Your Guide to Supporting Local Businesses

Here at Top Rated Local®, it’s no secret that we love local businesses. They’re the lifeblood of what we do because we know that our community wouldn’t be the same without them, and neither would yours.

It’s also no secret that the small businesses that make our communities unique and special need our support right now.

Small businesses have had to make so many changes, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that have hurt many bottom lines. Some local businesses, unfortunately, have had to close their doors already, and many more are fighting to stay alive.

If you love the local businesses in your area as much as we do, now is the time to start giving back and doing your part. And, luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can support the local businesses you love.

How to Support the Local Businesses You Love

#1. Always shop local first.

One of the very best ways you can show local businesses a little love is by making the simple choice to always shop local before you turn to Amazon or a big box store. For example, if you’re looking for some flowers, start by visiting your local garden center.

You’ll be surprised at just how much you can find in your local community. Too often, people just don’t look because they know that the big box store has what they need, and it’s convenient. However, a little inconvenience is a small price to pay to save the local businesses you love.

Whether you’re shopping for arts and crafts supplies to keep you busy at home or you’re looking for a pest control company to help you keep your home pest-free, always look for a local source first. Even when you’re shopping online, look for local businesses first.

#2. Buy gift cards.

Thanks to the coronavirus, you may not be able to visit your local beauty salon or barber shop, or you may not be able to get a massage or pamper yourself with a pedicure. But, just because in-person services are less accessible right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show your support.

Buying gift cards helps you show support to your favorite local businesses in multiple ways. Obviously, it allows you to financially support them, but it also helps you provide emotional support.

When you buy a gift card, you’re sending the business in question the message that you plan to work with them in the future. You have faith that they’ll be around when you feel safe going out and getting your nails done again or visiting your hairstylist. That hope is contagious and a powerful motivator.

#3. Write positive reviews.

Most consumers don’t understand the full weight of what reviews do for local businesses. They seem them as a way to give feedback and inform other consumers, but for businesses, they provide powerful testimonies that encourage other consumers to have their own experiences with the business. Reviews also help to make local businesses more visible online.

Reviews are everything to your modern-day local business, and if you want to support your favorite businesses, writing reviews is a great way to do so. The best part about this kind of support is that you don’t have to spend any money, at a time when financial support may just not be in your budget right now.

Take some time to write reviews for the local businesses in your community that you’ve come to rely on over the years. Be honest about your experience, and use the opportunity to let them know why they’re so important to you.

#4. Refer them to your friends and family.

Another powerful way that you can help local businesses in your community stay afloat is by sending business their way. You may not need what they have to provide, but if you know someone who does, let them know who to turn to.

People trust their friends and family to send them to someone they can rely on. Referrals almost always lead to business for local companies.

Not only are you helping local businesses when you make referrals, but you’re also helping your friends and family. It takes time to research local businesses online, but a quick referral from you helps them find someone they can trust right away.

#5. Share the love on social media.

In this day and age, a local business’s visibility online can make or break its success. There’s a lot of competition online these days, and since most people don’t look past the first page of Google, it means that a lot of businesses are competing for only a handful of rankings for competitive keywords.

One way you can help the businesses you love to be more visible online — and therefore, more successful — is to promote them on social media. You can share about an experience you’ve had or just express your gratitude for how they’ve impacted your community.

Even if you don’t have thousands of followers, anything you can do to spread the word about the local businesses you love will make an impact.

#6. Take advantage of online services.

A lot of businesses that have had to restrict or eliminate in-person services have shifted to offering services online. For instance, some fitness centers are offering online classes and online personal training sessions, and some hairstylists are offering online consultations.

Stay connected with the local businesses you love online so that you can be in the know about any online services they’re offering. Visit their website regularly, follow them on social media, and sign up for email newsletters to stay up to date.

If you’re in the market for a local business to support, start with Top Rated Local — your go-to local business directory. Search for local businesses near you in a wide range of categories, read a business’s reviews from across the web, and directly compare local businesses to each other side by side — all from one place.

Start your local business search with Top Rated Local today.

Tips for a Successful Move During a Pandemic

The pandemic adds another layer of stress to already stressful situations, and moving is no exception. The more you know about staying safe, the more prepared you’ll be and the more peace of mind you’ll have.

6 Tips for a Safer Move During Coronavirus

#1. Find the right moving company.

Finding the right moving company is important regardless of whether or not a pandemic is going on, but it’s especially important during a pandemic. Movers will be coming in and out of your home, handling all of your boxes and furniture. You want to know that the moving company you’re working with is taking steps to keep their clients and employees safe.

Here are a few things to look for in a moving company:

  • Licensing and insurance – Always make sure that any moving company you work with has the appropriate license for your move — whether it be a local move or a cross-country move. It’s also critical that they are properly insured in case anything goes wrong during your move.
  • Paid sick time – The last thing that you want is for a sick mover to be working in your home. Make sure that any company you hire encourages its employees to stay home when they’re sick and offers paid sick time.
  • Safety equipment – Your movers should have all of the equipment necessary to keep you and their employees safe and healthy, including masks and hand sanitizer for all of their employees.
  • Contactless moving – Many moving companies are offering contactless moving, which includes virtual estimates and taking steps to maintain social distancing during the move.

