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Make Your Picky Eater an Adventurous Eater

8 Apr

By Deb Hurowitz

Being a parent is hard. So is being a kid. I’m here to make it easier for you both.

Kids are funny. One day, they love a food. The next? They won’t go near it. As parents, this can be maddening!

This week, I will address a couple of issues for toddlers and older:

  • When your child refuses all but a few select foods.
  • Ideas on how to grow your child as an adventurous eater.

You swear, when pregnant, that you won’t have a kid who only eats chicken nuggets or fish sticks and French fries. Or that they will eat more than carrot sticks as a vegetable.

You are certain your child will happily eat broccoli, steak, soups any any of the other things that you and your partner enjoy.

You hope that they will learn to love all the types of foods that you enjoy. You may plan to serve what is being served, and if they don’t want it, there will be another meal in a few hours.

And for some families, and some kids, this works out.

But for the majority? Your kids have their own palates and ideas about what makes a healthy plate.

If your child wants to eat the same things over and over again, consider if it has any nutritional value. If it does create a balanced plate, then try to let them. You can add the caveat that there will be other foods, and an expectation that they will try them. You can define the parameters that work in your family:

  • Shark bites.
  • Three tastes before declining.
  • One bite of each new item on the plate before you can have seconds of the preferred foods.

Most children will come around to trying new foods. Eventually.

It takes patience and perseverance, and not making a fuss if they claim they don’t like it.

Science says that it can take more than a dozen exposures to a food before someone is willing to eat it.

I recently learned that children’s taste buds are more sensitive than adults, which makes it easier to understand why they stick to the known. It also clarifies why certain flavors that you may enjoy cause them to make terrible faces!

Put the food on the plate. Make sure they know that your expectation is that they taste it. But once they do, let them decide whether to finish the bites you put on their plate. One of these days, they may ask for more.

So now your children have a variety of foods. Sort of. They eat pasta (maybe even ravioli or tortellini), but not sauce. They eat chicken fingers, but not plain chicken. They eat carrots, cucumber and red pepper, but not a salad.

As a parent, this may be fine with you. You may not mind making separate meals or separating ingredients. But you may want to help your child become a more adventurous eater.

I am a huge proponent of asking your kids to help in the kitchen. It may be slower or messier than if you do it yourself. However, kids (and adults) are more likely to try foods that they have had a hand in creating. Be willing to let them taste the ingredients as they go in. Let them experience a sour lemon, bitter unsweetened chocolate or salty soy sauce.

In my family, and now in friends’ and clients’ homes, we have found that cooking shows have encouraged children to try new things. Similar to letting them play with food in the kitchen, seeing master chefs play with food – and admitting that they may have never tasted or even seen some of the ingredients – can be extremely motivating for some children. Watch the show together. Talk about how they create different flavors and textures with the same ingredients. And then get in the kitchen and let your kids create.

  • Exposure to different foods.
  • Exposure to how foods can be prepared.
  • Being the sous chef (as a toddler, or young child) and eventually the chef.

All of these will help create a more adventurous eater over time.

Please keep in mind that I am not addressing families that are dealing with allergies, or sensitivities, or other complex food issues. If you would like to talk about more specific situations, please contact me directly at debhurowitz@yahoo.com, or leave a comment below.

Deb Hurowitz holds a Master of Social Work (MSW) from Boston College. She is also a mom to two wonderful children who like to show her that no matter how much she knows professionally, being a mom is still hard work! You can learn more about her practice and current groups at http://mommybutstillme.com.

 

 

Learning to Self-Feed

19 Mar

By Deb Hurowitz

Being a parent is hard. So is being a kid. I’m here to make it easier for you both. Today I would like to start with a topic that affects every parent, across a spectrum of ages, stages and needs: food and eating.

This is such a broad topic, it will take several posts to even begin to address it, but I will break it down into a few pieces:

  • What you can expect from a child learning to self-feed.
  • When your child refuses all but a few select foods.
  • Ideas on how to grow your child as an adventurous eater.
  • How to talk to your child about food and his body, as well as how you talk about food and your own body.

Learning to Self-Feed

When parents have a toddler who is learning to self-feed, they address it in different ways. Some parents are uninhibited and allow their child full access as soon as they start chewing, while others spoon feed as long as possible. Some parents offer their child a wide variety of tastes and textures, while others find something their child likes and serve variations of that food. Some parents are extremely cautious, while others allow their child to try anything that the rest of the family enjoys.

