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Halloween FUN (and safety tips)!

I LOVE Halloween and the fun of dressing up your littles and having them trick-or-treat. The fall brisk air, crunching of the leaves, kids running around having the time of their life, etc. is simply the best. I remember being younger and running from house to house, knowing which houses gave out the best candy and making sure to hit them up first before heading to the “less ideal” houses. I remember the police officers driving down the road handing candy out of their car doors and making sure kids were remaining safe. Everything about my Halloween memories make me smile and bring positive vibes my way.

From a parents standpoint, it makes me nervous thinking about all of the things that could go wrong on Halloween night. It’s dark outside, people are dressed in costumes, etc. It can be overwhelming thinking that someone might want to harm your child and Halloween is the perfect night to do it or even that costumes can create dangerous scenarios for your child. I decided it would be a good idea to post some Halloween safety tips for parents looking to stay this holiday season.

Top Tips

  1. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors. Since masks can sometimes obstruct a child’s vision, try non-toxic face paint and makeup whenever possible.
  2. Have kids use glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  3. Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
  4. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
  5. When selecting a costume make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.
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Healthy Halloween Treats

If you know my household, you know that I am pretty crazy when it comes to eating clean and making sure we get all of our daily fruits and veggies in. It is so important that kids get a balanced diet and plenty of exercise in a day. I have created a list of healthy holiday treats that will fancy any toddler/preschooler/school-age child/adult. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

 

Halloween Yogurt Bark

 PREP TIME
TOTAL TIME
author: Fork & Beans
serves: Serves 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 4 (5.3oz) cartons of nondairy yogurt (preferably orange-colored)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (optional)
  • ¼ c. blueberries
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • ½ yellow nectarine
  • Monster Googly Eyes
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the yogurt cartons together. If using the coconut oil, add now. Pour into the pan.
  3. Top with the sliced kiwi, nectarine, blueberries, and googly eyes.
  4. Place in freezer until set.
  5. Cut into pieces and allow the little ones to choose their own yogurt bark.
 *I used Silk yogurt alternative but you are free to use whatever nondairy yogurt is your favorite. There really is a lot of freedom with this Halloween Yogurt Bark idea so have fun with it and play around. Use the ingredients you love but just make sure that it has a Halloween flair!

 

Presentation is everything! Stack pineapple, orange slices and whipped cream or yogurt to create a healthier take on candy corn.

Halloween Fruit Kabobs

1.For the marshmallows, use a black food coloring marker to draw a ghostly face onto each marshmallow. (This is a great task for older kids to help with!)  Let the marshmallows dry for a few minutes before using.

2. Wash and cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces.  Add a strawberry, piece of melon and then a ghost marshmallow to the skewer.  Repeat the pattern until you are at the top.

Jack-o-Lantern Stuffed Peppers

These festive Stuffed Peppers are perfect for Halloween!

 Course Main Course
 Prep Time 25 minutes
 Cook Time 35 minutes
 Total Time 1 hour
 Servings 4 servings, 1 bell pepper each
 Calories 426 kcal
 Author Beachbody

Ingredients

  • 4 medium orange bell peppers
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. raw 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ medium onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • Ground black pepper to taste; optional
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce, no sugar added
  • 1 cup black beans drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Slice stem end off peppers. (Reserve for later use.) Remove seeds and veins from peppers. Cut a jack-o-lantern face out of one side of each pepper. Stand peppers upright in baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400º F.
  3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add turkey; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until almost browned.
  5. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
  6. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  7. Add chili powder, cumin, pepper (if desired), tomato sauce, and beans; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  8. Add rice; mix well.
  9. Fill peppers with turkey mixture. Top with reserved stem end of peppers Add water to the baking dish. Cover with foil.
  10. Bake peppers for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender-crisp.
  11. Remove stem top of peppers, sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  12. Replace tops and serve.
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Over-Scheduling Your Child

We have all done it. I know that with my youngest, between play dates and extra-curriculars, we were always on the go. I dealt with meltdowns, tantrums, etc. just to fulfill the daily activities I had planned. Don’t get me wrong, I love to stay busy, but when it came to my second daughter, I decided to change the schedule up a bit. We have played more at home, said “no” to more play dates than “yes,” gone to less scheduled activities and enjoyed being each others’ company. The conclusion I have come to is that tantrums are less frequent, meltdowns are non-existent, and the one-on-one time I am getting with my second born is priceless.

