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Masking Tape Activity Prompts

One of the easiest ways to encourage kids to sneak more activity into their day is to set up a couple of masking-tape prompts on the floor. Pick up a roll of painters’ tape at the hardware store, then try one or more of these ideas with your munchkins:

1. Hopscotch Board: Just like you’d make with chalk in the driveway! Try it in a hallway and use a small stuffed animal for tossing.

2. Start and Finish Lines: Perfect for races of all kinds: log rolls, animal walks (crab, bunny, kangaroos!), wheelbarrows, you name it.

3. Tic Tac Toe: Sure, kids can use toys, but encourage them to try to play this Twister style. One foot or hand in each space!

4. Balance Beam: Littles can practice walking the line. Older kids can use it to practice different jumps:
• Face the line and jump forward and back on both feet.
• Stand next to the line and jump over it side to side
• Try both moves on one foot!

5. Agility ladder: Your kids might have used one of these at soccer practice. To make one, aim for these dimensions: 15 feet long by 20 inches wide. Space the rungs about 15 inches apart. There are tons of ways to use this: Hop from rung to rung; tip-toe in and out along the side; or side-step in and out. For even more ideas, check out the video below from Canadian tennis instructor Dennis Dobrovolsky.

Have fun!

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When Kids Can’t Sleep

No doubt about it, sleepovers are super fun … until your kid can’t sleep and is the last one awake! There’s nothing worse than being in a strange house, probably on a strange floor, with a bunch of other kids who are snoozing away. If your child has trouble sleeping in different places, these three ideas will help her get some shut-eye before the sun comes up (and P.S. these life skills totally work at home too):

Disposable foam earplugs They block out noisy breathers and outright snorers.
Tablet or phone with headphones She can listen to music or a book (no videos!).
Sleep mask Just in case a light is on.
Lavender inhaler The scent of lavender is calming. With this inhaler (it’s about the size of a lipstick tube), she can pop the cap and breathe in the scent. Keep this next to her bed too!

Have her practice before she goes: When she’s lying down, have her put a small stuffed animal or her hand on her belly. Tell her to take a couple of slow deep breaths and watch the animal go up and down. Then tell her to close her eyes, and breathe in slowly as she counts silently to 3. Have her hold her breath for 3 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 3. Keep repeating the 3-3-3 pattern.

While lying down, have her squeeze her toes as hard as she can for five seconds, then let go. Next, tell her to squeeze all the muscles in her legs for five seconds; let go. Have her do the same with her belly, back, shoulders, and face. Then have her squeeze all her muscles and release everything at once.

Of course, sometimes even our best efforts to get to sleep fail. In that case, there’s always the midnight (or 2 a.m.) pickup!

For more sleep tips, check out Sleep Routines for Kids.

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A Stress-Free Solution to Picky Eating

There are few things kids have control over—and what they’ll put in their mouths is one of them. And as the parent of any picky eater knows, the family stress level around the dinner table is inversely related to the number of foods a child willingly eats. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? Pediatric feeding specialist Melanie Potock has figured out a formula that not only takes the pain out of picky eating but actually helps kids learn to enjoy trying new foods too. (And once you leap that hurdle, officially liking them becomes a lot easier.) She calls it the three Es: expose, explore, and expand, and it’s the foundation of her recently published book Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables—with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes. Here’s how it works:

The first step to helping your picky eater is to introduce a new food with zero expectation that will be eaten. Instead, just let your child play with it! He’ll get used to what it looks, feels, smells, and even sounds like. Maybe your child makes a jungle of broccoli trees for her toy animals. Or perhaps you make a tic tac toe board with fresh green beans. When playtime is over, pack everything up to use later (but no pressure for your kid to eat it).

Once kids are comfortable with a particular food in their presence, Potock says it’s time to start exploring it through taste, texture, and temperature. If you’re working on sweet potatoes, for instance, you could serve them up mashed (try our Yam Slam recipe) or the always-kid-fave: fries. Here’s the other key ingredient: Get your kids cooking with you! There’s plenty of research that shows kids are way, way more likely to try food that they made. In fact, that’s a huge part of the mission behind Kidstir’s Happy Cooking Kits!

As you keep introducing the food, you can start to expand on the flavors and textures. You can also make the presentation fun too, like serving up everything mini or on a stick (these Sesame Meatballs have both covered!). Remember, it can take kids as many as 15 tries or more before they really begin to accept a new food. That’s ok! This isn’t meant to happen overnight. As Potock says in her book, “It’s called adventurous eating because it’s a journey and an adventure, where kids encounter new foods as they grow!” We couldn’t agree more.

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Make a Dream Catcher

The Ojibwa were the first Native Americans to use dream catchers. They believe that the night sky is filled with good and bad dreams, and when a dream catcher is hung over the bed, it snares them. The good ones pass through the openings, but the nightmares get trapped in the web only to be destroyed with the rising sun. Many other tribes and cultures have adopted this comforting tradition, and lucky for kids, dream catchers are easy and fun activity to make together. Our instructions are for a simple dream catcher, but feel free to encourage kids to add beads, craft feathers, and other decorations you have on hand.

What you’ll need:

  • Small embroidery hoop
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Felt
  • Craft glue

What to do:

1. Remove the outer ring of the embroidery hoop. Set aside. Wrap the inner loop with yarn. (You can also paint it if you prefer.)

2. Cut a 3- to 4-foot piece of yarn. Knot one end to the hoop. Roll the remaining length into a small ball or bundle (it makes the yarn easier to manage).

3. To make the web, loop the yarn around the frame every few inches until you reach the starting point. At each point, go over the top of the hoop then wrap the yarn around the tight strand you just created. That will help anchor the loop in place. Continue weaving the yarn around the strands, pulling them tight as you go. You can follow a pattern or just do it randomly! When the web is complete. Knot the yarn and trim the ends.

4. Make the tails. Cut several lengths of yarn. Cut small and large feather shapes out of felt. Cut circles and other shapes if desired. Sandwich one end of yarn between two feathers. Glue to secure. Decorate with additional feathers or circles as you like. Knot the other end to the bottom of the hoop. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

5. Tie a loop of yarn at the top of the hoop, then hang your dream catcher over your bed.

Craft projects are among kids favorite activities that also teach life skills, including 1) following directions 2) concentration, 3) motor skills & 4) patience.