Posts Tagged ‘toddlers’

Positive and Fun Meals!

June 19, 2009

fun lunchFood should be positive, fun, delicious as well as healthy but we live in a time where everyone is overly health conscious and kids pick up on the stress of that. I try to avoid the talks about “good and bad food” and just present it as food. “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” I’m not a force feeder and I feel that if you keep offering food in a positive way without any negative food comments at the dinner table then children are more likely to eat it. Little minds are easily influenced and I’ve seen kids go from absolutely loving something like broccoli and then refusing it after they heard an adult or peer say, “Oh yuck! I don’t like that!”. So, my rules at the dinner table are simple…

  • Keep negative comments about food to yourself
  • Take one bite of everything at least, please
  • You are welcome to seconds after all portions are consumed

Of course there are the other general rules of manners at the dinner table but that is a topic for another day! Oh and these rules apply to the adults at the table as well!

A meal is a time to connect, bond and enjoy each others company. It should be a positive and thankful time for everyone involved. We have such busy lives that these little moments in time are valuable and should be appreciated.

I offer a lot of variety and small portions so it expands the palette gradually. A typical meal will have one part meat, two parts veggies, one part fruit and usually rice. If I am offering something new to a child that I am sure they will frown upon I will only give enough for just one bite. It’s less intimidating for a child to eat a single bite of something new than stare at a huge mountain of it. If I am offering something I know a child does not like then I will give them two bite portions. Why? Because if a child is known to dislike something we generally always encourage to at least have one bite so they expect that. If they eat the second bite we can positively enforce it with “Wow! Great job! You ate it ALL!” Sure, the portions were only two bites but that fills a child with pride to know they really did eat all of something they dislike. Eating all of something is much more of an accomplishment than just eating two bites. If they choose not to eat it all then I just ignore it and say something positive about what they did eat.

fun shapesHowever, sometimes kids just aren’t into food that much or become bored easily. Thats why I try to make meals simple and fun with ideas from the Japanese bento. Bentos are traditionally a Japanese lunch that is taken on the go and served in a box. I have a lot of fond memories of bentos from my childhood. I loved all the cute containers, contrasting colors and neat shapes of common food. It always made lunch more enjoyable! I try to use a few ideas with every meal to make our meals a little more visually appealing. Even if its something as simple as using cookie cutters to cut meats into heart shapes, or cutting hot dogs into the shape of octopuses. Children respond positively to a plate full of fun and cute things.

Every child is different and because of such its hard for us to figure out what grabs their attention. Its a constantly changing and evolving process but I find that if you get down to their level and see through a child’s eyes it all becomes a little clearer. Sometimes we can’t change their stubborn nature or apprehension on trying new foods. But, we can change how we present the foods in a positive and fun way so hopefully it sticks.

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Toddler Bubble Fun with a Fly Swatter

June 15, 2009

If I didn’t have bubbles on the brain when I went shopping with the kids I don’t think I would have considered a flyswatter for a bubble wand. I was standing in the cleaning aisle watching my son trying to grab the swatter and I thought, “Hmm.. why not?!” It just seemed like a great idea! All those tiny little holes, the long handle and the obvious interest my two year old son had in it seemed like the perfect, and inexpensive, toddler bubble wand.

So, there we were in our front yard with a big bowl of bubble solution and our flyswatters and we had so much fun! With one SWOOOSH we had hundreds of bubbles of all difference sizes! It was more enjoyable for my two year old to swing the swatter around than trying to dip a tiny wand in a bottle and mostly spit in his attemps to get any bubbles. We ran across the lawn and watched the bubbles trail behind us. Both of the kids took turns pretending the wands were wings and made “fairy bubbles” and they flew around the garden. The possibilities were endless, the investment was minimal and the laughter was constant.

Before trying this you have to accept that fact that the kids, yourself, possibly your neighbors cat and everything within your general area will get bubbled! But, that makes it even more fun! The bigger the swats the more bubbles made.

And of course I suggest you buy flyswatters specifically for bubble swatting and not for flies!

