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My friend Erica sent me a link to Counting Coconuts, an amazing blog for mothers of small children. The blog is full of creative ideas, projects and inspirations. I especially liked their “sensory tub” ideas. Sensory tubs, are, in essence, plastic boxes filled with stuff joined by a unifying theme. The lady behind Counting Coconuts Blog is very organized. She writes detailed lists and instructions for every tub and project. I  hate lists, can’t follow instructions and love to feel moved by inspiration, even though I admire those that are better organized than I am. Like my husband, for example. He puts everything in files.

Anyway, this is how we got the idea to do The Earth Project.

Firstly, we got a large plastic box. Then we went on a treasure hunt. While the twins were sleeping, my boy and I went outside in search for interesting Earth-themed” items, like pine cones, twigs, tree branches, rocks, dry leaves, etc…We put all of these treasures in the box. Then, we raided the Dollar Store. We bought gummy worms, caterpillars, rubber snakes, fake flowers, a tiny shovel and a fork.We also bought some green paper and cut leaves out of it. Then, we put some of our dollar-treasures into the box, filled with earthy items and – voila! Project Earth was ready.

My son loved digging in the box for hours and finding the same worms over and over. He loved wrapping the rubber snakes around the twigs and putting a plastic caterpillar on the rock, so that “he can sunbathe.” If you want to try something like that, remember that nature and a Dollar Store are a winning combo.

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We did this yesterday.You will need two colors of finger paint: red and green. Let your child put the red all over their hands and make “stamps”on a large sheet of paper. Then, let them put the green on their fingers and draw leaves and stems.

There are many things I like about the Waldorf philosophy of child-rearing. I love the importance of free play, the connection to nature and the simple chores for kids. I like the absence of television and the emphasis on reality-based crafts. I love the handmade dolls and the beautiful pieces of fabric , which are used as toys. I don’t agree with the theory that children should not be taught academics until they are seven years old: if my kid is interested in reading earlier, I will teach him how to read.

My favorite thing about Waldorf is its emphasis on rhythm and rituals. According to Waldorf philosophy, there is nothing as important for the child’s healthy growth and development as the work you do to maintain consistent rhythms in their lives. Noticing the change of seasons with your child is important. Noticing the times of day is important, as well. Paying attention to simple things in nature, like sunshine coming after the rain, helps your child to better connect with their inner rhythm and to tune into the world around them, which they are a part of.

The Waldorf philosophy states that a child develops a sense of self through a carefully-guided, secure and stable childhood. Keeping close ties to the natural rhythms and cycles helps your child develop a sense of well-being and certainty that the world is an understandable, safe, and predictable place. Here’s how to develop a natural rhythm in your home, according to Waldorf: Make a list of the chores and errands you do each week. Include “basic” things, like cooking and cleaning, as those present a wonderful learning opportunity to a child. Assign each errand to a specific day of the week ahead. Make your schedule and stick to it.

Here’s what we do:  ( letters and numbers are not supported by the Waldorf philosophy at an early age,but I choose to teach them, because my kid is interested)

Monday: Learn and play with numbers
Tuesday: Cook, play dough
Wednesday: Learn letters and do a craft project, involving letters
Thursday:  Field trip
Friday: Housekeeping (washing, polishing, dusting.) Watercolor painting.

We usually do the chosen daily activity in the morning an then repeat it a few times throughout the day,as a theme. If the theme is housekeeping, we dust in the morning and learn about different tools,used for cleaning, while going for our afternoon walk.

While choosing your daily schedule, the Waldorf philosophy suggests to alternate between activities of expansion and those of contraction. Reading, writing, doing crafts- all require concentration and are, therefore, contracting. Free play is expansive. This theory of expansion and contraction sounds very true to me, because I apply it to my daily yoga practice: the only way to maintain a perfect balance in the body is to even out the constant play of the expanding and the contracting forces: those of power and engagement with those of broadening and stretching. A daily schedule of alternating contracting and expanding activities gives your child time to run and play, as well as sit and learn.  Alternating between the two is the most effective way for your child to process new information.

Here’s a typical Waldorf day:
• opening verse
• daily activity
• independent play (inside)
• clean up
• circle time
• independent play (outside)
• story, puppetry, drama
• closing verse

Songs and verses are very popular with Waldorf, as they contribute to the daily rhythm. When children hear the verses, related to specific activities, the transition to these activities becomes smoother. Many verses are available in A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, a book of poetry, verses for morning and evening, blessings and meditations for parents and teachers.

According to Waldorf theory, when a family gathers for their evening meal, it’s a good idea to use place mats, decorated by the kids. Dinner becomes an art project. The place mats can be drawn, sewn, knit. They can have ornaments, glued to them or you can try patchwork – most importantly they should be lovingly decorated as a family art project. Then, there should always be a candle and a prayer. If you are not religious, something like:

” Thank you, Earth, for growing our food,” is good enough.

