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Did you know that jumping rope or bouncing on a trampoline for 10 minutes burns around 100 calories? That's some seriously intense exercise. In fact, you'd have to run six miles to get that kind of calorie burn! That's the same hourly calorie burn Michael Phelps gets in the pool, or Lance Armstrong gets for an hour of cycling at 15 mph. Unlike running, the soft trampoline surface is gentle on your joints and provides the exercise without the impact. But jumping isn't just good for weight loss. In fact, jumping exercises have some serious health benefits, not just for mom, but for your kids.

We've all experienced the horrible visions of broken bones and ER bills when our kids get crazy on a trampoline, so if you aren't comfortable with having a trampoline in your backyard, take your little ones to an indoor trampoline park. Their safety standards and padded play areas can put your mind at ease, so you won't have to worry. Still hesitant? Here are five reasons you should give your kids some consistent jump time:

  1. Build Leg Strength. Children, especially those under 12, are constantly growing and developing their muscles. Jumping on a trampoline tones their leg muscles and builds up their endurance, as well as giving your kids the benefit of muscular limbs early-on. Plus, little ones with strong legs are less likely to complain half way through a family hike, or a long shopping trip!
  2. Cardio-Pulmonary Health. The heart and lungs are the organs that power our bodies, and with such a troubling obesity rate facing American kids, I know you worry about keeping your kids healthy. Trampoline-ing is a great way to get your kids the cardio they need! Cardio is exercise where your heart rate exceeds about 150 beats per minute, and it's important for general health: The American Heart association recommends at least 20 minutes of cardio three days a week.Jumping for an hour will get their blood pumping and their hearts racing, and consistent bouncing will help build up lung endurance and keep kids' hearts healthy.
  3. Socialization Skills. Children who are shy, withdrawn, or inactive hate to be pushed towards other kids. Try an indoor trampoline park. They provide a fun, safe place for kids to socialize. It's such a naturally fun activity, your child will bounce right out of their shell without feeling self-conscious around other kids.
  4. Flexibility and Body Awareness. You've probably seen your child go through an awkward growth spurt where their arms are suddenly too long for them to know what to do with themself. Rebounding off rubber is a gentle way for children to learn control, through flexing muscles, flailing limbs, and landing. Splits, tumbles, rolls, and kicks also stretch muscles, which helps your kids regain the flexibility they begin to lose during growth spurts, as well as helping kids gain control over their ever-changing bodies, improving coordination, flexibility, dexterity, balance, rhythm, timing, and even confidence.
  5. Relaxed Lymphatic System. The lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning toxins from your blood. Believe it or not, jumping actually improves the health of your kids' lymphatic systems. The up-and-down motion helps blood pump and releases toxins, which will result in less stress and anxiety as well as reducing your child's chance of swollen lymphs.

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Getting ready to plan an autumn birthday party and worried about the weather? I get it. Do you dare to plan an outdoor party when autumn showers could ruin the day? Do you dare to stuff 20 kids into your living room and hope no one brings a cold? It's certainly a risky, often unpredictable season. So, I've put together some party suggestions that your kids will enjoy rain, chill, or shine!

1. Corn Maze Party. Corn mazes have always been an intrinsic part of the fall season for my family. Whether it's a chilly day-time maze with hayrides and pumpkins, or a spooky maze themed for Halloween, planning a trip to a corn maze can be a great party venue. Make it a race by timing maze-goers, or by seeing who makes it to the end fastest 2 out of 3 times. Bring prizes (like gift cards, candy, or small toys) for the winners, in addition to your party favors.

2. Leaf Diving Party. This party will take some forethought and prep, but it is definitely worth it! Over the weeks before the party, rake the fallen leaves into bags, and keep them outside. If you haven't got your own tree, offer to rake leaves for all your neighbors, and you'll soon have a vast collection of leaves for your party. Pile the leaves into a massive mound, and let the kids go at it. Its simplicity is its genius. Kids will love leaf fights, burying each other in leaves, hiding in leaf piles, and whatever other games their imaginations find in the leaves.

3. Pumpkin Picking Party. Did you ever see a misshapen pumpkin whose stem reminded you of a witch's nose? Or a pumpkin with a boil that looked like a man's funny nose? Take a group of kids to a large pumpkin patch, and send them on a pumpkin hunt. Tell them to find a pumpkin that reminds them of something -- a halloween monster, a pet, or a person would all work. Kids will love finding their perfect pumpkin. Take the pumpkins to a park, or back home, and let the kids paint their pumpkins, and bring their imaginative ideas to life!