#2. Learn the options for postponing or rescheduling.

If there’s one thing we can all take away from the coronavirus pandemic it’s that you never know what the future has in store. One day, we were all going about our normal routines, and the next, we’re all trying to navigate the intricacies of homeschooling and working from home.

Life is unpredictable, and you need to know if life gets in the way, you’ve hired a moving company that makes postponing or rescheduling your move easy and painless. Whatever the reason for needing flexibility with your move, it’s important that any mover you hire offers the kind of flexibility you need.

#3. Invest in fresh moving materials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the primary way the coronavirus spreads is from person to person, and although it’s not transferred easily from a surface, it’s still possible to get infected after encountering the virus living on a surface. That means that it’s probably in your best interest to invest in fresh, new moving materials rather than looking for used ones.

I am normally a proud proponent of looking for free boxes at liquor stores and grocery stores. They often have plenty of great boxes that are perfect for moving. But these are not normal times, and you’ll have more peace of mind knowing where your boxes have come from and who has handled them.

#4. Do the packing and unpacking yourself.

Relying on your movers to pack your belongings is a great way to reduce your stress during the moving process, but again, times are not exactly normal. Packing and unpacking involve close handling of your belongings, which raises your risk of getting infected.

Moving during the middle of a pandemic can be risky, but the more of your move that you can handle yourself, the less of a risk you’ll be taking. Try limiting the jobs that your movers take on to only the ones that you can’t do yourself.

It’s also important to realize that the safety risks are greater inside your home than outside your home. So while it may be acceptable for movers to be in your home for a few minutes carrying a load in, having them hang around for hours to pack and unpack is a different matter.

#5. Follow health and safety guidelines.

Keep in mind all health and safety guidelines regarding coronavirus during your move. That means, when you’re inside with the movers, wear a mask and ask that any movers entering your home wear masks, too. Also, wash your hands frequently and make your sink available to your movers so that they can wash their hands frequently, too.

Most importantly, maintain your distance with the movers. When they come to the door, greet them with a smile instead of a handshake, and request that any forms that need to be filled out can be completed online. Thoroughly label furniture and boxes so that your movers don’t have to ask where things go.

#6. Wipe down anything and everything.

Before your movers start bringing things into your new home, make sure that it’s thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, making sure to put an emphasis on high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, counters, faucets, etc. You could even consider waiting for 24 hours before unpacking your boxes, giving any virus that may be living on your boxes time to die off before you unpack. As you’re unpacking, it’s also a good time to wipe down your belongings.

Consult the CDC’s guidelines on how household cleaning and disinfecting.

Find the right local moving company near you with Top Rated Local®.

As I said in my first tip, finding the right mover is always important, but it’s especially important right now in the midst of the pandemic. But, finding the right mover is not always easy to do, especially when all of the moving companies in your community claim to be the best.

One of the best things you can do to ensure you’ve found the right company is to learn what their previous clients are saying about them, and you can do that by reading their reviews.

With Top Rated Local, you can read moving company reviews from across every verified review site, including Google, Facebook, and Yelp, and you’ll be able to compare the online reputations of movers in your area virtually instantaneously with the Rating Score™ system.

Start your search for a local mover with Top Rated Local today!

Kitchen Remodeling During a Pandemic — One Woman’s Journey

Remodeling your kitchen is never exactly a picnic.

There’s a lot that goes into remodeling your kitchen, and as it’s one of the most frequently used rooms in your home, it being off-limits for any length of time is inconvenient, at best. Plus, your kitchen is the heart of the home and a big driver when it comes to sellability and value. So, when you’re ready for a remodel, you need to find the right local home contractors for the job.

Now imagine all of that in the middle of a pandemic, when the kids are home, the office has now become the living room, and you have few other places to go. Yikes.

That’s the journey my friend and her husband have recently taken on. After eight long weeks, their remodeling project is almost complete. They love their new kitchen, and she has graciously agreed to share her experience with all of us.

#1. Did you take any special considerations when looking for contractors to work on your kitchen remodel per the pandemic?

We started our kitchen remodel at the very beginning of this pandemic. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go ahead with the kitchen remodel because of everything that was going on, but we figured the virus would start tapering off and that we might as well take advantage of the time we were home. However, in the beginning, especially, I was asking everyone if they would be wearing a facemask.

Everyone we had come to the house wore a facemask. I figured it was too much to ask them to remove their shoes, so I instead laid blankets and towels over the surfaces they would be walking on. If we had someone who just needed to stop by, and I didn’t have a chance to lay something over the floor, I would immediately disinfect the floor after they left. I was a little overwhelmed by the extra precautions I felt I needed to take, but in the end, I thought better to be safe than sorry.

#2. How did you find the right contractors for your kitchen remodel, and what kind of things were you looking for when researching contractors?

We were really looking for people with great reviews, and we turned to Top Rated Local® as a reliable review site.

#3. What has been the biggest challenge to overcome during your remodel, and what did you do to overcome it?

One of our biggest challenges has been the constant flow of people coming in and out of our house — all during a pandemic and all while our children are home 24/7 and not in school.

We thought about rescheduling our kitchen remodel but figured if we don’t do it now, when would be a better time? We decided to go ahead with the remodel and just take extra precautions like laying blankets and towels over the floors and requiring facemasks.

