What to do About Picky Eaters

IMG_1627It’s dinnertime. You have already put in a full day wearing many, many hats. You manage to pull together a home-cooked meal in the little time that you have between tantrums, snacks and potty breaks, and oh yeah, the messy house. The mess you have now added to with pots and pans and mixing bowls but who cares, it is well worth it because everybody will now sit down and enjoy the nice meal you whipped up in your not-so-spare time, right? Wrong. Because every family has one: A picky toddler.

You thought this dish was a sure thing. After all, what toddler doesn’t like pasta? First, you ruined it by calling it “pasta” instead of “noodles, ” and a power struggle ensues which you inevitably lose. “Big sister is eating it, why don’t you give it a bite, mommy made it just for you,” will quickly turn into “You will eat this for Mommy!”

You don’t mind one meal gone wrong, except that this happened last night, too. Now that you think about it, he did not eat a good lunch either because there was too much peanut butter on the sandwich. Sound familiar?

It may seem like all of your friend’s children are happily eating avocados and sweet potatoes and beans, and you’re lucky if you can get one decent meal in your child a day. But realize that those children are the exception. Most toddlers go through a picky phase. If you luck out with a toddler who will eat all textures and varieties, great! If not, choose your battles and avoid power struggles. I am not a big fan of the “eat what I made or eat nothing at all” concept. I have tried the eat-what-I make-or-go-to-bed-hungry tactic but it just didn’t work for me. What happens at our house is my toddler woke up at midnight starving, at which I point I end up giving him something he will eat just to try to catch some much-needed sleep.

My thought is that mealtime is for families to come together, and sit and enjoy some time together while eating. Now that’s not to say that I would let my child sit and eat cookies while the rest of us have a meal, but so long as I can get something nutritious and filling in him, I am happy. I am happy to substitute a meal with real cheese and whole grain crackers with some cut-up fruit or some sweet potato fries. There is some dairy, and whole grains and healthy carbohydrates in there, which is okay in my book. Or if I have made a home made chicken noodle soup, and my picky toddler likes noodles and carrots, but not all together in a broth and minus the chicken, I am happy to pull his serving apart and just serve him the noodles and carrots plain. Frustrating? Yes. But it is better than him refusing the meal all together, and now I get to sit and eat as well because I am not arguing with him to just eat the soup in a bowl like everybody else, or worse, have him end up throwing it at me. This probably sounds like extra steps for mom, but you can try to simplify it. Keep cheese sliced up in your fridge, a bowl of fruit cup up and any veggie sticks he may eat. If they are readily available and prepared, you can grab them quick at mealtime.

I never assume my picky toddler will not eat what I made; I always offer him our family meal first. But if he is refusing, I allow him a healthy alternative and am satisfied if I can get this in him. One day the role modeling that is going on at the table will rub off and he will take a bite of something new and realize he likes it. One day he will be old enough to be reasoned with, to be taught. And at that point is when I will be more comfortable being a bit more stern with requiring him to eat what I have made.

Here are a few common picky eater problems, and how to combat them.

1)     Work a variety into the limited foods your child is willing to eat. Toddlers do not need to consume a huge variety of foods, so long as they are eating a few things from different food groups. If they will eat yogurt but will not eat cheese, that is okay. Buy a variety of yogurts with different fruits pureed in to be giving him some fruit as well. Will he eat the fruit on the bottom kind? Or will he eat the variety with cereal in the yogurt for some added whole grains? There are so many varieties of foods out there, you can experiment with these and keep stock in a variety of yogurts he will eat. If he is really picky you can even buy vanilla yogurt and finely chop up your own fresh fruit so as to add little amounts at a time to find out what he will tolerate and work up from there.

2)      If your child won’t eat meat, buy other foods with added protein. If your child wants noodles with each meal instead of meat, buy the noodles that have added fiber and protein to bulk up what he is getting from the noodles. Make what he is eating really count.

3)     Hide food within the foods he likes. Try to find at least one food that is textured to accommodate hiding nutritious food in it. Foods that are good for this include mashed potatoes and oatmeal. I used to scramble an egg and chop it up finely and mix it in with a bowl of oatmeal to make a real hearty meal. Again if your toddler is very picky, chop it up finely and start with small amounts mixed in and work up to what he will tolerate/not find.

