24 Gross Motor Games and Activities For Parent-Child Outdoors

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Gross motor skills involve movements using the large muscles of the body. They include things like running, jumping, catching and throwing balls, and other large muscle activities. “Good gross motor skills are essential, because the body develops from large moments such as control of the arms and the legs, to small, isolated movements that include the hands and fingers. Without reasonable gross motor control, it can be difficult for children to move onto developing the fine motor skills . . . .”

Here are 23 games and activities that young children can do to have fun while improving their gross motor skills. All are designed for two or more people to play together. All of these games can be played outside, many of them can also be played inside with enough space to run.


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1. The Run-Around

One person gives directions such as “run to the big tree, touch the bark, and come back,” or “run over to the slide, go down one time, and come back” or “run around the tree three times.” Great not only for gross motor skills, but for listening and following directions.


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2. Balloon Toss

Blow up several balloons and toss them back and forth. Try moving closer to each other and farther away from each other. Try using different body parts (hands, elbows, heads) or blowing the balloon up in the air. See how many times your preschooler can bounce the balloon up before it falls to the ground.


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3. Hula Hoop Fun

Invest in several different colored hula hoops; lay them on the ground. Give instructions such as “run to the red hula hoop and pretend to be a car,” or “hop over to the green hula hoop like a bunny.”


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4. Egg Races

Using plastic eggs, race from one end of the yard to the next holding the egg on a serving spoon (or a measuring cup or smaller spoon, depending on the dexterity of your child). See how far your child can get without dropping/breaking an egg. Try not to focus on “winning,” but on having fun while walking with the egg.

A hilarious alternative to this game is to have the children get on their hands and knees and push the plastic eggs from one place to another using only their noses.


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5. Sidewalk Chalk Simon Says

Draw large shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, etc. using sidewalk chalk. Say “Simon says stand on the yellow square,” or “Simon says sit on the number 5.” For more advanced kids, try multiple step instructions like “Simon says run to number 14, then hop over to number 20.” This is a fun way to work on recognition of higher numbers, lowercase letters, etc.

For an EXTRA Challenge and to develop Executive Functions – Promote FOCUS and practice LISTENING skills – play by having the child do the OPPOSITE of what Simon Says!


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6. Jump the Brook

Draw two lines on the ground with sidewalk chalk (or use ropes in the grass). Let your child try to “jump over the brook.” You can move the lines together or farther apart, depending on your child’s abilities.


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7. Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone

In the group version of this game, children in a circle take turns hiding the “bone” from the doggy, who tries to find it. That’s impossible in a two person version. Instead, we enjoy taking turns hiding the bone in various places around the room or in the yard. It helps to have a defined hiding area, and be sure to offer hints if the child gets frustrated finding it.

Feel free to use the chant – have the child close his eyes while you hide the object and open them at the end of the chant (and if you’re skeptical of the value of chants and rhymes, read “The Importance of Rhyme“):

Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who! Maybe you . . .
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.

Group Version: Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone

This is a good activity for ages 2 thru 6 or so.

At a birthday party, if you’re planning a lot of outdoor activities, this is a good thing to have in the corner of your mind in case of bad weather!  This is a good game for Clifford, Blue’s Clues, Dalmatian/Fire, Scooby Doo, etc theme parties.

The Chant:
(feel free to change “Doggy Doggy” to “clifford, clifford”, “scooby, scooby”, etc.)

Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who!  Maybe you…
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.

How to play:

Have the birthday boy or girl be the first to be the doggy.  They should sit in the center of the circle of children and close/cover their eyes while the song is chanted (it doesn’t really have a tune).

Alternative 1:  have an adult give the bone (or whatever you choose to hide…  A shoe works too) to one of the children while chanting the song (make sure you give each child a chance to have the bone).  Have all of the children hide their hands behind their backs.  When the chant is over, the doggy can uncover his or her eyes and gets 3 guesses as to which person has the bone.  Whether the doggy gets it right or not, the person with the bone gets to be the next doggy.  Because you’ve made sure to give each child a turn with the bone, each child will get a turn being the doggy.

Alternative 2:  (more competitive) — have the last person who was the doggy, give the bone (or whatever you choose to hide) to one of the other children while everyone chants the song.  Have all the children hide their hands behind their backs.  When the chant is over, the doggy can uncover his or her eyes and gets 3 guesses as to which person has the bone.  If they guess where the bone is, they get to sit outside the circle and the person with the bone is the doggy.  If they don’t guess where the bone is, they have to be the doggy again.


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8. We All Play Ball

Roll or pass a ball back and forth. Pair each roll with a verbal cue. For example, take turns saying the ABCs (each person says a letter on her turn), count forward or backward, think of different colors, shapes, foods, etc.


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9. Toe Pick-Up

Take off your socks and shoes and pick up small toys with your toes and put them in a bucket. For more skilled preschoolers, try picking up all of the yellow objects, then the blue, the red, etc.


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10. Mother May I?

