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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

These Simple Tips Can Trick You Into Eating Healthier

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“There’s no shame in buying pre-packed, pre-cut veggies ― riced cauliflower, cut-up broccoli florets, pre-made zucchini noodles, pre-chopped and pre-washed kale,” said Andrea Moss, holistic nutrition coach and founder of Moss Wellness. “Same with frozen veggies. Anything that gets you to eat veggies and makes it easier for you to do so is a win.”

If your schedule doesn’t leave a lot of extra time to prepare those foods, many stores offer fruits and vegetables that are ideal for on-the-go folks. 

Bonus points if you can complete this task on a Sunday and get your food ready for the week. Another food prep hack from Moore: If you prep soup for the week, store in the freezer in a clear bag, making sure it’s flat so it’ll save you space for more goodies. 

“If you have a whole pineapple, you’re less likely to eat it than if you go ahead and cut it up into smaller pieces,” she said.

Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta, encourages her clients to wash the fruits and veggies they buy when they get home from grocery shopping and then chop them up into bite-sized pieces.

Do the dirty work first

Making this tip effective at home and keeping those better options to the front means you’re more likely to grab healthy food to munch on for a snack or add that food to a meal you’re already cooking. Plus, since you can have your eye on it, the food is less likely to go bad and you won’t be deterred from buying fruits and vegetables in the future (this is a common annoyance for people trying to eat healthy, according to several of our experts). It’s a win-win. 

“We focus on making it as easy as possible to make great choices by making the most nutritious foods highly visible, while indulgent options are just a little harder to find,” he said. “Because we know hydration is important, water is the first thing you see in our refrigerators. Seasonal fruits are placed in bowls on open counters while packaged snacks and sweets are relegated to drawers or opaque jars.”

To encourage their employees to eat healthy, Google uses a similar strategy. Scott Giambastiani, the company’s global food program chef and operations manager, told HuffPost that the offices offer less healthy options, but they’re tucked away in favor of healthier foods.

″Put healthy food where you can see it [in the fridge] and keep foods you want to cut back on in the fridge drawers,” said Katie Serbinski, the registered dietitian behind Mom to Mom Nutrition. “You can even go a step further and store healthy foods in clear containers or bags, so you can easily see and grab them without having to rinse or wash, assuming that step has been done ahead of time.”

Having healthy snacks ― fruits, vegetables, grains ― visible and within reach can change your snacking habits, according to the food and health experts we interviewed. 

Fruits (and other healthy items) to the front

We chatted with dietitians and nutritionists about simple ways you can arrange your fridge, prepare your food and store your snacks to promote a healthier lifestyle. Here are their tips. 

Looking to eat healthier? With a few subtle changes in your kitchen, you might just be able to trick yourself into making it happen. 

Trinette Reed via Getty Images

We talked to experts about simple ways you can prep, store and arrange your food to get the most out of a healthier lifestyle.

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Preparing food (washing, cutting, etc.) as soon as you get home from the grocery store can encourage you to munch on healthier snacks and put together more well-balanced meals. Also, keep the healthier food in clear containers so you always know what you have in stock.

Dorling Kindersley: Dave King via Getty Images

Divide the fridge into sections (and CLEAN IT.)

Many people keep fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawer of their fridge and fill their pantries with boxed and canned goods, but how many of us really go beyond that? 

Molly Lee, holistic health coach and founder and director of Energizing Nutrition, said that further organizing your fridge and the rest of your kitchen can make it easier when you’re cooking.

“Have different sections for different categories of food,” she said. “It prevents cross contamination, but it also is organized so you can make a well-balanced meal.”

If you have kids who can pack their own lunch or grab their own after-school snack, consider having a drawer in the fridge and/or a section of the pantry just for them, suggests Serbinski. You’re establishing both independence and good eating habits. 

Also don’t forget ― seriously, don’t forget ― to clean your fridge.

“A tidy fridge is an inviting fridge! Throw out those leftovers weekly,” Moss said.

Consider revamping your dishes (and don’t forget about mason jars)

Lee told HuffPost that “organization is the key” when it comes to a kitchen that will help you eat healthier, but having an appealing kitchen can also help. 

“If you have chipped plates or you don’t have the right equipment, it’s not going to be pleasurable to make food,” she said. “A beautiful bowl, plate and mug that you love can really go a long way for making sort of a ritual.”

Don’t sleep on mason jars, either.

