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parenting tips

12 Easy Ways To Encourage Your Child to Eat Healthy

Being a mom can be difficult, especially at mealtimes.

Children can be very fussy when it comes to trying new foods, especially those of a healthy, nutritional value. If it’s green, it must be mean! However, there are ways we can still encourage our children to eat healthily, and here some ideas in how to do it.

1. Give informed advice

If it isn’t made from chocolate, your children may turn their noses up at what you put in front of them. However, a little education goes a long way. Explain to your child in fun and creative ways why choosing foods of nutritional value are better than eating junk food. Let them know what foods will make them better at sports. Tell them how a healthy breakfast is ideal for boosting their brain cells. We often tell our children to do something without explanation, so start as early as you can with good parental advice.

2. Place healthy food in reach

Whenever you bake cookies, you can guarantee your child will not be too far away, eager for a tasty snack. Instead, have healthy foods placed around the house, such as a fruit bowl on the table, so when they are hungry, they will be tempted by the more healthy choice on offer.

3. Grow your food

Most children hate vegetables. However, if they have been given the opportunity to grow their own, they might take ownership of the food and begin to eat it.

4. Don’t be bossy

The more you order your child to eat that plate of broccoli, the less likely they are going to do it. Instead, consider the foods your child enjoys and add to them to make a healthier option. For example, have a chocolate dip with the strawberries, or have a look at Healthy But Smart’s list of food processors, for those delicious fruit smoothies.

5. Prepare a buffet

Children enjoy choice, so have a range of foods on offer. From pasta shapes to cheese rolls, choose food that looks and tastes good, with that all important nutritional value.

6. Take it slow

Don’t introduce too many new foods quickly. Perhaps try something different each week. If they don’t eat it, tell them that sometimes taste buds take a while to get used to something. That gives you the opportunity to return to that food down the line, giving your child a fun reason to see if they like it better.

7. A spoonful of sugar

We all know too much sugar can be bad for us. However, to misquote Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar can help the broccoli go down. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the food your child finds disagreeable, and it may be easier for them to eat.

8. Make eating fun

Be creative with your children’s foods. Give the peas silly names, and make fun patterns on the plate. Use cookie cutters to make funny food shapes. Make a pizza together, letting your child design the food on the base, such as a smiley face or a rocket ship. The more fun they have in cooking with you, the more likely they are to eat what they have created.

9. Allow for treats

Don’t be so health conscious that your child never gets to eat what their friends are. The occasional ice cream, chocolate, and popcorn are fine. Everything needs to be done in moderation, but a world without candy floss is a very boring one.

10. Be a good role model

Practice what you preach. Don’t give your child a plate of broccoli while you tuck into a burger. Your child looks at you for a good example, so be mindful of your own eating habits.

11. Let your kids plan dinner

As dodgy as this sounds, giving your children control over planning one mealtime a week may provide surprising results. Ask them to think about a healthy menu and put options in front of them. As you go shopping, as stressful as it can be, let them pick the foods they want for their chosen mealtime. If all goes wrong and they insist on french fries with chocolate, go for it, with the rule that they must eat your food choices on the other days of the week

12. Talk to your doctor

If you have concerns about your child’s eating habits, or you are considering putting them on a diet, talk to a doctor first. Whether you think your child is too fat or thin, it is always better to seek expert advice.

Good luck parents!



A Road Map To Help Your Kid Grow To Become A Creative Thinker



A few years ago, a Vice Principal at the Catholic School my children used to attend shared his experience teaching at a summer youth program in an inner city school compared to one in a pretty affluent suburb in the same state.

On the first day, during a short break, the counselors instructed the children that they’d have an hour to rotate on different play stations but something interesting happened then.

In the city program, without prompting, after being told to play, the kids there scattered, grabbed balls and sidewalk chalk, formed teams on their own for playing tag and snatched up limited supply of jump ropes and hoola hoops before the last could be swooped up.

But on the other side of town, with the perfectly manicured lawns, white picket fences and two car garages, where organized recreational league sports, ballet and karate lessons and carpools instead of bus rides  are norm,  no one moved.

The children stood around waiting.

The concept of just scampering off to figure out something to do was not the norm.  After a few minutes of stillness, it occurred to the staff that the kids were waiting for more instructions.  It’s what they’re used to. The counselors divided up the children into groups and assigned them play stations and groups.

I found that unplanned social experiment fascinating, but sad at the same time because my kids would be in the camp with the little robots waiting for instructions.


