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Archive for September, 2019

How to Get Your Picky Eaters to Enjoy Healthy Foods


By Jack Maypole, MD
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

During my travels as a parent, it seemed that during my children’s early childhood and school-age years that snack time was all the time: It was in the car. It was in the stroller. Once, one of my daughters asked for a snack during dinner. Maybe that is the problem with our modern concept of snacking, which often results in non-nutritious grazing, most especially (in my brood) involving a hankering for items of the high-sodium, cheddar-y orange food group (the noble Cheez-It, say, or mac ‘n’ cheese). It need not be so, however. We can do better and not succumb to the temptations of highly processed foods. For busy families, it is possible to get out of a rut and into a groove, finding a balance of healthier menu items that can satisfy everyone and perhaps transform snack time. For those who can swing it, there are a variety of soft foods in foil packs, often with marketing touting their organic and healthful qualities, but these foods are pricey.

In my practice, I counsel families to make a list of their child’s favorite foods and then draw from that list the items that are age appropriate, tasty and easy to prepare and that will survive in a bag till midday. For the toddler set, finger foods rule. Serve soft items that disintegrate or are swallowed easily, such as cheese, cut fruit or finely chopped meat, in Tupperware, and you are good to go. For older children who can handle more substantial foods, it can be fun to offer teeny versions of bigger dishes, such as a small grilled cheese or some slices of fruit. Be thoughtful about items that might spoil in the heat of a summer’s day, and don’t hesitate to ask friends what works for them. That is where the best ideas come from, I find. Portion sizes need not be big (a salad plate’s worth is plenty), and I recommend that you keep it simple, not fussy. It turns out children eat every day, so keep it sustainable. Lastly, avoid sugary beverages. Given a choice, I’d offer children water over juice.

Whatever you choose, I have found that the picky eaters out there (read that as “most children”) do best if you provide them with a familiar item or two, and then periodically offer up new foods that they can try to expand their palates and repertoires. You can assess how you’re doing by seeing what comes back home at the end of the day and modify your approach accordingly. As ever, respect the food-allergy restrictions most schools have, communicate any your child may have and touch base with teachers and your child’s doctor if you are concerned your child may have an allergy.

Most of all, enjoy. Snack time is a fun time. Bon appétit!

Five Ways Grandparents Can Stay Connected and Enrich Children’s Lives

grandparentsBy Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

It is easier than ever for families who live in different parts of the country, or the world for that matter, to stay connected. How do we make those connections meaningful for young children beyond the “Hi, Grandma” Skype call? Young children often turn shy or silent when asked to come to the phone to say hello or smile on camera during a FaceTime visit. This is usually because the children aren’t prepared for the interaction and are taken away from something they were doing.

We all want to make these special times more meaningful since they are beneficial to young children. Grandparents and other family members can be great role models and influences, and they provide a sense of cultural heritage and family history. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the relationship between the grandparent and the child is second in emotional importance only to the parent-child bond.

We have compiled the following tips to help your little ones feel more connected no matter how far away their grandparents are:

  1. Have a regular call time, and prepare your children for that time by reminding them that day and a few minutes before the call.
  2. Plan a special activity they can do during the virtual visit, such as sharing a book and reading together or making something together (for example, each person draws their favorite animal and then shares it on the call).
  3. Hold a show-and-tell. You and your children can prepare a show-and-tell about something that happened that day or week with photos or artwork.
  4. Plan what they will do on the next visit together, and mark it on a calendar.
  5. With very young children, such as toddlers, play pat-a-cake or sing to your grandchild.

Of course, while these are tips for virtual visits, they work in face-to-face meetings as well. Have fun creating new memories, and don’t forget your camera.

Apple Ring Snacks 


Add a healthy twist to after-school snack time with these tasty apple rings! 


  • One apple 
  • Your choice of nut or seed butter 
  • Raisins 
  • Sliced almonds 
  • Chopped walnuts 
  • Shredded coconut 


  1. Slice apple into thin rings and remove core from each ring.  
  1. Spread nut butter on one side of ring.  
  1. Top with almonds, walnuts, raisins and coconut.  
  1. Enjoy! 


Feel free to substitute chocolate chips for the raisins and/or chocolate-hazelnut spread for the nut butter. 

Five Family-Friendly Ways to Explore the Voting Process


Becoming familiar with the election process can help set a foundation for children to learn how casting their votes can make a difference. Your children will need you to explain vocabulary words including election, nominate, voting, campaign and ballots in an age appropriate way.