While there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about this, here are a few things to consider:

  • Most children will eventually need to learn to use a fork, spoon and (gasp!) even a knife. Allowing them to practice is going to be a messy proposition at any age, but a three- or four-year-old who has always been spoon fed will still have to get through that phase
  • New eaters introduced to a broad variety of flavors and textures won’t like everything, but in many circumstances they will be more likely to continue to try new and different foods. They may, however, go through a phase where they are as picky as a child who did not have that exposure
  • New eaters, often, are finicky. They may love a particular food for weeks and then refuse to eat it. I don’t know a parent who isn’t confounded and frustrated by this, but just keep offering the once-loved food along with new ones. They will likely come back to it.
  • Part of introducing foods has nothing to do with nutrition. It is an opportunity for your child to explore her world, and how she has control over her body and the items around her.

A client recently asked me why her son would put something in his mouth, squish it around, spit it out and then repeat the process. The simple answer is that he is figuring out what do with his mouth, his throat and his hands, as well as explore tastes and textures and how they change.

In the end, your child will make messes. And more messes. Messes because she is exploring the texture, or the taste, or her newfound ability to fling a spoonful of yogurt across a room. Messes because he loves the taste and is excited. Messes because she doesn’t like it and let the partially chewed item dribble out of her mouth.

And you’ll be tired of cleaning up the messes (and the kitchen) with emotions that run from frustrated, to annoyed, to resigned, to finally proud and excited. Your child will learn to get the food from point A to point B. He’ll learn how to hold a spoon and how to keep the food inside his mouth. And he’ll do this all without a full scale wipe-down … eventually.

 

Deb Hurowitz holds a Master of Social Work (MSW) from Boston College. She is also a mom to two wonderful children who like to show her that no matter how much she knows professionally, being a mom is still hard work!

Hurowitz provides support to groups, families, couples and children, in person, online and by phone. You can learn more about her practice and current groups at http://mommybutstillme.com or write her directly at debhurowitz@yahoo.com.

 

 

Valentine’s Day Craft: Paper Hug

24 Jan

Valentines Day Craft: Paper HugBy Cheryl Crosby

Each Valentine’s Day, my daughters send a Valentine’s craft to family members. This heart craft with extended “hug” arms might be one of my favorites (they were 2 and under 1 for this). What I love about this project is that there are unlimited possibilities to how you design it, what you write in the center and what you design it with. Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need for this paper hug:
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Choosing a Preschool

26 Nov

If you are the parent of a young child, ‘tis the season to be preschool “shopping.” With so many options to choose from, it’s important to identify your family’s preferences and priorities at the outset. As a first step, ask yourself, do I need:

  • A full- or half-day program?
  • The option of extended days?
  • A five day program or only one or two days of care?
  • A play-based program, one that is more structured and curriculum-based, or something in between?

While each preschool’s approach and schedule may vary, it’s essential that any center you consider is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Equally important, be sure to determine each teacher’s qualifications, their education, background and how long they have been associated with the program.

But remember, nothing you can ask will tell you more than seeing, first hand, the interactions between teachers and children. Look around; are the children busy, happy, engaged and relating to one other? Is the teacher getting down to the child’s eye level to speak with him/her? Are the facilities clean, well-lit and organized? Are outdoor activities built into the schedule? Is it a warm and caring environment?

Stories, arts and crafts, words and numbers should be part of the preschool day. But children should also have ample time to play. This is their “work.” Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, cooperate, and take turns. Through play children can be creative, observe how things work and develop language skills. It can also be a time of self-discovery and for building self-confidence.

There are many types of preschools that serve a variety of children and family needs. A quality preschool should focus on the development of the whole child: cognitive, social, emotional, and physical. There should be activities, toys and games that help the child strengthen each of these skills every day.

Remember, YOU have to feel comfortable with the school, its philosophy, rules, philosophy, size and location. Trust your instincts. When it comes to choosing a preschool, parents know best.

 

By Kathleen Rudnicki, M.Ed., director of the Rockwell Child Study Center; Education Faculty at Lasell College

Surprising Lessons from Your Child at Play

12 Nov

Did you know your toddler is a scientist?

As a science educator and a mother of an eight-year-old, I am continually surprised by how children — particularly my own daughter Sophie — explore and think about the world.

I see learning everyday where I work at the Museum of Science, Boston. In our Discovery Center, children and their grownups engage in hands-on activities that encourage learning through play. From pretending to be a honeybee to assembling a skeleton, children explore science in a lively, interactive environment. I also get a glimpse of the inner workings of children’s minds through our Living Laboratory® program, where scientists from local research institutions investigate how children think as they play a game, try out a new toy or listen to stories. These researchers are excited to talk with parents about how our children learn and I’ve learned a lot from them too.

