Kidamentals Blogs
  • Healthy Valentines Day Food for KidsValentine's Day is so much fun for families and kids and adults!  However, it is also so hard to resist all of those delicious homemade goodies and beautifully wrapped treats (for myself AND for my kids)! While I want all of us to enjoy the holiday festivities, I try to limit the amount of sugar we ingest.

    On Valentine's Day, I do let my kids eat some of the treats they receive as gifts; however I also try to incorporate healthier, fun Valentine-themed foods into the rest of the day.


    Here are 11 Fun and Healthy Valentine’s Day Themed Foods to try with your kids:

    1. Heart shaped whole wheat pancakes topped with fruit
    2. Heart shaped French toast made with whole wheat bread, topped with fruit
    3. Whole grain muffins in festive liners
    4. Whole grain bagels with strawberry cream cheese
    5. Red and white yogurt parfait made with raspberries or strawberries
    6. Banana boats – banana scooped out lengthwise with red berries in the middle
    7. Fruit cut into heart shapes with cookie cutter
    8. Fruit either dipped in chocolate or drizzled with chocolate
    9. Pink milk – cup of milk with a drop of red food coloring (can add few drops of vanilla or almond extract for a little extra flavor)
    10. Heart shaped sandwiches, grilled cheese, pizza
    11. Tomato, red pepper and mozzarella skewers


  • Fiber Foods for KidsKids need about 20-30 grams of fiber daily. But with all of the processed food lurking around, it can be a challenge to provide our kids with the fiber they need.

    Why is fiber important to our kids?

    Fiber comes in two forms and they play different roles in our bodies. The two different forms are soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

    Soluble Fiber:

    • Named because it dissolves in water
    • Helps the body digest food more slowly
    • Helps kids feel full longer
    • Helps with better blood sugar and cholesterol control


    Insoluble Fiber:

    • Does not dissolve in water
    • Adds bulk to stool to promote regularity
    • Helps prevent constipation and sort of “cleans out” the gut by helping food and waste move through. I like to tell my kids that fiber is like a scrubby brush for their insides


    Given that kids need about 20-30 grams of fiber daily it can be hard to meet the guideline just in meals. Offering snack foods with fiber helps bridge that gap and also can help prevent the “Hunger Meltdown” by making your kiddos feel fuller longer.


    12 Fiber-Filled Snack Ideas for Kids:

    1. Whole fruit (not juice, as the fiber is filtered out)
    2. Dried fruit
    3. Vegetables and dip
    4. Whole grain crackers with hummus, cheese or bean dip
    5. Beans (kids can eat these as a finger food!)
    6. Nuts
    7. Whole grain muffins (I make mine with whole wheat flour, and freeze them in individual portion sizes)
    8. Whole grain dried cereal, or oatmeal
    9. Edamame
    10. Smoothie made with fruits and vegetables
    11. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
    12. Popcorn
  • Healthy Foods for KidsGrowing up I didn't even know the word “tofu”, and if I did, I probably would have thought it was too weird to eat. It fascinates me that my kids, and many other kids I’ve met, actually eat this food! If you introduce foods without prejudice or judgment to your kids, they can make their own decisions based on their taste. So even if you might think your kids will never eat something, just offer it, you never know! Inevitably as they grow they will go through picky phases, often influenced by outside sources, but if you give them early exposure to a variety of foods, the base for an open mind to eating can offer a lifetime of adventure, health and enjoyment!

    Following are 3 Super Foods that will be great for your kid to try, including Tofu!

    High in protein and fiber, beans offer a cheap powerhouse of long-lasting energy. Serve them right out of the can, rinsed, as a snack or throw them in a casserole or burrito for a quick and easy meal. To entertain your toddler on rainy days, make your snack activity last a little longer by serving rinsed, canned beans in a mini muffin tin alternating with whole grain crackers or veggies in the other holes.

    Avocados are high in heart-healthy fat, fiber, potassium, beta carotene, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin K. Their soft, creamy texture makes them perfect as one of the first foods for infants, either pureed with some breast milk or formula, or mashed well. Avocados are versatile enough to accompany any meal – serve them with eggs for a high-energy breakfast, or mash with lime juice and spread on bread instead of mayo at lunch. They often make an appearance as a finger food on our table, paired with cubed cheese, fruit and bread – makes a colorful, balanced and healthy toddler meal.

    Its soft texture and mild flavor make tofu a toddler favorite. Often infants who are still getting used to the texture of meat will gobble it up as well. Tofu is an inexpensive, easy-to-prepare source of protein. My kids eat it straight from the fridge, cubed and topped with a drizzle of soy sauce. Or sauté or bake it and serve as an entrée.

  • Sweet Potato Recipes for Kids

    Sweet potatoes appeal to kids with their sweet flavor AND are also packed with nutrients! Their popularity has grown and they are even working their way into restaurants as an alternative to the traditional French fry.

    Sweet potatoes are little bundles of nutrition as they are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, multiple B vitamins, potassium, fiber, minerals and antioxidants. Amazingly, they are also an easy-to-prepare, relatively cheap, versatile vegetable!

