RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Flagler County

Hook ‘em While They’re Young

About a month ago I added an article I had written nearly two years ago for a startup app that wasn’t ever really able to get started. I hate wasting what I write when I think it’s good, so here is another, this one geared towards parents. Enjoy and share, if you like.

Hook ‘em While They’re Young

by Terri Klaes Harper

I recently acquired a four-year old. That’s a strange way to put it, I know, but it’s true. My husband and I had no children of our own and suddenly found ourselves as the caretakers of a four-year old girl. Since our only in-depth experience with four-years olds is having been four once ourselves, you can imagine we’ve been scrambling to figure out the best this and that for her, especially in developing a well-rounded young lady, so I sought advice in what would be best for her long-term. The common theme with each person was the idea of forming good habits. “I’m no doctor, but I do know it all comes down to habits. If [kids] form healthy habits early in life, they will stay healthy as they get older,” says youth soccer Players Development Academy’s (PDA) Reg Monsanto.

One area of concern for us was physical activity and involvement with other children; after all, we do not want a zombie child who responds only to the stimulation of electronics while her muscles turn to goo. “Physical activity and social interaction are critical for children. Unfortunately, we are living in a time where our children are bombarded with homework, social media, and other obligations that tremendously cut down on both their physical activity level and their human-to-human (not human to hardware) social interaction. Physical activities like competitive sports, dance, gymnastics, and martial arts provide all of these,” says Sensei George Rego, Chief Instructor of Jukido Academy. Not all of these issues are a problem yet for a four-year old, but when I went back to the idea of developing good habits, I realized I could not begin that too soon. Even setting up play dates with other children at a local park is a good start. We were still, however, wanting something a bit more structured than that, yet still fun.

Some of the soundest advice I found came from Chris Knox, a yoga for kids instructor at Hot Yoga Lounge, who also happens to be an elementary school teacher in our county. “The biggest thing with getting kids to be active is to allow them to choose their activities. Expose them to a variety, but don’t force them to do something they don’t enjoy. If an activity stops being fun, allow them to move into something else.” Flagler County offers much for sports and activities for children, so it really comes down to finding the right fit for the individual child.

For our girl, we chose dance. We wanted something that crossed over into more than just a physical activity, and with her love of music, creativity, and vision to dance, it was the perfect fit. According to Jeanna Reiter, new owner of and long-time instructor at Flagler School of Dance, “Dance education not only provides students opportunities to learn a healthy lifestyle and technique, such as posture and pointing their toes, but also life skills necessary for success. For example, dancers learn hard work, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, team work, accountability, and so much more, all while de-stressing and cultivating a passion for the arts… It is a physical workout intertwined with camouflaged life-lessons and an appreciation for music, movement, and artistry.” When she heard me talking about dance class, the mother of one of our girl’s friends mentioned to me that her daughter’s pediatrician recommended dance for her to help build strength and proper use of her leg muscles as she currently walks a bit pigeon-toed. In this sense, dance could be used as a developmental therapy of sorts, and it is commonly recommended as a therapy for scoliosis, making it a non-medicine approach that prevents and corrects.

Though each activity or organized youth sport can boast its own unique advantages, most offer children these common qualities: socialization, confidence, and stress-relief. Most youth sports and physical activities have the added bonus, as mentioned about dance, of relieving tension, something more adults need. In today’s fast-paced society, this is a clear advantage of good habits more adults could use. Why not start early? Knox says he tells his yoga students “to use their yoga breathing techniques when they are stressed (especially before a test).”  Kimberly Hale, Director of Flagler Sheriff P.A.L. says in her experience she sees that, “healthy, physically active kids also are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful…and physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.” Again, socialization is a common thread in almost all organized youth activities. It isn’t just about learning to play and have fun together either; kids learn how to be part of a team and to build up one another and to get along with different personality types, a skill that will be required of them for the rest of their lives.

Also, in order to keep your child excited about this endeavor, and wanting to continue, Kimberly Hale suggests, “Parents should volunteer and be part of the program [when possible] to keep kids interested. It supports bonding with the families and the kids feel safer when they have someone they know around. I also feel kids strive to do better at something to impress their parents.” Children do learn by example and they watch every move we make, whether we realize it or not. As they are learning about life, they want to know they have the support of the ones they love and respect.

Again, consider the personality and interests of your child in order to begin testing what fits best. Give them choices and do your research. Rego says of martial arts, “There are a lot of schools…but there is a lot of fast food too…it doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Look for quality and substance.” Obviously this could be said of many activities choices out there. The right experience can make all the difference, so we must be able to guide our kids into what is best for them as individuals. What works for some may not work for others, but there are enough choices around Flagler County to find at least one good fit for your child’s needs and personality. Clearly, it is up to us to help today’s youth, the next generation of leaders, to form good habits now. As parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, and community leaders, we should be able to break the trend of childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles by mixing healthy activity with fun.

Copyright Terri Klaes Harper 12-2-14

Advertisements

Rules of the Road

I wrote this some time back for a possible upstart app and online magazine; however, it seems things never really got moving with that and I forgot about this article until I became active in running and cycling again and became annoyed with the many near misses I have been in and seen due to negligence of the laws. It is likely these rules and laws are applicable, at least to some extent, where you live, but this was written specifically for Flagler County, Florida as I live in Palm Coast:

miyagi squish like grape

Rules of the Road

There I was, running along the road in my quiet neighborhood, watching the teenager on his bike swerving towards me from a distance. The problem was he wasn’t watching me; he was texting while riding. As a result, I had to take a leap onto someone’s well-manicured lawn, dogs barking at me for trespassing, as the cyclist flew past me, never even knowing I had been there.