Keeping a consistent daily and weekly schedule, simple chores and activities, outside play – are crucial tools for raising happy kids, according to the Waldorf philosophy and I wholeheartedly agree. What do you do to keep a sense of rhythm in your child’s life?

How do you get your child to like fruits and vegetables? Eat the veggies and the fruits yourself and make the whole thing fun.  Or, here’s a little shortcut:

 

 

For a fun and easy art project, get some colored papers. Take scissors and cut some fruits and vegetables out of the colored papers.  Make some red apples, blue eggplants, green cucumbers, orange carrots. etc…

Then ask your child to put all fruits in one pile and all veggies in another one. You can ask your child to also divide the “produce” by color – “Put all the red fruits over here and all the green veggies over there.”

Then get a bowl and  a pot. Give your kid a pair of child-safe scissors and watch closely, as he or she chops the “vegetables” for the “soup.” The child can cut the paper “vegetable” in strips or in chunks or in squares and let those pieces fall into the soup pot. The child can be taught how to finely dice an onion, using a paper vegetable or how to thinly chop parsley. They can learn which vegetables work for the soup and which ones do not. Later that evening, you can feed them a real vegetable soup and they are likely to have a lot more interest in it than they normally would.

The bowl is for the salad. You can make a vegetable salad, by cutting the veggies into thin strips and you can also make a “fruit salad, “by cutting bananas and slicing apples. While you are playing these games, you can teach your child about how fruits and vegetables grow and how they make us strong. This game is good for fine motor skills (hence the  use of the  scissors,) color recognition, patterns, grouping objects that are alike and learning some basic cooking skills.

You can take it one step further and glue the fruits and the vegetables back together, assembling the pieces on a white sheet of paper. In this case, draw a large basket and put all the newly glued produce in it to make a nice picture.

 

My son will be three years old in less than a month. Most of his buddies are already in preschool or are starting preschool this fall. Supposedly, going to preschool can help the child’s social development and teach them colors, numbers, letters and some basic reading and writing. Preschool can also help with learning arts and crafts, since there is a lot of coloring and working with play dough going on.

I don’t have anything against preschool, especially if you have an only child, who is beginning to get bored at home. Or, if you want  a little break from your kid to do yoga, hair and nails. Every Mom deserves some free time!

However, I noticed that many of my friends had second babies by the time their first ones turned two or three years old. This way, they can send the oldest to preschool and spend uninterrupted time at home with the youngest, so that the youngest feels as special as the oldest felt, when they were a baby. This sounds logical. Unfortunately, this thinking appears to be against nature.

The second child was not meant to get the same attention and one-on-one time as the first one. This is why they were born second. They were meant to have an older sibling to learn from (something the first one didn’t have.) If you send your older child to preschool and play at home with the little one, you are creating an artificial environment for both. You are robbing the younger one from hours of learning from the older one and you are not letting the older one learn how to lovingly share. Children learn from each other. They also learn to adjust to the new family structure. The older one needs to understand that the younger one is here to stay and the younger one needs to learn that the older one needs his or her time with Mommy, too.

This is where “at home preschool” comes in. I teach my older kid numbers and art and letters, while my 8.5 months old twins try to eat our crayons and I think it’s the best setup, because it minimizes any jealousy or sibling rivalry there may be. My oldest learns about socialization right in our living room and my youngest twins learn how to build castles and read books. A kid who comes home from preschool wants his or her Mommy. The little baby wants his or her mommy all the time, and this is a problem for both. This is where the older one can get aggressive or whiny. If the older one stays home, both him/her and their little sibling learn to lovingly co-exist with the limited amount of  “Mommy-time.”

The problem of socialization with the kids outside of family can be easily solved, as well. You can join  a local mommy group on meetup.com, you can go to playgrounds, you can enroll your child in various classes and activities. You can organize your own playgroup, where you and five other mommies agree to meet at a specific time in a specific place once a week. I know many will disagree with my view, but I believe if a woman is a stay at home mother, she should stay home with ALL of her children, not just some. What do you think?

 

Healing Cream

With a complete overabundance of “natural treatments” available on the market, it’s very hard to tell which ones work and which ones don’t. A lot of herbal creams do not have the herbs, listed as ingredients, in high enough concentration, to make a difference. Coyote’s Natural Medicine products are as pure as they can get. They are made with loving care from pure organic herbs and this is why they work like magic. I have been using them myself and advertising them to all of my friends ( without being paid for it.) These natural remedies are made form organic herbs that my midwife and her husband grow in their beautiful garden in Florida. Their Coyote’s Natural Medicine line offers  baby products, ointments, vitamins and more. Their “healing cream” is probably my favorite product and I believe everyone should have a jar. I used it post-partum and it helped my sore bottom like the best anesthetic. I also used it on my kids’ bruises, burns and cuts.