    Following are 4 easy to prepare recipes for Sweet Potatoes. I usually cook about ½ to 1 potato per person, depending on their size. 


    Microwave Sweet Potatoes:

    • Wash, poke holes to vent, wrap in a damp paper towel
    • Microwave for about 5 minutes for a medium potato, time will vary
    • Slice open and enjoy either plain or with your topping of choice – I often mix in a little applesauce for my kids


    Bake Sweet Potatoes:

    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    • Wash, poke holes to vent and place on baking sheet lined with foil
    • Bake for about 45 minutes


    Roast Sweet Potatoes:

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    • Wash, peel and cube sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces
    • Toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per potato) and salt
    • Spread on baking sheet
    • Roast for about 30 minutes
    • Can add more seasonings such as honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic…


    Baked Sweet Potato Fries:

    • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
    • Wash and dry sweet potatoes
    • Cut lengthwise into ½-inch slices
    • Toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per potato) and salt
    • Spread on baking sheet
    • Bake for about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes
    • As above, can add more seasonings
  • Kidamentals is reprinting this blog with the permission of Daniel Willingham at

    Daniel Willingham earned his B.A. from Duke University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990. He is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1992. Until about 2000, his research focused solely on the brain basis of learning and memory. Today, all of his research concerns the application of cognitive psychology to K-16 education.

    The blog and comments can be viewed here:

    As Mr. WIllingham states within the comments, "note it's an article in a technical journal not one that was designed for advice to parents."

    This is in direct response to facts around benefits of enriched Formula for babies vs Formula that is not enriched. The concern from readers is that breast milk contains the same nutritional benefits as the enriched formula but the article fails to reference this fact.

    In short, it should be noted that the article is not stating that feeding formula to infants is better for child education than breastfeeding. When it comes to formula vs breastfeeding, the key point is that research found benefits from "polyunsaturated fatty acids" that can be found in breast milk or some enriched formulas.

    With that said, Kidamentals recommends reading this blog and considering the "four marquee findings" that may help increase a child's IQ.


    How to Make a Young Child Smarter


    If the title of this blog struck you as brash, I came by it honestly: it's the title of a terrific new paper by three NYU researchers (Protzko, Aronson & Blair, 2013). The authors sought to review all interventions meant to boost intelligence, and they cast a wide net, seeking any intervention for typically-developing children from birth to kindergarten age that used a standard IQ test as the outcome measure, and that was evaluated in a random control trial (RCT) experiment.

    A feature of the paper I especially like is that none of the authors publish in the exact areas they review. Blair mostly studies self-regulation, and Aronson, gaps due to race, ethnicity or gender. (Protzko is a graduate student studying with Aronson.) So the paper is written by people with a lot of expertise, but who don't begin their review with a position they are trying to defend. They don't much care which way the data come out.

    So what did they find? The paper is well worth reading in its entirety--they review a lot in just 15 pages--but there are four marquee findings.

    First, the authors conclude that infant formula supplemented with long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids boosts intelligence by about 3.5 points, compared to formula without. They conclude that the same boost is observed if pregnant mothers receive the supplement. There are not sufficient data to conclude that other supplements--riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, zinc, and B-complex vitamins--have much impact, although the authors suggest (with extreme caution) that B-complex vitamins may prove helpful.

    Second, interactive reading with a child raises IQ by about 6 points. The interactiveaspect is key; interventions that simply encouraged reading or provided books had little impact. Effective interventions provided information about how to read to children: asking open-ended questions, answering questions children posed, following children's interests, and so on.

    Third, the authors report that sending a child to preschool raises his or her IQ by a little more than 4 points. Preschools that include a specific language development component raise IQ scores by more than 7 points. There were not enough studies to differentiate what made some preschools more effective than others.

    Fourth, the authors report on interventions that they describe as "intensive," meaning they involved more than preschool alone. The researchers sought to significantly alter the child's environment to make it more educationally enriching. All of these studies involved low-SES children (following the well-established finding that low-SES kids have lower IQs than their better-off counterparts due to differences in opportunity. I review that literature here.)  Such interventions led to a 4 point IQ gain, and a 7 point gain if the intervention included a center-based component. The authors note the interventions have too many features to enable them to pinpoint the cause, but they suggest that the data are consistent with the hypothesis that the cognitive complexity of the environment may be critical. They were able to confidently conclude (to their and my surprise) that earlier interventions helped no more than those starting later.

    Those are the four interventions with the best track record. (Some others fared less well. Training working memory in young children "has yielded disappointing results." )

    The data are mostly unsurprising, but I still find the article a valuable contribution. A reliable, easy-to-undertand review on an important topic.

    Even better, this looks like the beginning of what the authors hope will be a longer-term effort they are calling the Database on Raising Intelligence--a compendium of RCTs based on interventions meant to boost IQ. That may not be everything we need to know about how to raise kids, but it's a darn important piece, and such a Database will be a welcome tool.


