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Top Free Resources for Teaching Pre-K at Home

Do you have toddlers or preschoolers in the home?  I’m planning to teach our two preschoolers at home this year, for reasons like teaching the faith and values that our family upholds as true and also for financial reasons.

While I’m really excited to exercise my teacher muscles by homsechooling our preschoolers, I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed since preschool is not exactly my specialty. So, lately I’ve spent a good deal of time on Pinterest and Google trying to gather up the best, free (or really, really inexpensive) preschool resources out there – from curriculum, to themed units, to printables, to hands-on activities, and more.

So, on today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share these free preschool resources with you so that you don’t have to spend all of the time I did on collecting them! 🙂  I won’t have room to mention everything I’ve pinned while searching, so if you want even more material to consider, look at my Learning at Home board on Pinterest.

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  1. God’s Little Explorers CurriculumMotherhood on a Dime offers this FREE, faith-based preschool curriculum online for homeschoolers, and it looks to suit our family’s needs.  The free curriculum includes basic plans for daily instruction (based on a four-day school week) as well as printables.  I plan to use the free version of this curriculum as my foundation and supplement it with some of the activities and ideas listed in the categories below.   Note: the creator of this program also has a paid option format that includes better graphics and more printables.  The paid option is still very inexpensive (less than $15 )for an entire school-year’s worth of plans!
  2. Seasonal/Themed Printable Packs – I plan to use this free fall printable pack from Homeschool Creations as a supplementary material for this season along with the curriculum mentioned above.  Homeschool Creations offers many other printable packs as well.  1+1+1=1 is another amazing printable packs resource with everything from princesses and my little pony to solar systems and star wars! 🙂
  3. Writing Skills – my children are not yet coordinated enough to form actual letters (although our daughter is close), so we’ll be working on some pre-writing skills before anything else.  I picked this floral printable for my daughter  and these printables will work well for both children as well as these from 3 Dinosaurs .  I love the idea that this mom had to put the printables or workbook pages into sheet protectors in a binder so that you can use dry erase markers with them.  You could even let your preschooler decorate the front of his or her binder to personalize it.  Use them over and over again! 🙂  Once they grasp the concept, I plan to introduce alphabet letter formation.  The Measured Mom offers these writing stations as homeschool alternatives to using printables alone.  You could use the same methods with shapes and numbers, as well.
  4. Letter Recognition – I love the idea of starting out with my children’s names as well as other names in the house.  You can read about name kits at Fun-a-day.  If you’re intersted in a montessori method for introducing letters, Living Montessori Now offers excellent advice.  Hands on as we grow  has a list of 50 fun activities for learning both upper case and lower case letters.  At Crystal and Co. you can find instructions for fun letter-of-the week crafts, too, as well as other homeschool resources.
  5. Number Recognition – DLKT offers a number of counting and number worksheets here. Turtle Diary offers these printable options.  What I think will most appeal to our preschool boy and girl will be more hands-on activities like this paper tube one from Learn With Play at Home and a method using easter eggs from Reading Confetti.
  6. Shape Recognition – Although our preschoolers already know most of their shapes, we still need to do some reviewing in this area.  Hands on as we grow demonstrates how to be hands-on when learning shapes.  Shape puzzles are another great resource as children can both handle the shape itself and also learn how it fits into the board. I also like this crafty approach to shape matching from education.com.  Creative Family Fun offers 12 fun ways to learn shapes.  Also, you can find printables for shapes here at Aussie Childcare Network.
  7. Color Recognition –  Although our daughter is pretty solid on her colors, our son could use more help.  So, we’ll be continuing to practice our colors through the preschool years in our homeschool.  I’m working on a home-made version of Go Fish using colors for our preschoolers, so when it’s done I’ll be sure to share with you. 🙂 Toddler Approved provides these hands-on learning methods for colors.  Inspiration Laboratories has a great idea for creating a color rainbow that I think our preschoolers would love.  We also plan to sort buttons, pom-poms, beads, etc. by color and create patterns, as well as learn colors through reading some books we have about colors.
  8. Music/Rhymes – I plan to use youtube for much of our music, but I also like these printable nursery rhymes from Aussie Childcare Network.  DLKT offers these printables for making nursery rhyme characters to use as puppets or for a felt board.
  9. Bible Literacy – I plan to incorporate Bible lessons into our home preschool, but I’d like to save this topic for a future post as I plan to review a few options in detail.  So, check back next week for those options. 🙂
  10. Letter Formation –  Here are some great printables for the alphabet:

Other free (or nearly free) resources to consider:

Pinterest – while I already knew of some of these free online resources, much of the additional material I found on pinterest. 🙂

Library books – the best way to teach your children (aside from play) is through reading to them.  You can find books on almost any theme or subject you plan to teach.  Libraries are great resources for supplementing the books you already have at home.

