Monday, January 31, 2011


Like any mommy of a somewhat picky, tends-to-eat-like-a-little-bird toddler, I am always looking for new, healthy snack ideas. And this particular super food has become such a smash hit in our household that I simply had to share the “idea” with you…
I share this only because unlike other fruits and veggies, the lovely pomegranate does not seem to be a fruit that most mommies (including myself, for a while) consider trying with little ones (I mentioned the idea at playgroup the other day and the other moms looked at me like I was cuckoo!). I’ve happily discovered, though, that it about as close to the perfect snack food a mommy could hope to find. SUPER healthy, delicious, fun, and convenient. My daughter loves the brightly coloured, bite-sized little seeds, and gobbles them up as though they were candy.
If you don’t eat pomegranates regularly, getting at those shiny little gems inside can be a bit of a challenge. So here are a few tricks to try…
·         As with any fruit, be sure to wash the outer peel before cutting into it with a knife. I just use a little baking soda (a totally safe, natural cleanser) and scrub with a brush under warm water.
·        To avoid wasting seeds, don’t cut right into the pomegranate. Rather, use a sharp knife to divide the pomegranate in quarters, cutting just through the peel but not into the centre of the fruit. Then simply break the pomegranate into pieces along the cut lines.
·        To get at all those yummy little seeds, submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of cold water. The water will prevent pomegranate juice from spraying all over your walls (those tiny little seeds are juicy and can really make a mess!). As an added plus, the white pith will separate from the seeds and float to the top of the water.
And the best news about the juicy, delicious pomegranate? Mommies can dive into their little ones’ snack food and gobble it up by the handful without even the tiniest bit of guilt. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wrapping Tube Racers

Ok, so Christmas is well past, and if you are a very organized mommy, all of your empty wrapping paper tubes may have already found their way into the recycle bin. But if you are like me – mostly organized, most of the time – you may still have a few kicking around.  Tubes or no tubes, your kids will LOVE this activity, so keep it in mind for the future…
Working for a decade in the field of early intervention, the single best toy I ever discovered was a clear plastic tube with a set of balls inside of it. Those ball tubes were like gold in my office – consultants and therapists stealthily hid them under desks and guarded them with their lives – and for good reason. Kids LOVED them, and they could be used to promote almost any learning goal we were trying to help the family attain. When the ball tubes stopped being made, my colleagues scoured ebay and second hand stores to find just one more treasured tube. And yet, the professionally agreed upon single-best-toy-ever-made is only as far as your next empty tube of gift wrap!
To recreate this fantastic toy at home, collect several small balls (ping pong balls, golf balls, and small bouncy balls all work well - just be sure to supervise babies and toddlers), and spend time with your child putting balls into the wrapping paper tube and watching them roll out of the other end. Sounds simple. But the learning benefits of this activity are literally endless. Here are just a few ideas to get you started…
Babies and Toddlers…
·    Use a shorter tube (i.e. paper towel or toilet paper roll) and show your baby how the ball goes in one side and rolls out the other. Promotes learning in the areas of cause and effect and object permanence (the understanding that the ball still exists even when your child can no longer see it).
·    Encourage your child to practice dropping the ball into the tube. Promotes fine motor development, purposeful release of objects, relational play (learning to use objects together in different ways, such as putting one object inside of another) and shape matching (matching a round ball to a round hole).
·    Sit on either end of the tube and take turns rolling the ball back and forth. Teaches turn taking and cooperative play.
·    Use simple, repetitive language to describe your play. For example, say “ready, set, GO!” each time you release the ball, then pause and wait for your child to say “go” – a great activity to promote language and communication skills.

Older Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Big Kids…
·    Swap the balls for small toy cars and use two tubes rather than one to have “races” with your child.  A fabulously fun activity that promotes togetherness. Great for promoting cooperative play (playing together rather than alongside) with friends or siblings.
·    Introduce concepts such as fast and slow, forward and backwards, stop and go. Not only is this great for language learning, but your child will challenge their gross motor and fine motor skills trying to control the speed and direction of the car inside of the tube.
Helpful Hint:
We have a long piece of plastic tubing (left over from the construction of our house) that we now use as a permanent “ball tube” in the basement. It never gets crushed like a paper tube eventually will, and it is my daughter’s absolute favourite toy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Joy of Less

I love rotating my daughter’s toys, and find it a wonderful way to make the most of the toys we have while at the same time minimizing toy chaos in our home. But last month, rather than rotating, I chose to just simplify. Christmas was coming. And a big birthday party the week before Christmas. So I knew that an abundance of new toys were likely to find their way into our toy box. Intending to just create some space in anticipation, I put away at least half of the toys I had out for my daughter to play with. Standing back to survey my work, I began to have second thoughts. I am a firm believer that less can be more when it comes to toys. I rotate toys frequently, but at any given time only a small percentage of the toys we actually own are out in the toy box. So following my pre-Christmas toy purge, the toy box looked pretty empty. Slightly worried, I told my husband that I’d bring some toys back up from the basement in the morning.
Well, morning arrived. And my little princess took one look at her only-half-full-toy-box…and literally jumped for joy. Suddenly able to SEE every toy in the box, she happily sorted through and thoughtfully chose her toys. For days afterwards, she played more contentedly than I think I’ve ever seen her play.
Now Christmas has passed and the toy box is overflowing once again. And while my munchkin is delighted with all of her new toys (as am I – I am such a toy fanatic), we are bordering on sensory overload once again. So today is toy sorting day, and most of the toys will be put away, to be brought back into the rotation in weeks to come.
Did you know…
·   Too many toys can be distracting for young children, taking away from their ability to focus on an activity. Fewer toys and a less cluttered environment allow kids the opportunity to really attend to and concentrate on a task, while at the same time encouraging more creativity with and in depth exploration of the toys available to them.

·   The less a toy does (i.e. the less flashing lights, music, etc.) the more your child is required to do, generally speaking making SIMPLE TOYS more beneficial for learning than fancy “bells and whistles” toys.

·    Creating a good storage system makes toy rotation much easier. Many stores put storage bins on sale in January, so now is a great time to revamp your toy storage system!
·   Thinning out your toy supply can be a great lesson in sharing. Have your child choose a few toys to pass along to a friend, or to donate to a program that helps kids in need.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life As Usual

Life as usual…It’s the joy of January! After two months of chaos in our household – all of November with my husband in hospital, and all of December with him recovering at home (not to mention our daughter’s second birthday and dinosaur birthday bash, Christmas, New Year’s, and all the accompanying busyness of the holidays) – life is finally back to normal. I have never before been a fan of January. But this year, I am relishing it as though it were June…
Anyone who has ever studied child development knows the importance of routine. Routine brings order, consistency, and predictability to the life of a child, helping them to make sense of their world. But even more importantly, the predictability of a consistent routine helps little people feel safe and secure in a big and busy world. Never have I seen that demonstrated more clearly than the past couple of days in our home.
After two months of unavoidable chaos, our return to normalcy these past few days has been met with nothing short of jubilation by my just-turned-two-year-old. Playing happily, eating heartily, sleeping (and even napping – it feels like a miracle!) soundly, the value of a routine is written all over her little smiling face.
And it is written on mine. I am a firm believer in the importance of a routine for mommies, too. For me, it is the key to not only my sanity, but also to ensuring we are making the most of each and every precious moment. Show me a mom who is “bored” at any point of her day, and I’ll show you a mommy who hasn’t yet developed a great routine.
The Joy of Order...
And what better time than the New Year to improve a little on your routine! Now is the perfect time to find new activities to enjoy with your little one, or to discover some new ways of getting connected in your community. And while you’re at it, why not sit down and actually think through your daily routine…What’s working? What’s not? And how are you going to change it? Being a truly joyful mommy is all about being intentional – thinking through how you are parenting, and how you will make the most of this most precious and important time in your life and your child’s. Could there be a better New Year's resolution to make? Wishing you all a truly JOYFUL 2011…