  • Healthy Holiday Food Habits for KidsMake a plan to enjoy the delicious food and traditions of the season, while leading the way for your family to avoid that over-stuffed, after-meal feeling!

    1. Plan food for the whole day. I have been guilty of only planning the big meal and getting stuck eating chips and dip for lunch. Have a light lunch and healthy snacks ready, including fruits and vegetables to offset the oncoming heavy foods of the holiday meal.

    2. Don’t skip meals, as this usually leads to that ravenous feeling and eating way too much to even enjoy the meal.

    3. Set a good example for your kids by eating slowly and savoring the time together. Your body needs a certain amount of chewing and swallowing to feel full, as well as about 20 minutes for the “I’m done” feeling to kick in. If you take big bites, eat quickly, and chew less, you end up taking in more food without any more satisfaction. 

    4. Eat every food you want, just use reasonable portions. This is a great skill to model for your kids. It shows them how to include special foods without overindulging and feeling too full.

    5. If you are hosting, have ‘To Go’ containers ready for guests to take some leftovers home. This will help cut back on the temptation to eat Thanksgiving dinner three days in a row. The rule in my house is if it is there, I will eat it, including pie for breakfast. So it’s important for me to find a way to have the food exit the house or it will find residence in my waistline!

    6. Include an active tradition in your day such as a morning or evening walk, outside game or activity, or check out your community to find a Turkey trot or other group fitness activities. 

    Happy Holidays!

  • Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas for KidsI love to bake and wrap presents. However, I don’t love to add to everyone’s growing pile of sweets and treats that come from so many good-hearted friends, family and events.

    While we do eat Christmas sweets and treats (in moderation as much as possible, depending on how tired I am and my level of willpower), I challenge myself to make edible gifts that look and taste wonderful but also provide some healthy nourishment during this fun and exhausting holiday season. I have to ship many of my gifts too so they have to be something that can keep for a few days.

    Here are 8 of my favorite Homemade Gifts that are Healthy and Delicious!

    1. Popcorn balls – Made with peanut butter and honey or traditional caramel popcorn with half of the sugary topping. Popcorn is a good source of fiber and combining it with protein-packed peanut butter makes a yummy, long-lasting snack
    2. Homemade Pancake Mix – I made this one year using whole wheat flour for fiber and added all of the Smores components in separate bags for fun. I use my favorite pancake recipe, combining the dry ingredients in a bag and printing the recipe for the receiver to later add the wet ingredients
    3. Granola – Great for snacking or a hearty breakfast
    4. Homemade Muffin Mix – Just like the pancake mix, I combine the dry ingredients in a bag or jar and provide the recipe. This is a nice time-saver for the baker who doesn’t like to buy the boxed mixes from the store!
    5. Roasted Nuts – These look pretty in party bags wrapped with ribbon. Spiced, seasoned, and/or sweetened, everyone loves these (and if by chance they don’t, the nuts are a great addition to a party buffet)
    6. Oatmeal Cookies – At least these cookies have oatmeal in them!!
    7. Bean Soup Mix – Obviously not a good choice for a family with kids, but nice for grown-ups!
    8. Trail Mix – Provides a power punch snack to fuel those extra holiday tasks!
  • Kid Reading"There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all."

              —Jacqueline Kennedy

    The love of reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Children who read well succeed in school and in life. They have better language skills and a better sense of the world.

    Here are eight tips that can empower kids to become super-readers.

    1. The most effective way to raise good readers is to read aloud with your children. Reading aloud stimulates language development. Begin at birth and keep reading together through grade school. Brain imaging shows that reading aloud to young children literally wires brain cells together in networks that facilitate independent reading.
    2. Read with your kids, not to them. Use your voice and your tone and the way you say the words to engage your kids in the story. Stretch your child’s imagination. Encourage her to think beyond the words written on the page. Ask open-ended questions and draw on teachable moments.
    3. Reading is about language. Talk often with your children. Encourage them to share their thoughts and develop their ideas.
    4. Be a role model for your kids. Love to read. Your kids will see that you value books and treat them with respect. Set aside time for yourself to read each day. Kick-start those little, grey cells. Try out a new genre or subject you haven’t explored before.
    5. Start a home library for your kids, even if it’s just a few shelves. Children develop more positive attitudes toward reading and learning when they have greater access to books and printed materials.
    6. Make frequent trips to the library. Teach your kids how to find and select books. If you need help, the Children’s Librarian will assist you.
    7. Take your kids to a book-signing event that features a favorite children’s book author. Ask your school to invite one of our amazing local authors to class. Writers enjoy talking with kids and hearing them share their own story ideas.
    8. Create a fit, active lifestyle at home. Over the past decade, numerous adult studies have discovered a direct link between fitness and healthy brain function. The connection is true for children as well. A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that children who are physically fit have “faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses” than their less-fit peers. Fit children also have better language and cognitive skills.

    So turn off the TV and scoot the kids outside to play. Run and tumble and dance with them when you can. You’ll laugh more. Bike along Alki and hike our West Seattle trails together. Play every day. Your family will be fitter and you just might be a little smarter.