Lately, from the reports that come out and just general observation of Zen Y and Z, it appears that we may be losing the war between intellectualism and ‘keep it simple’ because, well, it’s just easier to be told what to do and to follow instructions than to come up with something to do on your own.

Independent thinking isn’t necessarily rewarded in a ‘teach to test’ environment where there is little time for traveling off the curriculum and exploring the fields and getting lost in the weeds.

A lot of us adults aren’t too unsimilar to Generation Zers.  We are content following social trends, our favorite singer or entertainer on social media, and we chime in to comments on popular topics and generally, agree with conventional thought.  We want to be liked, and being agreeable is an easy way to accomplish that goal.


In high school, it’s easier to go along with the clique and hang on the words of the leader of the pack.

I imagine that it has always been the case for each generation. Succumbing to social pressure to fit in is innate to humans at any stage of life, even.

In schools, children are taught to read, perform mathematic equations, memorize history material in a school book and to cobble paragraphs together based on Wikipedia or online facts and turn in reports.

There is insufficient devotion in the curriculum to teach critical and analytical thinking.  There are electives for that, I guess. So it goes, children who are naturally talented with words and who have a sincere and deep interest in literature, the arts or physical sciences, will likely do okay.

But everyone else will just settle. I wish we didn’t have to settle.

In my home, I have three children: two who are creative, thoughtful, introflective and responsive to others. They can quickly analyze new situations and promptly adjust. They are great with words, creatively write or draw every day.

My other kid is not as motivated  and a bit scattered, and doesn’t really focus as much  and would prefer to not have to do extra thinking or intellectual activity, outside of reading sci fi series, on his days off.

I know I shouldn’t compare my kids but I want this other kid to be better at dissection a problem or challenge presented to him and come up with a creative solution or to plan that challenges conventional thought, wisdom or trends

Critical and independent thinking skills are crucial, not just for term papers in college but for life, in general.

I think it is essential to be able, for example, to judge a political candidate by comparing  his or her campaign rhetoric from their voting pattern, to be able to read between the lines and understand subtext, covert actions and words and figure out if someone is being disingenuous. There are usual social and word clues that give it away if you’re attentive. But there is so much non-real human face to face interactoins these days, that the skill of interpersonal communication is really lost on many among today’s youth.

It’s not too late. I’m convinced!

My kid and all of the children soon will be in charge, running companies and the government and we cannot afford to shrug it off as just something that’s changed.

I wanted to come up with three concrete things that parents can do to encourage and nurture critical thinking in their children and I came up with one and asked my two creative ones to give me an idea on how to cultivate free thought and broader perspective in children.


Idea 1: Encourage Role Play, and often.  My suggestion. Pretend play stretches a child’s imagination. She is forced to come up with new scenarios, invent characters and dialogue. All of these activities encourage creative thought  which in turns helps a child learn how to anticipate and come up with alternatives. Building blocks for logic and reasoning later on in life.

Tools: My daughter plays with My Little Pony ponies and in fact, there is an enourmous cottage industry of role-playing on YouTube and my daughter watches hours of it if you let her. But pretend play has helped her expand her vocabulary and her horizons.

I don’t want to be gender divisive, but little boys do, in fact, enjoy playing with toy soldiers and imagining battles for their pieces, plastic dinosaurs and stuffed animals. They too should be encouraged to engage in this type of play.

Online Tools: There are a couple of mobile apps out there that involve role play. My daughter likes the Sofia the First: Story Theater app, Toontastic and Telestory apps are excellent. For older teens,  Second Life apps are also cool for creative playing.

Teens: You teen may be too old for playing make believe, but you can encourage him to audition for the school or town play. If her school has an Odyssey of the Mind club, encourage her to join.

All of these activities are excellent brain developing ones.

Idea 2:  “Take something. Take another thing. And make something new.” My daughter’ s suggestion.  To implement this suggestion for the physical world, you can give a child random objects and ask them to either build something  that already exists out of it or make a new invention. An empty toilet paper roll, yarn and a stick can be used to make a fishing poll or a pulley, for example. It’s about challenging them to think creatively.

Online Tools: Here is where video games like Minecraft actually come in handy. That game is about a virtual world. Players acquire tools along the way to help them build virtual worlds.  Similar building and invention games are great.

Teens: For a teenager, take him or her to a comedy Improv show and later at home have Improv with the family.  Play charades. These are all part of creating something out of nothing or something that is given to you unexpectedly that may not fit. Making it fit is the brain teaser.


