Sleepy Kids

Sleep is a necessity, a vital part of a healthy life. It’s also often the least consistent part of a child’s daily routine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most American school aged children (ages 5-12) are sleep deprived. School aged kids need 10-11 hours of sleep a night but often get much less. Sleep deprivation can affect their ability to learn, concentrate and focus. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to problems with problem solving skills, emotional health, social interactions, and mood. Their brains need the growth and development that takes place only during sleep. Children that are sleep deprived have an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, emotional problems, and problems learning. Many parents describe difficulties getting their kids to sleep. Increased use of video games, TV and computers before bed can cause difficulties falling asleep, nightmares, sleep disturbances, and poor sleep quality. The facts are clear, the numbers are startling and yet most of us have let our kids stay up past their bedtime.

How can parents start to reverse this trend?

First, have a consistent bedtime routine. Healthy Learning Paths teaches kids the “High Five for Sleep”. Second, active kids sleep better at night, so encourage at least one hour of active play a day. Next, kids, like adults, need a quiet transition to bedtime. Turn off the screens at least one hour before starting the consistent bedtime routine. Kids need 10-11 hours of sleep a night, EVERY NIGHT, even on weekends. Let’s make “Healthy the New Happy for Kids!” Happy Sleeping!

-By Virginia Hrywnak, DO

Test Time!

It’s that time of year again. Standardized test time- TCAP for younger kids, ACT/SAT for high school students. These tests are used to measure a student’s knowledge and skills.  However, the results often don’t reflect the true abilities of the student. This is likely due to several factors. Test anxiety, poor preparation, poor skills, negative attitude about school, previous negative test taking experience, and low self-confidence. Research has consistently shown that kids whose parents are involved in their formal education tend to do better in school. So how can parents help? A good place to start is with the basics. Kids know when the tests are scheduled, usually, well in advance. They’re actually often very aware and may be anxious as a result. Keep them in a routine but allow plenty of downtime. Fun, active, playtime! Don’t overschedule their activities. Ensure they get plenty of sleep. Provide them with nutritious protein and complex carbohydrate containing meals. Teach simple relaxation techniques and reinforce using them. Counting to 10, while breathing slowly, is a great place to start. Try to avoid chaos at home- “where’s my backpack, shoes?” etc. Get to school ON TIME. Talk to them about staying focused on the test, even if others are finishing early. Have realistic expectations but do remind kids that the test is important. Be available to your child, talk but more importantly, LISTEN.

All parents want their kids to be caring, successful adults. Parents are the most important teachers in their child’s life. How can we create lifelong learners and instill a love of learning? Give your children a broad foundation of knowledge on a variety of topics. Play, talk and listen, be together. As Emerald Elementary in Broomfield, CO says “Calm, cool and ready for school!” Happy testing!

Help for Holiday Stress

The holiday season is fast approaching, ideally a happy, fun time with our family and friends.  Holidays are a break from the school and work routine and often include special music, food and family traditions. However, the holidays can also be very stressful, even for children.  Heightened family dynamics- divorce, remarriage, military duty, family strife, loss of loved ones, financial stress, lack of adequate sleep, overindulging in treats, impact our kids at the holidays as well.

Often, our expectations of the holidays and the reality when we get together with loved ones are what creates the stress. As adults, we bring with us our memories of our early childhood experiences and expect gratitude, good behavior and happiness from our kids. Our kids are bombarded with media messages that often encourage the latest toys, technologies and unhealthy foods. As mammals, we innately have strong attachment needs and often think “this holiday season will be different”. Yet, despite our best attempts, we feel more stressed than happy, more overwhelmed than overjoyed, more frustration than gratitude. Luckily, our brains are very plastic and we are able with some tools and self-awareness to CHANGE our expectations, not always easy, but doable.

A good place to start is by each family member writing down their expectations (even little kids can have you serve as a scribe for them). Do this soon, before the full holiday season starts. What type of celebration, foods, dress attire, activities, even toys does everyone expect. Meet as a family and compare lists. Especially important in step-families with blended traditions, there may be different cultural or religious backgrounds. Not bad or good, just different. Schedule in downtime- unstructured but important. Introverts and extroverts will see downtime differently. Have teens agree to a calendar of events/expectations “must have” “really like” and “optional”. Empower your kids. Plan ahead that not everyone will have their expectations met.

The American Psychiatric Association offers some helpful tips.

We at Healthy Learning Paths wish you a healthy, happy holiday season.


Written by Virginia Hrywnak, D.O.

The Sweetest Month

HalloweenOrangeOctober is a beautiful month in Colorado and we experience everything from summer-like days to snow.  The trees are changing from vibrant green to reds, oranges, and yellows.  It is glorious!

