Sep 01

Fun With Science: Moving Pepper

moving-pepper-2This is a very simple science experiment that can be done with children as young as 2. Basically, if they can sit still and be amazed, then they can enjoy this experiment.

Before you begin any science experiment, whether you do it at home or in a classroom, you should really take the time to make some predictions. Explain what you will be doing, i.e. putting pepper in the water but let them have time to explore the possibilities. Do they think the pepper will float or sink? Is the water hot or cold? Do you think the pepper would float if the water was cold?

moving-pepper-1Next ask them what would happen if you put dish soap into the water. Write down what the kids are saying for prosperities sake, or if you are in a classroom, and if you want, you could have the kids draw pictures of the bowl of water before and after you add the dish soap.

What you need:

  • Pepper
  • Water
  • A bowl (it doesn’t have to be large but you want it large enough for all the kids to be able to see into it without pushing)
  • Dish Soap

Directions:

  1. Fill the bowl with water. Ask the questions, let the kids test the water and comment on it.
  2. Have your child(ren) add pepper to the water. Discuss what is happening.
  3. Place a drop of dish soap in the center of the water and discuss what is happening and why.

And that’s it. A 5 minute activity that you can do over and over again. This experiment actually deals with water tension and how it is affected by the dish soap. Generally, water has a very strong surface tension that pulls the water together. The pepper, which weighs less than the surface tension, floats. When you drop in the dish soap, the surface tension changes, becomes weaker, and the pepper is pulled away from the soap with the water. For kids, it looks like magic.

-Sirena Van Schaik

Looking for more children’s craft ideas?  Visit our Crafts section for more Crafts for Kids!

Aug 19

Healthy Lunch and Snack Ideas for Back to School

Healthy lunch and snack ideas for back to school(BPT) – If schools and parents received report cards on the lunches they’re serving kids, most wouldn’t receive a passing score. Many lunches, whether served at school or brought from home, are made with bleached flour, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, hormones and trans fats. Studies have shown that these ingredients are linked to weight gain, defects in insulin and lipid metabolism, hyperactivity, increased risk of tumors, cancer, digestive issues, asthma, premature heart attacks, diabetes, and overexposure and resistance to antibiotics. Some of these ingredients are even banned in other countries.

As a parent, what can you do to keep your child healthy? Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, suggests checking in with your child’s school to learn where foods are sourced, the nutritional values and ingredients in order to make informed decisions.

“The more highly processed foods are, the more likely they are to contain the seven unsavory ingredients. Meaning they are foods it’s best to find alternatives for,” says Laura Burbank, a registered dietitian with the Life Time Foundation.

“We encourage parents to speak with school nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items served in their lunch rooms, in favor of wholesome, real foods, and we’re able to help parents throughout that process,” Burbank says.

Until changes are made, Burbank advises actively engaging kids – starting when they’re young – in packing lunch at home. “Getting kids involved in packing their lunches makes them more likely to eat and enjoy them,” says Burbank. “They feel helpful and they’re learning along the way.” She says it’s important to include a protein, whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats with every meal, and provides some ideas below.

Lunch box option one:

* Lunch: turkey or ham sandwich with avocado and spinach on whole grain bread. Look for meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, artificial preservatives and other additives.

* Snack: orange slices and string cheese.

Lunch box option two:

* Lunch: grilled chicken breast, avocado and roasted bell pepper or shredded carrots in a whole grain pita with a Greek yogurt based dressing or pesto.

* Snack: apple slices and almond butter. If your child’s school has a strict nut-free lunchroom guideline, include Greek yogurt with vanilla and/or honey.

Lunch box option three:

* Lunch: a wholesome PB&J made with almond butter and 100 percent fruit preserves on whole grain bread.

* Snack: hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers with Greek yogurt based vegetable dipping sauce, or pita chips and peppers with hummus.

Healthier lunch room choices

Burbank notes that sometimes making lunch at home isn’t a viable option. If that’s the case, she suggests parents discuss healthy lunch room options with their kids, as studies have shown that in addition to nutritional benefits, healthier diets also associate with higher academic performance. Things to consider include:

* Choose a salad when available to include more vegetables in the meal.

* Choose white milk over chocolate milk to cut down on sugar intake.

* Choose 1 percent milk over skim or non-fat milk, the higher fat content is more satiating.

* Choose whole grain pasta over bread which may contain bleached flour and preservatives.