    K.J. Larsen’s Cat DeLuca Mysteries, are published by Poisoned Pen Press. Larsens’ debut novel, Liar Liar, was awarded Library Journals Best Mystery, 2010. Liar, Liar, Sticks and Stones, and Some Like It Hot are available at the Seattle Mystery Bookstore and on Amazon. Cat’s fourth adventure, Bye Bye, Love, will be released April 2015

  • We all want our kids to become creative adults. People who think outside the box have an edge. Creative people are more successful. And studies show they are happier as well. A curious, creative mind is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

    What is creativity? Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas and connect them together to solve problems. Highly creative people have made friends with their right brain. They’re open to new and unconventional solutions. Fresh ideas come easily to them. They’ve learned to connect to a source that is within each of us. And while some people are more creative than others, the good news is that we can all learn to tap into that source.

    Creativity isn’t all about poetry and paintings. It’s role playing, baking brownies, launching a new business, or building a spaceship with legos.  Children develop and express creativity when they draw, collect seashells, and climb trees. When we’re fully engaged in a project, we say we’re in the “flow”.

    Children require “think time” and unstructured time to imagine. Daydreaming helps us discover the path to that place within where we find inspiration.

    Here are nine ways you can help your kids find their “flow state” or “muse”.  

    1. Be magical. Encourage a wealth of imaginative, playful ideas. Make a game of asking difficult questions and coming up with silly answers. Look for images in clouds and mosaics and patterns.
    2. Ease up on restrictions. Creative people have a need for originality and can resist rules and conventions. This is not a bad thing.
    3. Embrace flexibility. Rigid thinking will suck the creative juices out of your kids. Creative people are able to see different aspects of issues and come up with fresh solutions.
    4. Be an innovative, goal-oriented family. Set personal and family goals. Tackle difficult issues. Provide kids with opportunities to perform and recognize successes.
    5. Give your kids learning experiences. Use curiosity and creativity to solve problems that have no clearly defined answers. Creative people require a broad knowledge background to draw from. So haunt museums. Get a membership at the zoo. Frequent the library. Hike. Leave the city and stare at the stars. Ride the steam train to Mt. Rainier.
    6. Play an instrument. There are many ways to increase divergent thinking and music is one of the best. The brain is divided into a right and left hemisphere and the corpus callosum acts as a bridge between the two halves. Playing music increases the activity in the corpus callosum. This allows information to travel faster and through more diverse routes, increasing the number of creative ideas. Music also improves math skills.
    7. Value and reward curiosity at home. Engage your kids in meaningful conversation about the ideas and interests that mean the most to them. Reinforce curiosity when you see it in action.
    8. The power of art. Visual art and music strengthen learning and divergent thinking.  Paint a picture. Hang out with your kids at the art museum. Dance to music at home and add a little Beethoven or Tchaikovsky to the mix. Catch Seattle’s free Summer Concert Series.
    9. Imaginative play. Invite your kids to tell a story and write down what they say word for word. Then gather the family around and act out the story together.

     K.J. Larsen’s Cat DeLuca Mysteries, are published by Poisoned Pen Press. Larsens’ debut novel, Liar Liar, was awarded Library Journals Best Mystery, 2010. Liar, Liar, Sticks and Stones, and Some Like It Hot are available at the Seattle Mystery Bookstore and on Amazon. Cat’s fourth adventure, Bye Bye, Love, was released April 2015 and is available now.

  • Learn About Arsenic in Rice Cereal for Babies

    It’s confusing enough trying to figure out how to start feeding your baby. And when you throw in the issue of environmental toxins in baby food, a whole new level of confusion is added! 

    A few years ago the discovery of arsenic in our food supply made us all question whether we should continue the tradition of feeding infants rice cereal as a first food. While there is still no clear-cut answer, or even “official” guidelines, we can use the information available to best protect and nourish these new eaters. 


    My Personal Suggestion – From Amy Higbee (RDN, CD)

    Based on the research so far, I suggest starting with a whole-grain fortified infant cereal such as oats, and continuing with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole and multigrain fortified infant cereals and meats.  If you do offer rice cereal, don’t offer it every day.  Variety in your baby’s diet is the best defense against environmental toxins. 

    Following is a summary of current research and advice from evidence based sources. 



    Arsenic makes up part of the earth’s core, and is naturally present in many foods, including grains, fruits and vegetables.  The naturally occurring arsenic in food is referred to as “organic”, and is not considered the threat.  “Inorganic” arsenic is the troublesome form of which long-term exposure is believed to be associated with higher rates of some cancers and may have other implications.  The terms organic and inorganic refer to the chemical form of arsenic, and not the farming technique used to grow the food.  Even if rice is grown using organic farming techniques, inorganic arsenic from the soil and water supply can get into the rice as it grows. 

    The inorganic arsenic in our food supply comes from pesticides and poultry fertilizer, which get into the soil and water used to grow food.  Rice is under extra scrutiny because it absorbs the arsenic more readily than some other plants. 



