Monday, October 24, 2011

Raising Healthy(er) Eaters!


I’ll be the first to admit I don’t eat the healthiest.  I enjoy my junk food, sweets and occasional sodas.  But I want to teach my kids differently.  I want them to make healthier food choices earlier in life.  I also want them to eat what I cook!

I have had numerous discussions with members of my “Mommy Posse” about kids and food.  Why won’t they try something new?  How can I get them to eat their meals?  Should I say no to a snack if I know they are truly hungry?

In raising my 5 and 3 year old thus far, I have learned a few tips I want to share.  Most of the ideas are borrowed from other mommies (and daddies) who, like myself, don’t want to be a short order cook!

1.  Limit snacks throughout the day.  Certainly when your children are babies, you should feed them when they are hungry.  But kids quickly learn that if snacks are freely given, they don’t have to eat their meals, because something better will be given to them later.  In my house, if my kids don’t eat the food on their plates at dinner and they ask for a snack later, it has to be a “healthy” one.

2.  Teach them early about healthy food choices.  Print off the Food Guide Pyramid or “MyPlate”  (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) , talk about portions and let them help you pick out the menu.  Another good idea is to let them help you cook.  Often times, if kids are involved they are more like to try something new!

3.  Limit drinks.  Certainly if your child is thirsty, let them have water.  But be careful, little bellies can fill up on milk, juice, etc. and not be hungry when mealtime rolls around.  Sippy cups were a wonderful invention.  However, we allow kids to drink from them for too long, out of convenience for us (less spills to clean up), and our kids have access to them all the time.  Try keeping the cup at the table or in the fridge so your child only drinks when they are truly thirsty.

4.  Only eat in the kitchen.  If kids have to stop playing to eat, they will be less likely to graze all day long.  I just recently employed this rule in our home after a recent move.  (I’m trying to save my new carpet!)  Needless to say, my kids aren’t too happy.  However, I’m finding that they are eating meals a little better and snacking less throughout the day. 

5.  Define what are healthy foods and not so healthy foods.  In my house there are only two food groups:  healthy and junk.  Healthy foods include veggies, fruits, grains and meats.  Junk includes candy, chips, soda, etc.  My 5 year old clearly knows the difference and doesn’t ask for anything from the “junk” category when it is off limits.

6.  Avoid being a short order cook.  I know there are some really picky eaters out there and you have to feed them something, so this tip may not work for you.  However if you can meal plan so that each child likes at least one of the sides you are serving with a meal, then you should be good to go.  Don’t fix a different meal for each kid, you’ll run yourself ragged and mealtime will become misery time.

7.  Try the lights out approach.  Another rule in my house related to the kitchen is that when the kitchen lights are off, that means the kitchen is closed.  SO DON’T ASK MOMMY FOR A SNACK!  Some days I was felt like I never got out of the kitchen between fixing meals, cleaning up and serving snacks!  This rule has again helped my kids to limit the food begging.

8.  To piggyback on the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate, have your child help you create a meal checklist to help ensure that each healthy food group is represented at every meal.  Or you can keep a picture of MyPlate or the Food Guide Pyramid posted on the side of the frig and after your child fills their plate have them check to make sure they have appropriate portions and all food groups represented.

I hope these tips are useful to you and your little ones in helping you solve some of the food battles in your home.  If you don’t have any, consider yourself blessed!

Below is a picture of my youngest helping me make pumpkin pie (I told you I like sweets!).  Much to my surprise, because I involved him in the creation of the pie, he was super excited to taste it.  And because he is MY son, he loved it J




Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yoga for Kids and for FUN!


In the past few years, I've grown to love and cherish a weekly yoga class. I was longtime "aerobics girl" who spent years teaching and taking every "hot" class at the time, from step aerobics, to body pump, to Pilates. I even had some aerobics records back in the day and a worn out Cindy Crawford VHS. Well, I never quite turned into a super model, but I do love exercise and the switch to yoga was not exactly an easy one. I not only had to train by body, but for the first time, had to train my mind. For a mind that seems to goo 100 mph in 5 different directions at any given moment, this was no easy task. It took time and it took help, but with practice, I learned to turn off the continuous to-do list that scrolls through my brain as constant as the ticker at the bottom of the ESPN screen that runs pretty continuously in our house! I learned to center my thoughts and actually - be still, and be (gasp) quiet! Ironically, that silence has helped be hear some pretty important things. 

When I became interested in yoga for myself, I wanted to share my new love with my other loves - my daughters and my patients. So, I took a continuing education course titled, "Integrating Yoga Into Your Pediatric Practice." It was right up my alley. The pamphlet said to come barefoot, in yoga pants, and with a mat -- my kind of CE course! We spent all day doing yoga that would appeal to children and learning how to incorporate this with a purpose. It was so fun!

