Posts Tagged ‘ little kids ’

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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“Don’t Divorce Me,” a Movie That Explains Separation to Kids

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

It’s a very lucky family tree these days that doesn’t have a least one of its branches spliced by a split-up. We have several divorces in our extended family, and now that our ever-curious kids are old enough to notice (4 and 5), I’ve had to explain several times why certain grandparents are unattached and other relatives are out of the picture all-together. Tricky stuff. So when I got an invite for a screening of HBO Family’s documentary, “Don’t Divorce Me,” which touchingly follows several preschoolers and elementary schoolers as they cope with their parents’ split, I RSVPed yes. You’ll blink back tears, but also come away with real-life ways to help your kids cope in the wake of an event that truly does rock their little world. My favorite tip (from a tween who hadn’t cut her hair since before her folks called it quits): Let your children hold onto their memories. “Don’t Divorce Me” airs Thursday September 21 at 6:30 p.m., and might be the most well-spent 30 minutes of your day.

Click here to watch the trailer.

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Win a Britax Convertible Car Seat!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Just before a friend’s baby reaches a year old, I can count on her emailing me a “what convertible car seat should I buy?” question. It often comes with some panic attached, because usually the baby outgrew her infant seat more or less that morning!

With a car seat, you’re not buying for looks, you’re concerned about safety, easy of use, and value. You need to drop some serious dough, and you don’t want to have any regrets. I believe that all the car seats on the market that have the JPMA seal are well-built and tested. But this week, when a dad friend sent an SOS about needing a convertible car seat for his 11-month-old daughter, I had to mention that Britax has just launched updated versions of five of their convertible car seats, often considered the elite in the category. If you’re shopping for one of these latest-and-greatest, look for a Britax convertible seat with  ”G3″ in the name. There’s new technology in the padding, including side-impact protection as well as updated padding in the harnesses. Integrated steel bars make the seats extra-sturdy, and a new tether works like anti-lock breaks so that the seat surges forward in stages if there’s a sudden accident, reducing crash forces. Also, the three most expensive versions (the Advocate, Pavilion, and Boulevard) offer simpler, easier-to-use buckles that can’t get twisted up.

The Advocate is the top-tier seat, at $380. And Britax is going to let us give one away! Here’s our request. We need you to fill out this survey about your driving habits. We’re partnering with Safe Kids Worldwide to help make the roads safer for all families. As part of that, we need moms to talk to us about the reality of driving with kids, especially those under age 2. For me, that included driving when I was bone-tired, steering while baby Grace was vomiting behind me and I could do nothing to soothe her because I was on the FDR highway circling Manhattan, and lots and lots of trips with the same freakin’ CD playing over and over and over again. (Good thing I like it: It’s Elizabeth Mitchell’s You Are My Sunshine and it’s engrained in my brain forever.)

Got similar tales? Unlike with most of our giveaways, leaving comments here won’t win you anything, though we do, of course, welcome your feedback! To win the new Advocate car seat, click here (or above!) and take our survey. It’s subject to the official rules here, and the survey is up from today through Thursday, August 2, 2012. Goody luck, and safe driving!

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Win a Personalized Radio Flyer Wagon!

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The awesome old-school version

There’s no toy that says “summer” to me like a Radio Flyer wagon. Did you know that the red wagon has been around for 95 years now? I picture these in every Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Fourth of July parade. And every beach town across America!

Personally, we use one at Neenup’s house (that’s my mom!). She’s near the beach but my kids just pull it around her yard during their endless imagination games. I love that we’ve got a customized one that says Grace and Joe on it!

The Grace and Joe mobile! They're hunting for ladybugs.

Want to customize your own red wagon? You can do it at RadioFlyer.com. You pick whether you want the metal-and-wood, old-school wagon (we’ve got one of those here in our office, it makes sneak appearances in photo shoots), or the plastic one I have for my kids (because we kind of abuse outdoor toys). Then you pick whether you want two little canopies, shade umbrellas, or one big canopy; you choose fabric patterns; you customize your wheels; and of course, you add a kid’s name, or a few! (You get up to 20 characters.)

To celebrate their near-centennial, the Radio Flyer folks are going to give away one personalized wagon for free. The worth of the wagon depends on what you add to it; it will be worth at minimum $105 and at most about $250. (Mine, which includes a storage compartment, would cost $209.) Just leave a comment here, up to once a day. Tell me what you’re most looking forward to doing with your kid this summer! (I’m looking forward to jumping in a pool with mine, we have a long wait here on the East coast for the pools to finally open up.)

