Thursday, February 24, 2011

All-By-Myself Buns

This is one of those great two-for-the-price-of-one deals: a super fun activity to engage your little one, and a yummy, nutritious snack idea all rolled into one. I love this activity/recipe because it requires almost no prep work, makes very little mess, and is actually very healthy. My daughter LOVES making her own goodie-stuffed buns, and gobbles them up when they are finished baking (and my munchkin is generally more of a picker than a gobbler!). She’s taken to calling them “All-By-Myself-Buns”, a name that has stuck around our house. Hope you and your munchkins enjoy the idea too!
You will need…
Bun dough - any of the following will work...
  • Pillsbury-type refrigerated bun or biscuit dough
  • Store-bought freezer bun dough (preferably whole wheat), defrosted
  • Homemade whole wheat bun dough (actually very quick and easy if you use a breadmaker)
Filling – use the following ideas or make up your own..
·     Peanut or almond butter and jam
·    Cream cheese with mashed bananas or berries (have your child help you mash the fruit and combine with the cream cheese)
·    Cheddar or mozzarella (cut into small cubes)
·    Other filling of your choice
Enjoying a cream cheese and blueberry bun
Give your child a ball of dough and show them how to pat it out into a flat pancake shape on a greased pan. Next, show them how to arrange or spread your chosen topping in the centre of the dough. Then step in to help, folding the corners of the dough into the centre, pinching shut, and placing pinched side down on the baking sheet. Bake according to directions for the dough you are using, allow to cool, and enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adventures in Grocery Shopping - Part 2

Today was grocery shopping day, and I am pleased to report that for the first time in a long while, my secretly-observe-other-mommies-grocery-shopping experiment (to read more click here) revealed something truly wonderful. A mom with three little ones was circuiting the store in the opposite direction that I was, so I had the privilege of passing her in almost every aisle. And I say privilege because it truly was. Her cart was overflowing with groceries that almost obscured a smiling little boy, roughly two or three years of age, inside of the cart. A baby about twelve months old sat buckled into the seat. And a little girl of about four or five walked beside the buggy. This mom had her hands full, no doubt about it. And watching her shop was a thing of beauty.
Each time I passed her in an aisle, she was happily chatting with her three children. Asking them questions. Listening to their answers. She was so animated in her conversation with them that it was no wonder her little ones were captivated – even the passersby were. At one point I watched her acting unabashedly silly, her three little ones giggling away as she all the while continued to fill her cart. It was clear that she was in the midst of a monumental juggling act, yet she was the picture of grace under pressure. Her interaction with her cart full of kiddies was so lovely to watch that I meant to say something to her about it (recognition for a job well done is something moms don’t get nearly as often as they should), but she eluded me in the checkout aisle.
I was so happy to observe lovely, engaging shopping mom today. Because as I’ve conducted this little experiment on my own over the past few months, I’ve observed other approaches far more often, as I’m guessing you may have too. A sprinkling of nagging. A smattering of scolding. A whole lot of rushing and hurrying. And many well-intentioned, busy moms, trying their best to get their shopping done, paying more attention to the items on their list than to the munchkins in their carts. Until, of course, those munchkins start wailing, or running away, or toppling a tidy display (things that bored munchkins do very, very well). And then a return to the nagging and the scolding.
Now don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. On days when I am tired or rushed or otherwise not at my best, the last place I want to be is at the grocery store. And it can be tempting to just rush on through, eyes on the checkout aisle. But one thing is true without fail – When I am not at my best, grocery shopping doesn’t go as smoothly.
Our little ones look to US for cues about how to act and how to feel about the situations they encounter. They bring their own unique style and approach to it all (more on that next time), but we are the ones who set the tone. Every aspect of parenting is a dance between a big parent and a tiny little dance partner (or a whole cart-full of dance partners, for those who are so blessed). Grocery shopping is no different. My daughter brings her feisty little personality, her stage of development (totally and wholeheartedly TWO), her little body bursting with energy, her mood of the day, and many more things to the dance. So if I am to lead well, I had better be prepared, and suit up in my very best dancing shoes (even on days when I’d rather be in fuzzy slippers). When I go into any interaction – grocery shopping included – at my best, I provide her with the best opportunity to do her best. And isn’t that what joyful mommyhood is all about?
So here’s your next challenge: The next time you head out the door to go grocery shopping, try a quick little mommy-check. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. Determine that you will have FUN with your child while shopping. And determine that you will devote more attention (negative attention such as nagging and scolding does not count) to the munchkin in your cart than to the items on your list. I try to think of grocery shopping as a fun morning out with my little one, putting myself in the same mindset as I would when attending playgroup or a fun parent and tot activity. As with almost anything in mommyhood, attitude makes a HUGE difference, and sometimes all it takes is a little reminder to get back on the right track.
Of course, attitude is only the beginning, so hang in there for more in this little series. Still to come:
1)  Your Unique Munchkin - What your child brings to the equation, and how to adapt according to your child’s unique style.
2)  Grocery Shopping Tool Kit - Tried and tested tips for making every grocery trip better!
3)  HELP!!! – How to change patterns that aren’t working.
4)  Smiles in Every Aisle – Grocery store games and activities.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Perfect Puffy Paint

