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Archive for November, 2010

Balancing Breakfast: Quick, Creative Tips for Busy Families

Though we’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—especially for children—it is often a casualty of morning mayhem. Start your child’s day off with a nutritious and energy-boosting breakfast. Children (grown-ups too!) who consistently eat balanced breakfasts have more energy, better diets, perform better and are less likely to be anxious or irritable. We’re busy with our daily routines and sometimes it seems difficult to find healthy foods that children enjoy. Serving up a balanced breakfast is actually easier than it seems!

Trying these nutritious breakfast tips and easy ideas can help make mornings cheerier, keep tummies fuller and help provide lots of energy.

  • Cutting foods into fun shapes with seasonal, animal or other cookie cutters is a quick way to turn a boring breakfast into a tummy pleaser.
  • Turn an ordinary bowl of whole grain cereal with milk into something more exciting by topping with sliced star fruit, pomegranate seeds or other unexpected bright fruit.
  • Scramble egg whites with low-fat cheese and diced, colorful veggies. Add tomatoes for eyes, a baby carrot for a nose, a slice of turkey bacon for the mouth—even broccoli for hair!
  • Whip up a mixed fruit smoothie using crushed ice, yogurt, fresh or canned fruit and add brightly colored frozen juice concentrate. Garnish with an orange wedge. This can be made the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Toast a whole grain toaster waffle, top with low-fat berry cream cheese. Create a flower or other fun design on top using sliced strawberries and peaches.
  • Spread peanut butter in a whole wheat tortilla. Add raisins and banana slices, roll up tightly and slice to create yummy pinwheels.
  • Serve up a ‘breakfast sundae’ by layering low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit and crunchy granola cereal in a fun, see-through container. Top with a cherry or grape and use colored cereal bits for “sprinkles.”

Create a ‘breakfast pizza’ using a whole wheat English muffin. Spread the English muffin with low-fat flavored cream cheese and top with diced fruits or veggies.

The Importance of Nap Time

Your toddler shows all the signs that he is exhausted and in dire need of a good old-fashioned nap.  He is yawning, whining, rubbing his heavy eyelids and twirling his hair—but, at the mere mention of a nap, he just may melt down. The explanation is truly a simple one: Toddlers do not want to miss out on even one moment of adventure, as they are beginning to understand that they can assert their own independence as often as they like to manipulate the world around them.

The solution is not necessarily as straightforward. Here are a few tips for a more successful nap (or at least quiet) time:

  • Plan a quieter activity before nap time begins to allow for a winding down period.
  • Make the transition to nap time consistent each day: potty time, read a book, cuddle up with a lovey or special blanket.
  • Never make nap time a punishment.
  • Provide a restful place for nap time. (Consider: darkening blinds, heavy curtains, calming music, a fan or white noise machine)
  • Make sure naps are in his bed or crib. This will help him associate his own bed with sleep.
  • If he absolutely refuses to nap, leave him with some toys and books and tell him it’s quiet time.
  • Give him a hug and a kiss, tuck him in and leave the room.

Remember, sleep is very important for a growing child. If your child repeatedly gets up after you have tucked him in, calmly take his hand and return him to his bed. Walk him back to bed each time, and he will soon realize that you are serious. If he still seems to have difficulty napping, let him know it’s ok to stay awake, but he needs to use this time as “quiet time.” Be calm—but firm—about this resting period. Children (and parents, too!) need rest, even if they are not sleeping.

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

We see our family and friends, eat too much pie, enjoy a few extra days off from school and work, but beyond that… How can we demonstrate to our children the importance of both Thanksgiving and giving thanks?

The first Thanksgiving. First, let’s start by making sure our children know the story of the first Thanksgiving. Pick up a developmentally-appropriate book or find information online. It is important to discuss this story of hardship, friendship and sharing in an age-appropriate way.

A new tradition. Establish a new family tradition revolving around what your family is thankful for. This Thanksgiving, have everyone write or draw what they are most thankful for. Together, decorate a shoebox or journal to everyone’s answers. Make a point of adding to this box or journal throughout the year, and by next Thanksgiving you will have an amazing record of thanks. Add to this year after year—what a great treat it will be for the family to read through each Thanksgiving as your children grow!

Share. What are some of the things your children are most thankful for?

Survival Tips for Returning to Work

It’s the moment of truth. You are getting ready to go back to work. Maybe your maternity/paternity leave has come to an end or you took time off from your career to be a stay-at-home parent. In these economic times, you may have even been home due to unexpected circumstances. No matter the reason, juggling parenthood while reentering the workforce can be quite the challenge– just getting out the door in the morning can be a logistical nightmare! Here are some survival tips for the savvy parent.

Before You Go Back

A week before you go back to work, wake up at the new time and practice getting everybody ready. Do you need to get yourself ready before the rest of your household wakes? How long do you need? What can your children do while you are getting yourself ready? Will they play in a pack-n-play, feed themselves cereal, take care of their own potty needs or have cuddle time with your spouse? Make it a team effort and brainstorm with your spouse. Get specific about who will pack lunches, feed the children, pour the milk, give the vitamins, etc. Decide whether you will take turns or divvy up the responsibilities. Make sure you each have time to take care of your own needs, too. Hashing all of this out upfront and writing up a schedule will help you to figure out realistically how long it actually takes to get everybody ready in the morning, and then work your timeline backwards from when you’re due at work. Changing diapers, potty time, breakfast, getting dressed and tooth brushing may take a lot longer than you think! And be sure to leave plenty of extra time for traffic or the occasional extra-long good-bye with your child.

