All posts by Andrew Morrell

About Andrew Morrell

Andrew Morrell is a writer based in Chicago. He enjoys reading and writing about a wide variety of topics, from health to financial planning. Otherwise, he's into fun things too, like fostering kittens and exploring the city.

Little girl and grandmother posing with big lips lollypop

Cold-Weather Activities To Do With Your Grandchild

Staying active is important at any age, but it’s also a little more difficult for everyone when winter comes around. In parts of the world that experience the best – and worst – of all four seasons every year, winter may be among the hardest. For older adults, this is especially true, and maintaining their good health despite colder temperatures is simultaneously more important and more challenging than average.

However, if you’re lucky enough to be a grandparent, staying active, healthy and happy all year long isn’t hard at all. Spending time with your grandchild partaking in one of many cold-weather activities is the perfect solution to the winter doldrums, helping build a stronger bond along with a stronger mind and body as a bonus.

Cold weather safety for older adults

As a group, grandparents today are a diverse bunch. While they may each be unified in their role as grandparents, they don’t fit well into any group based on age, health or lifestyle. Still, it’s important to remember that as we age, the priorities and risks related to our health change in many ways. According to Harvard Medical School, winter weather tends to exert particularly strong influence over the health of older adults for a variety of reasons:

  • Hypothermia, a condition caused by dangerously low body temperature, is a greater risk for older adults compared to the average person. As we age, our bodies tend to retain less heat, making us more sensitive to cold.
  • Cold and flu season tends to peak during the winter, in part because more people stay inside where diseases may spread more easily. This may mean an increased health risk for older people as their immune systems may not be as strong.
  • Snow and ice presents a danger to anyone walking around, but for older adults, the risk of falling is higher in these conditions. It may also take longer for bruises or fractures to heal as we age.
  • In any season, it’s important for older adults to make an effort to keep their mind active, too. Cold weather doesn’t make our brains any less functional, but our motivation and energy tends to suffer during the winter no matter how old we are.

In general, older people need to keep a closer eye on their activity and energy levels, as well as their overall health, than young adults or children would. It’s harder to match the strength and endurance of our grandchildren the older we get, not to mention the colder it is outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy plenty of activities with your grandchild throughout the winter.

GrandparentsGrandparents can still find plenty to do with younger children even once it gets cold outside.

Playing with infants and toddlers

Balance – in our movement and our daily lives – is a core principle of health at any age. While your infant or toddler grandchild might still be getting the hang of walking, don’t forget that adults can benefit from some balancing practice, too.

  • As your infant or toddler grandchild moves around your home to play or explore, move around with them. Take the opportunity to practice simple balancing or stretching whenever possible, like when squatting or bending down to reach a toy. Still, remember to be gentle and not force your body into serious discomfort.
  • One easy way to incorporate balance exercise into your daily routine: Try standing with one foot in front of the other for a minute, or with your feet together. See if you can get your toddler to mimic your movement and practice right alongside you.

Activities for older children

As your grandchildren get older, there are even more ways to help each other stay active and have fun despite miserable winter weather:

  • Try practicing basic yoga or tai chi with your grandchildren. Both forms of exercise focus on relaxed movement and improving balance. Using online guides or videos, or with the help of an instructor, you can find many easy beginner poses or movements to practice together.
  • If bad weather has you stuck inside, create a treasure hunt together. Try hiding toys or treats in different spots around the house and come up with clues for finding them.
  • If you or your grandchild has a video game system based on movement, like the Nintendo Wii Fit, Xbox Kinect or PlayStation Move, you can probably find plenty of games to enjoy together that will keep you both active at the same time.

Being a grandparent is fun all year, and the excitement doesn’t need to end just because it’s cold outside. If you do venture out into the winter weather, make sure you are both bundled up and ready to explore.

Grandfather Carries Grandson On Shoulders During Walk In Park

Why Fitness Matters As a Grandparent

New parents may be among the most overworked people of all, so it’s easy to see why they rarely hesitate to rely on close family members to help out when they can. Being a grandparent can bring just as much joy as for the previous generation and is arguably even more fun (grandparents often take on the active roles in a child’s life that parents don’t always have time for).

“There are now more grandparents in the world than ever before.”

There’s no doubt that grandparents are an important component of most young families, but their exact roles might not always be so well-defined. To help new parents be all they can be, grandparents should look to establish their most ideal place in the family early in a child’s life, do what they can to enrich it and enable parents to do the same.

What’s striking about being a grandparent today is just how common it actually is – more common than any previous point in history. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2014, more than 69 million Americans considered themselves grandparents, 24 percent more than in 2001. This marks the beginning of a major social change happening throughout the world. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, there may well be more grandparents than children in the U.S. and many other developed nations.

