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Spending time with your children preparing food offers the chance to bond, all the while being creative. Both the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association suggest that getting kids involved with grocery shopping and food prep can reduce picky eating. If you are looking for ways to get your children involved in the kitchen, here is a break down of great ideas for every age. 

 


Cooking with Kiddos Under Three

The first step to cooking with little ones is setting up a safe cooking environment. Once you’ve put away to sharp, hot, heavy, or otherwise hazardous items, you’re ready. Cooking with children this age is an opportunity to teach your child about food and familiarise them with the kitchen environment.

 

Here are some activities very young children will enjoy:

Another way to keep young children occupied is to give them plastic containers and utensils to wash in the sink – this can provide lengthy entertainment while you cook.

 


Cooking with Preschoolers

Children in this age range are often able to follow multi-step directions and have increased motor skills, but trust your knowledge of your child as skills can still vary greatly at this age. Pick recipes you know that you and your child can complete safely. 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.

 

Here are some activities preschool-aged children will enjoy:

 


Cooking with 6-8 Year Olds

Most children in this age range have developed fine motor skills, so they can handle more detailed work, but they will still need food safety reminders. Some children in this age-range will have the skills and control needed to carefully flip hot pancakes, while many others might not be there yet. Trust your judgement.

 

Here are some of the activities elementary-aged children will enjoy:

 


Cooking with 9-12 Year Olds

There is a wide range of skills in this age group, so tailor your tasks to each individual’s maturity level. Many children of this age can work independently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before letting these kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whether they can follow basic kitchen rules such as adjusting pan handles over counters to avoid bumping into them, unplugging electrical appliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.

 

Here are some age-appropriate activities that, with continued adult supervision, older children will enjoy:


Cooking together can be a fun way to teach your child valuable skills, promote good nutrition and make long-lasting memories in the process. 

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers sleep 11-14 hours per day. If your little one doesn’t get enough sleep, you may have to deal with an overtired toddler; which all parents know, isn’t pretty. Establishing sleep associations and a consistent bedtime routine will help your child to get the sleep that her little body so desperately needs.

 

 

Leading Up to Bedtime

The lead time to sleep is important. In our house we do wind-down time an hour before bedtime. My two-year-old has no concept of time, but hearing me say “One hour until bedtime” has conditioned her to understand that she still has time to play, but we are changing the mood. I then encourage calmer play activities. I try to keep my own energy and voice calmer. She follows my lead. At thirty minutes until bedtime I say “Almost bedtime. Let’s head upstairs.” These updates allow her to prepare. It is expected and consistent.

 

Developing Your Own Routines

Every family that I know has different steps to bedtime. There is no one-size fits all routine, but there are two key components that all children need—hygiene and comfort. Bathtime has always calmed my little ones and been a great segway to bedtime, but my sister says that evening baths make bedtime too long and crazy, thus she opts for morning baths. Do what works for you!

Sample Routine

My toddler’s current bedtime routine looks like this:

Bath During her bath I let her play for a few minutes, then I begin talking to her about the day as I soap her up. She gets a pump of liquid baby soap as she begins to wash her own body. We always end the bath by rinsing her hair and saying “All done! Bedtime.” It isn’t the words that are important, it is the consistency.

Settling into Her Room Next I allow her a minute or two in her bedroom. She typically gathers stuffed animals or starts to look at books. During this time we continue to talk, modeling language and conversation, but in a calm way.

Brush Teeth I play the song Brush Your Teeth by Raffi as I brush her teeth.

Story Reading with your child is one of the best things that you can do to help to build his brain. Bedtime is the perfect time to share literature with your child. My little one chooses two books, then climbs onto my lap.

Song When the stories are finished I ask my daughter which song she wants. Choices are better than yes or no questions when you are trying to establish a consistent routine. (“Do you want Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or You Are My Sunshine?” versus “Do you want a song?”)

In Bed As soon as we finish our song, I lower her into her crib, and say goodnight. Most nights she lies right on her pillow and waits for a goodnight kiss, but some nights she stands up or wants to tell me one more thing. Every night I kiss her stuffed animal, then kiss her, and say “I love you, sweet girl. Goodnight.” Then, and I think that this is key, no matter her reaction, I turn on her nightlight, close her blinds, turn on her music, and leave her room. It is important that my response be consistent, even if her behavior isn’t.

 

Developing a bedtime routine will help your toddler to, not only, get the sleep that she needs now, but also set her up for sleeping success in the future.