In this simple game, the direction giver stands on one side of the room/yard, and the child(ren) stand on the other. The children take turns asking the direction giver, “Mother, may I _____?” (i.e., take 3 giant steps; hop 4 times; take 2 baby steps) The direction giver can answer “Yes you may” or “No you may not” at her whim. There are other variations of this game, use the one that is the most fun for your child. Mother May I is great for exploring limits and accepting compromise.


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11. Pop Goes the Weasel

Child runs around adult in circles, everyone sings the song “Pop Goes the Weasel.” When you sing “pop goes the weasel,” grab the child for a big bear hug (and/or tickle, if your child enjoys that).)

Lyrics/link to song: http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/pop_goes_the_weaselmp3.htm

Round and round the cobbler’s bench
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought ’twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A half a pound of tupenny rice,
A half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

Up and down the London road,
In and out of the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

I’ve no time to plead and pine,
I’ve no time to wheedle,
Kiss me quick and then I’m gone
Pop! Goes the weasel.

Other Versions of “Pop Goes the Weasel”

Version 1

Round and round the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought it was all in fun.
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That’s the way the money goes.
Pop! Goes the weasel.

(Mother Goose Club Version)

Version 2

All around the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought it was all in fun.
Pop! Goes the weasel.I’ve no time to wait or sigh,
No patience to wait till by and by;
Kiss me quick, I’m off, good bye.
Pop! Goes the weasel.Source: Wier, Songs the Children Love to Sing (1916)

Version 3

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Mix it up and make it nice—
Pop goes the weasel.

Every night when I come home,
The monkey’s on the table;
Take a broom and knock him off,
Pop goes the weasel.

Source: White, Notes and Queries, Vol. 111 (1905)

Version 4

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes—
Pop goes the weasel.Every night when I come home
Supper’s on the table;
That’s the way the money goes—
Pop goes the weasel.

Source: White, Notes and Queries, Vol. 111 (1905)

Historical Background (Pop Goes the Weasel)

Dating back to the 1700s, “Pop Goes the Weasel” originated from Cockney Rhyming Slang, a system of cryptic phrases used by Cockneys and poor Londoners. Rhyming Slang is created by finding a rhyme for a given word, identifying a synonym for the rhyme, and then substituting the synonym for the original word. For example, “head” rhymes with “bread,” and the Cockney Rhyming Slang for “head” is “loaf.” Cockneys created the secret slang because of their suspicion of strangers and strong dislike for the police. “Pop” is the slang word for pawn, and “weasel” originates from “weasel and stout,” meaning coat. During difficult financial times, poor commoners would pawn their suits on Mondays and reclaim it before Sunday in order to be properly dressed for church. Thus, the birth of the saying “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

You Tube Video of Pop Goes the Weasel:


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12. Red Light Green Light

The stop light stands at one end of the room/yard, the player(s) stand at the other. The stop light calls “green light,” and the players move toward the stop light. The players must stop when the stop light calls “red light.”

Add variations to keep things fun: “yellow light” can mean walk slowly; “blue light” can mean hop; “purple light” can mean walk backwards, etc. Take turns being the stop light.

Play OPPOSITES for a challenge and to develop FOCUS and LISTENING Skills – Red means go and Green means stop!


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FREE Printable Charades Cards & Blank Template to add your own Cards:

Activities Cards: charades-cards-kids-activities

Animals Cards: charades-cards-kids-animals

Easy Kids Cards: charades-cards-kids-easy

Emotions Cards: charades-cards-kids-emotion

Actions Cards: water-charade-cards-actions

Blank Template Cards: charade-cards-charades-ideas

13. Charades

For younger children, make the clues they are to act out very easy: reading a book, sleeping, happy, sad, dog, cat. Use picture cards instead of written words (you can cut them out of a magazine), so that you don’t know what the child is acting out.


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14. Basketball

Using any ball and “hoop” (a trash can, and bucket, a wagon, etc.), take turns shooting the ball toward the hoop. Let your preschooler start at whatever distance is comfortable for him. Concentrate on having fun – not making it a contest!

*There are lots of Fun Basket Ball Games to play with your child (I have a separate post on this but on my other website that explains several fun games – PIG, HORES, 21 etc). www.skinnurse.wordpress.com


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15. Crab Soccer

Get down into a crab walk position, then kick a bouncy ball back and forth or try kicking it into a goal. This is a fun (and funny!) way to exercise different muscle groups.


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16. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Start out by singing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes at a normal pace. Once your child gets the concept, try it slower, faster, super fast, and “warp speed,” or substitute other body parts in for a change of pace.

Link to Tune “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”: http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/headshmp3.htm

Version I

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes

And Eyes   and Ears and Mouth and Nose
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head Shoulders Song

Or maybe you remember Version II best!

(To the Tune of London Bridge)

Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes,
Knees and toes,
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
It’s my body

Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Mouth and nose,
Mouth and nose,
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
It’s my body

Ankles, elbows, feet and seat,
Feet and seat,
Feet and seat,
Ankles, elbows, feet and seat,
It’s my body

Video on You Tube: 


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17. Hopscotch

There are many different ways to play hopscotch. One way is to draw your basic hopscotch grid, then the first player throws a marker (we use a rock) into box #1. The player hops on one foot (or alternating feet, or both feet for some kids!) all the way to the last box and back, stopping to pick up the marker on her way. Players take turns trying to throw in each box in order (1, 2, 3, etc.).