Then more recently, I was driving down Belle Terre Parkway when I spotted a young woman jogging while pushing her sporty baby stroller. There are sidewalks; however, she had decided to run with traffic just next to the median. Immediately, I was reminded of the mostly sage advice given by Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in the original The Karate Kid: “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape.”

I remember learning road safety for bicycles and pedestrians back in elementary school. Do they not teach this anymore? In today’s society maybe we just need an app for that.

Cyclists

A cyclist (or anyone on wheels that are propelled by human power) must obey the same rules as a motorist, except they are actually allowed to drive on sidewalks as long as local ordinances allow. We’ll get to that later though. According to the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide I located from 2005, “Riding as a driver makes a cyclist visible and predictable.”

As found in chapter 316 of the 2014 Florida Statutes of the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law, the following are some of the basics in bicycle regulations to help keep you and others out of harm’s way:

How should a cyclist accessorize? Fashion is all up to you, but your bicycle needs a front lamp of white light which can be seen 500 feet away and a red reflector and a red lamp visible up to 600 feet from your bike’s tail end [316.2065(7)]. “About 60 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Florida occur during non-daylight hours,” says the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide. A helmet may not look chic, but it is the law for anyone under 16 [316.2065(3)(d)]. Leave any sort of headset at home. Your ears should be clear from distractions [316.304].

Where should you ride? Just as in driving a motor vehicle, we are not in England and should always ride on the right side of the road [316.081].  This is what most motorists expect and are looking for, so the predictability is best for the rider, whom otherwise might not be seen. Cyclists must follow all traffic signals and devices, as well as follow the same patterns of yielding and passing as when driving a car. If there is no bike lane, ride as far to the right as safely possible, especially if unable to obtain and maintain the same speed as the flow of motor traffic [316.2065(5)].

Since bicycles do not come equipped with turn signals, a cyclist must use the proper hand gestures during the last 100 feet before the turn [316.155(2)(3) & 316.157(1)] as follows: left turn, extend the left arm horizontally; right turn, extend the right hand horizontally or upward; to stop, extend the left arm down.

And finally, cyclists may ride on sidewalks, as long as there is no local ordinance prohibiting such use. In my research, I could find no such ordinances for Flagler County. However, a cyclist has the “rights and duties of a pedestrian” while on a sidewalk [316.2065(9)] and must also yield right-of-way to all pedestrians, as well as give audible warnings to pedestrians if planning to pass them (I have had many a bell jingled at me while I was out running) [316.2064(10)].

All of this information can be found online, but I was also able to request a couple pamphlets from PC Bikes. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.2065.html

Pedestrians

Of course, walking, running, skipping, or hopping should not be done in the middle of the road, but Mr. Miyagi was incorrect that either side is safe. Only if there is no pedestrian sidewalk, a pedestrian must be facing oncoming traffic and remain on the left shoulder [316.130(3)(4)]. Pedestrians and motorists can then have better visibility of one another.

Pedestrians should follow appropriate signals at intersections, but what about when there are no signals to follow? A basic rule is that pedestrians always have the right-of-way over motorists as long as they are within a crosswalk and made sure not to enter the roadway without allowing a vehicle time to safely stop [316.130 (7)(a)(b)(c)]. This does not mean all motorists are aware of this law, so be wary. Also, if you intend to cross a road in an area without crosswalks, you must yield to motorists [316.130(10)]. Don’t get cocky out there. The chicken may have crossed the road to get to the other side, but do not play chicken with oncoming vehicles. Another small note about crosswalks: travel on the right side within one to keep a regular flow of movement [316.130(13)].

What about safety accessories for pedestrians? I have run in overnight races when I was required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking red light on my rear, but I was unable to find anything in the Florida Statutes requiring any of these for pedestrians. The definition of pedestrians is not broken down between early morning runners on a rural road or those taking leisurely strolls along a sidewalk in the middle of a city, thus, regulations of this sort are not as clear. In this case, I suggest considering your environment, the safety in numbers factor, and good, old-fashioned common sense to make a decision on your precautions.

Riding or running along a road is always a bit more risky since we must factor in motor vehicles. Fortunately, Flagler County offers bike and pedestrian paths galore. It is important to remember though, that many of these rules should still apply to give consideration to others recreating along said paths. Always keep to the right, as you would if you were in a car on the road, and always give audible signals when passing, which should be done on the left.

While cyclists should not wear any sort of headsets, headphones, or listening devices, other than a hearing aid, while riding [316.304], there does not yet appear to be any rule on texting while riding (or jogging, for that matter), though I would personally classify it as an equally, or more distracting activity and safety violation. Perhaps a petition will be created to add this to a campaign against texting and driving.

Also, remember to continue to use caution and care. You may now know the laws set for your safety, but unfortunately, not all motorists or other pedestrians or cyclists do. Always use common sense above all else.

The following are some other resources to check out:

Bike Florida www.bikeflorida.org

Florida Bicycle Association http://floridabicycle.org/

State Safety Office Florida Department of Transportation www.dot.state.fl.us/safety

Terri Klaes Harper, October 2014