10 Ways to Encourage Healthier Eating

A love for healthy whole foods is a great blessing we can give our children. But like so much in life, developing a love for good foods is  learned.

I wrote this list with my munchkins in mind, but I have a confession to make. My children have actually helped me be a better eater. Their willingness to try new foods has challenged me. Before I had children, I didn’t like olives, dark chocolate, seven grain cereal and many other foods. They love these foods and I’ve finally developed a taste for them.

We’re still learning, but here are some things that have helped my children (and, ahem, me!) be better eaters.

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10 Ways to Encourage Healthier Eating

  1. Apply the Green Eggs & Ham Rule— don’t say you don’t like a new food unless you’ve tried it. Obvious, I know. But it’s amazing how many times I’ve heard a child vehemently declare they don’t like a food… only to have them love it once they’ve tried it. Try new foods with an open mind (unless, of course, they’re dyed with half a cup of green food coloring!)
  2. Offer Healthy Foods When They’re Hungry- There’s nothing quite like hunger to make a food taste good. Feed salads and vegetables first at meals. It is the easiest way to help kids learn to love them. If your kids complain about being hungry mid-afternoon, offer them healthy choices, not junk food. If they’re really hungry, they’ll learn to appreciate them. (Here are 11 of my favorite healthy snacks.)
  3. Keep trying– If your first attempt at trying to get your kids to eat homemade yogurt is disastrous, next time make it into a parfait or blend it into a fruit smoothy. Once you’ve found something they like, talk about it. The goal isn’t just to sneak healthy foods into the diet. The goal is to encourage them to consciously appreciate good foods.
  4. Buy vegetables and fruits in season- if all they’ve tried is a mealy tomato picked green that’s been sitting for weeks before it gets to your grocery cart, it’s not much of a surprise if they don’t like tomatoes. Buy ripe food or, better yet, grow it yourself with the children (if you don’t have a brown thumb!) It’s much easier to develop a taste for ripe, fresh food! Plus, food in season is generally cheapest anyway!
  5. Make the Servings Small-it’s much better (waste-wise and psychologically)  to have your child ask for more than to force them to finish food* they don’t like or have to throw it away. Serve a bite or two at first. If they don’t like it, you can drop it or try again later. If they love it, yay! Give them seconds.
  6. Incorporate Their (Healthy) Favorites – Everyone’s tastebuds are different. Rose absolutely loves seven grain cereal and oatmeal. Will downs bowl after bowl of honey-sweetened homemade yogurt. Meg eats more eggs than me. All three are good choices, so I serve them regularly for breakfast. (Here are a few other of our favorite healthy breakfasts.)
  7. Learn to Love Flavor, Not Just Sugar/Salt- Creation is full of so many flavors. Sadly though, flavor tends to be masked by loads of sugar (or salt). Gradually cut back on the sweeteners in recipes and focus on appreciating the flavor. Get to the point where you add just enough to enhance the flavor of a dish, not drown it.
  8. Discuss the Health Benefits- talking about why something is good for you and what exactly it helps your body do, not only helps educate your child, but encourages them to take an active part in choosing healthy foods. When I taught Rose, then four, about the importance of protein, she asked “is this good protein” about practically everything, and regularly requested foods that were “good protein.”
  9. Model Gratitude- maybe your grocery budget doesn’t allow you to buy all the foods you want. Maybe the selection where you live isn’t great. If there’s food on the table, that’s cause for gratitude! 
  10. Don’t be Too Strict- When Rose asked “are cookies good protein?” I had to share the sad truth that they don’t have much protein and aren’t really good for us. Her face fell. But, food and taste have been given to us by a good God. We ate the cookies anyway and celebrated His goodness to us.

*To force your child to finish his food, or not? The debate rages. Since sometimes the first sign of a food allergy is a child refusing to eat it, I’ve become more sensitive when my generally-good-eater children don’t want to finish.

 How to you encourage your children to be good eaters? 

Linked up at Living Green, Healthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysWorks for Me, Encourage One AnotherNatural Living, & Simple Lives

Pantry Art: Fun Kid Craft

Rose and Will have their Daddy’s creative genes. I am so grateful, but really have to push my practical self to encourage their creativity. Honestly, sometimes it feels like making a huge craft mess is just too much trouble. But when we pull out the supplies and I watch their creativity unfold, the mess is every bit worth it!

My little sister, who is just five months older than Rose, came over for “school” this morning. I wanted to do a craft with them but my mind drew a complete blank. Right before turning to Pinterest, fun childhood memories of this pantry art came to mind. I vividly remember sitting around the table with my twin brothers and making pantry art for many happy hours.

We’re out of glue (unless we have some buried in one of the unpacked office boxes) but Pinterest came to the rescue with this recipe for homemade glue. The jury is still out on how well it holds, but the children all had fun helping make it. Plus it’s edible, which for some reason made me quite happy.