“You just stack your favorite ingredients,” Lee said. “You can stack greens, nuts and seeds, chickpeas, tuna or leftover chicken or feta cheese, and it’s easy. Plus, it looks beautiful and you won’t forget about it because it’s clear.”

For those with a sweet tooth, Lee suggested adding organic Greek or plain yogurt to fresh berries and low-sugar granola (make sure it’s naturally sweet, not made with a ton of added sugar).  

Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to indulgences

Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or are always craving something salty, ridding yourself of all your cravings doesn’t always work. For a more realistic balance, Moore suggests having only “one indulgent thing” in your living space at a time and leaving the rest at the store (that midnight snack craving won’t be as difficult to overcome if you’ve only got one option).

Lee sticks to encouraging her clients to eat “the highest quality of your favorite dessert.” Think organic dark chocolate or raw honey, perhaps mixed with another healthy snack.

“It’s more expensive so you really savor it, and it tastes really good because it’s using really good ingredients,” she said. 

However you deal with those cravings, a good rule is to somewhat fool yourself and tuck them away somewhere.

“Maybe you have chips or you have cookies in the back of the bottom shelf,” Moore said.

Out of sight, out of mind, and hopefully out of your healthier lifestyle.

 

This article was written by Taylor Pittman from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Real-World Ways to Make Time for Friends

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We can’t add hours to the day, but we can share these tried and tested ways to fit in much-needed time with your besties.

“I’m teaching my kids how to play golf, partly because I love golf and my friends love golf. I have two boys, who are 11 and 6. I’m friends with my kids’ friends’ parents, so when we get together, it’s like killing two birds with one stone. We plan events that include the entire family, like going to a ball game or a kid-friendly concert. We’ll also take trips with friends and their families and rent a house. Those kinds of trips really create quality time together.”
—Mark Choey, 47, cofounder, partner, and CTO of Climb Real Estate

“I have been traveling a lot this past year, so I post on Facebook where I’ll be and connect with people that way. Sometimes I’ll send calendar invites to friends about meeting up. It helps because we’re all so busy. But it’s also good to be spontaneous and not always plan ahead. I’ll message 10 friends on Facebook to see if anyone wants to go to dinner. I think it’s important to do this kind of thing on a regular basis—otherwise I just blink, the whole year goes by, and I’ve lost touch.”
—Suz Somersall, 34, founder of KiraKira3D

“Now that my kids are 11 and 14, I find many friends through them. It’s important to have that network of people you trust with your kids. I’m driving a lot of carpools, and there’s homework, so the evenings are pretty tied up. But on the days I work, I try to see a grown-up at lunchtime. Or we’ll meet and go for a walk, or I’ll exercise with them on my days off.”
—Desiree Botkin, 48, briefing attorney for United States District Courts

“My family life just went into overdrive because we recently had twins and already have a 5- and 7-year-old. Having a set event helps make time. I used to organize a Dads’ Drinking Club as a way to meet new people; we’d gather once a month at a local bar. Now, every month or two, my friends and I play poker. One of the biggest sources of marital disharmony I’ve observed is an imbalance in time with friends. So I make an effort to schedule something to take the kids to so my wife can be with her friends. I think that makes our relationship happier.”
—Rabindra Ratan, 36, assistant professor of Media and Information at Michigan State University

“I think you have to prioritize time for friends and not feel guilty about it. Thursday works best for my schedule, so I have a goal to meet a friend for dinner and drinks every Thursday night. Seeing a friend shouldn’t feel like a guilty pleasure; it’s a really essential part of life. I think it’s important for women in particular to look at friendship as something that feeds your life and your business. It’s one of those things that make you better at everything else you do.”
—Robbie Hardy, 70, author, mentor, and cofounder of Lessons Earned

 

This article was written by Jane Porter from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Easy Ways to Expand Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

From baby talk to reading aloud during infancy to walking around the house pointing at and describing inanimate objects (“Look! Mommy’s coffeeeeee”), there is almost nothing you can do that won’t help a baby develop speech. Still, for proactive parents looking to expedite the process—or anyone worried about a speech delay—we asked speech pathologist and pediatric social communication expert Kelly Lelonek for tips on how to recognize a need for early intervention or simply enhance childrens’ language skills. A precocious chatterbox on the first day of nursery school? Now you’re talking.

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Element 1

Q) What’s the age that kids should typically be moving from one-word utterances to two?

 A) Most children start to combine words between 18 and 24 months. They start to use two- and three-word combinations (“Pet the bunny” or “Wow, big dog!”) around this age. By 24 months, most children use between 50 and 200 words.