My daughter and I used this super fun, sparkly puff paint to decorate our Valentine’s cards this year. And while I intended to post this recipe before Valentine’s day, alas it did not happen. But this craft activity need not be Valentine-specific, and can be enjoyed any time of the year. Like all craft recipes that I love, this puffy paint is easy to make and entirely safe and edible (they’ll taste it once but never again) for little ones.

Puffy Salt Paint
¾ cup salt
½ cup white flour
½ cup water
Food colouring
Combine salt, flour and water in a mixing bowl, adding food colouring until paint reaches your desired colour. Spoon paint into a clean plastic squeeze bottle, then show your little artist how to squeeze puff paint onto paper to create a puffy masterpiece. The salt makes the puff paint look sparkly when it dries.
Helpful Hints:
·        Empty ketchup and mustard bottles work well for this project, and leftover paint can be stored in the fridge for future projects. Just be sure to label the bottles with a felt marker (lesson learned the hard way!).
·        This paint is quite thick, and works particularly well on sturdier paper such as cardstock or cardboard. Try raiding your recycling bin and cutting up old cereal or cracker boxes for use as inexpensive art supplies.
·       Allow paint to dry overnight. Happy puff painting!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Adventures in Grocery Shopping - Part 1

Ah, grocery shopping. The mere thought strikes fear and dread in the hearts of parents everywhere. Working with hundreds of families over the years, it was a topic I was asked about again and again. It wasn’t exactly my area of expertise. But helping parents cope with challenges, and helping them discover ways of enriching daily routines to promote their child’s development was. So I spent a surprising amount of time throughout the course of my career discussing, problem solving, and strategizing with parents around the “issue” of grocery shopping with kids. And over time, with the help of parents and their feedback, I developed a little “grocery shopping bag of tricks”.
Now the mommy of a two year old, I’ve been pleased to discover for myself (sigh of relief) that those tricks really do work. And while grocery shopping isn’t the easiest part of my week, it is often one of the most fun parts, for both my daughter and myself (honestly – I’m not kidding!). And while we’re having fun in the grocery store, my daughter is having one of the richest learning experiences I could hope for her to have.
Now by this point, many of you are (justifiably) rolling your eyes. Grocery shopping with little ones is TOUGH. I totally get it. And I agree. BUT – and here’s the important point – it can always get better. Of the many families I worked with on this issue over the years, there wasn’t one I can recall who was not able to make some improvement to this necessary family routine. It may never end up being the best part of your week. But it doesn’t have to be the worst.
So because this is a big topic, I plan to chat about it in several parts – kind of a continuing series on the joys and pitfalls awaiting you up and down the aisles. But as I leave you waiting in breathless anticipation, a little homework assignment for you…
The next time you go grocery shopping, pay attention to the parents you see shopping with their little ones. Watch (but subtly – the last thing a harried parent needs is a gawking stranger on top of everything else!) to see how they are engaging and interacting with their child. Listen (subtly!) to their conversations. Observe their body language. If you were a little person strapped against your will into their cold metal cart, would you be captivated by the experience they were sharing with you? Enchanted by the sound of their voice? Fascinated by the rich and colourful world they were helping you to explore? Hmmmm….