#4. What was your biggest mistake with the remodel, and what would you do differently if you could?

This is not pandemic related, but if I could do one thing differently, it would be to talk to all of the contractors directly myself. There was one instance where we decided to go through a local company that had a partnership with a different local company. We didn’t really have any issues, per se, but I wish I would have worked with them directly instead of going through a middleman.

#5. Has remodeling during the pandemic had any upsides?

Absolutely! We are always home for the constant flow of people or for any packages to be delivered. There has been more than one instance where a signature was needed from a delivery driver, and we’ve been home to provide that signature. It’s been convenient that someone is always home to sign for the package or for someone to stop over for a measurement.

#6. What advice do you have for someone getting ready to take on a project like this?

Advocate for yourself. Do what you feel is necessary when it comes to protecting your home and your family. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. These people are coming into your home and will most likely want you to feel comfortable

#7. What’s your favorite part about your new kitchen?

My favorite part of the new kitchen — the shiny new gas stove
My husband’s favorite part — the beer fridge he JUST had to have.

Remodeling your kitchen is one of the best things you can do for your home, both from a personal enjoyment perspective and from a value perspective, but it all depends on the people you hire for the job.

Remodeling a kitchen includes lots of moving parts; you’re likely working with different contractors to do the floors, the countertops, the backsplash, the appliance installations, the plumbing, etc. And, you want to know that every contractor your hire is right for the job. That’s why you should start your local home contractor search with Top Rated Local.

With Top Rated Local, you can read a contractor’s reviews from across every verified review site they’re listed on, allowing you to gain a better understanding of their online reputation, overall, from just one place. Top Rated Local also gives each contractor a Rating Score™ based on their overall online reputation, which allows you to quickly and easily compare contractors. It truly is your go-to local business directory.

Start your search for kitchen remodeling experts with Top Rated Local today!

Professional Tips for Working from Home (and When to Turn to an IT Pro)

When you’re working from home, IT isn’t exactly just a phone call away.

Many of us are working from homes for the first time, and while it’s been great to have constant access to the pantry, the downside is that IT can’t quickly step in if you have a problem. That’s why, today, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to keep the IT blues away while working from home.

5 IT Tips for Working From Home

#1. Keep a close eye on the battery.

If you’re used to working from a desktop computer, you don’t have to think twice about the battery running out, because it’s plugged directly into the wall. But, when you’re working from a laptop, it’s important that you keep an eye on your battery, especially if you’re working somewhere you can’t keep your laptop plugged in all day long.

Why is it so important to keep a close eye on your battery? An unexpected power loss can create all kinds of mayhem, from losing your work to causing damage to your laptop’s operating system.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in what you’re doing and forget to keep an eye on your battery power. Try to find a workspace near an outlet so that you can keep your laptop plugged in, or set a timer to look at the battery every couple of hours (depending on how long your laptop battery typically lasts.

#2. Make sure that your laptop can breathe.

Overheating is a common problem laptop users face, and it’s even more common with so many people now working from laptops on their laps these days. If you work with your laptop in your lap, especially if there’s also a blanket involved, it can block the fans that keep your laptop from overheating. The correct placement of your laptop is on a flat, hard, clean surface. This allows the proper ventilation to flow through your laptop, which makes it possible to “breathe.”

If your laptop’s fan is overactive on a regular basis, and you can feel your laptop getting hot all the time, you may also consider investing in a laptop that has cooling pads to prevent it from overheating.

Overheating can damage both the internal and external components of your laptop, and it can be pricey to fix. You can also help to prevent overheating by making sure the vents are free from dust and debris.

#3. Be careful with liquids.

If you’re anything like me, a cup of coffee is a non-negotiable part of your workday. However, you should be extremely careful about where you put that cup of coffee in relation to your laptop. You may also want to consider using a travel mug or something like it that won’t spill so easily if it’s accidentally knocked over.

Spilling something on your laptop can be incredibly damaging. In fact, liquid damage is the most common reason people take their laptops into a professional for repair, and what’s more is that the average cost to fix a laptop for liquid damage is around $600. In some cases, liquid does so much damage to laptops that it requires full replacement.

Another potential cause of liquid damage to your laptop is cleaning. With coronavirus, we’re all more vigilant about cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and your laptop certainly qualifies. But, it’s critical to clean it the right way to avoid damaging your laptop. Never spray any fluid directly on your laptop. Instead, eliminate germs with a lightly moistened washcloth.

#4. Protect your wifi network.

With so many people now newly working from home, it makes sense that many more people are also working from their private wifi networks. Unfortunately, if your wifi isn’t secure, it can open you up to all kinds of risks.

If your network isn’t secure, it makes it easier for just about anyone to connect to it, giving them access to your data and computer, your usernames and passwords, and your online search data. Here’s what you can do to protect your home wifi network:

  • Create a unique password – Don’t leave the default password for your router. Instead, create a new one, but make sure that it’s long and complicated enough not to be easily hacked into.
  • Disable network name broadcasting – This feature makes it easy for customers to connect to free wifi in select businesses, but it’s unnecessary to enable in private homes.
  • Have a good firewall – While most routers come with a built-in firewall, not all do, and not all firewalls are automatically enabled. If your router doesn’t have a firewall, get a good one, and if it does, make sure that it’s turned on.