Q) Does birth order impact on how fast or slow a child may be to speak? 

The effect of a child’s birth order on emerging language is still under debate. There is no evidence of language delays being seen more often in later-born children. Birth order likely creates different language learning environments for each child, none of which are detrimental.

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Element 2

Q) Without being alarmist, what could be some of the reasons a child’s speech isn’t “exploding” between 18 months and two years? 

Developmental speech and language disorder is a common reason for speech and language delays in children. A child’s hearing should always be tested. Intellectual disability could also cause speech and language delays. [Ask your pediatrician for a referral to an early interventionist if you suspect any of this is at play.]

Q) What are some of the easiest ways parents can improve their kids’ vocabularies and help them express longer, more complex thoughts?

First, a parent should determine what is missing in the child’s vocabulary. A child must have 50-plus words before they will start to combine them. Check to see if your child has nouns, verbs, adjectives, possessives, negatives and question words. Then, use the strategy of “expansion.” This is when you take the words your child says, repeat them, then add a missing word. For example, the child says “Dog” and you repeat back, “Big dog.” You can do this multiple times and add different words each time. A parent’s goal should be to help the child reach just the next level of complexity.

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Element 3

Q) When is the ideal time to “work” on this?

During bath time, feeding time, while reading books or playing. Really, anytime throughout the day!

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Bored During The Week: Fun Activities for Family Night

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In this busy world, there seem to be fewer and fewer times when a family has the opportunity to assemble all in one place. When a Mom has to work as well as take care of the kinds, these times seem to be even harder to come by. Kids often are burdened by extracurricular activities when they’re not in school, or else they’re out spending time with their friends. Sometimes even when they are home, it’s impossible to carve time out to get everybody in the same room to do something together. The kids might have homework, or you might have to bring some work home with you. You might all even get caught up in your cell phones.

Yet it’s been proven time and again that the benefits for families who spend time together are numerous. It might even require you to demand a certain night be ordained each week as Family Night. Whatever gets you and the kids together in the same room in the house together for a couple of hours with no distraction is clearly worth it. Once you’ve got everybody corralled and ready to have some fun, you need to be ready for some fun activities to keep their attention. You can always fall back on things like movies or board games, but why not come up with something different than the usual? That will make them crave Family Night instead of dreading it.

If you’re looking for a new location for Family Night because your old residence doesn’t cut it anymore, there are new homes for sale for just about every budget that will meet your family’s needs. Once you get there, consider these activities with your kids to make it a night they won’t forget.

Get Out of This

One of the most exciting new entertainments to come around in the past decade or so are escape rooms. They require people to unite to solve problems in order to get out of a locked room. You can come up with some way to incorporate this into Family Night. Create the puzzles yourself, and then make the kids work together. If they get out in time, have a reward waiting.

The Family That Cooks Together

It can be a lot of fun to have everyone in the kitchen pitching in together for a family meal. Have the kids get together to agree upon a fun recipe which everyone will like. Even if it’s a sugary dessert, give them a break on the nutrition for a night so they can have a little fun.

Looking Back

Instead of just popping in a video or streaming a movie, you can create entertainment for the kids by cueing up a bunch of home videos, whether they’re on tape or on someone’s phone. Or you can pull out old photo albums. You’d be surprised at how nostalgic kids can be.

Remember that kids will react to new and exciting activities that are different from the norm. Use your imagination to make Family Night at your home the place to be.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Proven Ways to Fight Working-Parent Guilt

The emotional push-pull between home and the office can be painful. Here’s how successful working moms and dads keep life guilt-free.

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Lean On Your Partner

“When my first child was born, people at work would say, ‘How do you come to work and leave your beautiful baby at home?’ I actually had a lot of guilt about how I didn’t feel more guilty I was working. The guilt kicked in when my son learned to talk. He had friends who had moms who were at home, and he wanted to know why I couldn’t pick him up after school. Luckily, I have a really involved partner. At night when the kids are sleeping, we can sit on the sofa and talk about everything that happened that day.”

— Kristy Sekedat, 39, Forensic Scientist in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Say Yes Whenever You Can

“If I have a deadline for a book and my son comes over with a Star Wars figure and says, ‘Dad, will you play with me?’ the answer is always yes. I know that 15 minutes of playing with Star Wars figures will make him so happy. And that helps me with the guilt. I divide my day by the type of tasks I have to do: the ones that require everyone to leave me alone, and the ones I can do while sitting with my family. I do those menial tasks—which a lot of people do during the day—while watching TV with my family. Not wasting a single minute means I get more minutes for them.”