Children are natural scientists. Their curiosity and wonder about the world around them provides fertile ground for learning. Stargazing is a beautiful opportunity to teach your child about the world around you. Sitting under the stars offers you the opportunity to just do nothing in particular, to simply sit, talk, and ultimately connect with your family. Whether you have a budding astronaut, wannabe astronomer, or simply a Star Wars fan (or two) in your family, stargazing is for you. Kids will be mesmerized by the majestic night sky and love learning how to identify constellations, planets, stars, and galaxies.

 

Make the Time

Stargazing requires some preplanning. Choose a night where your child will be able to stay up later than usual and hopefully they can sleep-in a little later the next morning. If you live in an area with a fair amount of light pollution set your sights on an area outside of the city lights, then hit the road. If you are looking for a place with dark sky check out the International Dark Sky Association’s Dark Sky Finder.

 

Set the Mood

Creating a relaxing and cozy setting is key to a great night of stargazing. A large blanket, or reclining beach chairs, are perfect for a night under the stars. A planisphere and guidebooks from the local library are perfect tools for finding and naming constellations. Snacks are another important part of a fun family night. Moonpies, Star Crunches, and Milky Way candy bars are perfect store bought treats, but you can also rename almost any snack with a space theme: Cosmic Crackers, Galaxy Cookies, Martian Milk, etc.

While stargazing in the summer is probably the most comfortable, don’t forget the other seasons!  Early winter nights are ideal for children who have earlier bedtimes. Just put on your winter gear and don’t forget the hot chocolate!

 

Be Prepared

Being realistic about your expectations is crucial for a successful night of stargazing. For the littlest members of your family simply watching the sky and singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” might be the extent of their attention span. Stargazing is a perfect time for storytelling. To keep your kiddos occupied and interested as you stargaze try checking your local library for several age-appropriate books. Just don’t forget a flashlight.

When planning for your night there are a multitude of resources for seeing what is visible in your area at any given time. Making a plan with your family of what you hope to see is a great way to set yourself up for success. A few great, free, apps for a night of stargazing are: Star Chart, NASA, Night Sky Lite, and Sky View Free. NASA Kids Club is another great resource as you plan your evening.

As you lie under that dark sky, contemplating the vastness of space, don’t forget to hug your children tight and remind them that they are the most important thing to you in this entire universe.

 

Summer is here! There are few things better on a hot summer day than jumping into a cool swimming pool. Many of my greatest childhood memories involve community and backyard swimming pools. If you are looking for a fun way to spend a hot summer day, a day at the pool should be in your future.

 

 

Where to Go

For those of us who don’t have our own backyard pools, community pools can be a dream come true. Some communities have public city or regional pools, where as many others have membership-based pools. If you aren’t a member of a pool a quick search online can help you find pools in your area. A few phone calls can help you find a pool that has single-day passes. In looking at pools ask about each pool’s supervision (number of lifeguards, requirements for independent swimmers, etc.), keep your child/children’s swimming ability in mind as you think about the level of supervision that they may require.

                                                                                                       

What to Pack

There are the obvious, non-negotiables for all pool bags: sunscreen, towel, and sunglasses. Be sure to pack an extra bottle of sunscreen, I always seem to find myself squeezing the last drops out of my bottle. An extra bottle on hand ensures no pink cheeks or sunburnt backs.

A few other suggestions for things that I keep in my bag are:

The Right Gear– My older boys are competent swimmers, but when they were younger I researched flotation options. Talk with a local retailer, or research online,  life jackets, swim vests, and the popular combination life jacket, swim aid, and swim vest. For my baby a great baby float, especially those with canopies, are an amazing investment.

 

Rash Guard- Life changed when I bought long sleeve rash guards for each of my kiddos. Sunscreen became less of a chore seeing as how nearly half of their bodies are completely covered. It also makes me less anxious about sun exposure.

 

Pool Toys-The last thing that you want to do is lug a big chest of toys to the pool, but a few smart toys can make a pool day. I limit my kiddos to one or two pieces of gear each. My older son likes a fun set of diving sticks that he received as a birthday present, whereas my preschooler likes toys that squirt. All toys must fit into my bag otherwise I spend more time getting ready for a day at the pool than actually being in the water.

 

Snacks and Drinks– Something about the combination of water and sunshine brings makes my kiddos hungry. I let my older kiddos choose a few snacks to put in my pool bag. Our rule is at least one health(ier) snack must go in the bag. Each child also has their own reusable water bottle. It’s easier for each child to track down their own bottle than for me to lug disposable water bottles.

 

Baby Wipes– No matter the age of my children (or spouse) we seem to use baby wipes. They’re a pool bag staple.

 

A day at the pool can be a memorable day for the whole family. Set yourself up for success by choosing the right location and packing the right gear.