Staying in good health

That should leave a much bigger network of family members available to help with the myriad tasks involved in raising children. Ironically, one of the most helpful ways grandparents can help their growing family might depend on helping themselves. Grandparents can’t be expected to take on very many child-rearing duties without being in good health, something that grows increasingly harder to maintain as we age.

Fortunately, not all is lost for most grandparents or even older parents who want to be around for as much of a child’s life as possible but worry about being late arrivals to the health and fitness party. A study published this year based on experiments conducted by the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, found surprising, potentially life-extending health benefits from exercise in older adults.

According to the study and based on previous research in mice, older people appeared to benefit more than younger participants from a carefully monitored 12-week regimen of high intensity exercise. Those benefits were seen at the genetic level – researchers found that in those participants older than 64, more than 400 observable genetic changes could be detected, some of which could theoretically improve their lifespan and overall health.

GrandparentsGrandparents often play a central role in a child’s life.

The participants in this study were closely monitored and given precise instructions on how to exercise for 12 weeks, something that’s certainly not feasible for everyone. Still, more scientific research has found that just about any kind of exercise can be beneficial for just about everyone, and even lead to a longer life. Another recent study based on millions of pieces of data found that on average, each hour of running could add around seven hours to a person’s life expectancy. Even less strenuous activity like walking on a regular basis could reduce a person’s risk of premature death by 12 percent, according to the same study.

More grandparents living longer, healthier lives is great news for all of us. Grandparents often lend a hand to new parents simply by being there – for advice, to help out with a project or watching the baby for a night. Besides looking to live their best lives, grandparents can help out their adult children as well as the newest members of the family by simply keeping up the great work they’ve already done.

a mom and her baby in the snow

New Year’s Resolutions for New Parents

What is it about the start of a new calendar year that makes us want to improve some aspect of our lives? It could be our tendency toward reflection and introspection at the end of each year and the time we spend with friends and family to ring in a new one around this time. Of course, with so many New Year’s resolutions focusing on health, our less-than-stellar holiday season eating habits might have a lot to say about this trend, too.

If you were lucky enough to bring a new child into the world this year, you’re probably doubling down on that classic year-end self-reflection, particularly as it concerns your newborn. We all want the best life possible for our kids, but it’s often hard to remember just how much that depends on our own health and happiness. So if you have a resolution in mind for yourself or your baby this year, make it count by sticking to a plan.

SMART resolutions for parents

Setting a New Year’s resolution for yourself is a longstanding tradition in many cultures, but today it’s often the butt of jokes. After all, research has shown that out of the millions of people who resolve to accomplish something in the New Year, around one-third can be expected to have abandoned that goal as early as February. According to a guide from The New York Times, the high failure rate of resolutions often boils down to three critical weaknesses:

  • The goal is based on cultural norms and expectations, not something you actually want to change.
  • The goal is not specific enough.
  • You don’t have a plan in place for achieving the goal and measuring your progress toward attainment.

There’s no shame in failure, but too many New Year’s resolutions aren’t set up to succeed. If you want to have a better shot at actually meeting that resolution, apply a proven strategy that you’ve probably heard of: the SMART goal.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, SMART is an acronym for well-planned goals that are:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time-bound.

To illustrate this method, take a resolution many of us have tried (and failed at) year after year: “I want to lose weight.” By making this a SMART goal, that resolution grows into a concrete action plan:

  • “I want to lose at least one pound per month through diet and exercise.”
  • “I will measure and track my weight each morning using a bathroom scale and a notebook.”
  • “I will research weight loss and ask my doctor to find out if this goal is realistic.”
  • “I want to lose weight not just because it will make me look better but because it will make me healthier and happier.”
  • “I will stick to a diet and exercise schedule and keep track of it over time to meet my goal.”

The SMART goal planning method is applicable to almost any New Year’s resolution imaginable, making it a useful tool for those who want something to brag about next year. Take time to think your goal through, write it down and wake up on January 1 ready to tackle it.

ResolutionNew year, new you? Not if you haven’t thought through your resolution and developed a concrete action plan.

New Year’s resolutions for babies and parents

Our youngest family members are still working on walking and talking, so getting a newborn to come up with his or her own SMART goal might be a lot to ask. But there are still many ways parents can set up their new son or daughter for a great new year, even if it’s only their first or second one ever. But again, they will rely on their parents to see that they meet these goals in 2018 and for years to come.