A simpler way to play is to follow the instructions above, but only to hop to the first square, pick up the marker, and return.

You can also vary the way you draw the grid.

Snail Hopscotch Variety:

Snail hopscotch

1. The player hops through the grid – one hop only to each space.

2.  Player may rest at home (10) with both feet before turning around and hopping back to the base line (1).

3.  When a player successfully hops to 10 and back, that person’s initials are chalked in any space chosen by the player, except home (1).

4.  From now on, the player may rest on both feet in that space, but no other player is allowed to hop into it.  When players come to any initial space other than their own, they must hop over it.  

5.  The game becomes harder as the spaces are initialed.  When there is only one player left who can complete the grid, that person is the winner. variation:    Play the game just like potsy.


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18. “Touch” Game

One person gives directions, saying: “touch a tree,” “touch something blue,” “touch something high,” etc. The other person runs as fast as she can to find and touch whatever it is.


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19. Follow the Leader

The leader walks, runs, jumps, etc. around, the other people follow and repeat the movements. Take turns being the leader.

  • Reach Up and Touch the Sky
  • Sniff like a dog
  •  Meow/Crawl Like a Cat
  • Balance
  • Fly Like a Bird
  • Log Roll
  • Take Deep Breaths
  • Walk, Run, Skip, Jump
  • Turn with your arms out
  • Stretch and touch your toes
  • Touch your head, shoulders, eyes, ears, knees, elbows, nose etc.

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20. Ring Around the Rosie

Hold hands and sing the traditional “Ring Around the Rosy” song.

You Tube Link: 

Clear a space so that you and your child (and any other players) have enough room to hold hands, walk in a circle, and sit down without hitting anything. As you’re walking – or galloping – in a circle, sing:

Ring-around-the-rosy
A pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes
We all fall down!

On “fall down,” sit quickly on the floor. This part is usually a hit!

You may be playing this game for a while, so if you’d like a little variety, you can add a traditional (though less well-known) verse. Chant it while you’re still sitting, then jump up at the end:

Mammy in the teapot
Daddy in the cup
When our mother calls us
We all jump up!

Here is a Link to the music of “Ring Around the Rosy” (This website is a bank of children’s songs!): http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/ringaroundmp3.htm

(Start activity with children hold hands and dance around in a circle)

Ring around the rosies
A pocket full of posies;
Ashes, Ashes
All stand still.
 (Children hold still)

The King has sent his daughter,
To fetch a pail of water;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes
All fall down
. (Children fall to the floor)

The bird upon the steeple,
Sits high above the people;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes
All kneel down
. (Children kneel)

The wedding bells are ringing,
The boys and girls are singing;
 (Children hold hands and dance around in a circle)
Ashes, Ashes,
All fall down
. (Children fall to the floor)


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21. What Time Is It Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox stands with his back to the other player(s). The players ask “what time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox answers with a time. If he says two o’clock, the other players must take two steps toward Mr. Fox. Once one player gets close enough to touch Mr. Fox, the fox turns around and tries to catch one of the players. The players attempt to run back to the starting line.

How To Play Explained in 9 Simple Steps:

  1. Can you outfox the Fox?
  2. This game is for 3 or more players and should be played in an open area.
  3. The object of the game is to walk past Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox without getting caught.
  4. To play, pick someone to be the Fox. Everyone else should line up on the starting line.
  5. The Fox will stand about 20 feet away with her back turned.
  6. The rest of the players say, “What time is it Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox?”
  7. If Mrs. (or Mr.) Fox answers a time like, “It’s five o’clock” players take five steps forward. If she answers, “It’s one o’clock” players take one step forward, and so on. The players can take any size step they want.
  8. If Mrs. Fox says, “It’s time to eat you!” she turns around and chases the other players back to the starting line.
  9. If Mrs. Fox catches someone, he becomes the next Fox.

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You can play this with any variation of animal that your child is interested in; I’ve also heard “Mr. Shark” played at the pool.


22. A Tooty Ta Ta

This hilarious song and action game will get both adults and kids giggling. Watch the video to learn how!

CHORUS:

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
Thumbs up CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back CHORUS
Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back, Tongue out, CHORUS

Variation:Tooty-Ta!

Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Thumbs up! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Elbows back! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Feet apart! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Eyes shut! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.
Clap hands! Tooty ta, tooty ta, tooty ta, ta.

Link to the video: http://tmas.kcls.org/a-tooty-ta-ta/


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23. Preschool Four Square

In traditional four square, you try to get other players “out.” In this version, we’ll concentrate more on controlling the ball. In each of the four squares, draw a picture or write a letter or number (or word, or whatever else you are learning about). Take turns trying to bounce the ball into each square. Players can also rotate around and try to bounce the ball back to each other.

