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Less structured activities = better goal setting in kids, study says

Parents naturally want their children to be good at setting and attaining their goals. According to a new study, conducted by University of Colorado researchers, less-structured activities – such as playing outdoors – can help your kids be better at this than structured activities, like piano lessons.

TurfMutt runs outside with girl

Unstructured activities like playing outdoors can help your children be better at setting and achieving goals.

The study specifically examined the “executive functioning” of 6-7 year-old kids. Executive functioning connects past experience with present action (e.g. putting on a coat before going outside if it’s cold, without having to be told to do so). Ultimately, executive functioning enables people to better plan, organize and manage their time. Childhood executive functioning can be an indicator of health, wealth and can even whether a person will be incarcerated during his or her lifetime.

During the study period parents reported information about their children’s schedules and categorized their activities as “structured” or “less-structured.” The children’s executive functioning was assessed using, according to the study summary, “a well-established verbal fluency task, in which children generate members of a category and can decide on their own when to switch from one subcategory to another.”

The researchers discovered that the more time children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. Structured activities, on the other hand, had the opposite effect.




Want your daughter to be successful? Send her outside!

According to a recent study, girls with monthly exposure to the outdoors are better environmental stewards, better problem-solvers and seek out more challenges than their counterparts. The Girl Scout Research Institute conducted the study.


Photo courtesy of Home Science Tools.

TurfMutt thinks getting outdoors is good for all kids, and the great news is it doesn’t have to cost a thing or take a lot of planning to get create quality outdoor time. Simply take a walk around your neighborhood. Plant some flowers with your family. Make yard work a family affair. Or, go on an outdoor scavenger hunt to find unique leaves, animal tracks and other goodies from Mother Nature.

What are your favorite ways to get outdoors with your kids? Post comments below, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.


On National Wildlife Day Turn Your Yard into a Wildlife Retreat

September 4th is National Wildlife Day, which serves to bring awareness to endangered animals across the globe. Did you know that no matter the size of your property you can create a space that attracts, feeds and shelters the local wildlife in your own backyard? Not only is this good for the animals and insects, but it’s also fun for your family to watch and enjoy. It might even help lure your kids away from their screens and into the great outdoors!

wildlife-backyard-kids outdoors-turfmutt

Creating a wildlife habitat is a great way to encourage your kids to spend time outside

Here are three tips for creating a wildlife sanctuary in your yard.

1. Provide food. You should select native plants from your local home improvement store or nursery in order to offer local wildlife the best food source in the form of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and nectar.

2. Offer water. Water sources are not only good for the animals and insects that will visit, but they are also aesthetically pleasing. Examples include a birdbath, pond, water garden or stream.

3. Think about cover. Local wildlife will need a place to nest down for the night, raise their young and to shelter themselves from inclement weather. Help them out with a brush pile, roosting box, dense shrubs or even a nesting box.

To learn more about creating a wildlife habitat, and even qualifying to become an official Certified Wildlife Habitat(R), visit www.nwf.org.




Happy National Dog Day from TurfMutt

August 26th is National Dog Day, and TurfMutt wants to wish all of his four-legged friends out there a very happy day! One of TurfMutt’s favorite things to do is to get outdoors with his humans. Here are three tips for honoring your dog on National Dog Day by getting the whole family outside.

TurfMutt runs outside with girl

Happy National Dog Day from TurfMutt

  • Take a walk. You can walk through your neighborhood or go to a local park to take a stroll. Let your kids help pick the route, and then pack up the whole family to frolic outdoors.
  • Play a game. Tossing a ball, throwing a Frisbee or playing chase are all good ways to get the your family – including your fur-kids – outdoors and moving!
  • Plan a picnic. You can do a picnic in your own backyard or at a local park to get a nice dose of “Vitamin N.” Pack a treat for your dog, as well as for the rest of the crew.

How are you spending National Dog Day with your best friend? Share your comments below or on TurfMutt’s Facebook Page.

On National Dog Day TurfMutt – a rescue dog himself – also wants to remind everyone to adopt rather than shop. Watch TurfMutt’s adoption message for more.


Squeeze a little more outdoor time into the final days of summer

If it hasn’t already, the school bell will soon be ringing, calling kids back to the classroom. Even if school is already in session for your children, the longer days of summer mean there’s still plenty of daylight even after class is dismissed to take advantage of the great outdoors before the seasons change. Here are some tips from TurfMutt on squeezing the most out of the remaining days of summer.

TurfMutt, outdoors, nature, kids

TurfMutt encourages neighbors to connect via nature.


