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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Friday, June 15, 2018

Kids' Nutrition: Eating Healthy for Mental and Physical Development


Getting kids to eat healthfully can be a handful, especially during the summer months when it seems like ice cream trucks are parked at every corner. But hot-weather treats aside, parents know that childhood food issues vary wildly. While some parents end up pleading with picky eaters to finish what’s on their plates, others find themselves carefully monitoring their kids’ sugar and junk food intake, hoping to help children establish reasonable eating habits.

And then, there’s our instant gratification culture. Schools feature candy-filled vending machines, and fast food ads play on a loop on TV; truly, youth are bombarded with chances to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient options at every turn.

Studies show that nutrition has a profound impact on learning, cognitive ability, and physical health, making healthy eating a cornerstone of child development. So, it’s vital that kids get proper nutrition and create healthy habits.

How can you make eating nutritious food fun, easy, and sustainable? Read on for ideas!

1. Make Your Kids’ Favorite Produce a Priority

As Michael Pollan distilled in his wildly popular book on nutrition, Omnivore’s Dilemma: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” Pollan says in this video:

“The key issue is whether you’re eating real food, or, as I like to call it, ‘edible food-like substances,’ which is processed food.”

Kids don’t usually need to watch their (healthy) calories. They’re still growing, after all! But Pollan is right about one thing: kids benefit from eating a diet of mostly unprocessed, perishable foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that populations that consume an abundance of produce, and limit their intake of animal products, tend to have better long-term health outcomes and longevity.

So, how do you get kids to eat their produce? Variety. By introducing children to lots of different fruits and veggies, they’ll be more likely to find varieties they enjoy. So, if your kid absolutely hates broccoli, nix it and try grilled asparagus, green peppers, or celery with peanut butter instead. Can’t get your child to finish their apple? Bust out banana slices, mangoes, or blueberries. And remember: tastes change. Just because she doesn’t like mushrooms now, doesn’t mean she’ll always hate them.


2. Eating for Sustained Energy

According to cdc.gov, “Hunger and food insecurity might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and undernutrition. In turn, undernutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and school performance.”

And, although it’s counter-intuitive, kids can be both overweight and malnourished, depending on the type of food they’re eating. According to Health.gov, a healthy diet for kids should include: a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or natural dairy products, a variety of protein--either animal or plant-based--healthy oils, and limited saturated fat and sodium intake. The highest nutrient-dense foods are fruits and vegetables. If you can’t afford to shop organic, be sure to watch your produce thoroughly and look for produce that’s in season and locally-grown.

And if you’re concerned about your kids’ calorie intake needs, this handy article from Mayo Clinic is a good resource. It outlines different calorie needs depending on age and activity level.

3. Have Healthy Snacks Handy

Heading to the playground? Pack a bag of healthy snacks to curb those mid-play cravings, keep kids energized, and avoid the fast food drive-thru on the way home. It’s a good idea to bring a snack that provides a healthy mix of carbs, healthy fats, and protein. For example, mix a bag of whole-wheat pretzels, cheese cubes, and grapes. Or, pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat, and add some baby carrots to the mix. The combination creates a complete protein and a nutritionally-balanced meal.

Honestly, eating healthy doesn’t have to require lots of time and planning. With a little bit of mindfulness, some light meal prep, and a trip to the grocery, eating healthy can be affordable and simple. And if you’re super strapped for time, some grocery stores offer curbside pick up.

4. Model Mindful Eating

Kids are sponges, watching and imitating our behavior. So, if you eat healthy foods and make it a normal part of everyday life, they’ll be more likely to fill up on whole foods and crave delicious, healthy produce like bananas, tomatoes, colorful salads, and complex carbs such as rice and whole-wheat pasta.

What are your tips for getting kids to eat healthy? Leave your comments below!

Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Solar Eclipses, and How to Watch Them


As some readers might know, there is a solar eclipse that is set to take place over North America on August 21, 2017. If you are reading this after that date, don’t worry—There will be more! In fact, eclipses generally happen at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in late summer. But this particular eclipse is special for a few reasons. It is the first total eclipse to occur over the mainland United States since June 8, 1918.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon moves in front of the sun, blocking all or part of it from view for observers on earth. A total eclipse, in which the moon completely blocks out the sun, is a rare occurrence that few people ever get to see. Most eclipses are either partial or annular.

Partial Solar Eclipses are the most commonly observed. These occur when the moon passes over part of the sun, blocking out some of its light. This makes the sun appear to be a crescent shape, much like the moon looks when the earth is blocking most of the sun’s light from it.

Annular Solar Eclipses are similar to total eclipses, in that the moon moves directly in front of the sun. However, the moon is not always the same distance away from the earth. This is why it appears to be larger on some nights than others. If the moon is directly in front of the sun, but too far away from the earth to block out its light completely, an annular eclipse is formed. When this happens, the moon blocks out the center of the sun, leaving only a bright ring of light visible around its edges.