*Also on my other website www.skinnurse.wordpress.com I have detailed explanation of this game with official rules and variations.


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24. Hide and Seek

Play hide and seek the traditional way or try a variety by hiding a stuffed animal in the yard or park – Give hints using colors “Red – HOT – getting really really close,” —— “Blue, Cold, Frozen – not even close.”  — “Yellow – Getting Warmer and warmer – you are close.”


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Back to School: 8 Tips on How To Make Friends and A Game

8 Tips for a Great First Day! How To Make Friends!
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  1. SMILE!  I know that sounds like a small thing, but it’s huge!!!  One little smile goes a long way.  Remember that most of the kids at school are feeling just as nervous as you are, and they are looking for a friendly face!
  2. Hold your head up high and be confident.  I know you might be feeling shy, but staring at the ground will not help you make friends.  When others see you looking down or keeping a big frown or worried look on your face, they won’t realize that you are shy.  They will simply think that you don’t want to be their friend.  Remember, you are a child of God.  You are something special!  People will be as excited to get to know you as you are to get to know them.
  3. Look people in the eye, and say hello.  No one likes to feel invisible (like they are in the room, but no one sees them or cares that they are there).  When you look people in the eye and say hello, you immediately make them feel more comfortable.  Instead of looking away when you catch someone’s eye, look right back at them, smile, and wave or say, “Hello.”  Trust me.  It works!
  4. Introduce yourself.  Did I mention already that you are someone special?  So are the other kids you will meet.  There is no reason to be afraid that they don’t want to meet you.  Be brave.  Think how you feel when someone makes an effort to talk to you.  They’ll feel the same way when you make an effort to talk to them.  Here’s how you do it:  “Hi.  My name is ___________.  What’s your name?”  Easy, peasy.
  5. Ask questions.  If you don’t know what to say, ask your new friend a question.  People love to talk about themselves!  Here are some ideas:  “Are you excited about school?”  “What did you do this summer?”  “What’s your favorite subject?”  “What do you like to do for fun?”
  6. Give a compliment.  Look at your new friend.  Can you think of something nice that you noticed about him or her?  I bet you can!  Don’t you love it when someone says something nice about you?  Your new friend will, too.  How about, “I love your hair!  Did you do it yourself?” or, “Those are really cute shoes.” or, how about, “Thanks for saying hello.  I was really feeling shy, and you made my day.”
  7. Invite someone to sit by you or to play with you.  Are you nervous about who you will sit by at lunch?  Are you afraid you won’t have anyone to play with at recess?  So are the other kids!  Look for someone who doesn’t seem to know anyone.  They’ll be grateful for the invitation to play or to sit together.
  8. Be happy and positive.   No one likes to be around someone that is always grumpy and negative.  Look for the good things about situations and other people.  Choose to be happy, and your happiness will spread.  Kids will want to be around you because of your cheerful attitude and smiling face.
Practice with Role-Playing

Now that you know the techniques, it’s time to practice!  You might feel silly at first, but you’ll be a pro in no time!

  1. Ask your family to pretend to be your classmates.
  2. Hold your head up high as you enter the room, and pretend you are at school.  Practice smiling and starting conversations with your family members.
  3. Take turns.  Practice what to do when someone comes to talk to you and how to start a conversation.
  4. Have fun!  When it’s your turn to be a member of the class, make up fake names and interests to have silly conversations.  (That’s just for practicing.  You’ll want to be sure to tell the truth when you talk to your new friends.)
Motivate Yourself with Back-to-School Games

Want to be sure you don’t chicken out on the first day of school?  Try one or both of these games to reward yourself for setting goals to make friends.

Going back to school (or starting school for the first time) is a scary thing for many kids.  Most have two main fears:  Will I like my teacher?  and Will I make any friends?  I can’t help with the teacher part, but I can help with making friends!  In order to make it more fun, and to encourage them to get out of their comfort zones, I created a back to school friendship game for kids.

Back-to-School-Make-Friends-Game

This is kind of the opposite of a scavenger hunt.  Instead of looking for things to put in the container, kids are taking challenges and then eating the treats!  The goal of the game is to get the kids to be brave at school.  The challenges listed under the lids are:

  • Smile at someone
  • Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know
  • Raise your hand to answer a question in class
  • Ask someone to sit by you at lunch
  • Find someone with the same hobby as you
  • Find someone who is alone and invite them to play with you.

For shy kids (like mine), I’m hoping this will be a good reminder for them to be brave and jump out of their comfort zones to make friends at school.  Each morning, the girls pick a challenge and try to complete it that day at school.  After school, they report back to me.  If they did it, they get to open the lid and eat the treat!

