How To Get Your Child Eating Green (And Orange, And Yellow, And Purple)

It seems like so much of our time as parents is spent worrying about our children’s sleep and what they eat.  But what if I told you that it didn’t have to be that way, that life is so much simpler than we like to make it?  Children by nature, are very simplistic little beings as well as creatures of habit.  They crave familiarity and stability but at times, this also can lead to bad habits developing and can create a great deal of unnecessary stress in the home.

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Sleep is another issue that I’ll address in a later post but today I’ll give you a few tips on how to get your child eating better and setting them up with healthy habits for life.

Rule Number One – Monkey See, Monkey Do.  You can’t expect your children to have healthy habits if you’re not making a good diet a top priority for yourself.  Healthy habits begin in the womb as research has shown that a child’s tastebuds will be naturally influenced by what they’re exposed to during gestation.  Moderation and variety is the key.  Children learn by example, not by being ‘told what to do’.  So make your own diet a priority and you’ll start to see rewards long term both for you and your family.

Rule Number Two – If You Don’t Want It, Don’t Stock It!  I don’t buy junk food or processed food during a regular grocery shop.  If I want that soft drink or chocolate, I’m going to have to drive out and get it.  Sure, at times, I’ll have the occasional processed treats in my cupboard, but I know if it’s there all the time, I’ll indulge all the time. I don’t want my kids growing up seeing food come out of a packet, I want them to see it grown, baked and served with love.  I know my weakness.  So I’ve created this tactic to combat that and also to stop my kids becoming too familiar with a cupboard full of chemicals.

Rule Number Three – You Provide, Children Decide.  It’s up to you to provide healthy, nutritious food and drinks.  But it’s up to the child how much they eat and what they eat.  You can encourage trying something new, but never force them to eat.  It’ll always backfire in the long run.  Keep it simple, serve it up and let nature do the rest.  We have hunger pangs for a reason, let their body work for them, respect their genuine dislikes (my son can’t stand savoury crackers as an example) and allow them to develop a healthy, positive relationship with their own nutrition.  A healthy child will never starve themselves.

Rule Number Four – Never Give Up.  Research has shown that children need to see a new food 15 times before even trying it.  We never use the words, ‘Doesn’t like’ or ‘Won’t eat’ in front of our children.  By saying that in front of them, you’re creating and reaffirming a restricted diet for them.  A simple, “Oh, you don’t want to eat that today? That’s okay, maybe tomorrow sweetheart or another day”.   When my preschooler states loudly that a sibling “Doesn’t like” something, I remind him that “they’re just choosing not to eat it today, and that’s ok”.   It took two years of offering carrots on a weekly basis in our house before anyone ate them.  Now they’re a snack staple!  Try serving them up differently – different shapes, different textures (chopped, grated, steamed, etc) and you might hit the jackpot!

Rule Number Five – Don’t Provide Substitutions.  Don’t allow your own fears to interfere in your child’s development of a healthy diet.  If they’re not hungry for a carrot, they definitely don’t need coco pops.  I like to offer two to three options and let my children have a say in what they’d like to eat, for example, they can decide between an apple, banana or orange.  Don’t get carried away and leave it open ended “What would you like to eat?” is just setting yourself up for failure!  And always  avoid this situation “So would you like a carrot?, a banana? an apple? toast? yogurt? cereal? an omelette? chips? pancakes?”  It simply never, ever works.  Provide options that you know are reasonable and leave it at that.

Rule Number Six – Remember Amounts Will Vary And Be Prepared.  A saying in our house is that “Mummy is not a vending machine”.  However, I’ve learnt that babies can eat a lot, toddlers often eat very little (they may have birdlike diets or be known as healthy ‘non-eating’ toddlers.. both are not uncommon) and preschoolers eat A LOT!  I make sure that I always have healthy cereals, fruits and veggies, yoghurts, cheeses and baked goods ready to go.  And…Yes, food will at times go into the bin.  It’s part of life, accept it and move on.  Don’t make a big deal about it and just remember to start smaller next time.  A good rule for a toddler is to halve what you think they need, then halve it again for the first serving.  Too much can overwhelm and end up with their refusing to eat.