— Matthew Dicks, 47, Fifth-Grade Teacher and Author in Newington, Connecticut

Own Your Choices

“My daughter is almost 1, and any time I spend away from her is time I question inherently. Before I went back to work after she was born, I thought I would feel so guilty every second of the workday, but it turns out I don’t. Anything that makes me feel good about myself as a person makes me a better mom. I have a mantra: ‘I am showing her what a strong woman looks like. I am showing her what it means to have a career I made for myself and built out of nothing.’ She’s still too young to understand, but I like to think she sees it in her own little way.”

—Jamie Stelter, 36, Traffic Anchor for NY1 in New York City

Designate Family Time

“My three kids have grown up coming to work with me, knowing the people I work with and understanding the important things we do. It’s also important to me to build in family time. Every Tuesday night is our night, and that takes priority over anything else. We read a book together, we do a fun activity together, we write down what we’re grateful for, and we pray together. It starts a discussion and gives us a chance to talk about what’s coming up in our week. I enjoy having a life that’s fulfilling at home and in the world. I want to show my kids that my life is bigger than just myself.”

— Yasmin Diallo Turk, 41, Evaluation and Compliance Analyst at the Nonprofit Safe Alliance in Austin, Texas

Create Strong Bonds

“Both my kids started daycare at three months old. I’ve coped with the guilt by breast-feeding them for so long. I breast-fed my first until she was 3, and my youngest is 20 months and I still breast-feed her. Taking my full maternity leave, breast-feeding as long as I can to make sure the bond is there, and spending quality time with them are my ways of not feeling the guilt. I also decided to be a class parent—it has helped me stay involved and get to know the parents of the other kids in the class very well.”

— Ninon Marapachi, 40, Head of Hedge Fund Origination at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York City

 

This article was written by Jane Porter from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The 5 Best Outdoor Family Activities for the Most Time-Pressed Moms

Outdoor family activities don’t have to require a lot of planning or trips to the store. Here are five easy, low-cost ideas for working moms.

For any mother, time with your family is extremely valuable, especially when balancing that time with a career. You want to plan fun, entertaining activities to do with your children, but you also need ideas that don’t require a lot of time or an unwanted trip to the craft store.

Now that spring is in the air, you’re likely looking for ways to have fun outside as a family. These five outdoor activities are perfect for working moms who need simple yet creative ideas that don’t require much preparation.

1. Sidewalk chalk art

 

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Take the coloring outside! Sidewalk chalk is a great item to have on hand for when your children get bored. You can take turns tracing each other, turning yourselves into superheroes and other fun characters. Develop your child’s gross motor skills by playing hopscotch together. You can also use sidewalk chalk to build your child’s knowledge of shapes, letters or numbers. For example, try having your little one run or jump to circles, squares, triangles and rectangles as you name each shape.


2. Sensory scavenger hunt

 

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Photo: iStock

This can also be an opportunity to teach your kids about nature.

Turn scavenger hunts into sensory scavenger hunts! Identify the smells and sounds of nature together. It’s a simple way to have a scavenger hunt without requiring time to develop clues or buy additional resources. See what your children can find, whether it’s birds chirping or flowers blooming. If something sparks their curiosity during the scavenger hunt, let them explore and ask questions.


3. Car wash

 

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Photo: iStock

A fun activity that checks a chore off of your To-Do list.

As a working mom, your to-do list may be a mile long, so get the whole family involved with chores like washing the car. Your little ones will enjoy splashing in the water and playing with bubbles! They can also wash their trikes, bikes or toy cars! Car washes are fun, and doing them together is a great way to check something off your to-do list.


4. Bubbles

 

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Photo: iStock

Kids of all ages love bubbles.

If your children love making bubbles during car washes, they’ll love blowing bubbles too. The best part? You don’t even have to purchase bubble solution, which can go quickly with accidental spills. Homemade bubbles are fun to make and may save you a little bit of cash.

The simplest recipe only requires one part liquid dish soap to 15 parts water. Combine the soap and water in a large dish or bucket and stir gently. Dip your favorite household wand like a slotted spoon or coat hanger. Have some fun cookie cutters available? Those are great for making bubbles into different shapes!


5. Evening walk

 

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Photo: iStock

Going for a walk is also great exercise for the whole family.