Ready to make the game?  Here’s what you will need:

  • A seven-day pill box (can be found at Walmart, the Dollar Store, etc.).   These come in small and large.  I chose small because they were cheaper (and there was only one large one left).
  • Cardstock and/or scrapbook paper
  • Mod Podge
  • Small foam brush or paint brush
  • If you’re lucky–some type of cutting tool- Letter stencils and regular old scissors work too!
  • Treats to fill the individual boxes.
  • Printout of first week of school ideas

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Begin by cutting your paper to fit the top of each lid.  Out of a contrasting paper, cut letters to fit on the lids as well.  (You could title it:  Friends, Be Happy, Service . . . whatever.  I chose “Be Happy” because I plan to use the boxes for a few other games.)

Paint Mod Podge onto the lids of each daily box, and top with your first paper.  Paint another layer of Mod Podge on top, so that it covers the paper and the plastic surrounding it.  Now top the lids with your letters and paint Mod Podge on top again.

Open the lids (so that you don’t accidentally glue them down), and allow the containers to dry.

This game contains seven challenges to help you make friends during the first week of school.  After school, you can get a treat for the challenges you tried!

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Print the challenges printable, and cut out the individual boxes.  Glue or tape the tasks inside the lids.  If you don’t use a permanent glue, you can remove the tasks and use the boxes for something new later.  Fill the holes with treats, and you’re ready to go!

Now–most important step–gather your kids and talk about ways to make friends at school!  Talk about smiling, saying hello, and how to make friends.  We even like to roll play entering a new classroom and meeting new kids.  (It makes a really fun family night.)  Let your kids pick their first challenge, and they’re ready to start the new school year off right!

Back-to-School Conversation Starters for Kids {Free Printable}

back-to-school-conversation-game

I changed the rules a little bit this week.  They can do more than one activity a day, and (as long as they do five things during the week) they can eat the rest of the candy on the weekend.  There was no way that candy in their two uncompleted slots was going to survive until today!  Also, they don’t have to do exactly what’s written.  If they can tell me something they did to go out of their comfort zone and/or make a friend, they earn the treat.

If you aren’t into giving your kids candy, small toys and stickers will fit, too.  Those are Squinkies in the picture.

Here is the download to the second Conversation Stater List: Be-Happy-Conversation-Starter-Game

Here is the Text to the second download of Conversation Starters:

  1. How was your weekend?
  2. Did you do anything fun yesterday?
  3.  What do you want to play at recess?
  4. Smile and introduce yourself
  5. What are you going to do this weekend?
  6. Ask someone to sit by you at lunch
  7. Find someone who is alone and invite them to play with you

Here is the Text to the First Download Friend Maker Hunt:

  1. Smile at someone
  2. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know
  3.  Raise your hand to answer a question in class
  4. Say hello to someone you don’t know
  5. Find someone with the same hobby as you
  6. Ask someone to sit by you at lunch
  7. Find someone who is alone and invite them to play with you

Life Skills for Kids – Quarter Plan for Chores

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Quarter Plan
Each boy starts the month off with 1 quarter for each day of the month.  January has 31 days, so they received 31 quarters.  I poke my head in their rooms daily to see if they made their beds.  If they did they keep their quarter, if not, they bring one to me.  (it’s much more painful to bring the quarter to mom)

If at the end of the month they’ve kept all their quarters, they can trade it in for approximately $7.00 extra in cash each month.  Money talks for my kids, maybe your children would prefer points or pom poms.

We’ll refill quarters at the beginning of the next month and add a new task (probably the bathroom) in addition to making beds.  Make sense?

I know it seems like I’m taking very simple steps, but if we have 12 new tasks done and implemented by the end of the year it could be genius!

What would be on your to-do list?

*** This idea was taken from Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma.  She instituted a dollar plan, I’ve knocked it down to a quarter plan.

Mindful Eating: A Taste of Mindfulness

Mindful Eating: A Taste of Mindfulness

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As our lives get busier and more frantic, eating has become an activity that we usually do alongside other activities. Be it watching TV, working, answering emails, or thinking about what we need to do next; rarely do we eat our meals with mindfulness and enjoy the flavors of the food. It’s almost as though we don’t consider eating interesting enough that we need to create further excitement by reading the news, checking Twitter or texting. I’m sure we have all experienced getting to the end of the meal and wondering where it all went, or we wish we could have just one more bite to enjoy the flavor of the food.

Another aspect of mindless eating that we are usually guilty of, is looking forward to the next bite instead of savoring the mouthful that is already in our mouth. We’re thinking about how good the next spoonful will be, or worst still, we’re thinking about the delicious dessert we plan to eat after our delicious meal. And this is something we all experience. Our mind always seems to be looking forward to something better in the future, even if the future is just a spoonful of food away.

Eating without mindfulness is what most of us are doing on a daily basis. We ‘hoover’ in the food to satisfy the hunger pains so we can move onto life’s more important tasks. But the practice of mindfulness teaches us that there is nothing more precious than the present moment, so even eating becomes an activity that is worthy of our undivided attention.

Learning to practice mindful eating brings us back into the present moment. It allows us to fully enjoy each part of the eating experience. It is a technique that requires us to be completely aware of the movements and sensations we experience when we eat or drink.