4)     When in doubt, supplement with vitamins. Go to your local health food store and pick up some quality vitamins for your picky toddler. If he is picky and will not chew them, get the kind that can be crushed, and mix them in yogurt or applesauce, or even pudding if it means getting some good vitamins in him.

Michele Ogniewski is a mother of 3 who lives and writes In Saratoga Springs. She is a part-time social worker and full-time advocate for her daughter’s medical needs. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014
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What Not to Wear: Toddler Edition

Why I Don’t Fight with My Toddler About Clothes

The reaction I got when I mentioned that possibly, those were pants and not a hat.

When I learned I’d be having my third girl, visions of grosgrain ribbons and matching bishop’s dresses danced through my head. How sweet! Three neat and tidy, beautiful blonde girls. Each one was impeccably dressed as a baby, thanks to two grandmas who had no other grandchildren. And then, as all children must, they each turned two.

Age two comes with personality. Picking your battles goes from a saying to a mantra. Everything, from getting in and out of the car, to taking a potty break, is a battle. Mostly because around this age, our precious babies discover that they have a say, and it seems they want to suddenly make up for two years’ worth of not using it. Clothing is a huge part of any person’s identity, so it’s natural that one part of expressing themselves is wearing what they choose to wear.

A favorite pastime is choosing clothing that resembles her favorite characters.

A common thread for my oldest is choosing clothing that resembles her favorite characters.

A big part of my parenting journey has been letting go of control where I can so that I have the energy to fight when it counts. Things that count: Staying safe. Eating healthy food. Being kind. Using the potty. Things that don’t count: Looking perfect.  Staying clean. Matching—or not matching.

Here are the things I have found helped when trying to wage the war of what to wear.

  • Give them options—but the right options. Toddlers love choices, but choices can work against you when there are too many, or not the right ones—like when they want to wear a tank top and shorts in the winter. Be diligent about putting up clothes that don’t fit, clothes that aren’t seasonally appropriate, or anything that’s not on the table for going out in public.
  • Pick out clothes the night before. Anytime we had to be somewhere on time, we picked out clothes for the next day before bed. This way we could go through all the choices we had and change our minds three times without the stress of a deadline. It also helped reinforce the idea of making a choice and sticking to it, since I did not allow changes in the morning.  That part was hard at first, but eventually she got used to the reality that her choice would stick.
  • Employ natural consequences. Kids don’t connect what they wear with weather. I can’t count how many times I tried to explain that fleece footies would be too hot to wear to bed in summer, or that you’ll be cold wearing shorts in the winter. When I could, I didn’t argue and just let her wear the item and be uncomfortable. Then when she said, “I’m hot,” or “I’m cold,” we had a chance to talk about what clothes are good for that season and what might be a better choice next time.
  • Remember that kids’ bodies don’t regulate temperature efficiently.  Sometimes you may think your child is dressing inappropriately for the weather, but it may be their body is running hot or cold. If they are over- or underdressing and not complaining, then they might just be listening to their body.

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    Sometimes, it’s all about color.

  • Keep a change of clothes in the car. With toddlers, you just never know, so it’s always great to have a change of seasonally appropriate clothes stashed in your car along with a wet bag or plastic bag. Remember too, that if you’re doing an outdoor activity, weather can change quickly, so it’s always good to have an extra layer handy, even if it’s warm out.
  • Be aware of sensory issues. Some picky dressers may be driven by sensory issues such as itchy tags or seams that bug them.
  • Don’t get too comfy. My first daughter refused to wear pants—only dresses. My second? No dresses, only separates. Just when you think you have it figured out, everything will change with the next child. Consignment shops, hand-me-downs, and friends with older girls have my girls dressed without breaking the bank.
  • Embrace it. If your child loves wearing wild outfits and is constantly changing clothes, start buying dress-up outfits they can indulge in. We quickly learned that these got more use than any toys we had, and it’s been a great go-to for birthdays and holiday presents when relatives ask what they can get the girls. Plus, we have a stockpile of costume ideas every Halloween.