After a work day, get outside with the children for a walk around the neighborhood. You can even grab a couple slices of bread and walk to a nearby park to feed the ducks.

An evening walk is a great way to release the stress of the day and let your children get rid of excess energy before bedtime. Take this time to catch up as a family and learn about each other’s day. You may notice this quality time together becoming a treasured family ritual.

Activities that are engaging don’t have to be complicated or expensive. After a long day of work, you’re ready for quality family time. Make it fun and easy with these activities.

Leslie Marley is the Director of Education and Curriculum at U-GRO Learning Centres, a premiere provider of early childhood and preschool education in Central Pennsylvania. Marley has worked in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years. She is passionate about serving and empowering children and families.

 

This article was written by Leslie Marley from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Super-Easy Secret to Making Any Playdate a Success

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Playdates are, in a way, like any other kind of date. When they go well, you (as the parent) want to sing a little song and do that move where you jump sideways and kick your heels together in mid-air. (There will be no eating lunch alone in the library for your kid!) When they go badly—like when one child hurls insults at, hits or openly despises the other in front of the woman who gave him life, it kinda feels like you’ll be scarred for the rest of yours.

But we have a genius antidote to all the social awkwardness (courtesy of our son’s seasoned former nursery school teacher): Cap the playdate at 45 minutes. Max. “End on a high” were her exact words.

Even if the kids are midway through constructing an elaborate Lego skyscraper and begging to stay for just one more minute, yank the one that belongs to you the eff outta there and get gone. Count your blessings, know when to fold ’em and cash out. Leave before things go bad, because—your kid is not an outlier—they almost always, inevitably do. “Keeping playdates short will help avoid meltdowns, squabbles and other misbehaviors,” say the parenting experts at Understood.org. “Giving fair warning by announcing that the playdate is nearly over and initiating cleanup time increases the likelihood that the playdate will end on a high note.” See, almost everyone can keep their game face on for the first 45 minutes. As the experts at Parents advise: “When in doubt, leave ’em wanting more.”

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Choosing A Pediatrician: What New Moms Need To Know

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Whether you’re a first time mom or recently relocated for work, choosing a pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your child’s early life. They’ll help guide you through those worrisome early days when it feels like you’re doing everything wrong, reassure you, and patch your child up when things get a little bumpy.

But how do you choose a pediatrician if you don’t have a team of fellow moms to help you out? These 4 simple guidelines can help you determine if you’ve found the right fit.

Observe The Office

As with most places, you can tell a lot about a doctor by looking at their office. That means if you walk into a practice and things are dirty or look old, that’s an immediate warning sign. Similarly, you should avoid offices that are still clinging to paper records rather than transitioning to electronic medical records.

Offices that use electronic records make fewer mistakes because doctors don’t have to interpret illegible handwriting and all records are immediately on-hand and searchable. It also makes it easier for your pediatrician to collaborate with other specialists.

Of course, it’s not just the technology you should be evaluating; décor matters too. Beware of waiting room couches and other hard to clean furniture. Out of date, repeatedly photocopied paperwork is also a warning sign, as are old toys and poor office signage. If you can’t find the practice because it lacks a legible sign, has signage featuring former doctors’ names, or has a sign that’s old and peeling, keep moving. Doctors who are invested in their practice care about little details like having quality signage and a clean, welcoming office space. Simply put, a great pediatrician can see the big picture.

Talk Philosophy

First time parents often think pediatricians are primarily there to offer medical advice, but their role is greater than that. That’s why it’s important to talk about parenting philosophy with potential pediatricians before settling on one. For example, some pediatricians feel very strongly about working mothers, while others are very encouraging and know a lot about local childcare programs. Similarly, some are emphatically pro-breast feeding and will put a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed, while others are more nutrition-focused.

If specific issues like returning to work or nursing are concerns for you, raise them with potential pediatricians from the start. A great pediatrician will support your choices while emphasizing safety and healthy child development. Leaving your kids with their grandparents while you work? Many pediatricians support family-based care, but know that older relatives might be out of the loop on proper childcare practices. The right physician will help you address these concerns productively and even offer to meet with grandparents, while one whose values don’t match yours may warn you away from your choice without discussing it.

Support From Specialists

While most children will thrive regardless of their pediatrician, children with specialized health needs may need equally special support. Finding a pediatrician in your area who has the appropriate training, then, is absolutely vital. In fact, it could become a lifelong relationship, as has been Jeff Vetor’s experience.

