Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mother's Day Craft That's Not a Flower or a Picture Frame

In an effort to add to the classics, here's a new Mother's Day Craft! Make Mom this cute candy dish to put her keys, change, jewelry, cell phone, pacifiers - whatever trinket she can't keep track of!

What You Need:
for the paper mache' bowl: a few sheets of newspaper, flour, water, school/craft glue, small plastic bowl (small plastic takeout containers work well), large bowl, safety scissors

to construct: a sheet of felt,a piece of thick ribbon, paint/markers, decorations

What to Do:
Make the paper mache a day or two a head of time to allow it enough time to harden before decorating.

Cut the newspaper into strips and set aside. Then combine 1/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water in a large bowl. Then add a few squirts of school glue. This will help make your bowl sturdy, however if you have very little ones or are concerned about your kid eating glue, then leave out this step. The bowl will come out just fine.

Turn the small bowl over, then help your child dip the newspaper strips into the flour-water mixture and cover the bottom of the bowl as if you were making a cast. make sure you cover the bottom completely, if the sides of your bowl are really deep you can stop at whatever you think is a good height for your dish.

Once the bowl is covered, run your finger over it to smooth out the edges as best you can and squeeze out some of the extra water. Let it sit and dry - it may take a few hours to a few days. (If you are pressed for time, you can use a blow dryer to hurry it along.)

After it is dry, carefully separate the paper cast dish from the small bowl. Trim down any uneven edges. Glue felt inside the dish to make a nice, scratch free surface for mom's things. Then let kids decorate the outside of the dish with paint, buttons, stickers, etc. When it is all decorated, use a piece of thick ribbon to cover the top edge and create a more polished look.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

4 Things Your Kids Will Do That You Shouldn't Take Personally

Not everything your kid does is a poor reflection on you. Here are four things that every child does that you shouldn't pull your hair out over.
  1. Ignore You: From a toddler mesmerized by Mickey Mouse or a teenager not picking up her cell phone, kids are going to ignore their parents. The reasons will vary, but every child will do it - at some point. Your best course of action is not to scold or chastise too much; this way, your words will hold more weight when you do talk.
  2. Break Things: Just like you shouldn't loan out anything you'd be upset not to get back, don't give your kids anything that you'd be mad at them for breaking; because cell phones end up in toilets, lamps end up in pieces, earrings gets lost and eventually cars end up backing over mailboxes. Childhood is messy!
  3. Experiment: Kids are curious and they want to learn about the world around them. As they get older this desire doesn't die, it develops into a need to participate in their world. So whether it's an infant sticking everything into his mouth, a pre-schooler trying to climb a drain pipe, a tween dealing with peer pressure, or a 15 year-old wondering about sex -protect them from what you can. Teach them to know all the facts and to weigh the consequences before making decisions so you can trust them to use their better judgment when you're not around.
  4. Grow Up: Every parent knows that the moments of childhood are fleeting. The years go so fast and before you know it that giggly 6 year old is 16 and asking you if he can go tour colleges 1000 miles away - without you!! And no matter what you do, how hard you wish, it is going to happen. Your baby will grow up. Trying to fight it will only cause tension between you.
    The time will pass whether you are on good terms with your child or bad, so let the little things go, appreciate your kids for who they are, and let them grow in love and laughter. Enjoy each stage of their lives because when you try to keep them in the past, you miss out on their present!

Stress-free Sleep Guide

Getting your kids to bed can be a task and a half, but believe it or not bedtime can be blissful. The first step to a stress-free bedtime is to make sure your child is tired. No matter how snooze worthy your routine is, if he's not tired, your son's just going to lay in the dark, calling your name every five minutes. So fill his day with activities that exercise both his mind and body. At the end of the day, talk to him about everything he's done; it'll help remind his body just how busy he's been all day. If you know what's on the agenda, preview what he'll be doing the next day; this will help his brain recognize that he needs to rest up.