Youtube  – a quick search for alphabet songs, shape songs, days of the week songs, and more reveals that the options on youtube are endless… and best of all, free! 🙂  You can also teach nursery rhymes and other preschool favorites such as “Five Little Speckled Frogs.”

PBS/Netflix – Leap Frog, Word World, and Super Why are all educational animated shows that focus on letter learning, although Leap Frog has some that focus on numbers and shapes as well.  We have a subscription to Netflix’s online streaming service, so I plan to use many of these programs through Netflix.  The advantage to using Netflix over PBS is that I don’t have to wait for an episode to air.  Instead, I can hand-pick episodes to coordinate with themes we might be exploring that week.

Online learning – the internet offers a wealth of free online resources for learning games.  Check out this article to  find out which of  our favorite educational websites will suit preschoolers.

Dollar Store Deals – I wrote a whole post on items you can find at the dollar store to use in teaching preschoolers or toddlers, complete with ideas on how to use them!

Toys – we have a few toys that I have set aside specifically for our preschool use (I do not keep these toys in their regular toy box, which makes them special since they can’t play with them whenever they want).  Any toy that says a letter’s name aloud and repeats the sound the letter makes can be a good tool to use when your preschooler just doesn’t want to sit and work with paper.  You probably already have a few of these “educational” toys laying around the house, so don’t feel the need to go out and buy new ones. 🙂

Additionally, much of the time spent during preschool should be free play, when children have time to pretend play using blocks, legos, dress-up clothes, kitchens, etc.  You can also use toys you already have at home to enhance themed lessons.  Finally, puzzles can be great resources for learning shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, etc.

I hope this helps to get you started on planning for your toddler/preschool years, whether you intend to teach formally by homeschooling or just as your children are interested.  Feel free to share with us your favorite free online sources, as well!

Jen 🙂

I’m also linking up at any of the blogs here!

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Practicing Patience with Preschoolers

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It’s the longest hour of the day, that chaotic stretch of time when naps have ended but supper isn’t ready yet and Daddy won’t be home for another sixty minutes.  It’s the time of day when mamas are weary and wishing for a nap of their own.  In our home, it’s often a time of crankiness and whining and neediness and hunger and all too often, a time of mom’s frustration.

The older boys are home from school, so the seven-year-old needs help with homework and the teen needs a permission slip signed.  The twins are rubbing sleep from their eyes and asking for snacks or juice or to be held.  I’m trying to find the motivation to start supper preparations, but one twin is clinging to my leg and the other is crying for no known reason in the next room.  What’s a mama to do?

I’m ashamed to say that this mom’s reaction can often be  a sharp, “Everyone BE. PATIENT!!”, followed by a mini-rant of my own about how I only have two hands and they are both full and can’t they just wait for a few minutes because I can’t help everyone at one time!  And then there are louder tears from the crying twin and a look of quiet frustration from the teen and more scowling impatience from the seven-year-old boy who just wants to do his homework right now!  Why is it that a request to be patient or wait creates the exact opposite effect than what parents desire to see in their children?

patience, practicing patience with preschoolers, preschool, toddler, impatience, learning patience

I think most children who hear “be patient” or “just wait” see it as an immediate no.  They feel we have not acknowledged their needs and are, in effect, just ignoring them.  So, they ask again…and again…and again…almost infinitely.  As an adult who sometimes (ok, maybe often) struggles with impatience herself, I feel for my children when they have to wait.  However, I know that they need to learn patience in order to survive in the real world, and preschoolers are the perfect age to start practicing patience.

The reason I say “practice” is that patience, like any other virtue, takes time to learn. Patience is also something we must intentionally teach to our children, not something they will magically acquire on their own.  And in this day and age, I think we can all agree that patience seems to be lacking in our society!  So today, on Mama Monday,  I’ll share with you a few tips for teaching your children patience.

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Model patience yourself.  I know you saw this one coming!  Young children are excellent imitators, and unfortunately sometimes that backfires on us parents.  Our middle child was a very impatient little guy, even from birth.  During his toddler years, I spent many days questioning my ability to parent him to adulthood, seriously.