    In 2013 the FDA conducted a study to determine the average level of arsenic in more than 1,300 samples of rice and food items made from rice.  They found variable levels between food categories, as well as between food items in the same category.  The FDA has not set specific limits regarding rice, and is still working on determining the possible long-term effects of arsenic exposure.

    Consumer Reports also conducted their own analysis, both in 2012 and more recently. They offer additional information regarding arsenic levels in different rice foods and other grains.  Using their research, they assigned point values to different rice products with higher points associated with a higher level of arsenic, and provide a recommendation for a total point limit of 7 per week.  Infant rice cereal was assigned a point value of 1 ¼ points, so if no other sources of rice were in your baby’s diet that would be a limit of about 5 ( ¼ cup uncooked) servings per week.  See below for the link to the Consumer Reports article.



    The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents offer their children a wide variety of foods, including other grains, such as oats, wheat and barley, which will decrease their child’s exposure to arsenic from rice.  Previously, the belief was to hold off on exposing infants to possibly allergenic foods such as wheat, however current practice is moving away from that theory. 

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to protect human health and the environment, advises against using infant rice cereal as a first food.  EWG suggests trying soft fruits, vegetables, meats or whole-grain non-rice cereals. 

    One common thread in most advisory organizations is to include a variety of foods in your infant’s diet.  The best way to protect your baby from environmental toxins and provide the most nourishment is to slowly introduce a variety of food. 

    There are no “perfect” first foods, however, some foods may be more easily accepted by your baby.  Soft vegetables, fruits or fortified whole-grain infant cereals all make great possible first foods.  I have also seen recommendations for using meat as a first food because of the iron content, however it might be a challenging texture change for sensitive brand new eaters.  

    Babies accumulate iron in utero, and iron stores typically last until they are about 4-6 months.  At this age breastfed infants need some additional iron in their diet.  This is one reason why fortified infant rice cereal has always been the standard.  Today, there are other choices of whole-grain, fortified cereals such as oats, barley or multigrain.  Including some of these cereals in your baby’s first foods will help meet their need for iron.  Offering meat would also provide iron, but in my experience the texture is more challenging for some babies in the very beginning. This issue is not as much of a concern for formula-fed babies as most formulas are iron-fortified.

    There is no clear –cut answer to the question of whether or not to feed infant rice cereal to your baby or not.  If you do choose to offer rice cereal, try to vary it with other foods so it is not a daily staple.

    After researching the current evidence, if I were to start feeding my own baby, I would choose one of the fortified whole-grain cereals such as oats to start with.  Then I would move on to include vegetables, fruits, other fortified infant cereals, and meat.  I would include rice cereal only occasionally for variety, because our best defense against toxins in our food is to not eat too much of one thing!  Not to be too negative, but you never know what toxin will be discovered in what food next week!  My husband makes fun of how neurotic I am because I don’t even like to eat the same food twice in a day (unless it’s chocolate)!  On a more positive note, feeding your baby a variety of foods not only better protects them from environmental toxins, but also helps provide a more complete diet for their growth and development. 



    Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products.  August 4, 2014.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    How Much Arsenic Is In Your Rice?  November 2014.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    AAP Offers Advice For Parents Concerned About Arsenic In Food.  American Academy of Pediatrics Website.  September 6, 2013.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    Arsenic in Rice – Should You Worry?  Accessed March 20, 2015.

  • Kids Eat Right MonthKidamentals strives to enable parents to quickly and simply find the information they are looking for. Given the vast amount of information on the internet now, it can be hard to find trustworthy sources with valid and thoroughly researched information.  You can find expert advice on nutrition provided by registered dietitians at

    Kidamentals is reprinting the following article with the permission of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


    With childhood obesity on the rise, making sure kids eat right and get plenty of exercise is vital.

    Parents and caregivers can play a big role in children’s nutrition and health, teaching kids about healthy foods, being a good role model and making sure physical activity is incorporated into each day.

    August, which is Kids Eat Right Month, is a great time for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging families to take the following steps:


    1-Shop Smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.


    2-Cook Healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of meals. They will learn about food and may even be enticed to try new foods they helped prepare.


    3-Eat Right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.


    4-Healthy Habits

    You can help kids form great, healthy habits by setting a good example. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lower-sodium options, and make at least half the grains your family eats whole grains. For beverages, choose water over sugary drinks, and opt for fat-free or low-fat milk.


    5-Get Moving

    Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.


    Getting kids to eat right can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters. But experts say that a conversation can help.

    “Talk to your children. Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal,” says Angela Lemond, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.

    It may help to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting the nutrients it needs with a meal plan tailored to your lifestyle and busy schedule.

    For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and to learn more about Kids Eat Right Month, visit

    This August, reevaluate your family’s eating and exercise habits, and take steps to make positive, healthful changes.

  • Gardening with KidsMy kids and I have been loving these occasional sunny, warm spring days and even managed to get a few seeds into our garden! Not sure what will actually come up, and where things will come up since both my one and three year old helped me plant the seeds, but it’s been fun!

