Enjoy Breakfast as a Family

You’ve heard the saying so many times it seems trite: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

But even though it may be cliche, nutritionists will tell you this tidbit is absolutely true. “Not only is skipping breakfast bad for a child’s metabolism, but it also means they’ll be so hungry later that they’re much more likely to make poor food choices throughout the day,” says Heather Cupp, a registered dietitian at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Family breakfastAnyone with kids knows, however, that weekday morning meals are usually the most hectic. With a limited amount of time to get everyone up, dressed and off to camp, school or day care, it’s no wonder that fitting in a healthy breakfast can seem like an impossible feat.

No matter how busy your weekday mornings, the whole family can still eat well. All it takes are a few key planning decisions and some smart food choices. Below, our experts’ strategies for turning the rushed (or nonexistent!) morning meal into a healthy, enjoyable group activity:

1. Prep ahead.

Do as much as you can ahead of time to minimize the morning rush. If you’re having blueberry pancakes for Sunday brunch, make a few extra batches that you can freeze and use throughout the week. If hot cereal is a favorite, prep a few days’ worth of servings in your slow cooker and keep a big bowl in the fridge. Save even more time by setting the table and packing the car the night before.

2. Optimize your kitchen setup.

Save valuable minutes in the future by taking time now to organize your kitchen so you can easily find the things you regularly need for breakfast, says Kim Cosentino, owner of The De-Clutter Box, an organizing company in Westmont, Illinois. “Think of the cabinets on either side of the stove as prime real estate, and use them for items that you use on a regular basis,” says Cosentino. “If you cook hot oatmeal a lot, put the oatmeal box in the cabinet next to the stove.” Similarly, store glasses near the fridge and sink, and stash dishes and silverware near the dishwasher to save time unloading.

3. Think outside the box.

If you’ve got a picky eater who turns up her nose at traditional breakfast foods, there’s no reason the morning meal can’t be a sandwich or even last night’s dinner. “When I have leftover pasta of some sort, I heat that up or make a point of cooking some sort of pasta the night before so I just have to nuke it in the a.m.,” says Susan McQuillan, a New York City-based registered dietitian, writer and mother. “Usually the pasta already has some sort of vegetable in it, like broccoli — or I just add chopped-up cherry tomatoes and olives before serving.”

4. Put the kids to work.

The more routine steps your kids do on their own, the more time you’ll have to prepare and serve a healthy breakfast. So make it easy for them to pick out their own outfits and dress themselves every morning by organizing their closets and drawers by type of clothing (underwear in one drawer, shirts in another, etc.). Also put a “clean or dirty” magnet on the dishwasher to get them involved in setting the table and clearing it afterwards.

5. Make it quick, easy and healthy.

“The ideal breakfast includes protein and fiber, both of which fill kids up and sustain them all morning,” says Elisa Zeid, a New York City-based registered dietitian and the author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. By contrast, a couple of hours after eating a sugary, high-carb breakfast like a donut or pastry, “a child’s blood sugar will drop, and he won’t be able to concentrate.” Preparing a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to take a long time. All of the following kid-friendly meals can be put together in just a few minutes:

  • A peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk
  • Trail mix made of nuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal
  • Yogurt parfait made with high-fiber cereal and fresh fruit
  • Slice of leftover veggie pizza, warmed in the toaster oven
  • Corn tortilla with melted cheese and salsa
  • String cheese, a handful of nuts and a banana




Christmas in July

I was recently in an airport and found myself with an Christmas in Julyunexpected two and a half hour layover. As I often do in such situations I put my headphones on, turned my MP3 on random selection and began to wander the halls. I soon found myself humming a Christmas song. I know it is a Christmas song because I got it off a Christmas Album. Plus I only hear it around Christmas time and this is the source of my consternation.

I like this song-like the words and the sentiment. I found myself asking why do we hear and sing this song a few weeks a year. The song goes like this.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be…With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow; to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

It’s not overly religious; God is mentioned one time- that’s it. So why only once a year? I would like to see peace in my life, global peace. Peace between people of all faiths and beliefs, maybe not in my generation- but the generation of our kids. It seems to me we will be a lot more likely to succeed if we teach and sing this song, say these words, and hold this vision all year long. What a great gift to give our kids. We hear about war, every night on the news. We will never achieve peace by focusing on war. Imagine if we spent as much time on and focused on peace with the same frequency and verve.

PS- Christmas is celebrated in July in many cultures- so why not peace.

