Tag Archives: parenting

Picky Eater Survival Guide.

Don’t forget–you have until Wednesday to enter to win a free custom headband from Guavaloo!

When I was a new mom, I swore I would never be a short-order cook who made something different for every family member. I’d make one delicious, nutritious meal after another, & my whole family would love it. I was blessed with a toddler who at least tried anything, & I thought I was well on my way to being the next Catherine McCord.

Then that toddler turned into a 4-year-old. Apparently 4-year-olds think all food* is poison. And I got another toddler who learned at a shockingly tender age what a hunger strike is.

*Except pizza, pancakes, PB&J, hot dogs, & spaghetti.

Boy did my standards change! When my little one was losing weight (I wish I knew her secret! Oh wait, it was not eating.), I had mountains of kid-sized bowls of barely touched food in my sink–anything to get her to eat something. One night I may or may not have fed her peanut butter by the spoonful. Not my proudest moment.

peanut butterMealtime is still a battle sometimes, but now that we’re out of the woods I feel like I can share some of the tricks I used to survive (& help my kids survive!) without resorting to Goldfish & frozen chicken nuggets.

Stay out of the Snack Spiral. I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve heard say, “Oh, Junior lived off of Goldfish crackers & juice at that age.” Why do you think he wouldn’t eat anything else? Because he was filling up at snacktime on just that! If you’re worried about your child’s eating, start by cutting back on snacks & not letting your kids graze. Trust me, kids are a lot more adventurous when they’re allowed to get hungry before a meal! They won’t starve if they’re limited to 3 meals & 2 small, scheduled, seated snacks a day.
I take this one step further & make a rule of not offering “snack foods” (crackers, fruit leather, etc.) at dinner time, & don’t use it as a crutch if they haven’t eaten enough “real food” at a meal.

Meet your kids in the middle. I still steadfastly refuse to be a short-order cook, so the whole family eats our fair share of “kid foods” (healthed up a little). For instance, on our menu every week is at least one of the following: homemade pizza (lots lower in calories than delivery, especially with part-skim mozzarella), spaghetti & meatballs, & “brinner” (you’ve seen a few of my healthy pancake recipes on the blog already). I enjoy these meals too, & if nothing else, I know that I at least have a couple dinners a week when I’m not fighting them.
If you can’t stand the few things they will eat (like if they’ll only eat fish sticks), then designate that for a date night or a night when you & your spouse order something in for yourselves. My 4-year-old loves when the babysitter comes because she knows that’s when she gets Annie’s mac & cheese. One word of warning about this second tactic though: don’t do it every week. The more the family eats the same meal, the more unified you’ll be & the easier it’ll be to convince your kids to eat what’s in front of them, because that’s what the whole family’s eating. As tempting as it is to feed the kids nuggets every other night & then treat yourselves to sushi after they’re in bed, that could backfire on you when they dig in their heels & whine, “But YOU don’t eat ___ when YOU don’t want to!”

Make like a fancy restaurant–try courses. Have something on the menu that they WILL eat at every meal so you know they’re not starving. But don’t bring it out right away. My girls are fruit-itarians–they would subsist entirely on grapes & strawberries if I let them. So I leave the fruit in the fridge. When they’ve eaten enough protein & veggies to balance it–my 4-year-old always asks “How many numbers?” (meaning how many bites) as soon as she gets her plate–THEN I bring out the fruit “course” & let them go to town, fully prepared for them to not touch what else is on their plate for the rest of the night.

Don’t be boring. Change up how you’re serving things. When my toddler went on her hunger strike shortly after turning 1 & wound up losing over a pound, I was in a panic. The day she stopped eating her favorite food in the world, strawberries, I was in tears. What was wrong??? The next night I saw her reaching for my strawberries instead of hers. Do you know what the problem was? She had decided I was cutting them too small! Instead of the teeny-bite-sized pieces I’d been giving her, she wanted a whole quarter of a strawberry. It was as simple as that, & she was back to eating strawberries. Do you know how the hunger strike ended once & for all? I handed her a fork. Seriously. She didn’t even use it at the beginning, but knowing she COULD have the control somehow fixed her not eating.raisins
So in short, if they stop eating something they’d eaten before, try changing what you call it or how you serve it. For example, your child might decide he wants his “night-vision carrot sticks” (because of the beta carotene) with dip, or her “dinosaur trees” (that’s what we call broccoli) raw instead of cooked, or she prefers short pasta to spaghetti, or… she’ll only eat raisins out of the box.