When people attend meditation retreats they often say how delicious the food is even though they are not being served five star culinary delights. They’re just eating their regular cornflakes and milk, soups, salads and vegies. But the difference is that when you eat with mindfulness, you can actually taste, experience and enjoy all the flavors. The meals are highly satisfying because you are really being present with the food.

Cultivating mindfulness through eating is a helpful way to increase our overall awareness and mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness in general has many great benefits such as reducing our stress levels, increasing our happiness, and allowing us to slow down and really enjoy our days with the people we love. If we can practice mindfulness eating meditation for one meal or even a snack, it can help to foster a greater awareness and calmness which we can then bring into the rest of our day.

There is no special ceremony we have to perform to do a mindful eating meditation. In fact, in the book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, well-known Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, explains how we can use a simple apple to practice a mindful eating meditation. He suggests sitting quietly, without any distractions such as browsing the internet or watching the TV. We should give our complete attention to the apple, because by “…being focused and slowing down [it] will allow you to truly savor all the qualities the apple offers: its sweetness, aroma, freshness, juiciness, and crispness.” We have to admit that these are probably qualities that we have overlooked time and time again, irrespective of the number of apples we’ve eaten during our lifetime.

Thich Nhat Hanh then advises that we should spend some time taking note of the apple’s characteristics. “What kind of apple is it? What color is it? How does it feel in your hand? What does it smell like?”

Only once we have spent time examining the apple do we actually take a bite of it. And even then we should chew slowly, examining the taste, examining the sensation of chewing and swallowing, and our reactions to it. During this time Thich Nhat Hanh says that, “There is nothing else filling your mind as you chew — no projects, no deadlines, no worries, no ‘to do’ list, no fears, no sorrow, no anger, no past, and no future. There is just the apple.”

We should continue to eat the apple with complete awareness, until the whole apple is finished. By savoring the apple and being with it one hundred percent, you will “…really appreciate the apple as it is. And as you become fully aware of eating the apple, you also become fully aware of the present moment. You become fully engaged in the here and now. Living in the moment, you can really receive what the apple offers you, and you become more alive.”

Another great mindfulness eating meditation that has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn is the Raisin Exercise. It requires taking one sole raisin (or sultana) and eating it with a great sense of curiosity. You can find the script for this meditation here.

When we do mindful eating meditations it is good to reflect for a minute on how the apple/raisin/food has come to be here right in front of you. It hasn’t just magically appeared. It has come here as a result of the hard work of others (i.e. harvesting, packing, transporting, placing on the shelves). Within the food, we can see not only the workers, but also the eco-system that has become part of this food: we can see the sun, the rain, the soil and the clouds all there within the food. As Thich Nhat Hanh points out, “Without the combination of these far-reaching elements and without the help of many people, the apple would simply not exist.” When we take a moment to consider this, a feeling of gratitude arises. We can bring this sense of gratitude to many other things in our lives as well, such as our car, electricity, fridge and blankets, just to name a few. Everything we own is a result of nature and the kindness and hard work of others. If we can remember this, we may never feel isolated or lacking again.

As we eat, we should consider how extraordinary this moment is. This same food cannot be eaten by us or anyone else at another time. This moment, this experience, is most precious because we can never replicate it again (with the same apple, raisin, etc).

Eating with mindfulness means we will avoid ingesting all the stress, anxiety and unrest of a distracted mind. And aside from the benefit of really enjoying our food, the calmness and presence we cultivate from eating mindfully will help us to enjoy life more as well. With increased awareness we will be more present with others, and we will ride the ‘waves’ of life with greater ease as opposed to drowning in them. Ultimately, mindfulness is an invaluable tool for those who practice meditation, as mindfulness is an essential tool for improving our concentration, which leads to greater insights.

Here is an interview between Thich Nhat Hanh and Oprah where he speaks on the importance of the book, Savor, especially in relation to helping countries fight the all-too-common problem of obesity.

The Best Way to Make Up After Any Argument

The Best Way to Make Up After Any Argument

And the One Word Never to Say

Why is making up is so hard to do? Widener University psychology program director Dr. Hal Shorey offers post-fight tips on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: iStock/CGrey

You had an argument with someone you love. Now what?

There is a definite wrong way to make up and go forward after a fight, therapists and psychologists say: Apologize quickly and move on.

Instead, it is crucial when repairing a personal rift to address the underlying issue. Fail to reach a resolution on the argument itself—not just the hurt feelings it caused—and you will end up fighting again in the future about the same thing. Even worse: You’ll likely end up arguing about the argument.

Throughout 28 years of marriage, Kim and Dexter Hardy in Marietta, Ga., say they have argued about “everything,” including money, the children and their in-laws. For years, their fights were very emotional and took a long time to get over. Mr. Hardy would say things that were sarcastic or hurtful. Ms. Hardy would yell or cry and sometimes throw things on the floor (once it was eggs). Then she would leave, slamming the door behind her. Often, the tension lasted for days.

“The biggest thing in making up is to understand that conflict is normal in a relationship,” says Hal Shorey, a clinical psychologist and associate professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Chester, Pa. Dr. Shorey studies personality and works with couples in private practice as well as people in conflict at work. “You don’t want to avoid it. You want to manage it.”

