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Posts from the ‘Child Health’ Category

Money Saving Back-to-School Lunchtime Tips

Whether the kids are back in school or you’ve made a resolution to bring your lunch to work more often, here are my money (and time) saving tips for lunchtime:

1) Cook in big batches 

Schedule one day a week (preferably Sunday or Monday) where you cook a giant batch of your household staples: Grains, beans, roasted veggies, grilled chicken, etc. Incorporate the item(s) into lunches all week. Another kid-friendly favorite I often make in batches is pasta or healthy pasta salads. Pasta is a staple in many households and it’s something that keeps well. Many people actually prefer leftover pasta. If you don’t, cook just the noodles so all you’ll have to do is add sauce. One day add a ground turkey bolognese, next a fresh kale or basil pesto.

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2) Go ham with soup

This is one of my favorite money-saving tips. I love soup, and the kids I work with do too. Soup is a great item to make a huge pot of and freeze smaller portions in mason jars for later. Soup is convenient, hearty, and can be super healthy.. not to mention it’s pretty easy to make! There’s really nothing else like the comfort of homemade soup.

Here are some excellent kid-friendly soup recipes from Today’s Parent. You can find some on my Pinterest too.

3) Take advantage of case discounts

Whether your kids love granola bars or those organic milk boxes, you can get discounted pricing on many items when you buy a case. If you’re not sure whether or not a case is available for purchase, you can always ask your grocery store’s Customer Service for details. They’re usually more than accommodating and can grab one from the back if needed.

4) Bulk bins are your friend

Use bulk bins and get a little. Or a lot! I love bulk bins because I get what exactly what I need, which means less waste. Especially if you have a recipe that calls for a certain amount of say, black rice, but it isn’t something your family eats on a regular basis. Buy grains, seeds, dried fruits, nuts, granola, flour, sugar, coffee beans (and much more) in bulk and you’ll notice big savings.

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5) Go organic with essential items

Most grocery stores now have their own brand of organics. For example, O Organics at Safeway and 365 at Whole Foods. Buy your family’s everyday essentials (peanut butter, crackers, cheese, yogurt, etc.) with these more affordable organic brands.

6) Transform leftovers

My favorite item to use for leftovers is a rotisserie chicken. It’s makes for a tasty, nutritious dinner as well as yummy sandwiches the next day. Or use it to make a chicken salad, in tacos, for chicken stock.. the possibilities are endless.

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7) Clip coupons

If you don’t see a coupon book displayed at your grocery store definitely ask Customer Service. They most likely have weekly coupons. It’s great to buy items that are already on sale, but a lot of the time you can combine sale items with a coupon for extra savings. Sometimes you’ll get extra savings if you buy 2 or more of an item – take advantage of this with items that won’t spoil quickly, like almond milk or frozen veggies.

A Little Book About Safety: Book Review

“Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe – but how can we talk to our kids about personal safety without scaring them? How can we be sure they know what to do to keep themselves safe when we’re not around?” The Mother Company has found a way to do just so… by following the lovable Hugo the Hippo as he navigates his way through a fun day at the pool with his family.

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The Mother Company is an excellent resource for parents, especially those with preschool-aged children. Their expertise in social emotional learning makes them a trusted source when it comes to communicating with kids.

I love their Ruby’s Studio series so naturally I was thrilled when they sent me A Little Book About Safety. The book is meant to be a companion to their applauded Ruby’s Studio: The Safety Show. Both are fantastic tools for parents and caregivers to explain the importance of safety. Your child will be empowered and feel like they have the skills to be the boss of their own safety.

The storyline is adorable, as are the characters. The Mother Company touches on topics that are important but in a fun way. The points are still getting across to your child without them getting overwhelmed.

The best thing about the Mother Company is they know kids, so they use language that your child can understand and relate to. They’re able to explain safety in a non-scary way. Safety is an important topic that shouldn’t scare our children, but it is something we need to discuss with them. A Little Book About Safety makes touching on important topics easy to talk about and creates an open dialogue with your child.

One thing I always ask myself when choosing a children’s book is, is it interactive? This is the best way to keep kids engaged. The Mother Company does a great job with this. They insert “Safety Tips” throughout the book that work as breaks in the storyline where you can stop and discuss. It has the key element in a good children’s book – making it all about your child! Even from the inside cover, “This book belongs to                   ”, your child will feel like it’s a special book just for them. I also like how they use the term “Safe Adult” because you can go over who is and who isn’t a “Safe Adult” in their life. Every child’s situation is different and this book allows you to tailor it to your little one.

