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Creative Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

Getting my girls to eat their veggies can be tricky if it isn’t one they prefer. I usually have to think creatively, be mindful of their nutrition, and a bit sneaky as well. Here are some tips that may help keep your little one from turning up his/her nose at the dinner table. I know there are some I have not used yet that this momma plans to implement!

1. Get them while they’re hungry.

From Dr. Ann Kulze, family physician, author of “Eat Right for Life,” and mother of Liz, 21, Frazier, 20, Jack, 19, and Lucie, 16.

If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Before dinner, serve an appetizer of colorful vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, and red bell peppers, along with a hummus or low-fat salad dressing, Kulze suggests.

2. Institute the “no thank you bite” rule.

From Amy Traverso, Yankee Magazine’s lifestyle editor and mother of 3-year-old Max.

Tell your child he has to take a bite before vetoing something on his plate.

“We figure as long as our son is tasting the food, he’ll eventually get comfortable with it,” Traverso says. “It works pretty well.”

3. Make up cute names.

From Susan Risdal, an administrator with an IT company and the mother of C.J., 38, Cedric, 36, Dan, 30, and Lars and Rebecca, 26. She’s also grandmother of Theodore, 7, Alexander, 4, Jess, 2, and Jaxon, 2 months.

Marketers do this, so why shouldn’t you? Once Risdal started calling Brussels sprouts “hero buttons,” her kids couldn’t get enough of them.

4. Shop with your kids.

From Eileen Wolter, who writes a blog called A Suburban State of Mom. She’s the mother of 6-year-old Luke and 3-year-old Graeme.

“Let them pick out the fruits and vegetables,” Wolter says. “Let them smell the produce and admire the colors.”

5. Cook with your kids.

From Shannon Duffy, mother of Dakota, 15, and Dylan, 9.

A few years back, Duffy asked Dylan to make the green beans — add some butter, sprinkle on some seasonings — while she worked on other dishes.

“When we sat down to eat, Dylan insisted on eating the green beans because, as he put it, ‘I made them.'” Two years later, he’s still eating his veggies as long as he helps prepare them.

6. Have a “veggie night.”

From Mia Redrick, who has her own blog, Time for Mom-Me, and is mother of Patrick, 13, Alexandra, 9, and Matthew, 6.

This way, there’s no competition from other types of foods.

“Serve up edamame, hummus with veggies, mushroom burgers with Swiss, etc.,” Redrick suggests.

7. Hide the veggies.

From Jessica Seinfeld, author of “Deceptively Delicious,” and mother of Sascha, 10, Julian, 8, and Shepherd, 5.

In Seinfeld’s book, she tells parents how to stealthily sneak pureed vegetables into everything from shrimp dumplings to quesadillas.

8. Make fruits and vegetables the easy option.

From Coco Peate, blogger at vidacoco.com, and mother of Sophia, 7, Maddy, 5, Danny, 2, and 2-month old Anthony.

Take a tip from the geniuses who thought to put potato chips in single-serving bags. Stock a kid-accessible shelf in your fridge with little bags of cut fruit and vegetables, applesauce, and fruit cups.

9. Let them use fun gadgets.

From Althea Hughes Wills, blogger at Raw Mocha Angel.

What kid doesn’t love gadgets? Let them use a blender, juicer, and food processor to make smoothies and other recipes with fruits and vegetables. Use proper supervision, of course.

10. Bribe with dessert.

From Natalie Boecker, marketing executive, mother of Ali, 27, and Pam, 23.

“Didn’t want to finish what was good for them? No problem — no dessert,” Boecker says. “Maybe not the healthiest way to get them to eat vegetables, but it worked for us.”

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40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge

I am one of those people who truly loves “STUFF!” I love nick knacks, I love my girls’ things, I love things from my past, I love clothes…you get the point. When someone loves “stuff” you can pretty much guarantee that they have a house full of “things” with “significance,” making it difficult to get rid of.