This giveaway starts now and goes through Wednesday, May 23rd. For the official rules, please click here. As always, goody luck!

That's a tricked-out wagon!

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New No Child Left Behind Rules

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

For years, the Obama Administration has tried to reform the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. The law holds schools directly accountable for student progress in reading and math and leads them to face sanctions, including potential closure, if they don’t meet set standards. NCLB’s criticisms have been manifold: that it forces schools to teach to the test and deemphasize (if not outright ignore) other subjects; that it is a negative, punitive approach; that it doesn’t truly reform the educational system; and that the standards are unrealistic (48 percent of the nation’s 100,000 public schools were labeled as failing under the law last year).

With no consensus in Congress on how to fix the problem, the President has taken matters into his own hands. In a press conference this afternoon, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that 10 states—Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—have agreed to work within the Administration’s reform guidelines and will thus receive a waiver from the potential sanctions slated to go into effect in 2014. These states will continue to set a higher bar for achievement—including college- and career-ready standards—but now have more freedom in how they implement it. More important, they can focus on tailoring solutions to the individual needs of poor-performing schools and students. They’ve also agreed to reward schools ranked at the top and that display clear gains (something NCLB didn’t do), and to implement meaningful teacher and principal evaluation systems.

This NCLB bypass effectively puts more control of education back in the hands of individual states. Assuming the states follow through as promised and look at long-term structural fixes, granting them waivers should be a good thing for public students in these states. But it is also a clear acknowledgment that that the United States is nowhere near to achieving the law’s goal of getting kids up to grade level in reading and math within the next two years. No wonder 28 other states have indicated that they, too, plan to seek waivers.

What do you think: Are the NCLB waivers a good thing or merely an admission that our system remains broken with few signs of improvement?

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Get a Baby Food Maker!

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Joe meets blueberries

It’s an incredible responsibility, giving a baby his first taste of solid food. I made a big deal out of giving my son Joe his first rice cereal—I had a whole little ceremony at my Dad’s house. So of course Joe spit it right back out like it was poison. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after my firstborn, Grace, rejected the steamed, pureed carrots her aunt lovingly made for her first serving of veggies. Here’s the good news: Both my kids have gone on to be champion eaters. They will try anything, and enjoy most foods, even at the tricky ages of 6 and 9. I’d pat myself on the back except I’m not sure that I had much to do with it, beyond making sure they tasted a lot of different flavors between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. A 1-year-old will put anything in his mouth, it doesn’t have to be bland or sweet. But I have friends who served up a wide variety of tastes and still ended up with a picky kid, so it’s not a foolproof way to get a little foodie, just a good practice to try.

Yesterday I read an entertaining entry in my coworker’ baby food blog. Heather Morgan Shott chronicles her adventures feeding her son, Mason, at High Chair Times. Over the holidays, Mason accidentally ate peanut butter for the first time, giving his mom a scare as she watched to make sure he didn’t have an allergic reaction. It’s one of those funny-because-nothing-happened stories, and was similar to a scene that played out with me and baby Grace. She was sitting on my lap in a Thai restaurant when I absentmindedly let her chew on a steamed vegetable that had been in peanut sauce. In my sleep-deprived stupor, I didn’t even think about it until the end of the meal, when all I could do is be thankful she’s not allergic.

This is all to say that I salute all of you who are feeding a baby, or about to start. You’ll hear advice from everyone, but there is no one guideline to follow on the baby-food journey. You can get a rough idea of how much food—and what type—babies eat, here. And are you into the idea of making purees yourself? Check out our new story on homemade fruit purees. Since so many moms are on the make-your-own kick, I’m going to give away one Baby Brezza One-Step Baby Food Maker, which retails for $100, and one Baby Bullet set, worth $90. They’ll be part of a baby food maker slideshow, which I promise to post shortly. You have through Wednesday, January 11th to post a comment and be entered to win one of the two baby food makers; read the full rules here. You can only post once a day. Goody luck!

 

 

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Rocking Horse Giveaway!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Woody the Rocking Horse

“What should I get a 1-year-old?” is a surprisingly frequent question around here, especially around the holidays. Here’s what I tell people:

1-YEAR-OLDS LOVE BLINKING, MUSIC-PLAYING PLASTIC TOYS. Their parents may hate them, but 1-year-olds love love love them. Why not make a kid happy? And though I’m always one to champion the little guys, toys from big companies are often great hits. Fisher-Price (with their Laugh & Learn line), VTech, Leapfrog, and Playskool all test their toys on real kids and pretty much nail what young toddlers want. Just pay attention to the age grading on the packaging. If it says “12 months and up,” don’t buy it for a 9-month-old and expect him to do much with it. If it says “3 years and up,” take that to heart; it usually means there are small parts that a child under 3 could choke on.

