Category: Kids

A couple of months ago, my 4-year old daughter Lucy wanted to watch a movie. The hubs and I were watching something on tv so I downloaded Netflix onto her iPad so she could watch it.

First off, yes both of my children have iPads. They have a variety of educational apps and a handful of cartoons loaded on them for car trips and times when mom or dad need a few minutes to do something. Second, everyone has their own opinion in screen time and that’s not the issue I’m here to talk about, so no lectures please.

Anyways, on another day, Lucy was playing with her iPad while I was trying to clean or do something. I saw that she was on Netflix and was watching a cartoon. She said she was watching Barbie. It was on the Netflix kids list and seemed harmless enough. Until I heard some of the dialogue and my jaw dropped.

The characters were talking about how one girl was trying to steal Ken from Barbie. They were saying words like hate, stupid and whatever and talking about how one of the girls didn’t dress well enough. I was shocked that this kind of show was considered children’s programming. I told Lucy I didn’t want her watching it anymore because Barbie’s friends weren’t nice people.

About a week ago, Lucy was watching a show called ‘Horseland’ on Netflix. I prescreened a few episodes and they seemed ok. Until I heard dialogue from one episode in which one horse had gained too much weight and wasn’t eating in order to lose weight. Excuse my language but wtf!?! Who is developing these kind of shows for kids. Needless to say we’re no longer watching ‘Horseland’ either.

I partially blame Netflix for not giving better parental controls. Their kids programming list is for ages 12 and under. There is a HUGE difference in what you let a 4 year old watch and what you let a 12 year old watch. They should allow you to restrict by age, I mean come on. Secondly, I think these topics are even too nature for 12 year olds, which is why they should also allow you to exclude specific shows.

But mostly, I blame society, for making inappropriate social issues like stealing boyfriends and being weight conscious ok to include in cartoons for kids. Growing up in a society focused on being beautiful and skinny and having a lot of material things is hard enough, kids today do not need tv shows pushing weight loss and infidelity on them. And don’t even get me started on violence in cartoons.

There are shows out their like Dora and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that at least have a moderate amount of educational value, but once my kids outgrow those shows, then what? Brats? Monster High? Powderpuff girls? I think not!

Then you look at channels like ABC Family, which airs Pretty Little Liars (which I’ve never watched but it doesn’t look like something I ever want my girls to watch). Seriously?!? A show about being a pretty liar? Ridiculous! Oh and I’ve also been channel surfing and seen The Hunger Games (a show about kids killing each other) and Pretty Woman (a show about a prostitute and her john) on ABC Family as well.

I know this is just a rant by some annoyed mom of two little girls, and that the ultimate solution is just to not let them watch tv (ccome on yeah right). I think that parents in America need to start pushing for more quality child and family programming that enforces values and morals to help grow well adjusted, confident young girls who embrace each other’s differences, instead of inappropriate cartoons that encourage them to be pretty, skinny boyfriend-stealers.

As a kid, the only vegetables I would eat were potatoes, corn and tomatoes (in the form of ketchup or ‘spaghetti’ sauce, not actual tomatoes). Even as a teenager, I was made fun of by friends and family for eating my sandwiches and burgers sans veggies. I’ve come to love some vegetables and tolerate most but they’re definitely an acquired taste.

My girls are pretty much following in my footsteps as not being part of the veggie fan club. I’m not one to force feed them anything so until they make the conscious decision to eat vegetables on their own, I sneak them into some of their favorite foods.

Pureed pumpkin is an easy one to sneak into Pumpkin muffins, pancakes or even Pumpkin macaroni and cheese. I’ve tricked the girls into eating these delish pumpkin pancakes from How To Simplify. Throw a little maple syrup or peanut butter on top and they eat them right up without even a second thought that there may be veggies hidden in their beloved pancakes.

My girls really dig smoothies (this May or may not be because mom occasionally refers to them as milkshakes – don’t judge). Smoothies are a great way to sneak in veggies but don’t go overboard or the kids will sniff them out. I’ll throw a few spinach leaves into berry based smoothies, cucumber slices with pineapple smoothies and shredded carrot or carrot juice in with citrus based smoothies. We don’t really do recipes when it comes to smoothies, I just throw some frozen fruit (bananas are great for added sweetness), a complementary veggie, some Greek yogurt for protein and milk or coconut water and blend into a drinkable consistency. You can also make extra and throw it in some Popsicle mold for a tasty frozen treat later.

My favorite way to sneak veggies into my kids food is through marinara sauce. Granted, marinara is tomatoes but I like to add extra vegetables on top if that. This is my favorite clean marinara sauce recipe from Skinny Ms.