    I have great memories of seeing the kids eat sugar snap peas and tomatoes right off the plant last year – no encouragement to eat veggies needed! Everything tastes so awesome when it’s fresh and the kids learn so much about where their food comes from when they see the whole growing process.

    Most kids I have met seem to naturally enjoy gardening (who wouldn’t love digging in the dirt and hanging outside on a sunny day?)! Every time we pass seeds in a store my son wants to buy some to plant!

    I am pretty new to the gardening realm, having started about ten years ago. What has worked best for me is talking to avid gardeners about what is easy to grow in the region and getting their advice. Some years I’ve planted way too much and it goes to waste. The fun part is planting and for me the hard part is maintaining (apparently plants need water to survive…). Now I try to narrow my plants down to foods we really love and are also a little pricey in the store. For example, I use a lot of onions but I don’t grow them because they are so cheap that it’s not worth my time.

    My recipe of the week is pretty simple – take any veggie from the garden, chop it, put it on a kabob and serve with a dip. Food on a stick or right off the plant is so much more fun!

    Incredibly Creamy and Yummy Avocado Ranch Dip/Dressing

    Makes four servings


    • 1/2 ripe avocado 
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 2 T. chopped fresh dill, or 2 tsp dried 
    • 1 T. white vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
    • 1/4 tsp salt 
    • 1/4 tsp pepper


    Scoop all ingredients into blender and puree. Can make ahead one day and store covered in fridge.

    Original recipe from Eating Well, March/April 2013

  • Healthy Eating Tips for KidsEncouraging our kids to listen their own hunger and fullness cues helps them develop healthy eating habits for life. Some of us grew up as members of the “Clean Plate Club”, which allows the amount of food on the plate to determine when we are full. This can teach kids to ignore their inner cues, which in turn may lead to eating too much, and can set habits that last long into adulthood.


    Here are four of my favorite tips for encouraging healthy eating habits in kids by avoiding the clean plate club


    Allow kids to serve themselves

    • This definitely takes practice and a lot of self-control as you watch your two-year-old shakily scoop a towering pile of highly pigmented beets onto the plate (will it make it, or end up splattered on the table staining everything within a 2 foot radius?). Letting kids serve themselves helps build their confidence and practice figuring out how to estimate the amount of food they need to feel full. Help them learn to start with a small portion and take more if they are still hungry.

    Don’t force kids to finish everything on the plate

    • Encourage kids to eat slowly and finish only what they want at that meal. They may not eat much at one meal, but over the course of a few days kids usually eat a balanced diet.

    Don’t offer a reward for finishing the meal such as dessert

    • This teaches kids to ignore the full feeling and also encourages the idea that healthy foods do not taste good and sweets are more desirable.

    Fill your kitchen with healthy options

    • Some parents choose to have a snack drawer as kids get older. Fill the drawer with nutrient dense foods, such as dried fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grain crackers. A designated area in the refrigerator may contain items such as fruit, cut-up vegetables, yogurt and cheese sticks.


    As caregivers, our job is to offer a variety of healthy foods and encourage our kids to learn how to read their own hunger and fullness cues by allowing them to determine how much they eat. These skills help them develop a healthy relationship with food for life.



  • Kids Eat ApplesYES!  Just like when we get a cut our body sends defense chemicals to mend our skin, when an apple is cut the damaged cells secrete enzymes which react with the oxygen in the air.  This chemical reaction, called oxidation, creates the brown color. 

    If it’s a hot day, the browning is faster.  The opposite is true as well – if you put the cut apple in the refrigerator the chemical reaction slows and browning doesn’t happen as quickly. 

    My kids don’t seem to mind some slight browning, but if you have a visually sensitive little one there are some preventative measures you can take to preserve the surface of your cut apple!   

    Vitamin C, also called Ascorbic Acid, stops the oxidation process.  You can squeeze lemon, lime, pineapple, orange or grapefruit juice directly on your cut apple.  It does slightly change the flavor and texture of the apple, however.  You can also soak the cut apple pieces for five minutes in a diluted mixture of squeezed juice from the above fruits mixed with some cold water for less flavor change.   

    Ascorbic acid can also be found as a powder sprinkle in the canning section of the grocery store.  You just sprinkle the powder on the cut surfaces, and the oxidation is prevented.  My kids don’t like the way the texture and flavor slightly changes with this addition. 

    Adding acidic fruit slices to your cut apples to create a fruit salad also works.  Cut the apples and whatever acidic fruit you choose, and mix together.  Some mixtures we have enjoyed:

    • Apples, oranges, carrots, raisins
    • Apples, grapefruit, dried blueberries
    • Apples, pineapples, dried cranberries

    And the possibilities go on… create your own master combination to keep it fun and healthy for your little one! 

  • Healthy Cookie Recipes for KidsMost kids love cookies, with good reason – they are yummy. So, I've been experimenting with making cookies that taste good but also offer more than just fat and calories.

    I begin with a standard recipe and usually substitute some or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. The key is to sift the whole wheat flour for a smoother feel, or you can buy a finely ground whole wheat flour and skip the sifting step. Using whole wheat flour increases the fiber content of the cookies.