We got a lot of mileage out of this toy car!

TODDLERS ALSO LOVE TO IMITATE THEIR PARENTS. I just adore this about 1-year-olds, and 2-year-olds too. Before babes can walk around on their own, they are more or less stuck watching grown-ups, so when they begin to play, they imitate what they’ve seen, to often hilarious results. My daughter Grace had a toy cell phone, but instead of talking on it, she mostly pretended to be listening, and then would give an occasional big, fake laugh. Anything from pretend cell phones and keys (Parents makes these with Manhattan Toy, see them here) to kitchens (Step2 and Little Tikes make the classics) and toy cars have that I’m-just-like-Mom-and-Dad appeal. Both my kids were obsessed with the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. We got a lot of mileage, ahem, out of that one!

Julian rocks!

1-YEAR-OLDS WILL PLAY WITH PRETTY TOYS TOO. And these will make their parents much happier. Simple wooden cars are nice, or stacking blocks. Or a pretty wooden rocking horse. A rocking toy is such a classic, and there are so many fun versions. Our executive editor’s mom got her grandson, Julian, this adroable one. Is it a dino or a dragon? Doesn’t matter—the birthday boy loved it!

This year I’m liking Woody the Rocking Horse because he’s a modern-looking but totally classic toy. He’s also only $80, which makes him as affordable as many of the big plastic toys. And he’s got a nice story; Prince Lionheart, the company that makes him, started off in 1973 making rocking horses, you can see their story here. Note: Woody is age-graded 18 months and up, so make sure you’re buying it for a kid heading toward his second birthday!

And good news! One of you lucky ducks will win a Prince Lionheart Woody the Rocking Horse of your very own. Just leave a comment below; you can post once a day through Wednesday. I’d appreciate it if you posted what your own 1-year-old loves to play with! Click here for the full rules. Goody luck!

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Get a $100 Wish Card for Chasing Fireflies

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

I looooove dressing my kids up for the holidays. They look so precious in special clothes. Especially Grace. There’s no denying that it’s more fun to dress up a girl than a boy. Though my son Joe had some cute outfits as a baby.

Check him out in a tie at his very first Christmas, back in 2005.

My kids are 6 and 9 now, and it gets harder and harder to use them as my own living dolls. Grace is hot and cold on dresses. She did don a brown one for two days straight over Thanksgiving because she got it in her head that she wanted to be a Native American maiden. But she never once wore a dress to third grade last year. Now that we’re a few months into fourth grade, she just told me last night that she wants to start wearing dresses “that aren’t too dressy.” So I’ve got to decode that request. My girl was in nothing but gowns when she was ages 2, 3, 4, and 5—those prime princess years. Sigh! Here she is looking like an angel at Christmas 2007.

So pretty!

So how do I satisfy my urge to play with tiny, adorable outfits now that my kids are school-age? Fortunately I work at American Baby, and even more fortunately I have an assistant, Hallie, who loves clothes the way most people love food. Hallie and I look for any excuse to call in outfits. Even if we can’t get the space in the magazine to do a whole fashion spread, we can put up an online slideshow. You can see our latest here, it’s a bunch of comfy Christmas outfits for infants.

Hallie and I have a lot of favorite baby-clothes companies that we call on. But when it comes to just mooning over special dresses, it’s hard to top the Chasing Fireflies catalog. They showcase gorgeous photography, well-made clothes, and happy kids. Their Web site doesn’t do them justice, but it’s still fun to look at: Chasing-Fireflies.com. And sign up for the catalog if you want a real treat to arrive by mail. Maybe the upcoming holidays give you an excuse to buy the $44 Santa baby romper, or the $68 angel romper, or their amazing “fireworks dress” that comes as small as 12 months. Go ahead and do it. I’ll try not to cry with jealousy as I wrestle my kids into some reindeer-themed T-shirt and call that fancy.

Their Winter catalog

And now the exciting part: I reached out to our Chasing Fireflies contact, and they’ll give one lucky reader a $100 gift card, which they call a wish card. Enjoy the dress-up years while you have them! Just leave a comment here on this post by the end of the day on Wednesday, December 7th, to be eligible for the wish card. You can post once a day. For full rules, click here. Goody luck!

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