Health goals

The first several months of a child’s life are perhaps the most crucial of all for their development into healthy individuals. For the best results, parents need to maintain a high level of vigilance into their newborn’s health while following the advice of a trusted pediatrician. Commit to bringing your infant child to every regular health checkup on time, as these are more frequent at the beginning of their lives. Be sure to keep track of your child’s health progress and any questions or concerns you might have. Don’t hesitate to bring a notebook and prepare some questions in advance of every doctor visit.

Financial resolutions

Babies have their own ways of showing gratitude when their parents are keeping them healthy, but their grasp of financial health is less sound. Everyone should take steps to plan a budget and save for surprise expenses, but a new baby can make these tasks more difficult. According to NerdWallet, new parents should keep their budget plans mostly intact once a baby arrives without losing sight of long-term goals. If you haven’t already, commit to building an emergency fund to pay for unexpected medical bills and other things that keep life stable in your new, growing family.

For any one goal, everyone’s plan to achieve it will be different. Keep this advice in mind as you celebrate the new year with your new bundle of joy.

a baby smiling

Gift Ideas for Baby’s First Christmas

Whether Christmas came early for your family this year in the form of a newborn, or you’ll be visiting the newest addition to your extended family this holiday, you might be facing a challenge: What should I give a baby for their first Christmas? Here’s good news about coming up with baby gift ideas – as long as it’s new, sparkly, shiny and fun, they are going to love it no matter what. Perhaps the bigger question involves what you, your friend or your family member needs as a new mom.

That’s why the best baby gift ideas are fun, age-appropriate toys, practical gear for their parents, or a little bit of both. Use this as a guide to jumpstart your shopping and search for the perfect gift for your little one’s first Christmas.

Helpful gear for moms and babies

Every parent of a newborn could use a little extra help with the daily struggle that is the diaper change. For a gift that will make mom (and dad) especially happy, consider buying a high-quality diaper bag.

As The Wirecutter pointed out in their review of the best diaper bags, these things aren’t exactly state-of-the-art (any bag could become a diaper bag, really), but the little details go a long way. The best bags they found were those that included some helpful features:

  • A changing pad and interior that’s easy to clean.
  • Plenty of pockets for wipes, hand sanitizer, bottles and more.
  • A design that’s easy to carry in most situations.

You might be surprised to learn just how many different styles of diaper bags there are. Each one fits a particular niche or is just a general-purpose utility. After all, some of these seemingly minor features can come in handy when you least expect it.

  • Look for straps and handles that are sturdy and padded to make carrying easy.
  • For the more adventurous parents, consider a backpack-style diaper bag, which can be great for travel.
  • Dads don’t get a reprieve from diaper duty – at least they shouldn’t. Look into messenger-style diaper bags with a design sleek enough to escape the ridicule of dad’s most obnoxious buddies.
  • There are even small bags shaped like a clutch to hold a few spare changes and even fold out into a small changing pad.
ToysWhen selecting toys for infants, make sure the products your choose are age-appropriate, safe and easy to clean.

Fun toys they will love

Mom and dad might appreciate some of the more practical baby gift ideas, but the star of the show probably won’t find them much fun to play with. Here are some fun toys that the youngest infants are bound to love as their very first Christmas presents, including:

  • Toys that roll, spin or bounce.
  • Bath toys that can float or blow bubbles.
  • Soft blankets, booties, hats and other accessories.
  • Toys that help make tummy time safe yet fun.

Another baby gift idea blurs the line between fun and useful: a baby jumper, bouncer or rocker. These help parents take a load off rather than carrying around a baby all day and give them a chance to bounce or sway on their own, whether it’s play time or nap time. Rockers and bouncers are often soothing and relaxing for infants, as they mimic the natural feeling of being carried. Jumpers, on the other hand, are often filled with fun gadgets for babies to play with, keeping them distracted and safely contained while the grown-ups are busy.

There is no limit to the variety of baby gift ideas out there, so let your imagination run wild. At the same time, keep in mind a few safety precautions when you’re selecting a toy or other gift for an infant:

  • Pay attention to the age recommendations on toy packaging, and don’t let babies play with the packaging once the toy is unwrapped.
  • As any parent can attest, a baby’s idea of fun includes all sorts of touching, throwing and chewing. Steer clear of toys with small parts or sharp edges. Look for toys that are easy to clean, too.
  • Don’t hang toys with long strings, cords or ribbons from cribs or playpens, as infants can become entangled in them.
  • Teach older kids to put away their toys that might not be safe or age-appropriate for your youngest ones.

No matter what gifts you end up giving your child for their first Christmas, or gifts you buy for a loved one who recently became a parent, the same rules always apply. Keep a close eye on how babies play with their new toys to ensure it’s a safe, fun fit for him or her. Keeping all these tips in mind, your new family and everyone else sharing Christmas with each other will be bound to have a great time full of lasting memories.