I wish you Peace, Jim

Water Explorers: Family Fun in the Sun

Water ExplorersFew images evoke the feeling of “getting away from it all” as does a canoe, kayak or raft gliding with the current. But you don’t have to live on water — or own a boat, for that matter — to organize an offshore trip. Nor do you have to sign on to an expensive, multi-day, wild river run to experience the wonders of water travel (sans motor) firsthand. With a little research, you can plan a safe and fun expedition that won’t sink your finances in the process.

Rent, rent, rent your boat: Where there is a lake or river, there are usually clubs, outfitters and/or liveries that rent out small vessels — and of course, life jackets — for several hours. Former river guide and adventure mom Julie Thorner of Bryson City, N.C., recommends the Web site AdventureVacations for finding reputable outfitters. Typically, you don’t have to worry about securing a permit. That’s the job of the organization you rent from, and it’s covered by the small fee you’ll be charged for the rental.

Know your water: What you do need to worry about, says Thorner, are the conditions of the water you plan to travel on. She advises all canoeists, kayakers and rafters to make a point of knowing the water. Rivers and rapids are classified to help paddlers know how challenging a route is. For example, a Class I river has few ripples or obstacles, a Class II has some moderately difficult rapids and so on up to Class V, an extremely challenging river with narrow passages, rocks and violent waves.

Know your limits: Novice paddlers looking for excitement can consider a rough river but only if they invest in the services of a guide to travel with them, says Thorner. The experience of a seasoned paddler will help calm nerves — if not the waters — when the craft encounters Class III or IV rapids. A good outfit will have a policy for determining age-appropriate trips. Just make sure in advance that all members of your group, kids and adults alike, are up for the adrenaline rush that comes when you hit dicier waters.

Take it slow: Prefer to leave the guide behind? Paddling newcomers should stick to lakes, which are flat except during windy weather, or Class I or II rivers. You don’t need a guide to do a day float on a gently flowing river or on a lake, says Thorner. “Plus, it’s a great confidence builder to do it on your own,” she says. If younger children are on board, bring along plenty of snacks and plan to stop several times along the banks of the lake or river, making sure to tie up the boat if you intend to swim or walk along the shore.

A no-tip tip: It doesn’t take much for a heavy canoe or traditional kayak to tip over, and righting them, especially in a current of any kind, can be very difficult. Many outfitters also offer inflatable kayaks (often called duckies) and rafts, which are less tippy and much easier to right should they flip over and you fall out. Patsy Fisher of Etna, N.H., once tipped a canoe on the Connecticut River while paddling on her own, and pulling the overturned craft to shore — forget about righting it — was “incredibly difficult.” That’s one reason she prefers the serenity of canoeing on the lake near her home, especially when she’s with one of her three children. “You can hold a conversation — or not — while you’re skimming across the water,” she says. “It’s physical, it’s peaceful, and you can enjoy nature.” Perfect.




Childhood Teeth Grinding

When you watch your child sleep you see sweet dreams and peaceful slumber right? This sweet slumber is often disrupted by the sound of grinding or gnashing of teeth.

Most kids aren't even awareBelieve it or not, 3 out of every 10 children grind their teeth at night, also known as Bruxism. This is common in children especially under the age of 5 but fortunately most children will outgrow this bad habit.

Although it is not known why kids develop Bruxism, there are several reasons thought to induce this behavior. Some kids grind because their upper and lower teeth are not yet aligned properly. Pain from erupting teeth or an earache can also be a common cause. Stress is also a known origin of teeth grinding or gnashing.

Bruxism can go undetected with little to no side effects in some children while other cases often turn into what is referred to as TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disease. TMJ is only developed when grinding becomes or persistent in a child.

Typically a child will not be aware that he or she is grinding their teeth so it is usually a family member who picks up on it.

Here are some symptoms you should look for:

  1. Complaints of jaw joint or face pain from your child in the morning
  2. Pain when your child chews
  3. Grinding like noises when your child is sleeping

If you think that your child is grinding his or her teeth at night, take him or her to your family dentist. Any dentist can identify chipped teeth or wear on their enamel as well as any unusual sensitivity. By asking some key questions your dentist can identify whether the problem is psychological or anatomical which will help them develop a treatment plan that will be effective for your child.

While most children will grow out of Bruxism, it’s important that you keep a close eye on your child and maintain regular visits to the dentist in order to keep the problem in check. There are different approaches that may help your child such as a custom made mouth guard or basic stress relieving techniques before bed. Your dentist can help you identify what will work best for your child.

