Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (

  • Ridiculously Clever Tips for Getting Your Kids to Sleep

    by Chanie Kirschner, Mother Nature Network

    Parents of young children, I'm sure you've had a long, bumpy road. I imagine you start the bedtime routine at 7, at which time you begin coaxing your young child to undress and get in the bath. The process ends sometime after 9 p.m., at which point you wake up next to your child bleary-eyed, wondering how long you've been lying there next to him because he insists you lie down with him every night when he goes to bed. Am I right?

    If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. Know that countless other parents are going through what you're going through. Also know that developing good sleep habits is like developing good tooth-brushing habits - it takes time for your child to get there, but once he does, it's second nature.

    A great book to read is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. In it, he discusses all sorts of sleeping problems, from apnea to night terrors. Though much of the book focuses on

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  • Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads when We Speak?

    You may have noticed that when your dog hears a strange sound or when you ask him if he'd like to go for a walk, he cocks his head to the side.

    The adorable move seems to say, "I'm listening," but what's really going on when dogs' heads tilt in response to a sound?

    Here are a few possible explanations.

    They're trying to hear better
    Dogs have movable earflaps that help them locate the source of a sound, but they also have brains that can compute time differences between the sound reaching each ear. A slight change in a dog's head position supplies additional information that the canine can use to judge a sound's distance.

    Essentially, tilting the head can help the animal more accurately locate the location and distance of a sound.

    They're trying to understand us
    According to Steven R. Lindsay's "Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training," when a dog listens to your voice, he's trying to identify familiar words or tones that he associates with a reward, such as

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  • Want to Become the Jedi Master of Shopping Healthy at the Grocery Store? Read This

    From the paleo diet to raw foods, the world is not short of diet plans and nutrition philosophies. As I explained in an earlier post about mindful eating, however, I often counsel my clients to focus more on achieving moderation and balance first, rather than pursuing a radical dietary regime change that they may find hard to sustain later on.

    Dietary needs vary from person to person, but there are some general principles that most of us should follow, including:

    • Eat more fruits and vegetables
    • Include whole grains
    • Consume fewer processed foods
    • Reduce your intake of salt, sugar, and trans fats
    •Enjoy saturated fats, meat, and animal protein only in moderation

    Understanding these principles in theory is an important first step toward healthier eating. But principles mean little unless they shape how you actually shop and eat.

    Given that the grocery store is where good intentions so often go amiss, here are some practical tips for healthier, stress-free

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  • How to Keep Cats Off Counters

    It's in a cat's nature to seek out high vantage points like kitchen countertops.

    Counters, tables and the tops of cabinets are an ideal place to survey territory, and they provide protection from enemies like roughhousing dogs and the vacuum cleaner.

    Felines might also be drawn to kitchen counters because they've learned that they're good places to find tasty crumbs.

    If you want your kitty to keep her paws off the counter, here's what to do.

    Provide another place to lounge
    Because jumping and climbing are part of cats' normal behavior, you'll have to offer a suitable alternative or your feline friend will likely continue to leap onto countertops.

    Carpeted cat tree furniture or kitty shelves attached to windowsills are two options that can replace a favorite counter.

    Also see: What your cat's tail can tell you

    Make the counter unappealing
    If your cat prowls the kitchen counter looking for a snack, be sure to clean counters thoroughly and don't leave

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  • 5 Easy Ways for Moms to Relax in Only 15 Minutes

    I've got a lot to say here, partly because I'm a mom, and partly because I like to relax. Since I've had kids though, finding time to unwind is like putting on makeup and blow-drying my hair for a night on the town - it ain't gonna happen. Heck, I barely find time to brush my teeth and take a shower. So I asked the experts - other friends who are moms - what they do to relax. Herein some very good suggestions that I just might try myself:

    1. Get up 15 minutes early
    I know the last thing you want to do at 6 a.m. is jump out of bed and make yourself a cup of coffee, but that's exactly what I'm telling you to do. If you're lucky enough to live in a house with kids who wake up at 6:30 or later, this is a realistic option. Before the kids wake up, go brush your teeth, get yourself dressed, and drink a cup of coffee while you're checking your Facebook feed. I don't know about you but I always feel like I'm dead last in a race when I wake up in the morning - possibly because my kids have

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  • What Your Cat's Tail is Trying to Tell You

    Cats communicate in a variety of ways.