One day, he was even more impatient than usual, and I found myself throwing a little fit right back at him, asking why he couldn’t just BE PATIENT.  As soon as the whiny words left my mouth, I realized I was being just as impatient with him as he was being with me.  How could he possibly learn to be patient when his mama was not?

Change your speech.  When multiple children (or even just one) make requests at the same time and you already have your hands full, what is your response?  As you read above, my first response is typically frustration over my inability to help all four children at the same time. What if, instead of a frustrated command to be patient, my children heard me talk excitedly about an opportunity to practice a new skill?

What if instead of frowning or scowling, I smiled at them (even if I’m not smiling on the inside) and said, “Let’s practice being patient!  Who can do a really good job waiting quietly for mommy while she finishes this job?  We’ll use our words  instead of whining, and we’ll wait until mommy’s hands are free. Who can practice patience for me?”  Or, what if we used the word “choose,” especially with children who are older.  Instead of a pert command to be patient, I can remind them that they have a choice about their feelings.  They can choose patience rather than frustration. (And so can the mama!)

Distract them.  Although preschoolers are experts at wanting things, they are also fairly easy to distract (in comparison to older children).  Ask your children to find another activity while they are waiting.  Although you might make a few suggestions, put the responsibility for occupying themselves on their shoulders, not yours.  When I’m cooking supper, I might say something like, “Why don’t you practice patience by coloring while you wait for mommy.”  If they don’t like my suggestion, then I let them know it will be up to them to find something to do.

Give them a timeline.  While preschoolers are beginning to grasp the concept of time, they really can’t understand what minutes or hours or days are yet.  In their minds, ten minutes might as well be two hours, and that feels like a long time for a preschooler!  Even worse is the indefinite response of “Just wait.” However, if you relate those minutes or hours to scheduled events they are already familiar with, then they can understand how long they will have to wait.

For example, if we are going to the playground later in the day, but one of my children wants to leave now, then I would tell them we’re going after nap-time.  Use phrases like after this song, when you wake up from sleeping, after snack, when I finish this basket of laundry, and so forth, that give them more tangible ideas of the time frame they are dealing with.  If it’s going to be a particularly long wait, I give them multiple time markers, as in: first mommy has to vacuum the floor, then we’ll pick up toys, and then we get to go to the park.

Remind them.  Let’s see if this scenario sounds familiar.  “Mommy can I watch cartoons?  Can I have more milk?  Can I have a cookie? Can I? Can I? Can I?” Preschoolers have many wants.  As a mom, I know it’s not healthy for me to indulge all of those wants.  So, while I’m imposing limits, instead of just saying no or wait (for an indefinite amount of time), I like to remind them of what they have already had.  “You already watched cartoons.  Now it’s time to play.”  “You already had a glass of milk, but you may have water.”  “I already played with you this morning, but I’ll play with you again after nap-time.”

Sing the “Have Patience” song.  I don’t know who wrote the “Clean Up” song, but that person deserves an award!  It’s like magic!  You don’t even have to tell children to pick up toys because when they hear it, they automatically know what to do.  The lesser known “Have Patience” song can have a similar effect if you use it consistently.

First of all, singing in general, tends to lighten the mood.  Second, the song reminds children of the behavior you would like to see.  To find the “Have Patience” song, look here.  I only sing the chorus (and it is fun to speed it up as you repeat!). 🙂

Praise them lavishly!  At this age, children are often eager to please, so positive reinforcement usually works more effectively than negative.  If you see your children actively practicing patience, then tell them how much you appreciate their hard work (because it IS hard to wait, isn’t it?)!  Praise often enough that they are encouraged to continue practicing patience up to the very end.

For example, if halfway through a waiting period, I notice my daughter growing restless or whining, I will praise her for the good job she has done so far and ask her to continue. I might even draw her attention to how little time is left.  Many times, the magic is in the phrasing!

patience4, impatient children, learning to be patient, toddler, preschooler

Patience is a virtue worth instilling in young hearts, but it’s not an easy task.  Learning patience takes time and consistency.  It also takes a mama who is willing to look at herself and ask, “Am I a patient person?”

Of course, we cannot expect perfection.   I’m going to suggest that we learn to be content with imperfect progress in the area of patience (to borrow a phrase from Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unlgued).  As long as we are consistently moving forward in the bigger picture (even if sometimes we move back), then we are progressively working toward patience in our homes.

And in my opinion, a patient family is a peaceful family!