“But it was Annora’s first pair of shoes!” or how about “But I wore that at my high school graduation!” or even better….”That is the shirt I got when I graduated Safety Town!”

Really???

My husband looks at me like I am CRAZY and taking a step back and peering in from the outside, I can’t say that I blame him. I have always been this way since the time I can remember. My thoughts were always, “What if I need it one day?, It reminds me of a special time in my childhood, etc.”

I will say that I have the desire to purge things and I always feel better after I do so I am taking the initiative this time.

Starting April 1st, I plan to run a group with about 82 people where we will purge 40 bags of “stuff” for 40 days straight. I have included the schedule we plan on using so if you would like to join us or just start your own 40 day purge on your own time, you can do so.

Is There a Fast-Food Restaurant That is Better Than Another?

Ugh…I get asked all the time if people should eliminate fast good all together…is there one fast food joint people should be consuming over another? The answer is simple…STAY AWAY! Finding “healthy” choices are difficult and not worth the health risk in my opinion. But…If you MUST indulge, here are some tips to help keep you on the right path.

Fast-food places can be confusing health-wise. You’d think chicken would be a better choice than beef…but at McDonald’s, the chicken sandwich has more fat and calories than a regular hamburger! Say what???

Luckily, most fast-food places post nutrition facts on their websites so you can see what’s in their food before you go. Look for foods that are low in fat, calories, sugar, and sodium…and high in fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron.

If you don’t have the nutrition facts, here’s what to do: Choose smaller grilled items over fried foods. Order a side salad instead of fries (go easy on the dressing). Watch out for extras like bacon, cheese, and mayo. And choose water to drink.

In a perfect world, fast food would be less terrible for you and more healthful. It would provide us with the convenience and comfort many of us need and want with fewer calories, less saturated fat and less sodium. If you choose to give your children fast food, you shouldn’t feel guilt. But proceed with caution, and make sure you include it as a once-in-a-while treat rather than a dietary staple.

It’s not necessarily that we are trying to fatten our kids up with junk food and fast food, rather it has to do with convenience and lack of meal planning. We have such a widespread availability of fast-food options, that it is just a flat-out convenience for very busy families.

There is also a general lack of importance placed on meal planning in American culture. A common problem is that it gets to be 6 p.m., Mom looks at Dad, Dad’s looking at the kids, and everyone is wondering what to eat that night. If the solution is to drop by the fast-food restaurant around the corner, it becomes a habit and routine. You’ll do it until you make an active decision that you won’t do it as often. Instead, families should plan out their meals at the beginning of the week so that they can cook and eat together, if possible. And if you just say no to fast food, bravo! Kids just don’t need fast food calories to crowd out other options that support their overall nutrient intake and contribute to their overall health and sense of well being.

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The Complete Crash Course on Clean Eating

Defining Clean Eating

Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. However, modern food production has become so sophisticated that simply eating whole foods can be challenging these days.

What Counts as Processed Foods?

Additions of any kind — everything from salt, sugar, and fat to aid flavor and mouth feel, to preservatives that keep food from spoiling too quickly, to the vitamins enriching everything from beverages to breakfast cereal.

Changing the form of the natural food — for instance, removing the bran and germ from whole grains to create refined bread, mashing apples into applesauce, or stir-frying veggies.

Foods with components manufactured in a lab. (You probably don’t need clarification on this one, but if the ingredient list has stuff you can’t recognize or pronounce, that’s a pretty solid indication that it’s not natural).

In that light, processed food includes everything from a hot dog (where do we even begin?) to jarred organic pasta sauce and instant oatmeal. And yes, changing the form of natural food includes cooking as well, so even your steamed broccoli is technically processed, albeit minimally.

So why, exactly, is processing so bad — especially if it’s something as simple as adding heat?

Why Is Processed Food Bad?

