Posts Tagged ‘ child development ’

Chop To It! How To Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

After writing more than 21 cookbooks and contributing to numerous national publications, mom-of-two Sally Sampson decided to dedicate her skills to the fight against childhood obesity. In 2010, ChopChop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families was born. The quarterly delivers lively food fundamentals for kids (and adults!) to doctors’ offices, schools, and homes across the country. Now, the clever cooking guide is available in book form. ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family features more than 100 recipes to get your kids in the kitchen. And if these fun ideas don’t inspire your little ones, Sampson has a few tips that just might do the trick.

ChopChop is dedicated to teaching children cooking skills and healthy eating habits. Why is this mission important to you?

Before I created ChopChop, I was writing cookbooks but didn’t feel that was enough. I knew I could do more than write recipes; I wanted to make a difference. Teaching nutrition and cooking to a child helps her understand that there’s a difference between an apple, apple juice, and apple-flavored products. Then she can make better food choices, and that results in better health. Plus, cooking is such a wonderful way to bond with your kids! I just think it’s the greatest, most important thing.

How did you come up with the name “ChopChop?”

You know, it’s the funniest thing: we spent days and days listing different names and none of them felt right. Then one day I just said, “ChopChop.”And it stuck.

I have to ask—what were the duds?

One of them was “Picnic,” another was “Nosh.” And there were a million versions with “Kids Cooking.” When I look at them now, they really just don’t fit.

How can kids get their hands on a copy?

Subscribe! Or find copies in your pediatrician’s office, hospital, or school. If your school doesn’t have issues available, you can visit our website or call us to set up a classroom subscription. Some schools have even gathered sponsors and created custom editions!

The magazine received the James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year Award for 2013. What was that like?

It was great! It gave us gravitas in the food world—Mark Bittman has written about us in the New York Times, and our readership has close to doubled in subscriptions. As the only kids’ magazine to receive the award, in addition to being a non-profit, we’ve really stood out.

Reviewers have credited the cookbook with teaching their own children math and measurements, science and chemistry through cooking, and nutrition. What other benefits are there to cooking as a family?

It’s such a great way to connect with your child as a parent. In some ways, that’s the most important thing about cooking. It’s creative, fun, and uniting. Food is also a really good way to understand other cultures. When I was growing up, we didn’t eat hummus or salsa. Through cooking together, new foods and tastes feel more familiar.

At what age should parents start bringing kids into the kitchen?

Immediately—it’s never too early! If you have an infant, bring her into the kitchen in her high chair and tell her what you’re feeding her. Say, “I’m cooking carrots. Carrots are orange.” Start a monologue with your baby. As she gets older, continue your monologue but start to ask questions. Ask, “How many cherry tomatoes are there?” And have her toss them into a salad.

Then as your child grows, gauge her ability. She will be interested in being part of it. Children want to be a success in the adult world and being in the kitchen is a great way to do that—just be sure to let her take the next steps and progress.

It might be hard at first for parents to get their kids in the kitchen—what do you suggest?

Start very small. Tell your child you need his help. Just say, “We’re having pasta tonight, can you pick out the shape?” Then give them more choices: “Let’s plan out your meals for school lunch.” To make it easier (and healthier) for my kids, I made a chart of acceptable options and they chose which lunches to have on which days. Tiny things like that can get kids very excited about participating.

How did you encourage your children to eat a variety of foods?

This was my point of view on dinner: I never made two meals and I never made them try anything. I never said, “You have to taste it.” Instead, I told my kids that if they didn’t like what I made, they could have cereal (non-sugared Cheerios), cottage cheese, or yogurt. If there isn’t an amazing alternative your children will eat dinner. Otherwise, if you make it appealing not to eat what you make – by offering chicken nuggets for example – why would they eat it?

As for picky eaters, don’t make it a big deal. Just keep putting other foods on the table that they might say they don’t like. Avoid defining your child as a picky eater and don’t give her pickiness a lot of attention.

The cookbook proves that you don’t need to be a “foodie” in order to cook well and healthfully. Instead, it presents cooking as a fun life skill that everyone should know and enjoy. Was this part of your goal?

Yes, of course. It’s really simple and easy to cook and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or esoteric. We need to help the generation of non-cooks raising non-cooks and get them into the kitchen. I’ve even had retirees and college students send letters, thanking us for helping them become better cooks.

So which recipes are best for kids when cooking for the first time?

Smoothies—they’re so adaptable: If a recipe calls for an apple, you could replace with a pear. If you can’t have milk, you can use soy milk. It’s also really fun to watch the blender—it’s like it’s exploding!

Sandwiches are also great to make with any age kids. Our Rainbow Sandwich recipe challenges them to fill their bread with as many colors as possible. For this, I suggest putting out a spread of cabbage, tomatoes, colored cheeses, and other options. It shows kids that a sandwich doesn’t have to be ham, mustard, and cheese.

What are your favorite family recipes?

Vegetable chili. You can make it spicy or not, and you can serve up little bowls of onions, avocado, hot sauce, cilantro, and yogurt to personalize it. It’s a great way to get kids to try new things. And they love putting together our other adult-like “Make It Your Way” meals.