Step two is the gradual wind-down. Do you know how tired you have to be in order to just lay down and fall asleep? Nearly exhausted! Unless your daughter is studying for the SATs and training for a marathon, she's going to need a bedtime routine to help her ease into sleep. If she is exhausted -i.e. running in circles one minute and sleep under the dining room table the next- she's probably not getting enough sleep! In either case you need to establish a bedtime routine that will help calm her down and help her prepare her mind and body for bed.

Example: How to get your 4 year old to sleep before 9:30pm

6pm: Clean up! Put away the toys, especially anything that makes noise or flashes (start limiting the stimulation after this point - no more outside or video games) then wash hands and get ready for dinner.

6:15pm: Dinner Time! Family discussion about the day and a preview of what everyone will be doing tomorrow.

7:00pm :Wind Down: the last 1/2 hour of mellow age appropriate TV (nothing that will rile them back up) or try complex toy play like Lego's and then clean up.

7:30pm: Bath Time: wash the day away

8:00pm: Simple Play Time: a puzzle, a coloring book, etc. simple stationary toys that are easy to put away, quiet, and don't require lots of moving around.

8:20pm: Story time: Settle in for some family reading.

8:40pm: Tuck in and lights out

You may be checking in on your little one for awhile but hopefully by 9:30pm she's out for the count.

*NOTE: Times are just guides don't stress if it takes 45 minutes to get your little one to help clean up.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fruit Chart

Get your child counting with this easy survey and chart!

What You Need: small poster board or piece of construction paper, ruler, crayons/markers, friends & family

What to Do: Use the ruler to help draw columns & rows on the poster board. Remember to make sure the first column is wider than the rest. Starting with the second column, fill in the first row with pictures, or names of different fruits (Ex. Banana, Apple, Orange, Plum, Watermelon, Grapes).

In the next row, write your name (Mom) in the first column and then fill in the chart. For each fruit write either a smiley face or a frowning face to show whether you like the fruit or not. Explain, 'I don't like bananas, so we put a frown in this box. But I do like watermelon, so here we put a smile!' After your row is done, fill in a row for you child.

Next ask friends and family, write in their names then have your child ask 'Do you like..." help them fill in the correct face in the boxes. Once the chart is full or you run out of people to ask, review the chart with your child. Make observations; 'Mommy's the only one that doesn't like bananas.','Yaya likes all the fruits and Papa only likes bananas." "You and Daddy both don't like oranges."

Count how many people like each fruit, how many fruits each person likes, etc. Ask questions like, Which fruit do most people like? Which fruit do fewest people like? How many people like more that 2 fruits?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pepper Steak

A quick meal for any night of the week that's not chicken.... and minimal dishes!

1 - steak cut into strips
2- bell peppers cut into strips
1- medium onion cut into strips
1/2 can of beef broth
2 tbsps of soy sauce
1 tbsp of cornstarch
garlic powder

Sprinkle steak strips with garlic powder, cornstarch and ginger and cook in a skillet over medium heat until brown. Add the peppers and onions and cook a few minutes more. Stir in beef broth, and soy sauce. Mix and let cook until sauce thickens.

Serve over white rice.

Date Night? Add a splash of cooking Sherry.


Rainstick Craft

This is an easy rainy day craft for you kids. With items found in just about any house, your child can make an instrument that won't wake the neighbors.

What You Need: a cardboard tube of any size (bathroom tissue, paper towels or wrapping paper), dried rice/beans or un-popped popcorn , glue, construction or kraft paper, cocktail toothpicks (the ones with the little flags) or a piece of aluminum foil, decorations - feathers, fabric, buttons, ribbon, etc.

What to Do: Cover one end of the tube with paper making sure it wraps over the edges. Glue the paper to the tube so that nothing will fall out. Fill the tube with a handful of dried rice/beans/popcorn . You may need to experiment with the sound by tipping the tube to get the right amount.