Let them help. Recruit your “kitchen helpers” to be your sous chefs: let them choose the fruits & veggies at the store & then wash them or add them to the pot. The more involved they are, the more excited they’ll be about trying something new.

Be sneaky. When all else fails, sneak the good stuff into their food. Veggie puree in the spaghetti sauce, whole-wheat flour in the baked goods, Greek yogurt in the pancakes–all of these go a long way to helping maintain the balance in your little one’s diet until he decides to get more adventurous.

Best of luck with your picky eaters! Do you have any other tricks & tips for surviving?

Linked up at Nifty Thrifty Sunday and Crystal & Co.

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TV: What they should (& shouldn’t) watch… & what you should watch after they go to bed.

TV is EVERYWHERE. I lost count of the number of TVs in the Red Robin we ate at on Labor Day (there was even one in the floor… what?!). There were TVs in the waiting room in The Munchkin’s pediatrician’s office in NJ. There are even TVs in the checkout aisles at grocery stores, above the pumps at gas stations, & on the PATH trains into the city! So how can you keep your kid under that 2-hour suggested screen time limit?

I can’t answer that for you.

What I can answer for you, though, is what we do to at least try to limit The Munchkin’s time in front of the tube, & how you can help your kids make better choices about what they’re watching in those 2 hours or less.

As well as some good choices for you too.

My good friend Lauren is blogging on TV choices as well over at her blog today; check it out!

Screen time tips

  • Don’t leave the TV on. It sounds silly & obvious, but I’ve walked into too many homes where the TV is just on for background noise. When the program you have chosen for your child (yes, chosen… see below) is over, turn it off. No amount of kicking & screaming changes this in our house. Also, if you need to have news in the morning as you get ready, use the radio in the kitchen.
  • Set expectations & stick to them. The Munchkin knows that she can watch in the morning while Mommy’s getting ready, & sometimes in the evening while I’m making dinner, if it’s not one she can help with. That’s it. Occasionally we will have a rainy-day movie, but it’s just that: occasional.
  • Know that kids are sneaky. & take the appropriate precautions. Even at her age, The Munchkin knows how to turn on the TV & DVD player (thankfully not usually at the same time). Keep the family TV & computer in public view, & hide the remotes. (That last tactic worked wonders when I was growing up because we’d broken the power button on the TV, so no TV ever got watched until after homework was done. We never did find where my mom would stash the remote all those times…)
  • No TVs in kid rooms. Period.

Choosing what to watch

When they’re young, it’s easy. They don’t have friends & commercials telling them they should be watching. Though, in the aforementioned pediatrician’s office one day, Spongebob — the Ren & Stimpy of the new generation — was on, & despite my best distraction efforts, she zoned completely. Then like a week later we were walking in front of Dylan’s Candy Bar when she saw him again & recognized him. How do they do that?! Those Hollywood ad people have no souls.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I think it’s important to help your kids choose shows that you can tolerate. I, personally, want to take a power drill to my right temple every time Dora is on. So we don’t play it in our home. You can’t say “no” to everything (which I imagine will become very tempting in the tween years judging from the after-school lineup on Disney Channel), so suggest something you can say “yes” to. I have very fond memories of evenings spent with my dad & my siblings watching Rocky & Bullwinkle, followed by The Muppet Show.

The only suggestions I have are for little kids, because that’s who’s watching TV right now. Those of you with older kids, please give your suggestions!

  • Sesame Street: Teaches kids stuff (The Munchkin may or may not have taught herself how to jump after an “Elmo’s World”), not annoying (except “Abby’s Flying Fairy School”), & even celebrity guest stars & jokes that parents can appreciate (I still think of the Sesame Street versions when I hear Feist’s “1-2-3-4” or Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” on the radio). But even The Munchkin got over it after awhile. Now she’s into…
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Okay, so the writing’s not going to be winning awards any time soon, but at least not everyone has the EXACT SAME voice with the EXACT SAME inflection (cough cough, Dora). The characters solve a problem in each episode, & I like that they’re resourceful with their “Mouseketools:” for example, they needed to transport sand somewhere, & one of the tools was a few pillows — they emptied them to carry the sand in the pillowcases.
  • Curious George: Honestly, this is my favorite. (Is that weird to say?) It’s well-written & teaches kids about lots of different things. The Munchkin & I always have lots to talk about after each episode.