* Choose red pasta sauce (vegetable-based) over cream sauce (high in fat).

* Choose fresh fruit over canned fruit which may contain artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners.

Parents should also be encouraged to talk to the nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items in the school meals. The Life Time Foundation is a great resource for more information on this.

The Life Time Foundation partners with schools to help them remove highly processed and artificial ingredients from school meals by providing resources and assisting with menu development. For more information on how your school can get involved, visit www.ltffoundation.org.

Aug 19

Beyond the backpack: Back-to-school shoe-shopping tips to keep kids healthy and parents happy

Back-to-school shoe-shopping tips to keep kids healthy and parents happy(BPT) – For parents faced with kids’ changing tastes and opinions, navigating back-to-school shopping can be a harrowing process. Buy him the wrong backpack and he’ll be the uncool kid on the bus. Pick out the wrong jeans for her and she’ll be shamed by society. While neither scenario will cause kids any real harm, there is one area of back-to-school shopping where a wrong move could have health ramifications for kids – shoe shopping.

“Foot health is directly related to overall health, no matter your age,” says Dr. Matthew G. Garoufalis, a podiatrist and immediate past president of the American Podiatric Medical Association. “Proper footwear is essential to foot health, so it’s important for parents to ensure kids go back to school with a good foundation on their feet. Shoes are one of the most important back-to-school purchases parents will make.”

Children’s feet change and grow with them, and parents may find they need to update their kids’ shoes and socks every few months to accommodate this growth. Shoes that don’t fit properly can irritate the feet and affect how well a child walks, runs and plays. Garoufalis offers parents some advice for finding shoes that are good for kids’ feet and also live up to their exacting tastes:

* Always buy new, never used, and never hand down footwear. Sharing shoes can spread fungi like athlete’s foot. What’s more, children’s feet are as unique as they are. A shoe that fits one child comfortably may not fit another child as well. Plus, shoes that have been worn will tend to conform to the foot of the wearer, and may be uncomfortable for anyone else to put on.

* Test the shoe before allowing a child to try it on. Check for a stiff heel by pressing on both sides of the heel counter; it shouldn’t collapse under the pressure. Bend the shoe with your hands to ensure it will bend with your child’s toes; it shouldn’t be too stiff. Try twisting the shoe; it should be rigid in the middle and never twist in that area.

* Go shopping together. Shopping with your child ensures you can have his foot professionally measured, that he can test the shoe for a proper fit, give you his opinion of it and learn from you the finer points of buying a good shoe. “Kids who learn how to select a comfortable, supportive shoe may be less likely to make wrong footwear choices as adults – which could save them a lot of discomfort,” Garoufalis says.

* Remember to shop for shoes later in the day when feet are at their largest, and always buy for the larger foot. Having your child’s feet measured will help identify which foot is larger. Additionally, remember to have the child wear the type of socks or tights he or she will most likely wear with the shoe.

* Avoid buying shoes that need a “break-in” period. Optimal footwear should be comfortable right away. Once the school year is underway, keep an eye on your child’s shoes – active kids may wear out footwear faster than adults. Be vigilant for signs of irritation, such as your child always wanting to remove one or both shoes. The footwear may no longer fit properly, especially if it’s been a few months since you bought the shoes.

Finally, be sure children wear shoes that are appropriate for their activities. If your daughter plays sports, she should wear a good athletic shoe designed for that sport. If your son is a runner, he’ll need a good running shoe. For daily wear when kids do a lot of walking, choose a good, supportive shoe. Keep sandals, flip-flops and heels for occasional wear only.

If your child complains of foot pain or experiences an injury, take him or her to a podiatrist. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat ailments of the feet. You can learn more about foot health and find a podiatrist in your area by visiting www.apma.org.

Aug 19

Keeping kids stimulated all summer can help prevent the summer learning slide

Keeping kids stimulated(BPT) – For most kids, the final school bell signals a break from learning and a focus on summer fun, but for parents it often means an uphill battle to beat the “summer slide” in their child’s learning. Significant knowledge and skills gained during the previous school year can be lost if children don’t participate in enrichment and learning activities during summer break.

In fact, children run the risk of losing newly learned Common Core curriculum skills they developed during the year.

The good news for parents who are concerned about the summer slide is that several Common Core teachings can be easily adapted from the classroom to fun summer projects conducted at home and in the community.