 “Start Little and Progress” –My almost 12-year old son’s suggestion. Think of that cliché about Rome not being built in a day. You’ll have to start with developing basic skills before expecting much otherwise, you’ll fail out the gate.  For example, you may ask your child to write a story, but first he has to come up with characters, then have them decide on a backdrop, then add scenes and scenarios. Make him write a first chapter of a story one day. Then have him pick back up and develop the story from there. And so on, until the process of coming up with a story becomes natural.

Online Tools:  Games that have levels and progress help a child develop a mastery of the tasks. Similarly, education games like IXL Math or other learning apps gradually increase the difficulty as they go along.

Teens: A teen can be tasked with reading a novel, then a series in a novel and then another.  Split up an assignment into tiny sections and then make the amount of work for each section gradually increased. That’s an exercise that is also good for those with ADD and other attention and focus deficiency issues. They shouldn’t be given too much stimulus to comprehend at once.


Hopefully, these tips my children and I came up with will help your journey to help that not-so-creative little thinker in your house. Good luck, parents!

Photos: Picnoi


Yeah Baby Sign Language Is Still a Thing and Here’s How to Do It

Bellyitch Rewind


As your infant gets older, she will start to understand her own feelings and needs better, but she still won’t be able to effectively share them with you yet. It can be frustrating for both of you when she’s trying to communicate with you, but hasn’t developed the verbal skills needed to successfully let you know what she needs and wants. Baby sign language can bridge the communication gap and give your baby a way to let you know what’s on her mind. It helps you more quickly understand what your child is trying to say and avoids many of the tantrums and meltdowns that frustration over not being able to communicate brings on. It also is a wonderful way to connect and bond with your baby.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of signing with your infant.

  1. Make it fun. Above all, signing is a way of connecting and bonding with your baby. When you make signing a natural part of your day with him and turn learning time into fun time, you’ll see the best results. Children learn best through play, so introduce and practice the signs during play and relaxation time. You can incorporate signs into songs, word plays and other fun activities you already do with your child.
  2. Don’t expect a response too early. You can start signing to your baby as early as you want to, however, infants aren’t able to understand or respond to your efforts until at least 8 months old. For many, it could be months later. Like any other way of communicating, there isn’t anything wrong with introducing it early and practicing it often. Just don’t pressure your child to embrace signing until he’s ready.
  3. Be realistic about your expectations. Some babies will have more of a natural interest in learning sign language. Others may enjoy the bonding time and interactions with you, but may not latch on to baby sign language as their way of communicating. Let your baby lead the way. Baby sign language is only one way to communicate with your child. If your child doesn’t jump on the signing bandwagon, don’t worry. With time and attention you and your child will develop a system that works for you.
  4. Don’t overwhelm your baby with too many new signs at once. It’s easy to get excited about signing and want to show your baby more and more signs each day. This is especially true if your child has been frustrated at not being able to verbalize his feelings, wants and needs to you and now he suddenly can. However it’s helpful to focus on a few key signs and allow your child time to master those before moving onto additional ones. Soon he’ll have a full signing vocabulary.
  5. Share the signs with other caregivers. Teach anyone else who is caring for your child which signs are his favorites. This can avoid some tearful moments when Grandma or Aunt Maude is babysitting. If your child has gotten used to requesting milk or more cereal through signing, it’s frustrating when the adult he’s trying to communicate with doesn’t understand him. This also gives friends and family members a wonderful way of connecting and bonding with your child.
  6. Start with signs related to things your baby is already interested in. Of course babies will naturally be drawn to learning signs that represent the things in their lives they’re already interested in. Mom, Dad, milk, more, dog and cat often top the list. When choosing which signs to introduce, take your cues from your baby. If he regularly has two cups of milk at lunch time, the sign for more is probably a great one for him to know. If he loves cuddling and playing with Huck, the family dog, the sign for dog will help him communicate his love for his playmate.
  7. Talk, talk, talk with your child too. Signing is a great way to expand your child’s ability to communicate with you, but signing should always be accompanied by talking. By speaking your thought as you sign, you help your child develop important whole language skills. Knowing both the word and the sign for things will help him easily transition from non-verbal to verbal communication.

Baby sign language is an effective and fun way to communicate with your infant. It helps you better understand what your child feels, wants and needs long before he’s able to tell you in words. This helps both of you avoid a lot of frustration and promotes a foundation of great communication between you and your baby.

