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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

5 Great Websites for Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes

Photo by anjanettew (Flickr)

If you're like me, you're hesitant to let your kids help cook. Meal prep takes longer as your kids help measure ingredients or wash fresh fruit, and messes are bigger when little hands pour milk or stir soup. I also get discouraged when I make a healthy meal my girls won't eat. Recently, I came across an article that talked about how kids are more likely to try new foods and eat healthier options if they help cook. Cooking also builds a child's confidence and improves family bonding. It's time for me to get my girls in the kitchen more often, and these five websites offer great recipes, ideas, and tips for fun and success.

Super Healthy Kids

I'm lucky because we don't have food allergies, but my older daughter's best friend does. We found the website Super Healthy Kids one day as we searched for a nut-free snack the girls could make together during a play date. This active website is now one of my favorite sources of recipes because it allows me to search for appetizers, gluten-free recipes, or no-cook dishes. I confess that I don't always plan ahead, so I use the SHK website often to find dinner ideas and holiday meals, too.


My kids told me last month that they were tired of eating sandwiches every day for lunch, so I challenged them to research new ideas. They found Weelicious, and it's been a lifesaver! My girls now make all kinds of foods for their lunches. Personally, I like the website because of its search function. I can put in an ingredient, like eggplant, and find recipes to make with it. My grocery bill has fallen significantly because I no longer waste food! I also save time because I can search by the type of food I want to make, how long I have to cook, or any food allergies I need to avoid.

Annabel Karmel

A friend served us Annabel Karmel's Chicken and Apple Balls last week, and they're finger-licking good! That's when I knew I needed to learn more about the British children's chef and cookbook author's website. On it, I find food and nutrition ideas for babies, toddlers, kids, and parents. I appreciate the healthy recipes with step-by-step instructions and tips for how the whole family can get involved in meal prep. These features mean even my inexperienced young helpers get to make delicious foods.

Hey Kids, Let's Cook!

Despite my love for play, my girls and I sometimes like to veg on the sofa and eat chips. Hey Kids, Let's Cook! promotes healthy eating habits and has given us dozens of ideas for nutritious snacks. We've also learned fun tips about how to cook. For example, my girls and I now use a melonballer to make fruit salad, and we appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at a bakery. As a parent, I also appreciate that this website reinforces math, literacy, science, and other school subjects, and it's so engaging that my girls now ask to watch the videos and then make me dinner!

Cooking With My Kid

My girls are visual learners, and they adore the Cooking With My Kid website. It features tons of pictures and offers step-by-step instructions that are easy for my girls to follow. I also appreciate the dozens of nutritious meals and fun snack ideas, including Broccoli and Spinach Pie, Pasta Salad Skewers, and Cornbread Donuts made with non-fat yogurt! There's even a section for babysitters, which means I can trust that my kids will eat healthy even when I'm not home.

Cooking with kids can be challenging, but there are so many benefits! I hope these five websites give you and your kids much enjoyment in the kitchen together. I know my girls and I appreciate the healthy, kid-friendly recipes. Bon appétit!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Marvelous Mishmash: 7 Benefits of Messy Play

Photo by rashida s. mar b. (Flickr)

According to clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, "Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." I agree. That's why I encourage messy play. A marvelous mishmash of paint, water, cornmeal, or mud gives kids seven important benefits you and they will appreciate.

Messy Play Helps Children Relax

Last week, my daughter came home upset and stressed about her day at school. We grabbed play dough, and she played until she felt relaxed. Messy play does wonders to produce calm and reduce stress as kids create, receive sensory stimulation, and have fun with no rules or expectations.

Messy Play Boosts Scientific Skills

Messy play is one of my favorite ways to teach my girls scientific skills. Even if they don't grow up to be scientists, they can use beans, blocks, and rocks to understand matching, identifying, weighing, and ordering. I also appreciate that they learn to ask questions about the world, think outside the box, and understand cause and effect as they make slime, play in the garden, and jump in puddles.