Rule Number Seven – Adjust The Snacks.  Keeping in mind that amounts needed will vary due to your child’s energy needs, if mealtimes are a battle but snacks are being consumed in abundance, then you may need to readjust your serving of them.  Adjust the times that snacks are allowed (An hour from mealtimes is our standard) and the amount consumed if you feel they’re impacting on the  main meal.

Rule Number Eight – Get Them Involved.  Grow veggies, take them to the farmers market, allow them to chop fruits and veggies and decide what gets thrown into the blender.  Take the unknown away and give kids a reason to be proud of what’s being served up. Perhaps they were the ones that grew or picked those mushrooms. Make stories up about food – tell them how much the Easter Bunny and Reindeer love their apples and carrots.  Create positive connections between what they see and what they taste and half the battle is already won.

Most importantly, remember that sitting down to eat is really hard for small active children.  Cut them some slack, keep it short, get creative how you serve it up and make mealtimes fun!

Quick Guide To Introducing A Green Smoothie To Your Kidsraspberry-kale-green-smoothie2+srgb.

  • Start regularly consuming a daily juice or smoothie and include your partner as well as any willing children.
  • Begin with simple flavours that you know are a favourite – watermelon and strawberry is delicious.  Let the kids make it for you.
  • Continue to offer every time if they’d to have some.
  • Subtly add in some extra nutrition  – throw in a small handful of spinach, a stick of celery and some mint to the watermelon and strawberry.
  • Remember to talk about what you’re doing, how great you feel, how it makes you run faster, jump higher and is so healthy.  If they have a taste, challenge them to a running race, the more they drink, the faster they get and they might just beat you if they can drink the whole lot!
  • Ask your kids what colour they’d like and let them help you with figuring out what could go into it – a green smoothie in our house has honeydew, spinach, pineapple, green apple, lime, mint, cucumber and celery.
  • Educate yourself on how you can boost the nutritional value.  Add a supplementary powder, chia seeds, coconut oil, etc.   What flavours you add in will depend on the recipe but there is always something you can add!

Have fun and enjoy the fact that you’re giving your kids one of the best gifts that a parent can give – a positive relationship with food and a love of healthy living.

If your child has issues with food and you’re concerned, getting help from a nutritionist is a great idea.  I love Little Fusspot https://www.facebook.com/littlefusspot you can find them on Facebook and it’s run by one awesome mummy based in WA.  Start following her to get some great ideas on improving your families diet and all how to turn little fusspots into healthy eaters.

Mummy Mantras To Get You Through The Day

Everyone needs a pick-me-up from time to time.  A walk outside in the sunshine, a cup of tea or a few moments of clarity can do wonders to keep your energy levels boosted and full of positivity.

Sometimes though, the days can be too busy to factor in enough of these ‘preventative’ measures or you may be facing a particularly difficult challenge where you need to quickly reassess or reset your mindset before reacting.

This is where I draw on my ‘mummy mantras’.  These are quick phrases that I’ve identified with on my own journey as a mother and I find myself repeating them to myself often, depending on what situation I need to address at that exact moment: a challenge with upset children, exhaustion or simply feeling overwhelmed.

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Mummy Mantras To Get You Through The Day

  • The days are long but the years are quick
  • I am enough
  • All I have is right now
  • I will not take this for granted
  • He/she’s acting like a child because they are a child
  • Limit behaviour, allow feelings
  • What’s the “why”. (No ‘bad’ behaviour is without reason or cause.  Hunger, exhaustion, stress, anxiety, illness, coping with change. Find the REAL problem and address that rather than just trying to constantly stamp out the symptoms)
  • I’m bigger, stronger, kinder, wiser.  I’m the adult

These sayings can help you keep your cool, even when you might feel like completely losing it.  A simple thought can be powerful enough to change your entire perspective on a situation and bring your focus back to what’s most important in life.

Change your thoughts, change your world. – Norman Vincent Peale

Back To School? 5 Tips To Make Your Mornings Less Chaotic

The balmy endless summer days of Christmas are fading, a new year is well and truly underway and the next big annual milestone – “Back To School” – is already upon us.