There is honestly nothing I would add or remove from this book. It covers a wide-range of safety topics, like: Knowing a safe adult’s name and phone number, it’s ok to be scared and it’s ok to say NO, and what to do if they get lost. I especially like Safety Tip No. 2, “the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private” and Safety Tip No. 5, “YOU are the boss of your own body, and it’s ok to say “Stop!” to anyone… No one should touch you in any way you don’t like.” This isn’t any easy topic to cover but they touch on it perfectly.

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My favorite part? “All his smart choices will keep him strong, happy and SAFE.” Kids understand this. It gives them the right tools to take control of things that will keep them safe. As I say in Keep Calm and Parent On, give your child some power. They need to feel in control and feel ownership of their choices.

You can purchase A Little Book About Safety here!

The Perils of Attachment Parenting

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of writing an opinion piece for The Atlantic. I discuss the controversial topic of “attachment parenting” and why I think a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’ can be a slippery slope. I’ve never been a fan of any one parenting technique. I prefer to use a more simple, “back to basics” approach where we expect more out of our kids. Manners, respect and boundaries aren’t a thing of the past.

Extremes like on-demand breastfeeding can take their toll on parents and children alike.

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I could tell from the dad’s voice that he was at the end of his tether. He hadn’t slept in eight months and was utterly spent, all the time. He would fall asleep at his desk or neglect his work. He and his wife always fought and they hadn’t had sex in nearly five months. “What can I do?” he begged me.

I have been a nanny and parenting consultant all of my professional life. Often friends of the families I work for will ask me for advice. The dad on the phone was the friend of a former employer. After asking him a few questions, I knew immediately what the problem was.

The dad and his wife had decided to try “attachment parenting” with their newborn son. That meant they slept in bed with their son every night, fed him milk every time he cried, and carried him everywhere they went in a baby sling. Though the intentions behind the philosophy are wonderful—let’s raise secure, attached, emotionally healthy children—attachment parenting is an unsustainable model. I am an absolute proponent of meeting a baby’s needs—and especially to meeting every need as soon as you can in those first couple of fragile weeks. And some elements of attachment parenting—such as sleeping in the same room as a newborn (but not in the same bed), and baby-wearing when it’s convenient—are great. But like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it’s gotten out of balance. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value.

One of the tenets of attachment parenting is that you breastfeed a child on demand. That can lead to a habit where a child will snack—eating a little bit many times throughout the day. It’s much harder to get the baby on a schedule when he’s snacking constantly, and it’s hard for the mom to get anything done, let alone take care of her own needs, while feeding her baby all the time. I also fear that breastfeeding on demand can limit the role of other caregivers. If the baby is eating so frequently, he probably just wants his mother. This limits the potential involvement of dads and non-breastfeeding parents. And though it might seem to make life easier when you don’t need to worry about feeding schedules and having bottles ready, it means the mother must be available to the baby 24/7. That is simply not sustainable. It often means that when a child cries, the first thing he gets is the breast as an offer of comfort, so he doesn’t learn other ways to self-soothe. Nighttime feeding on demand disrupts parents’ and babies’ sleep. If parents set a precedent that nighttime is not mealtime, and feed the baby when he’s hungry but not every hour or so for comfort, children can be sleeping through the night by the time they’re four months old. This leads to a happier and more content baby, not to mention much happier and more rested parents.

Attachment parenting advocates would say that’s one reason mom and baby should sleep together. When the baby wants to eat, the mother can just roll over and feed him. Aside from the safety concerns with co-sleeping, babies do not learn to sleep on their own when they’re snuggled up with their parents. They become used to sleeping with a warm body and heartbeat next to them, and they will come to depend on that. The same is true for constant baby-wearing. It’s hard for a child to be put down alone on a blanket when she’s used to being held all the time. And it’s hard to get anything done—let alone be intimate with your partner—if there’s constantly a baby on your chest.

Attachment parenting encourages responding to your baby immediately each time he cries, or better still, before he cries. But parents don’t get a chance to learn their child’s different cries if they always pre-empt the crying. Is your child hungry? Gassy? Tired? Soiled? Parents learn to develop an ear for their baby’s distinct cries. But in an attachment model, the parents run at the slightest fuss, never giving them the opportunity to recognize their child’s needs.

Babies will often put themselves back to sleep if they’re given the chance—but these children never get the chance to self-soothe, to calm themselves down, one of the most important tools a child can develop at an early age. I know eight-year-olds who can’t go on sleepovers because they can’t leave their mother’s bed.