Dried noodles, beans, popcorn, and grains make fun shapes to glue on. The girls drew shapes and then I lathered on the glue. (Just think how detailed you could get if you had an actual bottle of glue!)

While the big kids made art, Meg dumped beans from one container to another. She had almost as much fun as they did.

What are your favorite kid crafts? 

Linked up at Mama Moments and Titus Tuesdays

Important Things

“So, what have you been up to?” a dear friend asked.

“Um,” I stalled, as I racked my brain for anything out-of-the-ordinary. “Well, the kids and I have been taking leaf walks and learning a lot about leaves,” I finally answered, “it’s been really fun!”

It has been really fun. I absolutely love getting to explore the world with my children. But looking for leaves? Really? Is that all I’ve been doing?

 (Photo credit) This is a Chinkapin Oak leaf. Just in case your 3-year-old wants to know. This information just might save you half an hour of scouring the internet. 

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever have to really think to come up with something that seems worthy enough to mention “being up to”?

Sometimes faithfully pursuing our calling means doing a whole lot of little things over and over.

Nothing fancy.

Nothing flashy.

Just serving God as we scramble eggs, teach a child what “A” says, wash laundry, or tell the the story Abraham and Isaac.

Taken individually, none of these things are a big deal.

  • I’ve already scrambled at least 1630 eggs in my life. You probably have too. The 5490 eggs we will probably scramble in the future are not going to change the world.
  • I will probably have to tell my children the story of Abraham’s sacrifice ten more times before they begin to grasp the full significance. Same with the stories of David, of Isaiah, of Jesus.
  • My baby won’t even remember the countless hours I’ve spent caring for her. Loving her. Shaping her worldview.

That’s okay.

Occasionally, faithfulness means doing really big, world-changing things. But most often, faithfulness means serving God cheerfully in the little things, like scrambling eggs. Which makes those little things important.

 Linked up at Mama MomentsBetter Mom MondayTeach Me Tuesdays, & Finer Things 

Happy “Helpers”: Bread Dough Edition

I’m sorry for my absence the last few days! Baby Meg has been cutting four molars and needing extra loving and we’ve been really busy! 

There is nothing wrong entertaining the kids with a good movie when you’re busy, but this advice from The Well-Trained Mind has come to mind frequently:

Before you turn on a movie to occupy the children, “always ask yourself: What am I giving up? If I didn’t put this on, would the kids go play basketball out back, or drag out Chutes and Ladders out of sheer boredom? Would they read a book?…”

My children aren’t quite old enough for basketball yet, but there are countless other ways to keep them happily busy, without setting them in front of a screen… or hiring a babysitter.

Making bread shapes with their friend Esther

One of their favorite ways to keep occupied while I work? Helping in the kitchen! (Helping here used quite loosely.)

My children absolutely love to “make bread.”

When the bread is ready to shape, I give them a big lump of dough, a rolling pin, cinnamon sugar, and raisins. For the next hour or so, their imagination has free reign.

Maybe it’s because I’m not naturally creative, but I was quite proud of Will’s bread caterpillar 

…and his bread turtle. (He definitely got his Daddy’s creative genes!) 

While the children are happily occupied, I have plenty of time to shape my own loaves of bread and clean up the kitchen.

What are your favorite frugal ways to keep your children occupied without a screen? 

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 Feminine Adventures

 

Thanks for joining us last week, we had some excellent links! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Link Up! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)Grab the button or give us a text link back, so others can join in on the fun!We’re now sharing some of our favorites each week over on our Thrifty Thursday Pinterest board!


Leaves, More Leaves, and a Microwave

There are few things quite as exciting as exploring the world with your children. But I have to admit I was a bit nervous about teaching my children science. It isn’t exactly my strongest subject and I don’t want my limitations to hinder them.

When I told one of the dear older moms at church how excited, yet nervous, I was (since, ahem, I had to review the difference between a maple and oak leaf!) she told me to stop worrying and overanalyzing. “Just go outside and explore nature together, she said. “Look things up and learn with them.”

It has been so much fun.

Last week, using this great coloring page as our leaf guide, we went on a leaf-hunting walk. Rose had so much fun picking up leaves to see if they matched the leaves on her page.

When we got home, Will and Rose sorted our pile of leaves and picked their favorites.

Then, they used the leaves as guides to color the pages. At least Rose did. I am pretty proud of Will for almost staying in the lines though!

While they colored, I worked on making our very first wall decor for the schoolroom: framed leaves.

Did you know that you can microwave leaves to dry them?

Just place a leaf between two pieces of paper towel. Set a plate or bowl on top to keep it flat. Then microwave for 30 seconds. If it’s not dry, move the leaf over to a dry spot of paper towel and microwave a few more seconds.

For a glossy finish that will help preserve the color, you can wax the leaves.