#5. Keep your screen locked.

If you are living and working all by yourself, then you probably don’t need to worry too much about your laptop being unlocked. However, if you’ve got kids, or even pets, it’s well worth the seconds it takes to log in to lock your computer screen after a few minutes of inactivity.

All it takes is one rogue paw or sticky finger for the draft of that unfinished email report you’ve been putting together to be sent out, and if your pets are anything like mine, they’re constantly trying to squeeze themselves in my lap between me and my laptop. Besides, keeping your laptop locked is just a good habit to get into for when you eventually go back into the office. If you let yourself get lax about laptop security now, it’ll be easier to let it slip in the future.

While there’s a lot you can do to protect your laptop from home, when damage occurs, you shouldn’t hesitate to turn to a professional when you need one instead of trying to address the problem yourself. The last thing you want to do is cause more damage to your laptop.

When you need computer repair near you, turn to Top Rated Local®. With the ability to read a computer repair shop’s reviews from across the website and quickly see how they stack up against the competition, there’s no other local business directory quite like Top Rated Local.

Tips for Writing More Helpful Reviews

Want to write more helpful online reviews?

Reviews are meant to provide businesses with real feedback from real customers. They are also meant to give prospective customers the information they need to make a decision about working with the business. However, not all reviews are made equal, and not all reviews are actually helpful.

It’s tempting to use reviews as a means of venting frustration about a business or even bragging about great customer service. But, if you really want to write reviews that are helpful to businesses and consumers, you need to learn how to write them the right way.

How to Write Reviews That are Actually Helpful

#1. Try not to get too specific.

While it’s not a good idea to generalize about a business in a review, it’s also not overly helpful if you include a lot of specifics, like the name of the server or technician you had.

A business’s employees absolutely represent the business, but it’s important to realize that employees come and go. If you had a bad experience with one server, for example, it might not be representative of the kind of experience you had overall.

Many review sites also don’t allow doxing (publishing identifying or private information online) of any kind and will take down reviews that violate their policies.

#2. Give context for your review.

Saying that you weren’t satisfied with your service is perfectly acceptable, but if you really want to provide a review that’s helpful to others and gives the business in question feedback they can use, you should also make sure that you give your review more context.

For example, let’s say that a technician wasn’t able to fix the problem you called about or made a mistake in the process. That can definitely create a negative experience, and it’s perfectly valid to write a review about it. However, if they couldn’t complete the repair because the part they needed wasn’t available or the technician bent over backwards to fix their mistake, it paints a very different picture of the business.

#3. Be professional!

One of the fastest ways to ensure that your review is immediately discounted by anyone who reads it is to resort to name calling or pettiness when writing your review. Even if you have a legitimate complaint, personal attacks will outshine any feedback you may be giving. Personal attacks also make you appear unreasonable.

Always try to be as professional as possible when writing a review. If you’re upset, give yourself a few minutes to cool off and gather your thoughts. I know it can be tempting to vent your frustrations in an online review, but if your aim is truly to give feedback and to help other consumers make the right decisions, it needs to be professional.

#4. Try to be objective.

A lot of things can affect the way that we perceive the world around us. Some of those things are in the business’s control – such as the promptness and friendliness of their customer service, the quality of their work or products, etc. — but others have very little to do with the business, like if you’ve had a bad day.

Try to be objective and limit your feedback to only things the business can control. Take a few minutes to ask yourself if your complaints are the result of what really happened or just how you felt at the time. Remember, the point of your review is not to give your personal experience but to give a snapshot of the kind of experience the business provides.

#5. Be honest.

Honesty is incredibly important when writing helpful online reviews. It does neither the business or anyone reading your review any good if you exaggerate or lie about your experience. Defamation isn’t acceptable under any circumstance, including in an online review.

Remember that honesty is always the best policy. Don’t forget that policy when you’re writing online reviews.

#6. Talk about a range of elements.

As I said, an online review is supposed to give other readers a good idea of what working with a business is like. That means that you should try to be cognizant of the entire customer experience rather than choosing to review a single aspect, like punctuality, wait times, or customer service.

If you had a negative experience with a customer service representative, but the technician who helped you was friendly and accommodating, make sure to include all of those things in your review.

It’s for this reason that Top Rated Local® allows you to rate businesses based on the five pillars of the customer experience in addition to writing a review.

#7. Be open to updating your review.

Your review doesn’t have to be set in stone, and it’s completely OK to go back and update your review if you’ve received more information. Sometimes, when a business hears negative feedback, they’ll bend over backwards to make it right. This is the perfect kind of information to include in your updated review because it shows people that, while the business did make a mistake, they were also willing to make it right.

You might also learn new information that changes the way you looked at the service you received. For example, maybe you were upset about a long wait time, but after you learn that the business was operating with minimal staff because of sickness or personal issues, it’s easy to understand how that could affect your wait.

Review the local businesses near you with Top Rated Local.

Want to write a review about a recent experience you’ve had with a local business? If so, turn to Top Rated Local! As I mentioned, we take reviews one step further by allowing you to rate businesses based on the five pillars of the customer experience — quality, value, timeliness, experience, and satisfaction — and you’ll also have a quick and easy way to access a business’s reviews from across the web.

