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Why Martial Arts is More Important for Kids to Learn than Ever Before

Lithia and Wesley Chapel Martial Arts School Owner, Manny Cabrera explains why the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL drove home why martial arts training is so important for kids facing an uncertain future and it has nothing to do with punching and kicking.

How to help your kids develop a winning attitude

Victory Lap Episode 003 w/ Alex Lapeiretta

Wesley Chapel New Tampa FishHawk Lithia’s Best Kids Martial Arts & Self Defense Classes in Hillsborough, Florida and Pasco, Florida. Teaching children to have increased levels of confidence, improving their attention span and giving them the ability to defends against a bully.

Check out this really great video from two of our team members where they talk about how to help kids develop and indomitable spirit.

If, by chance, a wicked awesome martial arts class is something you’re looking for for your kids– check out our awesome web special.

VIDEO: How to help your kids develop more self-reliance

We know that our goal as parents is to help our kids to become more independent, but we feel a lot of different things along that road. Sad (because they don’t need us as much), frustration (tie. you. shoes. already), and joy (when they get it for themselves). In this video, our Sidekicks experts Jessica Cabrera and Cameron Egger are going to break it down for you with some tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way from teaching thousands of kids in this community over the last 15 years.

When is Your Child Ready for Athletics?


Parenting 101: There is no rule book. There are a million people out there with a million different opinions offering guidance based on their own studies or what worked for them – but the advice varies and the only thing certain is that there is no one universally “right” answer.

To anything. So when it comes to trying to determine when your child is ready to start athletics, don’t be surprised when you find a million different answers. That said, there are a few ways to determine the proper answer for your actual child. Here are a few things to consider:

How independent are they?
Not every child will walk into a room of strangers and greet themselves – and that’s ok! But are they able to communicate on their own with a coach and follow directions with little guidance?

If you still need to be heavily involved in their coaching and actions, they may not be ready for true athletics just yet – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for introductory activities: There are tons of parent-child classes out there for everything from tiny tumblers to pee wee soccer.

These kinds of programs tend to focus more on basic social skills while getting some energy out and building physical strength and coordination.

If your child is fa

irly comfortable taking direction, has the basics down on being part of a group and cooperating, and is safely past the potty training years, they may be ready for athletics.

What are their physical abilities and opportunities?
One of the great things about athletics is that they build your child’s skills and physical fitness, along with confidence, focus, social skills, and a slew of other perks.

That said, of course no child comes in fully trained – but they should have basic coordination down. In this case, they should be able to walk and run steadily, be able to regularly catch a ball and throw or kick to someone with some level of accuracy, and have refined gross and small motor skills.

Typically, around age four or five, most children will be physically ready. In terms of deciding which sport to start them in, consider areas that they have a growth opportunity or talent.

For example, if they need to improve balance, gymnastics could be a great fit; if they need to improve in the throwing/ catching department, perhaps baseball or something hand-eye related.

Are they interested?
The number one factor in your decision process should take into consideration your child’s interests.

Talk with them and open a dialogue if they haven’t already proactively mentioned something they’d like to do. If they have no interest, maybe test the waters with a trial class before you fully invest and take it from there.

If they’re interested, all the better!

How I Got My Kid to Beg for Broccoli


One of the number one topics in my mom circles is our kids’ nutrition. Most kids tend to buck the idea of eating vegetables… shocking, I know. While I have handfuls of parenting questions and hiccups with my own kids, there’s one thing I somehow got right: My kids beg for broccoli.

About a month ago, my mom was in town and watched the kids so we could get out for a night. I kid you not, she sent us a video with my four-year old informing us, “I hope you have a fun night, but I really want you to get more of that yummy ranch broccoli. So please go get it tomorrow – if you like. And I love you. And bye.” It’s one of those moments where you find yourself laughing like crazy, but also beaming with pride like, “yeah! I got one right!” I don’t know that it’s really any genius parenting move, but he really does love broccoli – among other vegetables. Here are my get-your-kid-to-love-broccoli moves.