Jen 🙂

When is it most difficult for you to have patience?  When is it most difficult for your children to have patience?

Also linking up to Serenity Now and any of these lovely blogs.

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Firsts Lead to Lasts

Due tomy recent injury at Buttkill Falls, I’ve had extra time to ponder life, and when that happens, I tend to get a bit nostalgic. 🙂  Maybe it’s because I’m currently medicated, or maybe it’s because I’m missing out on some family life lately.  For whatever reason, when I’m separated from my people, I tend to think about them more.  I miss them. I appreciate them.

As I’m resting and pondering, and thinking about how quickly the first day of school came this year, I realize that we’re about to enter a new season of life as parents.  We have just one more year left with littles at home, and one year before our oldest enters high school.  For thirteen years now, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, but what will I do when all of these firsts lead to lasts?

First smiles and first steps.  First days of school and first solo bike rides. First baby food and first big kid beds.  First instruments and first crushes. So many firsts that we’ve been blessed with.

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But these firsts lead to lasts, and what will a born-to-be-a-mama girl do when all of her children are at school for the day?  It seems like these lasts come oh-so-quickly.

Last days of kindergarten and last days of twin high chairs.  Last days of baby clothes and last days of soccer on Saturdays.  Last days of sweet toddler cheeks and last days of bedtime stories.

The truth is, the lasts stink.  I know I’ll miss them.  But those firsts that led to lasts will once again lead to firsts.  Firsts like driver’s licenses and shaving and so much more independence.

And while my children are enjoying a whole new world of lasts followed by firsts, I’ll be opening up to a whole new world of firsts, too.

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In the meantime, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Jen 🙂

It’s Five Minute Friday again!  We gather together over at Lisa-Jo’s blog and free-write for five minutes on a single word prompt.  No planning, no editing, just writing.  It’s glorious freedom!  If you want to know more, join us at: http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/

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Why Families Should Play Games

 

We love games!  Perhaps this love of game-playing stems from my MK (missionary kid) roots – no tv, no electricity, but we did have board games!  Perhaps the love for games also comes from many years of working with youth groups.  Perhaps the teacher in me just loves being able to engage young brains in learning activities that are fun and entertaining for the whole family.

I’m sure all of those reasons come into play in one way or another.  Over the years family game night has been something we all look forward to, and I think more families could benefit from it as well!  Even those who don’t have their own families can enjoy similar benefits by playing games with those they have relationships with (friends, neighbors, other relatives, church family).

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  1.  Quality family time.  We play games together and laugh together.  Sometimes, we even get mad at each other.  🙂 Often family game time results in more than just playing a game to win.  While we play, we relate to one another and focus in on one another.  Playing games together leads to a lot of good conversation and sometimes even leads to family jokes that last well beyond game time.  Years later, whenever I hear certain phrases, like “rooooo-aaaaaaddd,” I’m instantly taken back to some awesome family memories.  Some games have even become part of our family identity (Settlers of Catan, for example, is simply known as “The Game” in our household). Why not build game-play into your family identity?
  2. Media-free entertainment.  Yes, I’m one of “those” moms.  Even before our children were born, I knew I didn’t want them to spend a lot of time in front of the tv.  My husband and I have compromised by allowing tv, but with time limits.  So, we try to find other ways to encourage our children to entertain themselves when they are bored.  On rainy days, wintery days, or long summer days of boredom, why not break out a board game or card game?
  3. Frugal entertainment. Other than the initial cost of a game, and perhaps some snack food, you can entertain a whole house full of people for very little.  In fact, we’ve entertained guests with games that you don’t even have to pay for, such as Mafia (a story-telling, role-playing, whodunnit? type of game). Family Fun nights are often game nights when the budget doesn’t allow for taking out a family of six.  Also, My husband and I even have mini-dates at home on occasion when the kiddos are sleeping by playing Battleship or other two-player games.
  4. Learning new skills.  Playing games is not only entertaining, but it can also teach your children new skills, such as counting, matching, planning, developing strategy, problem-solving, and more.  The bonus?  It’s so much fun, your children won’t even realize they are learning. 🙂
  5. Learning sportsmanship.  Children have to learn how to be good sports, whether they are winning or losing.  We have one child in particular who is extremely competitive and really struggles with emotions in general.  What a perfect opportunity to model good sportsmanship for him and his siblings during family game night.  Additionally, playing together as a family gives children multiple opportunities to make mistakes and grow in the safety and comfort of their own home.
  6. Learning about others. Whether with family or friends, playing games with others is a great way to get to know them better!  When people are relaxed, they are more open and honest about who they really are as people.  One thing our guests are sure to learn about us when playing games is that some of us are more than just a little competitive and that we all like to laugh!  I especially enjoy playing games with my husband. It brings out the silly side in each of us and gives us an opportunity to tease each other, much like the flirting of our early dating relationship.  Game playing fosters a feeling of friendship between us that is important for two busy parents who sometimes end up feeling more like business partners than soul mates. 🙂

