Kidamentals Blogs
  • 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. 

     

    Background

    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. 

     

    Research

    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.

     

    Recommendations

    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. 

     

    References:

    Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products.  http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm319948.htm.  August 4, 2014.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    How Much Arsenic Is In Your Rice?  http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm.  November 2014.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    AAP Offers Advice For Parents Concerned About Arsenic In Food.  American Academy of Pediatrics Website.  https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Offers-Advice-For-Parents-Concerned-About-Arsenic-in-Food.aspx.  September 6, 2013.  Accessed March 20, 2015.

    Arsenic in Rice – Should You Worry?  http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice.  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 www.KidsEatRight.org.

    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 www.KidsEatRight.org.

    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

    Ingredients:

    • 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

    Directions:

    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

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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.

    Enjoy!

     

  • 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.  

     

    Description:

    DIY Berry Frozen Yogurt Pops for Kids

     

    Ingredients:

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

     

    Directions:

    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

    Enjoy!

  • 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

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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.
  • Family Meals with KidsWith our two and four-year-olds in the house, we have recently moved to “family style” dining and it’s been a great change. We can sense our children’s feeling of empowerment and pride as they serve themselves just like the adults at the table!

    Family style dining, where all food is placed on the table and everyone serves themselves, gives hands on experience for kids to learn social skills such as taking turns and using good manners. Kids are also more apt to sample a food if they actually scoop it on to their plate. They see the grownups doing it and will often imitate the action. It’s not always that easy of course. The kids might still need many exposures to a food but don’t give up! Kids food preferences change as they grow so don’t assume if they don’t like the taste of something now that they will never try it again or ever like it. Just keep offering and be prepared for rejection! Additionally, try to avoid getting too upset if your kids won’t try the new food because it might turn into a power struggle.

    As parents, it’s our job to provide healthy food for our children at relatively set times and places. The kid’s job is to decide whether to eat it and how much. Of course when it comes to something like cookies it’s also our job to explain why we can’t eat a whole plate of cookies, three meals a day!

    Serving food family style also (might) cut down on your multiple trips back to the kitchen to get something since all of the food is already on the table. A more relaxed mealtime benefits everyone! We spend so much time in our lives eating, it may as well be fun!


  • Fun Family Meals with KidsRelaxing at meal time? Not likely. But it can be fun. Just change your expectations!

    I have accepted that meals with two kids under the age of four involves major cleaning, occasional screams and multiple trips to the kitchen for forgotten or desired items. By letting go of my previous meal experiences before kids (relaxed, leisurely, uninterrupted enjoyment of the food on my plate and lively conversation) and accepting a different experience, meals have become more fun for all of us. And, when I feel I’m losing patience (can I just have two bites in a row without getting up from my chair?) I try to remember that this time period will be over in the blink of an eye.

    A long time ago I read somewhere that you should play music during a dinner party to help cover for any awkward silences and make the meal seem more party-like. I incorporate this into every meal – we all love listening to music and it sets the stage for a happier table.

    When I’m alone with my kids I sometimes read a book to them. They love this and I love that they enjoy it. I learned this in the co-op preschool we go to – it keeps the kids amused, in their seats, and I think it possibly gets them to eat more of the food on their plate since they are enjoying the experience!

    So the next time you have a meal with young kids, enjoy the chaos. Make it fun and remember that these moments are short and pretty soon your kids will be pouring their own milk and cleaning up after dinner!

  • Healthy and Tasty Salad Recipes for KidsWhile I love salad, I have struggled to figure out how to get my kids to share that feeling! They still frown on “combination” foods, which I define as anything with a bunch of stuff mixed together. One way I can skirt this issue involves using all of the same ingredients, but instead of tossing their salad together, I arrange the ingredients in piles on their plates with the dip in the middle.

    On these hot summer days, having a lunch or dinner that requires little or no cooking and that I can adjust for both grown-ups and kids is priceless! Adding a side of bread and fruit really make this an appealing meal!

    Find some salad ideas below. These are flexible in that you can substitute ingredients and dressing based on what you have on hand, and your family’s favorite foods.

