Tips, tactics and tools for shopping with preschoolers

Do you dread going shopping with your preschooler?  It doesn’t have to be a nightmare…although it does take some planning and prep work.  Here are some ideas that may help you and your child enjoy future trips to the market and beyond!

  1. Talk with your child beforehand about where you will be going and what you will be doing.  If your child helps you with meal preparation (which is an awesome way to build self-esteem: mixing, pouring, and measuring ingredients develops confidence and competence), you can discuss what items you will need to purchase.  If your child feels involved in the process, he/she will be more likely to enjoy helping you find what is needed.
  2. Talk to your child while shopping, pointing out colors (how many different color apples do you see?), shapes (do you see the big round sign? what shape is the cereal box?), and other items of interest.  Elicit responses from your child (how many pumpkins are on the shelf?). 
  3. Prepare a small backpack or drawstring or canvas bag with: a small bag of a favorite dry cereal or homemade trail mix to munch on; a non-spill cup of water or juice; a few crayons and a notebook of blank paper; a small board book or small game with moving parts…but not removable pieces that might get lost.  I don’t know why a lot of parents think a small child should be happy just sitting in the shopping cart, doing NOTHING, for a few minutes or, sometimes, a few hours.
  4. Oh yes, and on the subject of SHOPPING CARTS: if you are using one of the shopping carts provided by the store, please don’t forget to clean it out before putting your child in it.  Many times a previous shopper has left used tissues or other items that you would not want your child touching.
  5. Carry some of those anti-bacterial wipes with you…although many stores are now providing them near the carts…so that you can wipe down the surfaces of the cart where your child might put his mouth or hands.  You can purchase a ready-made shopping cart cover that fits into the seat area and covers all the surfaces and can be tossed in your washing machine.
  6. Make sure your child is seated securely and belted in.
  7. Please, please don’t allow an older brother or sister to pull or climb on the cart while the younger child (or baby) is in it…or even when it is empty.  It is scary and dangerous for all concerned when a shopping cart tumbles over.
  8. It is hard to believe that I feel I have to mention this…but since I see it all the time in grocery and department stores, I guess I will have to:  NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN UNATTENDED EVEN FOR ONE SECOND…BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THE TIME IT TAKES FOR THEM TO DISAPPEAR.  The other day I was shopping and a little girl about 4 years old was wandering around, looking for her mother.  I brought her to the service desk and they called the mother’s name over the intercom…no response!  I asked the child what her mother was wearing and located the woman who was talking to her shopping companion and hadn’t even noticed that her child had disappeared for over five minutes.  She thought someone else was watching her…the other person thought she was.  So, even if your little one does not like to sit in the cart, unless you will constantly hold his/her hand, the cart is the safest place.

I hope with all those warnings, I haven’t made the thought of shopping with your preschooler even more onerous.  It really can be a great fun-filled learning experience for your child…treasure every moment you have with him or her…even while shopping!

Here is a great trail mix recipe you can prepare with your child to keep on hand.  Having a little bag of nutritious munchies may help keep your child from requesting the sugary candy bars and salty chips most stores display near the checkout counters.

CHILD-FRIENDLY TRAIL MIX

You will need: 1 cup unsalted peanuts or other nuts, 1 cup hulled sunflower seeds, 1 cup coconut flakes, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup dried fruit cut into small pieces, a large bowl and a package of zip-lock plastic bags.

  1. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Store in an airtight container or large glass jar with a lid. 
  3. Scoop out a small zip-lock bagful for your child when needed. 
  4. Makes about 5 cups of trail mix.
  5. TIP: You can make an alternative trail mix for very young children who are not old enough to manage nuts and seeds or for those who have allergies.  Combine several different types of dry cereals, rounds of Melba toast, and pieces of zwieback.  Your little ones will enjoy the different shapes and tastes and will be occupied while you shop.

Amanda Rock, the parenting preschoolers guide at about.com, has a lot more suggestions on this topic: http://preschoolers.about.com/od/foodnutrition/a/grocerystore.htm?nl=1

Great ideas for end-of-summer fun!