Now, I’m not one of those mothers who wishes the holidays away.  Not.At.All.  Rather, I love the slow pace of a home-day with my brood and the unpredictable freedom and blank canvas of a day without scheduled constraints

But perhaps that’s because I have a 1, 2 & 5 year old and the very thought of having to get them all up, ready and out the door by 8am on my own (as my entrepreneurial husband, all too frequently, travels the globe, building our future) can see me quivering in my boots and feeling totally and utterly overwhelmed.

This is where I aim to focus my energy onto my strengths as opposed to my weaknesses.  My weaknesses may include being very tired, busy and running around solo after three very energetic little ones.  But my strengths include organising and motivating myself towards getting a task done.

Systemised and energised, I can create the space I need every day to factor in and safe-guard against the mishaps.  The lost socks, missing library book and occasional meltdown that are inevitable to occur if mornings are rushed and stressed.

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My Top 5 Tips To Make Your Mornings Less Chaotic

  1. Use a clothing organiser system, such as those from Howards Storage World (RRP $33.95), to set out uniforms, clothes and other important items (accessories, activity requirements such as goggles, badges, etc) for the week.  Everything from underwear up should be ready in these drawers and not only will it promote independence and learning for preschoolers, but it will also prevent the mad scramble to find clean and wrinkle-free uniforms at the last minute.  If you don’t 9081_PNF011-PLAZA-Neatkids-7-days-a-week-organised-pop-2have a uniform for each day (My son is full-time this year but I only have three sets), start with Monday and replace as the laundry is done early in the week.  Don’t forget to always put your regular weekly items straight back in there after use.  For us this means martial arts uniforms, bathers, goggles and gymnastics shirts are always put straight back in, never into his chest of drawers.  I also use these drawers to store ‘news’ items for school and any other important items my child may need for that day.  The uses of a system like this are endless!  You could even use these drawers to allocate weekly activities such as puzzles, etc if you wanted to.
  2. Set a baking day and always make double batches for the freezer.  I like to bake at least one sweet and one savoury item every Sunday to be sure that I have a variety of healthy, ready-made food on hand for lunch boxes.
  3. Create an evening routine that sees you prepped for the next day.  Include making up lunch boxes, filling the washing machine, clearing the dishes and kitchen bench, even select your own clothes and if possible, blow-dry your hair the night before.  That’ll save you at least 20 minutes in the morning alone as well as prevent you rocking that ‘everyday is a joggers & bun day’ look for the next 10 weeks.
  4. Create routine for your kids so that you can be there to gently guide them through their daily habits, as opposed to chasing everyone going off in different directions.  In our house that means waking up, getting straight into the bath, getting dressed, brushing hair and then sitting down for breakfast.  After breakfast, they wipe their faces and hands, brush their teeth and then it’s free-play until it’s time to leave.  The predictability of a morning routine not only prevents chaos and meltdowns but also promotes and empowers independence from a very young age.
  5. Be ready 10 minutes before you have to leave.  No mum I know can leave ‘on-time’ unless they are ready long before their departure deadline.  Bags by the door, sunblock on, lunches in the bags, drink bottles filled…by 7.50am at the latest. The only thing left to do is put shoes on as we walk out of the door. 9 times out of 10, I can end up making my 8am departure as planned. And that means that it’s only once a fortnight that I run screaming down the driveway, frantically buckling everyone in and doing a head-count on the run.  But I’m working on it!

Happy 2015 and to all the littlies starting off on a new adventure – have a wonderful journey and enjoy all that your new classroom has to offer!

Decluttering 101 – The Rules Organised Mums Swear By

Clutter comes with the territory of having a family.  Plain and simple.  It’s a little known phenomenon that tags along as you enter into parenthood. A new baby arrives, you buy stuff, you’re given stuff and all of a sudden, you no longer have time to sort through stuff or stay on top of all the stuff!

The ‘stuff’ around you begins to build up.  Then the next baby arrives and the jumbles of piles begin to grow.  And grow.  Closets that may once have been viewed as being useful spaces quickly become places you’re afraid to venture into as the boxes of memorabilia/little-used toys/gadgets/board-games/half-finished-projects have found a way to breed and multiply.