And about the term “kid-friendly:” Why don’t you use it?

I don’t think there’s kid food and adult food. We don’t have anything in the magazine or book that’s not appropriate for an adult. I highly discourage having a two-meal dinner. Food is food. And you shouldn’t have anything in the house you don’t want your child to eat!

What else should readers should know?

If you’re trying to change the eating habits of your family, take really small steps. If you eat out five times a week, and you can cook one meal a week at home, that’s a good step. Really big changes really fast don’t work. Take baby steps. It’s okay.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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Infographic: Tracking Your Child’s Milestones

Monday, October 8th, 2012

This great infographic on your child’s social, physical, cognitive, and language development was put together by Rasmussen College. It was created  “from a deep desire to advocate for young children, families, and early childhood professionals” with the goal to help parents “understand children’s development and apply that understanding to provide excellent education and care.”

Early Childhood Development infographic

 

More information on milestones and development:

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Let’s Not Pretend That Play Isn’t Important

Friday, September 7th, 2012

This is a guest post from Mary Hynes-Berry, Ph.D., a senior instructor at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Erikson is a leading graduate school in childhood development, working to improve the care and education of children up to age 8.

Last week, a University of Virginia press release announced “Pretend Play May Not Be as Crucial to Child Development as Believed, New Study Shows.” Angeline Lillard, Ph.D., the lead investigator, reported that, in a review of 150 prior studies, “We found no good evidence that pretend play contributes to creativity, intelligence or problem-solving. However, we did find evidence that it just might be a factor contributing to language, storytelling, social development and self-regulation.”

Early childhood experts see those statements as contradictory. The last decade’s explosion of brain research firmly establishes that, in early childhood, development is very much intertwined; cognitive, social-emotional, and motor skills all affect one another. Developing language, storytelling, social development, and self-regulation will contribute to developing intelligence, creativity, and problem-solving skills—meaning pretend play is an active ingredient in all of them.

What’s more, while we can identify different kinds of play, it is difficult to isolate just one form—and that’s what this study does. The study concludes that constructive play is a crucial factor in developing creativity and problem-solving skills, but rules out pretend play.  That doesn’t make sense. Think about how your own children play: When they’re imagining, they’re also usually physically moving about and constructing props or settings, such as turning a box or a few blankets into a castle or a rocket-ship, right?

The danger of this study is that it could fuel the current obsession with testing, which pressures teachers to drill numbers and letters into children, leaving no time for play-based learning. In fact, Dr. Lillard recognizes the same point in the conclusion of her academic article.  Her final sentence should have been the lead for the press release: “The hands-on, child- driven educational methods sometimes referred to as ‘playful learning’ are the most positive means yet known to help young children’s development.”

Image: Barefoot baby girl “shopping” via Shutterstock.

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Techniques to Keep Kids’ Tempers Cool in the Heat

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

angry childEditor’s Note: This guest post was written by Dr. Steve Pastyrnak, Division Chief, Pediatric Psychology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI.  He shares techniques for different age groups on how to keep a child’s temper in check during rising summer temperatures.

Toddler and Preschoolers

When the heat is high, frustration and anger tend to boil over for kids of any age.  For toddlers and preschoolers, who are learning how to express themselves, tantrums and angry outbursts are very normal.  Since parents will have a hard time reasoning with little ones, modeling and distraction techniques can help deal with grumpy behavior.  But a little patience and a good sense of humor is always a parent’s best bet.

A modeling technique involves parents remaining calm and cool, no matter how frustrating the kids are in the moment.  Tots will take cues from those around them and will calm down more quickly when being spoken to in a quiet and reassuring tone of voice.  Distraction involves using an activity or toy to redirect the child’s attention and disconnect frustration from crying, yelling, and screaming.  But it’s important to distract before the frustration gets out of control or when kids start calming down.  Otherwise, toddlers may connect anger and tantrums with getting a toy. Parents should keep a handy tool box of really cool (and inexpensive) items such as playdough, bubbles, crayons, etc.

If your kids are in a full-blown tantrum, however, the only solution is to remove them from the situation.  Move them to another place or keep them on your lap.   Let anger run its course.

Big Kids

Help kids handle physical stress and negative thoughts by teaching simple breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.  Breathe slowly in through the nose (like smelling a flower) and the slowly out through the mouth (like blowing out a candle).  The slower the better.  Then have kids squeeze specific muscle groups (arms, stomachs, or even their faces) and hold the tension for a few seconds before relaxing.  This technique will release some physical energy while also teaching the bodies how to relax.