     

    California Chop Chop Salad for Kids

    Turkey or chicken, bacon, avocado, cucumber and tomatoes with ranch dressing.

     

    Taco Time Salad for Kids

    Taco beef, steak or chicken, beans, tomatoes, olives, cheddar cheese with guacamole. Leave out the meat for a hearty vegetarian salad.

     

    Italian Salad for Kids

    Salami, provolone or mozzarella cheese, olives, cucumber, bell pepper with Italian dressing.

     

    Garden Fresh Salad for Kids

    Sugar snap peas, cauliflower, carrots, chick peas with creamy avocado dressing.

     

    Catch of the Day Salad for Kids

    Crab or shrimp, hardboiled egg, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, radish with Thousand Island Dressing.

  • Healthy Eating Tips for KidsAs a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I get my child to eat healthy?”. Here are five of my favorite tips to inspire kids to eat healthy. 

     

    Tip # 1 - Enjoy Family Meals Together as Often as Possible!

    Family meals can be challenging to do in today’s busy environment, but the payoff for eating together when possible is worth it! Eating together offers a chance for family members to connect, and can set the state for more open communication between parents and kids. Try to make mealtime enjoyable with pleasant conversation (save the lectures for another time!). Also, children feel more secure when they have the predictability of a routine, which promotes their overall wellbeing and development.

     

    Tip # 2 - Be a Positive Role Model

    Children often grow up to follow their parents’ eating habits. When they see you regularly eating healthy foods and appropriate portions you are laying out an example of what they will likely do later in life. Additionally, the likelihood of kids trying new and healthy foods increases when they observe someone else eating those foods.

     

    Tip # 3 - Leave the Junk Food in the Store

    Or at least keep it out of sight! Sugary drinks and junk food taste good, and if they are easily accessible your kids will ask for them regularly. Eating these low-nutrient foods and beverages can fill kids up, leaving less room for nutritious, nutrient-dense food needed for development and growth. Stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy foods.

     

    Tip # 4 - Let Kids Choose when to Stop Eating

    Avoid “the clean plate club” mindset, which teaches kids to ignore their inner signals of satiety. Letting them choose when to stop eating helps them become more in-tune to their inner cues and not overeat.

     

    Tip # 5 - Give Some Control to the Kids

    Choosing to give kids age-appropriate tasks can build confidence, skills, and also take a task off of your plate!

    One option, since you have already decided how to stock the kitchen and what to serve at meal time, is to try letting kids serve themselves. Let them choose exactly what to put on their plate and just how much.

    Another option is to involve kids in the planning and preparation of food. Just ask your kids for help. Kids will enjoy feeling some control if they can occasionally choose the family meal and this can get them excited about healthy eating. They are also more likely to eat a food if they are involved in preparing it.

     

  • Summer Camp food for KidsThis is my son’s first year of summer camp and the first time he is routinely eating lunch on his own. Since I’m not there to see what he is eating, I’m trying to send food that he really likes. To make this process a little less time-consuming I wrote down foods he eats in the following categories, so I can just look at the list and pick out one or two things from each category.

    • Protein(such as hard-boiled egg, sandwich, lunch meat rolled up with cheese, cubed tofu, cheese stick)
    • Fruit(fresh or dried)
    • Vegetable(sliced cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas)
    • Starch/Carbohydrate (cheese crackers, fig bars, whole grain chips, cereal)

    In the list above, I included a few examples of what my son will eat – your kids may be less picky Smile.

    Before camp I also took my kids to the grocery store to pick out some special ‘camp snacks’. I let them get some things I normally wouldn’t, such as organic dinosaur –shaped cheese puffs (priced as if they are made of gold) to make it fun at lunch time. My son picked out dried papaya, which I wouldn’t have thought of, and both of my kids eat it up like candy now. Nice to have another food to add to the acceptable list AND they both actually like it!

  • Gluten-Free Tortilla PizzaI have been experimenting with reducing gluten in my diet for various reasons, and have made this pizza for a savory, super-easy dinner a few times. The last time I made it was when the family had “real” pizza which I had to avoid because of gluten, and my five-year-old ended up eating most of my gluten-free substitute pizza! This is a very quick and easy recipe that kids love!