I actually just whipped up a batch yesterday. I throw about half a cup of shredded carrots and half a cup of fresh spinach (you could totally use frozen) in with the tomatoes for extra veggie power.

After it cooks and cools a bit, I put it in the blender to get a smooth consistency and to erase the evidence of the carrots and spinach. I divide the sauce up into the small snack sized ziplock bags and then throw them in the freezer. I like the small snack size bags because you can always defrost more than one.

I use this sauce over pasta, with meatballs and on pizza and the girls love it.

I also find that cooking with my kids makes them more willing to try new foods, including veggies.

What are your secrets to getting your kids to eat vegetables and other healthy foods?

Every year, the girls and I make some kind of gift to give their grandparents (because homemade gifts are like crack to grandparents). The past two years, we’ve made ornaments (and I always have them make an extra set of ornaments for our tree too).

  • In 2012, we did footprint/handprint salt dough ornaments that Lucy and I painted red.
  • In 2013, Lucy and Olivia made popsicle stick frames that we added our Santa pictures to.

With 8 days left until Christmas, I just realized I hadn’t thought about what their gift would be this year. The girls decided they wanted to make ornaments as their gifts again this year, so like any Pinterest addict, I started searching for easy ornaments that the girls could make (with a little help from Mom). There are so many cute options out there but some of them require more talent than this mom has.

I’m leaning towards doing one of these 5 choices, which seem pretty simple and easy for the kids to do/help with. I’m under no illusion that our ornaments will look as ‘fancy’ as some of these but they’re special because they’re made with love (if I wanted fancy I would go to the store and buy fancy ornaments). I’ll post a quick tutorial and pics of our final ornaments after Christmas (so as not to spoil the surprise).

5 DIY ornaments for kids to make

1. Glitter Cookie Cutter Ornaments, Centsational Girl

2. Pom Pom Wreath Photo Ornaments, Sheknows

3. Scrabble Christmas Ornaments, Mom 4 Real

4. Popsicle Stick Ornaments, Hands on as we grow

5. Block Photo Ornaments, Crafting Chicks

Head on over to my gifts kids can make Pinterest board for more ornament and gift ideas that kids can make (with a little help from Mom or Dad).

Kid toys have gotten crazy over the last 10 years. Everything requires batteries or a charger and some manner of assembly or set up. I remember playing with a ‘stick horse’ as a kid that was literally just a stick I found outside, so I’m a little jealous. My own spoiled children have an abundance of toys, games, clothes, things, yet they insist on playing with the same 4 toys (one of which is usually an empty box or water bottle).

Every year during the holidays, I tell myself I’m going to rein in our the amount of toys they get for Christmas, but that is usually overcome by visions of their excited little faces on Christmas morning as they shred through carefully placed wrapping and bows to discover what treasures are waiting for them.

About a month ago, I read this post about giving ‘gifts’ instead of ‘toys’ for Christmas. It makes the great point that most kids don’t usually remember a lot of the toys they recieve, but they remember experiences. Go do something with them and they are probably more likely to remember and appreciate it than some plastic toy. Plus, it won’t get tossed into a toy box and forgotten.

This post inspired me to try to make at least one of the things I give my kids (and nephews) for Christmas this year a ‘gift’ rather than a toy (don’t worry, they’re still getting plenty of toys, too).

Here are some creative gift ideas that can help you create memories with kids.

  • Give them a gift that teaches them something/– any kind of lessons (or camp or membership), just teach them something. Not only will you be teaching them something new, but they’ll also appreciate the time you’re spending with them.
    • If you have a talent (playing guitar, knitting, underwater basket weaving), teach them yourself.
    • If you’re less talented, think about taking lessons with them (dancing, cooking, pottery, horse back riding, whatever).
    • Or if they’re into soccer or animals, sign them up for a camp or get them a membership to your local zoo.
  • Give the gift of reading – with Blue Manatee boxes, you can give a child of any age a collection of books tailored to their interests/needs. You can build your own box of books by selecting from a wide variety of book titles, organized by age, occasion and popular categories. Or you can select a themed box based on a special occasion or interest. You can also add gear (toys or clothes) and a personalized note to your box. Boxes range from $30 for 3 books to $80 for 9 books (shipping is free). And, as an added bonus, the packaging is also eco friendly and comes with play ideas (like how to make the box into a robot).
  • Give them inspiration to think critically – The Goldie Blox Zipline Action Figure is girl-oriented but I love the idea of an action figure for girls (that isn’t all boobs and high heels) that promotes engineering and figuring shit out critical thinking skills. The Goldie Blox line contains a variety of buildable items for ages 4 and older. This Zipline kit includes a book about Goldie’s Zipline Adventures and everything needed to send Goldie ziplining across the room, down the stairs or anywhere (within the 13′ range).
  • Give them something to build or make – Mindware Marble Run provides hours of fun and endless possibilities. Kids can use the colorful (and easy to assemble) pieces to build tracks and then send the marbles speeding through the twists and turns of slides, tubes and funnels. There are a million different ways to configure the pieces, which promotes problem solving and creative thinking. Bonus if you get in there and build with them
  • Take them somewhere – take them somewhere, anywhere. Maybe it’s the park or a local children’s museum or a sporting event. Maybe it’s a scavenger hunt around their town. Maybe it’s camping. Maybe it’s a road trip to see the World’s Largest ball of twine. It doesn’t have to be Paris or the rainforest or Disneyland or somewhere grand (ie expensive). Just take them somewhere, show them something new. Again, spending time with them will be far more memorable than any toy you could give them.

