Holiday Gift Guide to Encourage Health, Creativity, and Connection

It’s that time of year again! Soon your newsfeed will be filled with “Holiday Gift Guides” for every age. I decided to make one of my own, including items for various children’s ages, but all sharing the central themes of: health, creative learning, and connecting with people. I hope you enjoy!

Your little one can enjoy keeping your home clean

Kids will treasure this play kitchen for many years

Encourage healthy eating with these realistic play foods

Your child will learn to ride a bike more quickly and with less stress by skipping the training wheels

Don’t forget the helmet!

This puzzle makes learning the alphabet fun

Easily record memorable events with this sweet journal

Your science-minded child will love this interactive microscope

Have fun watching your sprouts grow together

Help your family learn about the world

Make some memories in the kitchen

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My Toddler is Not a Picky Eater!

I’m sure I’ll have to put a foot in my mouth in about three months when my son starts eating more solids, but at this moment in life, my three year old daughter is not a picky eater. The ways I have attempted to nurture this non-pickiness are not terribly difficult, but they do require consistency. My methods do not involve bribery, colorful utensils and plates, or hiding vegetables in baked goods.

Here’s a little list of guidelines to help you get on the right track:

  1. Eat real food. I’m talking about vegetables, beans, fruit, and ethically sourced meat. Set the example you hope your kids will follow.
  2. Don’t keep processed food in the house (or keep them hidden). Pretzels, goldfish, and animal crackers are not what your child’s body needs.
  3. Learn what your kid will gorge himself on and offer that after the vegetables, if it’s appropriate to include in a meal (unless it’s those vegetables that he loves!). My daughter would eat only bread and fruit if I let her.
  4. Limit sugar. This is not just about dessert! Most processed foods have added sugar, even “healthy” ones!
  5. Limit boredom snacking between meals so everyone will be hungry at mealtime.
  6. If kids do snack, it should consist of real food, like nuts and fruit.
  7. Do not nag at mealtimes. Give appropriate portions – largest portion is from a plant – and expect your little one to eat what his body needs. Clean Plate Club is no longer in session. If he doesn’t finish his meal, save it for later and offer it to him at his next request for food.
  8. Learn about traditional food preparation to get the most nutrients out of your food, such as sprouting grains or beans and fermentation.
  9. Allow your child not to like certain things. Most people don’t love every food they’ve ever tried. Encourage kids to try new things, but the pushier you are, the less likely it is that they will do it.
  10. Let kids help cook! The more involved in the process they are, the more they will be excited to eat it. Even better if they help you grow the vegetables in your back yard (I’m not on that level yet…).
  11. Eat together as a family.
  12. Talk about health together. Talk about what foods make us grow and why we need to limit the foods that can hurt our bodies.

These guidelines may seem controlling, but they’re not in the context of a loving empathetic relationship. We implemented most of these things from the beginning, so my daughter has not known any different. I’m sure new challenges will arise as she becomes more aware of the world around her, but my hope is that she will carry this foundation of health throughout her life.

Continuum of Respect

I’ll preface this with a few things. I am far from being the mother I want to be. Postpartum depression gripped me strongly for three years and I am only just now coming up for air. We live in this modern age where having “success” in all the areas I’m about to discuss is nearly impossible. In absence of a true daily village, there are many aspirations I’ve had to let go. My daughter’s imperfections are a reflection of my own mistakes.

We all know the playground scene: a parent pleads with a child when it’s time to leave, the child refuses and runs away, the parent has to chase said child and call out the ineffective “1-2-3” threats, and finally catches the child and drags him to the car while they both drown in shame, tears, and screeches.
What if it were possible to do this differently? Firm benevolent guidance takes the place of begging and coercion. Children need a strong leader, someone to lovingly tell them where the boundaries are. The relationship must first be built on trust in order for the child to heed this guidance.
In Jean Leidloff’s book, The Continuum Concept, she opens up a new world of parenting in which children and adults live in harmony with one another instead of constantly engaging in power struggles. The process begins in infancy, where parents keep infants close and immediately respond to its needs twenty-four hours of the day while the baby passively enjoys all that happens in an active caregiver’s life. A sling┬áis a wonderful, practical tool for this. When the baby starts to crawl, he is trusted not to injure himself and learns by experience. The parents are not solely focused on the child, but they invite the child to join in their activities and tasks in toddlerhood. Adults expect that the child desires to do good, and children want to fulfill these expectations. This combination of beliefs has proven to be beneficial to me time and time again. The child is always immersed in family life and desires to be a part of the community.

This simple, yet complicated, restructuring of our expectations of children can make a world of difference in our relationships. That’s what it always has to come back to – the relationship and the belief that our children do desire to meet our expectations of cooperation. Even if we feel like we are too far from this idea to remedy it, there is always tomorrow.