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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.

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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?

I was browsing through some blogs last night and stumbled upon a post about a really delicious, easy and healthy bean spread. Oh,and the spread is supposed to be placed on a sandwich with some kale on top. I was hooked. First of all, I am all about quick and easy, healthy cooking. Secondly, I could feed this spread to my twin babies, who’d love a little extra protein, so that they can finally grow up and take their toys back from their big brother. Thirdly, I could feed the kale to my oldest, who thinks that eating kale makes you grow big enough to drive a real car ( ok, I taught him that.)

I tripled the bean spread recipe and we had the leftovers for lunch today. The babies had the spread with some celery sticks and avocado chunks and we had  baked potatoes with bean spread, avocado , kale and chives. 

After playing with the  original recipe a bit, here’s the spread and the sandwich:

 

 

Rustic White Bean Spread

  • 1 can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 heaping cup of cooked beans)
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 1 Tbs water (or more for desired consistency)
  • 2Tbs olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process everything until smooth.

 Kale

 Heat a bit of olive oil and water in a frying pan. Add a small garlic clove, minced, stirring a minute until fragrant. Add 1-2 tbsp. of Bragg’s amino acid sauce. Toss in a couple handfuls of kale (stems removed, chopped). Sautee until wilted. Add a few drops of tobasco, if desired.

Sandwich

 Place a generous dollop of warmed white bean spread over two pieces of toast. Top with cooked kale. Squeeze a splash of lemon over everything and put a slice of lemon on top (optional). I also put a tomato slice on top.

 

Since we have three little kids, it’s hard to go out in the evening. So, I learned to make some gourmet foods at home. Flatbread is one of those foods. The best part about this recipe ( taken from here) is that the bread is easy to make and is gluten-free. Then, you can put whatever you want on top and tell the kids it’s pizza. I like bell peppers, sundried tomato spread, portobello mushrooms, chunks of tofu, onions, tomatoes, zucchinis to top my flatbread…I sometimes put a bit of goat cheese on top and sometimes I forego the cheese altogether and the dish still tastes amazing. The recipe here is a suggestion. Make the basic flatbread and put whatever you want on top. After the bread is made, don’t forget to top it off with arugula leaves, some salt and olive oil.

I also like to quintuple this recipe and freeze the unused portions in ziploc bags. Whenever I need dinner, I thaw some flatbread dough, roll it out and put something on top. Then I bake the flatbread for 10-20 minutes and dinner is ready!

note: you can use 1 egg instead of the psyllium husk

Flatbread:

– 1 cup quinoa flour

-1/2 -1 tsp salt

-1 tbls psyllium husk

-3/4 cup (2 dl) water

Preheat oven to 200 Celsius (400 F).

Mix the salt, psyllium husk and flour together, add the water gradually so that it resembles a thick porridge, wait for a couple of minutes and then spread the batter on to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Topping

4 tbsp. pesto sauce

1 bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, thinly sliced

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tomato, thinly sliced

1/3 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled

Arugula leaves, salt, pepper,olive oil

Spread the pesto sauce on top of the flatbread and put all of the veggies on top of the sauce.sprinkle some goat cheese over the veggies and bake at 425 degrees F for 10-15minutes. Take out of the oven and generously put arugula leaves on top. Put salt and pepper to taste.

Hummus is a chickpea-sesame dip that works really well on a  sandwich or with veggies.  It is also a good source of  vegetarian protein and fiber. It is rich in monounsaturated fat,  if  made with olive oil.  Hummus also contains calcium, iron,  magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and a few other trace minerals. It  contains a little of the B vitamins, including a good  amount of folic acid and a little vitamin A.

Most people buy hummus in the store and get a bunch of preservatives and artificial ingredients with their chickpea dip. I  make my hummus myself, since I spent quite a few years in Israel, where hummus is eaten every day and the standards for hummus are quite high.  Very few recipes are as easy as the homemade hummus one.

My hummus can be fed to babies, because its protein will help them grow and all of its ingredients are completely natural.  Older children love dipping veggie sticks and crackers into the hummus. You can cook your chickpeas or use canned ones, if pressed for time. You can add things to hummus to keep the dip new and exciting every day: adding whole chickpeas to the finished hummus gives it an interesting texture, cilantro or parsley or chives or garlic or even curry or paprika or pesto sauce change its flavor. Mashed carrots or sweet potatoes add sweetness, while avocado makes it more subtle-tasting. You can even be as adventurous as I am sometimes, making this hummus into a completely different dish altogether, using white beans, instead of chickpeas.

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas

1/3 cup tahini paste

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4- 1/3 cup of olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Process everything in a blender until smooth and taste. Some people like their hummus to have a more pronounced sesame flavor (add tahini) and some want its consistency to be more liquid ( add 1/4 cup warm water.) Add the spices I mentioned above if you feel like it and serve on a plate with some more olive oil, poured on top (but not mixed in.) You can also serve it with a pinch of paprika on top. Hummus can stay fresh in the fridge for about 4 days.

 

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?

 

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.

………………..

 

 

 

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.

Mr. Big Baby sees cars everywhere. He tries to make every art project we do about vehicles. If we sit down to draw a    flower, he wants to draw a small flower next to a big car.  At almost three years old he already knows every model and every  make of every car.  But he doesn’t know how to write numbers well.

Here’s a little system I came up with to help my son memorize his numbers:

Every day, we create a large number on a piece of paper with an object that this number resembles. For example, one is a tree with a branch, two is a swan, three is a snake, four is a house. Then, we draw cars next to the numbers. If number one is a tree, then we draw a parked car next to it, if number six is a purse, we draw a car around it, to show that the purse is left in the car. To create the numbers and the objects, we use painting, drawing, glitter, cutting and pasting: anything my son feels like at the moment. The key here is to make learning the number fun for the kid. This project teaches kids to think creatively, to use their imagination, to paint, draw, cut and paste and use play dough. Most importantly, after you spent thirty minutes on creating a number eight that looks like a lady, you are not likely to forget number eight.

Number seven is my son’s favorite: We made a chin-up bar out of play dough and drew a figure of a boy on it. Then we took my son’s picture, cut his face out and pasted the face on the boy’s figure. And then my babies tried to eat the play dough, but it’s a whole other story!

Eat This And Live For Kids by Don Colbert and Joseph A. Cannizzaro is a terrific book for parents and kids about making smart and healthy choices in food and exercise. Everything from prenatal health and infant nutrition to nutritional  needs of teens and young adults is presented in an easy-to read and understand format with lots of colorful illustrations. The book stresses the importance of exercise, explains what to buy at the grocery store and gives easy and healthy meal ideas both for staying in and going out. There is also a chapter on special diets.

Dr. Cannizzaro is my kids’ pediatrician and my family trusts his opinion wholeheartedly. It was a pleasure to read his wonderful book, while waiting for our appointment.

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