I’m certain there are other reasons for playing games together, as well, but these are our favorites.  I’m happy to know that my children enjoy playing board games just as much as they enjoy playing video games.  Although, I have to also admit that on occasion, family game night does revolve around the wii (Mario Kart, anyone?). 🙂  The main idea is just to take time to play together.  It’s an investment in your relationships that will multiply endlessly.  As our children grow older, we enjoy family game time more and more!

Be sure to check out Our Big List of Favorite Games for ideas on great games for the whole family.  The list is even organized by age and group size!

The family that plays together stays together…..or something like that, right?  I’m putting family game night on the schedule for this week or next.

Will you join me?

Jen 🙂

How does your family enjoy games? What are your favorites?

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12 Twin Tips for Survival

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If you haven’t visited this blog before, you might not know that we have a set of twins (boy/girl) who are now four years old.  I never would have imagined myself having twins, and in fact, I had mixed feelingsat first (read the story here).

However, our twins have brought a doubled joy to our lives that I could never have imagined.  There is something so precious about watching them sleep side by side or hold hands as they walk down the sidewalk. Observing their unique bond has been a true privilege.  I hope they will always be best friends of sorts even though they are different genders!

Along the way, I’ve learned some methods for dealing with the not-so-cute moments of what can easily become twin madness, and I’d like to share them with you today.  These methods would also work with children who are close in age to one another! 🙂

1. Divide and conquer.  Whatever the difficult task is that you are facing, It can be much easier to handle one at a time. For example, I read many success stories from mamas who simultaneously potty-trained their twins. It seems that for these blessed mothers, what one twin did, the other followed.  However, for us it wasn’t quite as simple. Our son was just not ready, but our daughter was!  She insisted on using the potty even though I wasn’t trying to train her.  So, I decided one at a time might actually be easier, and it worked! Not everything must be done in pairs. 🙂

OR….

2. Kill two birds with one stone.  Some twin tasks are just easier to do together, such as diaper changing (one right after the other, of course), nursing (huge time saver if you can get the hang of it), going to the doctor, bathing, and feeding snacks or meals.  When you already have all of the “stuff” out, you might as well get it over with for the other twin, too!  I even learned such talents as double burping, which only lasted a month or two.  Part of finding my groove with the twins was learning which technique worked best for which tasks – either #1 or #2.

Additionally, sometimes it even makes a difference which twin you do first! After a while, I learned to always put my twin son’s shoes on last because he would try to take them off if we didn’t leave the house immediately.  My daughter didn’t seem to mind the shoes, so I could count on her to leave hers on while I wrestled with her brother. 🙂

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3. Set up stations!  When the twins were infants, this was a lifesaver when it came time to do something like prepare a meal, or work with an older child, etc.  I had a rotation of baby devices for them and when they began to grow weary of one (after about 10 minutes), I would quickly rotate them to the next thing in line.

Instead of having two of everything, we found we only needed one of most things and thankfully, many of these devices were given to us.  So, at one point in time we had out an exersaucer, a jumperoo, a bouncy seat, a playmat, and a walker (before the walker days, we had a swing). Even today, our twins will  often choose different tasks at the same time.  One wants to color while the other one wants to work with playdoh.  When they get bored, we just switch!

4. Identify the tough times.  We definitely had specific times of the day that were much more difficult than others.  Meal times, bedtimes, and late afternoon seemed to be the worst for us.  Once we identified those tough times, we were able to problem solve a little to try and make them as easy as possible.  Sometimes identifying and problem solving require a little trial and error, but when you get desperate, you’ll try anything! 🙂  If all else fails, then….

5. Enlist helpers!  By far the best thing we ever did was to accept the gracious offers of friends and family to lend a helping hand.  Many ladies from church took turns helping me with afternoon feedings (my husband worked second shift at the time) even when the twins were quite small.  I would either pump ahead of time or I would take that opportunity to nurse one infant at a time and the company could play with the other twin.