Messy Play Develops Motor Skills

Every kid needs to learn motor skills that allow them to run, button their own shirt, and hold a pencil. There are dozens of fun and messy play activities that teach motor skills. Kids can squeeze paint out of ketchup bottles, pour blocks from one container to another, and stir sand, grass, and dirt in a bucket as they play and learn.

Messy Play Builds Self-Esteem

There's no "right" way to do something when it comes to messy play. While playing with clay today, my daughter made spaghetti and her friend molded a crown. Your kids can do the same as they express their interests, talents, and personalities while engaging in messy play and doing their own thing.

Messy Play Improves Communication

Kids have plenty of opportunities to communicate while they play. They can listen to a friend talk about how she's going to splash in the water like a mermaid, and they can share what they'll make with the sand. Messy play also helps kids negotiate, share, and take turns, three essential communication skills I think every child should know.

Messy Play Encourages Creativity

A neighbor gave us a huge box of expired pudding cups last summer, and I gave it to my girls and told them to paint the porch. They had so much fun as they painted smiley faces, doodles, and each other. That messy afternoon boosted my girls' creativity and imagination. It encouraged them to think outside the box as they used an unusual paint medium. That creativity will help them succeed in life.

Messy Play Teaches About Color and Texture

I decided to repaint the play room last year and vowed to get my girls involved. We had so much fun! They picked out wall paint colors, researched and chose different objects like sponges, potatoes, and stamps to add texture to the walls, and helped paint. That messy play opportunity taught them about colors, mixing, and texture, and now they point out subtle colors and new textures on nature walks, in the grocery store, and everywhere we go.

As parents and caregivers, we can encourage messy play and its benefits. I know I plan to blow bubbles with my girls after dinner tonight. What marvelous mishmash will you and your kids play with today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, March 18, 2016

Laughter Is Universal: 7 Playful Ways to Teach Children About the World

Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (Flickr)

Have you ever noticed that almost every aspect of our parenting style is based on cultural beliefs and values? A neighbor challenged me with this truth last week as we discussed homework. She makes her kids do extra homework every night so that they will succeed, and I think my kids need more play to succeed. Even though we have different philosophies, our conversation made me think about how I can teach my girls to appreciate other cultures, learn global geography, and understand diversity. Here's my take on seven playful ways to teach kids about the world.

Learn a New Language

Whether you speak a second language in your home or not, words are a fun way to learn about other cultures. I suggest you start with phrases like "I love you" or "thank you." Learn the phrase in a different language, such as Spanish, French, Mandarin, or American Sign Language, every week, and add new phrases once a month. You can even enroll your kids in an immersion school or hire a multilingual babysitter as you teach your kids a new language and expose them to the world.

Read Books

Reading is one of my favorite fun ways to teach my girls about geography and culture. We already visit the library every week, so it's easy to grab books about other cultures, international landmarks, and related topics. You can choose from a long list of multicultural books, or if your kids are old enough, challenge them to do some digging on their own and find books that focus on these topics.

Eat Your Way Around the Globe

I remember the first time my girls helped me make baklava. They were in love! That's why cooking is one of my favorite ways to learn about other cultures. As your family prepares international dishes like kimchi, Irish stew, and curry together, you can discover dozens of differences and similarities of cultures around the globe without leaving the comfort of your home!

Visit the Zoo

When my girls first visited the zoo, they were so young that they didn't even know the difference between an elephant and a giraffe. It's funny looking back on it, and I'm blown away by how much they've learned over time. Today, they know so much about where the animals live and what they eat. We love looking up facts as we stroll the exhibits, and zoo trips also naturally lead into conversations about other places and people. Plan a zoo trip today as you expand your child's worldview and perspective.