5 Ways to Store Your Daughter’s Hair Accessories


If you’re sick of finding rubber hair bands, bows and clips all over the place, or fed up with not being able to find them when you need them, it’s time to straighten out your daughter’s hair accessories. With a little creatively and vision, you can create an attractive way to display all of your daughter’s hair care items and keep them easily accessible.

1.Make your own framed hair bow display. Take the glass out of an old 8 by 10 or larger picture frame and recycle it into a piece of hair care art. Hot glue lengths of ¾ to 1-inch wide ribbon about 1 ½ to 2 inches apart across the longer sides of the back of the frame. To create a ribbon hanger, glue the desired lengths of ribbon to each top corner of the frame and tie the pieces into a bow. Add additional ribbon to the bow to fill it out. Store clips, fancy elastics (pull the elastic behind the ribbon and stick the appliquéd piece through the elastic loop in the front), bobby pins and other accessories on the ribbon and hang headbands over the corners of the frame.

2.Store hair accessories in a shoe organizer placed over the door. Clear over the door plastic shoe organizers are full of clear pockets that are just the right size for holding brushes, elastics, bobby pins and all sorts of hair accessories. If you’d like to keep accessories out of reach, simply trim a few rows of pockets off of the bottom.

3.Use beading storage containers for elastics and bobby pins. For a few dollars you can pick up a plastic container broken down into storage squares that will organize rubber bands, bobby pins, small hair clips and other hair emblements. Place different colored bands in each box so you can easily find multiple hairbands of the same color, leaving you never to have to mismatched pigtail hairbands again.

4.Use a small basket, tin bucket or short, square glass vase if it’s out of reach to hold brushes and spray bottles. A short, stout decorative or clear container can be a great place to store brushes, bottles of water, spray in conditioner, combs and other hair care items. You can store a rainbow of rubber bands over the spray bottles for easy storage.

5.Add long, thick ribbons to a coat hanger to hold barrettes and elastics. Hot glue a few strips of ¾ inch to 1 inch wide ribbon along the sides or bottom of a wooden or plastic coat hanger. Clip barrettes, clips and bobby pins onto the strips. Slide elastic bands over the top of the hanger. You can display this on the wall or over the door handle or hang it in the closet.

With a minimal investment of time and money you can say goodbye to digging through a basket of tangled bows and bands and hello to an organized storage area that will make finding the perfect hair accessory a cinch every time.

reprinted with permission

What Parents with Overweight Children Need to Know


It’s no secret that America has a childhood obesity epidemic.

The health risks that can accompany childhood obesity are so regularly featured on news reports that it’s amazing the problem is still so prevalent. And although many parents can identify a weight problem in their child, they might not know what to do about it, especially when it comes to handling the situation without damaging her self-esteem.

Here is some food for thought, reprinted with permission, for parents of overweight children, along with some practical, real-life advice for handling the situation.

Your Doctor Might Not Tell You

Your doctor might not let you know that your child is overweight or obese. This may be because he assumes you do not want to know. As a parent, it is easy to turn a blind eye to things like your kids being overweight or even when your kids develop a bad habit. If you have a suspicion that your child is overweight, you should approach your doctor about it. This will show him that you are interested in learning more about the issue and are willing to work with his suggestions on what to change or tweak in your child’s life.

You Are Not Alone

Sometimes it’s difficult to realize that you are not the only one with overweight kids. There are others out there who are just as concerned as you are and who are willing to share their wisdom. Search out those other parents and work together to achieve a common goal. That extra support is just the thing you need to keep on track, and having another overweight child working toward becoming a healthier size will help put your child at ease and encourage her to work hard at losing that extra weight.

Exercise Is Always a Good Thing

Not everyone enjoys exercise, but it’s essential for kids’ health and physical development. Come up with an exercise schedule that everyone in the household sticks to. There’s no reason to send your kid off to the gym for an aerobics class while you sit at home. Make it a family event that everyone looks forward to. If everyone likes to do something different, then create a schedule that includes all of the activities throughout the week. Working together as a family not only creates a built-in support system, it can also boost the health of everyone in the family and gives you an opportunity to model the habits you want your child to adopt.

She Shouldn’t Have to Make Changes Alone

Along the same lines as exercising with your child, don’t make them go through any aspect of this experience alone. Singling him out will just create tension and remorse that doesn’t need to be there at all. If the doctor says he needs to change his diet, change the diet of your entire family. Clean out that pantry of the junk food and fill it with healthier alternatives, encouraging everyone to eat better. Even members of your family at an average weight can benefit from cutting out the empty calories.