On the home front, kids are already dreaming of Halloween.  They love thinking of a perfect costume, imagining dressing up, and thinking of all the candy and treats that lay ahead.  Moms and dads, however, dread the onslaught of sugar that October 31st can bring.  From now through the New Year, normal, everyday good eating habits often get sabotaged.  Make a resolution NOW to end 2013 in a healthier way.

Encourage your kids to consistently eat foods that are healthy for their bodies.  Although treats seem inevitable, moderation is key.  Our bodies don’t work properly and we don’t feel our best when we are bogged down with sugary drinks and candy.  Furthermore, sugar may be linked to a number of long-term health problems, including worsened cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity (not to Tooth_Supermention the havoc wreaked on teeth!).  Teaching your kids from an early age to identify good-for-you foods versus not-so-good-for-you foods will allow them the chance to make healthy choices throughout life.  While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sweet, day-to-day habits should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains – even after the bags full of candy roll home.

Another problem we face around Halloween time is sleep.  Kids need 10-12 Kid_Sleepinghours of sleep depending on their age, and this applies both during the week and on weekends.  Unfortunately, trick-or-treating can push bedtimes back often by several hours.  In general, try to get activities started earlier in the evening or afternoon so that your kids can stick to their normal bedtime routine.  Get homework done soon after school, set an earlier dinner time, and allow for some downtime after dinner so that your child can get a good night of sleep before facing the demands of a new day.  As for trick-or-treating, starting earlier will allow for better daylight visibility and keep your child’s bedtime as close to normal as possible.

After Halloween is over and the pounds of candy are sitting around (more than most should eat in a year!) think of alternative uses for that candy!  Many businesses offer to collect or even buy back some of that candy to send overseas to military personnel.    Have your child pick a certain number of favorites and donate the rest!  Alternatively, get out your hot glue gun and glue candy onto a wreath, or have your kids use craft glue to make a candy mask or picture.  (Of course, don’t eat candy that has been glued on a craft).  Be creative and your kids might forget about eating all that candy and have fun playing with it!

Enjoy trick-or-treating with your kids but keep candy consumption in check and stick to your normal bedtime routine to keep everybody feeling their best during this holiday season.


Written by Darby S. Petitt, Ph.D.

Emotional Support for Children During the Colorado Flood

By Dr. Shayna Whitehouse, PhD, School Psychologist


The devastating flood that occurred in Colorado this last week has had dramatic effects on the families and children in our state.  It has disrupted our normal routine by isolating families and necessitating rescues, interrupting cell service prohibiting contact between friends and families in need, and cancelling schools preventing access to typically constant supporting community members.  Some families have lost their belongings, suffered severe water damage, or needed emergency rescue.  Other families did not encounter such loss.  However, all individuals, families and children are affected by this tragedy: Those who have experienced loss and those who are left wondering why they were spared and how they can help their neighbors and community.  All children express their emotions in different ways and at different times, no matter their personal experience with these storms.  Some children discuss their thoughts and worries, others demonstrate behavioral changes, and some search for ways to reach out to their community.  These emotional expressions may be observed right away or after the passage of time, and they may persist for some time or increase and decrease repeatedly over time.  Resources from organizations such as National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and American Psychological Association (APA) help to guide us as professionals, parents and community members.  These organizations provide several ideas for helping to support and reassure our children:

