Kid Gift Idea: Lemonade/Cocoa Stand

Bear and Ladybug had been asking us to have a lemonade stand all summer last year and unfortunately, we just never got around to it. When Christmas rolled around, we thought they would still be excited to have a lemonade stand even if it was a few months late.

I built the stand in our entryway in one afternoon.

I started pinterest searching and found lots of different plans. The plan we went with is here: Fantabulosity Lemonade Stand. Building this took one trip to Home Depot and one afternoon of time. It was built entirely my yours truly with some simple power tool use. I did make a few small changes to the plan:

  1. Only one crate is flipped to the front. I did this in order to provide more storage in the back.
  2. I put the rods for the sign on the inside of the crates, not the outside. This was to clean up the outside edge of the stand and make sure little bodies wouldn’t bump into the rough edges of the rods.
  3. I used a drill and sturdy screws in addition to hammering in small nails. This was just to make sure it would last, especially since we were planning to have it live in their playroom when not in use outside.
We celebrated our family Christmas a little early since we were traveling over the holiday. They ran first to the stand and were most excited about that gift.

And the result…. Very happy kids who happily sold hot cocoa and homemade cinnamon rolls to our neighbors on a December Saturday morning. I posted on our neighborhood facebook page that the kids were out and what they were selling. I also put a cup with some quarters at the corner just in case someone didn’t have cash but still wanted to come by. The kids had a lot of fun and were excited to count the money they earned and put it in their banks. They are looking forward to having a lemonade stand this summer already.

They had a lot of fun!

When the stand is not in use in front of our house, we have it in their playroom where they use it as a grocery store and restaurant.

They have used it to sell groceries, cookies, meals, toys, and all sorts of things.

I thought I would share this now in case anyone was looking for Easter or birthday ideas for their kids.

Have a great day!
Mel

Best $20 you will ever spend on Amazon: OK to Wake Clock

Sleeping and meal time are the two things we’ve decided to be pretty strict on.  Our kids have never slept in our room.  I know that makes us sound cruel but we have our reasons.  The main one being that I am such a light sleeper that I cannot sleep at all with baby/kid noises or extra motion in the bed.  We’ve always used monitors so we can hear if we are needed.  If the kids were ever sick or I thought I needed to be near to them at night for any reason, I would sleep in their rooms so they have never expected to sleep in ours.

But, like all kids, they did try to get up in the middle of the night and really early in the morning.  Thankfully, I found a fabulous product to help us keep them in their rooms at night and until an appropriate time in the morning so the entire house gets a good night’s sleep.

This is a product recommendation that probably every house with kids can use!  If you have children you would love to stay in bed longer in the morning or be better about staying in their rooms all night now, this one is for you: The OK to Wake Clock.

31GP5YnCFjL
Available on Amazon

We love this thing!  It turns green at a set time so if your kids wake up and see it green, they know they can come out of their room.  If it isn’t green, they need to stay in their room until it turns on.  You set a time for it to turn on in the morning and then you can set a duration for it turn on in during nap time.  It runs on batteries or can be plugged in and comes with a green face and pink or purple face.

While the product is fabulous, you do have to train your kids to follow it.  We started using these clocks when Bear and Ladybug were transitioning from their cribs to their toddler beds.  You certainly could start later than that as well but setting up the “rules” before moving to a toddler bed or right when you do move to the toddler bed probably help.

 

Explain the night before you use the clock the first time that the clock will turn green when it is okay for them to get up and come out of their room.  If they wake up before it turns green, they need to go back to sleep or read/play quietly in their bed.  We have books and stuffed animals in our kids’ rooms for that purpose.

Also explain that if they stay in their room and are quiet until their light turns green, they will get a reward.  We used M&Ms and then a sticker chart for a reward like a new toy or special date.  I like this because they get an immediate reward from the M&M but then something bigger to work towards.

 

Set the time in the morning for when they are normally waking and then gradually move it later by 15 minute increments every few days of them successfully staying in their room.  Example, if your kids are getting up at 6 am and you’d love that to be 7 am or later, set the clock to turn green at 6 am the first morning.  Once your kids have stayed in their rooms for a few days at that time, move it to 6:15 am.  Then 6:30.  Etc.