I think the important thing is to teach your kids (when they get old enough, of course) to be active consumers. Just because my friends were all watching Beavis & Butthead in middle school, doesn’t mean that I could turn off my brain (or stay up that late, for that matter) to watch it too. But how can you teach them that?

The main thing is to be an active & discerning consumer yourself. So we’re old enough to watch TV-MA now. Does that mean we have to? Well, that’s up to you & your family. But here are my 2 cents:

I don’t like to watch stuff that makes me feel gross, sad, or uncomfortable. We had to stop watching 24 after a couple seasons because of all the torture. The Office just wasn’t funny anymore — just awkward. The Mentalist was really good, but it just left us feeling depressed or disturbed afterwards most of the time. So if something you’re watching leaves you feeling less than desirable — or like you just murdered 85,000 brain cells by watching it — just stop watching. Here are the shows that make us happy:

  • Psych: This show makes me laugh harder than anything else. Lauren should be talking more about the finer points of this gem, as well as Monk, which is sadly over but still great.
  • White Collar: Another USA Network program that does a great job of keeping it clean & entertaining. The cinematography & costuming are beautiful (oh, ok, & so is Matt Bomer). Rundown: FBI agent catches brilliant con artist & gets him a “work release” from prison to help out his elite team in New York.
  • Chuck: The usual nerd-boy-meets-hot-girl-&-goes-on-spy-missions-with-her love story. Brilliantly written, clean, funny, action-packed. I have yet to introduce this show to someone who didn’t immediately love it. But this is the last season, so if you’re just tuning in, start at the beginning. Please.
  • Bones: The only drama on the list, this is actually classified strictly as a “dramedy” because it’s generally so lighthearted. Brilliant Smithsonian forensic anthropologist (Emily Deschanel) consults on murder cases with strong but sensitive FBI agent (David Boreanaz). Her team of “squints” is awesome too. I’m just sad Zac had to leave… I hope they write him back in eventually.
  • The Middle: We first started watching this because it was about a family in Indiana (we were living there at the time), starred Patricia Heaton & the janitor from Scrubs (see below), & it looked funny. We keep watching it because it is funny. Each of their 3 kids falls on a different point in the social spectrum, & their misadventures are totally relatable. It’s a very family-friendly comedy with no social agenda, unlike the family comedy that comes on ABC after it. (I think Lauren will be covering that one, since I’ve only seen one episode.)
  • Frasier: An oldie but a goodie. Still SO funny. Niles is my absolute favorite.
  • Scrubs: A story of love, friendship, bromance, & what it’s apparently like to be a young doctor who reminisces to himself all the time.
  • How I Met Your Mother: We just started watching reruns because they were on after Frasier, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but it’s funny. & it takes place in New York. Win! Oh, & it’s also what I watched while I wrote this post.

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 2 of 2: Settling in.)

We’ve been here a week now & only have a few (granted, giant) boxes left to unpack! Hooray! It feels a lot better than where we were 3 weeks ago. Or even a week & a half ago:

Yikes!

Now that we really are settling in, I thought now would be a good time to post part 2 of my “preparing your child for a move” series. Part 1, before the move, is right here.

The Munchkin playing in the boxes before the move... Recognize the beer boxes I talked about in the last post?

Here some ideas about how to help your kids adjust to your new home & neighborhood:

  • When you & your stuff first get to your new place, let your child help unpack & decide where something should go in her room. This can give her a sense of control when things are crazy.
  • Set your kids’ rooms up (the furniture, at least) right away. Especially if you’ve been driving a few days, it’ll feel good to be reunited with your stuff. Plus, sleeping in a new, big, empty room is creepy.
  • Try to get pictures back up on the walls again as soon as possible to make it start feeling like home.
  • As you unpack, talk about what’s better about your new place: “There are so many shelves in your new room for all of your toys!” etc. (The Munchkin’s new room is so cavernous we need two nightlights just to see at night! Whereas ours is barely big enough for our bed & dressers. How is that fair?)
  • Even though things are hectic, try to get involved in your new community as quickly as possible to make new friends. Congregations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as wards, are organized geographically. So as soon as we knew our new address, we were able to find out which ward we would belong to! If you’re not LDS, find a church or temple to attend. Involve your children in lessons, Gymboree, or after-school groups to meet the other parents & help your kids make friends.
  • Speaking of making friends, teach your child how to introduce herself to new people.
  • Just like before you moved, try to take a little while off from unpacking to give your children attention. Take an hour or two to drive around your new town. Find a new neighborhood pizza place to call “yours” (we just found ours!). Locate the library & get a library card. Go play on the playground nearby!
  • Once you get more settled in, if you feel up to it, hold a housewarming party & invite people from your new community!
  • Even with all the craziness, try to stick to naptime & bedtime routines as much as you can. With everything else changing, it’s helpful to have a familiar routine to hold onto.
  • Understand that certain milestones like potty training & sleeping through the night may regress or suffer setbacks for a little while during this transition. Your kids might start acting out a little more than usual (ours sure did) too. It’s normal.
  • Lastly & most importantly, emphasize that no matter where you live, your family will be together, & that’s what matters!

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 1 of 2: Before you leave.)

We’re moving. In a week & a half. Yikes!

Since that’s what’s on my mind right now, & since lots of people move during the summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips for helping your kids adjust to moving to a new place. Today I’m posting on how to prepare for the move itself; later I’ll post on how to settle in.

  • Show your kids photos of your new home & new town. Help them find reasons to be excited about the new place. The Munchkin is especially excited to be near the beach.
  • If you are packing yourself, START EARLY. Last year, with a husband taking law school finals, I started packing two months in advance while The Munchkin napped. There’s only so much you can pack that far ahead of time (you’re using everything else too frequently), but it really helps as you get down to the wire. It also helps your 10-month-old skip crawling in favor of cruising, because there are handholds everywhere!
  • Also if you are packing yourself, don’t pay for boxes! I had hoarded diapers.com boxes for months. Any time you get a package, collapse the box right away & stash it in a closet. Another great resource for free packing boxes is liquor stores; just go in & ask for some of their beer boxes. They’re the perfect size & durability for books & other heavy things. The people helping you move in might look at you a little funny though…
  • If your firm is paying for movers, PRAISE HEAVEN. The end.
  • Try to keep pictures up on the walls as long as possible. Even if there are boxes everywhere, having these familiar touches will help keep home feeling like home right up until you move.
  • Moving is a time-consuming process. Even if you’re not having to pack everything yourself, there are still things like getting a place to live, arranging for utilities on both ends, forwarding mail, etc. Kids can feel neglected; take a few minutes every day to just listen to them & give them your undivided attention. Even better, let them choose something special to do to take some time away from moving. This brings me to…
  • Have a “bucket list” of one thing each family member wants to do in your old town before you leave. This will help everyone feel valued (see above) & let all of you “say goodbye.” The Munchkin really wanted to go on the “mewwy-woun.” We’re also planning final visits to Magnolia & Shake Shack.
  • If you have time, throw a goodbye party with friends! Or let a friend throw one for you! That way everyone can say goodbye at once.
  • Speaking of friends, explain to your kids that they won’t get to see their friends all the time anymore. Let them know it’s okay to be sad & miss them, but encourage them by saying that they’ll be able to make new friends in your new town.
  • Explain the moving process to young kids: “A man will pack up your toys & clothes & put them in a big truck (bonus points for showing them the truck if they love trucks) & drive it to our new house! We’re going to drive separately in the car, & our things will meet us there!” {We just had a Family Home Evening about moving, where we talked about Nephi’s family in the Book of Mormon & how they moved to a new place too, & they packed up all of their things as well (see 1 Nephi 18:5-6). After we explained the process, we did the activity below.}
  • Parents magazine just had an article about helping kids adjust to moving, & one thing I thought was a great idea was to let your child decorate her own “treasure box” with stickers to put her favorite things inside. Then take it with you in the car so she isn’t separated from it. Here’s The Munchkin’s treasure box; the first thing she did was put in the 3-inch plastic Woody & Jessie dolls that go with her everywhere lately.
  • MAKE SURE THE LOVEY DOESN’T GET PACKED. IT GOES IN THE CAR. THE END.
  • Lastly, take a minute to say goodbye to your old house. (This was another Parents idea.) During your last meal there, likely on paper plates in your empty house, let each family member say his or her favorite memory of living there. Get your kids excited about making new memories!

Any other tips for moving with kids?

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