My New Buddy Brian – Questions for Every Parent

This past weekend I was out walking my pack o dogs on one of our many trails. We were almost back to the parking lot and let me tell you we were hot. I had some bottles of water for me and a jug of water for the dogs. Right where we were to Beautiful day for a rideturn off to the parking lot there is a “T”. You could go North or South or to the parking lot. Here at this T junction was a special needs teenager on a adult tricycle looking back and forth, North and South, North and South. I watched for a minute while the dogs panted and waited. I asked him if he needed help and his response was to ask where his Dad was. This young man’s name was Brian. He had passed me about ten minutes earlier and was alone- no one else was with him.

Brian did not know whether to go North or South or which direction he had just come from. On his own he did not know what to do. He did know his Dad’s cell number. Brian did not have a phone but I never go anywhere without mine so we called his Dad. Of course we got voice mail but Brian left a message. We walked/rode to my car and we all had some water. Within about 10 minutes, Dad called back, very worried. Dad did not know the area very well and another hiker and I were able to eventually talk him to where we were. Brian had actually made it quite far- several miles at least.

When Dad along with Mom showed up one of Mom’s questions was to ask whether or not Brian had asked for help-whether or not he recognized he was in trouble on his own and asked for help. My answer to Mom that he did not- visibly upset her. Even though this was a minor event that turned out well- I’ve given it quite a lot of thought.

  • When does a child know they are in trouble?
  • When do they know it is time to ask for help?
  • When is a child too young to go off riding on their own or walking to a neighbor?
  • A recent article here on PediatricSafety reminded parents to teach the 911 number to their young children. Along with 911 do our kids know our phone numbers?
  • What is the right age to consider a cell for our kids for emergencies if for no other reason?
  • Do our kids know our real names are not Mom and Dad?
  • Do they know their address?
  • If we are separated from our kids do they know what to do? Do we?

I like to think that I’m a pretty decent guy and I tend to think most people are too. Most- not all as the headlines remind us. It only takes seconds or minutes for something bad to happen. I realize this asks more questions that it provides answers. I hope others chime in and offer sound advice.

Summer Homework Battles

Katie Marshall, a middle schooler from St. Louis has to read two books before school starts. That’s 350 pages in all, and each one is turning slowly, says her mother, Jan, with a sigh. “Great. She only has 330 summer homework - yuckmore to go.” Last year, Katie ended up bagging the book and watching the movie version, Holes, the night before school began.

It’s the worst feeling: Summer’s almost over, and your child hasn’t cracked that first book open yet. Or gotten a grip on the poster project. Or started the report on Neil Armstrong. To keep you both from getting steamed over summer homework assignments, try a different approach from the one you use during the school year. Sara Lise Raff, creator of the blog “Ask The Educator” and a former K-8 teacher, tells you how:

Summer-ize the schedule Sit down with your child and choose two or three days per week for homework. Saturday and Sunday may work best for day campers, plus one other evening, Raff suggests. If your child wants to keep weekends free, opt for his least-scheduled days. Try to keep the days consistent so your child knows what’s coming up.

Play to his strength Match the weakest subject to the child’s best (and happiest) time of day. If he’s more energetic and thinks more clearly after a lazy breakfast and before the movie at the mall, hit the hardest subject during that time frame. Let him choose the times he wants to work on the other subjects.

Incorporate technology — to a point Access to a computer or laptop is a given by now. But talking or texting on the cell during homework time — especially to pals trying to lure him to the pool — won’t get the job done. Set the ground rules upfront: He can check the phone every 40 minutes or after he has finished — whichever comes first.

Loosen up on the setting Summer is about freedom. If a child has a laptop, let her take it to the backyard for writing assignments. Tweens can tote their laptops to a coffee bar and settle in with a muffin, provided a parent is nearby to stem forays into Facebook. “The cool factor can make a big difference to kids this age, who want to look social and hip,” adds Raff, herself a mother of three.

Bend the rules Impromptu trips to the lake and spur-of-the-moment barbecues are the special gifts of summer. When they get offered to your child during a scheduled homework time, be flexible once in a while. On the spot, decide together when he’s going to do the work, then tell him to go have fun. “Your flexibility will prove you’re willing to compromise, so perhaps next time there’s a battle brewing, he will too,” Raff remarks.

Keep her reading Some schools require students to read a certain number of books of their own choosing; others allow them to select titles from a list. In either case, your child should choose carefully, according to advice from the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. A child is more likely to complete a book about a passion or in a favorite genre than one selected randomly. Breaking the reading into small chunks also helps, says Raff. She recommends a minimum of 20 minutes every night — more if your child can handle it. Suggest reading in different parts of your home or outside and bring your own book or magazine along to keep her company. To entice a reluctant reader with new technology, consider buying a wireless book reader, like a Kindle, that the whole family can use. At $300 and up, “it’s expensive,” says Raff. “But it’s worth the investment if it encourages a child to read.”