To wax leaves, turn the iron to its lowest setting. Place leaves between two pieces of waxed paper (make sure the wax side is toward the leaves!) Iron for 30-60 seconds, or until the wax has melted onto the leaf. While the paper is still warm, carefully pull it back from the leaves.

(Wipe iron with a damp cloth to make sure there’s no wax on it before ironing your husband’s favorite dress shirt!)

I have grand ideas for our school room, but so far, it’s just an empty room with a bookshelf, two houseplants, and a chest of toys. So, it was high time to at least get something on the wall.

I found this picture frame at a garage sale and repainted the banged up wood white. Then all I had to do was arrange the leaves we’d found.

To add a bit of depth (and because the leaves were simply to gorgeous not to display) I taped extra leaves to the edge of the frame. Professional  huh? But at least our school room has something on the wall.

…And now this Mama can not only distinguish between an Oak and Maple leaf, but between a Japanese Maple and Norwegian Maple. Considerable progress, right?

Educational Chants, Songs, and Ditties

It’s an irrefutable fact: Children learn quickly. It’s so much easier for a child to learn a new language or memorize facts than for an adult.

That is one of the reasons why classical education focuses so much on memorization at the early stages of education.

Thanks to moving, painting, settling in, a trip to England, and more unpacking, we are getting  a late start on school this year. (Thankfully, formal school isn’t absolutely necessary at five!)

I really want to capitalize on my children’s ability to memorize quickly by teaching them basic facts from history, science and geography that they can later unpack and really understand.

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We are already working on Bible memory and poetry though, and didn’t want to spend hours drilling in facts for every single subject. Music and chants helps so much, but I’m not musical.

Enter YouTube.

A few minutes (okay, more like a few hours) on YouTube later, I’m armed with a fun list of chants, ditties and songs to help her learn the kings and queens of England, the State and their capitols, the countries of the world, presidents and so much more.

I got so excited that I thought I better share a few of my favorites with you! (Non-American readers, sorry, my American-ness is certainly showing!)

History:

44 U.S. Presidents 

The Kings and  Queens of England  #1 (Too graphic for small children, though I really like the major historical facts that are added.)

The Kings and Queens of England # 2 (Some of the names are shortened — Hank, Chuck, Jimmy)

Geography: 

50 States that rhyme (I stop it before the credits)

50 States and Capitals

Nations of the World 

Science: 

Periodical Table

Animal Classification 

Other: 

Days of the Week (not a big fan of the video itself, but we sing the tune often! It’s really helped Will, 3, learn the days of the week.)

Of course, this list just barely scratches the surface of all that’s out there! But at least it’s a start, right? And the kids just love listening to the songs!

Do you use songs or chants to help your children learn important facts? What are some of your favorites? 

Dealing with Mom Guilt

[I’m honored today to be sharing at Little Natural Cottage about a topic dear to my heart: mom guilt. On Tuesday I hope to be back into the swing of things bloggy-wise and can’t wait to share with you what I’ve been up to the past month!]

Recently my son skinned his knee while playing after church.

I hunted through my diaper bag and purse but couldn’t find a band-aid. Why on earth didn’t I re-stock the band-aids, I reproached myself, I have a two-year-old son after all! 

Turning to one of the other moms at church I said, “My son needs a band-aid but I didn’t bring one. What a bad mom! Do you think there’s one in the church supplies?”

“If forgetting a band-aid makes you a bad mom,” she answered as she found the supply box, “there are lots of bad moms in this church!”

Though I was mostly joking, her reply stuck with me.

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Follow me over to Little Natural Cottage to read the rest.

The Wrong Way to Remove Tissue Stuck in a 3-Year Old’s Nose

As you all know, we have been blessed with a job for Joshua and a place to call home near our family in our hometown. This is a season of cardboard box towers, sorting through closet containers of “unknown” and deciding whether to keep or toss, and painting and settling in to a new home (and gratitude for such wonderful, helpful family!) I have missed blogging regularly, but sometimes “real life” has to take precedence. 

I’m so honored to have Tiffany, from Don’t Waste the Crumbs, guest posting for me today! 

I’d like to share a verse that’s been weighing heavily on my heart lately.

Psalm 127.3: Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

You see on most days, the first word that comes to mind when I think of my daughter isn’t “reward.”

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In the midst of an important mommy-daddy conversation in our kitchen, she makes up words to her own songs and sings them boldly while spinning around in circles (read as “she’s loud”). She’s the first to rise in the morning (before any alarm clock has a chance to ring) and after nap and the first thing she asks for in both occasions is a snack, and those snacks are often found decorating the carpet and kitchen floors (read as “she’s messy”). Despite pleas and consequences for stepping on and ruining her brother’s train tracks, she continues to prefer the tracks not touching each other and instead, scattered randomly all over the living room floor (read as “she’s an instigator”). Too often I get irritated and annoyed at the constant “I need” or “fix this” or “help me’s” that echo the walls of the house every day.