Processing is not always bad. Often processing removes toxins or bacteria, or allows for us to eat certain types of foods in off-season due to freezing or canning. (Pasteurized milk, anyone?) Processing can also include altering the consistency or taste of food to make it more appealing. So that delicious post-workout kale-celery-spinach-banana smoothie you had? Enjoy that virtuous feeling knowing that you were likely able to down that giant amount of greens because your treat was somewhat processed.

Still, even though pasteurized milk, kale smoothies, and instant oatmeal are all processed, that doesn’t make them on par with doughnuts and Diet Coke.

The key is to avoid foods that are ‘ultra-processed — basically, anything food-product-like or ready-to-heat.”

 

The Problem with Ultra-Processed Foods

As you can probably guess, the health problems associated with ultra-processed food are numerous. Foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been linked to cancer and infertility; highly processed foods are stripped of nutrients needed for overall health; and heavily modified food tends to have additives that overstimulate the production of dopamine, the “pleasure” neurotransmitter, perpetuating a negative cycle of constant junk food cravings.

The Perks of Clean Eating

Thanks to extensive research that has linked eating whole foods with good health, we do know that largely plant-based diets are healthy. Multiple studies have shown that diets heavy on fruits and vegetables can curb or prevent certain life-threatening conditions and diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Plus, there’s research linking diets high in fruits and veggies to healthy weight management and glowing skin and hair — as if you needed more motivation.

How to Eat Clean

Unprocessed foods include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dried legumes
  • Nuts
  • Farm-fresh eggs

Minimally processed foods include:

  • Unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed
  • Hormone-free dairy
  • Oils

Pesticide-free organic food is preferable to avoid consuming added hormones or chemicals. It’s also important to note that eating clean doesn’t give you free reign to eat endless quantities. They may be healthy, but they still have calories!

You always have to think about portion size. I always encourage people to think of their plate in terms of fifths: three-fifths should be fruits and vegetables, one-fifth should be protein, and one-fifth healthy carbs.

How to Shop Clean

Realistically, eating clean doesn’t mean you need to eat everything raw and straight from the ground. It means choosing minimally processed foods with few ingredients on the label, if it has a label at all.

If you’re shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store, that’s always a good start.

When perusing the main aisles for packaged foods, ask yourself:

  • Where did this food or its ingredients come from?
  • How much has it been processed or handled?

The ingredient label should be short, and all ingredients should be recognizable. Scan for easy-to-avoid additives like artificial coloring and flavors.

How to Cook Clean

Cooking does alter your food, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

While it’s true that some nutrients are lost during cooking, like vitamin C, other nutrients are increased when foods are cooked, like lycopene, so it’s best to eat a wide variety of foods, in both their raw and cooked forms.

When cooking food, the focus should be on maintaining the integrity of what you are consuming and avoiding high-fat cooking methods such as deep-frying or stewing in animal or vegetable fats.

When cooking, opt for flash-cook methods such as stir-frying and ones without additives like steaming. For fruits and veggies, raw is best, but steaming is a close second in terms of preserving nutritional value and keeping the food’s natural integrity.

The Paleo Lifestyle

The Paleo diet, which promotes eating only foods as our ancestors did during the Paleolithic Era, is similar to a clean diet in that they both advocate whole foods. However, the Paleo diet limits food to pre-Industrial Revolution, meaning it prohibits all grains (not just refined ones), legumes, and dairy products, which clean eating does not.

The Whole 9 Lifestyle and Whole 30

Founded in 2009 by a couple in Texas, the Whole 9 lifestyle is based on nine principles that contribute to a balanced life. Nutrition is one of the core factors, and the lifestyle’s eating recommendation is one of whole foods, like meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds.

If you’re new to Whole 9, it kicks off with a 30-day detox called Whole 30, in which whole foods are eaten but all alcohol, sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy are eliminated to push the reset button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making.