1. Vote for your favorite dinner 

Explain to your children that you will nominate two dinner choices and hold an election to determine the winner. All members of the family should participate. Allow enough time for your children to make campaign posters to show why they think their candidate (dinner choice) should be selected. This activity can be a great way to incorporate math skills by asking one of your children to count the ballots.

2. Vote for a bedtime story 

Choosing just the right bedtime story can be a long process for some children. Provide your child with a few options earlier in the day, and later have him cast a vote for his choice before the bedtime routine begins. This can help set a foundation for the importance of voting, while reducing the time it takes to select a story.

3. Hold a debate

The next time your family is contemplating a decision, whether it’s which spot to vacation this summer or whether it’s to get a pet, you can hold a debate among family members. This encourages children to organize their thoughts and be confident when voicing their opinions.

4. Plan for a movie night

It can be a challenge for all family members to agree on a movie. Encourage each family member to give a speech saying why the movie that she prefers should be the winner. After hearing everyone’s input, take a vote to see which movie wins. Explain to your children that sometimes the outcome does not reflect their choice and that they must make the best of it.

5. Create a rainy day list

Be prepared with a rainy day roster of activities. Create a list of things that your children can do on a rainy day. Encourage each child to vote for an activity. When the activity is complete, ask each child what she enjoyed about the activity and if she would want to do it again. This is a good way to incorporate how democratic policies are sometimes beneficial and at other times need to be looked at in a different way to be made better.

Five Fall Crafts Your Children Will Love


  1. Work with your child to create an Acrostic poem like the one below. Consider using alternative words, such as leaf, pumpkin or scarecrow.

Thankful for my family

Uncover the changes in nature

Ready to stuff my belly with turkey

Kicking the warm days right out of here

Enjoy a game of family football

Yearning for snow to arrive.

  1. Ask your children to draw turkeys using their hands. Have each one of your children place a hand on a white sheet of paper and trace around the hand, fingers and thumb. Then count the names on your Thanksgiving guest list, and have your children create a corresponding number of hand-drawn turkeys. Ask your children to color them using crayons and imagination. Once they finish, take the pieces of paper to your nearest office supply store to be laminated. You now have adorable placemats for your Thanksgiving dinner.
  1. Use the colorful leaves of fall to create a lion’s mane. Gather a bunch of leaves with your Make sure they are dry and bug-free! Tell your child about the assorted colors as you gather the leaves. Next, take the leaves and put them in an old book for a few hours to help press and preserve them. Take a paper plate and help your child glue the leaves around the rim. Once you’ve covered the entire rim, let it dry. Finally, encourage your child to draw the lion’s face on the paper plate.
  1. Create a tree using buttons. Gather old or new buttons. Talk to your children about fall colors and have them choose the buttons that they want to use for this activity. Then, encourage your little ones to draw a tree trunk and branches. Finally, guide your children in gluing the buttons onto where leaves should appear. During this project, talk with your children about how trees grow.
  1. Ask your children what they are thankful for. Instead of having them write it on a piece of paper, have them make a turkey craft out of it. Get a paper plate and an assortment of colored construction paper. Help them cut out feathered shapes from the construction paper to glue on the plate as the turkey’s feathers. Once the glue dries, ask your children to write something that they are thankful for on each feather. Assist them with the writing if necessary.

Three Simple Ways to Manage Sweets at Home


What do birthday parties, Halloween and school functions have in common? The answer is food, particularly sweet treats. These events often come with a side of cake, cookies, candy and soda, which are all sugar-rich foods that many families try hard to limit at home.

Try as you might, children eventually find a way to consume them; we’re all born predisposed to desire sweets (De Cosmi, Scaglioni & Agnostoni, 2017).

Restricting foods and labeling them as good or bad can be problematic, but how can you ensure that your children are eating nutritious meals and not gorging themselves on sweets?

1. Change the labels.

There is no such thing as good food or bad food. Repeat this mantra.

Study after study has found that when foods are labeled this way, we respond with detrimental behaviors. Stigmatizing food can lead to eating disorders, shame, secret eating, depression and more (Rollin, 2015).

Jill Castle, a pediatric nutritionist, recommends using the terms “nourishing” and “fun” instead of good and bad or healthy and unhealthy.

Examples of nourishing foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products. Examples of fun foods include fried foods, chips, soda, cake and sugary beverages.

2. Implement the 90-10 rule.

Castle also recommends following the 90-10 rule, meaning 90% of your children’s meals will be nourishing foods and 10% will be fun foods (Castle, 2018). Let your children be part of this process. Explain what fun foods are, then help them identify some.

Only give your children two servings of fun foods a day.