Since I have three girls, I have a private rule that I am not fighting about clothes until they are teenagers—when it’s really going to count. Right now, it’s about expressing themselves. If it makes them happy to wear a crazy outfit, the only thing that’s hurt is my pride. Of course I’d like to be that lady in the grocery store with the three perfectly coiffed little girls, but my three girls are very strong-willed and one way it comes out is in their clothing choices. That strong will is going to serve them very well as adults–I’d hate to squash it just so they can look like children out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. Letting them choose what they wear allows me to save my energy and my sanity for the important things.

Does your toddler like to pick out their own clothes? How do you handle clothing battles? Post your toddler’s craziest outfit in the comments!

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

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The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Washing Wool Diapers

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Washing Wool DiapersBefore I started using wool, I was very intimidated by the care instructions. Once I actually started using wool and washing it myself, I found that it really isn’t as hard or time consuming as it sounds. I’ve found ways to make wool care fit into my busy life and I am happy to share my Lazy Mama tips for washing wool diapers.

Before you get started with wool make sure you have an excellent care resource as a starting point. This way you have an overview of what needs to happen. Essentially, you have a series of steps that you need to follow: rinse, spot clean, wash, lanolin, dry. Here’s how those play out in real life for a lazy mama like me.

Most manufacturers recommended washing wool every 2 to 4 weeks. This varies greatly in our house because we only use wool at night so it doesn’t get enough use to justify my time every two weeks. I generally wash every 4 to 6 weeks because we have a lot of wool to rotate through. In between uses I refresh the covers with CJ’s Woolie Revitalizer Spray. I can’t say enough good things about CJ’s Woolie Spray! I love that it gives a boost of lanolin without all the hassle of lanolinizing and I love that it makes the covers smell great.

When it is time to wash my covers, I make sure I have enough for a decent sized batch to make it worth my time. I like to wash mine in either the baby bathtub or in my 5-gallon bucket camp washer. I rinse the covers as I fill the bucket, and if anything needs spot treating I just plop a drop of Eucalan on the spot and rub gently, then toss it in the bucket. I add Eucalan to the camp washer and gently use my plunger agitator to slowly and carefully swish the covers around. You don’t want them to agitate so much that they felt, but you do want them to get clean. Then I let them soak until I remember to get back to them. (This IS a lazy mama guide, after all!)

Once I remember the covers, it has usually been at least half hour to an hour. I drain off the water in the bucket, add a bit more to rinse, and drain again. If the water seems especially dirty I add more Eucalan and repeat the wash step. If the “rinse” water is clear then I move on to lanolinizing. I take out all my covers while I get the lanolin water ready in the bucket, then I throw them all back in, agitate gently with the camp washer plunger again, and then let them soak again until I remember them.

To dry the covers, I gently squeeze out the excess water and lay them out on a towel. Then I roll the towel up with the covers inside and walk on the rolled up towel to force out even more moisture. All of the covers then go on the line to dry fully. Many people lay their wool flat to dry, but I hang mine from the waistline so that they stretch longer and thinner to fit my tall, skinny kids.

This might sound like a lot of work, but really the actual hands-on time is minimal. I probably only have to spend about 15 minutes of active time on the covers when I wash them. The rest is just forgetting about them while they soak! So if you have ever felt intimidated by the wool washing process, be encouraged that anyone can be successful at wool!

Becca Schwartz is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to a toddler girl and baby boy. She and her husband have a small mini-farm with a flock of chickens, a few goats, and rabbits, and are making plans to move out west to start a homesteading adventure together!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Pregnancy Week 24: Flu Prevention

Pregnancy Week 24: Flu PreventionWith cold and flu season beginning, I have been thinking of how to help my family stay healthy naturally, especially with a baby on the way. My older boys are 2 and 5 now, so they touch just about everything every single place we go, with no discretion as to what goes into their mouths. A fan of germs, I am not.

As a first time mama, I became very interested in herbs and flowers and their healing properties. While I still believe in the powers of modern medicine, I tend to turn to my herbs and tinctures more often than the over-the-counter stuff. This summer, I managed to plant and harvest some herbs–namely mint, lemon balm, lavender and chamomile–for our own home use as teas, tinctures and salves.