A build up of clutter equals stress.  It equals chaos and disorganisation.  It can sometimes feel like it’s gone way too far that you just don’t know where to start to get back on top of it all again.  That feeling simply means it’s time to declutter.  Actually, every day is a good day to declutter.  TODAY is a good day to declutter!

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The secret to decluttering is to do little and often.  Make it part of your daily ritual and before you know it, you’ll be sorting like a pro, have the confidence to cut down from six fondue sets to two and be able to say without hesitation “It’s in the back cupboard, on the left, bottom shelf”.  No more duplicated items and no more wasting money or time searching or replacing what you already have.

Here are my Top 10 Rules to get on top of the chaos and start reorganising your life:

  1. Follow the 80/20 Rule.  You’ll use 20% of your possessions 80% of the time.  Keep this 20% easily accessible and allocate logical spaces to store the rest of your items.  Be sure to group like items together.
  2. Only handle items once. If it doesn’t belong on a bench, find a place for it or get rid of it.  Do it, Deal with it or Donate it.
  3. Follow the ‘Rule of 5’.  Every time you leave a room, take 5 things with you that need to be put away, thrown out or given away.
  4. Embrace digital storage!  Get rid of bulky manuals and download digital versions that you can store on your computer.
  5. Choose a small project once a week and break that project up into smaller daily tasks.  Kitchen cupboards need a spring clean?  Do one drawer, one cupboard a day and it’ll be done in no time!
  6. Immediately recycle or throw out any junk mail/paperwork that you don’t need.  Don’t let it build up.  Assess what’s been lying around that you plan to ‘get to eventually’ (brochures, flyers, etc) and be honest – if it’s not really that important, get rid of it and free yourself up to do something that will ultimately matter more to you in the end.
  7. Plus One/Minus One – This rule applies to all new items entering the house.  Whenever you purchase or receive something new, remove something similar from your current closet or toy collection.
  8. Don’t get swamped by memorabilia.  Use expanding files to store kids certificates, letters and the drawings you want to keep.  Photograph kids artwork you want to keep but may not want the original and set up a memorabilia box for yourself to start keeping all those sentimental bits and pieces together in one place.
  9. Search websites such as Pinterest, Howards Storage World and Google for inspiration on how to store and organise areas around the house.  In this day and age, if you have problem, chances are someone’s already solved it, photographed it and blogged about it!
  10. Prepare for birthdays and Xmas by doing a total clean out of the kids toys, books and clothes.  If you do this regularly, by the time the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have space to put everything quickly away without stress of trying to find more space.

Happy Sorting!

TOP TEN WAYS TO ORGANISE YOURSELF THE NIGHT BEFORE

I’m all about creating space in order to live a more fulfilled life. But as every parent knows, it can be incredibly hard to find that ‘space’ with all the clutter that comes when you have kids.

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There’s no such thing as having more ‘time’.  We each have a finite number of hours in the day.  And these hours can either work for you or demotivate your minute by minute as you find yourself playing catch up all day.

The key to getting ahead is simply a matter of getting more organised.

Follow the steps below every night and not only will you find that you start the day on the right foot, but you may also find yourself inspired to start organising other areas of your life!