Start the Night Before

Pack up everything you and your child need for the next day before you go to bed: diaper bag, lunches, laptop bag, permission slips and bottles. Have the coffeemaker set to have that much needed java brewed and ready. If you weren’t a list maker before you had children, there is no better time than now to start! Jot down even the smallest of details and necessities that need to be packed or prepared. Sticky notes are a working parent’s best friend. Put a small bin in the fridge for each member of your family who packs breakfast, lunch or bottles and label with names.  Fill each bin with all lunch box items so in the morning you can just transfer the contents of each into a thermal bag with ice packs, etc. If something can’t be pre-packed, jot down a note and stick it in the bin so you know at a glance what is missing in the morning mayhem. Choose outfits the night before—if you are super savvy, you might even check the weather and select your children’s outfits for the whole week!

Back to the Grind

You may be shocked at how busy you will be when you go back to work. Plan time before or after work to spend with your children so you don’t feel like you are missing the details. Ease up on the idea of keeping the house clean 24/7. Your children won’t remember if the house was always sparkling clean or not, but they will remember the quality of the time they spent with you. Maximize your lunch breaks: go on a quick walk to boost your energy levels and be sure to pack healthful snacks. You may find it energizing to be back at work—you may be filled with new ideas, and be excited to spend your day with grown-ups! Don’t feel bad about leaving the office as soon as your workday officially ends–parenthood has taught you to be decidedly efficient, and to get more accomplished in less time. And, be sure to get as much sleep as possible–no matter how prepared and organized you are, going back to work and still maintaining a productive household can be exhausting!

You Deserve a Reward!

After all of the planning, organizing and hard work it takes to go back to the grind while also creating a happy and healthy work-life balance, treat yourself! Plan that rewarding lunchtime mani/pedi, a happy hour with your BFF or schedule some Saturday morning cuddle time with the little ones. You deserve it, and it will help reenergize you so you can do it all again next week.

Keeping your Child Healthy

Nutrition and exercise are important to your child’s overall health.  Proper nutrition and participation in physical activities can prevent many medical problems and ensure your child is growing to his/her full potential.

Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods to help them get the nutrients they need from every food group.  By offering your child a variety of foods, they are more likely to try new foods – and to like more foods.  Children learn from their parents, so it is no surprise that they are likely to mimic your food choices and physical activities.  If they see you enjoying fruits, vegetables, whole grains as well as physical activities, your children are more likely enjoy them as well.  Be a good role model for developing good health, physical skills and self-esteem by eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise.

Children Can Vote Too

The Importance of Voting

Voting is one of the greatest privileges given to American citizens. American democracy depends on the participation of all its citizens to elect its officials. Speak out, take action, vote and involve yourself in the political system. Teach your children the values of democracy so they too will become responsible participants in the electoral process. As the election rapidly approaches, teach your children the values of the democratic system. Discuss the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the basic principals of justice, freedom, equality, diversity, privacy, tolerance, patriotism, civic responsibility and respect. No matter how young your children are, it is never too early to talk to them about the basic principals of being an American and the responsibility that comes with being a U.S. citizen. Discuss the candidates and the issues each nominee stands for in front of your children. Plant a seed of curiosity and interest as early as you can.

Involving Children

It is important to get your children involved in voting as early as you can. Draw parallels between family decisions and national elections. Allow your children to vote on what to have for dinner, snack, TV and radio selections or the allocation of chores. Allowing children to vote at an early age provides opportunities for critical thinking, analysis and debate. Invoke critical thinking and ask your children “What would you do if you were President? What rules would you make up? What problems do you want to solve?” This will allow your children to explore areas of democracy, society and basic human rights in a way they understand. Hold a pretend house helper election: Cookie Monster verses the Count. Help your children create slogans, posters and different ideologies for each candidate. Determine the pros and cons of each candidate with your children to invoke analysis. Discuss which candidate would be the most helpful and elicit debate among your family. Create a ballot box with your children and vote for the house helper.

Election Day

Give your children their first taste of democracy and take them with you to vote. No matter how young your children are, it is important to familiarize them with the process. Explain on the ride to the polling place that voting is a civic act that is extremely important to many people. Millions of people go to great lengths to vote; leaving their homes and places of work, despite the weather or other obstacles, to have their voices heard. When you arrive at the polling place, do not just put in your card, press a button and leave. Explain the process and its importance. Discuss what it means to you. If the voting area allows, take your children into the booth with you, where you can read and explain the ballot process to them. This can be an exciting new process for your children; let them put the ballot through the machine, punch the holes or simply hand it in. Celebrate your child’s civic participation and let them proudly wear the “I Voted” sticker. Treat election day as a great learning opportunity for you and your family. Discuss, participate, vote and celebrate. Happy voting!


Introduce the concept of voting with age-appropriate activities:

Infant to One Year

✔ Select a favorite toy

First Steps (12 to 18 months)

✔ Learn party symbols of Donkey and Elephant

✔ Select a story to read

Toddler and Get Set (18 to 36 months)

✔ Vote on a game to play

✔ Vote for a favorite color

✔ Vote for a favorite food

✔ Select a food to eat

Preschool to Pre-K (36 months +)

✔ Conduct a mock election

✔ Identify Presidential candidates