4. Apple Party. The delicious red fruit is a fall staple, and it can turn any birthday party into a fall extravaganza. Bobbing for apples, apple carving, apple pie making, apple tosses, caramel apple decorating, or even apples to apples will give your party a uniquely autumnal touch.

5. Magical Harry Potter Party. Fall is the perfect time to bring this classic to life for your child's birthday party. Whether you're celebrating Harry's birthday with your child's on July 31st, having the welcome feast on September 1st, or enjoying the Halloween magic of October, Harry Potter themed decorations and games will bring some autumn magic to any party. Decorate your house table with hanging candles (all you need are toilet paper or paper towel tubes, hot glue, fishing line, and tealight candles), offer house points for winning games, make butterbeer, and attempt to play some muggle quidditch (https://www.usquidditch.org/about/rules/), just remember to tell the kids the house elves aren't on duty and they need to clean up their own mess!

6. Petting Zoo Party. For your animal-loving youngsters, consider a trip to a local farm or petting zoo for their birthday. Bedecked in plaid or gingham, kids will love feeding the animals and getting up close to new furry friends. Pack a picnic if the weather is good, and finish the afternoon with hot chocolate and cookies.

7. Jump Party. If you're worried about the weather or have a particularly rowdy bunch, consider choosing a jump party at a local trampoline park. Ninja obstacles courses, dodgeball, basketball, and trampoline floors will make sure everyone has a blast, and all you have to do is show up and enjoy!

8. Pie Party. Pies of all sorts are a time-honored fall tradition, and have been for centuries. In my family, we favor the sweet, creamy deliciousness of pumpkin pie, and it has become a birthday favorite for my November baby. Prepare crusts and fillings with guests (or beforehand if your children aren't as hands-on as mine) and let the kids create their own pie creations -- full-sized, individual muffin-sized, or turnovers. While they bake, pie-eating competitions are unbeatable (and delicious) fun. Whether your guests are gobbling down whipped cream, pudding, or slices of pumpkin pie, the kids will fill their tummies and have an amazing time.

9. Oktoberfest. Though an adult's mind goes straight to beer, Oktoberfest is a German tradition that can easily inspire a children's birthday party. Spiced apple cider, bratwurst, breads, pretzels, gingerbread, and kuchen (cake) of all kinds can grace your table to make an Oktoberfest feast. Try traditional games like a kazoo march, a yodeling contest, pretzel-making, or a barrel roll. Play German music and play musical chairs, have a brat eating contest, and hold a costume contest for the best lederhosen! Kids will have a blast at this unique party.

10. Costume Party. October is an ideal time for a costume party, but all of fall is free game for costume-loving kiddos. Throwing a costume party brings whimsy and excitement to any party, and it gives kids the chance to get some extra use from their halloween costumes. A costume contest is a great activity, as are many classic party games, from pin the mask on the superhero to pinatas.

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If you're anything like me, birthday celebrations are a big to-do. In fact, I'm a bit of a birthday finatic. I once stuffed my sister's car with 200 balloons and covered it in streamers. I once packed my best friend's dorm-room so full with confetti-filled balloons and walls of streamers that when she opened the door they came sliding out at her. I once turned our front porch into a gloomy, spooky black tunnel so my five-year-old could have the coolest bat-cave entrance ever for his batman party. Let's just say, I know the kind of planning that an amazing birthday party takes.

This is where my organizational skills come in handy. I've put together a checklist that will get you from the party-planning to the decorating so your parties can be amazing!

The Month Before:

You know it's coming. Don't leave things until the last minute! When that month mark approaches, the planning phase begins.

  • Choose a Theme. The theme is the cornerstone for every aspect of this birthday celebration. It doesn't have to be complicated - it could be the color blue.
  • Set a Budget. This is the one I'm the worst at. I get so excited and I want everything to be perfect, so I almost always overspend. But, when I write down everything I need to buy and set a strict budget, I definitely do better, and so will you!
  • Make/Buy Invitations. I love sending out invitations that fit with the theme. For our Hogwarts halloween party, we sent out Hogwarts letters. For the aforementioned batman party, we sent out the bat signal. Whether homemade or purchased pre-made, invitations set the tone for your party.
  • Figure Out the Guest List. The number and age of guests will be a big part of planning - ten 5 year olds versus fifty 16 year olds are two very different budgets, and two very different parties. Once you know your guest list, you'll have a good start for the next level of planning.
  • Book Extras. If you're going to book a separate venue, entertainment, or a photographer, book those now. I've always been a backyard kinda birthday planner, but if you prefer to have any of these extras at your party, you'll want to book them with plenty of time.

