Here’s part two of my two-parter about toys that encourage creative play. Enjoy!
I put this together based on research I did about what to do with KFP this summer!
Week 1: Fruity Banana Smoothie
In an effort to introduce our Kung Fu Panda to new foods, we began a new weekly activity, Fun Food Friday. Each week, he and I make and/or try a new healthy food or snack. So far, it’s had an incredibly good record.
On Week 1, we made Fruity Banana Smoothies from the Pillsbury Kids Cookbook. This was such a hit that we’ve made it several times since then, as well. Since I am currently dairy-free, we made it with cultured coconut milk instead of yogurt and used dark chocolate chips.
Week 2: Crunchy Almond Cookies
The second week, we made gluten-free Crunchy Almond Cookies from 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster. I had to make a few substitutions to eliminate the dairy, but they turned out really well. KFP enjoyed it, eating half a cookie and then asking to put the other half away for later!
Week 3: Shake-It Salad
On Week 3, I learned that it wasn’t always going to be so easy. We tried the Shake-It Salad from the Pillsbury Kids Cookbook. KFP was excited about helping me make the salad, by shaking up the ingredients inside a plastic container, he wasn’t as enthusiastic about eating it. He picked out a few shreds of carrot to eat and rejected the rest. Apparently, even with salad dressing liberally applied (via the shake-it method), it wasn’t enough to appeal to him.
Week 4: Home-made Applesauce
I was inspired for Week 4’s food by KFP’s reaction to eating some homemade applesauce at our new favorite restaurant, The Avenue Delicatessen in Lansdowne. Taking the advice of the owner, who loved our project of getting our little guy to make and try new foods, we used a variety of apples. I made double the recipe from The All-New All-Purpose Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer. Thanks to remembering to sprinkle cinnamon on top, he readily ate up most of his portion.
Week 5: Gluten-Free Banana Bread
Week 5’s dish was inspired by the fact that KFP recently rediscovered a love for bananas. He also loves bread, so I suggested we make banana bread together. Since I am also gluten-free (since discovering last year that my body is much happier without it), we made Jill and Stella’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread from a fabulous site that includes lots of child-friendly recipes. I used dairy-free margarine instead of butter and Xylitol instead of sugar. He had a lot of fun mashing up the bananas and helping me stir. The ultimate result was tasty, but without taking a nibble, KFP declared that it was neither bananas nor bread and he didn’t want it! Well, they can’t all be successes, I suppose.
Week 6: Great Green Experiment
The following week, Week 6, we started a series of “color experiments,” where we try foods of one color each week and mark down which ones we like. I got the idea from a blog post shared with me by a friend about how the blogger got her children to love green foods. Naturally, we started out with green foods. We tried peppers, celery, cucumbers, avocado, grapes and snow peas. He marked a smiley face for everything but the avocados (which he barely even nibbled). Since then, he has requested snow peas and peppers, and I’ve been very happy to comply.
Week 7: Great Red Experiment
Last week, Week 7, we continued the color experiment series with the Great Red Experiment, which I thought would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. This time, the results were even more promising: he gave smiles to all six foods. We tried beets, apples, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon and tomatoes. I intend to keep these charts so that, if we offer the same foods again and he doesn’t want to eat them, we can show him what he said about them when he tried it before. We wrote down adjectives as well as having him mark whether he liked it. My favorite adjective of his for these foods? “Yum.”
This week, we were supposed to do the Great Orange Experiment with peach, cantaloupe, tangerine, mango, orange pepper and sweet potato. Unfortunately, I probably started it too late in the day, after we’d already done an involving activity (“painting” with frozen ice cubes that had food coloring mixed in). All he did was eat the cantaloupe (which he already knew he liked) and refuse the rest. I wrapped up his tray and put it away, so that hopefully we can try it again tomorrow when he’s in a better mood.
All told, the Fun Food Fridays have turned out to be a great way to make trying new foods less imposing. And yes, even fun.