Some people argue that throughout history, all over the world, parents have kept their children by their side at all times. Yet our Western culture hardly resembles these cultures. (Did these parents have commutes and nine-to-five jobs?) Parents need to be able to focus at work, not be sleep-deprived, and devote their affection and attention to their kids when they get home.

Perhaps what’s most concerning to me about attachment parenting, though, is the thread that runs through each of these practices—sharing beds, feeding on demand, keeping the baby close at all times. It is a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’, all the time. Parents are at their best when they’ve taken care of themselves—when they’ve had a decent night’s sleep, when they’ve had a chance to connect with their partner, and when they’ve had the opportunity to move around baby-free.

When parents begin a pattern of meeting their child’s every need at the expense of their own, it sticks. It’s hard to pop out of that mindset when your six-year-old wants another cup of milk even though you’ve just sat down for dinner, or when your 10-year-old is eager to add yet another activity to his schedule that would require you to drive across town at rush hour. I’m not suggesting that parents be selfish or ignore their child’s needs, but rather, a balance. Children who grow up seeing that mom and dad are individuals who have needs, too, learn that there is nothing wrong with a little independence, a little patience, and a little self-reliance.

GumChucks: Helpful Flossing Tool for Kids & Parents!

I first found out about GumChucks from my friends at the Lasky Pediatric Dental Group, who are supporters. Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jill Lasky about keeping your child’s dental hygiene up to par, especially proper brushing. Since then I’ve followed their tips and advice via Facebook and simply had to check out such a cool, new product!

My review of GumChucks, an Oralwise Co. product:

It can be a struggle maintaining your child’s dental hygiene and probably the last thing you feel like doing after a long day, but it really is important. Yes, they will eventually lose those baby teeth but establishing a good routine now is key to their dental success as adults. Dr. Lasky says baby teeth “are also important in guiding the permanent teeth into the correct position and the development of the jaw.”

The best way to encourage your child to brush and floss daily is to make it fun! This is why GumChucks stood out to me as a must-have product.

GumChucks offers brilliant flossing tools just for kids and their packaging is one-of-a-kind. They incorporate a whole gang of plaque fighting superheroes! What kid wouldn’t love this?

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GumChucks is an entirely new way for children to floss. No more boring waxed floss that is nearly impossible for a child to get in the back of their mouth, or risk them biting your fingers! Floss picks are a nice alternative but they don’t always encourage you to make that “C” movement around the gums.

GumChucks resemble nunchucks so you still use two hands and can more easily maneuver the floss. The best part is the nunchucks have disposable tips. The tips easily pop on and off, allowing your child to use a new piece of dental floss as needed. The floss feels great and works with little effort – I tried them myself!

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The nunchuck handles come in a variety of designs and colors which kids will absolutely love. They are comfortable and convenient for little hands with limited dexterity. No loss of circulation in little fingers and they can control the handles with ease.

Flossing is just as important for children as it is for adults and GumChucks makes it fun. So fun in fact, they should make them for adults! I would certainly use them!

GumChucks even has an iTunes app so your child can become familiar with them before using!

Happy flossing!

New Pediatric Weight Chart Will Ease Parents’ Minds

Worrying that your child is growing or eating enough? You are not alone. This is a top concern for many parents and it compounded by the use of one-size-fits-all weight and height charts in the doctor’s office.

For years, parents have fretted when their little one is pronounced “under-weight” and many have been advised to add fattier foods or to even stop nursing and use formula to add on weight to their baby. But why when a child is otherwise healthy?

The charts have traditionally excluded the idea that different ethnicities may just be different sizes. For example, comparing the size of a South Asian baby to a Caucasian baby can sometimes be apples to oranges. This sounds like common sense and researchers have finally agreed.

The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has published a study online that shows the use of ethnic-specific charts would be far superior for diagnosing babies as small for gestational age (SGA). The association of SGA with conditions such as hypoglycemia and increased infection rates has been an increased source of worry for parents receiving the diagnosis.

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Unfortunately, with the traditional charts, many children are misdiagnosed. This can cause considerable undue stress and anxiety for parents and even unnecessary changes in a child’s diet. There is a new push to update and implement charts with ethnic averages taken into consideration.  The hope is that the new charts can more accurately determine if a baby is underweight or not.

While medicine has done so much good, there are some things that caregivers should listen to their intuition about. Ask for a second opinion if it doesn’t add up for you! There is no harm in asking questions if it will help you understand and lessen the anxiety of a diagnosis.

If your child is developing well and has several wet or soiled diapers a day, chances are they are eating well and growing. The reliance of one-size-fits-all charts and graphs is an old fashioned way of thinking that may do more harm than good for you and your baby!