Total Solar Eclipses are the hardest to see, because they require the moon to be directly in front of the sun, and also close enough to completely block it out. When this happens, certain areas of the earth will experience complete darkness for several minutes. To observers in these areas, it will appear as if the sun has completely disappeared (much to the terror of unknowing ancient civilizations).




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Beginner's Guide to Indian Food


photo by qasic (flickr)
One of the perks of living in the United States is the availability of food from other cultures. In any major American city you’ll find Italian, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican restaurants, all within a few miles of each other. But one of the great, and perhaps underappreciated, styles of cuisine out there is Indian food. Indian restaurants are spread all over the country, often small family-owned places slotted between two other stores in a strip mall. Most people are afraid to give these places a chance, which makes some sense. Indian food is renowned for its use of strong flavors and spices, and if you’re not familiar with it you risk ordering a meal you won’t like. That risk is compounded when you’re also taking a chance on a restaurant that you’ve never been to before. However, when those strong flavors are blended together just right they can make some of the most diverse and interesting foods in the world. For all the ‘risks’ associated with Indian food, there is even more reward. This guide is meant to help those who are new to Indian cuisine determine where to start.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Secret Life of Trees


photo by: Shiela in Moonducks (flickr)
photo by Sheila in Moonducks (flickr)
Trees are such basic and common things that we rarely give them a second thought. They are simply part of the landscape; not living things but backdrops and habitats for living things. It’s easy to forget that they are not only alive, but keeping us alive. In this blog post I will be exploring some questions about trees that seem so obvious that most people have probably never thought to ask them.

What is a tree?

This one seems obvious, but before you skip ahead think about it: what qualities do all trees have in common, which they do not share with other plants? If it has to do with their leaves, then what about pine trees? If it has to do with their size, then what about tiny bonsai trees? If it’s about having a trunk with bark, then what does that make palm trees? Merriam Webster defines a tree as “a woody perennial plant having a single usually elongate main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part,” which seems like an adequate description until you start to ask yourself what makes a tree different than just a really tall bush. Even this broad and unspecific definition is not without exceptions. For example, the plants which bananas grow on are called trees despite having no wood or bark. Surprisingly, there is no comprehensive rules that determine what is and is not a tree. The truth is that ‘tree’ is just a general word that we use to describe a certain shape and style of plants for the sake of convenience.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Benefits of a Second Language

Photo by: states4hexchange (flickr)

More and more schools across the country, and across the globe, are requiring students to obtain foreign language credits in order to graduate, especially at the high school and college levels. These requirements are often met with criticism from both parents and students: why force someone to learn a language that they may never end up using? A person can easily go through life knowing a single language, especially since it often seems like most people in the world speak English anyway.

It is easy to simply imagine a second language as being a tool which may or may not come in handy in certain very specific situations. However, the benefits of having another language at your disposal may pale in comparison to actually learning one; in this case, it just might be about the journey rather than the destination. If schools were only meant to impart practical skills, why teach art, or literature, or calculus rather than how to fill out tax forms? Like any of those subjects, the study of language is more about expanding the ways that students think and view the world around them than it is about the memorization of particular facts.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lyme Disease Info and Tips

Photo by: U.S. Department of Agriculture (flickr)
Most parents and guardians already have a long mental list of things to worry about when keeping children safe. One thing that might not appear on that list, or at least not very high up on it, is tick bites. Unfortunately, in recent months there has been a significant surge of Lyme Disease, a bacterial disease carried by ticks, which can cause serious and often permanent health problems if left untreated. Experts have predicted that this trend will continue, and 2017 may be one of the worst years for the disease yet. The purpose of this blog entry is not to cause undue panic or add to anyone’s list of worries, but to spread some helpful information about Lyme Disease, how to avoid it, and how to identify an infection quickly if one occurs.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Seven Types of Plastic and What to Do with Them

Photo by: Lisa Risager (flickr)
Pollution is bad. Recycling is good. These are statements that most people would agree with by now. But recycling isn’t always that simple, especially when it comes to plastic. It seems like plastic is in just about everything we use these days, in one form or another. But what makes the plastic in a phone different than the plastic in a shopping bag? If they seem like entirely different materials, it’s because in many ways they are. Plastics can be mixed with different additives which change their properties. This allows them to fill a range of different purposes, but also affects how they should be used and disposed of. Some plastics cannot be recycled normally, and some can even be toxic if used improperly. It is often impossible to tell what is in a piece of plastic just by looking at it.

Luckily, the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) has devised a quick way to tell different types of plastic apart. Plastic products which can be recycled will typically have the universal recycling symbol somewhere on them. But what many people don’t notice is the small number in the middle of the three arrows. This number, ranging from 1 to 7, is called the RIC (Resin Identification Code). It tells you what group the plastic belongs to, what chemicals have been added to it, and what should be done with it. This guide should help illuminate the important differences between the seven categories of plastic.