Just this morning my “reward” put a ball of tissue in her nose – and it got stuck. My thought process started with “What were you thinking?!” although I’m pretty sure that’s not a proper question to ask a three year old. I tilted her head back and thought “Wow, that’s pretty far in there…” and mentally gave some credit to the girl for going above and beyond “getting the job done.”

Being the MacGyver mom that I am (not), I pulled out my tweezers, told her to hold very still and gently pulled the tiny ball of tissue out of her nose.

An emergency trip to the emergency room for a non-emergency averted.

While part of inner-me was in panic mode (that tissue was really far, like almost-over-the-bone-and-into-the-nasal-cavity-far), there was another part of me that was laughing right along with her. I mean, sticking a ball of tissue into your nose really is kinda funny!

But I must confess – my initial attitude toward her was incredibly selfish. She came to me, interrupted whatever less important task I was working on (so less important that I don’t even remember what it was). I felt that my task should have taken priority. But as the episode of tissue removal played on, my selfishness was cast aside by my daughter pleading for my help and I soon realized the privilege it was to be the first one she called to her aid.

I remember when my daughter was first born. People were so excited to meet her and everyone enjoyed holding the precious newborn baby. But the fact that she was being held by strangers wasn’t lost on my daughter. No more than 10 minutes after being in someone else arms would pass by and she would start crying. The stranger would rock, bounce and whisper hushing sounds, but they couldn’t calm her. Slightly offended that they couldn’t make her stop crying, they’d pass her back to me and in that instant, her crying stopped and she was at ease. Mommy made it all better. I loved that feeling and that memory is still one of my favorites.

What I hadn’t realized was that today was no different. My daughter got tissue stuck in her nose and she came to me because she knew that I could make it all better. Viewing the situation through the eyes of God’s Word reminds me that the quiet moments spent together in the rest of “all better” are gifts more precious than anything wrapped in paper.

These moments erase all the pain and turmoil that we endure amongst the trials with our children. These are the moments that make me look forward to the next time she’ll get tissue stuck in her nose – because I know she’ll ask me for help, and I’ll make it all better. What a wonderful gift from the Lord.

Bio: Tiffany is an in-house day care teacher, private chef, housekeeper, laundry service, chauffeur and dedicated CEO to making sure her house runs smoothly. She aims to be a good steward of all He has given her, so she strives to do more {and do it better} with less. She’s making baby-sized strides and would be honored if you joined her for the ride!

Growing Little Gardeners

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids,” asks Robert Brault, “when you can just have them plant a garden?”

Planting tiny seeds, then waiting and watching as they sprout into fruitful plants, really is like watching many mini-miracles blossom. This is the main reason I love to garden with my children. Gardening makes us stand in awe again and again of God’s amazing creation.

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There are many other reasons to garden together.

Follow me on over to The Purposeful Mom to read the rest. This post is part of her “Spring into Summer” Series. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts for summery fun! 

Perspective and a Bug’s Life

Twenty years from now, when my children are grown and I am consistently getting a full night’s sleep, I’m sure I’ll laugh to look back and see how often sleep (or lack of sleep!) seemed worthy of a blog post.

But, my kids aren’t grown and sleep still seems blog-worthy. Which means sleep will, once again, be the springboard for today’s post.

Perspective and a bug's life

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Will skipped his nap most of last week but yesterday morning, he woke up bright and early. And tired. It was clear he would need  (and take) a nap.

I greatly looked forward to a bit of quiet while the children napped.

But, just as I laid Will down for his nap, Meg (who shares a room with the big kids now) woke up extra early. I spent the next hour fruitlessly trying to get her back to sleep. Finally, I gave up.

I was frustrated. Really frustrated. My well-laid plans had been spoiled by events that really weren’t in my hands. My expectations were not fulfilled. Now I didn’t get to enjoy that much-anticipated quiet that I really thought I needed.

Though I knew it was silly (and sinful) to be upset over something so trivial, I kept struggling with anger.

Then I walked into the kitchen. Earlier, I had captured a scary bee-like insect in the bottom of a glass. Now it was on its back, struggling for air.

As the insect fought for life, I stood and watched him for a minute.

And it struck me just how small I am.

The world does not revolve around me and my little needs and wants. Though a human’s lifespan is (thankfully) longer than an insects, it is still “like a vapor.” In the vast view of things, my life makes up about as much of the story as that little bug.

But, the glorious part is that, despite our smallness, we are not “like flies to wanton boys.” God Himself, in human flesh, laid down His life to save us!

With those thoughts in mind, it was hard to be upset about not getting a nap.

[Oh, and as a “thank you” to the bug for my attitude adjustment, he is now at loose in the great outdoors.]