The tantrums and the insistent chorus of “No!”: There’s a reason that the time between Baby’s second and third birthdays is called the Terrible Twos. Help keep drama at bay with play that hones your toddler’s motor skills, improves her linguistic abilities, and fuels her imagination. Need some inspiration? Try these picks from Shop Parents.
Both in the U.S. and the U.K., Annabel Karmel is the number-one name for moms who want to make their own baby food. The mother of three has written more than a dozen books about feeding babies and toddlers; her iPhone app is also a hit. Now she’s offering advice and delicious recipes for pregnant moms with her new book Eating for Two.
What inspired you to dive into nutrition, meal planning, and baby food?
About three months after my first child was born, I felt very uneasy—she didn’t look right to me. We took her to the hospital and were there for five days and nights. They believed something was wrong with her brain. On the last night, she died. I can’t even explain what that feels like. She was my first child.
I knew that having another child was the only thing that could bring me back to life, and so my son Nicholas is the reason I wrote my first book. I was quite adamant that he should eat well. I tried books on baby purees and they were all very bland. I tried commercial products and he wouldn’t eat them. I only got him to eat well with my own with herbs, garlic, and fresh food.
I was giving my recipes to all the mums around and they told me I should write a book.
So you did!
I spoke with many, many allergy specialists, nutritionists, and research bodies. It took me two and half years before my first book came out in 1991, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner. I thought that would be the only book I wrote, but so far I’ve written about one book each year on a range of topics: weekly meal planning, feeding fussy eaters, creating family meals, transitioning from puree to solid food, and cooking with your child.
What are good first foods?
I don’t believe in baby cereal. I like vegetables and fruit, preferably sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. Simply steam it to preserve the nutrients, or bake it, which will caramelize it. Then mix it with your baby’s usual milk. Apple and pear are also great choices because they are slightly sweet, similar to breast milk. Then start branching out and introduce mashed papaya, peaches, banana, and avocado.
When making purees, stick to a single ingredient and keep it as close to liquid as possible. Babies are used to breast milk, and you need to mimic that consistency to start. Then work up to mixing a fruit and a vegetable together and creating thicker purees. Try introducing your little one to broccoli and spinach by mixing them with root vegetables.
What if my child is picky and won’t eat a lumpy sweet potato puree?
Stick with it! In the first year, you must introduce to as many foods as possible. Withholding certain foods has nothing to do with developing an allergy or not, but rather it can make children quite fussy. It’s really about trying to train kids to like good food. It’s hard to transition from commercial, processed food to homemade family food. Start them on fresh family food and you shouldn’t have much of a problem.
What are the best first finger foods?
Steamed veggies and soft fruits like peaches, broccoli, pears. I also love serving fingers of toast with real cheese, mini meatballs, and sautéed grated onion and apple.
How can moms be sure their babies and toddlers are getting the nutrition they need?
Follow my books and meal planner—it takes all the worry out of it. Once you’re past the simple foods, bring in eggs, fish, chicken, and other meat. I like putting things like dried apricot into beef casserole or fresh fruit into a savory puree to get babies to like it.
Other key points to remember: variety and food groups. Serve fish or meat twice each week or add cheese to a veggie puree. Do not stick to smooth purees for too long. To avoid this, blend half and chop the other half or keep it lumpier.
Don’t be discouraged or frustrated when you’re baby becomes independent, experiments with food, and then makes a mess. Mums need to accept that and take a deep breath.
Sometimes introducing the same food over and over doesn’t work for me. So I make something else. Is this the right thing to do?
It’s actually important for the child to feel hungry. Otherwise he will carry on and on and get fussy with food whenever he doesn’t feel like eating something. Give him no attention for not eating. It’s a hard thing to do, but focus on the good and not the bad. We’re all guilty of going to the cupboard and trying to appease our children, afraid they will be hungry. But when they’re hungry, that’s the time they will eat something different. Otherwise their diet won’t be varied and that’s the worst thing.
What is the best way to store baby food?
I loved cooking for my children on the weekend and freezing purees in ice cube trays. You’re better off making it in bulk.
Can parents just blend up what they’re eating for dinner?
Yes! But be mindful that no salt or strong seasonings are added.
Do you have a favorite go-to recipe when you’re in a pinch?
My mini-meatballs. I bake them in the oven and then freeze the extra. I also love chicken balls and salmon balls—all are made with breadcrumbs, tomato, and spring onion.
Any tips for mom’s diet?
While pregnant, try not to gain too much weight. You don’t need any extra calories, not until the last three months anyway, because your body is great at using all of the calories and nutrients you already provide. Eating many small meals is best, and good snacks are sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
After your child is born, you must continue to eat well, especially when breast-feeding. You don’t think about storing up food in the freezer but it is such a help to plan ahead for when you’re back from the hospital. If you eat well and rest, you will feel so much better. And it will be nutritious for baby.