“The summer slide can mean a child may spend the first two months of the new school year playing catchup instead of learning new material,” says Dr. Ashley Norris, assistant dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. “Parents need to plan a balanced mix of activities for their children during the summer that not only include sports and extracurricular activities, but learning activities that emphasize math and reading skills.”

Norris, who prepares prospective and current teachers to address dynamics in schools and the classroom, recommends parents incorporate Common Core themes into the summer curriculum they plan for their children. Here are six fun, educational activities that can help kids avoid the summer slide and also provide parents with opportunities to connect with their children.

1. Turn everyday activities into learning opportunities
According to a recent University of Phoenix College of Education survey, 38 percent of teachers believe Common Core curriculum ties learning to real-world scenarios. Errands are an easy way to engage children in reading and math skills. Consider having your child help make the grocery list, go shopping with you and practice adding up the bill and calculating the tax.

2. Seek inspiration from community events and activities
Visit the farmers market to learn about vegetables and teach the importance of healthy eating. Attend concerts and then ask your child to research his favorite musical instruments. Head to the local nature center to learn about native plants and then return home and ask the kids to draw what they saw.

3. Embrace technology and create interactive projects and activities
Apps and websites such as Pinterest are making Common Core projects available for parents to set up at home. Pinterest has new math and reading challenges that are posted daily. You can also search for Common Core apps developed by schools across the country combining video games with math and science skills.

4. Focus on core competencies
Look for activities that emphasize core skills such as math and reading. Creating a cooking project is one of the best ways to integrate these skills as children are required to follow directions of a recipe and learn about cooking elements such as time, temperature and measuring ingredients.

5. Balance academic and social engagement
Look for activities or summer camps that not only promote social skill development, but allow for knowledge in specific content areas. Science and technology camps provide hands-on learning projects such as bridge building, mouse-trap cars or the construction of robots. Many science museums offer home projects on their websites.

6. Plan a trip to the library
Common Core requires students to conduct in-depth research from multiple sources and then discuss their findings with peers. Families can do similar activities throughout the summer. Each family member can search for information on a chosen topic then set a time to gather and discuss the findings, which research tools were used and if more information is available. Make it a game by voting for the family member who found the most interesting or unique fact.

If you keep them engaged during the summer break, your children can pick up right where they left off when the school bell rings in the fall.

Aug 19

5 tips for beating back-to-school stress

5 tips for beating back-to-school stressHeading back to school can mean mixed emotions for children and parents alike. Many kids are ready to meet new friends and teachers, but at the same time they are reluctant to give up the freedom and frivolity of summer.

Meanwhile, parents have also adjusted to the easygoing schedule that comes with school vacation so preparation for the busyness of fall is often quite daunting. This year, with a little guidance, you can remove the stress for the entire family by transitioning back into the school year seamlessly, as follows:

Establish a routine: After a summer with a relaxed schedule and little structure, the return to the classroom can be a shock to your kids’ systems. Ease them back by gradually integrating more structure into their days. Meals and bedtime are a great way to start—begin to get your children back into a routine about two weeks before school starts to make the transition easy.

Get organized: Before the hustle and bustle of school really kicks in, take some time to get ahead of the game. Put together a master calendar that everyone can use for the year, including important school dates, vacations, sporting events and practices, and parent teacher conferences to keep you on schedule. Make sure you’ve prepared all of the paperwork, school supplies, and permission slips you and your kids need. If your child needs any medications or the school requires doctor’s notes, be sure to book necessary appointments.

Organize a carpool: If there are other families in your neighborhood heading to the same school, carpooling is a great way to save gas and time. Create a rotating schedule for drivers and make sure it’s kept up to date.

“Be sure to also check your insurance policy before the first day,” advises Shirley Parchoma with Western Financial Group. “If you’re receiving any money for gas, your normal liability coverage may not be enough. Talk to your insurance broker and make sure you’re covered before you get behind the wheel with a group.”

Start a fun tradition: One way to make back-to-school more fun is to create a tradition that your family can look forward to each year. This tradition could be a special back-to-school dinner, interviewing your child on video, or taking a picture of them in their first day outfit. Bonus: this can also be an easy way to create keepsakes—save each year’s photo in one place and pull them out for the next big graduation or family event.