Did you know that besides increasing flexibility and strength, yoga can improve body awareness, posture, motor coordination, concentration, digestion, circulation, mood, self esteem, and sensory regulation? Who would not want that for themselves or their kids? Plus, as winter approaches and more time is spent indoors this is something you can do with your children that can benefit all of you.

One of my daughters' favorites is to do poses that are animals. Here's a few to share.  Add the corresponding sounds for fun!

Down Dog
Up Dog
Down Gorilla
Up Gorilla
Cow

Cat



Rabbit
Horse





Lion





Camel
Elephant


Butterfly
Sleepy Bear
Bear

Crouching tiger
Lunging tiger
Spider

In addition, yoga focuses on breath. I was shocked as a newcomer to yoga how much simple breathing can calm you down. At times my kids roll their eyes, but when they get upset, they'll hear me say "Smell the flowers, blow out the candles." Inhaling and bringing their fingers to their nose, and the exhaling and leaning forward repetitively helps them focus and calm down.

Smell the Flowers
Blow out your candles!


You can also have them lay down and breath deeply using a feather or a balloon to give them a visual target to move with their breath.

The teacher of the course suggested "story book yoga." This means that you take a favorite story book and use the pictures in it to inspire yoga poses. I did this once with my daughter's preschool class and they loved it! Great books to try it out with are any of the Eric Carle favorites. 

Meditation was always the hardest part of my yoga class at first. Being still doesn't come naturally to me. On a few  occasions when my children have been really stressed, I've gone as far as trying the techniques I've learned in class on them.  I have to say, they were either successful (or my kids thought I was losing my mind), but they enjoyed a candle and some rain sounds on the I-pod while lying down and breathing!

You can find lots of information on yoga for kids on the internet. We enjoy:

angelbearyoga.com

http://www.calmingkidsyoga.org/

http://www.lazylizardsyoga.com/ (they have super cool mats for kids too)

So the next rainy (or snowy) day that comes your way, consider getting active through yoga with your kids! You might feel silly at first, but I promise that the feeling of silliness is quickly replaced by belly laughs and fun. Namaste!
Monday, October 10, 2011

Hearing is Essential!

Hearing is vital to the development of speech of language in your child.  So please carefully consider today how WELL your child hears.  All newborns are screened before they leave the hospital which helps detect hearing loss earlier in babies.  But then frequent ear infections, medications that are toxic to the ear, illness (like meningitis, measles, flu), head injury and noise exposure can all lead to hearing loss later in childhood.  The American Speech-Language Hearing Association recommends having your child's hearing further evaluated by a certified audiologist if you observe any of the following behaviors or symptoms of hearing loss:

-Your child is inconsistently responding to sound.
-Language and speech development is delayed.
-Speech is unclear.
-Volume is turned up high on TV, CD player, etc.
-Your child does not follow directions.
-Your child often says, "Huh?"
-Your child does not respond when called.


The importance of early identification of hearing loss in children includes:

- Receiving hearing aids (or cochlear implants) sooner
-Achieving their language and auditory potential
-Receiving early intervention
-Having parents who are informed!


Sometimes we just dismiss behavior indicative of hearing loss as a child having "selective listening" or choosing not to listen.  I've been there!  Recently my son was treated for severe wax impaction in both ears.  He is a typical 3 year old with selective listening and occasional defiant behavior.  After our pediatrician tried to treat the problem with little success, he referred us to the ENT.  Thankfully the ENT was able to remove the wax successfully.  But after seeing the severity of the impaction, the doctor informed me that my son hasn't been able to hear very well for the past couple of months!  Who knew?!

Sometimes it can be tricky figuring out if your child hears you well or not.  But the important thing to remember is if you have any doubt, get their hearing checked out.  The peace of mind will be worth your effort!

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JUST PLAY!

Welcome to our blog! As longtime friends, we recently decided to combine our professional experience (as a speech-language pathologist and physical therapist) and "Mommy Experience" to create a company dedicated to something we are both extremely passionate about - letting kids be kids! Milestones and Miracles, LLC was formed in 2010. Our mission is to empower parents in understanding the natural progression of their child's development (and not rush it along and skip stages). We develop and provide developmental products to support this learning process, bonding families through engaging, fun, and meaningful experiences! We are thrilled to share that our first product, 1 2 3 Just Play With Me is available for sale. Visit www.milestonesandmiracles.com to learn more and order a unique product for yourself & your child or as a gift! We will continue use this blog to share about topics that interest and excite us. Stay tuned!

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