I’m not saying that my parenting technique is the best that is out there…I am merely stating what I have witnessed between the two extremely different approaches I have taken with my own two daughters. I encourage you to take a moment and think about your child’s life. If it’s hectic, sit down together and decide where you can cut back. If it’s overly structured, set aside time for blowing off some steam.

Things we enjoy: Riding a bike, taking a walk, playing a game, listening to music, or just doing nothing for a while. I have noticed that it gives my kids some much-needed downtime. And never forget how important it is for kids to simply get together to play. Kids need time to just be kids.

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Sensory for the Sensory Kid

I have written it before and if you have followed along with my family’s story, you know that we have a 3 year old daughter who struggles with a sensory processing disorder. We have spent HOURS figuring out her quirks, what works for her, how to best support her and what to do next to continue her “therapy” at home.

We have discovered that what makes her tick is sensory overload. She LOVES wrestling with her daddy, getting involved in an art project, reading books that have lift the flaps or touch pages, submerging herself into sensory bins, etc. It’s her thing…the thing that makes her tick. My point is that every child is different and their sensory needs may be different than another child’s. It is important to diagnose the issue at hand and best conquer it using the resources at your fingertips.

The amazing thing about sensory is that every kid has a sensory input and output “need” so even if  your child is “normal” (whatever that is…normal is a term that describes no one), they can benefit from sensory play.

Here is a list of things you can try with a child who suffers from SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder):

http://www.learning4kids.net/list-of-sensory-play-ideas/

 

 

 

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Intentional Nutrition with Kids

Family meals should feel more like bonding opportunities than chores or ordeals. But to make mealtime more positive, you have to serve foods that both meet your kids’ nutritional needs and are tasty enough for children to actually eat and enjoy.

Proper nutrition involves more than fruits and vegetables, says Dr. Scott Cohen, a pediatrician, father and author of “Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.” He says DHA is another critical component. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid beneficial to brain development and cognition.

“Eighty-five percent of brain growth happens in the first three years of life,” Cohen says. Infants receive vital nutrients through  breastfeeding and fortified formula, but their supply dwindles when children begin eating solid food.

In fact, toddlers only average 25 percent of the recommended daily DHA intake, which is 70 to 100 milligrams. It can be easy to reach the allowance, but DHA-rich foods aren’t popular items on toddler’s plates. Major sources include fish, such as tuna, salmon and trout.

To improve your child’s nutrition, Cohen recommends a five-item nutrition checklist:

1. Find a DHA source that works for your family

Increasing DHA in your child’s diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Cohen recommends trying DHA-friendly options, such as fish, or DHA-fortified foods such as pasta and milk. One size doesn’t fit all. Any way toddlers can get it is good.

2. Say cheese

Toddlers should consume two to three dairy sources each day for strong bones, muscles and teeth. Common child favorites include milk, yogurt and cheese, but fortified orange juice can also do the trick.

3. Concentrate on protein

A lot of kids don’t like typical protein sources. Look at protein alternatives instead of battling over eggs, fish or meat your picky eater won’t try. Soy products and beans are subtle substitutes.

4. Teach healthy habits

While each meal can be a step in the right nutritional direction, look at the big picture. It’s more important to teach healthy eating habits than to concentrate on volume. Proper routines set children up for a lifetime of nutrition success.

5. Mix it up

Introduce a variety of food to children beyond standard favorites. Offer three or four different options in the hope that they will eat one of them.  Don’t give up if children resist at first. It can take 10 to 12 tries before they develop preferences. They might like it next week. The bottom line is not to stress too much. Every healthy child grows, no matter what.