We just got back from a five-day vacation in the mountains of Colorado.  The weather was perfect.  The fishing was great.  The cabin was outfitted with everything you could need…even a flat-screen TV which we never turned on because we were too busy during the day having fun outdoors and too tired at night to even want to watch anything.  Cell phones don’t work there and we didn’t bring the computer.  And I began to realize how life was like in the days before TV and computers and phones.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the technology that allows each of us to know what is going on in the world the moment it happens.  But it made me more aware of how much closer a family could be if they were more isolated from all that is happening out there or if they made an effort to spend time together without the distractions that usually keep us going in different directions.

So here’s a list of a few great ideas for end-of-summer fun that might possibly bring your family closer together and won’t cost a fortune:

  • Go camping…even for the day…but overnight, if possible.  Rent equipment or borrow it from friends if you don’t already have what you would need.
  • Check out local parks, museums and art galleries.  Some are free and many have special deals for families.  You might even purchase a museum membership that entitles your family to special museum privileges during the year.
  • Have an end-of-summer get-together.  If your child is going to school (or nursery school or daycare) this year, see if you can find out who will be in his/her class or group.  Invite the children and their parents…what an awesome way to help your child start the year already knowing some of his classmates.  The get-together can be a pot-luck with everyone bringing something to eat so that the burden of food is not all on you.  Also, have each family bring a favorite game…there will certainly be plenty to do.  Take lots of pictures and have your child help you make a collage or album of this special day.  He/she can bring it to school for show-and-tell…great for a child who is anxious about the first day of school…something like BILLY AND THE BIG NEW SCHOOL by Laurence and Catherine Anholt.
  • Plan to have dinner together as a family, if possible.  And please, turn the TV off and don’t answer the phone if it rings 🙂

That’s it…just a few simple suggestions…hope they help you end the summer on a high note and begin the school year in a positive way.

How to keep your house clean and green

You are probably going through your child’s clothes right now, weeding out the items that have been outgrown.  Perhaps we can apply that same  concept to our cleaning supply shelf.  Haven’t we outgrown the toxic-to-our-children-and-the planet, chemical-laden glass cleaners, bathroom scrubs and dusting sprays.  I looked in my cleaning supply cabinet the other day and I was horrified to find cans and bottles of cleaning supplies that I don’t use anymore (having gone “cleaning green” a while back), but had not gotten around to trashing.  And throwing this stuff out is a whole other issue…you can’t (or shouldn’t) just dump these items in the garbage.  Many communities have drop off locations or special dates where residents can bring these toxic supplies for safe removal – I wonder if there is any safe way to dispose of some of this stuff.

Cleaning green is not difficult – and in addition to being so much better for your family’s health and the planet’s survival, it is also CHEAPER!  White vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice…the triumverate of being green and clean!

Here are a few simple “recipes” for some basic cleaning solutions:

  • GLASS/HARD SURFACE CLEANER: Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar with a gallon of water.  Soak your cloth, ring it out and wipe surfaces.  Dry with a clean cloth.
  • FABRIC SOFTENER: Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to final rinse cycle of your washing machine.
  • DUSTING MAGIC: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 tsp olive oil in a clean glass jar or spray bottle.  Apply a little to your dusting cloth and wipe down your wooden furniture.
  • ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSER: Mix 1/2 cup pure soap (such as Castile), 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 gallon hot water for dishes, countertops, floors and walls.
  • BATHROOM TUB AND TILE CLEANER: Combine 1 part water and 3 parts baking soda for an awesome grout and soap scum cleaner.

Now, I’m not saying you should leave these cleaning supplies around for your preschooler to play with.  However, unless your child drinks the bucket of all-purpose cleanser or sprays the dusting magic solution in his eyes, you will be able to rest a lot easier as your house shines and you, your family and the planet take a breath of less polluted air.  One person can make a difference.  Why not get started?

Please post comments with your own green cleaning solutions.