My Basic Bubble Solution:

1 cup of dishwashing liquid (Dawn or Joy)
4 cups of water
3 teaspoons of sugar or 4 tablespoons of glycerine

Cucumbers, Toddlers and Pickles

June 13, 2009

Do you love pickles? Do your kids? Grow some cucumbers and enjoy making homemade pickles with your kids! Kids always want to be entertained and that often makes us parents cringe because we will most likely be diving into our pockets. Why must entertainment and family activities cost so much? It doesn’t have to! Get back to basics with your kids! How about a little gardening? Oh sure, you might have a very reluctant black thumb but don’t let that stop you. Even a mistake in gardening can be a wonderful experience! You often won’t need much in the way of cost. Even if you don’t have a huge garden you can spend less than 10$, have a project for months and get a yummy treat at the end!

This year my daughter and I decided to grow six small pickling cucumber plants that we picked up from the local nursery with the intention of making pickles. She was focusing on the yummy result and I was thinking of all the little things she can learn from this project without knowing it!

Five of the plants were put in the ground in different areas in our front garden and one is in a pot. Okay so I admit we will never have the most beautifully landscaped garden on the block because of all of our random garden experiments, however, its our garden and I love it! Who says cucumbers don’t look right growing next to a Japanese maple or an azalea bush? Psh! Anyway, I chose to do this (knowing that some locations were not going to be ideal) because there are valuable lessons to be learned based on failed attempts in the garden. The idea is to observe the plants every week and tend to them all equally and discuss the differences. Kids are very perceptive and will often be quick to point out the noticeable differences! When the first blooms showed on the little guys my daughter made some interesting observations. This one in the pot is smaller than the ones in the ground. The other one in the shade has no flowers. The one in the hard soil is really yellow. I simply asked her questions as to why she thought all the plants that started out exactly the same are growing so differently. Her answers were mostly right on point however I didn’t agree with “The yellow plant is that color because our neighbors dog is using it as a toilet. So, lets not eat those.”

We planted our cucumbers very very early in the season and we are fortunate to be in Southern California and have a longer growing season so that means we already have cukes to harvest! The process of harvesting them was something we looked forward to every single day! Oh, and just remember that pickles are prickly so please wear gloves! Some were very short while others grew very crooked and we discussed the differences (and my daughter made her theories!). Some were consumed almost right away after a good scrubbing but most were put away for our original plan: Its Pickle Time!

I did most of the chopping and my daughter did most of the washing and we were both very eager to taste the end results. I wanted to use the easiest method for making pickles without having to deal with a lot of pots, wait time and mess. I found many ideas for “Microwave Pickles” and made my own that works for us! In about 15 minutes of wash, chop and nuke the cukes time we had our very own first jar of pickles! They were delicious!

The best thing about getting back to basics, including your kids in the process and having a delicious end result is that there is a lot to be enjoyed and learned along the way. My daughter isn’t too interested in cucumbers that we buy from the store but she wants an excuse to eat the homemade ones. Sure, she might not grow up to own her very own organic pickle company but she learns so much without even knowing it.

This is going to quickly become a regular project with my child care kids and we will easily be able to pick enough in one day to have for lunch. Even if you do not have a garden you can grow cukes in containers. You also don’t even have to grow your own to benefit from these ideas. Sometimes reading books about gardens and adding fun crafts can be enough! You can buy cucumbers and still have the kids learn how to turn them into pickles!

Below is a recipe for Microwave Pickles:

INGREDIENTS
5 – 8 small cucumbers.. slice them!
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
4 peeled garlic cloves *
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds *
1/4 teaspoon celery seed *
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric *

1.Mix all the ingredients and place them in a medium sized microwave safe bowl.
2.Microwave on high 7 to 8 minutes until cucumbers are tender and onion is translucent. I stop it every 2 – 3 minutes and give it a good stir!
3.Transfer to a sterile mason jar. Seal and chill in the refrigerator until serving.
* I find these ingredients to be optional and depends on what flavors you like. I personally just add the garlic and omit the rest. Its not that I don’t like the way it tastes with all the ingredients but I find that the kids all prefer it without them. So, use your own judgment! Plus, if you do not have all these ingredients you do not have to go out and buy them. They taste great without them!