Parents can also consider saying positive reinforcements (“Good job,” “You are so strong, brave, awesome, etc.”) for any situation that the child handles on her own.  While verbal praises address behaviors well, teach kids another way to banish negative thoughts by using, what I call, the “Jedi” mind trick.  Have kids recite simple positive thoughts to themselves, such as “I can do this,” “I’m okay,” and “No big deal.”  The more kids practice saying these positive phrases, the more likely that they will change negative thoughts into positive ones.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Study: Breast-Feeding Keeps Women Thinner, Even Decades Later
While breast-feeding is touted partly as a way to help new mothers lose weight, it may help keep their weight down even decades later, a new study from England suggests. (via MSNBC)

Strength Training Key in Preventing Alzheimer’s
Studies presented at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that resistance training was particularly beneficial for improving the cognitive abilities of older adults. (via CNN)

Adopt These Three Habits to Lose Weight
Three habits are key to weight loss and sustained weight control, a new study finds. Women in the study who were most successful at losing weight kept track of their food intake in a journal, didn’t skip meals and avoided eating out, especially for lunch. (via MSNBC)

Questionnaire Completed by Parents May Help Identify One-Year-Olds at Risk for Autism
A new study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers found that 31 percent of children identified as at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at 12 months received a confirmed diagnosis of ASD by age 3 years. (via CNN)

Study: More TV Linked to Larger Waists and Weaker Legs for Kids
The more television a child watches, even in the first years of life, the more likely he or she is to be thicker around the middle and less muscularly fit, according to a new study. (via ABC News)

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Obese Kids as Bright as Thinner Peers
Obesity is not to blame for poor educational performance, according to early findings from research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Researchers suggest that future research should focus on other determinants of poor educational outcomes. (via Science Daily)

Lawsuit Tries to Block New Arizona Abortion Law
A group of doctors and women’s rights advocates challenged Arizona’s new abortion limits in a federal lawsuit on Thursday. The Law, set to take effect on August 2, prohibits abortions once 20 weeks have passed since a woman’s last menstrual period. (via NY Times)

Doctors Use Hormones More Often Than They Prescribe Them
Doctors may be more willing to use hormone replacement therapy, or recommend it to their wives, than to prescribe it to their patients, a study of German gynecologists suggests. Nearly all were willing to recommend HRT for hot flashes, but not as often for other uses. (via MSNBC)

Childhood Trauma Linked to Adult Smoking for Girls
New research published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy explains how adverse childhood experiences can be tied up with adult smoking patterns, especially for women. Researchers suggest treatment and strategies to stop smoking need to take into account the psychological effects of childhood trauma. (via Science Daily)

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Kid Careers of the Future

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Would you be surprised to hear that kids today are more technologically savvy than ever before? Probably not. But what if we said that your child’s dependence on the Internet is actually affecting the life she’ll someday lead?

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, today’s kids are learning to rely on the Internet as a second brain, changing the way they’ll approach problems later in life. They belong to an “always on” demographic, dubbed Generation AO, and are growing up in a hyper-connected culture of instant gratification and serious multitasking. Not only are 95% of tweens and teens online, the survey finds, but 76% of them are already using social networks. This rapidly evolving culture is leading experts to believe that tech-wired kids are the key to opportunities and careers we can’t yet fathom.

So how do you prepare your children for jobs they will invent themselves? Well, we’ll let you know when one of them figures that out. But while you’re waiting for your kids to write the future, we’ve stolen a peek at it and found the top 10 careers Generation AO will most likely covet. Of course, this doesn’t mean your child’s dream of becoming a princess or superhero can’t still come true—these just have better salaries.


Image: Little girl using a laptop via Shutterstock.

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Are Toddlers Too Young to Get Tutors?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

KumonAs more parents worry about how their growing toddlers will survive the educational system once they enter school, they’re enrolling  kids in after-school tutoring and learning centers such as KumonThe New York Times recently wrote an in-depth profile on how Kumon is becoming parents’ defense against a changing educational landscape that focuses more on studying, memorizing, and taking standardized tests for reading, writing, and math. 

Originally started in Japan during the 1950s for school-age kids, Kumon has expanded in the U.S. since 1974, where it grew in popularity among mostly Asian students. Now, kids of all ages and ethnicities enroll in Kumon to help them get a leg up on school work and studies.  In recent years, a Junior Kumon program was created to enroll children ages 3 to 5, though toddlers as young as 2 are welcome.   Junior Kumon lessons cost about $200-300 per month, and toddlers and preschoolers are tutored twice a week for one hour each.

Some parents see Kumon as a necessary means to building their children’s self-confidence and academic skills; a way to give them the means necessary to advance later in life.  (In addition to starting them in sports classes or having them read chapter books.) Others, particularly child experts and educators, aren’t convinced programs like Kumon are enriching experiences that will help kids become innovative, vibrant, curious thinkers; instead, it only stresses memorization, repetition, and a linear way of thinking.

When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I remember weekend afternoons at my local Kumon, huddled around tables working on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division on numerous worksheets.  I remember storing my worksheets and multiplication charts in plastic pouches Kumon provided us.  At that time, Kumon only focused on math, not reading.  Of course, as a kid, I didn’t enjoy working on endless math sheets.  And ironically, despite all the math lessons, I grew up to work in a field that focuses just on reading and writing. 

This doesn’t mean there isn’t intrinsic value in enrolling kids in Kumon, though 2 years old may be a bit too young.  There are still other ways to teach kids how to achieve their truest potential, as the Tiger Mother debate has illustrated.  But, then again, who knows where I would be now if I had enrolled at 2 years old?

Would you enroll your kid in enrichment programs like Kumon?  Are toddlers ready for the pressure to succeed?

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