Some Foods Should Be Avoided

Going out for fast food three times a week is a bad habit to get into, regardless of how convenient it might be for time-strapped parents. All of the grease that is typical of fast food has no place in a child’s diet. And, keep in mind the word “diet” does not mean counting calories and starving your child. She still needs a decent amount of food. After all, she is growing and changing. With how much energy children burn throughout each day, chances are they need to eat more food than you would expect. They just need healthier fare than deep-fried potatoes and genetically modified meat.

Counting Calories Isn’t Always Right for Kids

The strict course of counting calories is a lot of pressure to put on a child and will single them out more than their weight already does. Stress can even be a trigger for kids and adults who are prone to emotional eating. So skip the added stress of counting calories and think about ways to instill healthier habits as a whole.

Your Child May Have Low Self-Esteem

It is possible that your child is being picked on at school or being made fun of by his peers because he is overweight, and he may very well be too embarrassed about the bullying to tell you about it. Sometimes kids don’t even necessarily mean to be cruel, but it can still feel that way to your child when his differences are being highlighted at every turn. If you think your child may be being picked on at school, speak with the guidance counselor to see what she has noticed and what she suggests that you do, but make sure that you’re making efforts to boost his self-esteem at home as well.

It’s Okay to Embrace Your Child’s Weight

Most importantly, embrace the way your child is no matter what. She should feel comfortable with who she is no matter what her weight is and understand that your focus on her weight is out of concern for her health rather than an emphasis on her looks. Just because she is overweight doesn’t mean she’s not a good child, and she needs to know that.

How to Dress Your Kids for Winter Weather

As cooler weather starts to roll around, new parents or those that have recently relocated to a more wintry climate often find themselves struggling to determine the best methods for dressing their youngsters in weather-appropriate attire. While opinions on the subject can be quite varied on the topic, there are a few truths that parents forced with their first real winter weather should consider before the chill sets in.

Layering is Key

Frigid weather can send even the most laid-back parent into overdrive, but it’s important to remember that kids are usually only outside for brief stretches throughout the day. As such, it’s best to dress them in layers that are easily shed in warm classrooms and stores, rather than one or two very bulky items that leave them sweating. For younger kids that attend daycare or elementary school, it’s also wise to attach labels to coats, gloves and hats. It’s easy for cold-weather items to get misplaced, sent home with the wrong child or left behind when little ones are in a rush at the end of the day, but replacing them can also become quite expensive very quickly.

Skip Traditional Scarves

Scarves are a winter-weather staple, but they may also be less than safe for younger children, as they can easily be snagged, slammed in a door or stepped on to present a strangulation hazard. Rather than protecting your little one’s face and neck from icy winds with a standard scarf, it may be better to opt for cowl styles or neck warmers, which have no trailing ends to put him in danger when he’s out of your sight.

Dress for the Occasion

There’s a difference between cold, snowy weather and just plain cold. During periods of snowfall, your child will need to be protected from the dampness of melting snow as well as frosty temperatures, while the drier cold of a day with no winter precipitation may require stronger wind protection to prevent chapping and windburn. Familiarizing yourself with the various articles of winter clothing and their best uses while keeping an eye on the weather forecast is the best way to ensure that your little one is dressed appropriately for every winter occasion.

Opt for Water-Resistant Materials

When the thermometer mercury edges just slightly past 32º, all of the accumulated ice and snow becomes a series of very cold puddles along walkways and across parking lots. Protecting your child from the dampness that can accompany walking across those puddles and dripping from overhanging surfaces is important, but it’s also very difficult if his winter gear isn’t waterproof or, at the very lease, water-resistant. It may be cheaper at the outside to spring for a lower-priced jacket that doesn’t have waterproof construction, well-made products that repel water will keep him warm and dry throughout the winter season.

Know Your Boots

At first glance, most boots are created equal. Upon closer examination, you’ll learn that some boots are more suited to cold temperatures that others. While galoshes seem to be a good choice, due to their waterproof exteriors, they offer absolutely no insulation from cold and can be easily filled with snow if it’s high enough to fall over the wide openings at your child’s calf. Honest-to-goodness snow boots, on the other hand, will have both inner insulation and a top that prevents snow from falling inside.

Hats and Hoods are Your Friend

Though the old adage about your body heat escaping through your head is little more than an old wive’s tale, it is still important to keep your child’s head warm and protected from chapping winds, falling sleet or snow, and simple low temperatures. Look for those without drawstrings that can present a strangulation hazard, with waterproof liners and a snug enough fit to block most of the wind’s chilling power.

