise for Well-Adjusted Babies:

“Throughout my pregnancy and now with a newborn I refer to Well-adjusted Babies constantly.

“It guided me through my pregnancy, reassured me and made me feel like I was fully equipped in every scenario. Well-adjusted Babies was my one and only resource through my pregnancy. I especially referred to it in the final stages, when I needed it more than ever preparing me for labour and giving me the courage I needed.

“In the build up to labour, my partner even picked it up to read giving him a better understand as to what to expect.

“It is a fabulous resource from conception through to motherhood. I highly recommend it.”

Claire Colebeck | whiteblankpages.com.au

 

Well-Adjusted Babies is available from Santosha Health & Wellbeing Centre or online by clicking here.

 

 

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