I am competing in the Baby Steps video contest about early childhood education. Winning the audience prize would help pay for my son’s preschool tuition for the rest of the year. To vote for me, please go to the voting page and view my video (which should make you smile). To vote, you will then close the video window and click the box at the upper right-hand corner of the preview box for my video. Selecting LIKE for the page does NOT count as a vote for me.
In case that’s confusing, I’ve also uploaded an image that shows you exactly where to click:
Thanks in advance! Every vote helps!
In an ideal world, I would wait until my husband got home each day to do my work, and he would watch our little Kung Fu Panda while I researched, wrote, and did other career-related tasks. In my world, it doesn’t work this way. Because I do evening transcription work at home, more or less at full-time night shift hours, any writing-related tasks must take place either during the day or on weekends.
While I admit my methods may be far from perfect, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me.
- Get out of the house. I try to spend at least a couple hours each day out of the house with KFP. Whether it’s working out at the YMCA while he plays in Child Watch, or attending the weekly Toddler Story Time at the local library, or simply running errands or taking a walk, getting out of the house keeps both of us from getting cabin fever. I often spend time planning articles or working out ideas while we’re out and about, and if the mood strikes me, I can write by dictating into my voice recorder (using Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe it once we get home). The value of this method became more clear to me this past month, when my son and I took turns being sick, which meant staying home. By the end of it, we were both going stir crazy!
- Get him involved in an activity. When it’s time to sit down at the keyboard, I make sure there’s something constructive to occupy my little guy. Whether it’s his wooden train set, a coloring book and crayons, or one of his favorite Sprout TV shows, I make sure he has something to do, some water to drink, and if it’s snack time, a snack.Then I sit down on the couch and get to work. Working on the couch, I’ve discovered, is more comfortable for both of us than trying to sit at my office desk. He knows he’s welcome to crawl up next to me and snuggle, if he likes, while Mommy works.
- Take “toddler breaks.” Some breaks are built in when working with a little one. Many is the time I interrupted myself in the middle of writing a sentence because my nose told me it was time to change his diaper. In addition, I also try to remember to take breaks to spend a little time with him: reading a book or building a block tower. On the days I don’t go to the gym, I may pause to have a “dance party” with him, as we watch his favorite “Sesame Street” DVD and groove to the silly songs.
- Be reasonable about goals. I try to be realistic about my daily goals. If I can write one 500-word article and do a little networking, or if I put together one poetry submission, I consider it a good day. When I have larger projects, I try to break them down into manageable steps to spread over several days. It’s not always possible to avoid overworking myself — I am, after all, still a Virgo and a Type A personality — but my son and I are both happier when my goals are reasonable and achievable.
- Stay on task. Admittedly, this is the point that gives me the most trouble. It’s too easy to get distracted by personal e-mails, social networking and Web surfing. But more and more lately, I’ve tried to do a better job of maintaining focus. Since toddlers can be subject to mood swings, I’m learning it’s best to get the important stuff out of the way while he’s being cooperative. Then, if he’s still playing happily (and doesn’t need anything), I can take a few moments to check Facebook or read some friends’ blogs.
These are just a few of the things that work for me. Holly Reisem Hanna has written a very informative blog entry, “10 Ways Work at Home Moms Can Entertain Their Children without Using Technology,” which I recently discovered while searching for Christmas gift ideas to suggest people get me.
I definitely already use creative play toys. In our case, we have a wooden toy train set which provides hours of fun; two different types of building blocks; a flotilla of little construction trucks and other do-it-yourself toys; and a bin full of books my toddler loves to peruse himself. I’m looking into expanding our craft options beyond just crayons, and I’m also going to feed his musical interests with yet another musical toy — a toddler DJ station — to add to his drum set, play guitar, keyboards, shakers and harmonica. The best part of him making his own music is that I can participate by singing along, even while typing away!
What are some other tips you’d share?