The new school year is an exciting time in a child’s life and taking a few steps to prepare will make sure you all enjoy the final days of summer and start the new school year off on a positive note. More information can be found at www.westernfinancialgroup.ca.

www.newscanada.com

Mar 18

Healthy Alternatives for Easter

Easter bunny earsIt’s only a few days away and the stores are packed with chocolates, candies, baskets and everything else that has to do with Easter.  Actually, in some places those shelves have been packed since just before Valentine’s day but Easter probably hasn’t been on your mind for that long.

Every year I do the exact same thing.  I give myself a budget, tell myself over and over again that one chocolate bunny and a couple chocolate eggs around the house is enough for the kids.  They don’t really need all the candy and for that matter, neither do I.  Then I get to the store to pick up my Easter Bunny Supplies.  Suddenly one chocolate bunny isn’t enough and they will need a chocolate character from the latest hot movie.  I grab the usual brightly wrapped chocolate eggs but on passing by those I see the brightly colored over-sized jelly eggs.  Oops, can’t forget those since my husband loves them so much and into the shopping cart they go.  The next aisle over and I notice those cute little peeps, horrible things if you ask me but they are very sweet looking and I have just the hiding place for them.  Now I need to find some type of gummy treat (my personal favourites) and then I realize that I don’t have jelly beans for the baskets…how could a basket be complete without jelly beans and for that matter, where are those KinderSurprise eggs.  By the time I get to the checkout, I have enough chocolate and candy to supply my son’s school for the entire year and I end up throwing half of it away within a week or two after Easter.

Chances are, you do the exact same thing and really, do children need as much candy at Easter as we load them down with.  I personally enjoy the expression on their faces when they race into the room(s) designated for the hunt and I love the excitement that the hunt brings, which is probably why I tend to buy more candy than I really need.  Over the last few years, however; I realized that the hunt doesn’t have to be about candy only and there are lots of alternatives to create a healthier Easter for everyone.

1)  Don’t forget the candy.  Yes, I know I just said healthier but let them enjoy one or two types of candy.  Maybe purchase a small chocolate bunny and some jelly beans and that will be it.  The chocolate bunny can usually last a few days and the jelly beans will provide lots of little treats through the day.

2)  Bouncy Balls.  Every child that I have ever known loves bouncy balls and you can purchase them for boys and girls.  Instead of having chocolate eggs littering the nooks and crannies of your home, why not place out some bouncy balls for your children to find.

3)  Dollar Store Loot.  I love the dollar store and this won’t be the only time that I rave about it.  They have tons of small toys, books and hair accessories all for a dollar or under and you can use those for your Easter Egg hunt instead.

4)  Blown Easter Eggs.  I’ll have a how-to guide for these tomorrow but in almost every home, eggs are decorated for the Easter season.  I always blow the egg out of the shells before decorating and then incorporate them into the hunt.  My children believe that they are helping the Easter Bunny out by dying the eggs for him so he can hide them when he stops by.  We always place the eggs beside a plate filled with carrots for the Easter Bunny.  After the hunt, I save the eggs for keepsakes but they can also be used to create Easter decorations for the following Easter.

5) The Baskets. Most people enjoy giving a basket to their children and if you are like me, you probably fill them with too many candies.  This is usually where my overage comes from but over the years I have shifted from doing candy baskets to doing a themed basket.  Last year was a sports theme with different sporting stuff in them.  Soccer equipment for my oldest and backyard play equipment for my youngest.  The year before was a clothing theme with a nice toy and this year I am going with a store bought basket that has toys for exploring and water fights.  I try to make up a basket that will get the kids outside and running around so they can burn off the extra sugar they ingested over the Easter holiday.

And there are a few healthy alternatives to having huge piles of candy.  Do you have a few more ideas that you would like to share?  If so, please feel free to comment here.

Happy Easter,

Sirena

Nov 15

Little hands inspire creative kitchens: How to encourage kids to cook

How to encourage kids to cook(BPT) – The kitchen is known as the heart of the home, a central place where families gather to relax, work, share stories and most importantly – cook meals together. By teaching your kids how to help in the kitchen from meal prep to cleanup, you’re also helping them understand how to prepare healthy meals and appreciate food for years to come.

Parents can always use an extra pair of hands, and when encouraged, kids can enjoy spending time cooking and preparing meals. Plus, helping in the kitchen teaches useful skills that will last long past dinnertime. The good news is nine out of 10 children help in meal preparation at least once per week, according to results of a new nationwide “Coaching Kids in the Kitchen” survey conducted for global home appliance brand LG Electronics. One in five parents prefer to engage their children in the kitchen during the summer and winter months, to help keep their child’s mind sharp and occupied during breaks from school.