  1. Teach him about their favorite superhero. I realize this may not work on your 10-year-old, but it worked like a charm on my preschooler – and habits start early, or so I hear. Super heroes are big and strong. Why? They eat super healthy food that helps them grow big and strong. Yep, like that zucchini. I kid you not, he’d try anything… then after every bite he’d come up and show me his muscle and how he was growing. What can I say, he’s a ham… but we were onto something.
  2. Flavor it. Broccoli and some other vegetables do have something of an acquired taste… so work with it. The first time I ever got him to ask for seconds was the time I flavored it. A secret in my house: Extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice make everything more delicious. I steam vegetables, then toss them with the magic combo, lightly salt and pepper them and, if I’m feeling really crazy, top it with some parmesan. So easy – and so delicious. The requested ranch broccoli? I buy it in the frozen foods section; four minutes in the microwave and everyone’s happy. Find what your kids love and work with it. Love Asian cuisine? Try garlic and soy sauce. Italian? Work it into a marinara sauce or alfredo. Marinate it in Italian dressing. Flavor does wonders.
  3. Acknowledge it. Have you noticed that when we tell kids they have to do something or get exasperated, they’re less likely to do what we want? Our rule is that they have to try everything, but we don’t make them eat all of it – or even take a certain number of bites. But when they do try something new, we make a big deal out of it – even if they don’t like it. We don’t like everything we try, either – and that’s ok, right? So it should be ok for our kids, too – but take a moment to applaud that they did try!

Supposedly it takes 20 exposures to something before kids truly make up their minds – so even if it doesn’t take at first, keep trying – and in new ways.

Teach Your Child to be an Ambassador for Their Own Health

As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to have great friends, to do well in school, to be successful… the list goes on. But at the end of the day, our biggest want is just that they be happy and healthy. Happiness is tied to a million things both in and out of our control, but healthiness is a bit more of a long game.

As children, we all had people looking out for us – they’d do the cooking and cleaning, pay the mortgage and bills, and really, do all the grunt work – while we went to school and played. It was a good gig, looking back. But we all grow and become adults – adults with responsibilities. And those responsibilities take time and energy. The long days spent riding our bikes outside become hours sitting in front of a computer. Cleaning our room becomes cleaning the whole house. We have to cook our own meals – and, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just easier to order in pizza than to make something healthy.

Your child will experience these same challenges: How do you want them to tackle them when the time comes? Now is the time to coach them into healthy habits.

Let them help you in the kitchen. Talk to them before cooking – have them help you plan meals. At first, they may request pizza every night or chocolate chip cookies: Use those moments as teaching moments. Educate them about healthy choices and why they’re important. They may not truly appreciate it at first, but by building an understanding early on, you can ensure your child will know how to make healthy eating choices as they grow and gain independence.

Be active yourself. Too many adults graduate high school and their athletic programs to fade into sedentary lifestyles. It isn’t necessarily intentional, but transitioning from childhood activities and athletics into an active adulthood is a common challenge. Your child may grow up to be a professional soccer player… but the odds are against them. So help them develop a regular running program that they can carry through life. If they’re a gymnast, bring them into an ongoing yoga or Pilates practice; if all else fails in later years, they can continue these from the comfort of their home.

Most importantly, be a role model. Children tend to follow their parent’s habits, so make sure they see your healthy living habits. Maintain your own activity, eat well, and be positive about your image – and let your children be a part of it!

Much of teaching your child to be an ambassador of their own health comes from integrating them into your household decisions and showing them what healthy living in adulthood looks like.

3 Healthy Snacks That Don’t Live Up to Their Reputations

We’re all trying to raise healthy kids. We have them in athletics to help them build physical strength and endurance, push them to play outside and stay active in their daily lives, and spend the time and money to feed them nutritious foods. But is what we’re feeding them truly nutritious?