Attend Cultural Festivals

My local neighborhood hosts several cultural festivals each year to celebrate different holidays, and I make sure we always participate. It's fun to meet our neighbors as we learn about different cultures, holidays, and traditions. If you can't find similar festivals nearby, celebrate holidays including Chinese New Year, Purim, and Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, with food and games at home.

Explore Your Culture

No matter where you live or what you look like, your family has a history associated with a certain part of the world. Celebrate your ancestry as you explore your culture with your kids. Websites like allow you to explore your roots, and after you learn more, you can take your knowledge a step further as you prepare food, celebrate traditions, and research the beliefs that shaped past generations.

Play in Diverse Groups

I appreciate that my girls have friends from all around the world, and they chat about all kinds of things as they play. I realize that not all neighborhoods are diverse, so help your kids learn to play games from other parts of the world and share those games with their friends to foster understanding, communication, and respect through play.

Our globe is shrinking thanks to increased mobility and the Internet. I want my kids to appreciate other cultures, and we plan to play our way to a greater understanding of the world. Will you join us?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

All Together Now: 7 Ways to Encourage Good Sportsmanship in Kids

Photo by Torrey Wiley (Flickr)

My girls and I love playing and watching sports. That means we have dozens of opportunities each week to exercise and observe sportsmanship in action. One example of poor losing this week reminded me of why I teach my girls to demonstrate dignity whether they win or lose and to show respect to themselves and their teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials. Your kids can learn these important skills, too, when you use these seven tips to encourage good sportsmanship.

Avoid Pressuring or Criticizing Kids

We all know parents who push their kids to play better or who criticize their kids for making a wrong move or missing a play. These pressures suck the fun out of games for the players, coaches, and fans. They also plant seeds of negative emotions in kids who begin to think that that there's something wrong with them because they can't win. Give your kids permission to play at their skill level and make mistakes as you encourage them to do their best, love the game, and play nice with others.

Encourage Kids to Play Fair, Respect the Rules, and Respect Each Other

Years ago, one of our neighbor girls cheated at almost every game she played. It was exhausting and quickly turned my girls off from playing with her. I use this example sometimes when I want to encourage my girls to play fairly and show respect, two traits of good sportsmanship.

Shout Encouragement, Not Direction, From the Sidelines

At a baseball game last summer, one of the parents became known as the sideline coach. She kept yelling at her kid to run faster, throw harder, and do better. Her yelling only made her child nervous and distracted the team. I remind my girls of this story when they complain about a teammate who's struggling to master a new skill, remind them that they can encourage rather than coach her. It's also a good reminder for me to shut up when I'm tempted to be a sideline coach.

Applaud Good Plays, Even if the Other Team Makes Them

During a game of checkers last week, my daughter jumped five of my pawns in one move. Her sister and I enthusiastically praised her and enjoyed watching her beam with pride. Cheering for good plays is part of sportsmanship because it encourages other players and shows our appreciation for all skill and talent.

Focus on Skill and Character Growth

A few years ago, one of my girls spent the summer on the swim team. She didn't win any races, but I watched her swimming skills improve, and I was super-proud of her for pushing herself to wake up early every day for practice. Instead of focusing on winning, point out the skills and character growth your kids gain while playing games and focus on those improvements. I never want my kids to think they're only as good as their last great play or win because personal development is way more important in the big picture of life.

Never Forget That it's Just a Game

Too often, kids get caught up in winning and think it's the most important thing ever. It's not. Sports are games that last a few minutes or hours and are then over. Their outcome won't affect your child's life success. Their reputation as a team player, however, can last for years.

Be a Role Model

Kids are like sponges and will do what they see their parents do at home and on the sidelines. We should be acting with dignity and respect on the ball field, during family card games, and all the time. And since our kids are always watching, let's try to be positive role models when we're passed over for a promotion at work, dealing with a difficult neighbor, or behind the wheel.

Good sportsmanship skills follow our kids from the game field to the board room. Start now to cultivate and encourage your kids to practice sportsmanship. When we play all together now, everyone wins.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart