Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun Friday: Homemade Bath Crayons

Buy some glycerin soap at a craft store. Melt it in the microwave, add food coloring, and pour into a mold. I used an ice cube tray. You can also add essential oils if you go for scents, though I find that a bit unnecessary for bath crayons. Takes about an hour to cool completely, then pop out of the mold and you have crayons!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Health: Best Picks for Nutritious or Alternative Treats

Halloween is just around the corner. Soon you'll see ghosts and goblins lined up with their Halloween bags held open. Traditionally, candy has been the treat of choice, but do kids really need another sugary treat dropped into their bags? According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids get between 13 and 16 percent of their total calories from added sugar. That's not very reassuring from a health standpoint. If you're concerned about how much sugar kids are getting these days, there are some healthier Halloween alternatives that won't decay teeth or send kids' blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Here are some healthy Halloween treats to offer kids that ring your doorbell this year.

Fruity Snacks

Skip the candy entirely and hand out fruity snacks instead. Rolled fruit, dried fruit without added sugar or freeze-dried fruit aren't as healthy as eating whole fruit, but some parents won't allow their kids to eat Halloween candy that isn't packaged. Do the next best thing and give out individually-packaged fruit roll-ups or other fruit snacks without added sugar -- but watch out for yogurt-covered fruit snacks. They often contain hydrogenated oils, a type of trans fat. Read the label carefully.
Packages of Seeds

Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin E and minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc. Look for small packages of roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds to drop in Halloween bags in place of candy. Nuts are also a good source of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, but they're not a smart choice for a Halloween treat since nut allergies aren't uncommon. Fortunately, allergies to sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are rare.
Sugar-Free Gum
Sugary candy and gum leads to tooth decay, but sugar-free chewing gum sweetened with xylitol, a sugar alcohol, protects against dental decay. Some parents don't want their kids exposed to synthetic sweeteners like aspartame, but xylitol is safe for all age groups, and kids won't notice a taste difference. They'll just enjoy blowing bubbles! Even dentists recommend that kids and adults munch on xylitol gum to prevent dental caries.

Cereal or Cereal Bars

Hand out boxes of whole-grain cereal in single-serving boxes for a "better for you" Halloween treat. Read the label and choose one that has no more than 5 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber. Pre-packaged cereal bars that are low in sugar are another alternative that kids and moms can both agree on.
Dark Chocolate

If you still want to stay in the Halloween spirit by handing out candy, choose dark chocolate with as little added sugar as possible. Dark chocolate is a good source of heart-healthy antioxidants as long as you choose one with a high cacao content. Look for one with a cacao content of 70 percent or greater for maximal health benefits. Dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk chocolate for kids -- and for adults.
String Cheese

Buy individually wrapped strands of string cheese for a Halloween handout that's high in bone-building calcium and protein. Kids enjoy string cheese almost as much as candy and it won't cause tooth decay -- but be aware that some kids have allergies to dairy products.

Popcorn without added butter is low in calories and is a whole food that's high in antioxidants. Surprised? It's also a good source of fiber. Look for small snack-size packages of popcorn to drop into Halloween bags when the ghoulish day arrives.
The Bottom Line?
Break out of the candy mold, and choose healthier treats to give out this Halloween. If you're sticking with the candy theme, look for dark chocolate with as little added sugar as possible. The kids decked out in their Halloween finest will enjoy it -- and their moms will be forever grateful.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Fall Tips for Healthy Kids [And Adults Too!]

Autumn is here! We love the fall, but we don’t love the colds that come with it. Here are some awesome tips I learned from Dr. John Doulliard, that are now tried and true, with a sprinkling of my own. Wishing you all a season of good health and blessing.

1.Moisture. In fall the air is drier. When the mucous membranes dry out, our bodies produce reactive mucous that predisposes kids to colds.
  • Use a cold air humidifier every night to keep mucous membranes moist.
  • Swab a good oil (Andreas Black sesame oil and coconut oil are both anti bacterial, but extra virgin olive oil works too) with a Q-tip around the inside of their nostrils, morning and night.
  • Put a drop of warmed ear oil (preferably one made with garlic available in the health food store) in each ear, every night. Do it while they sleep if necessary. This lubricates Eustachian tubes, which helps support better lymph flow and aids upper respiratory immunity.
  • Use lots of Coconut oil in your cooking, it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and so healthy for your cells, skin, and brain.

2. Sleep. Getting enough rest is absolutely essential. If we are not properly rested our immunity will suffer. Kids need their rest. Pre-high school age children should be sleeping by 8:00. High school age should be asleep by 10:00.

3. Hydration. Avoid dehydration. Put water bottles in kids lunch. Make sure they drink a big glass of water in the morning and a big glass in the afternoon. Each day they should have ½ their ideal body weight in ounces.

Dehydration causes:
  • Stomach aches
  • Bone loss
  • Hormonal problems
  • Obesity
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Poor ability to focus
  • Skin conditions
  • And more.

4. Digestion and elimination. Colds start in the digestive system. It is important to track your child’s elimination and know when they “go”. 1-2 times daily is normal.

Up the water and vegetables, if bowel movements are not in the normal range. Sluggish bowels cause the villi of the gut to become congested.

5. Proper nutrition. Control mood and focus with food. The middle of the day is the best time to eat the largest meal because this is the time the body can digest most efficiently. This can be tough for school age kids.

In the afternoon when America is craving chocolate and coffee, the brain needs energy, especially when lunch was an insufficient snack. Blood sugar may then crash in the afternoon. Don’t just give your kids a sugary snack when they get home from school. Have a large meal ready for them when they get home.

They need energy for afternoon activities and homework.

It is also good because they will have ample time to digest before bed.

Offer them lots of nutritional veggies. The best way to get them to eat vegetables is monkey see, monkey do. Mom and Dad have to eat lots and lots of vegetables, it works , the kids will want them as well.

What other healthy tips do you follow to keep your family going during the fall season?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Healthy teeth – at Halloween?

Yes, you can pay attention to dental care for children without giving out pencils and toothbrushes on Oct. 31. (Not all candy is created equal, for starters.)
A new survey targeting 5- to 13-year-olds found 94 percent of them trick or treat and 65 percent of them consider Halloween the best holiday of the year. Yet two thirds of the respondents agreed that they eat too much candy around that final day of October and 89 percent said they would still like the holiday if it were less about candy and more about other types of fun.
True, the Information Solutions Group conducted the Halloween survey for the understandably candy-averse American Dental Association (and videomaker PopCap Games). But still.
In the survey, kids said their three favorite Halloween activities were "trick-or-treating," "dressing up in costume," and, well, "getting lots of candy." A remarkable (to me, at least) 42 percent of the young respondents said they worried about developing cavities from indulging in their sugary loot.
To find out more about how to pass out treats that are least likely to cause tooth decay in your neighbors' children, FamilyGoesStrong talked with Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Maine, and an American Dental Association spokesman who is promoting the Stop Zombie Mouth campaign. Excerpts:
What are some non-candy treats that kids actually like?
Sugar-free gum [for kids who know not to swallow it]. It stimulates saliva flow and removes debris off the teeth. Stickers are also good.
What if you (or your kids) really want to give out candy? What's best, from a dentist's point of view?
Make the candy as small as possible.
Won't that seem Scrooge-ish?
As long as kids see there's candy going in their bag, they'll be happy.
What type of treat is a dentist's worst nightmare?
When it comes to tooth decay, we're concerned about the type of sugar it is. Sticky or long-lasting candy [like caramel] is going to still linger on your teeth and be a problem. For us, it's the amount of time sugar remains in the mouth…The stickier the candy, the worse it is.
So what kind of candy do you recommend for people how want to give it out?
The best kind of candy is just plain milk chocolate. Chocolate clears the mouth really quickly.
But not chocolate with caramel, right?
Caramel, sometimes you find it stuck in your teeth and hour and a half later. In terms of the least evil sugar candy, that would be the least evil, and you wouldn't get rotten things thrown at your house!
And you don't like plastic fangs and super balls because they're potential choking hazards, right?
We have to be obsessive about the things we promote.
So why is sugar so terrible for teeth?
Every time you have a little bit of sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in your mouth eats the sugar and turns it into acid, and that acid eats away at your teeth. If you have lots of candy or juice throughout the day, then that causes your teeth to be constantly exposed to acids.
So it's better if kids eat their sugar all at once. What else are kids doing wrong?
Only 44 percent of kids brush their teeth twice a day. That's the only really effective way of reducing risk [of tooth decay] other than dietary changes.
What else should parents and grandparents know about teeth and trick-or-treating?
The average kid gets over 90 pieces of candy on Halloween. This is candy that in some cases can last weeks or a couple of months. That's where the concern is. Limit the number of times during the day that you expose your teeth to sugar.
Will you give out chocolate on Halloween?
I haven't decided. I don't want to be a party pooper. I've given out candy in the past, but I wouldn't want to admit to that!
So what's the bottom line on candy?
I have no problem with kids eating candy or eating sugar or drinking juice as long as it's considered a treat in their lives and not an everyday event and as long as they're brushing their teeth two times a day. If their lives are constantly filled with walking home with sugar-sweetened beverages and getting bad marks from the dentist, then this is an issue. We really are trying to educate about moderation and better health habits.
What do you hand out on Halloween?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun Friday: No Carve Pumpkin Decorating

Mess Free and Spooky-Cool
Featured on Seattle-based site, Modern Parents, Messy Kids, we love these ideas for creating mess-free jack-o-lanterns. Mama Steph explains that her family first hits up the pumpkin patch in early October and then they wait for a couple of weeks before her tots get busy with decorating their gourds (a perfect 2-for-1 family activity!).

To make these two beauties, Steph’s brood used sticky back foam sheets (Amazon; $5-6), that work much like stickers after you’ve cut out your chosen shapes. (She also recommends splurging on the glitter sheets for an extra sparkly effect!) However, Steph says that pre-made foam Halloween stickers found in the crafting section will also do the trick just as well (shown on the smaller pumpkin), depending on what your child has in mind.

Pumpkin Play
Got a Mr. Potato Head that could use a little rejuvenation? Don’t miss out on this fun idea for making a Mrs. (or Mr.) Pumpkin Head, offered up by Zakka Life. Perfect for families that are looking for spook-free Halloween decorations, this cool personalized pumpkin is easy for little kids to make — and it can be played with like the actual toy.

To get started, you’ll only need to have a screwdriver handy for poking out your pumpkin’s facial and body features — Mama Jessica recommends being a bit conservative with the size of your holes so the pieces fit nicely. And other than that, you’re all set to begin giving this year’s pumpkin a little personality and pizazz!

Glittery Goods
It doesn’t get much better than these sparkly decorative gourds included on The Rabens Family!

To make your own fancy shiny jack-o-lanterns, simply paint your pumpkins with a layer of white glue and then get to work on shaking out your adorning sparkles. Super easy for small hands and yet a gorgeous idea for snazzing up your porch for this year’s trick-or-treating fun!

Masked to Perfection
This silly masked pumpkin featured on Alpha Mom is perfect for the families that are only interested in decorating this year’s pumpkin — and for those that want to decorate their pumpkin mid-October and still carve them later on before Halloween. A potential pre-jack, so to speak!

To make your own, simply gather up your adorning materials — such as pom poms, feathers, glitter, and stickers — and begin gluing them onto a face mask. Once everything has dried, cut out some funny eyes from a magazine and glue them onto the back of the mask. Since everything besides the pumpkin’s lips are attached to the mask, you’ll only have to worry about taking the mouth off the actual pumpkin, come carving time (if your family chooses to do both). Either way, this is one pumpkin that’s sure to get plenty of giggles and smiles from passersby!

Mix'n and Match'n
And for more in craft foam fun, we love these mix-and-match pumpkins included on Make and Takes!

Much like the Mr. Pumpkin Head idea, these colorful gourds can be made by gluing Velcro mini circles onto your pumpkin for the eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and other facial features. Then simply cut out your foam shapes or bedazzling features and glue the Velcro pieces on to their backs as well. Once everything has dried, your child will love switching out the pumpkin’s hair for a hat, or testing out which ears and nose suits your family’s new Halloween friend best! Check out the full post for an excellent pictorial and tips on mix-and-match features.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Explaining Halloween to Kids

“Mommy, why is everyone dressed up so funny?” “Daddy, what does ‘trick or treat’ mean?” “Grandma, why are people giving away free candy?” “Grandpa, how come those pumpkins have such funny faces?”

Halloween-related questions like these — and more, to be sure — pop up frequently when kids are young. In fact, the whole concept of this holiday can seem a bit scary, confusing, and overwhelming to the littlest ones at first. Explaining to kids why we celebrate Halloween can sometimes be, excuse the pun, “tricky.

Depending on your child’s age, you may want to first begin by talking about the history of Halloweenusing age-appropriate words. Then ease any rising fears they may be feeling by describing all the wonderful Halloween customs and traditions you enjoyed as a child. They might include:

  • Picking out a costume. Whether hand sewn or store bought, costumes are the funnest part of Halloween, in my humble opinion. Tell your child what you used to dress up as. (I loved dressing up as a gypsy.) Then let your child help decide what he or she would like to be this year, and use your imagination to make it possible. Ideas are all around you! (My son’s all-time favorite costume was a mummy. I just used toilet paper to wrap him up. But the funniest part of the night was when it suddenly started to rain. I had one soggy but happy little boy to carefully unwrap at the end of that night!)
  • Decorating pumpkins. Simple or elaborate, carved jack-o’-lanterns with lit internal candles are a source of great excitement and wonderment for kids of all ages. If you prefer, buy a carving kit to simplify the task. Easier yet, just have your child draw a face on the pumpkin with colorful markers. (Bonus: Toast the pumpkin seeds you pull out of the center for a healthy, tasty snack!)
  • Buying/making treats. Have your child help with the special treats you will pass out on Halloween night. Whether it’s assorted candy bars, fresh apples, Rice Krispie Treats, or popcorn balls, it’s always more fun when your child has a chance to participate. (My kids loved to put a few treats in small gift bags to pass out.)
  • Having a party. Whether you’re hosting one or attending one, it’s always a great time. Have your kids join in on the fun as you make creative Halloween-themed foods, bob for apples, tell ghost stories, or watch such scary family movies as Monsters, Inc.; Monster House; It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; or Ghostbusters.
  • Going trick-or-treating. Enjoy accompanying your costumed child house-to-house in your neighborhood. Remind first-timers to say, “Trick or treat!” And for safety’s sake, be sure to avoid long clothing that may cause tripping, avoid masks that obstruct vision, bring a flashlight to illuminate unlit walkways and stairs, never enter homes of unknown people, carry a cell phone for emergencies, and inspect all candy first. For the very young, it’s easiest to pull them in a wagon like any of these from Step2.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Safety Tips

Kids look forward to Halloween for many reasons. They like the dressing up in costumes but the mostly they like it for the candy and treats! Who wouldn't? Even some adults still like to go our trick or treating. It makes them feel young and happy again. While this section sticks mainly to guidelines for kids, they are just as useful for adults.

Some parents like to take first dibs on some of the candy that the kids have picked up during the night. It's their reward for taking them around from house to house! We suggest that you watch the candy intake when you all get home, too much at one time can lead to stomach aches and indigestion. That includes mom and dad as well!

Make your child's Halloween a memorable holiday and they'll have good memories that last a lifetime! If you are taking your kids out for the night, dress up as well. Mom and dad should get into Halloween as much as the kids do!

Trick or Treating should be one of the great adventures of Halloween for kids! They can get dressed in scary costumes and go door to door, begging "Tricks or Treats!" from neighbors or at the local mall. Lots of small towns have a Halloween Safe Night at the community center or school so kids can Trick-or-Treat safely but going door to door is the stuff of childhood memories! It should be a fun time, without trouble and pain, so following some easy tips can keep your child safe every Halloween.

Children should always go out trick or treating accompanied by a responsible adult. If you have a group of kids going, the parents should choose two or three of them to go along and keep an eye on things.

Some towns set a curfew for trick or treating which makes it easier for townsfolk to know who's coming to their door. Make sure and stick to the curfew times and stick to subdivisions and areas with a lot of homes so your kids can get in as much trick or treating as possible in a few hours time.

Plan a safe route so parents know where their older kids will be at all times. Set a time for their return home. Make sure that your child is old enough and responsible enough to go out by themselves. Make sure that they have a cell phone.

Let your children know not to cut through back alleys and fields if they are out alone. Make sure they know to stay in populated areas and not to go off the beaten track. Let them know to stay in well lighted areas with lots of people around. Explain to them why it can be dangerous for kids not to do this. If they are going out alone, they are old enough to know what can happen to them in a bad situation and how to stop it from happening.

Instruct your children not to eat any treats until they bring them home to be examined by you. This way you can check for any problem candy and get the pick of the best stuff!

Instruct your child to never go into the home of a stranger or get into their car. Explain why this is not a god idea and what to do if someone approaches them and tries to talk to them.

Make sure your child carries a flashlight, glow stick or has reflective tape on their costume to make them more visible to cars.

Let them know that they should stay together as a group if going out to Trick or Treat without an adult.

Did we miss anything? Share with us any tips you think are helpful!