Ten Simple Tasks You Can Do To Prepare The Night Before

  1. Spend 15 minutes every night picking up and putting things away. Clearing up regularly not only helps you stay on top of the organization but also safe-guards against spending hours later searching for that long lost toy your toddler simply ‘must’ have.
  2. Handle all paperwork only once. Don’t simply shuffle papers around, fill it in or file it away! I have a filing system in place where I put all non-urgent items for later reference and deal with all important paperwork there and then. I use the scheduling application with my online banking so that bills are entered and dealt with as soon as they are received and all of the kids school or activity paperwork is completed and put back into their bags ready to be returned the next day.
  3. Go through your To-Do list and shortlist for the next day. I like to stay organized electronically and have my devices synced with a number of lists. This way, I can always check and update on the go. I make it a priority the night before to scan through my list and make sure that I have all the necessary items ready to go – drycleaning, mail, prescriptions that I may need while out and about running errands and have them all ready with my bag.
  4. Unpack and repack your bag. Whether it’s a nappy bag, kids backpack or handbag, doing this every night means that you’ll never loose important papers or be caught without wipes again!
  5. Fold and put away the washing every night. Don’t let it pile up. Even with one child, the amount of laundry you end up doing is staggering. Add in a few more and it quickly becomes a very time consuming job if you don’t stay on top of it.
  6. Fill the washing machine with dirty clothes and powder ready to turn on first thing in the morning. Kids come with a mountain of laundry. The best way to stay on top of it is to turn it on first thing in the morning and having it set up that all you have to do is push a button means that I’m always one step ahead.
  7. Clear your kitchen dishes. There’s something so refreshing about coming into a kitchen that has a clean slate in the morning. Coffee anyone?
  8. Prepare kids lunchboxes and vitamins. One less thing to worry about the next morning!
  9. Clear out your email inbox from any junk mail, unsubscribe where you can and jot down or flag any items that need attending to in the morning.
  10. Spend 15 – 20 minutes winding down and reading in bed. Always end the night doing something just for you and you’ll feel as if you accomplished far more during the day than if you simply focus meeting everyone else’s needs.

What tasks do you routinely do to prepare for the next day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How To Reset When It’s the Last Thing You Feel Like Doing

Parenting is full of ups and downs. The ups can pass by all too quickly, without the time to really sit back and enjoy before yet another moment comes along to throw you back into a downward spin.  Daily, hourly, sometimes even in the same minute. Throw in sleep depravation, lack of ‘me-time’, adjusting to this new all-consuming role of motherhood and you can sometimes be navigating almost daily roller coasters.

Faced with moments like these, it’s important to remind yourself that whatever the circumstances, you always have a choice.  You can either multiply the stress and negativity by focussing on everything that’s going wrong or you can realize that despite the chaos that surrounds you, whatever the conflict may be that you’re facing, how you react is still your choice.  You have the power to change the outcome of any situation, simply by changing your attitude.

Even if you’ve already blown a fuse, you can still turn things around at any point.  No child needs a ‘perfect’ parent, they just need a parent who’ll make a promise to show up for them.  Someone who can sit with them when times are at their toughest.  And perhaps most importantly, a parent who will teach by example and show them that even though they make mistakes, even though they may do things that are undesirable, that they are all still loveable and LOVED.  That whatever has happened, anyone can turn things around and start over.

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Six Steps To Reset During Conflict

  1. Take a deep breath and a moment to pause.
  2. Give yourself some space. Even if you need to walk out of the room or get outside for a minute, get some distance to gain some perspective.
  3. Remind yourself that your children are acting like children because they ARE children.
  4. Shake it out. Give yourself a physical shake to get rid of all that negative energy inside.
  5. Return inside and try to approach the situation in a calm, empathetic manner. If your child was having their fifteenth meltdown of the day, perhaps you can try to understand how important that particular orange cup was to them or consider where the outburst is coming from – are they tired, hungry, stressed or over-stimulated? Find the root of the issue and work on resolving that, rather than simply reacting to their symptoms.
  6. Reinforce your boundaries with empathy, give your child a cuddle and remember that this too shall pass.

Prioritise your relationship with your child over the behavior. Trying to rationalize with an upset child or have them understand where you are coming from with an adult perspective is not going to go down very well when emotions are running high.

Remember that you don’t need to make an equally dramatic scene to match your child if you’re in public.  Being ‘seen’ to be doing something only validates the opinions of others around you, who quite frankly, don’t really matter.  I often remind myself that I have nothing to prove to anyone and no-one’s expectations to live up to except for my own.

Once everyone has calmed down, take some time to reflect back and consider the reasons why things went so out of control. Perhaps they’re out of a routine or facing some major changes.  Maybe it’s just that they were hungry or overtired.  Have a look at the situation from their eyes…the answers you find in your heart can often surprise you when you’re looking back with empathy.

Facing a challenge head on and being able to reset yourself back into positive frame of mind not only teaches your child about resilience and models great conflict resolution, it also gives you the tools to grow as a happy, confident and connected parent.

Top Ten Messy Play Ideas For Little Explorers

Why is it that any child will swiftly seek out and plunge directly into the tiniest patch of mud in your backyard long before you even knew it rained? Because kids, being the little scientists that they are, don’t get caught up in thoughts about the future (clean up) or the set-up (the past), instead they tend to be completely immersed in the moment.