  • Communicate any family needs or emotional changes of children to your children’s school.  The school can help connect your family and children to services for housing, transportation, and emotional support.
  • Reduce exposure to television and news for the near future to lessen anxiety and intense emotional responses.  Because children are experiencing increased stress related to the flood, any exposure to additional stressors reported on the news will increase anxiety and other emotional reactions.
  • Calmly discuss with your children that the flood occurred but reinforce their safety by telling them that many people at home and in the school help to keep them safe and plan for their safety in community buildings.  Relate that the priority of family and educators is safety.
  • In discussions about the flood, focus on the fact that many people have come together to help families to safety.  Make sure to point out these heroic and empathetic gestures and focus on describing the compassion people show within the community and nation when helping to care for others and rebuilding the community.
  • Be prepared for their emotions to change frequently.  Some emotions that children may experience are sadness, anger, elation, and/or anxiety.  You may observe shorter attention spans, irritable behavior, and increased or decreased energy levels.  Let your children know that any emotions they feel are acceptable and provide the support and comfort they need.  Be prepared for these emotions to be demonstrated at different times.  Often siblings will experience and express emotions in very different ways as well, even when they saw the same events.
  • Be aware that children may have a trigger for emotional or behavioral change, such as the smell of rain, the sound of thunder, a cloud moving overhead, or seeing areas in need of clean up.  Allow for emotional change and provide the comfort that your child needs.
  • Keep your schedule as normal as possible to continue comfortable routines, but allow for emotional expression and flexibility in activities as needed.  You may see increased anxiety or emotional expressions if your children experience a trigger, and you may need to alter plans to decrease anxious feelings.
  • When you and/or your children are experiencing significant emotional or behavioral changes, it is appropriate to ask for support.  You can find support through your children’s school, a community health organization, or the Red Cross.  It is natural that we all need support when experiencing extreme stress.  Finding this support allows us to again feel safe and secure and capable of handling additional stresses that come our way.
  • Discuss with children that time will be needed to rebuild or to find a consistent place to live.  While you may not know specifics, you can indicate that it will take time and that the community and school will be helping.
  • Help children identify their personal strengths about how they have supported others and coped in times that were difficult in the past.  If your child feels guilty for not experiencing the loss many others have experienced, they may need to identify ways they can help others.  Often giving to the community can ease this feeling of discomfort.  Also, let them know that we feel guilt when we cause something, and that we did not cause this event.  While they may feel guilt, they were not responsible for the tragedy.
  • Get to now the safety plan at your children’s school and ensure that you are linked to the communication notification system that your school or district provides.  Reassure your child that you are connected to these emergency notification systems.
  • Develop your own safety plan for natural disasters and instruct your children in the protocol.  Reinforce how the plan will help keep the family safe and together.  Indicate that the events are unlikely to occur in the future but that planning helps to make sure family members are safe.

(Gathered from NASP and APA resources)

There are extremely helpful resources available for parents and educators on the Internet.  Please take time to read them and utilize the suggestions and ideas as needed.

    • This site has links for parents, administrators and teachers.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
    • This site has many resources related to traumatic situations children encounter.
    • This site has a link to a helpful page for parents to provide ideas for supporting their children and themselves.

As a community we can support the needs of our children.  These helpful resources can guide our discussions to allow us to comfort our children and help them know we strive to keep them safe in any situation.

Wash Hands, Beat Germs, and Stay Healthy!


BubbleSuperIt’s back-to-school time, and we all want to enjoy the fall and upcoming holidays. Unfortunately, illnesses often rear their ugly heads this time of year with more and more exposure to germs and less and less exposure to clean, fresh air as the weather turns cooler.

A good, simple defense against the spread of germs is to wash your hands!  Handwashing involves using soap, warm water, and rubbing action to rid hands of many (if not all) germs.  Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for kids to remember how or when to wash. It helps to form habits and routines; kids can wash their hands when they walk into school and when they get home from school to minimize the germs brought back and forth. While at school, your kids should wash their hands after using the bathroom; after any nose-blowing, sneezing or coughing; before eating snack or lunch; and after recess.  You can also view and print our fun “How to Wash Your Hands” poster.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an alternative if soap and water are not available. Hand sanitizers are not as effective for eliminating germs, though, and should not be used when hands are visibly dirty.

Start now to form the healthy, hand washing habit so that your family can stay healthy, be happy, and take advantage of al the fun fall has to offer!

Written by Darby S. Petitt, Ph.D.

Goodbye summer! Hello new school year!

It is always hard to say goodbye to summer’s lazy days, fun outings, and vacations, but with the new school year fast approaching, it’s best to start getting your kids used to their school year schedule now. Many families relax their bedtimes and health habits in favor of fun outings and more outside playtime.  Unfortunately, this ease in routine makes the transition to the new school year more difficult, and your child’s learning can suffer.  Here are some tips you can start implementing now that August has come around.

Get your child ready for school now!
Get your child ready for school now!
  • Start moving your kids’ bedtime back to their normal school-year schedule.  Kids who suddenly have to go to bed and wake up early when the first day of school arrives are more tired in school, struggle to pay attention, and may have poor attitudes. Getting kids in bed earlier at night and up earlier in the morning before that first day arrives ensures that they will be ready to learn and be healthier, happier students and friends.
  • As always, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables!  Summertime brings the best of farmers markets and produce!  Stock your refrigerator with cut up fruits and vegetables, so that when snack time comes, it’s easy and available.  Both adults and kids reap the benefits of a healthy diet, including more energy and less illness.  Start the school year off right with healthy snacks and meals to promote healthy living and good attendance all year long.  Parents, get ready to pack lunches by finding new, fun, and portable ideas, such as fruit kabobs, zucchini muffins and trail mix loaded with cereals, dried fruits and popcorn.
  • Do you and/or your kids walk to school?  Or the bus stop?  Grab those sneakers and get your kids moving if they have enjoyed a more leisurely summer.  Get your kids ready to get to school and for recess!  Take advantage of cooler temperatures in the mornings and take your kids (and maybe your dog) for a walk!  Exercise, in conjunction with a healthy diet, promotes good health, both physical and mental, for the whole family!  Also, knowing how they will get to school will reduce back-to-school stress, particularly for kids starting at a new school.