Randomly place several toothpicks through the tube creating pegs for the rice/beans to bounce off. If you have small children or don't have cocktail toothpicks, take a piece of aluminum foil and form it into a snake or spring. Place this into the tube for the same effect.

Cover the other end of the tube, sealing it shut. Let your child decorate the tube.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alphabet Box

This activity teaches your child phonics, letters, reading and writing. It's so easy that soon your daughter will need minimal help from you and it changes day to day so that you aren't stuck in a repetitive rut.

What You Need: an empty box - any box, a shoe box, a pamper box, a small storage bin, etc; a piece of paper; index cards or small strips of paper; crayons, tape

What to Do: First you and your child need to pick a letter of the day, (go in order if your child is just learning the alphabet). Once you've picked a letter help your child write and color the letter on the piece of paper (you can also find printable letters online). Then lightly tape the letter to the box.

For Younger Children: Write out the names of several items that begin with the letter of the day. Show your child each word and help them to match it to the item. Make it interactive by letting your little one hunt for the items, but very small children can just match the words to the items. Tape on the labels and place in the box.

For Older Children: Talk about the sound the letter makes then ask your child to find things around the house that begin with the letter/sound. After he's collected a good number of items, help him to write the names of each item on a slip of paper/index card. Tape the name to the item and place it in the box.

This can be adapted so that it works for you child's temperament and attention span. If your little lady just won't sit still, make it a scavenger hunt and if you have a little Picasso
on your hands, let him draw pictures of each item. You can easily make this an all day activity by labeling the box in the morning, then go about you day as usual. When you or your child comes across an item label it and place it in the box. At the end of the day, take the items out of the box read the labels and review the letter sounds.

Homemade Drum with Sticks

My son did this craft today at the Long Island Children's Museum. It was so quick and easy and he has been playing it all afternoon. So I'm sharing it with you!

What You Need: an empty cookie tin, construction or kraft paper, glue stick, paper plate or poster board, scissors, chopsticks, 4 rubber bands, decorations/ornaments.

What to Do: Cut the construction paper into strips the width of the side of the cookie tin. Make enough strips to go all the way around the tin. Also cut the paper plate (or poster board) into a circle the size of the bottom on the cookie tin and then cut a slit to the center of the circle.

Let your child decorate the construction paper (depending on the type of decorations you are using you may want to attach the construction paper to the tin first). Your child can also color on the paper plate, try not to attach anything to this part as it might fall out of the drum.

Assemble your drum by putting the paper plate inside the cookie tin (letting the slit over lap to form a slight cone shape). This muffles some of the sound! Attach the strips of construction paper around the outside of the tin. Lastly use two rubber bands to make a ball on the tip of each chopstick.

Voila! You have a Drum!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day Activities for Every Child

Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to nature and their connection to the world around them. Trips to the Zoo or Botanical Gardens can be fun and informative, but so can visiting a local park or even laying in the grass in your yard. As long as you use the chance to connect your child to the planet, you are celebrating the spirit of the day. So don't think, because you didn't plant a tree or save a baby sea lion you didn't do your part. Here are a few activities and crafts that will help jumpstart your little conservationist.

Rain Clouds
This easy activity teaches children about rain(and snow, sleet & hail) and you don't need anything but things from around the house.

What You Need: cotton balls, a bowl, a cup, some water and paper towels to clean up

What to Do: place the cup upside down in the bowl and then fill the bowl with water (FYI: you don't have to fill it up all the way). What you have should look like a mountain coming out of a lake. Use the cotton balls as clouds to soak up the water and then rain on the 'mountain.

How to Explain it: Let them hold the dry cotton ball and describe the color, weight and texture of it. Explain how clouds drink up the water from oceans, seas and lakes (Evaporation) and let them place the cotton ball on the top of the water. Note the changes to the cotton ball, it's now darker and heavier just like a rain cloud. When the cotton ball is full hold it over the cup and watch the dips of water fall from the 'cloud' onto the 'mountain' and run back down to the 'lake' just like real rain.