In an attempt to perfect the knowledge of a Russian alphabet in my (now perfectly) bilingual almost-three year old, I came up with this game:

Firstly, we cut letter shapes out of colorful paper. If your child is a toddler, you will probably need to hold his/her scissors, while they are cutting. Make sure the scissors are toddler-safe. Then, we move the letters into groups, which we sort by color. This way, we end up with a pile of green letters, a pile of blue letters, a pile of yellow ones, etc… Then we make words, putting the letters from each pile together.

Lets take our yellow pile, for example. Lemon is yellow. Squash can be yellow.  So, using this logic, we take our yellow letters and spell the names of yellow objects. Then, we move to the red pile and spell words, like “strawberry,” or “tomato.”

Finally, we group our words together. We move all of the “fruit” words into a group and we move all the “vegetable” words into another group. Someties, we take this one step further and “make a salad” or a “soup.” We think about the ingredients for the dish and move the names of those ingredients together on the table.

Since toddlers are notorious for having short attention spans, this game can extend over three hours. We make some letters, we play with the trucks, we make some words, we play with our brother and sister, we make some more words, we throw a little tantrum. 🙂 This game teaches fine motor skills, color recognition, shape recognition, letter recognition, object recognition and conceptual thinking.

When we are done, we put all of our letters in a box, so that we can continue playing this or a different letter game later.

 

 

This post a reprint of a post by AnneMarie Colbin. The author suggests the following tips for  a healthy school year. I would take this one step further and recommend these steps year-round for happy and healthy children. Annemarie has been on the forefront of educating people on how to eat healthily through her books, articles and seminars.

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Here are my four top tips for helping your children to stay healthy and avoid illnesses in the new school year. The foods that make kids the sickest are sugar and dairy.

 

 

1. Avoid dairy.

If you can possibly raise them without milk products, you will prevent the most common mucus conditions, especially colds and ear infections. Milk is a great mucus producer; bacteria love living in it, and casein, the protein in milk, is commonly used in laboratories to set up bacterial cultures. Cheese is just as much of a problem, and yogurt is little better. And it’s not because of the fat – in fact, butter does not bring on infections, according to my observations – it is the protein and the calcium, which in cow’s milk are intended to help baby cows become big cows (or steer), and are excessive for humans.

 

2. Don’t reward them with sugar.

If you can avoid giving your kids sugared foods – including sugared breakfast cereals, cookies, cake, candy, and ice cream – you will allow their immune systems to do a better job of keeping them healthy. Sugar is known to depress the immune system, and what is worse, it is really addictive. According to a recent study at the University of Bordeaux, France, it appears to be more addictive than cocaine. I know that we tend to reward the children with sweet goodies, but that habit is perhaps best reconsidered – crayons, balloons, comic books or nuts and raisins might be a better idea for rewards.

 

3. Give them lots of protein.

To keep the kids healthy, they also need to eat sufficient protein (some in each meal, such as fish, chicken, meats, or beans and legumes), with lots of vegetables both cooked and raw, as well as good quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter). See my post on protein breakfasts for more advice. 4. Make sure they get plenty of rest Most importantly, they need enough sleep and rest, which will allow their bodies and their brains to recuperate and restore, as well as grow. Lack of sleep is one of the major causes of stress and illness. So there you have it: feed them well, keep them off the ice cream and sweets, and make sure they sleep enough, and they will avoid many illnesses.

 

4.  Make sure they get plenty of rest

Most importantly, they need enough sleep and rest, which will allow their bodies and their brains to recuperate and restore, as well as grow.  Lack of sleep is one of the major causes of stress and illness.

So there you have it:  feed them well, keep them off the ice cream and sweets, and make sure they sleep enough, and they will avoid many illnesses.

This breakfast is  sweet, delicious , easy to make and also works as an afternoon snack. You can substitute olive oil for butter or coconut oil, if desired. The crepes are usually well-received by kids who like sweets. If fruit salad is not your thing, consider filling the crepes with two-three sliced bananas and maybe a couple of tablespoons of nut butter.

Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain, which is rich in iron, b-vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber. Buckwheat flour can be purchased in any health-food store.

 

 

   Ingredients (for 6 crepes):

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbsp quinoa or almond flour
  • 1 large egg or chia
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt

Whisk the water, he olive oil, and egg together and then mix in the dry ingredients.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Heat a pan and melt some olive oil (or butter). Once the pan is  heated, pour some batter in and rotate the pan to get the batter thin and smooth. Return the pan to heat for a couple of minutes until the top is hard.  Flip the crepe over.