There is a special kind of potential in a road trip:

The freedom of hitting the open road, being able to slow your travel, and having the flexibility to do what you want, when you want. While much of our travels in this modern world are simply about getting from point a to point b, a road trip is about stopping and smelling the roses. Bringing children on a road trip shouldn’t detract from the fun, but instead add to it. Here are a few tips for planning a great road trip for everyone in the family.

Plan as a Family

The best way to get your family excited about the trip is to enlist the entire family in the planning of the trip. Roadtripper is an amazing (free!) app that can help you chart a course AND find great attractions along the way. Simply enter your destination and the app will calculate trip time and mileage (and even approximate gas cost!). Next, view a map of your route and discover attractions, restaurants, outdoor recreation spots, and more along the way. Let each member of your family select at least one attraction that they want to see. This will help to keep them excited and engaged in the trip.

Factor in LOTS of Stops Along the Way

Don’t forget to slow it down. Actions like getting out the door in the morning, eating lunch, stopping for the bathroom (…and how many stops you may need to make for the bathroom…) could be quick stops or they could take forever. Your attitude toward these breaks is one of the best determiners of the success of your trip. Go with the flow and leave plenty of time for adventures.

Leave the Interstate

Yes, the typical fast food restaurants are conveniently located just off of most freeway exits, but driving even a few miles into the center of a town can open your eyes. Maybe you’ll see a 30-foot-tall Apatosaurus, an entire house constructed from beer cans, or even a giant gorilla holding a VW Bug (yep, these are all real roadside attractions). Leaving the interstate will also open your eyes to regional cuisine. Great food is a staple to any good road trip. Speaking of food, when you do stop at convenience stores and gas stations, check out the candy aisles. You just may find a new favorite.

Don’t Forget the Entertainment

Technology can be a huge help on any road trip! The ability to play movies, stream cartoons, and play handheld video games can keep the peace and help the miles to fly by. But don’t simply count on screens to entertain your family. Take a turn in the backseat. As you sit with your kiddos it’s a great time to go back to staple road trip games:

 

 

 

Wherever your road trip plans take your family, don’t forget: The joy is in the journey.

Other articles that may interest you on Family Travel

 

 

Hiking as a family provides you with the opportunity to step away from hectic schedules, put down the electronics, and enjoy the beauty of nature with the people that you love. Involving children in your time out in nature makes something great even better, all the while teaching them skills they can use for the rest of their life. Of course, hiking with kids does come with its own set of challenges. Here are a few tips for executing a successful hiking adventure that will help to connect your family to the great outdoors.

 

 

 

Choose Your Location Wisely- For your first few times hiking together as a family, select a hike that isn’t too long or taxing. If possible, choose a trail that has a feature, such as a lake, stream, waterfall or something else that will keep kids occupied and give them a goal to reach. When planning a hike with little ones, start small. Select a trail that is suitable for beginners. As they become more familiar with the experience, you can travel farther and go on longer adventures. For very small children, even a nature walk around the neighborhood can get them used to the idea of a hike. When you are ready to hit the trails, a smartphone can help with free apps such as Map My Hike, All Trails, and Hiking Project. These apps can help you find trails near you and provide great information, both as you are planning where to go and as you are on the trail.

 

 

Allow Yourself Plenty of Time- Kids are natural explorers. One of the greatest things about hiking with children is watching them discover the world around them. Make sure to account for plenty of stops and opportunities for your little ones to touch and see the world around. Also, keep in mind that hiking requires a great deal of energy. Frequent stops for snacks (who doesn’t love trail mix???) and drinks will help to keep your child on target. You can also use breaks as motivators to keep your child moving by saying “watch for the bridge, we’ll stop there for our next snack.”

 

 

Make It Fun- Create games that you and your children can play out on the trail. Have them look for signs of wildlife such as scat, bird holes in trees, fur or look for certain colors in the plant life. Organize a scavenger hunt and have them find things are bumpy, smelly, small, big, living, wet…the list goes on! In keeping the fun, choose a child to be your trail leader. Kids love feeling like they are in charge. Having the children take turns leading the hiking group can help the kids feel empowered – just make sure that the leadership rotates or this could lead to arguments further down the trail. By allowing the kids to lead, you can also make sure that the pace is slow enough so they can keep up.

 

 

Teach Conservation- Teaching children to take care of the world around them is an important part of being in the great outdoors. Teaching kids about conservation when they’re young promotes a lifetime of eco-friendly habits. However, simply explaining concepts is rarely enough to make them stick. When out on a hike, make sure that all of your trash is collected.  The “pack it in, pack it out” concept is fully embraced on the trail. To further reinforce this idea, bring a small garbage bag and have the kids pick up any litter they see on the way back to the car. By getting kids engaged in hands-on activities you help children understand the true meaning of conservation. For more information on the seven principles of outdoor ethics checkout Leave No Trace.