While you’re fighting the battle against winter’s chill, don’t forget the sunscreen. Though it seems incongruous to slather your little one with the same sunscreen he uses on the beach to go outside for a snowman-building session, it’s actually an integral part of protecting his skin. Snow reflects up to 75% of ultraviolet rays, which can still be damaging even at winter’s low temperatures.

Reprinted with permission

10 Things to Do While Waiting for Your Kid’s Practice to End

Do you ever feel like all you do is sit around waiting for your kids to get out of one practice or another?  It’s like you’re constantly stuck wasting precious time that could be spent more productively otherwise. You’re not part of the coaching team, so you’re not participating in the practice, but you also don’t have enough time to go home and get anything done, making it feel like you’re just wasting time. This catch-22 pretty much leaves you forced to wait it out and do nothing. Or does it?

The next time you are cooling your heels waiting for practice to end, consider some of these practical ways to spend your time.

  1. Get some exercise.  Put on some tennis shoes and go for a walk.  You can easily get in a 30 minute walk during most practices – if not longer.  Make sure you warm up and stretch a little before you start walking.  Your heart and waistline will thank you for the extra exercise.
  2. Run some errands.  Busy parents frequently feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, so why not take advantage of the hour or so that your child will be at practice and use that time to run a few errands?  Switch to a dry cleaner that is close to the practice location so you are able to drop it off and pick it up conveniently.  Visit a nearby store where you can look for gift items on sale that you can put in your gift closet, that way the next time you need to grab a gift for a birthday party in a hurry you have plenty of options on hand.  Take this time to read some greeting cards and stock up on what you will need for any upcoming birthdays or holidays.
  3. Catch up on the news.  Buy a newspaper and actually take the time to read it.  If you get bored reading the news you can probably find a crossword puzzle or a jumble to solve.  There may even be sale ads that you can use to plan your next shopping trip.
  4. Read a good book.  Have you been hearing about the latest best seller and thought to yourself that you’ll never have the time to sit down and read it?  You actually do have the time to read a few chapters if you utilize the time spent at practices to read. Keep the book in your bag or car and the next time you have a few minutes during practice you can pull out the book and see if it lives up to the hype that everyone has built it up to be.
  5. Start a new hobby.  There are many different hobbies that can be done with minimal supplies while you are sitting at a practice.  For instance, if you want to preserve your photos you can take up scrapbooking.  While waiting on the side of the field or sitting in the car you can crop pictures, decide which pictures will go into what spread, decide on the layout etc.  You could also take up knitting or crocheting.
  6. Sharpen your mind.  There are a lot of handheld video games that will challenge your brain.  If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a video game, you can also buy a paperback puzzle book with brain teasers, word jumbles, crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
  7. Catch up with a friend.  According to WebMD, talking to friends is a great way to relieve stress.  Many mobile phone plans have unlimited minutes or rollover minutes that will allow you to chat without worrying about if you’re going over your minutes.
  8. Meditate.  Finding time to meditate in a quiet place is often difficult when you have kids.  The car would be a suitable place to meditate if you’re going to be sitting in there by yourself anyway.  You can use this alone time to center yourself and find a deeper calm through different visualization techniques or by doing some deep breathing exercises while you wait.  If you are afraid you will fall asleep, set the alarm on your phone.
  9. Do homework with a sibling.  If you have a younger sibling with you, this is the perfect time to get in some one on one time with them to go over reading, spelling or math facts.  She can bring along whatever homework she has to a practice with a clipboard and pencil, and she can have your undivided attention for the duration of the practice.
  10. Write in a journal.  Either write down your thoughts from the day or keep a specialized journal.  Some people like to keep a prayer journal, others keep a food journal, and some people like to keep a gratitude journal, just to name a few.  If you have any interest in writing stories, this could be the perfect time to spend some time writing out some story ideas or working on the actual story.

The main thing to remember is that the time spent waiting for practice to be over doesn’t have to be wasted time; it can be put to good use.  Imagine how much healthier you could be, both physically and mentally, if you spent 30 minutes taking a brisk walk, 30 minutes meditating, and 30 minutes journaling each week.

4 Ways to Encourage Siblings to Share

From siblings to best friends, children have a difficult time learning to share. It is a concept that may not fully develop until late into grade school, if then.  However, there are a few ways you can help your child develop an attitude of sharing.