Camouflage Box
This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to make it. The purpose of this activity is to teach children about different climates habitats and the animals that live there.

What You Need: a shoe box, magazines, animal figurines or cut outs, glue\tape, pipe cleaners,

What to Do: Go through magazines and clip out pictures of trees, grass, bushes, and flowers (travel or home and garden magazines work best) if you don't have magazines a crafty kid can draw trees, bushes, and make pipe cleaner vines & flowers. Place shoebox on its side and glue/tape the pictures on the inside. Once done place animal figurines inside the box (you can use animal cut outs for this as well).

How to Explain it: Talk to your child about how some animals blend in with their environment, Camouflage. Ask which animals they can see and why being a good hider would help an animal.

*Ambitious children (and parents) can either divide the box into three or use three separate boxes and create a forest habitat (green), a desert habitat (brown), and a arctic habitat (habitat). Use the library or the internet to research what animals live in each.

Weather Chart
This is a good on-going activity for spring and an excellent introduction to weather and meteorology; plus it gets you out of the house for a while each day.

What You Need: a piece of paper or poster board, markers or crayons, and weather related stickers (optional)

What to Do: On the paper or poster board make a chart with seven rows and three columns. In the first column write the days of the week. Each day watch the morning weather report with your child. Listen carefully to what the days forecast is and note it in the second column next to that day with either stickers, words or drawing. Later in the day, go for a nature walk, spending some time outside experiencing the weather. Note the actual weather in the third column.

How to Explain it: Explain that weathermen on TV have lots of instruments to help them predict (guess) what the weather will be like, but the only way to know, is to go outside and look. When on your walk, talk about the sun, the rain, the humidity, the heat, the wind, describe the weather conditions in detail. Once back in the house help your child fill in the "actual weather" column and compare it to what the weather report was that morning.

Coffee Filter Sun Catcher
A really, really quick and easy craft!

What You Need: a round coffee filter, markers or food coloring.

What to Do: help your child color the inner circle of the coffee filter like the earth ( it only has to be blue and green and doesn't need to actually look like the earth) then let them decorate the edges however they'd like. When dry, hang it in a window for a homemade sun catcher.

How to Explain it: Introduce your child to planets. Tell them the name of the planet we live on and that it's round and blue and green, etc.

Egg Carton Garden
An easy and fun way to get into gardening without digging up your yard.

What You Need: an egg carton, potting soil, seeds, glitter, buttons, scraps of fabric and glue

What to Do: Before planting carefully remove the top of the egg carton. Then have your child decorate the outside of the bottom of the carton. When dry, fill the cups with potting soil and then plant a few seeds in each cup. Water and place on a windowsill.

How to Explain it: Talk about recycling and reusing with your child (how instead of throwing away the egg carton you're reusing it to plant the garden). Another conversation to have is the relationship between plants and people. Plants give us food (fruits, vegetables, grains) and air. Talk about the responsibility of taking care of the seeds in the carton by watering them everyday and making sure they have sunlight, then explain that this is the same things we have to do with the planet.

Have a Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

5 Things Every Mom Should Invest In

Modern mothers are constantly bombarded with deals for devices that will make parenting easier, quicker, or safer. With everything from Mommy & Me classes to baby wipe warmers, its hard to know what things are actually worth your time and money. Here are 5 things you won't find in Babies-R-Us that every mother should invest in; where the payoff far out ways the price tag.

1) a DVR: Always falling asleep and missing the end of Grey's Anatomy? No more being a slave to your parenting schedule. Go ahead, take the time to read that extra bedtime story and then clean up all those Cheerios that have found their way under the radiator and into your shoes. Knowing that Dancing With the Stars is recording and will be waiting for you, frees up your mind and your day to focus on other things. Oh and you can record your kid's favorite shows too!

Investment: $5-$15 dollars a month depending on location and cable carrier.
Pay Off: actually knowing what's going on in the adult world and not just wondering why Kai-Lan and Dora don't play with kids of their own species.

2) a Crock-Pot: This is the most wonderful Mommy-time-saving device EVER!! You can make hundreds of different things and have a home cooked meal every night. Just dump in the ingredients in the morning and go about your day. No more 2pm stress about what you're going to make for dinner. Like the DVR, its biggest benefit is freeing up your time. It's multitasking where you don't have to do anything.

Investment: $20-$80 dollars depending on size and features.Pay Off: being able to give your family a home-cooked every night without standing in the kitchen for hours.

3) a Detachable Shower Head. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to rinse shampoo off your kids with this device. Let them play in the tub and when you're ready, soap them up and hose them down! An adjustable spray nozzle will help to make cleaning other things a breeze as well. A soft spray for wiping down a dirty play mat and a hard stream for getting dried peas from a high chair seat cover. As an added bonus, it will help you recharge quicker and more fully by massaging the day away.

Investment: $10-$40 depending on style.
Pay Off: being able to quickly clean just about anything - including your toddler.

4) a Really, Really Good Friendship. Whether or not they have kids of their own, a really good friend is priceless to a stressed out Mom. Having someone in your life that understands if you're late due to a diaper situation and doesn't care that you haven't had time to shower in two days, goes a long way in helping you keep grounded. They'll babysit your kid, listen to you
when you have a meltdown and make sure you get out of the house once in a while.

Investment: a few hours a week.
Pay Off: preserving your sanity.

5) You. The most important thing that you can invest in as a parent is yourself and yet it's the one thing that almost all mothers let go of. Keeping some sparkle of who you were before you were Mommy, helps hold on to your own identity and not just feel like the maid, chauffeur, and personal chef to the little prince. Spending some time focusing on things you love and accomplishing what you want in life will prevent you from becoming resentful, allow you to have experiences and expertise to share with your children, and help define you as something other than "mother" in their eyes.

Investment: as much as you can give without feeling like you're neglecting your family.
Pay Off: securing your identity.

Arroz Con Pollo in the Slow Cooker

This is a super simple, super quick way to make this classic Latin dish. Flavorful, delicious and kid-friendly.

one chicken thigh per person
1 small onion
2 bell peppers (green & red)
1 packet of Spanish Style yellow rice
1 packet of Sazon seasoning
1 spoonful chopped garlic
2 cans of chicken broth (2-3 cups)
(optional a spoonful each of Sofrito & Recaito you can find them in the Spanish Foods aisle)

Chop the onion, and bell peppers into small pieces. Dump everything but the rice into the slow cooker and cook until the meat is fall off the bone tender. (If you have you have smaller kids you can take out the bones or use boneless thighs.) Pour in the rice and allow it to cook absorbing up all the liquid. Once rice is cooked, stir and serve. And that's it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Letting Kids Choose

Ever wonder what's so funny to your child as she flicks the switch and gets the elephant to appear on her pop-n-see? It's not the funny sound or even the sudden appearance of the "effelant"; It's simple cause and effect. She caused the elephant to appear and that makes her happy. Children are happiest when they can exercise some control over their surroundings (think about it: you don't like being told what to do, so why should they?). Giving your child simple options and allowing him to make decisions is a great way to let them be in control of their lives - partially at least. This is a small step towards independence, gaining self confidence, learning self reliance and strengthening the parent-child bond.

I'm not recommending you let your 3 year old do whatever he wants. However, letting him choose between wearing the blue pirate shirt or the green dinosaur shirt, helps him to begin to identify what he wants and why. This simple action goes a long way in building his identity. He is also more likely to show an interest in getting dressed (which is helpful if you have a little streaker at home) if he's included in the process. He'll feel more confident, a strong sense of pride, and a smidgen of respect for you, for allowing him the freedom to choose. And don't stress things that don't really matter. Give them free range over things that you're not going to be a stickler about. Which book they read at bed time is far less important than the fact that they are reading. So if they want to read Good Morning, Sun at 9pm, read it!