Great tips for healthy summer eating

We’re in the dog days of August and the temperatures are soaring in many parts of the country.  Here in Colorado, we’ve actually had days and days of RAIN and HUMIDITY, two things we almost never get!  But, before you think I’m complaining, I know we need the moisture – gardens are bursting with ripe fruits and vegetables, lawns look beautifully green without using sprinklers, and the reservoirs are being replenished.  In every situation, there is positive side, although sometimes you really have to search for it.

Check out the following great tips for healthy summer eating:

  • Drink, drink, drink!  It’s more important than ever to stay hydrated – drink plenty of water – and remember to encourage young children to drink.  Health experts say we are already dehydrated if we are feeling thirsty.
  • Eat 6 small meals instead of 3 big ones.  Studies  have shown that eating smaller meals more often is better for us in many ways  – keeping blood sugar levels more balanced throughout the day.  Also, we are less likely to overeat because we are not starving when we sit down.
  • Make sure snacks are nutritious ones.  Nut butters on whole wheat crackers, celery sticks or apple slices always hit the spot in our home – this type of snack is brimming with protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Prepare more vegetarian main dishes and fruit desserts.  The harvest season is upon us in Colorado, with fresh sweet corn, firm zucchini, plump tomatoes, ripe peaches.  Using locally grown, in-season produce is not only healthy for you, it is also eco-friendly, with a less negative impact on the environment.
  • Check out your local farmer’s markets.  Many cities have at least one.  Here in Colorado Springs, there are quite a few.  Check them out at http://bit.ly/bApQyb.

Here’s a recipe from my new book, SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING that uses some of those summer fruits to make a wonderfully cooling homemade fruity raisin sorbet – the best of desserts – bursting with flavor and nutritious as well!

You will need: 2 cups chopped fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches – use your imagination), 2 cups sliced bananas, 1 cup orange or pineapple juice, 1/2 cup raisins, blender, and a large bowl.

  1. Freeze the fruits and bananas until solid.
  2. Put the frozen fruits in the blender with the juice and blend until stiff.
  3. Scoop out of blender and stir in raisins.
  4. Serve immediately or store in the freezer in a covered container.
  5. Makes about 2 cups (6-8 servings).  Best eaten within a few days.

Tips to keep your child healthy when school starts

The start of school usually brings hurried shopping trips to purchase needed school supplies and new outfits.  It also has generated lots of blogs and columns with advice about school anxieties.  But another big issue that arrives with the start of school is the increase of colds, sore throats, pink eye and other infectious diseases that sometimes run rampant through classrooms.

How can we help keep our children as healthy as possible?  Here are several simple tips:

  1. Provide your child with healthful balanced meals and snacks.
  2. Encourage your child to wash his hands frequently (or wash them for him if he is too young).
  3. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep – older children with cell phones, TV’s and computers in their own rooms can often stay up half the night while their parents think they are sleeping.
  4. If your child does get sick, please keep her home, even though this may be inconvenient (if you work) or she begs to go because she will “miss” something.  You will be doing your child no favors if you send her when she is ill, and the teacher and the other children will not be exposed to whatever she has – also, if she is sick, her resisitance will be lowered and she might catch something even worse from another child.

It is definitely difficult to keep preschoolers doing quiet activities indoors when they are sick, especially when they start to feel a little better.  We always had a special box which contained small toys and games, stickers, small boxes of crayons, small pads of paper – all brightly wrapped and beribboned.   When all else failed, out came the box and the sick child was able to choose something from the box.  The eager anticipation while unwrapping the package was beautifully distracting – make sure there is lots of wrapping and ribbon on each.  We also had a special, ornate spoon which was the medicine dispensing spoon.

Need some quiet activities to help pass the time?  My new book contains several picture story suggestions, with related craft and cooking projects, that focus on sick children.  Here is one of them.

For a story to help your young child feel he is not the only one who doesn’t like being sick – read JOHNNY LION’S BAD DAY by Edith Hurd. 

Then make paper plate lions: You will need: 1 paper plate, 1 piece of brown or yellow construction paper, markers or crayons, paste and scissors.