Ingredients for Fruit Salad:

2 bananas, sliced

1 apple or pear, chopped

4 strawberries, sliced

1 kiwi, sliced

1/2 cup Orange juice

Mix the fruits together and sprinkle the juice on top.

 

Fill the crepes with the fruit salad and serve.

 

My eight months-old twin babies are eating real food. Not the stuff that comes from jars and costs 99 cents per 1/4 cup-size portion. I am not a pediatrician, I am a mother and a nutritionist, so take my advice accordingly, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to feed your children healthy, nutritious whole foods from the time they are about 6 months old.

 

Firstly, you need to change the way your family eats. I know, easier said than done. Keep in mind, whatever you eat is exactly what your kids are eventually  going to end up eating, so the occassional pizza or the French fries, or the “hidden” chocolate bar or a gallon of ice cream: they will find it and eat it, no matter how hard you are trying to never take them to a fast food restaurant or feed them a raw diet of carrots and broccoli.

So, the first step to the optimal baby nutrition is optimal family nutrition.

Grains, veggies, some organic meats, fresh fruits, nuts and seeds…. You know, the real stuff.  Not cheerios, pasta, bread pieces and weird baby snacks that cost $5 per handful. If you have an organic sweet potato lying around, think twice about buying the processed baby food jar full of sweet potatoes. First of all, one sweet potato yields about three-four jars of baby food. So, you are spending A LOT less. Second, you can make fresh food, instead of feeding your baby something canned, that could be three months old. Think of energy of that jarred food that’s eventually going to become your child’s thoughts. Would you personally eat all of your food from a jar? Than why do you think your baby likes it any more than you do?

If you fear bacteria in homemade food, use boiling water in cleaning any utensils that have to do with baby food. Rinse produce with boiling water, as well. People have fed their babies homemade food for generations and humanity is still here. Jarred food is a relatively new invention and we don’t have enough long-term studies to see its consequences on human development.

So far, my babies have tried: carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, broccoli, pears, butternut squash, cauliflower, cucumbers, avocado, quinoa and buckwheat. Some veggies have been  cooked and some were given raw, to preserve naturally present enzymes. When I cook grains for us, I always leave a bit for the babies. I don’t buy the “special” baby hot cereals, because it’s a waste of money. I don’t feed my babies the empty-calorie rice cereal. Some foods need to be cooked and mashed and some things (like bananas or avocado) only need a fork and three seconds of your time to be made into nutritious baby foods.

You don’t need a fancy food processor to mash up the baby foods: I have a 15$  small blender from my local pharmacy and it works just fine. I don’t spend a lot of time on ideas for baby dinners: I just take the foods we eat as a family and mash up a small portion of them for the babies.

My babies also snack on unprocessed foods. The Cheerio-eating babies are an interesting modern phenomenon: why give your child processed food that costs  a lot? Make buckwheat, put it on the tray in front of them and let them pick at it. Let them nibble on cucumber slices. Let them pick up and eat a banana. Let them pick up avocado slices. Blueberries work, too. A whole carrot or quartered apples are excellent for taking to restaurants, because they tend to occupy babies well, in addition to providing excellent nutrition. My children eat quartered apples daily from eight months old on. Giving your baby cooked pasta to pick at, is, essentially, giving your baby processed food. Try a chopped cooked carrot or some cooked broccoli florets, instead. Green peas are wonderful baby food, too.

There is an interesting method of giving your baby fresh whole foods as their first solids. It’s called Baby-Led Weaning.  I haven’t tried it, but heard many good things about it.  For example, giving your baby a cooked whole carrot, instead of a pureed one, to get them accustomed to table foods faster, is a baby-led weaning technique.

Another problem with commercially purchased purees is their texture. It is way too smooth. Babies generally don’t choke if there is a tiny bit of texture in their food. They do choke if you jam too much of it in their mouths. I am all for chopping fruits finely with a knife, instead of fruit purees, once the baby is past the first “intro to solids” page. Babies used to texture of raw foods, don’t cringe at salads later.

I am also for natural food combining. If you look at baby food jars at your local supermarket, everything is made to be sweet. Combos, such as green beans with apples are normal in jarred food world. Would you eat green beans with apples at your family’s table? Unlikely. Babies tend to do better as far as not becoming picky eaters, when they are introduced to non-sweet solids first. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans : these foods are all great as first solids. Then, trying to stuff your baby full of banana would be a piece of cake.

Eventually, as your family gathers up for a healthy dinner, your baby will be a welcome participant, as he or she would have some of your mashed up grains, veggies, meats or casseroles. Your baby would be part of your family and not an alien, requiring a whole cupboard full of weird food that costs a lot.

 

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