 

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The Importance of Kids Napping

My kids have always been great sleepers…I tend to say it’s because they both have hypotonia (low muscle tone) and that causes them to sleep well. Maybe that is the reason, or maybe it is because I take a “no excuses” approach to nap time and the importance of it. I carve out time in the day where my girls (ages 5.5 years and 3 years) must take a nap to rejuvenate themselves. Sometimes I think maybe I should let up a bit and then I am reminded that them resting for a length of time each day is of utmost importance for their growing and developing bodies and minds. This information, found from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/naps.html, further proves my thoughts and theories on kids napping. I encourage you to read through the site and familiarize yourself with the importance of sleep in growing young children.

Sleep Needs by Age (Taken directly from kidshealth.org)

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer regarding how much daytime sleep kids need. It all depends on the age, the child, and the sleep total during a 24-hour period. For example, one toddler may sleep 13 hours at night with only some daytime catnapping, while another gets 9 hours at night but takes a solid 2-hour nap each afternoon.

Though sleep needs are highly individual, these age-by-age guidelines give an idea of average daily sleep requirements:

Birth to 6 months: Infants require about 14 to 18 total hours of sleep per day. Younger infants tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every 1 to 3 hours to eat. As they approach 4 months of age, sleep rhythms become more established. Most babies sleep 9 to 12 hours at night, usually with an interruption for feeding, and have 2 to 3 daytime naps lasting about 30 minutes to 2 hours each.

6 to 12 months: Babies this age usually sleep about 14 hours total for the day. This usually includes two naps a day, which may last 20 minutes for some babies, for others a few hours. At this age, infants may not need to wake at night to feed, but may begin to experience separation anxiety, which can contribute to sleep disturbances.

Toddlers (1 to 3 years): Toddlers generally require 12 to 14 hours of sleep, including an afternoon nap of 1 to 3 hours. Young toddlers might still be taking two naps, but naps should not occur too close to bedtime, as they may make it harder for toddlers to fall asleep at night.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): Preschoolers average about 11 to 12 hours at night, plus an afternoon nap. Most give up this nap by 5 years of age.

School-age (5 to 12 years): School-age kids need about 10 to 11 hours at night. Some 5-year-olds might still need a nap, and if a regular nap isn’t possible, they might need an earlier bedtime.

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The Importance of Reading to Your Kids

So our oldest daughter decided about a year ago that she no longer enjoyed reading. It was the “boring” thing to do, it took away from play time and getting her to  read on her own was, well, an impossible task. I found myself asking why other kids LOVED books and my daughter was turning up her nose at the thought of cracking one open.

Being a former teacher, books are OOBER IMPORTANT to me. For one, I know that statistics prove the more your read to your child and have them read to you, the more they learn. Reading is linked to vocabulary development, cognitive understanding, and overall growth in academics. So why is my oldest daughter displaying distaste toward reading?

I did some soul searching and came to the realization that I was to blame. I was pushing books on Annora and making her feel overwhelmed by them. You see, reading to your child is one of the most effective way to build the “language” neural connections in their growing brains as well as the strong base for their cognitive development. She sensed the “push” and decided to push right back…typical first born right?!?

A study was made in Rhode Island Hospital to compare two groups of eight months old – one group was read to often as babies, while the other was not. It was shown that those who were read to have their “receptive” vocabularies (number of words they understand) increased 40 per cent since babyhood, while the non-reading group increased by only 16 per cent.

So, I took some advice from friends, family, and resources and backed off our oldest daughter. I gave reading a rest and what happened next was beautiful! Her appreciation for literature grew on its own with the consistent read alouds and exposure my husband and I gave her.

