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University Recruits 9-Year-Old Basketball Prodigy, But Is It Appropriate?!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Kids Playing SportsI grew up playing soccer and basketball. I wasn’t any good, though. I was lucky to get my own coach to notice me, so I definitely wasn’t thinking about college recruiters. Well, a 9-year-old girl in Florida is the complete opposite of me.

Jaden Newman of Orlando became the youngest basketball player ever to be recruited by a Division I women’s basketball program when the University of Miami sent her an official recruitment letter back in April. The 4-foot 7-inch phenom has been making a name for herself while dominating the court against boys three years older than her. Her skills have landed her on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

And Jaden isn’t alone. More and more, news stories have emerged of college programs going after young athletes before they even start high school. The New York Times profiled a 14-year-old soccer player who already committed to playing at the University of Texas. Then 8th-grader Dylan Moses landed the cover of ESPN The Magazine after receiving scholarship offers from many of the top NCAA football programs in the country. Jaden’s 12-year-old brother, Julian, has also made a few headlines of his own.

But, is 9 years old too young for colleges to contact potential players?

While the gut reaction may be, “Of course!”, I’m in favor of the early recruitment. I understand the arguments “Let kids be kids” and “They don’t need the extra pressure,” but I believe the attention offers encouragement more than pressure.

My older brother grew up playing baseball, and unlike me, he was pretty good. I remember going to games and hearing chatter of how professional scouts took notice of him as early as middle school. The encouragement that he could possibly have a future in the sport he loved made him work harder. And that was because HE loved it, not my parents and not his coaches. He was the one who wanted to pursue baseball.

Of course, like many things in life, responsibility falls on parents and coaches not to create extra pressure on young athletes. Kids should play sports because they love it, not to meet expectations. And if kids are growing up with goals of going to college (and not goals of just becoming rich and famous), please, let children get excited about scholarship offers — especially girls. Women athletics don’t get the same amount of money, sponsorships, press coverage, respect, and attention as men’s sports, so if the goal of earning a college scholarship encourages more girls to participate, is it a bad thing?

I absolutely believe that there should be strict guidelines about the frequency and the ways that colleges reach out to young athletes, but to me, being recruited is not about creating extra pressure if kids show early interest in sports. It’s about creating a goal, a goal that could lead kids to an amazing opportunity. Now, parents, coaches, and universities need to make sure they’re doing their part to ensure young athletes can maintain their passion for the sport without feeling the added pressure, too.

Tell us: Do you think there should be an age limit on universities contacting future athletes?

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

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Image: Image of happy friends on the grass with balls looking at camera via Shutterstock

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What Happened to Moms? How Dads Became the New TV Role Models

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Family Watching TV

When you think about the best TV moms, who comes to mind? Clair Huxtable? Carol Brady? Lorelai Gilmore? Or perhaps June Cleaver? But what about moms currently seen in primetime?

Nurturing moms appear to be getting less-and-less screen time while, let’s say complicated mothers are becoming the norm. The so-called “Momsters,” as coined by the New York Daily News, include characters like Games of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister, Mad Men’s Betty Draper, and Scandal’s Maya Pope, who just happens to be a for-hire terrorist. (Yes, Rowan Pope is no saint either, but at least he’s not a terrorist…yet.)

While there certainly are still positive mom characters on TV (Kristina on Parenthood, Lily from How I Met Your Mother, and Claire from Modern Family come to mind), doesn’t it seem like moms are getting a bad rep recently? Even moms that don’t make regular appearances on shows can’t catch a break. In The Big Bang Theory, one of the most popular shows currently airing, the moms of the four main characters can seem less than ideal – they include one who’s emotionally-unavailable to her son, one who, though loving, is judgmental of her son and his friends’ ‘alternative’ beliefs and lifestyle, one who screams at her son from another room, and one who’s constantly pressuring her son to marry, preferably within their own race.

What gives?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, dads are getting a nice boost in the positive role-model department on TV. Have you noticed?

Burt Hummel on Glee is incredibly supportive of his openly-gay son and often encourages Kurt to follow his seemingly impossible dreams. Danny Williams (aka Danno) on Hawaii Five-0 is a single dad who moved more than 4,000 miles just to be closer to his daughter. And the Reagan men on Blue Bloods have proven time and time again how much they value family time.

For years, we’ve heard complaints about how dads are portrayed as absent or the ‘dummy,’ but as the number of stay-at-homes dads continues to increase, and more fathers are spending more time at home.

A 2012 Wall Street Journal article asked, “Are Dads the New Mom?” and declared “the age of dads as full partners in parenting has arrived.” And apparently popular culture has followed suit.