    I then reduce the amount of sugar by about a third. This reduction is pretty undetectable in the final product.

    Sometimes I will replace some of the butter with applesauce, crushed pineapple or flax-seed meal to decrease the total amount of saturated fat. I usually only reduce this ingredient by a third as well, since any further reduction really starts pushing the “cookie” over to the not-as-tasty side, in my opinion. Some people prefer to eliminate the fat and use only something like applesauce which is a personal choice and works fine too.

    In the recipe I share below, I choose to grind my oatmeal for an easier-to-chew cookie. This is mainly to accommodate my texture-sensitive two-year-old, who often likes the taste of certain foods but spits them out after chewing a bit because the texture is too tough for her. Not a pretty sight and lots of dirty laundry. I do love to include oatmeal for the extra fiber.

    Finally, in this recipe I add some carrots, because we all could use more vegetables in our day!


    Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Carrot Cookies


    • ½ cup butter, softened
    • ¼ cup applesauce or crushed pineapple
    • ½ cup white sugar
    • ½ cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup pureed carrots (2-3 carrots)
    • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 ¾ cups rolled oats (whole or ground in blender or food processor)
    • ½ cup raisins
    • ½ cup chocolate chips


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
    3. Puree carrots in food processor with ¼ cup applesauce or pineapple, and add to butter mixture.
    4. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture.
    5. Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets (I line them with parchment paper for easy clean up).
    6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.



  • kids smashing berries for frozen dessert popsPack some protein and antioxidants into this pretty and tasty dessert for kids! Start preparing the night before, or early in the morning to allow for time to strain the yogurt – this step makes the final product creamier and less icy (although I have made pops like this and skipped this step, and they are still good)!

    Let your kids get a little wild by putting them in charge of smashing the berries! Place the berries in a sealable plastic bag and give your kids an assortment of “smashing” tools such as a rolling pin, potato masher, or ice mallet. I did this activity outside, for obvious reasons. Luckily no bags broke (and no fingers, either)!

    kids dessert frozen berry pops

    I used ½ cup of sugar to sweeten the yogurt. If your strawberries are very sweet, you could get away with a little less sugar, but unless your kids love plain yogurt you do need at least a little bit to counteract the tartness.

    You can freeze the final product in ice cube trays, Popsicle molds, Dixie cups, and/or put in an ice cream maker.  



    DIY Berry Frozen Yogurt Pops for Kids



    • One 32oz. Container Plain Yogurt (I used nonfat)
    • 2 cups berries, mashed
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla



    1. Strain yogurt in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight by placing in a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
    2. Mash berries either by hand or in a food processor.
    3. Combine sugar, lemon juice and sugar and let sit in refrigerator for an hour.
    4. Mix strained yogurt, berry mixture, and vanilla together.
    5. Spoon into ice cube tray, or whatever mold you choose, and add stick (the yogurt is thick enough it just stands up). If you use an ice cream maker, process for 15 minutes, or until thickened.
    6. Freeze


  • Healthy Lunch Ideas for KidsBack to school means busier schedules and more planning for many families.  Breaking down lunch preparation into a standard formula and planning ahead for the week can simplify the process, save money and time!

    To make your child’s lunch healthier, a nice goal can be to aim for one food from each of the following categories:

    1 - Protein
    2 - Whole Grain
    3 - Fruit
    4 - Vegetable
    5 - Milk or Water


    Tips for Easy and Healthy Kids School Lunches

    • Include your kids in lunch planning (and packing if they are old enough!). Kids are more likely to actually eat their lunch if they pick it out.  Take them grocery shopping and let them choose some healthy foods to include. 
    • Use leftovers to your advantage! Who doesn’t love leftover pizza in their lunch box?   When planning weekday meals, make extra of your kids’ favorite dinners that can be eaten cold and send it packed for lunch. 
    • Use leftover meat in a sandwich or wrap, or cut into bite size pieces and serve with a dip.
    • Send hearty soup or oatmeal in a thermos for a warm, filling treat.
    • Combine fruit and vegetable such as dried cranberries and carrots for a colorful and tasty dish.
    • Increase the fun factor by cutting food into interesting shapes. Use a cookie cutter for soft foods like sandwiches or cheese.  Try using a vegetable peeler to make thin slices of carrot, cucumber or zucchini.
    • If your kids like to eat the same lunch every day, go for it! If it is something they will eat, it’s better to serve it than have their lunch end up in the garbage! 
    • Low fat dairy foods such as yogurt or cottage cheese are quick, easy and good sources of protein that kids often enjoy.
    • Instead of relying on my often-tired and multitasking brain to come up with fresh meal ideas each week, I find making a list of foods and meals my kids usually accept and referring to it when planning my grocery trip helps make the process easier.


    Helpful and Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids that are Bored with the Traditional Sandwich

    Try these protein-packed ideas coupled with a side of fruit and vegetable!