If you’re sticking with pure fruits and vegetables and lean meats, you’re something of a hero in my eyes. Truth be told, I try to stick mostly in that realm… but some days, you just need to grab and go or get dinner ready in a hurry – and when that happens, pantry staples become my best friend. The problem is, that there are so many products marketed as being nutritious or even downright healthy… but when you dig into the ingredients list and labels, they’re anything but. Here are three of the top offenders:

#1 – Dried fruits
Pretty much the healthiest snack you can get is a piece of fruit, right? So why not mix it up with dried fruit… it’s delicious, travel-friendly since it’s not messy, and nutritious… except that it’s not. If you can find truly plain dried fruit, enjoy to your heart’s content! But, unfortunately, most dried fruits that you can buy at the grocery store or warehouse club have added ingredients with added sugar topping the list. If it’s a preserved dried fruit, you shouldn’t find any more than two ingredients max: the fruit and possibly a lemon juice or citric acid for preservation purposes. If there are more ingredients than that, pop it back on the shelf.

#2 – Veggie pasta
Pasta is easy, and veggie pastas maintain that simplicity while sneaking a full serving of healthy goodness into your kids diet! However, the term “veggie pasta” is a bit misleading. It’s true that the serving of vegetables is in there… however, you’ll still find the starchy white carbs that make up most pastas, which kind of defeats the purpose. If you hit the health food section, you can likely find pure black bean or edamame noodles or even lentil noodles that give a healthier alternative to the refined wheat in regular noodles. Even whole wheat pasta is a healthier option.

#3 – Granola
Granola has earned quite a bit of shelf space in the nutritional markets, which works out well because it’s delicious and has so many varieties that you’ll never get bored! It tops Greek yogurt beautifully for an easy, healthy meal and is perfect for little fingers at snack time. However, it’s often not as healthy as we’d like to believe. Always check the label: Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar that comes in the double digits per serving. And that healthy snack often rings in at nearly 200 calories per serving which, in many cases, is just ¼ cup! Opt for a no-sugar added version or, better yet, stick to making it at home.

Make 2018 the Year That Your Family’s New Year’s Resolutions Stick

New Year’s resolutions are a great tradition, but often one that quickly falls into the “made to be broken” category. Though well intentioned, those resolutions that kick off your year begin fading until they become distant memory – or material for next year’s resolution. Make this year’s resolutions stick by giving them a better chance from the start – here are a few tips:

1 – Quantify and qualify.
“I want to lo
se 15 pounds.” “I’m going to run a marathon.” “I’m going to do better in school.” All great resolutions – but resolutions likely to be broken. Why? Because they’re generalizations without parameters. As your family sets resolutions, encourage everyone to not just set the resolution, but to set the path to attainment. For example, if your child resolves to “do better in school,” help them to set the path to accomplishing that goal as part of the resolution. That might include a pledge to study X minutes each day or to review their math homework with you each night. That path makes the goal a by-product of healthier, better habits – and helps your child to achieve that goal among other things.

2 – Make it a challenge, but not impossible.
Nothing kills a resolution more quickly than making it unattainable. Children, in particular, have a tendency to set resolutions based on wants more than anything else – and those wants often come without ceilings. Help your children to set goals that are a challenge, but that are also attainable. That doesn’t mean crushing a dream – it means coaching them through building that plan to achieve it (see above) and mapping out the proper end point.

3 – Don’t just throw it out there.
Perhaps most importantly is to set resolutions that you actually have the intention to complete – not just making one that you feel you should make. For example, do you really want to run that marathon? Or are you really just looking to get back into shape and do a better job of taking some you time?

4 – Make it something you can do.
To succeed with a resolution, you need to be able to control your progress. For example, if your child sets a goal to make the travel soccer team, completing that resolution isn’t entirely in control. However, they can control how often they practice and whether they try out – whereas the decision on the team’s final players lies with the coach. So instead, make the resolution focused on what you yourself can control and affect.