Allowing children to make their own choices also helps teach them about consequences. Once your daughter decides on wearing the pink sneakers, she shouldn't be allowed to change her mind over and over again making everyone late for work and school. She was given the options and now she has to live with the pink sneakers for today. Constantly giving in to children shows them that your boundaries are meaningless and they begin to lose respect for you as an authority figure. So hold firm to your limits. If the options are broccoli or carrots with dinner and they ask for corn for the third night in a row, gently explain that "We had corn yesterday, today we can have broccoli or carrots. We can have corn again on Thursday."

The key to letting your kids make choices is being comfortable with all the options you give them. Don't give her options that you don't approve of, that will upset you, or if you're not going to be supportive of her decision. Just because you think the yellow rain coat looks cuter, doesn't mean she's wrong for choosing the red one. Respect the fact that she likes the red coat and feels more comfortable and confident wearing it. So make sure their options are age appropriate and parent approved, and then leave the decision making to them.

Preventing a Mommy Meltdown

There are toys all over the floor, dishes piled in the sink, two loads of unfolded laundry on the bed, a two year old literally running circles around you and it's only 1pm! Here are 4 helpful tips to keep you from losing your cool.

1) Perspective. Remember your kid is not the first eat dirt or throw cans in the supermarket or scream in church or even use those complimentary crayons to write on the table at IHOP. So take a deep breath and keep in mind that kids are kids, and all parents have gone through it.

2) Sunlight! Getting out of the house gives your little one space to be free and the change of scenery does you both well. Not being stared down by all your chores will help mellow your mood (as long as you don't dwell on all the things you have to do once you get back). Take the time to refocus your thoughts. Also sunlight has far reaching health benefits: it helps prevent depression, bones loss, and even cancer!

3)Music! Pump up the volume and shake it with you little one. Play songs that get you excited and make you happy. You can even multitask by cleaning up to the beat as long as you make it fun for your child. Make a playlist or burn a CD so that when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, all you have to do is press play.

4)Prioritize. Not everything is a five alarm fire. If the bed doesn't get made, who cares?! Do what needs to be done and save other things for when things are more manageable. You're not perfect. Some days you'll be able to have the kids settled, the house clean and dinner done. Other days you'll be ordering take-out while the rugrats decorate the living room with toilet paper. So give yourself a break.

Fancy-Schmancy Chicken Cordon Bleu

I've stolen this recipe from my mother. It's a super easy way to make a dish that kids LOVE, but that can be dressed up for grown ups as well.

chicken breast or boneless thighs (one for each person)
a can of cream of chicken soup
slices of ham* (again one for each person)
slices of provolone cheese* (one for each person)
onion powder
garlic powder
flour for dredging
cooking twine or toothpicks
2 tbsp cooking oil

Pound the chicken until it is thin and tender then season both sides with pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Layer the ham and cheese on the chicken and roll it up securing it with the cooking twine or toothpicks (try to make sure the cheese is tucked in completely). Dredge the rounds in the flour making sure to coat them all the way around. Heat a saute/frying pan with oil. Add chicken and cover to allow chicken to cook on the inside. Turn the chicken as necessary to get golden brown on all sides. Once chicken is cooked through remove from pan. Cut the cooking twine or remove the tooth picks.

While chicken is cooking heat the Cream of Chicken soup in a small pot. Arrange chicken on individual or serving plates and drizzle them with warm soup; Or add the can of soup to the empty saute pan after the chicken is done cooking, heat then replace the chicken and smother it in sauce.

Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and whatever vegetable your kids will eat (Broccoli works well).

Date Night/Dinner Party? Serve with grilled asparagus to take this from kiddie to classic.