Start NOW for a successful transition into the new school year, for both you and your kids!  Good luck and we wish you happy, healthy kids!

Written by Darby S. Petitt, Ph.D.

Longmont United Hospital Partners with Healthy Learning Paths for New Field in Health Care

Innovating to make a difference for children


While some people are concerned about the declining health of children in Colorado, others, namely, Longmont United Hospital are taking action with innovative solutions.

Longmont United Hospital is known for their commitment to quality health care, but the Board of Directors wanted to do more to protect children in the community from chronic diseases before they start. After reviewing a variety of programs that promote healthy behaviors for children, Peter Powers, Director of Business Development, and his team met with Dr. Chris Marchioni, family medicine physician and founder of Healthy Learning Paths(HLP).

“Our team reviewed a variety of programs that work with children and families, and we agreed that Healthy Learning Paths was by far the best program to help children learn healthy behaviors,” explains Mr. Powers. “Longmont United Hospital has a commitment to the health of our community, and we want to support the health and healthy development of children.”

Medical professionals learned to deliver the Be Well, Learn Well curriculum; here they practice "Brilliant Breakfast."
Medical professionals learned to deliver the Be Well, Learn Well curriculum; here they practice “Brilliant Breakfast.”

Healthy Learning Paths is creating a new field in the health care industry where best practices in medicine are delivered to children in schools. “We have plenty of research that shows how to prevent diseases, now it is time to venture into classrooms where we can empower children with skills for health and happiness,” explains Dr. Marchioni. Longmont United Hospital is recognized for its innovation and commitment to community, so this partnership is the next step to promote health and prevent disease in the community.

Training of a group of Longmont United Hospital medical professionals and retired teachers to deliver the Be Well, Learn Well® curriculum created by Healthy Learning Paths concluded last week. This curriculum meets the Colorado Department of Education health education standards. Now, Longmont United Hospital will offer services of these “medical professionals turned educators” to low income schools who are interested in empowering children with skills for health, as well as enhancing their science curriculum with the exploration of the science of the human body.

“At Longmont United Hospital, we are dedicated to improving the health of our patients and communities we serve,” says Richard Lyons, chair of the Board of Directors. “Our Board of Directors supports this partnership and we are grateful to have a medical staff who are not only leading experts in treating diseases, but are also eager to prevent disease and promote health of children in our community.”

Staff also learned classroom management strategies, including movement techniques and call and response.
Staff also learned classroom management strategies, including movement techniques and call and response.

Healthy Learning Paths represents a new model in healthcare. “With the help of Longmont United Hospital, we’re taking the best medical practices out of the doctor’s office and putting them in the classroom and community where we can make the biggest impact both in health and learning success for children,” concludes Marchioni.

Ava the Avocado

Ava_SuperIn the interest of keeping summer snacks cool, refreshing, and healthy, we’ve decided to post our recipe for guacamole.

Almost everybody has one, and we encourage you to play around and add or subtract what you wish, but one of the great things about this delicious dip is how kid-friendly the recipe can be! During our classes about healthy fats, kids develop their fine motor skills and get a heart-healthy treat out of it at the end. Here’s how we do it:



  • 3 ripe avocados (should feel just slightly squishy)
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 lime


  • Larke bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Plastic knives
  • Garlic press
  • Juicer (optional)

Directions (hint: your kids can do it all — even clean-up!):

1. Slice avocados around the pit lengthwise











2. Twist and pull the avocado halves apart

3. Scoop the seed out with a spoon (or, for speedy extraction, an adult can take a heavy knife, drop it in the center of the seed, and twist — it pops right out!)











4. Scoop the avocado flesh into a large bowl











5. Medium dice the tomato (for kids, use a plastic knife) and toss into bowl



6. Squish the garlic just enough to detach the skin, peel and press through a garlic press into the bowl




7. Juice the half lime and pour into bowl




8. Mash and mix well, and enjoy with your favorite dippables; we like carrot and jicama slices!



And as our superhero, Ava, would tell the kids after class,

“Now you have the power to choose healthy fat foods every day! Foods with healthy fats keep our bodies and minds healthy, happy, and ready to learn!”



If you’d like to bring this class to your kids’ school, contact today!

Resources for Those Affected by CO Wildfires

Healthy Learning Paths grieves for those affected by the wildfires already plaguing Colorado.

Below are resources for those in need. Please share as you see fit.

Wildfire Resources – 2013