Same set up for nap time.  If they are napping for an hour and you would like to make that 2 hours, start with 1 hour for the time set and then gradually move it to 2 hours.

 

The most important thing: consistency.  Each and every time they get up before the light turns green, walk them back to their room and put them back to bed saying “you can get up when your light turns green.”  Say that and nothing more.  This means whether it is 5 minutes until the clock turns green or the middle of the night, you still walk them back to their room.  No stories, no extra hugs and kisses or cuddle time.  Just a quick walk back to their room.  Yes, in the early days they protested or were upset.  That ended quickly though when they understood that getting up in the middle of the night or early in the morning didn’t get them what they wanted.

Of note, our kids have a jack-and-jill bath between their rooms so they can use the restroom on their own without going out of their room.  If your kids need to go out of their rooms to use the restroom, you may need to adjust the rules slightly (can only go out before green to use the restroom BUT must go right back to room).  We also have video monitors in their rooms so if they are sick or need something, they can call to us and we can come help them.  If you don’t use monitors, you may need to say it is okay for them to come out if they are sick or need something.

Our kids now stay in their rooms until 7:30 am (or later if we have a later night and set the clock back a bit) and have 2-3 hour nap times depending on the day.  We also very rarely like I don’t remember when the last time was have them getting up in the middle of the night.

I hope this clock helps you get better sleep!  If you have any other products or tips for sleeping through the night, please use the comment feature above to share your thoughts!

*This post is not sponsored.  I have owned three of these clocks (one got dropped pretty badly on a trip so we quickly replaced it with another) and there is currently one in Bear’s room and one in Ladybug’s room.  As I write this, they are on hour 2 of their naps.  🙂

 

Gift idea for stuffed animal loving littles

I feel like I struggle with gifts ideas for my kids each birthday and Christmas. Between two sets of grandparents and other relatives who spoil them rotten and fabulous hand-me-downs from friends, they don’t actually need anything. My idea for this Christmas came after I was struggling to help Ladybug and Bear clean up their rooms one day. Where on Earth, were all of their stuffed animals supposed to go?  I have tried to thin the herd several times but they genuinely love and play with all of them.  So off to Pinterest I went searching for stuffed animal storage ideas.

I stumbled on this plan and loved how simple it was.  Beast and I built two of these in basically 3 nap times: 1) for building 2) for painting and 3) for stringing the bungee cord.  We got the wood and spray paint from Home Depot and the bungee cords from Amazon. They are able to put their animals in this from the top or sides on their own and the bungee cords make it very easy for them to see and pull out the desired creature when they decide they want it.

IMG_8164

And now when I see that stuffed animals are spread throughout the house, I just have to say, “Please put your stuffed animals in your zoo!”  Within a matter of minutes, they can clean up the mess and enjoy doing it since they are filling up their “zoo.”  The “zoos” fit nicely in the corners of their rooms.

We combined this gift with a ticket to make their own stuffed animals at Build-A-Bear for Christmas.  So we had a bit of a theme this year.

IMG_6401

I hope this helps you if you’re in need of a birthday or Christmas idea this year!

 

Tips to make your kids fabulous little eaters


When Beast and I started thinking about having kids and discussing what our family would look like and operate like, there were two things that kept coming up as important to us: meal time and sleeping.  Meal time was important to us because we wanted to be able to take our kids to restaurants and actually enjoy ourselves as well as have family meals around our own table each night.  (See this book for more topics we discussed before getting married.)

It was important to us so we put some work into figuring out how to get our kids to do a good job at the table and eat well.  They do a great job the vast majority of the time.  I’ve been asked several times why they are the way they are and it always seems like too big of an answer to just quickly spit out to a random person at a restaurant or to tell a friend over coffee (there are so many other things to talk about!).  So, I’ve outlined some things we did over the years here in case it is helpful to anyone.  These rules and methods worked for us and for the personalities of our kids.  

This post is long (sorry) but I tried to spend some time explaining some of the reasons behind the rules we had at various stages.  Now make sure your understand me, our kids are not perfect (whose are?) so they still have their moments and meals that don’t go so well but these are the things we try to enforce and really practice at home to make meal times everywhere go better.  And they are fabulous little eaters who I truly enjoy cooking for so I do think the rules we put in place after lots of reading or learning from others really did work.