3. Let your children choose.

Allow your children to choose the fun foods they’d like to eat whenever possible. This freedom is hugely important as children seek to exert their independence. Additionally, Castle says that this choice will help teach children how to self-regulate and use their decision-making skills.

Castle says, “The goal is to help your child pause and think through what she will eat during the day, and give her an opportunity to think ahead and practice decision-making skills with eating” (Castle, 2018).

What methods do you use to manage fun foods at home?


Castle, J. (2018). The 90-10 rule for managing treats. Retrieved from https://jillcastle.com/childhood-nutrition/fun-food-90-10-rule/

De Cosmi, V., Scaglioni, S. & Agnostoni, C. (2017). Early taste experiences and later food choices. Nutrients, 9(2):107.

Rollin, J. (2015). How the idea of “healthy eating” can be harmful. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201512/how-the-idea-healthy-eating-can-be-harmful?destination=node/1082948

Cotton Ball Ghosts Craft


This simple craft is great for children of all ages. It’s a fun, sensory Halloween experience that only requires a few supplies.


* Cotton balls

* Black construction paper

* Chalk

* Glue (glue sticks or regular glue)

* Black buttons (the size found on peacoats)


1. Draw a ghost shape with chalk on the black construction paper. Depending on the age of the children, you may need to draw this for them.

2.  Cover the ghost with glue.

3. Pull and stretch the cotton balls to make them thin and wispy.

4. Place the stretched-out cotton balls on the glue ghost outline. Repeat until the ghost is covered.

5. Glue on two black buttons for eyes and enjoy your spooky ghost art.

What other Halloween crafts do you plan to make with your children?

The Ultimate Fall Activity Guide


Leaves, pumpkins and apples – oh my! Fall is here, and a new season means innovative and exciting ways to teach, learn and explore. Make the most of autumn every day of the month with your little one by trying out a few (or all) of these seasonal-inspired activities.

  1. Pack a healthy and nutritious lunch for a picnic in the park.
  2. Rake leaves, and have your little one jump and play in them.
  3. Have a popcorn, pajamas and movie day while watching family-favorite Halloween films.
  4. Gather Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed books, and read them outside with your child on a sunny afternoon.
  5. Have your children sit down and think about what matters most to them. Then, have them make a thankful list and display it.
  6. Go on a nature walk around your neighborhood. Bring a small bag for all the different fall treasures you find along the way.
  7. Go pumpkin picking. Let your little ones roam so they can find the perfect ones to bring home.
  8. Have an arts and crafts afternoon by painting and decorating pumpkins and leaves.
  9. Carve out a jack-o’-lantern, and then play with the mushy insides with your children, allowing them to examine the mush in a sensory bin.
  10. Visit your local library, and let your children find books they love. Bring the books home to read together on the couch or before bedtime.
  11. Create a cardboard tube bird feeder with your children and hang it on a tree Then watch and write down all the different birds that gather in your yard.
  12. Make a special homemade Halloween or Thanksgiving card and send it to their grandparents.
  13. Spend an afternoon or evening baking. Bake and decorate fall cookies, pies and cupcakes together.
  14. Visit a farm and go on a hayride. Enjoy time outside spent experiencing the season of autumn.
  15. Play hide-and-seek inside the house at night with glowsticks.
  16. Let your children create imaginative and spooky Halloween art. Let their inner creativity soar with their drawings and paintings.
  17. Attend a local fall festival or county fair in your neighborhood with your family.
  18. Go Halloween costume shopping with your children or spend an afternoon together constructing the perfect homemade Halloween costume. Don’t forget to take pictures when they are all dressed up.
  19. Carve a jack-o’-lantern and teach your children how to roast the pumpkin seeds.
  20. Spend quality time in the kitchen following a recipe and making a delicious soup together. Pretend you are making a potion or spell. Get your little ones involved by letting them measure, mix and add ingredients.
  21. Drink warm apple cider or hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows on a cold day!
  22. Take a scenic drive or road trip to see the fall foliage. Let your children examine the world through the window so they can see how miraculous the season can be.
  23. Organize a fun scavenger hunt in the backyard.
  24. Gather the family outside by a bonfire or in the kitchen to make s’mores after dinner.
  25. On a rainy day, bundle up and splash around in the puddles outside.
  26. Visit a local farmers market.
  27. Go to an apple orchard and spend the afternoon picking apples.
  28. Snuggle up by the fireplace inside and tell creative stories.
  29. Visit a local museum or arboretum to experience one-of-a-kind fall exhibits for children and families.
  30. Explore a corn maze suitable for children.
  31. Go trick-or-treating!