So, is the demise of the good mom character connected to the rise of the good dad? I certainly hope not! Why can’t we have co-parents who love their kids, support them emotionally, and don’t murder people? That’s not too much to ask for, right?

 

Tell us! Who are your favorite TV parents?

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How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity

Image: Young family watching TV together at home via Shutterstock

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Michelle Obama, Congress Battle Over School Lunches

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Michelle ObamaChildren may already be out of school for summer, but their school lunches can’t catch a break.

First Lady Michelle Obama is fighting back after Republicans in Congress introduced a bill that would let schools opt-out of nutrition standards set in place in 2010. As part of a $143.5 billion Agriculture Department spending bill, schools will be given an extra year to comply with federal health standards that promote fruits, veggies, and whole grains and limit fat and salt.

“It gives schools an opt-out saying you don’t have to participate in the school lunch program because it’s hard,” Democratic Rep. Sam Farr of California told CNN. “Well, we don’t tell kids, ‘Look you don’t have to take math if it’s hard or science if it’s hard. You don’t have do P.E. if it’s hard.’”

Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring. Here are 25 ways to liven up your kid’s school lunch!

Last week, the healthy school lunch efforts suffered a setback when Democrats failed to get enough votes in committee to strip the language about school lunches from the proposed bill. This means the bill was sent to the House of Representatives for full consideration.

And the First Mom hasn’t been silent on the issue, either. Mrs. Obama often stays away from legislative issues, but when it comes to our kids, she has let her voice be heard.

“Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” Obama wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece last week. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.”

“Our children deserve so much better than this,” she continued. “Even with the progress we have made, one in three children in this country is still overweight or obese.”

She has my support in this fight.

This isn’t about politics. Children have the right to the pursuit of happiness, and we can’t just sit by and watch that pursuit cut short due to preventable health issues.

As of now, 90 percent of schools already comply with these school-lunch standards. Standards that stop the promotion and sale of junk food in schools. Standards that require schools to provide REAL veggies and fruits instead of making it optional. (Even Elmo is helping the cause!)

In February, federal health authorities reported a 43 percent drop over the past decade in obesity among children ages 2-5.

“This generation is now entering our school system,” Executive Director of Let’s Move! and White House staffer Sam Kass said. “Our schools must be a place that really continue to foster and support their health and wellbeing, and that’s what this is all about.”

And while the argument can be made that the $10 billion of taxpayers’ money going into school lunches every year is excessive, just compare that to the $190 billion taxpayers shell out every year to treat obesity-related conditions.

But the fight for healthier kids is more than dollars and cents. A recent Atlantic article revealed most kids in a Los Angeles’ school system did not take a veggie from the lunch line, instead choosing a processed alternative.

If we know children who have the choice would pick sugary, processed food over healthier ones, why would we give them the option? As pointed out in the article, school cafeterias tend to give children what they want, and not what they need.

We are finally starting to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. Why take a step backwards now?

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

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10 Reasons I’m Jealous of a 3-Year-Old

Monday, April 14th, 2014

In March, blogger Joe DeProspero shared his thoughts on things kids can get away with that adults never could, like refusing to change out of their PJs, for example. The story made me realize that I’m actually jealous that I can’t just go to work in my jammies when I feel like it (or refuse to go, period). In fact, I often find myself looking at pictures of my adorable three-year-old niece, Averie, on Facebook with envy. She’s got the entire world eating out of the palm of her hand and she doesn’t even know it.

1. She doesn’t know what her Christmas presents are.

As a three-years-old, opening presents is so exciting! Christmas comes and you can’t wait to see what Santa brings you. And the best part, Christmas morning is always a surprise. The toys she wants may be under the tree, but a three-year-old doesn’t expect them to be there. As I’ve gotten older, everybody texts me at the beginning of December, “Hey. What do you want?” Where’s the fun in that? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly appreciative that anybody would buy me a present. I just wish there wasn’t so much pressure for me to pick out my own gifts.

2. She doesn’t have to pay for anything.

Ah, to not have any financial responsibility. That’s the dream! Averie knows what money is, and she knows mom and dad are in charge of it, but that’s where her money issues end. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had somebody else pay our bills, even just for a day?

3. Everything is still magical to her.

Seeing a magic trick or special effects in a movie are not the same when you are old enough to understand that there is a logical explanation as to what just happened, even if you don’t know exactly how it was done. A three-year-old doesn’t think like that yet. To her, there is still magic in this universe and that’s a feeling my grumpy-old self wishes I still felt. When I was a tyke, I wanted to be Doctor Dolittle. I just knew I could understand animals. Well, that didn’t work out for me. For Averie, though, there are no limits to her dreams. Little ones still believe they can fly, run as fast as lightning, or, like me, talk to animals. It’s a sad day when you realize that’s not the case.