If a brief, up to one week abstinence from certain foods — not all foods! — helps people get in the right mind-set to eat healthier, and they don’t have any medical conditions, then I think this is fine from a health and nutrition standpoint. However I don’t think it is necessary, and in many cases it sets people up for an ‘all or nothing’ approach to their diets.

Breakfast Recipes:

OVERNIGHT OATS:

HOW TO MAKE OVERNIGHT OATS IN A JAR

Step 1: Take a glass or a bowl and add a serving of old fashioned rolled oats (basic porridge oats work a treat too). Fill the glass as much as you think you’ll be able to eat the next morning. (Tip: if you prepare the overnight oats in a sealable glass/jar then you can take it with you to work in case you still run out of time in the morning. No excuses! Pro tip: add 1 tbsp of chia seeds for some omega-3s and even more protein).

Step 2: Now fill up the glass with liquid until the oats are well covered. Possible liquids: milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, orange juice. Whatever takes your fancy, really…

Step 3: It’s time to add your favorite toppings. Some ideas include: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, raisins, all kinds of berries, fruits like banana, cherries, apples or pears, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nut butters, coconut flakes, greek yogurt, plain yogurt, the list goes on. If you like any of those suggestions with a little more crunch just add them in the morning.

Step 4: Refine the overnight cereal with your favorite spices; for example cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, ginger powder, gingerbread spice (perfect in winter!), all work really well.

Step 5: Lid on top and off they hop to the fridge.

Basic Overnight Oats Recipe

Prep Time 5 minutes

Total Time 5 minutes

Servings 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 clean jar with lid
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (1/2 cup = about half the jar)
  • 1 cup milk (ex. almond milk)
  • 2 tbsp nuts and/or seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or other spices like cardamom or vanilla extract)
  • 1-2 tsp your favorite sweetener

Optional:

  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • Some slices of fruit (again, any are possible. Well, maybe not avocado. Or tomato.)
  • All sorts of fresh or frozen berries

Instructions:

Throw everything in a jar, screw the lid on top, shake, and off it goes into the fridge. The next morning add a dash of milk and enjoy!

 

Banana Veggie Muffins

Yield: Makes 18 Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • ¼ unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • ¾ cup carrots, finely shredded
  • ¾ cup zucchini, finely shredded
  • ¾ cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a small bowl, combine spelt flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine the maple syrup, vanilla extract, bananas, eggs, vinegar and oil.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Blend the dry mixture into the wet until thoroughly combined.
  5. Fold in the zucchini, carrots and nuts.
  6. Spoon the mixture into paper-lined muffin tins.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

 

 

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How “Help Me Grow” Changed Our Lives

When our daughter (Annora) was just 13 months old, I was out of town on a work blitz and my husband was holding down the fort with her. When I returned, he explained to me that she had been doing some strange head thrusts and he wasn’t quite sure what it was. I quickly grabbed our baby girl to embrace her. As I was holding her, sure enough she demonstrated the head thrusts my husband had just described. My heart sank! I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was going on and I did what any momma would do, I frantically called the pediatrician’s office. They directed us to go to the hospital where Annora was admitted for further testing. She was poked, proded, tested, retested, etc. and the tests came inconclusive. We were referred to a developmental pediatricianwho got to the bottom of our daughter’s ailments. She quickly realized that Annora suffered from hypotonia (low muscle tone) and that her iron levels were low as well. She referred us to a GI doctor for peds and also gave us the information for an organization called Help Me Grow.

I reached out to everyone we were referred to right away and contacted Help Me Grow (HMG). I was amazed that HMG came out to our house to initially meet with us and get a feel for what Annora was struggling with. They then set up a day for us to get her tested at their facility. Everything went very quickly and before I knew it, they had an action plan in place for Annora, dates where specialists would come out to our house and meet/work with Annora were set, play groups she could and would be a part of were given to us to take advantage of, allocated money to help with services was provided, and a new friendship with our family emerged.