After some research, I decided to make my own Elderberry syrup to help boost immunity and help cut the duration of colds. Elderberry (Sambucus Nigeria) is a small, dark berry from the Elderberry bush. While the berry itself is poisonous if consumed raw, once cooked it is harmless and full of antioxidants, tannins, sugars, amino acids, vitamins A and B, and a large dose of vitamin C. They have been known in folk medicine for generations, but are coming back into popular culture as people seek out a more natural lifestyle.

Personally, I love my elderberry syrup and my boys have come to ask for it whenever their throats hurt or they begin to feel crummy. We give the boys a teaspoon every morning during cold and flu season as prevention and every few hours if they are showing symptoms of a cold. For adults the dosage is a full tablespoon.

My boys really enjoy the taste and have started asking for it when their throats feel scratchy or hoarse. I combine this syrup with an onion cough syrup for a chesty cough and that usually nips it all in the bud. These syrups are not recommended for babies under a year old as they contain honey, nor should you use it if anyone is short of breath or having other severe symptoms. Seek medical help immediately.

To make my Elderberry Syrup, I put ½ cup of dried elderberries, 2 cups water, an inch of fresh ginger, 5 cloves and a cinnamon stick into a sauce pot. Bring it up to a boil and slowly simmer for 25 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Strain and mix into 1 cup of raw, local honey. Mix well and pour into a mason jar for storing in the fridge.

Pia Watzig is a stay at home mom of two crazy boys with one more on the way. She lives and creates in Portland, Oregon.

Monday, October 20, 2014
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When You Can’t Take Any More, Take Your Toddler Hiking

When You Can't Take Any More, Take Your Toddler Hiking

When I had my second daughter, my first was a toddler: Old enough to undress herself just as I was ready to leave the house, young enough not to listen most of the time. Old enough to take off her shoes in the car, young enough that she still had zero sense.

My toddler bounced off the walls at home, but I felt frazzled and unsafe everywhere we went because she wasn’t reliably holding my hand or listening to me. I felt like all I did all day was nurse the baby and yell, “No! Don’t! Get off there!” at my older daughter. I decided we needed to get out of the house, but we had to go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to contain her or we might both end up in tears. So we went for a hike.

It worked. We had an hour to and hour and a half of time that day during which I was not parenting. I didn’t have to say, “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t go over there!” or “Stay with me!” once.  She got to run and explore and let her curiosity about the world take over. She got a few boos-boos. She ran out of my sight and got scared enough to return. She slept like a baby at nap time, and the baby did, too.

There are so many benefits to getting your kids outdoors. Being outdoors can calm ADHD symptoms, lower stress levels and anxiety, improve distance vision, and raise levels of Vitamin D, helping protect against future illness.  Not to mention the myriad of organic learning opportunities out in nature.

If you’ve never hiked in your area before and don’t know where to start, just google “family friendly hikes in [your city]”. It’s a great idea to try the trail out on your own before you load up the kids, and always check weather

conditions before you go.  Remember that kids get cold faster than adults. Follow the rule you used when they were babies and dress them one layer warmer than you are wearing.

Here are a few tips for hiking with a toddler:

photo 3-4

  • Explore the trails on your own first to make sure they are safe. If you can’t do so, trails marked handicap accessible are a great place to start.
  • Park near a potty.
  • Make sure you have a first aid kit in the car, as well as extra clothes.
  • Put shoes on them that they can’t take off, and clothes on them that they can get dirty.
  • Expect to do more following than hiking—toddlers are very close to the ground and everything is very interesting down there!
  • Let them run ahead and be independent if you feel safe doing so.
  • Don’t go in any further than you are prepared to carry everyone back.
  • Try not to say “No” or “Don’t” while you’re hiking. Make it a relaxing time for you both. Let them explore and experience natural consequences if you can do so safely.
  • Once you find a spot you love, look into a membership or pass to that park to make visiting cheaper.

Once we found a spot that worked for us, we went back again and again. I like variety, but my daughter loved knowing the trail and what to expect. Baby wearing was a lifesaver here, as I could nurse the baby or let her fall asleep on my back and not worrying about getting us home in time for naps.

I found hiking to be a very refreshing and necessary part of my week. Toddlers can be so frustrating when you have to divide your attention between them and anything else. Our hiking time was a time when I could quit correcting and just enjoy her, and as it turned out, that was exactly what I needed.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who can usually recapture her sanity on a hike.

Friday, October 17, 2014
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