Vetor has a condition known as pulmonary stenosis, but like many people with childhood diseases, as well as those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, he continues to see his pediatrician, as few doctors are trained to handle what was formerly a life-limiting condition. As more people survive these conditions into later adulthood, though, we may see a greater capacity among general practitioners to handle congenital health issues previously restricted to specialized pediatricians.

Rejection Criteria

Finally, but importantly, you’ll want to discuss patient rejection criteria with any potential pediatrician. Some pediatricians have a few basic rules, such as not seeing unvaccinated patients, while others have less structured rules like rejecting patients whose parents are especially difficult. Just remember that when you’re interviewing pediatricians, they’re also interviewing you.

You may not have a mommy network to guide you through the pediatrician selection process, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally alone. With the amount of information on the internet today and a few smart questions, you can find the right doctor for your family. But start early – it can take a while to go through the interview process. You’re making a big decision.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How I Finally Got My Kids to Eat Their Veggies—and Like It

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I used to stand in front of the blender so they couldn’t see. Sautéed zucchini, red and yellow peppers, spinach—I’d throw it all in there quickly with the tomato sauce and breathe a sigh of relief when the crunching would stop and the swirling would begin. Meanwhile, my boys (4 and 6 at the time) would play with their Legos on the kitchen table none the wiser. Sure, I could openly put some veggies on the table (exactly two: broccoli and carrots), but that never felt like enough.

Then one day, a letter came home from my son’s kindergarten PE teacher announcing a nutrition challenge she called Strive for Five. Based on the National Cancer Institute’s recommendation to eat five servings of fruits or vegetables each day, all kindergarten classes would compete to eat at least three servings (but aim for five) of fruits or vegetables a day to celebrate National Nutrition Month in March. All the parents got a handy calendar so we could keep track. The reward? The kindergarten class with the most servings got to choose an activity for PE.

That night, as my husband and I were munching on potato chips on the couch, I remembered that the letter said that the challenge might help parents eat better, too. That promise that we’d start eating a Mediterranean diet this year hadn’t really been working out.

“What do you think if we all did the challenge?” I said.

After my husband finished his delicate, crispy, so-salty-it-sings potato chip, he wiped his hands and said he was all for it. He reminded me that March is the beginning of Greek lent, when he cuts out meat and dairy for 40 days. If I wanted, I could join him, too. Over breakfast the next day, we told the kids that we’re all going to get in on the competition.

“Even me?” said the four-year-old.

“Yes, even you,” I said.

“But what do we get?” my kindergartner asked. I told the boys that, just like the school reward, we could do an activity of their choice for a day. The outing could be anything they wanted, within reason, like going to the aquarium or the science museum or the arcade (read: family time).

The boys grabbed some magic markers and decorated their calendars with pictures and added their names. I posted them on the fridge at eye level so they could easily mark them up every day. They boys were so excited, they wanted to start that day, but I told them they’d have to wait until March 1.

While the idea seemed perfect for our family, because we’re naturally a little competitive (my husband even told the boys, “I’m going to destroy you!”), I honestly didn’t think my kids would follow through. Take our attempt at chore lists. They got tired of being asked to do a chore and mark up their magnetic chart, and I got tired of asking them. My boys were certainly acting excited about the fruit and veggie challenge, but I thought maybe at the end they’d forgo the veggies and focus only on fruit (they eat fruit like I eat chips). Or they’d give up altogether.

But amazingly, they totally owned it.

“Does this count as a serving?” the boys would ask me, nearly every day. Five broccoli florets, check. Four raw carrots, check. Spinach with garlic, check! Two spoonfuls of sautéed mushrooms, absolutely check! Toward the end, my kindergartner even discovered the joy of salad sprinkled generously with vinegar. The boys totally motivated us, too; my husband and I were finally eating like we were in the Mediterranean. Every time the boys marked up their chart, they grinned, as if they were getting away with something. Little did they know I thought I was getting away with something, too.

It may have worked because they could take care of their own chart. Or maybe they had the arcade in mind, but I also think they had a chance to outshine their parents every day. When do kids get to do that? When my kindergartner was tallying up his servings for the day, he’d also count up everyone else’s. “Ha! I have… 7 and Daddy has only 5!” Every week or so, he’d add up everyone’s total servings for the month so far, just to see who was pulling ahead (math skills!).

My little one, I must admit, fell off the wagon toward the end. In the last week, he started saying “I don’t care if I win,” with chocolate on his cheek. But my kindergartner cared very much, and during the month he started reading nutrition labels on almost everything we ate (“Mom, this orange juice is good for you. It has no sodium!” he even said to me).

