Posts Tagged ‘ family activities ’

Ideas to Keep Your Kids Busy

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

It’s a snow day here in New York City…super-rare for us, I can only remember my 11-year-old daughter having school called off a few times in her life. My kids ran right out to play, but it being 18 degrees, they didn’t last long. Now they’re inside and we’re looking at a three-day weekend that’s sure to include a lot of indoor time. 

Even if you’re not one of the 100 million people the weather forecasters say were hit by Hercules, you may still be out of creative things to do with your kids if they’re indoors this winter. Here’s a roundup of some of our best ideas!

Our 50 Ways to Play story, part of our October’s special creativity issue, includes short ideas to challenge your kids. Ask, “can you lie down and then get up without using your arms?” “If I blindfold you, will you know what food you’re tasting?” or “Can you play ‘mirror’ and mirror all of your brother or sister’s movements?” Click on the link for 47 more fun ideas!

Is your preschooler learning to write letters? We’ve got beginning handwriting videos that you can watch together. They’ll help you be more confident as you teach your child to write at home. May as well practice today…if not on paper, then maybe in shaving cream

If you feel like making something in the kitchen, these melting-snowman cookies feel appropriate! You can use refrigerated cookie dough to get to the fun decorating part fast.

Stuck inside with a baby who is not yet ready to be a sous-chef? We also have these 11 Fun Activities for When Winter Weather Traps You Indoors, aimed at little ones who have already burned through their usual toys by noon.

Finally, before you take the tree down, you might make one last ornament. These polar bear ornaments are adorable and will remind you, when you pull them out next December, of these crazy snow days!

Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments

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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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Fun, Healthy Meal Planning with LaLa Lunchbox

Monday, August 6th, 2012

LaLa Lunchbox can be just what your picky eater needs to develop a healthy lifestyle. The app, developed by mom and health-care professional Gillian Fein, is a fun way to guarantee your child’s lunch will end up in their tummy.

“As a mom of two young kids, I know that getting children to eat balanced meals is invariably a struggle for all of us at some point,” Fein says. “But when kids have a say in their meals, they feel empowered and less food is wasted and unwanted.”

LaLa Lunchbox comes with an easy-to-use functionality. The app lets each child create a lunchbox that is personalized by a cute monster avatar; he or she then drags the icon of their preferred food item in each of four categories—fruits, veggies, proteins, and snacks—into their avatar’s mouth. While the app comes with a predetermined set of food options, families can add or remove their own choices to and from the appropriate categories. Each lunchbox, or list, is complete once it contains a variety of four to six items.

Additionally, a calendar function allows the parent to designate each lunchbox to specific weeks, as there’s no doubt your kid will want to switch it up often. A task list feature even lets you check off each item after you drop it into the cart at the grocery store.

Make eating fun for your family today—the app is available for $1.99 on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

For more information, visit www.lalalunchbox.com or follow @LaLaLunchbox on Twitter.

Image: Young girl holding packed lunch in living room smiling, via Shutterstock

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Fun Ways to Prevent Summer “Brain Freeze”

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Family playing cardsEditor’s Note: In the first post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month.  He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Children’s brains go to sleep as soon as school ends for summer vacation, and they can hibernate until after school starts again in the fall. While kids need rest and rejuvenation, structured and unstructured play, physically active and tranquil days, and homework-free evenings, the summer “brain freeze” (a.k.a. “summer meltdown” or “summer slide”) can last too long. When resting brains slip into vegetative states defined by TV, video games, Facebook, text messaging marathons, and MP3 hypnosis, it’s time for an intervention.

Fortunately, there is a cure: enrollment at Family Summer University (FSU)! At FSU, there is no tuition and no homework, but there are tests (more like friendly and funny family competitions) every night.

As Dean of FSU, it’s your job to set aside a little time each day to write the quiz questions. Tailor them to the ages and learning levels of your kids, but don’t be limited to school subjects.  Instead, include a wide range of topics: celebrities, cartoon characters, favorite storybooks, sports teams, movies and TV shows, or any other topics that each family member will enjoy.  Fun trivia about Justin Bieber and Jeremy Lin can help camouflage the educational lessons about hypotenuses, homonyms, and Hamlet.  Mix and match questions every night from different subject areas or dedicate different nights of the week to certain subjects.

