Enjoy Local Nature With Your Family

Year round, more families are taking to the great outdoors for fun activities. Whether for economic reasons or a desire to unplug from the world of computers and video games, parents are increasingly turning to local parks, wildlife outings and outdoor sports.

While children are born with a curiosity about the natural world, more and more, digital media is absorbing young peoples' time, say experts. In fact, research from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates kids are absorbing more than seven hours of media content daily.

"We need to capitalize on the latest digital trends to help us spark a curiosity among students in outdoor activities," says Mary Rollins, vice president of educational partnerships of Discovery Education.

Parents who want to encourage natural curiosity need to stimulate children's interest at an early age. Exploring nature can be done inexpensively and close to home.

Local Wonders
One of the great beauties of America is its geographical diversity: from mountains to lakes, deserts to waterfalls, and canyons to plains. State parks abound with diverse wonders and offer many activities for youngsters, such as boating, fishing and camping. You can search locations online at ExploreTheBlue.com, TakeMeFishing.org, or nps.gov.

"Parents and teachers need to stimulate children's natural interest in the outdoors and lead by example. Simply getting outside together to explore can inspire a new generation of boaters and anglers," says Frank Peterson, President and CEO of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.

Actively Involve Kids
Once you get kids outdoors, here are some ways to stimulate curiosity:
 Let them lead. You may be tempted to lead explorations of the woods, but children are more likely to enjoy the outdoors if they have some say in their experience. Whether for exercise or quiet reflection, let them choose and develop their own relationship to nature. 

Create maps. Have kids create a map of your outdoor excursion area and track where you go and what you see along the way to compare different habitats within an ecosystem. 

Enter contests together that encourage outdoor activities. For example, TakeMeFishing.org and Discovery Education have launched a digital program called "Explore the Blue" and an essay contest for elementary schoolchildren. Kids need to write a short essay describing their favorite fishing or boating experience and submit a picture or photo for a chance to win a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park and a $250 gift card. 

Encourage kids to draw or write about what they see in a journal. Or create a scrapbook to categorize your adventures on land or water, and have children research their floral and animal spotting.

 Build boats. Create model boats using different materials, then test them out on the water for a fun activity that will teach the basics of buoyancy, water displacement, surface area and boat design.

For more information on fun outdoor activities for kids, visit ExploreTheBlue.com.

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Tips For A Healthy Halloween

Halloween ghouls may give kids a fright, but the buckets and bags of candy that come home can be equally scary for parents. With the abundance of sweet treats consumed on Halloween, not to mention the Thanksgiving pies and holiday cookies to come, now is the perfect time to teach your kids healthy habits, such as nutritious eating and good oral hygiene. 

Here are some ideas for keeping things healthy while still having fun:

Candy Common Sense
Consider offering alternatives to candy on Halloween. Stickers, removable tattoos or bottles of bubbles will be a refreshing change for kids of all ages. Toys like jump ropes, hacky sacks or sidewalk chalk for hopscotch will encourage kids to be active while still having fun.

Of course, you won't be able to avoid candy completely. Let your kids indulge now and then. Enjoying treats in moderation will help your kids learn to savor the moment. 

The Unsweet Tooth 
Half of all American kids will have a cavity by age 10. The good news is that you can play a role in teaching your kids healthy oral care habits from an early age. Be a role model with your own oral health by brushing and flossing every day and encourage your kids to practice along with you. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents supervise children under seven. 

Making brushing fun can encourage interdependence so kids become accustomed to their daily routines. Power toothbrushes, which typically remove more plaque than manual ones, can assist parents in teaching healthy brushing habits. Consider trying a toothbrush like the Philips Sonicare For Kids. It's simple to use and designed with two gripping locations so you can help your child brush. It also has a "KidTimer" to help children reach the dentist-recommended two-minute brushing time and musical tones indicating when it's time to move to a different area of the mouth. To learn more, visit sonicareforkids.philips.com.

On Halloween, offer your kids a healthy snack before they go trick-or-treating. Peanut butter and apple slices and a glass of low-fat milk will go a long way in keeping candy cravings at bay. Filling them with protein and fiber will leave less room for sweet treats that offer little nutritional value.

Party Down
Halloween parties are a great new tradition that allows kids to stay safely off the streets while eating a moderate amount of sweets and getting exercise from fun and games. Just make sure you keep lit candles and jack-o-lanterns away from high-traffic areas. Then join in the fun!

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New Home Decorating Trends Add Wow Factor

Whether you like nesting at home or throwing big parties, you want your house to look its best and make everybody comfortable.

This season's decorating trends allow you to use your home as a blank canvas for self-expression, creating an atmosphere you and your guests will enjoy.

Unexpected Twists

Many homeowners are opting to use traditional home furnishings in unexpected ways. 

For instance, furniture is being incorporated in the bathroom. With the popularity of bowl sinks, homeowners are embracing vanities resembling tables and dressers. If you go this route, think realistically. The old dresser at the antique store is eye-catching, but if you're looking to hide a plumbing system within it, make sure there's enough space inside. 

Lighting, too, is being used in new ways. For its part, the chandelier need not be limited to dining rooms and foyers. Designers are bringing the fixture into bathrooms, bedrooms and even closets. 

Live Green

Green has become ingrained in our lives, and eco-friendly options abound for home decor. But savvy homeowners don't just want to protect the environment; they want to look good doing it, and it's a triple bonus if they can save money. 

"Growing in popularity are stylish LED lighting products that use 70 percent less electricity than traditional incandescent lighting and offer long-term energy and cost savings," says Jeff Dross, senior product manager at Kichler Lighting, which offers a variety of ultra-efficient LED solutions.

"Homeowners don't just want energy savings, however. They want style and flexibility so they can light their spaces their way. We kept this in mind when designing our new Design Pro LED linear lighting, which features a string of light 'pods' that bend around corners and tight spots to light cabinets, toe kicks, tray ceilings and more," he adds.

Wallpaper is Back

Unlike grandma's floral schemes and duck-patterned bathrooms, today's wallpapers integrate modern textures and textures. Don't be afraid to go bold, but make sure other elements in the room, such as lighting fixtures and furniture patterns, are more subtle.

Chic Casual

Today's homeowners want relaxing spaces without compromising style and sophistication. Materials that were once deemed formal, such as crystal, are finding new life in casual applications. Even traditional Tiffany lighting fixtures are trending casual with art glass applications integrating softer hues in relaxed designs.

On the countertop front, quartz stone is gaining in popularity, incorporating innovative colors and patterns. Some even bind crushed glass within the solid, smooth surfaces.

Embrace Blue

Sea-inspired hues are the colors of the year. While some are designing complete rooms against this scheme, others are implementing the trend through accents, from throw pillows to candles to table lamps. Kichler Lighting, for instance, recently introduced several flirty table lamps centered on sea-inspired palates, including Blue Casade, a collection of lamps combining glossy blue hues in a soft, wispy pattern.

For more home improvement ideas check out hgtv.com and visit kichler.com for home lighting inspiration. And remember, when updating your home, decorating is about expressing yourself and incorporating your own personal style.

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