In a nutshell, help your family to make better, more achievable and likely-to-succeed resolutions this year by putting in some thought and planning ahead of resolution time. Resolutions can be fun – and they can be attainable. Guide your children through setting quality goals and watch them experience the joy of success this next year. 

Beat the Cold: Keep the Kids Active Through Winter

Whether you live in sunny California or the colder north, the winter months likely don’t exactly constitute pool season. And while extracurriculars certainly help the little ones expend some energy and stay connected, they likely don’t fill as many hours as you need to entertain for. Keep your kids active in even the coolest of climates this winte

r with these ideas.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

Not all activity has to look like exercise – and when the powdery white stuff comes down, what better way to celebrate the season than by bundling up the little ones and sending them outside to play in it? Building snowmen and igloos looks like fun – and it is – but it also takes lots of energy, muscle, and endurance. If packing snow isn’t in the forecast, there are still plenty of options! Try snow tag for freestyle fun, pop on some snow shoes or skis, hit the sledding hill for more free fun, or let the kids loose with the summer pool toys to attempt snow castles.

Rock ‘n Roll all Winter Long

Is it just me, or is there something magical about ice skating while the flakes are falling all around you? If an outdoor rink isn’t your style, hit an indoor rink for quick access to the hot cocoa. Or, dial it retro and hit a roller skating rink with a few friends.

Jump, Bounce, and Climb

These do come with a price tag, but for the occasional trip on the coldest or rainiest of days, it’s well worth it. Indoor trampoline parks, bounce house parks, and climbing walls have started popping up all over – take advantage! Not only will your kids have tons of fun and get some energy out – you can, too! Check your pride at the door and let loose – these places are your license to feel like a kid again (or at least act like one!).

Earn TV Credits

Sometimes, we all just need to veg – but when the sky turns grey, that vegging can quickly become a habit. Start a system for your kids to earn TV time by pitching in. Clean room? You get 15 minutes. Vacuum the downstairs? You get another 15 minutes. You get the idea. It’s probably not going to be their favorite idea, but it may be yours – your house will have neverlooked better; it’s a win-win!

5 Gift Ideas for the Active Kid

The holidays are just around the corner, so now is a great time to start plotting out gifts for those little loves. Sure, you could hit the toy aisle and go nuts… or, you could give them a gift that keeps them moving and that they’ll stay interested in beyond those first days. Here are a few ideas to start with if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the active kid in your life.

Novelty Activities

Trampoline parks, skating rinks, climbing walls, adventure centers – the family-friendly options out there are growing by the month, but most families can’t afford to frequent them daily due to time and, let’s just be honest – cost. A gift card is a perfect solution that the recipient can use any time throughout the year and likely covers at least a few visits.

Wheel Around Town

Bikes are a classic gift, but often a bit pricey to just grab out of the blue, making them a perfect holiday gift. If your little one already has a bike, consider investing in a tandem bike, depending on their age, or keep it retro with some roller skates, a scooter, or a skateboard – all things your kid is sure to love! Extend the gift by coupling it with a pass to a local skatepark.

Sports Gear

If your child is into athletics, there’s no doubt that their hobby comes with gear – whether it’s specialty shoes, balls, leotards, or training equipment. Rebounders for the soccer player, golf or football targets, new dive toys for the pool, or their own practice beam are things they might love, but that you might not shell out for on a normal day – but the holidays are the perfect time to splurge on the latest and greatest.

Activity-based Toys

Because no tree is completely filled without at least a few toy store surprises, consider basics like hula hoops, pogo sticks, stomp rockets, bug catching-kits, and kites all make for fun, active play – without taking up tons of storage space.

Yard Games

Being active doesn’t need to be contained to just athletics or sports training – it’s a lifestyle! And what better way to teach your kids than by partaking yourself. Consider investing in yard games the whole family can play. Croquet, bag tosses, or bocce ball are a few must-haves, but there are also games suited to younger players – check out Farkle or yard dice games like giantYahtzee!