Look to brain teaser games, flash card sets, home versions of TV quiz shows, the library, the internet, and yes, your kids’ school books, to write your questions. But don’t overdo it — set a maximum of 20 questions per child per day, 10 questions if you have more than three kids! Remember, if you’re asking your 6 year old a tough question for his age, you should also be asking your 12 year old a tough one for her age.

Once your questions are written, gather the kids on the designated FSU campus (it can be the porch, patio, or another comfortable venue that’s preferably outdoors) and let the games begin! A great time for FSU to gather is after dinner because everyone is already together. Play every night or play a few days a week. Add bonus questions, musical prompts, and picture clues to make the game more interesting. Watch as scarce minutes with your kids turn into special moments.

After the answers are given, discuss them with your kids.  Gently explain the questions they missed and have them explain ones they got right. Tally the correct number of answers for each contestant each dayk. At the end of each week, give a prize to the child with the highest score, and then start scoring from scratch the next week.  This way, no one falls so far behind that they have no chance of catching up.  Good “prizes” can be letting the winner choose the DVD on family movie night or the theme for a special dinner night.  At the end of the summer, have an FSU “graduation” ceremony with cardboard caps, bed sheet gowns, and colorful paper diplomas. Then, make sure to go for ice cream!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


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Fun Family Activities for the Fourth of July

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Have some red, white and blue fun as we celebrate our nation’s independence.  Indulge in some patriotic pastimes like catching a baseball game or eating a tri-color parfait.  Or put together your own mini parade or wave homemade parade batons at your neighborhood celebration.

Check out more Fourth of July activities, crafts, and recipes below.

Fourth of July Activities

Fourth of July Crafts

Fourth of July Recipes

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Wonder Box: Hands-On Learning Activities for Kindergarteners, from Education.com

Monday, June 4th, 2012

"Once Upon a Time" Wonder Box - Education.comIs your preschooler starting kindergarten this year?  Just in time for summer, prepare your little one for class with the fun learning activities contained in a Wonder Box. Created by Education.com, which provides helpful content about preparing for kindergarten through college, Wonder Box is a subscription-based monthly service designed to enrich and entertain children ages 3 to 6. (A monthly subscription starts at $19.99.)

Each month, a box with a different theme (science, crafts, etc.), 3 projects, and other extras (coloring pages, sticker books, etc.) are hand-picked by Education.com experts with the goal of developing your child. The boxes are sent to homes with provided instructions and information about accessing an exclusive website for more activity ideas.

Recently, I got a sneak peek at the first available Wonder Box, which has a “Once Upon a Time” theme.   The 3 projects includes a cape to enhance gross motor skills, a puppet to help with shape and pattern recognition, and a pack of story cards to increase reading skills.  A story book of “Stone Soup” is included with crayons for coloring.

For busy, on-the-go parents, Wonder Box provides easy, convenient access to a variety of activities and crafts.  Families can have quality time together and kids will satisfy their curiosity about the world around them.

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Free Bowling for Kids!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

kidsbowlfree_logo

With summer vacation just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking up fun activities to fend off the inevitable “I’m bored” whining. Enter Kids Bowl Free, a bowling program in which hundred of alleys across the US (and Canada) allow children to play two games a day—gratis—all summer long. Better still, the program is already up and running for the season in some locations. To register for a pass and find a participating bowling center near you (as well as get program dates, times, and age requirements, which vary by location), visit kidsbowlfree.com.

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Friday Night Movies

Monday, November 30th, 2009

6a00d8341c30cf53ef0120a6e1c733970b-250wiThis Week’s Big-Screen Goodies (Black Friday Edition):
Fantastic Mr. Fox (rated PG)
The Princess and the Frog (rated G; opens limited; opens wide on Dec. 11)
Old Dogs (rated PG)

This Week’s DVD Goodies:
Imagine That
The Night Before Christmas… and More Classic Holiday Titles (Scholastic Storybook Treasures)
Pokemon Elements, Vol. 5: Ice
Pokemon Elements, Vol. 6: Dark
Santa Buddies
Shorts
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Superman: The Complete Animated Series

Cult Classic on Blu-ray:
The Monster Squad (20th Anniversary Edition)

The Put-Your-Kids-to-Bed-First Picks of the Week:
Four Christmases

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