 

By going on a hike you are investing in your family, your health, and your world. So go, make a plan, and take a hike!

 

Family Game Night is the perfect way to bond with your family, create memories, and have fun.

We all know that spending time with our families is important, it offers feelings of stability, security, and ultimately love. With all of the demands on our time, it is important that families be intentional with their time.

Here are some tips to help Family Game Night be a success at your house.

Time

Ready, set, go! Begin by checking your calendar to find a free hour or so for everyone in your family. Many people become overwhelmed thinking that they must block out an entire evening or that game night must be a weekly occurrence. The frequency and duration of a Family Game Night isn’t the focus, it is simply setting aside time for those most important to you: your family.

Also, the best way to keep everyone’s attention is to keep things moving. Some games can be more like a marathon than a sprint. Designating a time for game play, and for each game played, helps to keep the time flowing and everyone focused on the game, parents included.

Games

Begin by checking your calendar to find a free hour or so for everyone in your family. Many people become overwhelmed thinking that they must block out an entire evening or that game night must be a weekly occurrence. The frequency and duration of a Family Game Night isn’t the focus, it is simply setting aside time for those most important to you: your family.

Also, the best way to keep everyone’s attention is to keep things moving. Some games can be more like a marathon than a sprint. Designating a time for game play, and for each game played, helps to keep the time flowing and everyone focused on the game, parents included.

Sportsmanship

One of the best lessons that you can teach your kiddos during a game night is sportsmanship. Remember, children do a much better job emulating our actions than they do our words. Keep these things in mind as you play:

Be Patience Even when your child has dropped the dice on the floor 700 times, show your child that you can wait nicely and help them to get back on track.

Winning Doesn’t Matter That old adage “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” is important to keep in mind as you play with your family. Remind children that playing fairly, being kind to other players, and having fun is what games are all about. Winning and losing is just a small part of the story.

Be Flexible Are pieces to a game missing? Improvise. Did you realize 5 minutes into the game that it just isn’t a good fit? Scrap it and try again. Did your kids get hungry? Take a quick snack break. Rigidity is one of the fastest means of making a fun night anything but fun.

Manage Your Expectations Life in general, and parenting specifically, seems to be smoother when you enter a situation with your expectations low. If you envision a picture-perfect hour of nothing but joy, love, and gratitude… you are sure to be disappointed. Instead plan on a few bumps along the road and count the smiles as worth any bumps. E

Armed with these few hints you are ready to plan and execute a Family Game Night that will be a building block for many family memories.

 

Taking your family to the local farmers’ market is an amazing way to teach your children about seasonal, fresh produce. It is also a wonderful way to explain to your children about where their food comes from and all that goes into their meals. At a farmers’ market there is so much for children to take in and many ways for them to learn about the world around them.

 

Here are four things to remember as you head out to bring a piece of the farm back to your table.

  1. Plan ahead- Scope out your local farmers’ markets. A regional or city website should list some of the farmers’ markets in your area. Involve your child in the planning process as you choose which market to attend and make a list of a few items that you will look for at the market. Get your child excited about what foods will be there and ask your child what new things they might be interested in trying.

 

  1. Talk About WhyWhen you go to a farmers’ market, you need to bring your own bag. This a great opportunity to start a conversation and explain that unlike the grocery store, most farmers’ markets don’t provide bags that are often thrown away and end up in landfills. Bringing reusable bags helps the environment and also saves money for the businesses. Buying from local farmers also helps the environment because food isn’t shipped from other states or countries. Along with explaining the concept of local food, you could also take this occasion to talk to your children about why it’s important to support businesses and people in your community. If your children are old enough, you can let them purchase one item of their choosing. As your little one counts his money highlight how he is contributing to his local economy.

 

  1. Ask questions- Your children might see fruits and vegetables they’ve never seen or noticed before. This is a chance to let your kids ask questions of the vendors (“What does it taste like?”), touch, smell, and learn about produce. Most farmers enjoy getting to know you and appreciate your interest in their passion. Also, the more invested that your child is in purchasing a product, the more likely they are to eat and enjoy that product later.

 

  1. Make a Meal– Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is a great way to have them try new foods. If you are planning a trip to the farmers’ market you can plan to have everyone help make dinner that night. Even if it’s just letting children add dressing and add a few of the veggies they picked out from the market that day. Most children are more likely to try more foods when they have had a hand in preparing it.