4. She can be whatever she wants.

Right now, Averie can aspire to any career. She can be an astronaut, teacher, president, or an actress. She can do it all at the same time if she feels like it. As she gets older, her dreams and goals will start to change and slowly become more “realistic” on their own. We adults suffer from this condition known as logic. I’ve heard there is no cure.

5. Her mom is always there to take care of her when she’s sick.

I’m a 27-year-old adult living on my own in New York City, but when I’m really sick, I still want my mom to take care of me. There is something so comforting in knowing she will go with me to the doctor’s office and buy me some chicken soup. I don’t need her around all the time, but when I’m vulnerable, it would be nice to have her nearby.

6. It’s OK for her to color outside the lines.

How old were you the first time somebody made fun of you for not staying inside the lines of your coloring book? As we get older, our culture leads us to conform and think inside the box or color inside the lines. What’s wrong with being on the “outside” of things?

7. She sees the world with rose-colored glasses.

Recently, Averie’s momma and one of her Facebook friends had a discussion on how to teach “stranger danger” to their kids. Now as an adult, I’ve seen enough crime stories on the news and violence in movies to know the world isn’t as safe as Averie thinks it is.

8. She gets to start school from the beginning.

If only I had realized how amazing school was when I was in it and how much I would miss it now. Especially the high school and college years. I miss going to class every day to learn, work on projects and mingle with friends. Plus, she’ll get to go through the process of picking a college and (potentially) living on her own for the first time in her life.

9. I don’t look nearly as good in a princess costume as she does.

I love princesses, just like Averie does. But would everybody think I was adorable if I walked through Disney World wearing a Tinker Bell costume? The answer is no. On a similar note, why are little girl clothes so much cuter than adult women’s? Averie’s clothes have playful colors in bright hues and patterns. Why don’t we get anything that adorable?

10. She can sing as loud as she wants without judgment.

I love to sing. It’s one of my favorite activities, but as I’ve gotten older, less and less people are willing to tolerate my constant Fa-La-La-ing. And like most kids, I’m totally obsessed with “Let It Go.” Unfortunately, my roommates are not.

Tell us: Have you ever been jealous of a child? What did they do (or get away with) that made you long for the days when you had no responsibility?

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You Know You Have A Toddler When...
You Know You Have A Toddler When...
You Know You Have A Toddler When...

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Mrs. Obama: Stop Promoting Junk Food!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

To mark the fourth anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama is making the rounds to continue raising awareness of childhood obesity.

Tuesday morning, she made a major announcement that will impact the future of schools across the country. Mrs. Obama outlined new rules that will ban the promotion of sugary drinks and junk food in schools. The rules aren’t just limited to the cafeteria, either. Vending machines, posters, menu boards, and even scoreboards that feature unhealthy food and drinks will be phased out.

Companies spend $149 million a year marketing in schools, and 93 percent of that marketing is to promote beverages according to the USDA and reported by the Associated Press.

Companies will now have to start promoting their healthier options if they want to remain in schools. For example, Coca-Cola won’t be able to sponsor a high school football scoreboard if their logo for Coke is visible. Instead, Coca-Cola will have to use Dasani water or Diet Coke as an alternative.

“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said from the White House. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

There are some exceptions to the rules. Promotions regarding bake sales and other in-school fundraisers would be left up to the schools or states. Off-campus fundraisers, like a school night at a local fast food chain, would be allowed, but posters and flyers advertising the event would not be allowed in the school. Instead, an email would be sent to parents.

The proposed rules will first have to undergo a USDA-facilitation comment period. This will decide how long schools have to remove and replace current unhealthy promotions running on campuses. The rules are expected to take affect by the beginning of next school year.

Many companies have already started the transition, and the American Beverage Association is on board with the rule change. “Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” President and CEO Susan Neely said.

But helping kids make smarter choices doesn’t begin and end at school. Last fall, the campaign announced Sesame Workshop agreed to license some of their characters to the Produce Marketing Association to help healthier options appeal to children. Parents can also encourage their children to choose healthier options. Here are six easy ways to incorporate non-sugary drinks into your child’s routine.

Let’s Move! was launched in February 2010 to help fight the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America. The campaign encourages children to get active and make healthy eating choices. In the four years since the launch, new school lunch guidelines have been put in place and childhood obesity rates are beginning to fall. Large companies, government agencies, and local towns and counties have made an effort to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Tell us: What do you think about these new rules? Do you agree that the marketing of junk food should be banned in schools?

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