Now I know, you’re looking at this list and calling BS because there are in fact toys on this list. Truth. However, the idea is that you give kids something that really make them think, teach them things and solve problems. They go above and beyond a light up, singing Elsa doll (we already know all the words to ‘Let it Go’ so we don’t need a doll to teach us) or an Elmo figure that giggles when you touch it (I may be dating myself by calling that one out, I’m sure Elmo is on to way cooler things than giggling these days).

And also remember, they are kids, so a few toys won’t hurt.

Need gift ideas for mom and dad too? Check out my gift guide for guys (with commentary from my husband) and my favorite things (which make great gifts for any lady).

My kids are constantly asking for things. Everyday, I am inundated with requests for food, a drink, a blanket, a new toy, a hug, and a variety of other things. Obviously, I have no problem obliging their needs for food, shelter and love (after they’ve added a ‘please’ to their request, of course). The ‘I want that toy’ and ‘Mom get me that’ pleas really get on my nerves, especially this time of year when they want everything for Christmas. These are the same little girls that could play with a different toy every day for a year (or five) and probably never play with the same toy. Seriously, they are not toy deprived by any means.

Yesterday while we were at the store, I suggested to my oldest that we select a toy to give to a child who might not get presents this year, she said ‘Okay as long I get a toy too.’ I wanted to scream (but obviously didn’t) and then realized maybe it was my fault that she didn’t get the point of the gesture. I have never really taught her that there are people out there much less fortunate than us. It’s not really her fault that she sees commercials for toys and then wants them (damn you savvy marketers).

So I’ve decided to take responsibility and make it my mission to get my kids into the giving spirit this year. I want them to understand how truly blessed we are for all that we have as a family and for them to WANT to give to others, both by giving things as well as giving their time.

These are the 5 things that I’m doing to try to teach my little gimme monsters that giving is just as important as receiving (all year around):

  1. Get them involved in giving to family – have them help choose gifts for family members, or better yet, have them make gifts for dad, grandma, aunts/uncles, cousins, and friends. This will help them be excited to give the gifts and see the recipients open them.
  2. Encourage them to donate old toys or clothes – ask them to go through the toys and clothes they’ve outgrown and pick a couple of items in good condition to donate to a local organization that distributes them to the needy. You can help but let them make the choices, so they feel like they’re doing the ‘giving’. And do this every 3 to 6 months, so they understand that giving is important all the time, not just during the holidays.
  3. Have them pick out a toy or book for a local toy drive – take them to the toy store and ask them to select a toy or book that another child may enjoy (and no, they don’t get a toy while they’re there – that defeats the purpose). Talk to them about how there are some families that can’t afford toys, or sometimes even food. If you can, take them with you to drop the item off in the toy drive bucket/box as well.
  4. Let them witness the effects of giving – if they’re of an appropriate age, take them with you to a soup kitchen to serve meals to the homeless or to a local food bank to help sort and pack food boxes. If they’re younger, ask them to help you bake cookies and deliver them to an elderly or sick neighbor. Experiencing the joy of giving can help them understand why it’s important.
  5. Start a ‘Giving’ jar – get a jar and start regularly putting money into it and encourage them to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a lot (try putting your loose change in for a start), but having a physical reminder can help keep giving top of mind for them throughout the year. Decide as a family how to best use the money to help others.

One of the most important ways to teach your kids about giving (or really anything) is by modeling the desired behavior. So make sure you’re giving year round by helping neighbors or sick friends, volunteering your time at your child’s school or donating money to one of your favorite charitable organizations. This doesn’t mean your kids will stop asking for stuff, but hopefully, it will help them think of others more often.

And with it being Thanksgiving week, let’s not forget about teaching our kids to be thankful, too.

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