Amazement at the amount of care we received is a good way to describe it. The ease of having someone else take the reigns and lead our daughter (until she was 3) down a path to success was more than helpful and appreciated. She not only hit milestones that we were worried would take years for her to hit, but she was given the best care we could possibly have provided her through the use of HMG. I feel the need to say this…If you have a child who is suffering in ANY way be it socially, emotionally, physically, developmentally, etc., getting help immediately for him/her is the first step. Ask your pediatrician about HMG and if it is a good fit for your child and your family. It helped our family TREMENDOUSLY with the right care for the need our family had with our daughter.

http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/en/aboutus/What-is-Help-Me-Grow

 

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St. Patricks’ Day Crafts/ Science Experiments You Won’t Want to Miss with Your Young Kids

So I may be a little late with the March calendar of crafts/ science experiments, but I figured the 11th was good enough to get it out there. Most of my “crafts” are science experiments because my kids LOVE to tinker and explore. I also like my “fun things to do with the kids” to be educational and allow deep conversation to brew. Don’t get me wrong, there are times for the cute crafts, but I use them sparingly because there are so many amazing experiments out there with basic ingredients/ materials you have hanging around the house…so why not right!?! I have done some research on Pinterest and various teacher sites and have come up with a fantastic list sure to make your March fun and a HIT with your kids!

I love this “I am Lucky” St. Patrick’s Day craftivity because it helps children reflect on who they are as a person and helps them value what they have around them. So often, our kiddos don’t spend time thinking about what makes them a good person and appreciating the good things in their life. In this activity, students create a four-leaf clover.  On each leaf, students write something that makes them lucky. You could also come at it from the perspective of something they’re thankful for or appreciate.

Skittles Rainbow Experiment

How fun is this Skittles Rainbow science experiment?!? So easy and will surely bring the “Oooh’s” and “Ahhh’s” from your kids or students. Place skittles (in a rainbow pattern) around a slightly sloped plate or bowl, add luke warm water until just the edge of the water touches the skittles, wait about 30 seconds and watch the magic happen!

Exploring Colors with Baking Soda and Vinegar

In this science activity, not only will children get to create a chemical reaction, but they’ll also be able to explore color mixing and create some colorful “artwork”!

Materials:

Tray to hold the materials

Baking Soda

White Vinegar

Food coloring

Ice cube trays

Pipettes

Procedure:

Place a fair amount of baking soda in the bottom of the tray.

Fill ice cube trays with the primary colors (food coloring) and vinegar

Using a Pipette, place different colored drops in the baking soda. Practice mixing the colors to make secondary colors.

How to make Shamrock Crystals

  • Borax
  • boiling water
  • a wide mouth glass mason jar
  • green and white pipe cleaners
  • string
  • a pencil
  • food coloring.

Instructions for making the crystals

First, twist  your pipe cleaner into the desired shape.  I set out a few templates of shamrocks (printed off the internet) for the kids to look at.

You will need 3 cups of boiling water per mason jar, 1/2 cup of Borax for each jar.  The more saturated your solution is, the larger your crystals will be.  Stir until all the borax is dissolved and the solution is clear, add food coloring if you desire.

Tie a string around the tail of the shamrock and tie the other end to a pencil.   Gently lower the shamrock into the solution making sure that it is not touching any sides or the bottom.  Set the jar in a safe spot that will not be disturbed.  We let ours sit overnight and the kids were amazed to find the pipe cleaners were transformed into crystal-encrusted decorations.  Gently cut off the string and display in your window.

Magic Milk Experiment

Place milk in a shallow dish and add some drops of liquid food coloring.

Now grab a *magic* toothpick.  What?  You don’t know where to buy magic toothpicks??  Just dip the end in dish soap ?

and let your kiddo touch the milk with it.

The colors instantly shoot out at lightning speed creating a wake of rainbows!  Try dipping the toothpick in the color first and then the milk and you’ll make rings.