 

Five overarching themes to our rules:

  1. “Begin as you wish to go”  This one is really the mantra for all of our parenting. Various versions of this quote are attributed to many individuals but it is the basis for many of the Baby Wise techniques (see books by Gary Enzo and Robert Buckham, MD).  Basically, it means that if you don’t want something to become a habit or your new ritual, don’t do it.  Not even once.  It may make for a hard meal or two to not give in on something, but you’re in it for the long game, not just a meal or two.  Sticking with your “rules” is worth it. 
  2. They eat what we eat.  As soon as we could, we got our kids eating the exact meal that we were eating.  We make dinner for the entire family with no separate meals or dishes for the kids.
  3. They sit at the table the whole time we do.  No one gets up early or runs around while we are eating.  Meal time is a ritual where we sit and eat and talk.  If they finish early, they sit at the table with us until everyone is done.
  4. We don’t sabotage ourselves.  If we want to have a good meal with our kids, it is worth pushing through them being hungry and making them wait instead of giving them a snack and then having kids at the table who aren’t actually hungry.  Schedules we followed are below.
  5. We remember that they are a little smarter than us at times.  Most kids only eat when they are actually hungry.  Often our kids would eat a big breakfast and not really be that hungry for lunch.  We wouldn’t force them to eat at lunch time but would still stick to our feeding schedule so the next meal would be snack time or dinner, depending on the stage they were in.  No extra or early snacks just because they didn’t eat a good lunch.  Because they eat well and eat good things, I don’t worry at all if they have a meal where they don’t eat much.  This takes a lot of stress away from the table and gives them the power to control how much they want to eat.

And now some of the things we did at different stages that helped develop good meal time habits:

4 m-1 year

  1. Use a variety of baby foods.  When I would go to the store for baby food, I would buy only one of each flavor in order to encourage my kids to eat different things.  If you make your own food, you could just make sure to make a bunch of different things and vary them with each meal.  
  2. Serve fruits and vegetables, individually and mixed.  We would serve a fruit or fruit blend for breakfast, mixed fruit and veggie for lunch, and vegetable or vegetable blend for dinner.  This helped them to get used to things that weren’t sweetened with fruit.
  3. If they don’t eat it, save it for the next meal.  If my kids turned their nose up to one kind of baby food, I would put whatever was leftover in the container in the fridge and serve it to them again at the beginning of the next meal.  This taught them that they didn’t get away from eating something by refusing it.  
  4. If it is gross, don’t serve it.  I tried the vast majority of the baby food I gave them and if it was truly gross, I would not buy it again.  I can remember one that was a black bean and grain puree which basically tasted like dirt.  I gagged when I tried it so I didn’t force Bear to eat it and definitely did not buy it again.
  5. Give little bites/purees of whatever you are eating.  As soon as we could, we would mass up bits of whatever we were having for dinner and let them try it.  
  6. Stay on a feeding schedule.  We had breakfast around 8 AM, lunch around noon, small snack around 4 PM, and dinner between 6-7 PM each day.  They knew when to expect food and to know that I didn’t give extra snacks in between.  
  7. Have them eat dinner with you.  As soon as they could sit in their Bumbos, we had our kids sitting on the table while we had dinner.  They would watch us eat, eat themselves, and get used to sitting in one spot during meal time.  If they were restless and done eating before we were, we would give them a toy or two to play with at the table but they had to stay in their seat.
Bumbo on the table

8. Start taking them to restaurants.  I started taking my kids to restaurants during my maternity leaves and continued to occasionally take them as infants out to lunch on my days off.  This helped them “practice” behavior at restaurants.  I would pick restaurants that were loud at first and times (mainly lunch) where they were less busy so it wasn’t as high stakes as say taking them to a busy restaurant for dinner.  

I swear this is the stage where Bear developed his love of salmon.  He was 6 months old and sitting on top of the table in his Bumbo.  We had my parents over and cooked up a huge piece of salmon.  He kept grabbing for it so my dad gave him the tiniest bit to try.  He loved it and my dad got a big kick out of feeding it to him.  He still eats salmon better than most adults.

I tried to make my own baby food but was unsuccessful.  I couldn’t quite ever get the texture right (probably needed WAY more water in hindsight).  Bear could not stand the food I was making but would gobble down store bought food so I quickly abandoned making my own.  This video is of Bear trying his first baby food (made by me).