We also are blessed to have a very helpful oldest son.  He often rocked a fussy baby while I cooked supper or helped our middle child with a problem!  Additionally, for a few months I enlisted the help of one of our teenage nieces.  I paid her very little (because that’s all we could afford), but she loved coming over to help with the kids. It was totally worth the financial investment.  Do not be afraid to ask for help, especially in the early months – it will save your sanity! 🙂

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6. Schedule, schedule, schedule.  I wasn’t a very schedule-oriented mom when it came to nursing or even napping our first two children.  Our firstborn sort of fell into a schedule all on his own, and our middle child fought any sort of schedule from day one!  However, I’m by nature a planner, a scheduler, so I like at least a loose form of organization.  And after our strong-willed middle child, I was determined to start off right.  With two babies at once, I knew that I was going to need to be a little more of a tough mommy in order for us to survive. 🙂

Since our twins were born prematurely, they spent time in the NICU and came home already on a strict feeding schedule.  So, we were already off to a good start.  However, our infant son was not always happy to keep to the same schedule as his sister.  It was hard work to find a happy medium, but I knew I wouldn’t handle feeding and napping at different times very well.  Persistence paid off, and the majority of the time, they ate together and napped together.

Find a sort of schedule that works for you!  The best pattern to follow for those first 6 months or so is eat – wake time- then sleep, which is the opposite of what many babies naturally do.  However, this pattern sets your infants up not only for feeding success, but for sleeping success as well!  You may be tempted to let sleeping babies go undisturbed, but it will be worth working to keep them awake when they reward you by sleeping for longer periods of time.  Trust me. 🙂

7. Invest in the gear that makes your life easier.  Being a parent is hard work.  Being a twin parent is sometimes doubly hard work!  Some baby gear makes that work a lot less difficult and is worth every penny.  For example, my husband and I debated about whether or not to purchase a double snap-n-go stroller.  It’s basically a metal frame stroller that the infant carrier car seats can snap right into.  Thanks to some generous gifts, we had the necessary funds and decided to go ahead and purchase it.

Next to my twin nursing pillow, it was the best purchase we ever made for the twins!   It made so many outings much easier, even those I had to navigate alone – going to church, going to the store, going to the library, going to the doctor.  I was no longer confined to the house, which made me and our two older children very happy!  Later we switched to a double jogging stroller, courtesy of my father-in-law’s fabulous auction skills, and the last stroller we owned was a double sit-n-stand, which I highly recommend for the toddler to preschool years.  When one is tired of sitting in the front seat, you can switch them out to standing, kneeling, or even sitting in reverse in the back seat.

8. Keep your older children occupied.  Sitting down to nurse  or feed two infants isn’t an easy task, especially if you also have an active three-year-old on the loose.  Sometimes our middle child would escape into another room and I would just pray that he wasn’t destroying anything of value! 🙂  I learned that if I did not find something to occupy him before it was time to nurse, it would be a frustrating experience for us all.

I wish I had known back then about busy bags!  If you don’t know what they are, you need to find out.  Just look up busy bags on Pinterest or Google and find a variety of ideas for quiet play.  I have quite a few pinned on my Learning games and activities board.  Books worked well for us, as well as singing.  Sometimes I would even ask him to perform tricks for me while I was sitting.  And when all else failed I turned to Netflix or PBS Kids.  Did I mention that having twins also taught me to lower my standards a little? 🙂

9. Remind your older children that they are special, too!  Sometimes older siblings have jealousy issues, and then sometimes they have twin fame issues. 😉  Twins not only require a lot of extra attention from mom and dad, they also attract a lot of attention when you are out and about.  People love to look at them and ask questions about them.  This might leave your older children feeling a little ignored or neglected.  Going on one-on-one dates really helped our older children when they were exhibiting signs of attention-deprivation.  Also, relatives stepped in often and took one or both of them for special activities or sleep-overs.  Sometimes it’s as simple as mentioning something special about your older children when people are ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing over the twins.

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10. Remember that it does get easier!  Those early months are oh-so-tough.  I well remember the sleepless nights, the double diaper blow-outs, the duets of screaming banshees, the illness multiplied by two in winter months, and sometimes it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  But there is.  Those twins will grow up and while you’ll always have two at the same stage, rather than one, as they grow older it feels a lot less like double duty and a lot more like having two children very close in age. Believe it or not, our twins are so different in looks and personality that sometimes I momentarily forget about their special bond!

