This month on Online Insights we look at a different approach for New Year’s resolutions, fun activities for kids and seriously fun activities for kids for the holidays, and indulge in the parmi reviews (I hope my exercise physiologist does not read this month’s post).

Creative Goal Setting

(2/365) Ow headache...The creative goal setting blog has a timely post for this New Year season called, The Damage “Intellectualising” Can Do.

What I loved most about stumbling onto this post in this period of resolutions, is that I am halfway through the first fortnight of holidays in at least five years. And this is the very first time that I have actually disconnected emails from my mobile phone and completely shut myself away from “work”. As an “always on” kinda guy I expected this to be harder than it has been. But as the first week has passed, I noticed this morning that my sinuses are clearer than ever – something I am not that used to.

Lo and behold, the blog entry I found has argued strongly that this symptom of clearer sinuses, along with less headaches and stress, is a direct result of not “being on” by thinking things to death. I quote, “The first and most obvious clue to when we are intellectualising is the higher stress levels felt in the body and mind. Our immune system struggles and the first signs of this is any of the following: the runny nose, raised temperature, swollen glands each side of our neck and/or sore throat … and our thoughts are continually returning to the imagined problems associated with our goal.”

I didn’t expect this suggestion and am going to have to test this over the next year, especially during the cut and thrust of my typical work week. Talk about a carrot!

The core wake up call in this post, which will hopefully feed into all our New Year’s resolutions, is that it is time to stop “intellectualising” such as:

  • over-analysing
  • worrying
  • looking for problems
  • pre-solving imagined problems

But how do you do this Marianne Thorne, the attitude coach who writes this blog suggests that when we find ourselves stuck in the destructive rut of over-thinking things, we should do whatever we can to “Relax, find something pleasurable to do NOW. STOP THINKING!! OK that can be tricky. Some of us meditate (I highly recommend this). But, in the meantime, if you are going to continue thinking (intellectualising) at least change it to focusing on what you REALLY want (day dreaming!).”

It is challenging but sound advice. Another concept to help break out of the rut is to remember your brain only has a set number of cycles per day that it can use so if you catch yourself in a rut I find it useful to remind myself that there are probably better things for spending those cycles on!

Have a great new year and may it be filled with creative goal setting.

Serious fun games

I have met the speech pathologists behind the practise called “Talking Matters”  in Elizabeth East and I must say, they are the most fiery, passionate professionals I have ever met. It is like they are on a crusade to save every child in South Australia from poor speech or communication. They do this by creating one of the richest websites I have ever encountered in which a professional shares good, cutting edge resources for use for free by other practitioners, teachers and parents. It is a job well done.

One of the things that first caught my attention was the “plus” section of the site where you can sign up for free to access a stack of worksheets and information.

Of particular interest, having a two and a half year old, was an information sheet on the various communication concepts  that children can grasp by age. Here is a taste of “position” concepts:

  • 2-3 years: on, off, in, out, , up, down, top, open, shut
  • 3-4 years: bottom, behind, first, near
  • 4 and a half years: middle, around, away from, between, through, next to, beside, last
  • 4 and a half to 5 years: in front, in a line, corner

Of course, all children can develop at different rates but these guides are a godsend if you have any concerns about how your child’s communication development is tracking.

Something worth diving in for as soon as possible, as a holiday sanity kit for parents, is a free school holiday activity sheet, free to download from the home page for a short whilet. Here is the intro: “At Talking Matters we believe learning to communicate should be enjoyable for children and their families. We believe that many daily activities can be used to develop communication skills in a fun, relaxed and natural way; so we have put together a selection of activities and ideas that are simple, inexpensive and easy for families to do at home.”

Here are just the first two activites on the sheet and how they combine fun with learning:

  • Making bubbles. For young children you can use bubbles to develop: eye contact, requesting and to model, repeat and encourage imitation of simple words (more, up, pop, bubble all use lip sounds /m/, /p/, /b/ which are easy to see and copy).
  • Sand and water play. In warmer weather sand and water play is a great activity that is fun and educational but also calming and soothing for kids. Bucket and spade sets are inexpensive but old kitchen things work just as well, and encourage pretend play which is great for language development. These games are also great for developing maths concepts. Talk about: in, out, full, empty, more, less, heavy, light, bigger, smaller, higher, taller, as you build, fill and pour sand or water.

Take a look, download the activity sheet and help your kids enjoy today and TOMORROW with help from Talking Matters.

Get out the crayons

One thing I keep my eyes out for these days are sites where you can download activity sheets ready for kids to colour in or make activities with. The Crayola people have developed such a site and while there is not much more to say about it, it is crammed with lots of free colouring-in sheets for you to print and hand to your kids.

In particular, keep you eye out for sheets that seem to have lots of dismembered parts. They also contain instructions to help you through the process in which your kids colour in the parts of the animal, you glue the sheet to some card (such as a used cereal box), cut out the shapes then stick them together to build 3d models. Enjoy!

Go to here to start colouring in with crayons.

Parmi lovers guide

A couple of Adelaide blokes have been doing the rounds, eating their way through tons of schnitzel in South Aussie pubs and recording their exploits on a website as they search for the state’s best parmigianas.

This site stirs mixed reactions. On one hand, I love a good parmi and think about half a dozen a year would be about right. On the other hand, having worked with an exercise physiologist for a year now, I know so much more about nutrition that it is really hard to “enjoy” this site which praises consumption of fat, carbs and alcohol in such an “out of proportion” meal as a parmi. I am sure our enjoyment of such meals can only happen because the negative feedback of the ordeal this meal causes our bodies is delayed by hours, months, years, decades. It is a slow, cloggy death march of a meal – fried meat in breadcrumbs, lashings of toasted cheese, fried chips, and beer. Just thinking about this meal puts on weight and boosts out the gut another few centimetres!

On the site you can vote for your favourite parmi and look at the scoreboard of parmis tasted to date.

At the time of writing, the Edinburgh Hotel has the highest score and the Goodwood Park hotel has the lowest.

While this site will be a boon for people seeking good parmis, I think that one of the best things about there being so many bad parmis out there (from our nation’s long term health perspective) is that each one moves people closer to kicking this paunch-building habit and nudges them closer to healthier options like salads and beautifully seared meat cuts.

Visit the site yourself if you want some “dietary porn“.

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