1-2 years

  1. As soon as our kids could do “table food” we transitioned them away from baby food.  They had been getting small bites of what we were eating all along so it was easy to move them away from the baby food to exactly what we were eating.
  2. No toys at the table.  Coloring on the sheets given at restaurants was fine but at home they were sitting and talking with us while eating their food and learning that toys were not for the table.  
  3. Give small amounts of everything and more of whatever they like.  We would give small amounts of everything in our meal (usually a meat, veggie or two, and occasional starch or grain).  If they loved one thing and wanted more of it, we would keep giving it to them.  This meant sometimes they really only ate 1 item for dinner (with Ladybug it was often peas) but they were happy and eating something good so it wasn’t a big deal.  We would encourage trying the other items but not force it.
  4. Serve sweet items like fruit or dessert later.  Because of number 3, we wouldn’t serve strawberries, for instance, with dinner because if we did, Ladybug would only eat strawberries.  BUT, we would give strawberries after the meat and veggie as a dessert.
  5. Give water throughout the day and milk only at meal times.  We made sure they could always have water if they wanted it but milk was only available at meal times, not snack.  This was so they wouldn’t fill up on milk shortly before a meal or throughout the day.
  6. Have them eat dinner with you.  At this stage, we used a high chair with a little safety belt so they were literally buckled in at the table.  If they finished early, they sat with us until we were done.
Baby seat with buckle

7. Give lots of praise for trying new things or being good at the table.  We would constantly say things like “I love how you tried the X” even if it was only one bite or “You say very nice at the table.  That makes Mommy happy.”  

8. Give timeouts for inappropriate table behavior.  This is the stage where if they were being inappropriate at the table, we would put them in timeout away from the table (in our house it is the steps going upstairs).  They can still hear everything going on but not see it or participate in it.  When we told them why they were going to timeout, we would say something like “You were not acting nice at the table.  You can come back when you are ready to sit nicely and eat with the rest of us.”  

9. Start having them say “thank you for dinner” and ask to be excused.  Our kids know that when everyone is done they can get up if they say two things:  “Thank you for dinner, X” and “May I please be excused.”  I heard this from one of my friends and loved how it asked the kids to acknowledge the effort that was put in to making the meal.  Asking to be excused gives them a clear time when it is okay to get up.  If they haven’t been excused yet and get up, they are asked to go back to the table.

Watching this child eat is seriously one of my favorite pastimes.  I will see that she is done with a meal and realize I’ve barely touched mine because I was watching her the whole time.  This is her thoroughly enjoying eating corn on the cob.  Translations:  “CHEESE!”  “Mommy’s corn cob.”  “Switch sides.” “Where’s my chicken?”  (She had eaten it all.)

2-3 years

  1. Transition away from snack time.  By the time both our kids were 2, I noticed they were doing great at the table for breakfast and lunch, eating a small snack, and not really that hungry for dinner.  So we went to smaller and smaller amounts for snacks and eventually eliminated it all together.
  2. Treats/desserts are the exception, not the rule.  If you knew after every meal you would get a nice big dessert, would you eat as much of your meal?  Of course not.  If kids expect to get a treat or dessert after a meal then they will often focus on that and eat the minimum you deem acceptable in order to get the treat.  We have a treat (usually a cookie) or dessert after dinner only occasionally so that it is not expected.  The kids instead focus on their meals.  If they have eaten a good dinner AND had a good day otherwise with behavior then we’ll offer something after they are completely done about once or twice a week.  Never enough for them to expect it and if they start asking for dessert then we usually say “not tonight” for a few nights to get them back on track with not expecting it.
  3. “No thank you bites.”  If they wanted more of something at this stage, we would have them take a “no thank you bite” of something they had not tried first.  This could be a very small bite but would get them to try something different and possibly to start eating something else in addition to what they were really enjoying.  
  4. Transition to sitting in chair like “big kid.”  One of the rewards for our kids potty training was getting to sit at the table like a “big kid” in an adult chair or on a bench without a baby seat.  By this time they had been used to sitting at the table and not getting up during meal time.

Ladybug has recently decided that asparagus is one of her favorite foods.  Here is her method for chomping down a whole spear at a time.