For example, at not quite two years old, Sophie could “count” out loud up to 10. Genius, right? As it turns out, not so much. A researcher from Harvard taught me a simple game that provides a better sense of a child’s grasp of numbers. I played this game with Sophie and still introduce it to the toddlers I meet in the exhibit.

When I asked Sophie, “Can you show me one crayon?” from a pile of crayons, she handed me one. But when I asked her to show me two, she gave me a fistful. A few months later, she could show me “one” and “two,” but I’d still get a fistful for “three” and higher numbers. This little game made her learning visible to me. If you play it at home from the time your child is about 18 months until almost four years old, you can see how your child’s understanding of numbers evolves.

Next, a toddler’s first scientific experiments involve trying to find out if the same thing always happens in the same situation. As a toddler, Sophie loved to put a ball on a ramp maze and watch it go back and forth. Once it reached the bottom, she would pick up the ball and roll it down the ramp again and again. She would play at this exhibit for long periods of time because she was trying to confirm if the results would be the same every time she placed the ball at the top of the ramp. This kind of repetition can be a little tedious for parents asked to sing the teapot song a hundred times, but for toddlers it’s essential to learning how the world works.

Another way I’ve come to better understand Sophie’s learning is through storytelling. Parents may wonder if their children can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary in books or on TV. When Sophie was a preschooler, she participated in a study during which a researcher from Boston University showed her photos of a real person dressed as Prince Charming and the real Prince William, and then told her stories about them. Sophie knew who was real and who was pretend because she recognized that “real princes don’t rescue people from monsters and dragons.” The study illustrated that the way you talk about a character helps your child separate reality from fantasy. More recently, the MIT Media Lab has been doing research to determine what’s different when kids read with a parent, compared to “reading” with a robot. Early results? Parents are more effective than a machine.

Society so often focuses on making kids smarter or on “raising the perfect child.” Parents don’t always realize that their four-year-old doesn’t yet have the cognitive abilities of a seven-year-old. By observing and talking with Sophie as she played, I learned a great deal about how she thinks, even before she could talk. The takeaway: Don’t worry if your child can’t do what older kids do. He or she is doing wonderfully normal and amazing things every day – and you do a lot to help!

For activities that can make your child’s learning visible visit: http://livinglab.org/research. For science activities for toddlers and preschoolers visit: http://www.mos.org/discoverycenter.

 

Becki Kipling is Sophie’s mom and program manager of the Museum of Science’s Discovery Center. Its Living Laboratory has become a national initiative with similar programs at 14 science centers and children’s museums in North America.

 

Top Gifts for Giving

24 Oct

For 23 years, the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) has been the go-to source for parents who are looking for great gifts for the holidays. An independent panel of experts, parents and children carefully tested and played with hundreds of submissions and honored the products featured in this section with gold awards.

By Ellen Metrick, Ranny Levy, Michael Berick, Helen Foster James, Ed.D. and Dr. Virginia Loh Hagan

Enter to win a selection of NAPPA winners at Facebook.com/NAPPAawards.

 

 

Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers to Teens

9 Sep

Age-Appropriate Chores

Chores help your child learn responsibility.

Running a family household is a 24-7 job. From soccer practice to groceries to bills, it seems as if the to-do list will never end. Even though the list gets longer as your family grows, your children are also able to help out more around the house as they get older. But how do you know if your children are old enough for particular chores? While this mostly rests in your children’s own abilities and maturity levels, the following list outlines age appropriate chores for your little ones:

Toddler (Ages 2-3)

  • Put away toys
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Put clothes in the dirty clothes hamper
  • Put clothes away
  • Make bed

Preschooler (Ages 4-5)

  • All previous chores
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Take out recycling
  • Set and clear the table
  • Clear table
  • Water plants
  • Feed pets

Early Elementary (Ages 6-8)

  • All previous chores
  • Meal Prep (wash produce, find ingredients, simple cutting)
  • Sweep
  • Vacuum
  • Collect garbage
  • Get Mail
  • Rake leaves

Elementary (Ages 9 -11)

  • All previous chores
  • Make simple meals
  • Wash/Dry clothes
  • Mop floors

Middle School (Ages 12-14)

  • All previous chores
  • Make full meals
  • Mow the lawn
  • Supervise younger children’s chores

 

Written by Leanne Tremblay