Focus on one day at a time, until you can focus on one week at at time, and eventually one month, and so on. I distinctly remember watching our twins play on the floor one day while their older brothers played at the table.  I was happy; the older boys were happy; the babies were happy.  I remember thinking, “We’re not just surviving anymore, we’re actually thriving!”  And we were!

11. Count your blessings.  On those really rough days, the ones when you barely limp across the finish line that we mamas like to call bedtime, try to let go of the challenges and remember the blessings of having twins.  There are many difficulties in raising twins, but there are equal, if not more, unique blessings wrapped into those challenges.  So when the days are dark, count those blessings.  Remind yourself of the things that you enjoy about your double gift, how one baby catches the other’s eye and the face lights up, how  they “talk” back and forth to one another, even answering one another’s cries, how they take turns giggling, and just as one is winding down, the other one revs up  and it starts all over again.  Remember those good things; cling to them!

12. Pray.  It sounds simple and everyday, but it’s not. Prayer is powerful!  Some days I woke up after a sleepless night asking the Lord for supernatural strength because I just didn’t have it in me.  He literally carried me, not just mentally but physically,  through many of those early weeks or even months.  I know others were praying for me, too – the power was almost palpable at times.

Don’t underestimate the Power of the Spirit; pray for the things you need to raise those twins – for finances, for strength, for wisdom.  I even consulted the Lord on such mundane things as “Should I pick up this crying baby or would it be better to let him cry it out?” While I didn’t get a direct answer to that question, I was overwhelmed by the peace of His presence.  And suddenly, I realized that maybe it didn’t even matter as much as I though it did.  Maybe there is no perfect way to parent, no perfect way to potty train or sleep train or breastfeed or, or, or…  That peace set me free. 🙂

trust in the Lord

Proverbs 3

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

If you have young twins or are about to have twins (or even children very close in age), I hope you find this post helpful.  And if you are already a twin mama and you have some advice to share, please feel free to share in the comments!  I love finding out what works for other moms and seeing if it will also work for me.

Jen 🙂

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Much Ado about Missions: The Experience

Much Ado about Missions

Today marks the beginning of week two of our Much Ado about Missions blog-hop series.  In case you’re joining us for the first time, in the first week we zeroed in on the need for emphasizing global missions and how we can accomplish that even within our homes.  I shared an introductory post about why the need is so great (and so often misunderstood) and then followed up with a post on 8 Resources for Teaching Missions in the Home.  Sarah, from Love Notes, wrote an excellent post on how to engage children’s hearts by engaging their hands in The Missional M&Ms.  Angie, from My Four Monkeys, finished off the week with a fantastic craft to introduce the concept of missions in Introducing Missions to Little Ones.  If you missed any of these posts. you might want to catch up before we delve into this week’s topic. 🙂

While we discussed impacting our homes in week one, this week we’ll be discussing how to impact our communities and even our world.  So, week two will be more about missions experience opportunities and outreach opportunities for you and your family no matter what your circumstances!

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my husband is a minister in a small country town.  So, by nature of his job, our family experiences a lot of community outreach through our church and even aside from the church.   However, we also want our family to be involved in things that have an impact beyond our community.  We want to be mindful of the needs in that great big world out there and have the Lord’s heart for the nations.  I listened to a sermon recently given by a missionary who said that he drove a single mile  to the church he was speaking at that morning and passed 3 churches on the way! Yet in an unreached people group in China that is 15 million strong, not a single church exists. Not. One.

So, I’m going to start out the week by challenging you to leave the comfort of your own home, your own city, your own state and try something as a family that could potentially change many lives.  My husband and I want our children to understand the importance of global missions as much as they understand community service and outreach, and that requires us to stretch beyond what is comfortable.   Experiencing firsthand is so much more powerful than just hearing about it from missionaries who come to speak at church or your former MK wife/mother. 🙂 So, we’ve put together a very brief list of experiences that could benefit the whole family.

the missions experience

Church missions trips – If your church is offering a missions trip experience, this would be the perfect way for you, and possibly your family, to experience and serve alongside a missionary that your church is already connected with.  While  heading into unfamiliar territory, you would at least have the comfort of travelling and experiencing right alongside other members of your church.  This type of trip helps you to better understand the need as well as the missionaries you help support.

Wayumi – if  leaving your home country to serve in a remote location scares the pants off of you, or just isn’t possible for medical reasons, etc., why not start with a missions experiences available right here in America through New Tribes Mission?  You can spend anywhere from 1 day to a week at Wayumi, a center located in Pennsylvania, and be exposed to other cultures, the trials of language study, and so forth.  Although the experience offers very realistic replications of tribal huts, tribal foods, and so on, some modern conveniences are still available.  It’s a way to learn about missions and perhaps even stretch yourself and your family a bit, but the cost is significantly less than an overseas trip.