    • Ham or turkey rolled with a thin slice of cheese in the middle
    • Pasta salad with whole wheat pasta, cheese, beans or meat and veggies
    • Edamame
    • Yogurt parfait
    • Cubed tofu with soy sauce
    • Tortilla spread with seed or nut butter and banana
    • Apple or celery with seed or nut butter
    • Pizza with whole wheat crust
    • Cheese and crackers
    • Stuffed pita
    • Bean and cheese burrito
    • Whole wheat pancakes
    • Hardboiled egg
    • Pear and cheese kabob made out of straw


  • Creative Art for KidsCreativity is a highly prized and sought after human ability. Children are, by nature, wonderfully creative creatures. But unless that creativity is encouraged, much of a person’s capacity for rich, innovative ideas will be lost by the age of eight.

    For today’s parents, nurturing creativity is a top priority. Studies show that highly creative people grow up in homes that value and cultivate creativity. In fact, family is the primary force behind creative behavior.

    Here are eight characteristics of highly creative families.

    1. Independence. In highly creative families, there’s a tendency to stress freedom and autonomy. At an early age, children are given unusual freedom to make their own decisions and explore their world. There’s an extraordinary expectation that the child will choose and act responsibly.
    2. An enriched learning environment. Children are provided with a variety of artistic supplies, tools, and raw materials. They’re encouraged to be self dependent; to pursue independent projects and to problem solve. Imagination, divergent thinking, and deferred judgment are family values.
    3. Nix the rules. Highly creative families use values to manage behaviors rather than rules or discipline. Self discipline replaces an outside imposed discipline. If there are rules, they usually deal with how we treat people and animals.
    4. Respect for the child. These parents show a high level of support and awareness for their child. In studies involving highly creative adolescents, parents were very interested in their children’s behavior but rarely intervened with rules.
    5. Children are encouraged to take risks, explore, and embrace new experiences.
    6. The value of being different. The highly creative family sees being different as an advantage and encourages each child to embrace individuality.
    7. Humor. Highly creative families have fun. Regular family interactions include humor.
    8. Intrinsic motivation. Children are motivated by internal rewards such as joy and satisfaction rather than extrinsic motivation which involves outside rewards or to avoid punishment.

    Every child has something special to give. If we want super-creative kids, we might want to loosen the reins a bit. Maybe we could rethink some of the conventional wisdom and celebrate the unique creative gifts of each child.

    K.J. Larsen’s Cat DeLuca Mysteries, are published by Poisoned Pen Press. Larsens’ debut novel, Liar Liar, was awarded Library Journals Best Mystery, 2010. Liar, Liar, Sticks and Stones, and Some Like It Hot are available at the Seattle Mystery Bookstore and on Amazon. Cat’s fourth adventure, Bye Bye, Love, was released April 2015 and is available now.

  • Use this fun activity to make a beautiful display of your kids original Valentine’s Day art and those adorable Valentines they get from their classmates! 


    Step 1: Collect Branches with Your Kids

    Together, search outside for fallen branches and collect however many you need to fill a vase.  If the branches are wet, let them dry for a few hours to a day.  Brush any dirt or very loose bark off of branch.  It doesn’t have to be completely smooth because having some branch show through the paint enhances the natural look. 


    Step 2: Fun Painting Time for Your Kids

    Have your kids paint the branches using white paint.  We used kids’ washable tempura, and it has held up well for over a month.  Allow to dry.  Sparkles or glitter might be a nice addition too!


    Step 3: Arrange in Vase 

    Arrange painted branches in vase. 


    Step 4: Display Your Kids Valentines

    Using a hole puncher, punch holes in artwork and/or Valentine’s cards.  Attach a ribbon or string, and hang on branches. 

  • Healthy and Fun Meals with KidsThe phrase “Do it myself!” has grown in popularity in my house these days, coming from both my three year old and two year old! I actually love to hear it because it means I get an extra five seconds or so to tend to some other undone task before getting the return cry for “Help!”

    Burrito night allows my little independent ones to make their own dinner. I prepare the fillings, put them on the table and let the kids do the assembly. It’s a little messy but it gives them a sense of control and they enjoy it!

    We usually do vegetarian burritos which are so fast to prepare and no one ever misses the meat because they are delicious! After sampling many brands of whole wheat tortillas, I found a great one at my local produce market. My son actually only likes “brown” tortillas now since these are is so tasty! My ingredients are ones usually in the house: rice, black beans, shredded cheese, avocado, light sour cream, lettuce (my kids won’t eat this) and salsa/tomatoes. This is also a good meal for early eaters without as many teeth – I used to mash up the beans a little, and cut the avocado into bite size pieces.

    I like to add flavor to my beans and doing so also adds some extra antioxidants and phytonutrients (natural chemicals found in plants) without any complaints from the kids!

    Here is the recipe I use:

    Power Black Beans

    Makes 4 servings


    • 1 can low sodium black beans
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • ½ small onion, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional – this amount really doesn’t add heat, just a touch of flavor)
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    1. Heat olive oil on medium high heat in small pan.
    2. Add onion and spices and sauté about 2 minutes.
    3. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute.
    4. Add can of beans, including liquid.
    5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 minutes.

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