Model sharing the things that are important to you with others.  Often, parents expect their child to share toys, games and even attention with other children.  This is usually expected because it was expected of them when they were children.  However, adults rarely share the things that are really important to them.  Do most adults go around loaning their cars, jewelry, clothes, homes, electronics and even their time to others?  Your child sees that when an adult owns something it belongs to her, and she gets to decide when she feels like sharing it and when she does not feel like sharing it.  This mindset then transfers into your child’s life.  He rightfully feels that when something belongs to him because it was given as a gift or purchased with his own money, that it belongs to him.  When he sees his parent being generous with what she has, he will think that sharing is a part of life.  If he sees his parent unwilling to share the things she owns, big and little, then he is going to be less willing to share his own things.

Don’t make him share everything.  When parents tell their child that they “must” share the toy with someone else, it stimulates a primal instinct everyone has.  Instead of helping the child to learn to share, making a child share his toys actually causes him to want to share it and other toys less.  He becomes afraid that at any moment you will come in and make him give up the thing that (at least right now) means everything to him.  Instead, allow there to be at least a few toys that he has the right to choose when and with whom he will share.  This gives the child just enough control over the situation to loosen his grip on the toy.  When he has the independence to share it or not, he will eventually be willing to share with others.

Keep a set of toys that belong to you and share those with him and friends he has over.  The big problem with not making your child share his toys is that it means that his friends or siblings do not have toys to play with together.  To solve this problem you can create a family toy box.  Everything in that toy box belongs to you – the adult.  Because of this, you get to decide who the toys are shared with and when the toys are shared.  You, of course, are very generous with the sharing of this toy box, and let not only your child but any other child that comes over to play use the toys.  This will help in a few ways. It will help your child not feel so tense about sharing his own toys, which can actually help him want to share his.  It will also provide a great example of sharing for your child.  He will begin to learn that sharing can make play more fun.

Help him to see that when he shares with others, others are more willing to share with him and that it is more fun to share.  There are a lot of ways you can help your child see this.  Utilize moments when you see him sharing with siblings or with other children. Tell him that you see how well he is sharing and that you are glad he is able to have fun with someone else.  Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your child learn a new life lesson. When playing with your child, talk about how much fun it is when you have people to play with instead of having to play by yourself.  Make mention of sharing every time you see it in the world, whether in books, on the playground, on the TV or in your house.

Sharing is a very difficult habit to form in children.  The truth is that most adults have not perfected this either.  But life is much better when children learn to share what belongs to them, and it is incredibly rewarding as a parent to watch your child engage and play well with other children.

How Smart Parents Plan Eating Out With Children


When you become a parent, there are a host of enjoyable things that have to be put on the backburner or even given up until your brood is a little older and more self-sufficient. While enjoying a meal out on the town may seem like one of those things, that isn’t necessarily true. You only have to choose the right restaurant, one that is open, friendly and welcoming to pint-sized patrons. Hunting down a selection of kid-friendly eateries in your area isn’t always easy, but it can be done and will allow you to enjoy the luxury of having the occasional meal prepared for you.

Make Sure There Are Kid-Friendly Amenities

Before you show up to your chosen dinner hot-spot, it’s wise to call ahead to check on their kid-friendly amenities. Finding out whether they keep high chairs, booster seats and kid’s cups on hand and if they have a kids’ menu will let you know if they’re truly kid friendly. Some restaurants may tout their ability to welcome guests of the younger persuasion, only to reveal their complete lack of accommodations for kids after you arrive. The presence of these basic dining amenities for kids can help you figure out where a restaurant truly stands on the kid spectrum.

Find One With Some Down-Time

A crowded dining room may be loud enough to mask the excited shouts and exclamations of your children better than a quiet, sedate room, but it’s also more likely to excite them more and exacerbate their hyperactivity. A wildly popular restaurant that’s has a wait list from the moment the doors open every day until the last meal is served at night might be a swanky choice, but it probably isn’t right for parties with kids. Finding a restaurant where business tends to lull between lunch and dinner might force you to eat a bit earlier than you’d like, but you’ll be able to have more of the dining room to yourself.

Check Out Reviews

Once upon a time, you had to rely upon word of mouth or your own firsthand experiences to find out whether or not a restaurant was kid-friendly and enjoyable for adults. These days, it seems like every diner thinks they’re a reviewer. The upshot of this attitude is that you can peruse those reviews from the comfort of home, using them as an indicator for how well your child’s needs are likely to be met in a particular restaurant.