Not only is Top Rated Local a great place to write reviews; it’s also your go-to local directory when you’re looking for the right local business for your needs. Get started today!

How to Find the Right Pest Control Company

When you’ve got pests, you need a pest control company you can trust.

Spring is in full swing, which means that a lot of pests are more active than usual. Not only do you have to deal with the typical squirrels, mice, and rats that are always around, but spring and summer bring many seasonal pests, as well, including bees and wasps or snakes.

When you call a local pest control company, you want to know that you can trust them to get the job done. Today, I hope to help you learn what to ask in order to find the right one

What to Ask When Looking for a Pest Control Company

#1. Are they licensed?

Any pest control company you hire needs to be properly licensed in your state, and that licensing needs to be up to date. Proper licensing ensures that the pest control company in question understands all of the applicable laws and regulations in the pest control industry. It also ensures that the technicians who will be working in your home or commercial space have been properly trained on methods and materials, as well as on the necessary safety measures they need to have in place.

You don’t have to take a company’s word about licensing. To find out for yourself if a pest control company is properly licensed, you can contact your state pesticide regulatory agency, or you can always ask to see a copy of their licenses and certifications.

#2. What is their online reputation like?

A part of your search for any local business should include checking out the business’s online reputation, and the best way to do this is by reading their reviews. Reading previous customer reviews can help you learn about what kind of experience other customers have had with the business, which can give you more peace of mind about working with a business for the first time.

When reading reviews, look at the most current reviews, and try to read both positive and negative reviews. Also, look at how the business responds to negative feedback. Do they correct their mistakes and work to turn negative experiences around, or do they get defensive about it?

Make sure that you also read reviews from multiple review sources. A pest control company’s reputation on Yelp may be wildly different than its reputation on Google or Angie’s list. To get a quick look at a local pest control company’s overall online reputation and read their reviews from across the web, start your search with Top Rated Local®.

#3. Are they experienced?

As a general rule, the more experience a pest control company has, the more knowledgeable they’ll be about the job. While this isn’t always the case and experience doesn’t always translate into better service, it’s always a good idea to find out how long a pest control company has been operating and what kind of experience they have with your own pest control issue.

For example, if you’ve found seven garter snakes in your yard, you probably won’t get the kind of results you want if you hire a pest control company that has spent the last 20 years dealing with rodents. There are many different pest control companies out there, and they have different amounts of experience with different issues. Find out what kind of experience they have before you think about working with them.

#4. What are their rates like?

Obviously, you need to make sure that you hire a pest control company whose service rates are within your budget. And, it’s always a good idea to call multiple pest control companies to compare their rates.

Be careful if a company is offering you significantly lower rates than their competitors. If their rates are low, there’s probably a good reason for it. It may be that they use cheaper pest control chemicals or cut corners where safety is concerned.

#5. What methods do they use?

Always ask the pest control company in question what kind of methods they will use when providing pest control services. And, if you have questions or concerns about the methods they use, they should be able to address them or offer alternative pest control methods that you’re more comfortable with.

#6. Do they offer a guarantee?

The last thing that you want is to be lulled into a false sense of security thinking your pest control issue has been taken care of, only to find a resurgence of the infestation. That’s why you should always find out what kind of a guarantee the pest control company in question is offering.

If a company says that it offers a guarantee, make sure that you get it in writing, ahead of time. A spoken guarantee doesn’t mean much, and it’s always preferable to get guarantees in writing as often as you can.

#7. How will they keep you safe?

Safety is always something you should consider when hiring a pest control company, especially if you have pets or kids who might be at risk if dangerous methods or chemicals are used to eliminate pests. But, during the coronavirus pandemic, there are additional safety questions you should ask.

Find out whether or not their technicians get time off when they’re sick, and what the company is doing to keep their customers and employees safe while on the job. You should also make sure any pest control company you hire provides the adequate safety equipment to their technicians, like masks and gloves.

#8. What will they do to prevent pests from coming back?

If one pest has been able to find its way into your home, chances are, more will be able to follow in their footsteps in the future. That’s why it’s not enough to hire someone who will get rid of the pests that you have. They should also be able to help you prevent infestations in the future.

There are a lot of great pest control companies out there ready to meet your needs, but they’re not all made equal. Take the first step toward finding the right pest control company near you with Top Rated Local today

The Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids

Martial arts are beneficial for kids in many different ways.

Have you been thinking about enrolling your son or daughter in a martial arts class? Martial arts are a great option, even for kids who don’t have much interest in other sports. Whether your child is interested in practicing karate, Taekwondo, Jiu-Jitsu, or Tai Chi, it’s a practice that they can learn a lot from and benefit from in many, many ways. Today, I’m going to cover just a few of them.

6 Ways Martial Arts Benefit Kids

#1. It gets them moving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity affects almost 14 percent of two- to five-year-olds, more than 18 percent of six- to 11-year olds, and more than 20 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds in the United States, and many more are overweight. This puts our nation’s children at risk for all kinds of health problems, from diabetes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Luckily, a little movement can go a long way toward combating obesity in children.

One of the biggest benefits of martial arts for children is that it gets them moving, and it does so in a way that they actually enjoy. Part of the reason for this is that martial arts don’t require that kids be overly athletic in order to participate. Practicing martial arts gives kids a full-body workout that includes both strength training and cardiovascular training, as well as balance and flexibility.

#2. It teaches them to set and work toward goals.

Some kids are natural-born athletes and do well in many sports, even if they’re completely new to them. However, martial arts don’t work that way. Every child, no matter their athleticism or natural ability, starts on the same level in martial arts, and they all must work toward goals in order to move to the next level or belt.

Goal setting is extremely valuable for kids. It helps to keep them motivated, to learn to track their progress, and to learn to map a path for success.

#3. It teaches them how to focus.

Focus is something that can be a challenge for kids these days. With smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and more, there are lots of things to distract kids. But with a regular martial arts practice, kids can learn how to push the distractions aside and direct their attention toward their practice.

In martial arts, children must focus on the task at hand in order to get it right, which also means that they need to be able to fully listen to their instructor. This is especially beneficial for kids who might have a limited attention span or difficulty focusing on one task at a time.

#4. It builds confidence.

Confidence is huge for children, because it helps them face life’s obstacles head-on and gives them the self-esteem they need to jump into learning new skills with both feet. Kids who are more confident are also more secure in who they are and are more likely to have a growth mindset. They also tend to be more willing to try new things and aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it.

The more time children spend participating in martial arts, the more confidence they’ll gain. Kids don’t start out in karate as a black belt; it takes consistent effort and practice to get there. When kids start reaching their goals and seeing the fruits of their labor, it builds confidence and self-esteem.

#5. It teaches them to respect authority.

Disrespect is all too common in kids these days. Disrespect impacts family life and undermines parental authority, but it makes almost every other aspect of life, including academics and athletics, more challenging as well. It can be a tough issue to correct, but the good news is that martial arts can really help.

Respect is a critical aspect of martial arts. In martial arts, kids not only learn to respect their instructor; they also learn to respect their peers as well as themselves. And, many martial arts programs take a child’s behavior outside the classroom into account, only moving kids up through the ranks when they can demonstrate respect and discipline in their home and school lives.

#6. It builds conflict-resolution skills.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that martial arts teach and reinforce violence, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While martial arts does teach kids to physically defend themselves, what kids really learn from martial arts is to resolve conflicts in peaceful ways.

Through martial arts, kids learn to temper their immediate reactions to things, which helps them react in healthier ways than hitting or yelling. It teaches kids how to listen more and to put themselves in the shoes of their aggressors, helping them to resolve conflicts in ways that aren’t physical.

As I said, these are just a few of the many ways that your child could benefit from practicing a martial art. If you’re looking to help your child reap these benefits, start your search for a local martial arts center with Top Rated Local®.

Our local business directory not only provides you with a list of dojos in your area, but it makes it easy to compare martial arts centers side by side and read reviews from across the web. It also provides a quick snapshot of a martial arts center’s reputation overall with the Rating Score™.

Whether you’re looking for in-person or online classes, start your search for a martial arts center near you with Top Rated Local today!

How to Stay Safe While Out Shopping

Want to stay safe while you’re out shopping?

The coronavirus pandemic has made a lot of simple things much more complicated, including shopping. But, whether you need a new pair of socks or to replenish your pantry, it’s something we can’t avoid doing forever. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to stay safe while you’re out shopping. Here are just a few of them:

#1. Do curbside pickup when you can.

The best way to stay safe while out shopping is to avoid it altogether! Luckily, that’s easier to do now than ever before, with so many stores adopting curbside pickup. It used to be that only a select few grocery stores offered curbside pickup, but now you can find it at just about any store. Even some beauty salons and nail salons have put together curbside at-home kits that you can use to keep up your beauty routine at home.

With lots of retailers, you can now order online, and they’ll bring it out to your car. But, if the store in question doesn’t offer online shopping, don’t hesitate to call and ask if they’ll do curbside pickup. Many will gladly do so and will accept orders over the phone.

#2. Have a plan.

In order to minimize your time out in the public, you want to avoid browsing while you’re in the store. You should have a plan in place before you go out shopping, which means that you should put together a list of what you want/need ahead of time.

One of the best ways to ensure that you get out of the store as quickly as possible is to organize your list by aisle, and put your list in order by what you’ll pass in the store first. Of course, this requires you to be familiar with the store you’re going to, which can also help to save a lot of time.

If you’re not 100-percent sure which items are found in which aisles, you can still make your trip faster by organizing your list by type. For instance, if you’re going to the grocery store, list all of your produce together, all of your dairy together, all of your frozen goods together, etc.

#3. Try to avoid using your fingertips.

High-touch surfaces, like door handles, can harbor lots of invisible germs that can be transferred to your face when you touch them with your fingertips. If the door to the store is not propped open or doesn’t have a sensor that will automatically open the door for you, you can often avoid touching the handle with your fingertips by using your elbow or hip to push the handicapped button. You can also use these alternatives when pushing the door open.

#4. Wear a mask when out in public.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all Americans wear cloth face coverings when out in public, especially in crowded indoor areas, like retail stores and grocery stores. This is meant to keep others around you safe, which is important because COVID-19 can be transferred before symptoms start to appear.