ENLARGE
LEIGH WELLS

Admittedly, some people are comfortable with tension. They want to talk out problems.

Others avoid conflict at all costs. Some want it over immediately and need reassurance that all is fine (even when it’s not). Others refuse to address the situation at all and finish every disagreement with the same response: total silence.

Research shows that these approaches typically break down along gender lines. A 2003 study in the journal “Personal Relationships”—one of the largest on the topic to date—found that, across 62 cultural regions world-wide, men reported higher levels of attachment avoidance relative to women. There are always exceptions, of course. But, in general, men seek to avoid negative emotions and conflict more than women. Women like to talk through problems. Men want to move on.

A note about makeup sex: Men love it. Women? Not so much. Research shows that men are more sexually aroused after a major relationship conflict (and are more likely than women to use sex for stress relief). In contrast, women “find it more difficult to isolate themselves from the relational context while having sex,” says Gurit E. Birnbaum, a psychologist, sex researcher and associate professor at the School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

A hug, touch on the arm or eye contact all go a long way when making up after an argument.ENLARGE
A hug, touch on the arm or eye contact all go a long way when making up after an argument. GETTY IMAGES

According to Dr. Shorey, of Widener University, there are five steps to a successful “makeup.” And they revolve around one central question that each person must ask the other: “What do you need from me?”

The first step: Wait to talk. “You don’t want to have a discussion while the other person is still hot,” Dr. Shorey says. “I can’t tell you how many people will think it’s better to say right away: ‘I’m sorry. I was a jerk.’ And the other person says, ‘Yes, you were.’ And then the argument escalates again.”

If the other person is really trying to avoid a discussion altogether, wait until things have calmed down and then say, “I’d like to talk.” If the argument was really intense, he suggests making up in a public place, such as a restaurant. And never have these discussions in front of the kids.

Next, give up the idea of being right. Don’t focus on the examples or details from the fight; those will be right or wrong depending on your perspective. Instead, focus on the other person’s feelings. “What can never be wrong is how the other person feels,” Dr. Shorey says.

Third, mirror the other person’s position by verbalizing your understanding of how he or she feels. This helps you focus on the other person’s needs. For example, you can say: “I understand you are hurt because I went out without you last night.” And ask if you are correct.

Hal Shorey, a clinical psychologist and associate professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Philadelphia    Published Credit: Hal ShoreyENLARGE
Hal Shorey, a clinical psychologist and associate professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Philadelphia Published Credit: Hal Shorey HAL SHOREY

“A lot of people don’t want to apologize because they don’t want to admit that they did anything wrong,” Dr. Shorey says. A good approach: “I am sorry I upset you. I don’t think there is anything wrong with me going out last night, but I can see why you feel hurt and how it would be better for me not to go because I don’t want you to feel bad.”

An important point here: Never use the word “but” in an apology. “I am sorry, but…” undermines the entire purpose.

Don’t get offended by your partner’s feelings. If you apologize and the other person says, “Yes, you really behaved badly,” just nod your head. The goal is to accept responsibility for how you made someone feel.

Finally, explain to your partner that you really care about him or her and are willing to modify your behavior. (A hug, touch on the arm or eye contact all go a long way here.) Both people must show that they understand each others’ needs and are willing to try and meet them. “If the other person knows that you really care,” Dr. Shorey says, “most of these larger issues will resolve.”

Accept that it may take some time for you both to feel better. And make a pledge to check in later, after a certain amount of time has passed, in order to monitor progress. “Hey, I heard how I hurt you and have tried to change and how am I doing?” never hurt.

For the Hardys, years of arguing took its toll. They felt disconnected. Ms. Hardy says she got tired of the anger and frustration she was carrying around.

The couple began to attend marriage workshops, read self-help books, and model themselves on older couples they thought communicated well. They learned they have different makeup styles. She needs space to calm down. He likes to talk out issues.

They have developed several strategies to move past an argument. The first is decompression time: Ms. Hardy will excuse herself and go into another room or leave the house so she can “finish huffing and puffing,” she says. The next is fact time: Each will remind him- or herself about the good qualities of their spouse. Then, instead of a short, “I am sorry,” the apologizer will say exactly what he or she did wrong.

“We don’t always have to agree, but we have learned to respect one another’s opinions,” says Ms. Hardy, a 47-year-old motivational speaker.

“We have become a great model for our children,” ages 27, 25, 21, 18, says Mr. Hardy, 54, who is a Baptist pastor. “There is a greater sense of oneness in our relationship now.”

10 Scientific Way to be Happy!

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It’s easy to think of happiness as a result, but happiness is also a driver.

One example: While I’m definitely into finding ways to improve personal productivity (whether a one-day burstor a lifetime, or things you should not do every day), probably the best way to be more productive is to just be happier. Happy people accomplish more.

Easier said than done though, right?

Actually, many changes are easy. Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier from Belle Beth Cooper, Content Crafter at Buffer, the social media management tool that lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social media updates.

