Family fun brings enjoyment and BIG family health benefits

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Do you enjoy gardening? Playing cards or games? Having family fun with your children or grandchildren? Having family fun brings not only enjoyment but BIG health benefits, too. And if you look carefully, you can find fun in whatever you do... it's all a matter of attitude.

Taking time for the things that you enjoy can help you feel better about yourself and be more satisfied with life.

And when you feel this way, you might be more likely to exercise, eat well, get regular medical care and reach out to friends and family - all of which can benefit you physically and mentally.

People often spend a lot of time doing things that don't really benefit their health, such as watching television. Try eliminating some of these isolative, non-social activities from your day. You'll find you then have more time for doing things you enjoy that also will benefit your health.

Tips to get started with family fun:

  • Start by taking an inventory of family fun activities. Pay attention to what activities bring you pleasure. These might include tinkering in the garage, gardening, listening to music, watching UCONN women's basketball or reading. As long as the activity is consistent with your health, make time for more of it.

  • Link healthy habits to happiness. For example, stay motivated to exercise by choosing activities you enjoy. Vary your routine and exercise with other people. You might do some activities by yourself, and others may be group activities. Make exercise so enjoyable that the activity itself becomes its own reward.

  • Be attentive. When it comes to fun, quality counts as much as quantity. You don't always have to have more pleasure — just be attentive to it when it shows up. Instead of drinking a second cup of coffee, for instance, pay full attention to the first one. Sip it and savor it - don't gulp. After the first cup, you might feel complete with your coffee and reach for a glass of orange juice next.

  • Find fun. Try new activities. Explore new places and situations. Let your mind wander. Act impulsively once in awhile. Make a game of routine duties. And whatever the activity, try to find something pleasurable in the doing of it. Listen to the old adage - Seek and you shall find... fun!

    Disney's FamilyFun Crafts: 500 Creative Activities for You and Your Kids has crafts for all ages, many made of inexpensive and easily available materials. I have not only used the crafts with my grandkids but also use them with my Sunday School class, with an age range of 4-13 years old. Many of their crafts make easy and attractive gifts for children to give at Christmas, etc., and they have a collection of things to make for school parties. I highly recommend this book.

    Special Toys for Special Kids

    by Lisa Simmons

    Every parent wants to give their child that one special toys that they REALLY want. However, when your child has special needs it can be hard for your special kids to tell you which toy would truly make their heart sing.

    So just for parents, each year I create a new gift guide to help them find that perfect toy to delight their child during the holiday season. I don't always choose a theme, but this year I saw so many great ideas that I decided to focus on creativity and movement. I hope these ideas are helpful and bring you and your child many hours of enjoyment.

    Games & Motor Toys:

    1. The Nobbie Gertie Ball
    Kids will love to touch this tactile ball that's easy to throw, catch and kick. Its lightweight material makes it ideal for indoor play plus it introduces textures and encourages active play.

    2. The Floor Basketball Set is portable and designed for people who play while sitting. It's durability and comes with an easy grip ball in a bright, engaging color.

    3. The Fun Hop. I have to admit this is a personal favorite at our house. My youngest daughter fell in love with this toy a few years ago and has literally spent hours on it. It has an easy grip, built-in handle and can hold a child up to 100 pounds. My favorite feature is that your child can use it indoors (on the carpet) while they are developing their balance and control and then take it outdoors when the weather is warmer. Plus it is an EXCELLENT way to burn off excess energy!

    4. Tangle Original with Texture This tactile toy features five different textures for fingers to explore while manipulating the never ending tangle puzzle. Textures include tire treads, bumps, ridges, dots and smooth sections. This toy encourages creative exploration with stimulating textures for kids with sensory impairments and is perfect for keeping active hands occupied if your child has an attention deficit disorder.

    Imaginary Play:

    5. If your child's creativity leans more toward imaginary play, then he or she will love the Learning Resources Jumbo Jungle Animals set. It comes with a realistic mat to help "set the tone " and a wonderful set of 14 dinosaurs that are easy to grasp and encourage interactive play with other kids. If dinosaurs arent "in" at your house Animal Planet also offers sets of sea life, bugs, farm animals, wildlife, horses, and reptiles!

    Creative Expression:

    6. The Mozart Magic Cube by Munchkin
    This colorful block lets your child add and subtract 5 different instruments with a simple touch as they listen to classic Mozart tunes. If your child enjoys music this is a great way to develop their understanding of cause and effect and the music of Mozart is believed by some experts to actually stimulate the brain.

    TIP: Tuning your child into music can also have an added benefit! If your child can remember the words to their favorite song then it is very likely that you can set academic facts and information to simple tunes and help your child memorize them much more quickly and easily!

    7. Looking for a more open ended way to encourage creativity? How about pairing basic art supplies with some great art ideas.

    Then just fill your gift box with all the goodies any young artist could want. You can build a personalized collection of jumbo chalk, Texta pens, pencils, clay, and no spill paint pots at most craft stores or opt for one of the many young artist gift sets available. The Amazing Art Duffle is available online at Amazon.com

    10. Trying to draw out an older child? A preteen or teenager with special needs has lots on their mind just like any other child their age. If the young person in your life needs a safe place to express him or herself, consider this terrific creative writing journal. "Creative Writing for Individuals With Disabilities" is designed like a workbook and offers "idea starters" to help your child move beyond the dreaded blank page. If you are facing the transition from school to adulthood within the next few years it's really important for you to understand what your child's dreams and values are. This is a perfect way to begin that process.

    I hope these ideas have sparked your creative juices for family fun.

    Copyright 2003, Lisa Simmons. All Rights Reserved

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