*Use Virginia or Honey/Maple Ham for added flavor. Swiss or Mozzarella cheese can be substituted but tend to melt quicker than the chicken can cook. If you're using these, buy a block instead of slices and wrap chicken and ham around small "logs".

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eating Your Vegetables

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. Unfortunately, finicky eating of today can turn into the bad eating habits of tomorrow. Here are four suggestions to help your little Foodies eat their fruits and veggies!

  1. Eat YOUR Veggies! Don't be a hypocrite, Mom & Dad. The best way to get your child to eat healthier is to be an example. They are not going to want that side of mixed vegetables if you're ordering fries. Let your children see you making good snack and meal choices and they will too. (hint: just because a meal says it "comes with fries" doesn't mean that you can't swap that out for steamed carrots and broccoli)
  2. Sauces, Dips & sometimes Sugar. Top veggies and fruit slices with cheese dips, salad dressing, salsa or even yogurt. You can also steam veggies with a bit of sugar to sweeten the taste then lessen and lessen the amount of sugar with each meal until you're not using any at all.
  3. Play with Your Food. Let children get hands-on with their produce. In the supermarket, let them help choose what comes home by explaining to them how to tell when a banana is ripe or which is the best head of lettuce. At home, use themes such as color or shape to help make eating interactive. (ie. Today we're going to eat red things - strawberries, apples, beets, tomatoes and red bell peppers!) Very young children can have lots of fun smashing, crushing and tasting a variety of foods. Give them strawberries, blueberries, spinach and squash puree to use like finger paints, yum! Older kids will get a kick out of topping their own pizzas, so chop up some zucchini, spinach, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and bell peppers and let them go to town.
  4. Offer Extras and Variety. Until your little one decides to eat the leafy goodness on his own, you may need to resort to some sneaky food tricks. Try to offer (at least) two different vegetables in each meal, one out in the open as a regular side dish and one hidden somewhere else in the meal. For example, if you're making spaghetti & meatballs pair it with string beans; but also add some pureed spinach into the meatballs or chopped cauliflower into the tomato sauce. Other ideas: hide squash in your mashed potatoes and mac & cheese or mash peas into meatloaf. This way if your child still picks at the veggies she recognizes, they are eating the one that's hidden and you don't have to be a Mean Mommy. Encourage them gently and only you'll know that every bite of broccoli they take is actually above and beyond what they need.

No time to puree vegetables? Just buy a few jars baby food!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Convertable Chicken Cacciatore

I love this recipe because I can make it a variety of different ways depending on who's eating and how much time I have to cook.

1-can diced tomatoes
6 chicken parts (legs, thighs, or breast or any combination)
1-can chicken broth
1-diced onion
2-chopped bell peppers (green & yellow for color)
1-bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1-teaspoon oregano

Throw it all in the Slow Cooker for 6 hours. When the chicken is cooked, turn onto high and uncover to let some of the liquid cook out. Serve over rice or pasta.

No, Slow Cooker? Brown the chicken in two tablespoons of olive oil then remove chicken and set aside. In the same pan, cook onion, peppers, and garlic until the onions soften. Then dump in the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf and oregano and simmer. Add the chicken back into the sauce, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Let cook for 45-50 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve over rice or pasta.

Date Night? Add a 1/2 cup of white wine to the recipe.


The Alphabet Sounds Song

Here's an easy tune to stick into your rotation of Twinkle, Twinkle, Row Your Boat and Old Mac Donald...and this one teaches your kids phonics.

To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell sing each letter of the alphabet and it's sound.


The 'A' says aah. The 'A' says aah. Every letter makes a sound and 'A' says aah.
The 'B' says buh. The 'B' says buh. Every letter makes a sound and B says buh.

and so on and so forth...