  • Have a picnic. There’s no better place than your own yard to have a family picnic.
  • Take a hike. You don’t have to go far to take a great hike. You can walk through your neighborhood or check out that nearby park that you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t for one reason or another. Bring Fido along for an outing the whole family will enjoy!
  • Pitch a tent. A backyard camping experience can be a great way to reconnect with nature (without having to completely forgo the comforts of home!).
  • Create a summer scrapbook. Before the seasons change, grab your camera and take photos of your families’ favorite parts of summer. Capture everything from the plants and flowers in your own backyard to the wildlife that makes its home there. Then create a photo album so you can be reminded of summer even when the mercury drops!
  • Play outdoors. Round up the neighborhood kids and host a rousing game of kick the can, tag, hide and seek or red light/green light.
  • Host a BBQ. Invite some neighbors over to enjoy a good old fashioned barbeque party in your yard. Everyone can pitch in by bringing a dish to share.

How have you enjoyed the great outdoors during these final days of summer? Share your ideas in the comments section or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.



Mulch to conserve water – it’s not too late!

Combine the dog days of summer with the drought that many areas of the country are experiencing, and it’s easy to understand why water conservation is an important issue for many.

Tips for mulching

Mulching has many benefits.

Mulching helps conserve water by reducing evaporation and runoff, while keeping roots cool and plants growing. If mulching has evaded your to-do list so far this summer, there’s good news – it’s never too late to mulch!

Read TurfMutt’s tips on the proper procedure for mulching.

You can make it a family affair by enlisting your children to help you with your mulching project. You can even have them do a little research about the benefits of mulching prior to the project, and have them help select the supplies for the job.






Now’s the time to start planning your fall garden

You may think that “late summer” and “gardening” don’t exactly go together. But now is actually the perfect time to plant a number of fall vegetables (think kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and more!) and spring-flowering bulbs to enjoy in the months to come. Gardening is a great family activity since it helps teach your kids about where their food comes from, gives them a hands-on science lesson and encourages quality family time in your own backyard.


Gardening can be a great family activity, even in fall!

There’s a formula to help you determine what to plant when in the late summer months.

  • Determine the date of the first expected killing frost (check with your local extension service if you’re not sure when this will happen in your area).
  • Add to this date the length of the average harvest period for the plant you are considering.
  • Now, add in a “fall factor” of about 14 days to account for shorter days that mean plants will grow more slowly.

You can determine the optimal planning date by starting at the date of the first killing frost and counting back the total number of days from your calculations above.

To learn more read this article from kidsgardening.org.


Study shows kids who spend time outdoors after school are more physically fit. Share your tips!


Believe it or not, in some areas of the country back-to-school season is just around the corner. According to a new study, parents should schedule more outdoor time for their children after school this year to help them to be more physically fit.


Spending more time outdoors after school leads to more physically fit children, study shows

Researchers followed 306 Canadian children between the ages of nine and 17. They found that kids who spent most of their after-school time outside were three times more likely to meet the daily physical activity guidelines and were in better overall shape than those children who spent all of their time indoors after school.

During the study period, participants wore pedometers to track the number of steps they took in a week. They also reported the amount of time they spent in organized and free play activities outdoors. The children who reported being outside the most after school got 20 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day than those who spent more time indoors.

Read more about the study here.

So it may seem obvious that getting kids to be active outdoors will help them be healthier. But the big question is how do you accomplish this with the omnipresent distractions of computers, video games, smartphones and more?

We want to hear from you! Share how you’ve managed to get your kids to spend more time outdoors in our comments section or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.







Lawn mower safety tips

It’s typical at around this time for summer lawn care chores to get a little monotonous. But don’t let that mean that your focus on safety slips! Remember these tips to keep yourself – and your family – safe this summer.


Safety tips for mowing

  • Dress properly for the job, wearing substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes.
  • Clean up and clear out the area before you start mowing.
  • Always fill up the gas when the engine is cold and always start the engine outdoors.
  • Stop mowing and turn off the engine if children or pets are near.
  • Mow in sufficient daylight, looking 3-4 feet ahead for debris.
  • Never pull a mower toward you – always push it in a forward direction.
  • Do not give children a ride on a riding mower, even with the blades turned off.

For more safety tips for lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment visit OPEI’s safety page.


Consumers want “green” outdoor spaces, survey shows

If sustainability impacts your landscaping investment decisions, you are not alone. According to the 2014 Residential Landscape Architects Trends Survey, conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, consumers want gardens, landscaping and outdoor living spaces that are sustainable and environmentally conscious.

Rain gardens help prevent water runoff

Photo courtesy of www.cuyahogaswcd.org.

The survey, which polled landscape architects specializing in residential design, also showed that outdoor spaces with low-maintenance landscapes and the use of native plants topped the list of “wants” for consumers. About three quarters of respondents also said that food and vegetable gardens are important to them. Drip or water efficient irrigation and using recycled materials for outdoor items like furniture were other ways survey respondents indicated they will be eco-friendly this year.

We want to hear from you! What are your backyard must-haves? Share them in the comments section, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.