Do it a few more times and then just sit back and watch.  As the soap disrupts the surface tension of the milk, the colors dance around all by themselves.  Kind of like a funky kaleidoscope.

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How do I effectively Explain Easter to Children?

As my kids get older and are ready to learn more in depth about Jesus, I find myself scrambling to explain and worried that they don’t “get it.” Explaining Christmas is so much easier than Easter right?!? – babies, sheep, angels, stars. It’s pretty much all about love and presents: things your kids can relate to. Sure there’s the nasty part where Herod kills the baby boys, but that’s not an essential part of the story and you can leave it out if you want to.
Easter, on the other hand, is much tougher. You have the joy and celebration of Palm Sunday and the even bigger joy and celebration of Easter one week later. But in between, there is betrayal, denial, torture, pain, and death. How do you explain all this to children?
My first instinct is just to skip it, to go directly from Palm Sunday to Easter without that disturbing stop at the cross. As tempting as this option is, it is not the best choice for my girls. We can’t experience the real joy of Easter without first reflecting on the pain and sadness of Good Friday. If we skip over the cross, our children are going to approach Easter with a “So what’s all the fuss about, anyway?” attitude.
This is not to say that we should run out and rent The Passion for our kids to watch. However, there are many age-appropriate ideas, Easter books, and videos you can use as a starting point for sharing Easter faith with our kiddos. Preview the books and videos first to make sure they
  • Match your beliefs
  • Are not too violent
  • Include Jesus’ resurrection as well as his death
I never want to tell the story of Jesus’ death without also telling about his resurrection.
Here are some other activities I found online that you can use to explain Easter to your children (which I plan on making the resurrection eggs):
Make resurrection eggs
You can buy sets of resurrection eggs or you can make your own. To make your own, label 12 plastic eggs with the numbers 1-12 and fill them as below:
  • Egg 1 – a piece of fur to represent the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem
  • Egg 2 – a cracker symbolizing the Last Supper
  • Egg 3 – a piece of soap, symbolizing Jesus washing the disciples’ feet
  • Egg 4 – three dimes to symbolize the 30 pieces of silver Judas received to betray Jesus
  • Egg 5 – a feather to represent the rooster that crowed three times
  • Egg 6 –  a thorn, symbolizing the crown of thorns that was put on Jesus’ head
  • Egg 7 – a die to symbolize the lots that were cast for Jesus’ clothing
  • Egg 8 – a small wooden cross or a nail to represent Jesus’ death on the cross
  • Egg 9 – a piece of black paper to symbolize the darkness that covered the earth
  • Egg 10 – a piece of cloth to symbolize the cloth in which Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body
  • Egg 11 – a rock to symbolize the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb
  • Egg 12 – Leave this egg empty to symbolize Jesus’ resurrection
You can open one egg a day for the 12 days before Easter or open a couple eggs a week. It is extra meaningful if you can open Egg 12 on Easter. As you open the eggs, talk about what each item represents.
 
Clean pennies
Your children may have difficulties understanding that Jesus died for their sins. First of all, you may need to explain to them that sin is anything we do that keeps us from being friends with God. Bring out some grimy pennies and tell them the dirt on the pennies represents their sin. Then mix ¼ cup of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Put the pennies in the vinegar mixture for about five minutes. They will come out shiny and clean! Explain that Jesus makes us shiny and clean too.
 Answer questions honestly
Your children will ask you tough questions like “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “Why didn’t God help him?” Answer as best as you can – chances are you ask yourself these same questions sometimes! Admit that you don’t understand it all yourself, but explain as best you can that Jesus died for us because it was God’s plan. Such questions are a sign that your children are growing in faith and wanting to understand for themselves, not just accept what they have been told in Sunday School. Rejoice!
Keep the emphasis on Jesus
Easter morning can easily become more about candy-filled eggs than Jesus’ resurrection. Keep the focus on Jesus, with the Easter Bunny a very secondary character.