Three Weeks to Go:

We're a little closer now, but you've already figured out the basics of your party. Here comes the fun part!

  • Send the Invitations. Don't forget this. You want to give your guests a heads-up, and three weeks should be close enough to the party that they won't forget, but far enough out that they shouldn't have much planned on the chosen date.
  • Choose the Party Activities. Games and activities can make or break a party. Theme-appropriate games really help to tie things together! Classic party games are easily transformed to suit any theme; for example, pin the tail on the donkey can easily become pin the mask on the hero, pin the tail on the dragon, or pin the crown on the princess. I like to have at least three party games, but usually the more the better. A two hour kids party can burn through almost 10 party games in my experience, especially if the guest list is only a few little ones.
  • Plan the Menu. It can be tempting to wait until the day of and buy some easy party trays from the nearest grocery store. But party food is so much more fun when it's tied into the theme. Try to think of three or four foods that can be theme-ized! Consider doing some sort of "bar," as they are interactive and become an extra activity. Sugar cookie decorating is one of my favorites, since you can shape the cookie to any theme and let the kids do the decorating.
  • Decide on Decorations. We're a big fan of streamers at my house. Every birthday, no matter the theme, has walls of streamers over every door, twisting chandeliers on every ceiling, and streamers decorating the party entrance. It's simple, and it's fun, and from there all you need are some table decorations!

Just Two More Weeks:

Now it's go time. This is the week where the prep phase shifts from the theoretical to the physical. This is the week I like to gather supplies, especially decorations and games, since it can take time to make/find the right ones.

  • Make a Grocery list. You've already decided on the menu, so the hard part is done. Make sure you've got a thorough list of all the ingredients you'll need.
  • Buy/Make Decorations. Make a list of all the things you'll need, and get them. Whether you're making custom decorations yourself, or buying them, this is the week to get it done. Take the week to gather/make all the little details that will bring your theme to life. Don't forget the balloons and streamers!
  • Get the Games. Finding theme-appropriate party games can be hard, so don't be afraid to make them yourself. The kids will love them whether they're printed or hand-drawn, so just let your creativity flow. If you can buy them, this is the week to do it.
  • Order the Cake. Cake-making is one of my favorite parts of party-planning, but if you prefer to have a cake made, order it now.

Only One Week Left!:

This is the week where it starts to come together. You can focus on smaller details because you managed the big stuff last week.

  • Call Guests that Haven't RSVP'd. Guests should have gotten their invitations, but if they haven't RSVP'd yet, it's a good idea to give them a courtesy call. You don't want to buy food for 20 and have 5 show up, nor do you want to have 20 guests and have food to feed 5.
  • Get the Party Supplies. Buy the plates, napkins, cups, cutlery, cake candles, or any other supplies you'll need for the day.
  • Buy Non-Perishable Food and Candy. Check that shopping list. If you've got a large list, it's a good idea to buy any non-perishable items with several days to go. This way, you won't have to scramble with a long shopping trip just before the party.
  • Birthday Child's Clothes. Whether they're wearing a costume or a nice new outfit, it's a good idea to get it about a week before the party.

T-Minus Three Days:

It's getting close, but don't panic! You've got this handled, and most of the work is done. Now is the time to handle last minute details.

  • Finish that Shopping List. You've bought your non-food supplies and your non-perishables. Now is the time to get everything else on that shopping list. You want to have everything ready when it's time to prepare the food.
  • Confirm Bookings. If you booked a photographer, entertainer, or venue, don't forget to confirm them a few days before. You don't want to end up without them on the day of.
  • Double-Check Lists. Go back over your plans for decorations, activities, and food. Make sure you've got everything done!

Two More Days:

This day is the calm before the storm. Don't let it fool you, your life is about to get busy!

  • Start the Cake. If you're making it yourself, this is the day you bake the actual cake. Start it in the evening and let it cool completely overnight.

The Day Before:

This day is always busier than the actual party! The list is long, but don't get intimidated. I always enjoy watching the details come together, and hopefully you will too.