    Their purrs and meows can have different meanings, but cats also communicate with body language.

    For example, ear position is a good indicator of how a feline is feeling. Upward ears mean a cat is alert or happy, while backward or flat ears mean to steer clear because he's irritated or frightened.

    But one of the best ways to get insight into your feline friend's mood is to look at her tail. Take a look below to learn all about the tales your cat's tail can tell.

    Straight in the air
    When a cat holds its tail high in the air, he's expressing confidence, excitement or contentment. Cats will often greet their owners with their tails straight in the air, which is a cat's way of saying he's happy to see you.

    Curved like a question mark
    An erect tail with a curve at the end that resembles a shepherd's crook or a question mark indicates friendliness or playfulness. Your cat is telling your it's a good time for some head scratches or

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  • Energy-efficient Lights May Cause Sleep Problems for Kids


    Need another reason to limit your kids' screen time? New research shows that exposure to the artificial lights from computers and electronics may make it more difficult to get to sleep - particularly for kids.

    The study, led by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that when kids are exposed to artificial light from computers and other electronic gadgets in the late afternoon and evening, it can disrupt sleep cycles as much as six to eight hours - causing a feeling similar to "jet lag."

    "Technology has disconnected us from the natural 24-hour day," Dr. Czeisler said in a keynote lecture at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

    Also see: Is your child addicted to screens?

    Basically, the blue light from all of these gadgets mimics bright daylight that makes our brains think that it is still daytime. Research shows that exposure to artificial light stimulates the production of cortisol which makes you more alert.

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  • 6 Health Risks of Being a Serious Sports Fan

    The health problems that often plague athletes are well-known, but what about the zealous followers who watch them play? Aside from the risks associated with dashed hopes and happy dances, is there much to be concerned about? In fact, there is. Researchers have been taking a look at what happens to sports fans who are emotionally invested in the outcome of a big game, and while there can be positive benefits of being a fanatic for your team, at times, even being a fan can be treacherous.

    1. Heart attacks
    Because of the connection between emotions and cardiac health, heart-related deaths can rise or fall in a region depending on how the local teams fare. In 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat Arizona in the Super Bowl, for example, Pittsburgh-area doctors noticed 25 percent fewer circulatory heart-related deaths than average over the following eight days, according to Robert Kloner, a cardiology professor at the University of Southern California who talked to the Wall Street

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  • 7 Rainy Day Games to Play with Your Dog

    There are some amazing games by Nina Ottosson where your dog has to figure out the puzzle to find the treat. I have a few for my dog, and they're good for short-term, supervised entertainment.

    The only problem is that while these are entertaining, they're also food-based and don't require a whole lot of movement from your dog. The mental engagement is there, but physical exercise isn't. It's kind of like playing a board game while eating a whole bowl of popcorn and chocolate pretzels - you're entertained, but not staying healthy.

    Here are six ideas for active games you can play that will tire out your dog, engaging him (and you!) physically and mentally so that being inside is every bit as fun as being outside.

    1. Scent work with hidden treats
    Teaching your dog to discover prizes using only his nose is a great game for the body and mind. While all dogs have a great sense of smell, sometimes they have to be reminded to use it, and this exercise can get your dog excited

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  • Squirrel Rescued by Artist Now Paints for Charity

    Portrait of an artist: Winkelhimer Smith is a squirrelPortrait of an artist: Winkelhimer Smith is a squirrelWhen Shyla Mouton rescued a baby squirrel from a cat, she didn't expect the animal to survive the night. She certainly didn't expect her to become a painter.

    Mouton looked out her kitchen window in May 2012 and saw a cat attacking a tiny squirrel.

    "I rushed out there to help her. One of her front legs was messed up pretty bad. I put her in a little box on the porch to make her comfortable because I didn't think she would make it through the night," Mouton told America Now.

    But the 6-week-old squirrel pulled through, so Mouton named her Winkelhimer Smith and continued to nurse her back to health.

    Also see: Meet the squirrel that literally wears many hats

    It wasn't long before Winkelhimer began imitating Mouton, an artist who sells her work online.

    "I paint dolls and jewelry, and she just watches me all day long. They are very intelligent animals," she said.

    Mouton offered the young squirrel her own paintbrush, and soon Winkelhimer was painting alongside her.

    "She's Read More »from Squirrel Rescued by Artist Now Paints for Charity


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