    Pair this with some grilled vegetables or salad for a fast and easy dinner! Involve the kids by setting out the ingredients and letting them make their own pizza!

     

    Description:

    Gluten-Free Tortilla Pizza (4 servings)

     

    Ingredients:

    • 4 Corn tortillas
    • 1 cup sauce (pizza sauce, pesto or brush with olive oil)
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • Toppings

     

    Directions:

    1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
    2. Lay out tortillas on baking sheet, and top each with ¼ cup sauce.
    3. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheese on each tortilla.
    4. Add desired toppings.
    5. Place under broiler for about two minutes, or until cheese has melted.

    Enjoy!

  • Grilled Corn on the Cob Recipe for KidsI have made corn on the cob every way. Boiled, microwaved, grilled with the husk-on, etc. Frankly, corn is yummy any way you make it but my favorite method also has the least amount of clean up! Grilling corn on the cob with the husk off.

    People often look down on corn, as they feel it doesn’t have the nutritional superiority of other vegetables, such as kale. Actually, the “healthiest” diet provides a vast array of antioxidants and nutrients, and each vegetable contains a different variety of these. Corn is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants found in the carotenoid family. Corn also provides a variety of other protective phytonutrients and fiber.

    Give your kids some fun by sharing the workload of removing the husks from the corn (my kids love this step!). We do this outside, because it can be a messy part of the job!

     

    Easy Grilled Corn on the Cob

    Serves 4

    Ingredients:

    • 4 ears of corn, husks removed
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
    • Pepper

    Directions:

    1. Brush corn with light coat of olive oil
    2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
    3. Grill over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, turning a quarter-turn about every 2 minutes
    4. Serve as is – you won’t even miss the butter it’s so good!
  • Tomato Salad and KidsMy husband always laughs when I talk about how much money we’ll save by growing our own food, and he has a good point! Planting a garden isn’t a cheap activity between soil, compost, fertilizer, seeds and starts!  Not to mention watering…

    Anyways, I still consider myself a gardening novice having only started doing this about 8 years ago, but I learned this money-saving tip from a friend and it works great! This year I’m including my kids in this family fun process. I’m focusing on growing more food from seed instead of using starts, since it’s both cheaper and fun for the kids to see the whole growing cycle.

    Also, while my kids will sometimes eat store-bought tomatoes, when the tomatoes are growing in our garden I can barely keep them on the branches because our kids eat them so fast! Garden fresh tastes so much better!

    With just some soil and a salad you can join us in this family fun activity – it’s a good time for planting!

    Materials:

    • Large plastic clamshell salad container with lid
    • Potting soil
    • Tomato (one or more varieties, I do cherry tomatoes because they are fun to pick and eat)
    • Spray bottle
    • Shovel

     

    Directions:

    1. Poke about 8 small holes in the lid of the plastic container using a knife or scissors, to let air flow.
    2. Fill about 1/3 of container with soil.
    3. Cut tomato and remove seeds. The seeds are easier to handle if they are dried on a paper towel (probably would be even easier if they are left out overnight, but I never plan ahead enough for that).
    4. Poke seeds about ¼ inch deep into the soil, at least ½ inch apart.
    5. Spritz soil with water using spray bottle to moisten.
    6. Place in sunny window.
    7. Watch them grow! Keep soil moist by spritzing with water when needed.
    8. When plants are about an inch or two tall, transplant each to its’ own container (at least 3” big), filled with fresh potting soil. Dig a small hole for seedling. Using a spoon or fork gently lift root ball while supporting plant with other hand and place in new pot.
    9. Keep inside until night temperatures have warmed up to the mid 50’s.
    10. When ready to transplant in your garden or an outside container, acclimate your plant by placing it outside for a few hours in the sun. Do this for about a week, increasing the time outside each day until it is out all day.
    11. When planting, set plant into hole so that the stem is covered up to where the leafy branches begin.

    Enjoy!

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