Get ready for a season of outdoor family fun

  • Written by ARA
 It’s only natural to be excited about warm, sunny weather. But it’s not always easy to get the family outside. With work and school schedules, video games and the Web at your fingertips - not to mention the ever-present household chores - sometimes the hours slip away and the opportunity is lost.

To prevent spring and summer weather from getting away from you, a little advance planning goes a long way. Spontaneity, backed up by preparation, is the key, says lifestyle expert Colleen Burns, "The Mom on the Run." Burns is the mother of five boys ages 6 to 16 who regularly offers parenting advice on local and national TV, as well as her website

As part of a partnership with Lance Sandwich Crackers this season, Burns offers tips for how families can spend more fun time together while enjoying the outdoors.

Turn on the "time finder"

Capturing the free moments you have is the most important thing you can do. And if you know how to look for them and plan to create some free time, you’ll be able to fit more fun into the family schedule.

* Add "kid time" to your calendar. Set aside an hour or two when the only focus is an activity with your child.

* Tackle chores together. By involving the kids in the daily chores, they learn responsibility and the value of hard work. You get your lawn mowed, gutters cleaned and flowers planted. It’s a win-win that frees up more quality time to do fun stuff.

* Plan for small windows of time. Make a list of fun activities you can do with your children in an hour, a half-hour or even 20 minutes. It will help you take advantage of unexpected and priceless free time with your children.

* Switch it up. It’s okay to change your routine. Push back dinner or bed time occasionally to do something fun and be present in the moment with your children. Stay up late to look at the stars or have a family game night.

Plan to be spontaneous

One of the best ways to take advantage of even small windows of free time is to place a pre-packed "spontaneity bag" in your car or by the door. Add these items (and any others particularly relevant to your family) to the bag:

* Sunscreen: Make sure it’s waterproof with an SPF of 30 or higher and is broad spectrum (blocks both UVA and UVB).

* Water bottles: Metal bottles take life’s knocks well and cut down on waste.

* Snacks: Think of treats like Lance Sandwich Crackers that are easy to pack, and keep kids satisfied without preservatives, trans fat or high-fructose corn syrup.

* Adhesive bandages and pain reliever: For those unexpected bumps and bruises.

* Small- to medium-sized towel: Perfect to sit on outdoors, wrap up if it’s chilly or dry off if you’re caught in the rain.

* Balls: Depending on the age of your kids, have a variety of shapes and sizes to play with outdoors.

* Bubbles: Have a contest to see who can keep their bubbles from popping the longest.

* Sidewalk chalk: An easy game of hopscotch, Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman is right at your fingertips.

* Jump rope: Also a great way to stay active together.

* Small kite: Lots of fun on a windy day.

* Whistles/kazoos: The outdoors is the perfect place for noisemakers you usually avoid at home.

You could also pack themed spontaneity bags - such as a picnic-themed bag, a swimming bag or a campfire bag, tailored to your family’s favorite activities.

Regardless of what you choose to put in your spontaneity bag, you’ll need to pack drinks and sensible snacks like Lance Sandwich Crackers.

With a little creativity, you’ll be perfectly prepped for family fun throughout the season.

To access more outdoor fun tips from Colleen Burns, visit

A safe summer starts with proper water safety for children

  • Written by ARA
Kids and water play go together like peanut butter and jelly. Sadly, what is a fun, healthy activity for most children, too often brings tragedy and heartbreak for others. Each year, more than 3,400 people drown in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children younger than 14. Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14.

For every child who dies from drowning, another four are injured in nonfatal drownings, CDC statistics show. Many of the children who survive will face lifetimes of long-term disabilities. Typically, when a child drowns, the parent or caregiver has been away from the child for less than five minutes according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

"The single most effective thing parents can do to protect their children from drowning is to ensure they know how to swim," says Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation. "Learning how to swim is not only a fun way to encourage exercise, it can save a child’s life."

Unfortunately, lack of swimming knowledge is common among American children, especially among minority populations. In fact, seven out of every 10 African-American and Hispanic children cannot swim, according to a national research study by USA Swimming and the University of Memphis. African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, the CDC reports.

To help combat these statistics, the USA Swimming Foundation has granted more than $1.5 million dollars to communities across the nation to help provide free or discounted lessons so that all children will have the opportunity to learn to swim.

This June, the Foundation will launch its annual cross-country water safety tour, Make a Splash with Cullen Jones, presented by ConocoPhillips. The tour aims to raise awareness about the importance of learning to swim. The USA Swimming Foundation offers parents five tips for keeping children safe in and around water this summer:

1. Teach children to swim. It’s the best way to be safer in the water. Research shows that parents are the most influential factors in whether or not a child learns to swim. Only 13 percent of children from non-swimming households will ever learn to swim, according to national research conducted by the University of Memphis for USA Swimming.