#5. Stay at least six feet away from others.

When you’re in the store, make it a point to steer clear of other shoppers. If there are arrows in the store indicating which direction you should walk in, make sure to pay attention to them and follow them. If an aisle looks crowded, wait for a few minutes for it to clear up before you go down it. Or, if someone is standing in front of something you want to grab, let them make their selection and walk away before you to get what you need.

Maintaining your distance while out shopping is one of the most important steps you can take to keep yourself, and those around you, safe. The downside, though, is that it can make your shopping trip longer because you have to wait for a clear path before you go down a certain aisle or grab certain products. That’s why it’s always good to give yourself a little more time when you’re going out these days.

Another important step you can take to ensure that you can keep your distance while shopping is to avoid going out when the store you’re visiting is crowded. If you’re unsure about when that might be, don’t hesitate to call and ask about the store’s busiest hours.

#6. Look before you touch.

In order to avoid spreading more germs than you have to, you should refrain from actually touching things as much as possible while out shopping. A lot of people like to browse with their hands, handling each item, reading the packaging. This, unfortunately, leads to a lot of unnecessary handling of products that end up getting put back on the shelves.

To avoid this, look with your eyes instead of with your hands. If possible, compare similar products ahead of time online so that you have an idea of what you want before you go to the store.

#7. Wash your hands.

The advice not to touch your face is sound, but it is much easier said than done for many of us. If you’re anything like me, the second I tell myself that I won’t touch my face is the second my nose starts itching like crazy. That’s why good hygiene is so important during this pandemic.

When you get in the car after shopping, eliminate the germs that may be living on your hands by using some hand sanitizer. And, when you get home, after you’ve put your groceries or other goods away, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Want to shop at a local retailer near you? Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local is not your average local business directory. When you search for local businesses with us, you’ll be be able to easily compare retailers side by side by looking at their Rating Score™ — which is a quick snapshot of what a business’ online reputation looks like overall — as well as read a business’s reviews from across every verified review site it’s listed on. Get started today!

At-Home Dental Care Tips

Staying at home doesn’t have to mean neglecting your dental health.

In many states, preventative dental care has fallen to the wayside as dental offices have worked to keep their patients safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, even if you can’t get in to see your local dentist in person, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your teeth healthy and beautiful from home.

How to Keep Your Smile Healthy From Home

#1. Brush properly.

Most people are well aware of just how important regularly brushing their teeth is for dental health. In fact, it’s the most basic thing you can do to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. But, how you brush your teeth is just as important as how often you brush, and believe it or not, it’s easy to get it wrong.

The correct way to brush your teeth is by holding the brush at a 45-degree angle and brushing in a gentle, circular motion. Plaque is loose and soft and doesn’t require aggressive brushing to remove. If you brush your teeth too aggressively, or even too frequently, you can end up damaging your teeth and gums.

It’s also important that you’re brushing your teeth for long enough to get them thoroughly cleaned. Two minutes is the ideal amount of time to brush your teeth. If you don’t brush long enough, your teeth won’t get properly cleaned, and if you brush too long, you could damage your teeth and gums, just as you could by brushing too aggressively.

And, don’t forget to brush your tongue! After all, it’s where the majority of the bacteria in your mouth live. It also prevents bad breath, which is always a good thing.

#2. Invest in the right toothbrush.

Not all toothbrushes are made equally, and to get the best results when brushing your teeth, you need to use the right tools for the job.

An electric toothbrush is a great option if it’s in your budget. One study found that, when compared to manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes have the power to reduce plaque up to 21 percent more and gingivitis 11 percent more.

If using an electric toothbrush isn’t an option for you, not to worry. You can still clean your teeth thoroughly with a manual toothbrush, but again, it’s important that you select the right one. For best results, you’ll need a soft-bristled toothbrush. Hard-bristled brushes aren’t gentle enough and can damage your teeth and gums.

#3. Rinse regularly.

Brushing your teeth after every meal or snack is unnecessary and, as I mentioned, can end up hurting your teeth and gums more than helping them. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to freshen up your mouth throughout the day after meals and snacks.

Rinsing regularly is a good way to get rid of any food particles that may have been leftover in your mouth. When debris is left in your mouth, it combines with bacteria to create tartar. All it takes to remove it is a simple rinse of warm water after eating.

It’s especially important to rinse your mouth out after eating or drinking anything that’s acidic. If you brush too soon after eating an orange or something else acidic, you can actually hurt your teeth by brushing the acid into them.

#4. Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it regularly.

Germs and bacteria can grow on your toothbrush while it’s sitting on the counter between brushings, which are then introduced into your mouth when you brush. Gross!

Luckily, you can avoid this by simply disinfecting your toothbrush before each use. This can be done by letting your toothbrush sit in antibacterial mouthwash for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have antibacterial, you can soak your toothbrush in a mix of a cup of water with two teaspoons of baking soda mixed into it for several minutes, or you can soak your toothbrush in white vinegar overnight every week.

In addition to ridding your toothbrush of germs and bacteria, it’s also a good idea to replace it regularly, as the bristles can wear out over time. The general rule is that you’ll want to replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months.

#5. Floss every day.