TV-Tipping: An Avoidable Accident

Do you have your flat screen television mounted to the wall securely? If you still have an older model, is it secured by brackets or tethers? Parents regularly take precautions such as tethering large bookshelves or dressers to walls or locking cabinets, but television safety is often overlooked.

An annual average of 17, 313 children are injured by tipping or falling television sets each year, one study finds. The median age of children hurt was 3-years-old. Kids this age are very probing and don’t quite grasp cause and effect. Climbing on top of an entertainment system or standing on the edge of a table to reach the television can lead to disaster.

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NPR recently highlighted the dangers of young children pulling televisions down on themselves, noting that “every 30 minutes a child ends up in the emergency room with injuries caused by a television.”

Head and neck injuries are very common with television accidents, as TVs are generally set up high… just out of an inquisitive child’s reach. Most of the children in the study suffered from bumps, cuts and bruises but some even ended up with concussions, which can be very dangerous to a young child.

A 2012 report by Safe Kids Worldwide said that one child dies every three weeks from a television-tipping related injury. This is shocking considering there are so many ways to prevent this type of tragedy.

Caregivers know that a determined child will make persistent attempts to touch or grab things even when they are told not to. To keep children safe we must take extra safety precautions. Mounting hardware and tethering kits are available at almost any store that television sets are sold as well as many baby stores. The extra effort it takes to install safety straps is well worth it when there are curious climbers in the house!

After drafting this post, I actually found a blurb about this problem in the new issue of Parents Magazine. I snapped a shot of it because it has helpful tips for keeping your child safe. TVsafety.org is also an excellent resource for simple solutions!

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New Genetic Test Believed to Predict Autism

Prenatal testing for birth defects has been a long-standing practice for women who have a family history of certain chromosomal abnormalities, are over 35, or have an ultrasound that reveals other high-risk factors. It is not without its own risks because amniotic fluid is removed which may distress the baby. It may also present difficult decisions and extra worry for expectant mothers.

A new study published in Translational Psychiatry has found that some mothers carry an antibody that can serve as a predictor of autism.  The researchers claim that a test for “six antibodies in an expectant mom’s blood may predict with more than 99 percent certainty which children are at highest risk of developing autism,” according to Time magazine. The study also revealed that nearly one quarter of cases of autism could be related to the presence of the antibodies.

The underlying cause of autism has been under hot debate and discussion as the numbers of children placed on the autism spectrum have jumped in recent years—going from 1 child in 88 in 2008 to 1 in 50, according to most recent CDC studies. Environmental factors and/or a combination of genetics have long been explored as causes for autism.

Just like amniocentesis, this new antibody test that can predict a mother’s likelihood to give birth to a child on the autism spectrum is not without considerable ethical and personal questions for parents. What would you do? Would you want to know?

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copyright Tetra Images/ Corbis

Book Review: The Food Allergy Mama

I first became aware of Kelly Rudnicki from her Food Allergy Mama blog and digging through her bevy of amazing recipes. She is brilliant in the kitchen and honestly loves the art of cooking. She even tests her recipes on her own children, so you know they are truly ‘kid-approved’!

Her new cookbook The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals is chock full of dairy, egg and nut free recipes for everyday.

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Rudnicki is not afraid to make mistakes. She stresses to her children that they don’t have to be perfect and allows them to embrace their creative side, just as she does. She has really jumped through hoops to create tastes that are in line with kids’ picky palettes. This means minimal spices and ingredients.

Her list of substitute ingredients is something you’ll want to tear out of the book and stick to the fridge. She has everything from flour substitutes to dairy alternatives. The best part: “You really don’t need a bunch of special equipment in your kitchen to make fast and easy allergy-friendly meals.”

Something you may not be aware of, or not sure how to go about it, is keeping the risk of cross-contamination away. Rudnicki shares a list of kitchen equipment you should have on hand and only use when preparing allergy-safe foods.

The book is broken up into categories: Snacks, Breakfast, Lunch, Soups, Supper & SidesTreats, Menu Ideas

Her photos make my mouth water (not to mention her family is adorable). Especially the seriously golden cheesy macaroni and her chocolate wonder waffles.

The Food Allergy Mama’s recipes are all dairy, egg, and nut free, eliminating half of the common allergens. Did I mention they’re all quick and delicious? A fan favorite, pasta and turkey meatballs, is prepped and cooked in less than 30 minutes. Perfect for a busy family.

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Some facts on food allergies…

There are eight foods that account for 90% of all allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. [Foodallergy.org]

With 1 in 13 children affected by food allergies and rising, it’s nice to have healthy options for mealtime. A food reaction can range from a mild response, like an itchy mouth or skin, to a potentially deadly reaction like anaphylaxis.