Reading to your child does not only benefit his language development. It is only one among other very important benefits:

  • Reading to your kid makes you bond with him, and this gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.
  • The intimacy of reading to your kid is such a pleasurable experience to him that he will have a positive attitude towards reading as he grows up.
  • It calms your child, especially when he is fretful and restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • Preschool children who are exposed to language by hearing words that are read to him and in conversation tend to do well in school.
  • Many studies show that students who love learning and do well in school were exposed to reading before preschool.
  • Your baby learns early the basics of reading a book, that words represent sounds and concepts, words are read from left to write, and stories continue when you flip the page.
  • It promotes longer attention span, which is an important skill for your kid to be able to concentrate.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
  • Your young child learns about colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, while your older child discovers an expanding chain of knowledge.  His interest in cars, for example, will expand to his interest in trucks, and other transportation like planes and rockets, and soon he will be reading about outer space, science and technology, and so forth.
  • A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science in January 2013 concluded that “reading to a child in an interactive style raises his or her IQ by over 6 points.”
  • Books teach your child thinking skills early. When you read to your child, he learns to understand cause and effect, he learns to exercise logic, as well as think in abstract terms. He learns the consequences of actions, and the basics of what is right and wrong.
  • Books teach your child about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world he lives in.  Fantasy books provide material for his imagination and free play.  Fairy tales fascinate your kid, and help him distinguish between what is real and what is not.
  • When your child reaches a new stage in his growth, or experiences a new and unfamiliar situation, reading to your child about a story relevant to his new experience can relieve his anxiety and help him cope. For example, if your child is stressed about his first day in school, or about moving to a new location, you can read a book to him that shows that these should not be painful experiences.
  • According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who had been exposed to home reading showed significantly greater activation of a brain area that is “all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” according to Dr. John S. Hutton, the lead author and a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Reading to your child build brain networks that will serve him long-term when he transitions from verbal to reading.
  • Your child learns early that reading is fun and not a chore. When your child grows up, you will not be stressed about getting him to read, as reading has become, for him, a pleasurable habit.

 

 

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Playing Games With Your Kids

In our house, we are in a stage where board games are a hot commodity. My girls LOVE Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Headbandz, Guess Who?, Enchanted, etc. Basically if it is a board game, we are all in! I love that we can turn the television off, relax with one another, have some good laughs and enjoy the company of being a family. I believe this art of “gaming” is transforming into an art of “video gaming.” Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for video games (we aren’t in that phase of life and probably won’t be anytime soon) but there needs to be a consistent push for parents to require “family time” on a weekly basis. If we allow kids to isolate themselves at an early age, I believe it only hinders the future relationship parents will have with their children.

Delise is three and is the perfect age to begin playing board games and card games—especially if you like these kinds of games, too. Board and card games help teach your child about aspiration, success, and disappointment. They gain experience with both winning and losing—and learn that no matter what the result, next time they try they’ll begin again with a clean slate. Games also give you the opportunity to teach your preschooler about rules, about integrity and honesty, and about luck. Games also can help increase your child’s ability to focus their attention. Nearly all games, for example, involve taking turns, sharing dice or a spinner, waiting for your turn, patience, and learning how to be a good sport. (When you play games with your child, try to emphasize the fun of game as much as possible, rather than focusing on “who’s winning.”)

Besides helping to acquaint your child with “life lessons” and to practice valuable social skills, most good children’s games also afford preschoolers the opportunity to sharpen certain academic skills.

In introducing board and card games to your preschooler, choose the simplest ones first. If your child has to master a complicated set of rules before even playing the game, she—or you—will soon lose patience with it. Games that involve moving pieces around a board in a race to the finish, spinning a spinner or throwing dice, and counting up as high as six provide the perfect introduction to board games.

 

How to Teach Your Kids to Tie Their Shoes in 5 Minutes!

Yep…The title speaks VOLUMES if you have ever sat down with your youngster to teach them the fundamentals of tying their shoes…it can be BRUTAL! In fact, it can take months (and for some years) to master the art of shoe tying.

My daughter put together her own YouTube video to show the simplicity of the learning curve when tying your shoes for the first several times. I encourage all who struggle to teach their little how to tie their shoes to take a peak and watch the magic of simplicity unfold.