A few years ago, Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld, released a book called Deceptively Delicious. The book was an overnight hit, in large part because of her celebrity name and being booked on every major talk show as a cooking guest for a month straight. For a few weeks, you couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing about her book.
Like many Moms, I bought the book thinking this would be the perfect solution to getting my own picky three eaters to stop spitting out their spinach, gagging on their broccoli and feeding green beans to the dog when my back was turned (yes, that happened). My little ones didn’t always despise vegetables. As babies, they happily gobbled down whatever pureed food I spooned into their little mouths. But, as the toddler years set in, everything changed. Around age two, kids learn more about choices and the word ‘NO’ which they emphatically exercise their right to use frequently.
After months of trying it Mrs. Seinfeld’s way – cooking, pureeing and hiding vegetable in my kids’ meals (cauliflower in mac n’ cheese and carrots in pasta sauce), I decided there had to be a better way. I had to stop the subterfuge and hiding behind the food processor. I was determined to put a solid, single piece of broccoli on my children’s plates and have them eat it and…smile.
Here are the three golden rules I lived by:
One Bite Rule. It takes 10 to 15 tries before a child will actually eat – and even like – a new food. Each child was required to eat one bite of each item on their plate at every meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. A vegetable was incorporated into each one. Spinach in eggs (just one leaf!), raw carrots with their Goldfish (they almost blend in!) and cauliflower with their tater tots (brown them to a crisp and they could almost be twins!)
Learn to Cook. Each night one child was Mom’s ‘helper’ in the kitchen. Even on stools barely able to reach the counter, each one was sous chef for a day. Snapping green beans, peeling potatoes (required a lot of supervision) and when they were older, chopping. As I made them a part of the meal prep, not simply just eating it, they gained an appreciation for what it took Mom (and Dad) to make meals and opened up discussions on nutrition. Bonus: measuring cups teach math! Score one big win for Mom.
Knowledge is Power. There are a lot of amazing books out there about healthy eating that kids will really enjoy. Our two favorites were To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure and The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.We incorporated these books at bed time reading which led to conversations about food, even if it was in a silly way, and talked about how important nutrition and exercise are to a healthy body.
Fast forward over five years later, and we still have pickiness (no tomatoes for the youngest) and challenges (no one likes to be Mom’s sous chef anymore, but they can all cook if they get hungry enough!). Despite the ongoing battles, I’m glad I instilled these rules when I did and I now see it definitely changed to the course of events during their formative years.
We’ve all read how important it is to get enough sleep as adults. Study after study has shown that sleep affects our overall health in many ways: our neurological function, heart, weight and emotional well-being. The same is true for children, if not even more so.
Sleep is critical for the growing minds and bodies of young children. Just like food nourishes their bodies, sleep nourishes their brains. It’s not just an old wives’ tale: children actually ‘grow’ while sleeping. Sleep literally recharges the brain’s battery: it increases a child’s attention span, helps them feel more relaxed and allows them to be mentally alert. The right amount of sleep for a child increases their chances of becoming their personal best!
The are many guides and reports about the proper amount of sleep for children per age. Parents should familiarizes themselves with these recommendations, however, they shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to use these as guides, not law. Parents need to stay in tune with their kids and understand when they may need to be getting more sleep. Even if the chart says for their age a child should be getting 9 – 10 hours per night, some children just function better on more sleep and subtle cues will help parents find that out.
What kind of clues can help you tell if your child needs more sleep?
They have a hard time falling asleep. Sometimes parents mistake their child’s inability to fall asleep quickly by thinking they’re just not tired. The opposite is actually true! The more tired a child is, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. They’re busy winding down and fighting the sleep urge, and this is usually making bedtime even more difficult.
They have a hard time waking up. If getting your pre-school or school aged child out of bed in the morning is a struggle, consider putting them to bed at least 30 minutes earlier each night.
They don’t stay on task or lose focus. Sleep deprived minds act slower than rested minds. If you notice your child is distracted easily or just doesn’t’ stay on task, sleep may be the issue.
Remember, different children need different amounts of sleep. Average sleep time charts are just that, averages. Tune in and notice your child’s behavior during the daytime. Keep a journal if you need to. Notice the behavior changes in your child and how many hours they sleep each night. If you notice your child is simply easier to deal with during the day and you’ve moved bedtime up by an hour, you’re probably doing the right thing!