Remember, food and mealtime is a chance to create special memories for your children. They’ll always remember sitting and enjoying meals together and your cooking. It’s something that will stay with them as they grow and it will be a familiar comfort.

Who Might Outgrow Childhood Asthma?

Childhood asthma can be a limiting factor for children who want to run and play like their peers. Luckily, nearly half of children grow out of the shortness of breath and restricted airways that characterize childhood asthma. New research from Duke University looks into genetic testing that may predict which children will suffer only during their younger years and which may deal with symptoms into adulthood.

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Duke University researchers compared data from two major asthma studies to create a genetic profile of asthma risk. The first study, the GABRIEL project, was a large-scale (26,000 patients!) genome-wide association study of asthma. The second study, the Dunedin study, followed 1,000 patients for the 1st 40 years of their life.

Those with the highest genetic risk score were prone to earlier onset, more severe symptoms, chronic allergic asthma and duration into adulthood. Patients with the higher scores missed more work and school due to asthma symptoms than those with lower scores.

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The study gives more credence to genetics as a key factor in long-term asthma. It will help doctors examine whether your child may be able to outgrow asthma—something that has not been explored to this depth before.

However, a simple genetic test is a work in progress because researchers are still trying to discover additional risk factors.

What Are Ways to Avoid Asthma Triggers?

  • Strive for Low-Humidity– use a dehumidifier if necessary
  • Change Filters in Air Conditioners and Heaters Often
  • Keep Dust to a Minimum– get rid of carpeting if necessary, clean regularly, encase pillows
  • Reduce Pet Dander– groom furry friends regularly
  • Regular Exercise– exercising opens airways and a healthy weight can improve symptoms

Following these tips and your doctor’s instructions can help ease your child’s symptoms. An asthma diagnosis can be scary for kids and parents alike but taking these steps can lessen the possibility of an asthma attack. Creating an asthma action plan can also be a great start!

Staying Safe: Fun in the Sun

For those in the northern hemisphere you may have noticed SUMMER IS HERE! The season has already brought on extreme temperatures and heat advisories. Parents may be left with an age-old conundrum: How hot is too hot to play outside and how do I keep my kids safe in this heat?

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Even in cooler conditions a person can suffer from heat exhaustion after about 45 minutes of intense exercise! Many kids just don’t know when to take it easy. A day of play in the sprinklers or a soccer game is great for restless children but it can make for a recipe for disaster if certain precautions aren’t taken.

Remember that you’re responsible for your kids. They don’t know when enough is enough or that it’s time to reapply sunblock and have a drink of water. It’s all up to you! There are tons of great options for sun protective clothing and hats, even with moisture wicking material. Make sure your child wears breathable, cotton fabrics and a wide-brimmed hat and stays out of the sun whenever possible.

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If they’re at school or camps this summer make sure you ask about their sunscreen policy. Do you need to drop off a tube? Who’s responsible for putting it on/reapplying? Do you need to put it on before they leave the house? This is important to discuss with your care provider, especially if you have a fair-skinned child. Pack a refillable water bottle, too.

Hydration is key. If you’re not sure if  your child is adequately hydrated, check their urine. It should be colorless with very little smell. The more yellow and the more it smells the more dehydrated you are.

Precautions

  • Remember to have kids take plenty of breaks and to offer plenty of water (WATER! much better than juice & alternatives)
  • Play in the shade whenever possible
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that breathes
  • Watch children carefully for signs of heat exhaustion
  • Don’t take any chances; go to the emergency room if symptoms of heat stroke persist

On average, the CDC reports that 675 people die from intense heat related illnesses each year in the Unites States. Children – especially infants to age four – are much more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because their bodies are less efficient at cooling.

If caring for a baby, they are obviously ultra-sensitive so here’s a link to a helpful article from iVillage about protecting baby from heat stroke.

Heat-related illness is almost entirely preventable and it is important to know the signs of overheating:

  • Light headedness, dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Obvious fatigue
  • Cessation of sweating
  • Obvious loss of skill and coordination/clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • Confusion
  • Aggressive or irrational behavior
  • Altered consciousness
  • Collapse
  • Ashen grey pale skin

Of course everyone wants to play outside in the sunny weather, and a great time can be had by all when precautions are taken. Kids and adults love to play outdoors and these simple tips can help everyone have a safe summer!

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Hope you’re enjoying the extra family time!

Xx Emma

Excite and Explore

One mom, one toddler and a passion for learning and adventure.