Interview has been condensed and edited.
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Yesterday I was packing up the mass assortment of towels and toys that’s standard for a family expedition to the local pool, while my husband chased our 20-month-old daughter around the nearby kiddie spray-ground, and my two older kids pleaded with me for snacks. I was almost done (with the packing and the begging), and gave my husband, Dan, the “ready-to-roll” signal.
Just as I stuffed the last pair of goggles inside a bag, I looked up to see my husband approaching with our daughter held out in front of him, face-forward, like an offering, her green bathing suit dripping and her blond curls tousled and wet. She clutched a plastic blue measuring cup in her hand, but wait…. That’s not her suit. And that’s not…her. I sprung from my knees.
“Dan!” I cried. “That’s not our baby!”
My husband turned the toddler in his arms around. She had a slightly confused but otherwise content look on her face, and he might have introduced her to her first expletive as he hustled her back from whence she came (just a few yards, really) and set her down beside her father, who was standing by our blonde daughter in her green suit, and holding a matching blue cup. (Hate to say it, but that dad hadn’t seemed to notice the switcheroo either!)
This is one of those moments you can lord over your spouse for awhile, right? It reminded me of a news item we caught together years ago: a woman had accidentally driven her car off of a ferryboat. The woman was fine, but we wondered how she survived her marriage. We predicted she was automatically on the losing end of every spat forevermore. “You think I should load the dishwasher your way? Um, whatever. You drove the car off the ferry.” This toddler-swapping incident might be the trump card that I could pull out of my pocket when I needed it. “You don’t like the way I did the food shopping, eh? Well all I have to say to that is… That’s not our baby.”
But nah…. Dan’s a great dad, we had a good laugh together, and that was it. While I haven’t physically walked off with another child, yet, after three children and years of sleep deprivation and all the other craziness that comes with raising kids, I’m probably capable myself. Haven’t you ever absentmindedly patted the head of a small child you assumed to be yours clutching your leg, only to look down, meet her gaze, and in a moment right out of Blueberries for Sal, you both realized, “Hey, you’re not mine?” I have.
So have you, or your husband, ever walked, strolled, or maybe even driven away (!) with someone else’s child?
Today is President Obama’s 50th birthday, and we’re feeling patriotic. Check out this cute kid commemorating the legacy of Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, and more legendary U.S. Presidents by their most famous quotes. His imitation of Nixon is scarily spot-on!
Can your little cutie be a little meanie in disguise? If your toddler pushes, hits, or hurts another kid, is he a bully and will he grow up to be one?
TODAY Moms has a fascinating article about whether pre-K kids should be labeled as bullies if they show aggression toward others. According to Dr. Heather Wittenberg, a child pyschologist and parenting expert for Parents who was quoted in the article, it’s typical for toddlers to be more aggressive, but they’re still too young to hurt someone deliberately, with premeditation. It’s not until age 6 when kids start to understand the concepts of power and right vs. wrong. Other experts disagree, saying toddlers understand the concept of bullying at age 4 — and it only gets worse from there.
Take our poll and share what you think in the Comments area — do toddlers understand what it means to bully?
As 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 Kumon. The 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?
ABCNews.com recently wrote about a new trend in ”toddler” apps, educational apps targeted to kids between 4 months to 3 year old, to help them learn earlier and faster. One mom’s son started playing with an iPad at 9 months old, and now 5 months later, he recognizes letters and uses 75 apps. Plus, since more toddlers are learning how to handle an iPhone and iPad, even Toys “R” Us is selling iPads and a kindergarten class in Maine will be getting their own iPads when school starts again.
MyFox Orlando reported hat Beard saw the child dangling from the balcony and ran to a location underneath the child before she fell. The toddler struck the third floor balcony before being caught by Beard. The child still slipped through Beard’s arms and landed on the ground, but didn’t suffer any injuries. The local hospital determined the child to be in good health and the sheriff’s captain deemed Jah-Nea’s rescue to be miraculous.
When taking a trip with your child, Parents suggests calling the hotel beforehand to ask questions and determine if it’s kid-friendly location. Ask about renting a crib or stroller, the hotel’s crib safety requirements, and any available child-friendly activities, pools, and playgrounds. Most hotels also offer free childproofing kits or will childproof the room for you upon request. Just make sure to ask. Once you’re at the hotel, look for any possible dangers such as open balconies, stairs, and railings, uncovered outlets, sharp furniture, fragile objects, loose curtain or electrical cords, and unlocked cabinets. Above all, keep your child safe no matter where you stay.