And if that moment happens to have a squish, squelch, slosh, plop sound about it, well – all the better!

Messy play has so many benefits for children. They’re active learners, they learn through play, in fact, play is their number one job. Messy play allows children to stretch their imaginations, make choices, solve problems, learn new processes and develop concepts. It also stimulates their senses and engages their learning in ways far greater than any structured activity.

So rather than another ‘activity’ to add to your already hectic schedule, which can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth, not to mention costly, set up some messy play, make yourself a cuppa, sit back and watch your little ones get to it. Or better yet, join in!

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Top 10 Messy Play Ideas For Summer

  1. Cloud Dough. 1 cup of baby oil to 8 cups of flour. Use a whisk or fork to mix, throw in some cutters, spoons, bowls or mini dump trucks and you’ll keep them happy for hours.
  2. Goop. I find this one A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. A fascinating mixture that has a consistency from another planet – it feels firm when you pick it up, but then turns to liquid and streams between your fingers. Mix 2 packs of cornflour to 2 cups of water and add food colouring for some extra fun.
  3. Mud. This one is easy but best done in the afternoon just before coming in for a bath. Simply find a patch of dirt. Turn on the hose or give the kids some buckets of water, some toys such as shovels, dump trucks, etc and let them go for it.
  4. Water Painting. Again, not so messy but kids will get wet so best done on a hot day. Fill buckets with water, add some large paint brushes encourage the kids to paint trees, bricks, fences.
  5. Soapy Slime. 1 cup of soap flakes to 3 cups of warm water. Add food colouring for interest.   Beat all ingredients together in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Using a water table or simply different buckets and containers, let kids explore and help them use descriptive words to understand what they’re feeling (slimy, heavy, slippery, etc).
  6. Breadcrumbs and Trucks. Fill a large rectangular container with breadcrumbs and add mini cars or mini construction vehicles and let the kids loose in their mini sand pit work zone!
  7. Bubble Fun. Fill a large container or bucket with some bubble bath or dishwashing detergent and water (eco-friendly as some of these products can be quite harsh on kids delicate skin). Add some sponges and toy animals for some extra fun. Little ones might need some help to get started and supervision to ensure that they don’t just empty the whole lot out onto the grass straight away.
  8. Body painting. Find some child-friendly or eco paints and help your child get creative outdoors.
  9. HUGE Art. Find a large roll of paper from a craft store. Lay it out and provide some child-friendly paints in different pots. Add sponges, brushes, etc and let their imaginations run wild.
  10. Kinetic Sand.  98% sand and 2% magic, this amazing new product revolutionises indoor sand play.  Soft and stretchy, the sand sticks only to itself, not to you, shapes exactly like wet sand and never dries out.  Sold online and in most good toy stores, this is one product that I’ll be loving this summer!

Keeping The ‘Mess’ In Messy Play Contained

  • Cover up – use an old adult shirt or you can buy plastic kids coveralls. This way, when kids have finished, you can simply remove a layer and they remain ‘relatively’ unscathed underneath.
  • Go au-naturel. If the weather permits, remove their clothing which will mean less washing up and a quick bubble bath or even a hose off at the end (making it part of the fun) is all you need to have them looking spick and span again.
  • Use a table kids can stand around and containers to keep things off the floor.
  • Hose off the mess into the garden – again this is the importance of using eco-friendly products to protect the plants and groundwater.
  • Keep a towel handy to wipe any hands or deal with any accidents, such as soap going into the eye.
  • Protect your surfaces with newspaper, plastic, old sheets and use washable paints.
  • Do messy play outdoors if weather permits, but if not, pick a suitable indoor location. A bathtub or kitchen floor isn’t that hard to clean up at the end.
  • Supervise! Little kids are easily distracted. Let them lead their play but make sure that you keep an eye on things.
  • Have fun, keep your camera handy and relax. Enjoy the creativity that comes with messy play and try to stay in the moment with them, rather than worrying about how you’re going to clean it all up afterwards.

What are YOUR top tips for messy play?