Consider Holding off on Fine Dining For a While

Unless you can get a reliable sitter, you’ll probably want to wait until your kids are a bit older before enjoying high-end fine dining. In addition to the stuffy atmosphere that will be off-putting and boring for younger kids, other diners aren’t likely to welcome them with open arms and the rich, refined tastes offered by menu items will probably be unappetizing to kids.

Look For Restaurants That Ban Smoking

If you live in a city that has instituted a smoking ban, then this rule of thumb is a bit less effective. In less progressive cities that don’t have city-wide bans on smoking, however, you can spot a restaurant that’s truly kid-friendly by finding one that doesn’t allow smoking inside.

Network With Other Parents in Your Area

When you’re new to the area or new to parenting, kid-friendly restaurants are only one of the things that you may have trouble locating. Getting to know other parents and networking with them will allow you to track down all of the best restaurants for grabbing a quick bite with kids in tow. Play dates and trips to the playground are great places to meet other parents, make friends and learn more about parenting in your area.

Keep Cuisine in Mind

No matter how well-behaved your child is, there are some things that will still make dining in certain restaurants with him impossible. Quiet and mannerly kids still may not take kindly to exotic foods, unusual tastes or things that they can’t easily identify. Before you settle on a restaurant to visit with your brood or a group of other families, make sure you carefully consider whether or not your child is ready for sushi or tikka masala.

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Back to School: 8 Tips for Dealing With Separation Anxiety

Bellyitch Rewind
Few things tug at a parent’s heartstrings like the cries and pleas of a child in the throes of a separation anxiety attack; still, they are a normal (if distressing) part of childhood development. With proper coping strategies and plenty of love, the worst of your child’s anxieties can be managed until he’s older, at which point most children tend to outgrow their fears of being separated from a parent or familiar adult.
Managing your child’s separation anxiety and helping her to cope with the necessary but painful routine of parting is a matter of being patient, for the most part. Keeping your composure and maintaining a grip on your patience is absolutely necessary in order for you to successfully employ other management techniques.
  1. Establish a Goodbye Ritual – Sharing a special goodbye ritual with your little one is both comforting and reassuring to her, letting her know that staying at school, daycare, or under the care of a nanny is a new part of her routine. Because structure and repetition are so important to young children, establishing a ritual that accompanies every separation can help normalize that separation, making it less stressful for her over time.
  2. Stay Calm – Kids react to the emotional state of a parent or loved one, so allowing yourself to become overly emotional or anxious in her presence is likely to only exacerbate the anxiety and fear that she’s already feeling. Maintain your composure as best you can, saving the emotional moments for a time when you’re out of her sight.
  3. Don’t Hover or Linger – While it might seem that your hysterical child will never calm down after you leave, childcare providers will almost always reassure you that their emotional state will improve dramatically once you’re gone. Lingering around and hovering over her will only prolong the process, stretching out both her suffering and your own.
  4. Speak with Caregivers and Teachers – Experienced childcare providers and preschool or kindergarten teachers are well-versed in reassuring both hysterical children and their concerned parents, so don’t hesitate to speak with them about how your child is adjusting. When normal separation anxiety is particularly difficult for a child to shake, or persists after a significant adjustment period, these people are your best allies in combating your little one’s fears and helping her learn to cope with separation in a calm, healthy way.
  5. Resist the Temptation to Sneak Away – It can be very tempting to wait until your child is distracted and slip quietly from the room, but this may not be the most productive method of dealing with her separation anxiety. Looking up to find you inexplicably gone, without any sort of a goodbye, can lead to a panic that she’s been abandoned or, at the very least, to feel that she can’t always trust that you’ll be where you should be.
  6. Communicate With Your Child – You can help prepare your child for preschool, kindergarten, or childcare by talking about the upcoming change, practicing separation on a small scale, and answering any questions that she has. These methods can be very effective in preventing the worst of her anxiety before it starts, and maintaining that open line of communication as she adjusts to her new environment and has new experiences is vital.
  7. Be Firm and Consistent – Don’t waver or bring your child home after a particularly bad outburst, as it sends the message that a tantrum will yield the desired result of either leaving daycare or school with you or sending your nanny home, rather than being separated. Focus on maintaining a firm but gentle demeanor, and a strong grip on your resolve.
  8. Know When Separation Anxiety Indicates Something More Serious – While separation anxiety is a very natural, normal part of growing up for many children, there are times when it could indicate something more serious. If a previously happy, well-adjusted child begins to regress and show signs of anxiety again, or if existing anxiety is severe and does not lessen with time, you should contact your pediatrician or medical provider for advice.


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