On the last day, my kindergartner and my husband were neck and neck. “You’re totally going down!” my husband said to him at breakfast. After our boy left the room, I whispered to my husband that maybe we could let him win, just this once. “He’s come so far, and he totally deserves it,” I said. He just smiled at me.

At the arcade, our boys shot up dinosaurs as my husband and I sipped on our coffee, thinking we were totally owning this parenting thing. My kindergartner’s class won the competition at school, too. Mostly, my kids’ good eating habits stuck around after March. They do eat more veggies than they did before the challenge, but I’m not above mashing sweet potato into pancake batter.

 

This article was written by Cheryl Pappas from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Get Kids (of Any Age) to Sleep

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Getting your baby to sleep through the night is a major win—but it can be just the beginning of an ongoing battle for bedtime. From toddlers fighting lights-out to overscheduled teens racing against the clock, there’s always something stealing kids’—and parents’—rest. Here’s how everyone can get the heck to sleep.

Toddlers (Ages 2 to 4)

The Battle: They’re stalling.

Preschoolers are infamous for delaying bedtime by begging for one more kiss or one more story. It’s one of the many ways they test their parents’ limits. “They know exactly which buttons to push and how much to push them to get their parents’ attention,” says Iqbal Rashid, MD, assistant professor of sleep medicine at UCLA. But stalling reduces lights-out time, meaning less total sleep (which can make your toddler even crankier in the morning) and less time for your child’s brain to convert what he learned that day into a long-term memory. “Your 3-year-old is going to function better at preschool the next day if he’s able to make those neural connections at night,” says Brooke Nalle, a pediatric sleep consultant at the Seleni Institute in New York City.

The Fix: Make a bedtime chart—and stick with it.

A standard routine can reduce the chaos of bedtime: “Repeating the same three or four activities in order every single night will help keep kids on track,” says Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of sleep medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Establish the routine with a chart on which you check off tasks like taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story, so when your child asks for a last-minute Lego session, you can kindly point out that—oh, well!—it’s not on the chart. Maggie Strong, a mom of three in Charlottesville, Virginia, has another trick to keep her 3-year-old from stalling endlessly: bedtime passes (index cards decorated with stickers). “One pass is for the bathroom before bed, and one is for a hug,” says Strong. “Once she uses the passes, she can’t leave her bed again.” Bedtime passes can also provide extra motivation for kids to stay put: If they don’t use the passes at night, they can redeem them in the morning for a small treat. That stash of toys from the dollar store will be so worth it.

The Battle: They go to bed but refuse to stay there.

There’s nothing like waking at 2 a.m. to see your toddler peering at you in the dark. Many little escape artists leave their rooms because, suddenly, they can. Blame the independence that comes from moving from a crib to a “big kid” bed. “It takes a high level of development to understand the imaginary boundaries of a bed,” says Mindell. Other kids wake up and can’t fall back asleep without Mom’s help. “Parents tell me, “I have to hold my child’s hand so he can fall asleep, and then he’s up every other hour at night looking for my hand,”” says Nalle.

The Fix: Make them comfy sleeping on their own.

It’s tempting to let your kid crawl into bed with you. “But if you give in, you reinforce that behavior,” says Rashid. Quietly walk your child back to her room. It might take a few painful nights, but it’s important to be consistent, says Rashid. (If she really won’t stay put, you can install a safety gate in her bedroom door to discourage wandering.) Try finishing the night with “sweet talk”—recapping your favorite parts of the day or talking about what you’re looking forward to—“so you end on a positive note,” says Harvey Karp, MD, author of the Happiest Baby on the Block books.

Big Kids (Ages 5 to 10)

The Battle: Your sleep schedules are completely out of sync.

Says Rashid, “Some of us are morning larks, and others are night owls, and sometimes there’s a mismatch in the family.” You might have a third grader who wants to party past 9 p.m. and sleep through breakfast, messing with your “Early to bed, early to rise” motto. Or you might be a night owl, but your kids are cock-a-doodle-doing at 5 a.m., stealing your precious prework shut-eye.

The Fix: Shift the schedule—then keep it consistent.

