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Camping Basics

Summer has finally arrived, and it is time for everyone to go outside and enjoy some outdoor family fun! Camping is a great summertime activity, and it offers opportunities for your family members to explore nature and escape the “noise” (e.g., televisions, tablets, social media).

Outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, fishing, and biking, can provide many health benefits such as increasing Vitamin D intake, improving overall mood, improving concentration, and decreasing stress (Harvard University Medical School, 2010). Sharing outdoor activities while camping can also offer unique opportunities for your family to connect to and learn about each other.

The first time you go camping you may experience some uncertainty. However, careful planning, especially if you have younger children, can help ensure you have a successful camping experience.

Practice Inside

  • Practice camping in your home. If you have enough space, set up a tent inside and decorate your campsite – remember to be creative (e.g., make smores in the microwave, string up lights to simulate stars, play nature sounds).

Practice Outside

  • If you’re unsure of how your children may react to camping, or sleeping outdoors, set up a small campsite in your backyard. Backyard camping can offer your family a similar experience and allow you to understand what may be needed when (or if) you decide to take your camping a bit farther from home.

Create a List

  • As part of the planning process, create a list of camping essentials that you will need, like a tent, blankets/sleeping bags, pillows, food, water, sunscreen, fire starters, medication, and appropriate clothing, but remember some specialty items that might bring comfort to your children like a favorite blanket or a special toy. To learn more about camping essentials visit https://www.myopencountry.com/camping-tips/

Include your Children in the Planning Process

  • Children like to be involved, so it’s important to talk to them about what camping is, why you want to do it with them, and what they can expect. Be sure to address any concerns they raise and come up with solutions to any expressed concerns as a team.

Measure Your Skills

  • If you’ve never been camping yourself, you may want to look for a campsite that is located on resort property or a campsite that has amenities (e.g., public restrooms, on-site store) close by. Remember, even if you’re an experienced camper, your children might still be new to camping, so you may want to consider choosing an area that’s challenging but not too much for them to handle.

Take Precautions

  • If you are a bit skeptical about venturing out alone, invite some additional family members or friends to join along in the fun.
  • Many campsites have restrictions, like burning fires or bringing pets. Be sure to carefully vet the camping locations you’re interested in and keep a detailed list of any regulations.
  • To help your children avoid getting lost, teach your children the buddy system. Younger children should team up with an adult, and older children can get together with a peer.

Camping can be an enjoyable activity for your family and a way for you to create special memories together. Your children will benefit from being outdoors and finding ways, places, or things to explore. Who knows, it may become your family’s favorite vacation getaway!

Additional Resources

Baer, T. (2019, June 24). 30+ tips on camping with kids, from parents who have been there. The Dyrt Magazine. https://thedyrt.com/magazine/lifestyle/camping-with-kids/

Conghalie, B. (2021, March 8). Camping hacks and tips from fire to shelter. My Open Country. https://www.myopencountry.com/camping-tips/

References

Harvard Medical School. (2010, October 12). A prescription for a better health: Go alfresco. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/a-prescription-for-better-health-go-alfresco

Digital Empowerment Resource

Media has become an integral part of everyday life for youth and families. Media habits that youth develop at an early age may continue through adulthood. Providing support to children to navigate the digital world responsibly – enhance the positive attributes and cope with the challenges and dilemmas – at a young age may increase their abilities to have respectable, meaningful interactions with others through constructive online engagement. Online platforms can offer youth and children a vast virtual world, which increases their exposure to a variety of topics and diverse individuals – good and bad. Professionals and parents serve as the cornerstone to teaching the fundamental skills of digital citizenship to youth and empowering youth to be good digital citizens by helping them understand the virtual world and helping them know how to keep themselves safe within that world. To aid in the healthy development of youth, the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State (Clearinghouse) partnered with the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) to create a Digital Empowerment Resource to provide support to professionals and parents as they educate children about what it means to be a good digital citizen and empower them to positively participate in the virtual world.

The Digital Empowerment Resource offers activities and resources that can be used to speak with children and youth about media use and communicate the importance of good digital citizenship. Activities have been developed to make it easier for the professional to identify appropriate material to use in daily lesson planning with children who are 5 to 10 years old and adolescents and teens who are 10 to 18 years old. In addition, resources are provided that offer supplementary support to the professional on specific digital citizenship topics. Furthermore, resources include posters that can be printed and placed in facilities, parent handouts, and family activities that can be used to engage the entire family in practicing good digital citizenship habits.