Plaque, which is the leading cause of gum disease and tooth decay, needs to be removed from your teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, not all plaque is easy to reach. The plaque that grows in between your teeth can be some of the toughest to get rid of since it can’t be reached with a toothbrush alone.

Flossing is the best way to eliminate the hard-to-reach plaque that grows in between your teeth, and it should be done at least once a day. If you can’t stand the idea of flossing, a water flosser or powered air can be a decent alternative.

#6. Drink plenty of water.

Drinking lots of water throughout the day is not only good to keep you hydrated; it’s also a key part of dental health. When your mouth is dry, it can actually lead to an increase in the accumulation of plaque and increases your risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

When you drink plenty of water, it also leads to an increase in salvia, which is your body’s first line of defense against plaque and decay. And, if you drink water that contains fluoride, which is commonly found in tap water, it will also help to strengthen your teeth.

If you’re in need of in-person dental care, find a dentist near you with Top Rated Local. Every state has its own policy in place, and many are loosening restrictions, so you may be able to get an in-person appointment. Barring that, though, many dentists are offering online consultations to address patients’ questions and concerns.

With Top Rated Local, you can read a local dental clinic’s reviews from across the web and easily compare them to other dentists in your area. Get started today.

How to Find a Local Business You Can Trust

It’s never been more important to support local businesses, and it’s also never been more important to find a local business you can trust.

Local businesses across the country are facing an uphill battle at the moment, and they are more in need of your support than ever before. But, with the number of coronavirus cases growing by the day, you also want to know that you can trust any local business that you hire.

6 Tips for Finding a Local Business You Can Trust

#1. Check for any necessary licensing or accreditation.

Most industries are under some form of regulation, and many different businesses require some sort of licensing or accreditation. This includes everything from roofers and plumbers to nail salons and massage clinics.

Any time you’re working with a local business that requires a license or accreditation, you should, at the very least, make sure that they have them. If the business isn’t properly licensed or accredited, you shouldn’t even consider working with them.

If you’re hiring a local business to do something inside your home, it’s also essential that you ensure that they are properly insured. This not only prevents them from liability, but you, as well.

#2. Look them up on Google.

You don’t have to hire a private investigator to learn what kind of organization a business is. In fact, you can learn a lot about a business simply by looking it up on Google.

You’ll find the business’ website, Facebook page, local listings, etc. but you can also look for any news that’s been associated with the business in question. For example, if you’re looking for a local restaurant that you can safely support amidst the pandemic, a Google search could help you learn about any previous health code violations they may have had.

#3. Read reviews.

The number one way to learn about what actually working with a local business is like is to go straight to the source — it’s current customers. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of reading reviews:

  • Read multiple reviews – Individual experience is just that — individual — so reading just one review may or may not be reflective of what the typical customer experience is like. Reading multiple reviews allows you to look for common themes and learn about the customer experience overall rather than just one-off experiences.
  • Read recent reviews – Businesses change all the time. They hire new employees, offer new products or services, and adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers. Someone’s experience three years ago may have very little bearing on the typical experience at the present moment, so make sure that you read recent reviews.
  • Read positive and negative reviews – Don’t just read a business’ five-star reviews or one-star reviews. Read a mix of reviews so that you can get an idea of what the best- and worst-case scenario looks like.
  • Read reviews on multiple sites – A business’s reputation on Yelp isn’t always indicative of its reputation on Google or Facebook, or vice versa. In order to really learn about a business, you need to learn about their online reputation overall, which means that you need to read reviews from more than one review source.

#4. Pay attention to how they respond to feedback.

If a business has a one-star review or two, it’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be trusted. We all make mistakes; it’s just a part of life. But, it’s how a business responds to those mistakes that can tell you a lot about what working with it is like.

When someone has had a poor experience with a business and gives them a one-star review, it’s a red flag if the business doesn’t respond because it indicates that they either don’t care that their customer didn’t have a good experience or that they don’t pay attention to the feedback they get online.

When a business does respond to a one-star review, on the other hand, it can tell you a lot about what kind of business they are. Did they get defensive and petty when they responded to the negative feedback, or did they own up to their mistake and try to make it right?

A business that can’t accept feedback and doesn’t take responsibility is not the kind of local business you want to work with.

#5. Find out how they treat their employees.

Not only should you ensure that any local business you work with treats its customers well; you should also look at how a business treats its employees, especially right now.

With coronavirus, the last thing that anyone wants is to work with a business that isn’t properly protecting its employees, particularly if those employees work directly with customers. It’s more important than ever to ensure that a local business you work with encourages employees to stay home when they’re sick and keeps employees safe by enforcing social distancing requirements while at work.

#6. Learn about safety precautions.

These aren’t typical times, which makes finding a local business a little more complicated than it typically would be. Whether you’re hiring someone to work in your home or you’re visiting them at a store or an office, you want to know that they have your safety in mind. Make sure that you ask about what the business is doing to keep people safe.

Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®.

When you’re looking for any kind of business near you, whether it’s a barber shop, roofing company, or restaurant, start your search with Top Rated Local. With Top Rated Local, you can read a business’s reviews from across the web, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of a business’s online reputation, overall, by looking at its Rating Score™.

Find a local business near you with Top Rated Local today!