  • Decorate the Cake. If you're making the cake yourself, the cake you baked last night is nice and cool. Make the frosting and decorations and decorate the cake. If you've purchased a cake, pick it up today.
  • Get the Camera Ready. If you're taking your own pictures, clear the camera card and make sure the batteries are charged!
  • Start Food Prep. If you're making those sugar cookies for your themed bar, you'll want to get the dough ready now. This is also the time to prepare any other foods that need time to cook, or that can be prepared the night before.
  • Start Set-Up. If weather permits, start getting set up. Don't put out games or decorations, but if you're using tables, chairs, or other heavy items, get them set out now so you don't wear yourself out with this tomorrow.
  • Clean Up. We both know you're going to be re-cleaning the house tomorrow, but I like to do a deep clean the night before a party. That way clean-up is quicker the day of, and I feel like the house is presentable.
  • Pack Up. If you're going to a venue that isn't your house, get everything together. Pack what you can into your car (obviously food can wait). This way, you'll be ready and won't forget anything last-minute.

Party Day!:

The day of the party can go pretty smoothly if you've managed to follow the checklist up to this point. It's all about setting out everything you've already prepared. If not, it can be hectic, but don't worry!

  • Make the Food. If you've bought food or ordered catering, it's just a matter of setting up the food table. If you prefer, like myself, to home-make an array of themed foods and treats, then the morning of the party is taken up mostly with cooking and baking.
  • Quick Tidy. Don't forget to do a quick clean-up before your guests arrive. It's definitely not a requirement, but I always feel better knowing guests aren't going to trip on a lego or step in something sticky.
  • Decorate! I won't lie, this is my absolute favorite part of any birthday. Set aside a good hour, if not two, to decorate.
  • Set up Food Table. The food table is a family tradition, we just stick everything in one corner and let people eat as they will. It's also a great way to get decorations in the room.
  • Set up Games. If you're only doing games at specific times, make sure you've got everything ready and close-at-hand. Otherwise, set up games around the yard or venue.
  • Get Ready. Get the birthday child dressed and ready, and make sure the rest of the family is dressed.

Last but not least:

Enjoy the Party! Birthdays are great because they bring so much joy! They can also be stressful when you want things to be perfect. Don't forget that it's meant to be fun, and try not to let the anxiety overwhelm you.

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Balance is a crucial skill - and not just for slack-lining, tight-rope walking, and balance beams. It's a key part of all of our movements; everything from walking and standing to exercising, dancing, and other activities. More importantly, our balance is "use it or lose it," and if we don't carefully develop our balance as adults, we could be at risk for falls and injuries as we become elderly.

How can you improve your balance? Well, our balance is a result of muscle groups all over our bodies, and strengthening these three muscle groups will help improve our balance: First, our abdominal muscles, especially our obliques; Second, our glutes; Third, our legs muscles, particularly our hamstrings and quads. Don't worry about full-body workouts or hours on exercise machines! There's a better, funner way to improve your balance: jumping exercises.

Find your local trampoline park if you don't have a trampoline at home. These three trampoline exercises will improve your balance while being so much fun you don't even realize you're working out!

1. Jump Around on One Foot. It may sound really simple, but jumping on one foot (remember to control your leg when you land - no wobbling!) uses a lot of balance. Doing so on a trampoline makes it twice as hard - and twice as fun. Jump up and land with one foot, using your foot and not your knee to start the jump (keep your knee straight while you do this exercise). This will work out all three muscle groups, and strengthen your balance with one easy motion. Don't forget to switch sides, and try to make sure you jump on each leg equally.

2. Froggy Jumps. A frog jump is a ballet exercise that's great for balance. While you're jumping around on the trampoline, put your feet into a plie position and jump, bringing your feet up to your bum and pointing your knees outward over your feet (keep your feet in that plie position while you jump). This jump takes a lot of effort, but your kids will love watching you jump around like a frog!

3. Box Jumps. A box jump is a controlled, four step jump. Keep your legs straight, and use your feet to propel you in four directions: straight back, to the left, straight forward, to the right. Make each move with two jumps: first, bounce in place, then make your move. Control your stomach (keep your body straight while you jump), and trace a box while you jump yourself in a square.

Here's a bonus: If you're at an indoor trampoline park with an obstacle course, see if they have bosu balls! Jumping, walking, and even standing on bosu balls are another great way to improve leg and core strength.

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Cardio isn't just a fad, it's an important part of general health. The American Heart Association recommends 25 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days a week for overall cardiovascular health. But let's face it: not all of us are runners or long-distance bikers. Don't despair! Cardio doesn't have to be a miserable chore. Here are some out-of-the-box exercises that improve your heart health without inducing dread.