2. Make sure a responsible adult is watching the water at all times. Drowning can be completely silent, and most child drownings occur when the victim has been out of sight for less than five minutes.

3. Remind kids to always obey the rules of the pool, not to jump on or dunk other swimmers, and not to jump or dive unless they know how deep the water is.

4. Require kids to always swim with a buddy.

5. Remember, you don’t have to be at a pool to drown. Lakes, rivers, large puddles and any other bodies of water also require caution. Make sure your child knows how to swim, whether or not they’ll be around a pool this summer.

"Swimming is unique in that there is a lifesaving element to it - it can be fun and competitive, but learning to swim can also save a life," Hesse says. "It’s a skill every child needs, and one that every child should have regardless of their social or economic situation."

As part of its Make a Splash water safety initiative, the USA Swimming Foundation, in partnership with ConocoPhillips, is providing resources for families, including swimming lessons that are low cost or even free, depending on a family’s economic need. To find local learn-to-swim groups in your community, visit

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) – A New Way To Make Learning Fun

  • Written by provided by Silver Lining equine facilitation

Using horses to help people learn life skills is the focus of a relatively new approach called equine assisted learning (EAL).

It’s being used in a broad spectrum of settings, including corporations, college campuses, hospitals and medical training facilities and with veterans.

In schools across the country EAL is being used to help students gain better understanding both in academics and in other areas, such as communication skills, problem solving, teambuilding, conflict resolution and anti-bullying programs.

EAL is an experiential learning approach, meaning students are involved in activities as they learn.

For many students, learning while doing encourages both deeper understanding and better retention of the material they are studying.

After participating in each activity they discuss what they learned as well as any behavior patterns which helped or hindered their learning style.

New insights into both the material being learned and what helps them to learn are common.

The focus of EAL sessions is determined by the educational or competency goals of the clients or students involved.

In this process the horse becomes a teacher in additional to the horse specialist and licensed mental health professional who attend each session.

EAL programs use the horses to create challenges for the students and to teach skills such as understanding nonverbal communication, problem solving and creativity.

EAL can be very focused on specific learning (e.g., enhancing science or reading strategies) or broadened to include teaching students to examine overall learning patterns and seek what works best for each individual.


Students attending our summer camp sessions will practice and improve on school acquired skills in the areas of reading, writing, math and science.


The horses will serve as the subject matter and medium for enrichment learning.

Students will have the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in a setting that helps them truly see the "why" of their classroom learning!

Remembering that all kids are not created equal

  • Written by Harold Luhn
We adults tend to view "gifting" as a necessary part of our children’s birthdays. In fact, the children seem to expect that as well.

Sarah Hallman-Luhn shows the gifts her friends brought to her birthday party for the cat shelter on Whidbey Island.
So, it is with a certain surprise when we find a girl or boy who doesn’t fit that mold. That’s the way it is with Sarah Hallman-Luhn, a girl from Woodinville and a third grader at a local Bothell elementary school.

Several weeks ago, before Sarah was to turn 9 years old, she approached her mom about buying "$100" worth of toys for homeless cats at W.A.I.F (Whidbey Animals Improvement Foundation). Sarah has always had a passion for animals, be they horses or dogs, but especially for cats. She belongs to Paws N Claws 4H cat club, has two cats at home and has sponsored several more at the WAIF shelter on Whidbey Island.

After her mom figured the expense of a birthday party, gifts and now such a large request for homeless cats, she told Sarah: "No."

Sarah said she knew that WAIF was getting low on toys and what they had "… were getting yucky and weird."

So later she went back and asked her mother what she could do to supply toys to those homeless cats.

The two of them put their heads together and came up with a nifty idea: Instead of asking for presents for herself, she would ask her birthday party guests to bring presents for the kittens and cats at WAIF.

She knew that meant foregoing gifts for her, but said: "That would be okay."

Sarah invited 13 friends from her third grade class. They did all the usual things you do at a party for a 9 year old but in addition, they showered Sarah with an estimated $200 worth of cat toys, cat food and cat litter, even a cat carrier. She collected $51 in checks for WAIF. And what did Sarah buy? She took the jar of nickels, dimes and quarters that she’d been saving, put them in a plastic bag and took them with her to WAIF to sponsor another cat.

Sarah, now age 9, was in her element as she presented her gifts and visited the homeless cats on Saturday, May 28.

She knew each by name as she spends a few minutes almost every day on the WAIF web site checking to see if the cats will soon find a home.

She cares for others, both people and animals. Yes, she’s not your typical 9 year old. Someone once said, "Others before self."

And Sarah practices that.