“You can try to shape their schedule so it’s more in line with yours,” says Nalle. Gradually push back (or bring forward) meals, baths, and bedtime, first by 15 minutes, then 30, then 45, then 60. This can be a month-long process, but it could help oversleepers perk up earlier or buy you an extra hour of z’s in the morning. Some families invest in blackout curtains to shield their kids’ rooms from early-a.m. sun. For kids who might be tempted to bounce on your bed as soon as their eyes open, Mindell suggests putting a night-light on a timer and saying, “When the light switches on, that’s when you can wake us up.” Until then, they can quietly play in their room or watch TV. Once you develop a schedule that works for everyone’s sleep needs, it’s crucial to stick with it, even on weekends, says Nalle. “If kids really want to sleep late, let them do so on Saturday, but by Sunday, return to your regular wake and sleep times.” Exposure to sunlight resets your body clock, so taking a brisk walk on Sunday morning or having breakfast in the sunniest spot in the kitchen should keep everyone on schedule.

The Battle: Their nightmares wake everyone up.

As children get older, “fears can become a big thing,” says Karp. “They start listening to your conversations and hearing the news. They realize there’s an entire world out there.” If they were scared by something they saw on TV, says Rashid, kids can reconstruct it during sleep in the form of nightmares, which usually happen in the late-night-to-early-morning hours. Nightmares are not to be confused with night terrors, which typically happen an hour or so after kids zonk out—though they are frightening to watch, kids usually don’t remember them in the morning.

The Fix: Use night “magic”.

Sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep are common causes of both nightmares and terrors, so first make sure your child is getting enough rest. Then use creativity to fight the demons. For younger kids, Karp suggests putting “magic” water in a bottle and spraying it at night to keep monsters away. Rashid recommends that older children write down nightmares in a notebook, in as much detail as they can remember, but with alternative, happy endings. For example, if your child dreamed she was drowning, she could write an ending in which she becomes a mermaid. If nightmares are constantly getting in the way of daily functioning, consult your pediatrician to see if something else—like bullying—is going on.

Tweens and Teens

The Battle: They’re over-scheduled and skimping on sleep.

With soccer, debate team, band practice, and dance—not to mention endless homework—it’s no wonder tweens and teens are constantly sleep-deprived. Plus, raging hormones and social stresses, like fitting in with friends and dating, can keep teens up at night. “Anxiety trickles into bedtime,” says Nalle. “Whatever they were carrying around all day suddenly floods their minds.”

The Fix: Hack the routine.

Puberty shifts the internal clock toward a later sleep time, says Rashid. So instead of trying to enforce a too-early bedtime, adjust schedules however you can. One mom drives her daughter to school in the morning rather than waking her for the earlier bus, which gives her daughter an extra 45 minutes of sleep. Others find that if their kids do homework during lunch or even before school, it means they get to bed by 11 p.m. rather than 1 a.m. To de-stress after busy days, teens can try showering 30 to 45 minutes before bed, flipping through a magazine, or doing 10 minutes of meditation (the free Headspace app can help) to clear their minds for better sleep.

The Battle: They’re staying up late, staring at their screens like zombies.

The phenomenon of teens staying up all night watching YouTube and Snapping with their friends has been called “vamping,” as in acting like a nocturnal vampire. The screens themselves add to the problem: The blue light beaming from phones and tablets “is strong enough to block a good chunk of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy,” says Jess P. Shatkin, MD, author of Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe. Sleep deprivation is particularly dangerous to teens because it blurs their ability to concentrate, which can lead to risky behaviors like drowsy driving or drug and alcohol use, says Mindell. And a 2017 study in the journal Development Psychology found that children with TVs or video-game consoles in their rooms did worse in school and weighed more.

The Fix: Remove the temptation.

Make it a family rule that everyone’s phones and tablets be put to bed—that is, plugged into a communal charging station—on the kitchen counter at least 30 minutes before lights-out, suggests Mindell. To make sure stealthy teens don’t hide their laptops under the covers, some parents switch off the household Wi-Fi, making it harder to get online. Alyceson Weinfeld- Reyman, a mom of two in New York City, literally takes matters into her own hands: She takes her 16-year-old son’s phone away at 10:30 on weeknights and keeps it in her room so he can’t grab it back.

You can also help wean teens off that sleep-stealing screen glare by enabling the “grayscale” function on Androids and Night Shift mode on iPhones (both found under Settings) and adding the f.lux download to computers. All three reduce blue light, so melatonin is allowed to flow, says Shatkin. To help transition from the digital world to the dream world, encourage bedtime rituals (drinking decaf tea, reading) to prep for sleep. “Bedtime routines aren’t just for toddlers,” says Nalle.

 

This article was written by Michelle Ruiz Andrews from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.