  • 1. Hula-Hooping. You probably haven't done this since you were a small child, but you'll figure it out. Moving your hips fast enough to keep the hoop aloft gets your blood pumping and your heart working at a fast enough rate to qualify as vigorous exercise. Grab your little ones and turn it into a party or a hula-hooping contest, and the whole family can get their daily cardio in.
  • 2. Jump-Rope. This high-intensity playground game isn't just for kids. The quick foot movements and whole-body jumping is great for everyone's health. Jumping rope, be it single or double-dutch, is a fun, fast cardio workout that the whole family can enjoy.

  • 2. Boxing. Boxing at a professional level can be intimidating, but, believe it or not, short boxing sessions are amazing cardio. Even shadow-boxing (an equipment-free workout where you perform the combinations of punches at the air instead of at a punching bag or an opponent) will get your heartrate up in no time. Plus, boxing comes with the added bonus of feeling powerful with every punch!
  • 3. Sports. Whether you're playing pick-up games with friends, part of an adult league, or playing in the yard with your kids, sports -- like soccer, ultimate frisbee, flag-football, or kickball -- are easy ways to get in your cardio while having fun with your kids or friends.
  • 4. Dancing. If you've ever been to a hoedown, you'll know that even one dance can work up a sweat. Be it the stomp of a line dance, the whirl of a country dance, or the footwork of ballroom dancing, it's a great way to get in a workout everyone will enjoy.

  • 5. Trampoline-ing. You might think that a trampoline does a lot of the work for you, but you'd be wrong. Jumping on a trampoline works muscles all over your body, and is a super fun way to get in a cardio workout. Don't have a trampoline in your backyard? Indoor trampoline parks are a great place to get in a fun workout! Running, jumping, flipping, and bouncing are all easy cardio, and you're sure to have a jumping good time.

References: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fi...

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It's that time of year where the sunshine stretches later and later, interrupting our carefully kept bedtimes and making our kids' sleep schedules non-existent. It's a struggle to get kids to bed when the sky is still awake, but they need their sleep more than ever! In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends children aged 6 to 13 need between nine and eleven hours of sleep per night. It may seem like an impossible task, but I've put together some easy tips to help get those kids to sleep.

  • 1. Sleepy Environment. Kids need their routines, and when the sun gives them the impression that you're putting them to bed early, you have to do your best to black out the sun. Blackout curtains are a great way to take your children from day to night with the drawing of a curtain. The sound of neighbors playing, fireworks, or night games can be drowned out by the soft sounds of a white noise machine. If you're wondering what white noise is, in simple terms it's a specific sound frequency that blocks out ambient noise. When used to promote healthy sleep, it has been shown to block out sounds that make it difficult to fall asleep, and might interrupt sleep. These, in addition to your regular bedtime routine, can help your children get some sleep!

  • 2. Go Tech-Free. Too much technology (especially video games) before bed can result in sleep deprivation. Children who spend more than 150 minutes being stimulated by technology at night will experience a delay of almost 40 minutes in falling asleep! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents shut off screens after 7 pm, to give your kids' brains time to unwind from the stimulation. Turning of screens and winding down with books or imagination games will help your kids fall asleep faster and sleep better.
  • 3. Keep it Cool. Did you know that our sleep patterns respond to temperature as much as light and sound? Kids can have trouble falling asleep in summer if their bedrooms are too warm. Consider cranking up the AC when it gets close to bedtime. Put your little ones in light cotton jammies instead of the full-footsie pajamas they favor in winter, tuck them in with light blankets instead of a heavy duvet, or put a fan in the room. A cooler room will help your kids slip into a deeper sleep.
  • 4. Help Your Kids Relax. Kids, like the rest of us, can start to run their stressors through their heads as their minds try to settle for bedtime. When cortisol, our stress hormone, is triggered at night, it results in trouble sleeping. A great way to lower cortisol levels before bed is to include a short "relaxation time" in your kids' bedtime routine. This could be a bedtime journal, a stuffed animal kids tell all their troubles to, or an honest conversation with mom and dad. Research groups, including the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Foundation, recommend relaxation techniques such as performing deep, slow abdominal breaths or imagining positive scenes like being on a beach to help a child relax. Addressing their stress before bed will relieve anxiety and improve your child's sleep.

  • 5. Wear Them Out With Physical Activity. Getting your kids to exercise in the summer heat might sound difficult, but it's as easy as a trip to an indoor trampoline park. An hour or two of jumping helps relieve pent-up energy, as well as increasing cardiovascular health and leg strength. Kids will love the freedom of jumping across a floor of trampolines, and when they're finished, they're sure to fall into bed. Just remember to stop play three hours before bed, or the kids might be too wired to fall asleep.

References: https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national...

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