10 Ways to Raise Smarter Kids

Children inherit their traits from their parents, so the offspring of athletic parents is destined to be a sports phenom and the result of two Doctors is likely to love science, right? Not always. Though aptitude and ability do draw from genetics, encouragement and fostering do just as much for a child’s development. Here are 10 ways to help get your little learner to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

1. Teach them to read. The most important thing you can do for your children is to teach them how to read. Reading is the basis for all communication. The more they read the more they will know. Reading opens up the world to children. It is the easiest way to expand your vocabulary (and much more fun than sitting up with flash cards weeks before the SATs). Read to your children, with your children and let them read to you.

2. Expose them to art early. No one is saying to tote your screaming three year old to the opera; but the more frequent and earlier you go the less foreign art will seem later in life. Age appropriate events and explanations keep children from feeling overwhelmed and allow you to learn with them.

3. Praise their accomplishments. Let them know that they can get attention and accolades for being smart, too. Too often we honor athletic talent over academic, and wrongly so. Any positive interest a child shows should be nurtured. If you make a big deal about getting to the finals of the school spelling bee kids will feel good about being excellent spellers. Self confidence goes a long way. Remember: It’s hip to be a square.

4. Fake the enthusiasm. Don’t let your own hatred for math class trickle down to your children. If you continually rant on about how boring history class was, or how theater is for little old ladies, your kids are going to pick up on the sentiment. So try to spin your personal stories to portray school in a positive light and then pass your kids off to the teacher, who probably became a teacher because they actually liked school!

5. Get them a library card. And make them use it! You can learn any and everything in the library. Turn off the TV and video games and get moving to the public library. Library skills go a long way in life. You’re never going to know all the answers; the key is to know how to get the answers when you need them. Learning how to use the library and do research is a skill that will benefit your children in college and beyond. Books hold the information, whether you child wants to learn about space travel, life in the Wild West, Dinosaurs or weather patterns there’s a book at the library to help!

6. Encourage them to get involved. Whether it’s a book club or mathletes having a group of likeminded friends will help them to not feel like such an outsider. Structure also helps kids not go astray. Having a responsible adult who is well versed and enthusiastic about the same topic as your child, gives them something to strive towards and someone to keep them on track (with your help of course).

7. Teach them a second (or third) language. Even if it’s just basics, knowing how to have simple conversations or to read key words (like bathroom and airport) can go a long way. Just being exposed to the sounds of foreign languages helps kids learn. Speaking, reading, and writing other languages, exposes children to cultures outside of their own, making them more worldly and adaptable. It also opens up a new world of music, movies and literature!

8. Diversify. No one wants to be stuck doing times-tables or reading all day and night. Encourage your child to experience a wide-range of academic, cultural, and physical activities. Not everything needs to be a priority, but even the most dedicated scientist likes to get out of the lab once in awhile. Museums, concerts, music lessons, sports, play-dates, story-time, and the occasional hour in front of the television should all be apart of your child’s life. A wide range of experiences gives them a broad base of knowledge to build upon.

9. Sharing means Caring. The more you share with them the more they feel you care about what happens to them and in their lives. So share the artsy-nerdy things that you love with your child and encourage them to share with you. Remember you are your child’s first and most important teacher. If you show an interest in your child’s activities they are more likely to stick to them. Don’t dismiss them when they try to share what they learn with you. This is the best reinforcement you can give to learning.

10. Make it fun. Learning should be fun, not a chore or punishment. Telling children to “read a book” only after you’ve banned them from watching the television or going outside turns reading into a penalty; and once that association is made its hard to break. Reading for school becomes an unpleasant task. So make things fun. Create songs for times tables, spelling words, and new vocabulary. Turn story time into a game show. And make as much stuff hands-on as humanly possible. If learning is fun then it’s not hard to do.


Welcome to the Mommy Mayhem Survival Guide! A place to find and share quick fixes on everything from diaper rash to dinner recipes.

As a Momma myself, I understand the value of time and simplicity, so all the posts here will be short and sweet. Easy to find, easy to read and easy to use.

Crystal Elise