Have little sous chefs in the making? You might be wondering what activities are appropriate for what ages. Setting the table and retrieving ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator are good activities for younger children who might not have the skills necessary to prepare food. Parents indicate age 8, on average, is the appropriate age to start participating in meal preparation.

If you want to get your kids motivated in the kitchen, and help them learn about food preparation, healthy eating, math and measurements, try these helpful tips from Chef Peter Thornhill, LG’s executive chef, who himself caught the cooking bug when he was a child. Your kitchen will be transformed into a family fun cooking school in no time.

Grocery discoveries. Take the kids grocery shopping with you to jumpstart creative cooking juices. Picking out ingredients is the first step in cooking a meal, after all. Plus, when children are involved in picking out new foods, such as an exciting new vegetable, they’re more likely to try (and like) new things, helping to expand their palate.

Easy access. Keep your kids’ favorite ingredient items in easy-access areas around the kitchen. Ninety-seven percent of parents agree that keeping greens and healthy snacks in easily accessible areas of the refrigerator is an important part of teaching your child healthy eating habits. LG’s super-capacity fridge with a built-in magnetically sealed door within a door is perfect for easy access to commonly used cooking ingredients and small, healthy snacks kids are able to retrieve themselves.

Party in the kitchen! Don’t let meal preparation seem like a chore. The more excited you are to cook with your kids, the more excited they will be, too. Turn on some music, have a giggle, and share tidbits about your day as you whip up something delicious.

More pepper? During the cooking process, taste the food and talk with your kids about alterations. This will encourage them to engage their palate and analyze the flavors they taste. Just watch as your little rosemary-lover or garlic connoisseur blossoms.

Clean machine.As your child gains more experience in the kitchen, allow him or her more control over recipes, cooking methods and cleanup. Start with simple cleaning tasks like clearing the table and loading the dishwasher to emphasize the importance of cleanliness and kitchen upkeep. To spend more memorable moments with your kids in the kitchen, parents can look for new ways to save time and tackle even the toughest tasks from greasy pans to dirty ovens. For example, LG’s EasyClean ranges have a quick and easy clean-up for mess inside the oven – just spray water into the oven, press a button and wipe away any residual grime 20 minutes later.

Armed with these tips, consider trying this kid-friendly recipe from Chef Thornill and gather your whole family in the kitchen for some cooking fun.

Recipe:

Mixed Fruit Flatbread

It’s always tough to get kids to adopt healthy eating habits with all the unhealthy items that are presented to them at school, in restaurants and in advertising … and yet these are the foods that they clamor for. Bringing a healthy angle to their favorite foods is a great way to point them in the right direction.

This recipe is easily adapted to the kinds of ingredients that you have in your house and gives your kids the opportunity to play with different flavors. You can easily make a large batch of the flatbread dough in advance and freeze smaller portions for individual use. Store bought pizza dough and flatbread (or naan bread) work great, too.

Dough

1 packet instant dry yeast 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup warm water 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

1. Combine water, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and let sit for five minutes.

2. Add flour to mixture and place dough hook attachment on mixer. Combine ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds, then turn onto medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes more, or until dough is smooth and no longer clings to the sides of the bowl.

3. Rub top of dough with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Store somewhere warm for one hour.

Topping

1/4 teaspoon cornmeal 2 tablespoon Raspberry jam 1/2 cup frozen peaches, thawed 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed 1/2 cup apples, sliced thin 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon honey

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 500F with a cookie sheet or pizza stone positioned on center rack.

2. Divide dough into three pieces, set two aside (you can freeze these and use later or make multiple pizzas).

3. Using a rolling pin, evenly roll dough to 1/3-inch thick. Place dough on a smooth surface, sprinkled with cornmeal.

4. Spread jam evenly over entire surface, then top with peaches, apples and strawberries, lightly press these down for better adhesion.

5. Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey over the fruit.

6. Slide pizza carefully onto preheated pan or pizza stone and let bake for 6 to 8 minutes.

7. Remove from oven, let stand three minutes, cut into six pieces and serve.

The LG Coaching Kids in the Kitchen Online Survey was conducted by Ebiquity, formerly Echo Research, between June 7-13, 2013 among a total national sample of 2,515 U.S. adults with children age 4-17. Overall the results have a margin of error of ± 2.0 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.