3+ years

  1. “I’ll give you more X, if you eat 3 bites of Y.”  By age 3, they’ve had the “no thank you” bites and know that you’re not trying to poison them.  You can encourage them to take more bites of something in order to get more of what they are really enjoying.  That being said, we certainly have our exceptions.  My kids actually gag when I give them cottage cheese.  So I’m not going to force them to eat something that literally they physically cannot get down.  I feel like everyone should get to have a few things that aren’t their favorite, especially if they are doing a great job eating everything else.  We try to read our kids and determine if they are not eating something just because they like another item a lot or if they aren’t eating it because they are turning their nose up to it.  Bear will often devour all his meat and ask for more before he has even touched his vegetables.  He’ll ask for more meat but we’ll ask him to take 3 bites of veggies before we give him more.  Once he tastes the veggies and determines he likes them as well as the meat, he will typically start eating them just as well.  
  2. Table manners.  Up until 3, I feel like the main goal for meal time with kids is to get them to eat a variety of things and sit at the table without screaming.  Right?  By age 3, you can expect more from them in terms of table manners.  With Bear we are talking more about leaning over his plate so crumbs don’t fall, making sure to use his fork/spoon correctly and all the time (no fist shoveling), and using his napkin instead of his shirt or my tablecloth.  He seems much more receptive at this age as well as able to perform our requests compared to when he was 2.

Here is my sweet Bear asking for more politely when he had licked his plate clean.


The Grandma’s House Clause:  Now there are times when it makes total sense to relax the rules a little bit.  I am not going to tell my mom or mother-in-law that they can’t give my kiddo a treat at 10 AM because we have a food schedule that we stick to.  Grandma’s get a ton of enjoyment out of giving treats.  Special events at other people’s house are in the same boat.  Rules can be bent and broken when needed, especially when there is a solid foundation or meal time ritual at home.

And that is where we are now.  I’ll probably have to add to this post as we go through additional stages but that is what we have so far.

If anyone has any questions or additional thoughts/ideas on how to get kids to eat well, please put them in the comments.  I always love to hear what tricks other parents have up their sleeves!


Happy cooking!

Media use and kids

This is something that is often a hot topic in mom circles and one that I am interested in for sure: Media use for kids, especially really young kids.

While I was pregnant with Bear, Andrew and I saw so many families using media (iPads, iPhones, etc) while out and about to essentially soothe kids or keep them entertained so they didn’t have to interact with the adults.  One family we can both still picture was sitting at dinner at a restaurant, both parents on their phones and both kids with headphones and iPads, all mindlessly eating and not interacting with each other at all.  Might have worked for them but Andrew and I knew that is not what we wanted for our family.

I researched this quite a bit and chatted with our pediatrician as well and these guidelines kept coming back as a good place to start in deciding your “rules” on this topic:

Media Use Guidelines from the AAP

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Healthy-Digital-Media-Use-Habits-for-Babies-Toddlers-Preschoolers.aspx

Whenever I’m wondering if something has been researched or if there is a good recommendation for anything having to do with kids, I go to the American Academy of Pediatrics first.  They have all sorts of great publications and guides for parents from allergies to media use to pacifiers, all sorts of things.

Now there are certainly exceptions and sometimes giving an iPhone to a toddler who is hangry while checking out at Target is a Godsend (can I get an Amen!) but having the toddler not expect to get an iPhone to entertain them every time they are in Target is probably a good thing too.  Because then you get to talk about what you are seeing and buying.  You get to answer all the questions and whys.  Yes, it will take longer but it will also be worth the extra time.

So that’s where I go if I am wondering if a certain type of media use is acceptable or not.  Hope this helps!

Some additional reading:

CNN Article 2019: More screen time for toddlers is tied to poorer development a few years later https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/health/screen-time-child-development-study/index.html

Journal of the American Medical Association 2019 Article: Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2722666?guestAccessKey=879c6c87-141e-48f8-8c95-4d684600a644

CNN Article 2017: Letting a baby play on an iPad might lead to speech delays, study says http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/04/health/babies-screen-time-speech-delays-study/index.html

Financial Time Article 2018: Apple faces activist pressure over children’s iPhone use https://www.ft.com/content/a4a0d8d0-f3fc-11e7-8715-e94187b3017e