Here’s Beth:

1. Exercise: 7 Minutes Could Be Enough

Think exercise is something you don’t have time for? Think again. Check out the  7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. That’s a workout any of us can fit into our schedules.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it is an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study are surprising: Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels early on, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent.

You don’t have to be depressed to benefit from exercise, though. Exercise can help you relax, increase your brain power, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier.

study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 minutes exercising and 6 × 40 minutes reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

Yep: Even if your actual appearance doesn’t change, how you feel about your body does change.

2. Sleep More: You’ll Be Less Sensitive to Negative Emotions

We know that sleep helps our body recover from the day and repair itself and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task throughout the course of a day, researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day.

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their entire work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

3. Spend More Time With Friends/Family: Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying.

If you want more evidence that time with friends is beneficial for you, research proves it can make you happier right now, too.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

Men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as we would if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

4. Get Outside More: Happiness is Maximized at 57°

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees (13.9°C), so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

5. Help Others: 100 Hours a Year is the Magic Number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities–such as concerts and group dinners out–brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. But what about spending our time on other people?

study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

6. Practice Smiling: Reduce Pain, Improve Mood, Think Better

Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. (You’ve seen fake smiles that don’t reach the person’s eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There’s a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.)

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

7. Plan a Trip: It Helps Even if You Don’t Actually Take One

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks. After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then, whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

8. Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity, and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. According to Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

9. Move Closer to Work: A Short Commute is Worth More Than a Big House

Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to commute twice a day at least five days a week makes it unsurprising that the effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. 

Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

10. Practice Gratitude: Increase Happiness and Satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each daywith a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the three studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period. Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick Final Fact: Getting Older Will Actually Make You Happier

As we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to naturally grow happier. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods–for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and focus their goals on greater well being.

So if you thought getting old will make you miserable, it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

How cool is that?

25 Questions to ask your kids about their school day without actually asking ‘how was your day at school today?’

I find myself asking them every day after school, “So how was school today?”

And every day I get an answer like “fine” or “good,” which doesn’t tell me a whole lot.

AND I WANT TO KNOW A WHOLE LOT!!!!

Or at least get a full sentence. So the other night, I sat down and made a list of more engaging questions to ask about school. They aren’t perfect, but I do at least get complete sentences, and some have led to some interesting conversations… and hilarious answers… and some insights into how my kids think and feel about school.

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1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

*****

So far, my favorite answers have come from questions 12, 15 and 21. Questions like the “alien” one give kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before.

And the answers we get are sometimes really surprising. When I asked question 3, I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean or bully, but in the hope they’d get the chance to work with other people.

As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them — but I know it’s going to be worth the work.

Family and Kids Basket Ball Games

Family Basketball Games

1. H-O-R-S-E The game of H-O-R-S-E is an old time favorite

  • Any skill level can play
  • The set-up is simple: 2 players or more, a hoop & a basketball.
  • How to Play: The first player chooses a spot on the court and takes a shot. If the shot is made, the next player must repeat the exact same shot. If the shot is made, the process is repeated. However, if the second player does not match the first player’s shot, then they receive a letter – in this case, an “H.” If the first player misses their shot, then the second player takes the lead shot, and if it is made, the first player must match player two’s shot. And so on. This is repeated until one player misses five shots and receives all five letters that spell out the word H-O-R-S-E!

**** This is a great game to test your outside shot, or even simple layups.  It’s also fun to try the wackiest of shots! Try a “behind-the back” lay-up, a shot from behind the backboard or a shot from way out beyond the driveway. The game can also be altered to a shorter version. This version is called P-I-G.

2. Lightning! Lightning is a game that tests your ability to shoot a free-throw while under pressure.

  • This game is best with 3 or more players (more fun with a large group)
  • It requires 2 basketballs.
  • The set-up is easy:
    • create a free-throw line at any distance you like (the regulation free-throw line is 15 feet (180 inches) from the backboard).
    • It requires 2 basketballs
  • How to Play: 
    • Line everyone up single-file just behind the line and give the first 2 people in line each a basketball. The first person in line takes a shot. As soon as that person releases their shot, the next person in line can take their shot.
    • The object of the game is for the person taking the second shot to make the basket before the person in front of them. If the first person taking the shot makes their shot, they pass the ball back to the next person in line, move to the very back of the line and the game continues. If the first person misses their shot, they must rebound the shot and make a basket before they can pass it to the next player. However, if the person immediately behind them makes the shot before the first player can make a shot, the first player is out of the game. This pattern follows until all but one player is eliminated. The last player standing is the winner.

**** Lightning is fast-paced, highly excitable and the more players you have, the more fun the game. This is a game that tests your ability to shoot under pressure and it can leave you quite winded.

o Speed –

o   21 – Breaking the Ice – Start the game with players shooting single free throws in succession until one player makes a shot, which breaks the ice and counts as 1 point… Then it gets complicated…. here is a link to rules for playing: http://www.ehow.com/how_3049_play-21-basketball.html

o   Around the World

o  Poison