  • Cut the paper into one-inch wide strips and roll each strip around a marker or crayon to create the curl.
  • Paste one end of one strip to the edge of the plate.  Continue with the rest of the strips all around the edge of the plate to form the lion’s mane.
  • Using markers or crayons, draw the lion’s features.

For a yummy, healthful, child-friendly alphabet chicken soup (studies have shown it really DOES help make you feel better):  You will need: 1 quart chicken broth, 2 Tb diced onion, 1/4 cup alphabet noodles, 1 cup diced cooked chicken, 1/2 cup sliced carrots, 1/2 cup cut green beans, 1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh parsley (optional), and a large pot with a cover.

  1. In a large pot, mix broth, onion and noodles and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat to simmer and add the chicken, carrots, beans and corn.  Simmer with the cover on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Garnish each serving with parsley, if you like.
  4. Makes about 4 to 5 cups of soup – refrigerate or freeze what you don’t use.
  5. You can substitute other vegetables if you like – peas, lima beans, zucchini – use your imagination!

Hold onto the summer with a great fruit crisp recipe!

Every blog and tweet I read seems to talk about the end of summer and the start of school.  However, right now the harvest season is just getting underway.  How about a GREAT recipe for COLORFUL SUMMER FRUIT CRISP…delicious, and so easy to prepare that it appears in my new book, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING!  Preschoolers love to help in the kitchen…the competence and confidence it builds contribute to a positive self-image for them.

COLORFUL SUMMER FRUIT CRISP

You will need: 5 cups mixed summer fruit, washed and then sliced if necessary (peaches, plums, apricots, strawberries, blueberries,etc.); 1/4 cup white sugar (you can substitute honey or agave), 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tsp lemon juice, 3 Tb flour, 1/4 cup flour, 2 cups rolled oats, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup margarine (you can use one of the more healthy non-GMO spreads), a greased 9×13 inch pan, and 2 large bowls.

  1. In a large bowl, gently toss fruit with white sugar, orange juice and lemon juice.
  2. Sprinkle with 3 Tb flour, toss gently again and spread in the greased pan.
  3. In another bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and the remaining flour.  Then add margarine and mix till crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle crumbly mixture over fruit in pan.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown. 
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. Serves 12.
  8. TIP: You can use your imagination when assembling the fruits…how many different colors will there be in this delicious and healthful dessert?

The summer may be winding down…but make the most of the healthful fruits and vegetables that are part of the season.  Check out your local farmer’s markets…a great family outing!

Why are parents anxious about sending their children to school?

For the past couple of days, I’ve been sharing my thoughts about the 1st day of school and how to help your child with any fears or anxieties he may have.

But, what about your fears and anxieties?  Many of you have concerns about your child attending school and the concerns can mushroom as your child gets older.  That’s probably why many parents are turning to homeschooling in recent years.  According to an article in USA Today (1/2009) based on a government survey, homeschooling increased 74% from 1999 to 2007.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-04-homeschooling_N.htm

So, what are some of the top fears and concerns you may have about sending your child off to her first day of school?

  1. Your child may be bullied or hurt by other children.
  2. Your child may be made fun of because of his name, appearance, or style of speech or clothing.
  3. The teacher may not be structured enough or may be too structured or may not understand your child or may not be attentive enough to your child.
  4. There may be unsafe conditions at the school.
  5. Your child may be in an accident traveling to or from school whether he walks, takes the bus or is driven by you or another adult.
  6. Your child may hear things or be taught things that are not acceptable in your home.
  7. Your child may be afraid or too shy to speak up for herself (to ask to use the bathroom or if she needs something).
  8. Your child may not “fit” in.
  9. Your child may reveal a family secret or personal information.
  10. You may miss your child.

The key word in each concern is MAY….we are worrying about possibilities, not actualities.  Tomorrow I plan to blog about some steps you can take (other than keeping your child at home) that address many of these concerns and may alleviate some of your anxieties.

Also, I’m sure there are other concerns that I haven’t mentioned.  Why not post a comment and share yours?