Podcast

Representatives from the Clearinghouse recently spoke with the Military Family Learning Network about the Digital Empowerment Resource. A podcast recording can be found here: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/podcast/exploring-the-thrive-initiatives-digital-empowerment-resource-for-parents-and-professionals-anchored-episode-23/

Digital Empowerment Resource

The Digital Empowerment Resource is available at no cost and can be downloaded directly from the Thrive Website: https://thrive.psu.edu/for-professionals/resources/

 

Nutritional Health before and during Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body is your baby’s first environment. Just as you would prepare the outside world for your baby by purchasing a baby crib, installing a car seat, or prepping your home for safety with outlet plugs, you should also prepare your body for pregnancy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating nutritious foods and avoiding other foods and substances is important for you and your baby. Remember, many factors, including your own health, safety, and the choices you make, affect your body and your baby.

If you are considering conception, planning for the pregnancy, and preparing your body can improve your chances of having a healthy full-term baby. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can increase your overall health and improve your chances of conception. Research indicates diets high in folic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and plant-based foods can positively impact fertility (Panth, et al., 2018). If you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, you may want to consider some of the following nutritional health tips.

Learn what to eat. Eating nutritious foods and learning about appropriate food choices during pregnancy is essential for your health and the health of your growing fetus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and these guidelines offer information about healthy foods you may want to consider eating while you are pregnant. Some of those foods include the following:

  • Dairy products are sources of calcium, protein, vitamin D, and phosphorus. These nutrients are essential for your baby’s developing bones, teeth, heart, and nerves.
    • milk, cheese, yogurt.
  • Protein can positively affect the growth of fetal tissue and the brain, and it can increase the mother’s blood supply:
    • beef, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts.
  • Carbohydrates are a source of energy, so they help the mother support and grow the baby:
    • whole-grain bread and pasta, rice, oatmeal, corn, potatoes.
  • Healthy fats, which are called unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, help improve the heart and how it functions:
    • olives, nuts, avocados, meats (HHS, 2020).

Know the benefits. There are many benefits to consuming nutritious foods and eating a balanced diet of protein, fat, and fiber while you are pregnant. Eating healthy foods can help you maintain your health; give you more energy; help reduce stress, either while trying to conceive or during pregnancy; and help decrease fatigue, nausea, or anemia. Eating the appropriate foods can help ensure a healthy birth weight for your baby and support his or her brain development and reduce birth defects (HHS, 2020).

Follow safe food practices. Pregnant bodies are more sensitive to food-borne illnesses. Good food safety practices should be followed and include the following:

  • Ensure food has been cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures.
  • Wash all fresh produce.
  • Avoid raw dairy and eggs and raw sprouts.
  • Check that food like milk, cheese, and juice say pasteurized on the label.
  • Consume fish with some caution. Fish can have mercury, which is a heavy metal that can make you sick and harm your baby’s development. Shark, swordfish, tuna, and marlin often contain mercury. Smaller fish like sardines, cod, flounder, tilapia, and canned light tuna are nutrient-dense and provide many benefits.
  • Avoid raw fish and raw shellfish.
  • Stay away from deli luncheon meats, and hotdogs should be reheated to steaming hot to kill Listeria (a foodborne illness that can be serious during pregnancy).
  • Avoid organ meat, like liver, as it may have too much vitamin A.
  • Minimize your caffeine intake. A little caffeine is fine but aim for no more than 300 milligrams or 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day.
  • Avoid sweetened beverages and junk foods. These foods are not nutrient-dense, and they contain significant added sugars or sugar substitutes.
  • Avoid alcohol; there is no known amount of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy (HHS, 2020).

Some pregnancies may have more health challenges than others. However, you can improve your baby’s first environment by making healthy nutrition choices and regularly visiting your pregnancy healthcare provider. Preparing your body, making appropriate food choices, and maintaining your overall health will help you give your baby the best start possible.

Visit your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant or if you are pregnant and talk about your health history and your partner’s health history. You and your partner may need to make changes to your nutrition, medications, and lifestyles. Healthychildren.org provides additional tips (e.g., exercise, stress reduction, family planning, healthy relationships) on taking care of yourself before and during pregnancy.

Additional Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Prenatal decisions to make. Healthy children. https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/Pages/default.aspx

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

References

Panth, N., Gavarkovs, A., Tamez, M., & Mattei, J. (2018). The influence of diet on fertility and the implications for public health nutrition in the United States. Front Public Health, 6, 211. https://www.doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00211

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

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