April 29, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen

With the state of the economy many families are looking for ways to cut expenses and stretch the family dollar. One way is to eat out less and do more cooking at home. You’ll not only be saving money but you will be able to ensure your family is eating nutritionally healthy foods.

Using the weekly grocery ads, have your child help you plan a weeks worth of menus and put together the shopping list. Explain to your child the importance of establishing a food budget and purchasing items on sale. Allow your child to select one item from the ad, of their choosing, to put on the list. If your child is not yet old enough to read, cut the food item pictures from the ad and glue or tape them onto a legal pad or into a spiral notebook to make a visual shopping list.

Your child can sharpen his fine motor skills by cutting coupons from the Sunday paper and magazines. Encourage your child to match the coupons to the items in the weekly grocery ad. Put the coupons into an envelope that can be attached to the legal pad or spiral notebook shopping list and you’re ready to go grocery shopping.

Allow your child to accompany you to the store and make a game out of finding all the items on your shopping list. Use this shopping experience as an opportunity to teach your child how to select fresh produce, how to comparison shop, and the importance of sticking to the shopping list in order to save money.  If you think your child can tolerate the crowds, do your grocery shopping on a Friday or Saturday when the store is handing out free samples or offering items to taste. Don’t forget to take along your reusable shopping bags. Once the groceries are purchased and you’ve made your way back home, enlist your child’s help in putting the groceries away.

Every good cook needs cooking tools and children are no exception. Buy your child a kid-sized apron or to save even more money, make one using an old bath towel. Lay the towel vertically and cut a circular hole a third of the way down. The towel will easily slide over your child’s head for wearing and it’s easy to wash. Assemble some kitchen utensils that will be specifically for your child’s use.  Make sure the kit includes pot holders, a wooden spoon, measuring cups and measuring spoons, a wire whisk and any other utensils that would be age- appropriate. Utensils can be extra ones you already have or they can be purchased inexpensively at a dollar store. Store the utensils in a kitchen drawer or storage bin that can be easily accessed by your child. Make sure teaching safety issues around kitchen equipment is a priority.

Talk to your child about his favorite foods and help him discover what foods he can make himself. Those foods might include cereal, a peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk.  Ask him what new foods he would like to learn to make. Purchase a cook book for your child or better yet save the money you would have spent on a cookbook by doing an online search for kid friendly recipes. There are many web sites that offer simple and tasty step-by-step recipes for a beginning cook.

Children who help with meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking are more likely to be interested in trying new foods. Meal planning, shopping for the ingredients and cooking your own meals provides opportunities for you to spend valuable time with your child. It also encourages healthy eating habits in your child that will last a lifetime.

April 18, 2012

A Child's Behavior Has a Purpose

Most of the time children either get something or they avoid something by engaging in a particular behavior. Think of a problem behavior your child is currently displaying. What do you think your child is getting or avoiding by engaging in that behavior?

If your child uses a behavior to get something, try and identify what he is hoping to gain. It could be your attention, something tangible (candy) a preferred activity (watching TV) or control (power struggle). 

If the behavior is to avoid something ask yourself if your child is trying to avoid attention, difficult tasks (homework) demands (picking up toys) or activities (sports practice). 

Temper tantrums are something children often use to get what they want or to avoid doing something.Now take a closer look at what triggers the behavior. What happens right before, or what sets off the problem behavior. Also note any factors or events that set up the behavior. This could be factors related to home or family, social or environmental conditions, biological or medical conditions.  A child who is hungry or tired can display inappropriate behaviors.  A snack or quiet time may ward off inappropriate behaviors. 

Once you've determined the above, ask yourself the following questions:

1. When is my child most successful?

2. When is the problem least likely to occur?  Use the answers to these two questions to map out a plan to redirect the problem behavior. You may be able to eliminate the trigger(s). Make your child be a part of the solution by enlisting her help in coming up with a way to change the behavior. 

April 2, 2012

Helping Kids Deal With Anxiety

I was a guest this morning on Great Day St. Louis sharing strategies parents can use to help their children manage anxiety. My segment begins at the 1:25 mark.

If you could use some help with managing your child's anxiety or if you any other concerns contact me to discuss my child therapy and parent coaching services.

April 1, 2012

Benefits of Cooking Together

One of the things I encourage parents to do is to have a special one-on-one time with their child each week. Parents like the idea but admit it’s a challenge to find time to fit one more thing into their weekly schedule. 

That’s when I suggest cooking together. Everyone has to eat, every house has a kitchen and for parents who are concerned about their child eating a variety of foods it’s a good way to teach healthy eating habits.

For young children start with recipes that have fewer than five ingredients. A tossed salad or muffins would be good recipes to start with. Go over basic safety rules of the kitchen before you begin cooking.

Does your child struggle with impulsivity and following directions? Gathering the ingredients, following the step by step directions of the recipe and waiting for the end result teaches all of those valuable skills. Measuring and combining ingredients teaches math skills. Reading skills are enhanced when you ask your child to read aloud the recipe directions.

Keep track of the foods you make together and soon you’ll have a series of menus which will make weekly meal planning easier. If you have a phone with a camera feature snap a picture of the recipes and when you go to the grocery store your shopping list will be with you. 

Both parents and children gain something out of cooking together. First, there's the quality time you'll share preparing the food. Then there's the pleasure of sitting down at the table together to enjoy what you've created.