If I had my choice I would be poolside all summer. There is something about the smell of chlorine, the cool water, and that cement that nearly blisters your feet. It just feels like summer when I’m at a pool. My days at the pool have most definitely changed over the years. Goodbye baby oil, hello sunscreen (and lots of it). Beyond that I have learned that swimming with kids means being involved and aware, not just in making memories, but in keeping my kids safe. If you are looking for ways to make your time at the pool fun for your kids, no matter their age, keep reading.

 

Babies and Toddlers

The younger a child is when she starts being in the water, the more comfortable she is likely to be in the pool.The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to know that because children cannot voluntarily hold their breath for significant amounts of time until the age of four swimming lessons for infants and toddlers do not protect children from drowning. The AAP suggests that pool time for this age should be about exploration and joy. Keep your little one within arm’s reach at all times. Begin slowly, first dripping water on your little one’s toes, then putting feet into the water. If your child is receptive keep going, if not slow it down. Follow your baby’s lead. Try to schedule pool times around nap times, otherwise tears are inevitable. Toys that squirt water are also a big hit for little ones, especially as they develop the muscles necessary to squeeze the toys themselves. As always check with your pediatrician before you introduce your child to the water. He/she may have recommendations based on your child’s individuality and circumstances.

 

Young Swimmers

At this age children are usually trying to assert their independence. The shallow end, or even a wading pool, is still best for this age group. While they may be feeling confident, it is important that parents are vigilant and completely aware of what their child is doing at all times. Pool games are a great way to interact with your young swimmer while she enjoys the water and you ensure her safety. A few great pool activities for this age-group are:

Ring Toss- Using the classic colored stacking rings game that most toddlers enjoy, set it up to float on the water by using an upside down frisbee. Seated on the edge, they can take turns playing a ring toss game.

Ping Pong Ball Blower– While holding your preschooler have him place his face just above the water and blow the ping pong ball to the side of the pool. This is a great activity to teach kiddos about breath control when in the water and blowing the top of the water/the ball is a precursor to blowing bubbles under the water. 

Sing Along-Whether it be Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or The Wheels on the Bus holding your child and engaging in a song and repeated movements is a great way of easing them into the water and developing swimming skills with support (floating on their back, kicking their feet, blowing bubbles, etc.). 

Traffic Lights–  Place your child by either a stair or one of the walls – they’ll want to be holding onto something. Once they’re ready, start calling out the colors of a traffic light. Red Light means to stop kicking and simply float there. Yellow Light means to kick slowly and steadily. Green Light means to kick as hard as they can.

 

Older Swimmers

This is where some of my own very best pool memories were made. Pool games are the gold standard for kids in this age group. Even at this age, swimmers need you in the water with them during the games, so you can act fast if needed. Keep the kids on the shallow steps, and evaluate each swimmer’s ability and comfort level before beginning any swimming games. Keep a close eye on the games to avoid bumps and bruises. 

Call and Respond The swimmer who is “it” must close their eyes and try to find the other swimmers. When “it” says the name of an animal, all of the swimmers must make the noise of that animal. For example, if the animal named is a lion, all the other swimmers must roar.  Once someone making an animal sound is tagged, they become the new “it.”

Sharks and Minnows The person playing the role of the shark stands in the middle of the pool. When that person says “Go!” all other swimmers (the minnows) swim away as fast as possible. Any minnows that are tagged become sharks and must try to help turn other minnows into sharks.

What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?– One person is Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox stands at the end of the pool. All other swimmers are at the other end of the pool. Swimmers yell “What time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox gives a time and swimmers must move that many steps forward. For example, giving the time of 5 o’clock means everyone must move five steps forward. At any time Mr. Fox can respond “lunchtime!” All swimmers must then try to swim back to their starting line. Whoever gets tagged is the new Mr. Fox.

Simon Says: Have children spread out in the pool. The supervising adult will be “Simon” of the game. Simon will call out an action, like “Simon says, float on your back”, everyone should do what is asked. When he calls out an action without saying “Simon says”, the player to do the action will be eliminated from the pool. The winner will be the last standing kid in the water.

 

Safety

A day at the pool is a day filled with fun, but it is important to remember that, with kids in tow, it isn’t going to be you poolside relaxing with a book or magazine. A day at the pool with children requires your full attention and engagement. When you look at it as quality time with your children, a time when you are free from technology and can enjoy being outdoors… It can be pretty magical. Plus, your little ones are sure to sleep like rocks after a day in the water.

Here are a few additional safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help you keep your children safe while swimming.

Swim Safety Tips

Swim Programs for Infants and Toddlers

Tailored Guidelines for the Prevention of Drowning