Serve with New Tribes Mission (NTM) – http://usa.ntm.org/go – this non-denominational mission that focuses on church planting along with scripture translation offerst a variety of opportunties for families and even college students.  Short term, service-based trips last anywhere from 2-4 weeks, while longer stays of a year are necessary for associate workers who go to fill an immediate need.  College students can even earn credits through the Interface internship program in Papua New Guinea.

World Changershttp://www.lifeway.com/worldchangers/index.php/about/ – is a program for youth through college age students.  These trips usually take place in the summer months, when groups travel to specific cities to complete community service projects.  In the past, some groups have gone to inner city ministries, disaster areas for restoration projects, etc.  This is not your everyday community service.  Students complete bible study/training beforehand, including learning how to use evangelistic tools.  If you have or know a youth, this program is an excellent way to teach them how to be someone who changes the world!

These are just a very few of the multitude of opportunities to serve your world beyond your neighborhood, your town, your state, even your country!  What can your family do to stretch and grow beyond what is normal and familiar to you?  How might you consider helping to reach the most unreached peoples of the Earth, the third of our world  population who currently have no hope?

I know that God asks believers to fill a variety of roles in the Body, of which missions is only one.  But I also know that God’s heart is for all nations, not just the one we live in.  I read another missionary comment recently that said what is most needed is not more money.  He reminded us, “Jesus is the fishes and loaves guy.”  What is needed is those who will be willing to advocate for the most unreached people groups and those who will be willing to answer the call of “Whom can I send?”

Deny self

As I mentioned in the Introduction of this blog-hop, I don’t have all of the answers, even for our family.  I believe it is something that all Christians should prayerfully consider. How will you respond?

Jen 🙂

If you know of another firsthand missions experience opportunity, please feel free to share with the readers in the comments!

Want to learn more about the value of a firsthand missions experience for teens?  Read here:
http://www.wordslingersok.com/2013/07/7-reasons-teens-need-to-go-on-short-term-mission-trips-2/

You may find me at any of these lovely blogs.

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Much Ado about Missions: Week One Wrap-up

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We have the final post in our Much Ado about Missions blog-hop live now, so I thought I would put all of the posts together here on a summary page for easy access.  If you are new to the blog-hop, please be sure to start with the introduction.  It contains important information that all believers should be aware of, and it explains the heart behind this blog-hop. 🙂

Much Ado about Missions Week One:

Introduction – they why behind it all

8 Resources for Teaching Missions in the Home

The Missional M&Ms

Teaching Missions with Crafts

In week two, we’ll be discussing ideas for experiencing missions and serving outside of the home, so stay tuned!  Monday’s post can be found at Being Confident of this, Wednesday’s post can be found at  Love Notes, and Friday’s post at  My Four Monkeys.

Thank you for joining us in making missions a priority!

Jen 🙂

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9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies

What mom wouldn’t like her children to eat more of those healthy, vitamin-bearing vegetables? If only it was easy to get kids to like vegetables in the first place!

When our firstborn was a baby (13 years ago now), I thought I did everything I could to encourage veggie-loving in his diet.  When he started baby food, I fed him vegetables first, not fruit.  When he disliked a veggie, I would sneak it between bites of fruit or sometimes even mix the two.  He ate many vegetables in mushy baby food form, but when it was time for finger foods, he balked. Alas, veggie-loving just does not come naturally to him, nor does it for many children.

With the birth of our second child, I determined to work even harder to create a love (okay, at least a tolerance)  for veggies.  And then the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, decided to bless us with a strong-willed, picky eater. 🙂  However, I learned much from dealing with his picky eating phase, a phase that felt like an eternity!  By the time our twins came along, I had a much better idea of how to get those all-important vegetables in.

So, today on Mama Mondays, I offer you this list of 9 ways to sneak in those dreaded veggies!

9 ways to sneak veggies, helping kids eat vegetables, how to get kids to eat their vegetables, sneaking vegetables into kids food, my child won't eat vegetables

  1. Start from the very beginning.

    I’m talking from within the womb!  Researchers claim that babies begin to develop tastes for foods before they are even born.  Taste buds develop around 21 weeks, at which point baby receives a flavoring of what mama eats via the amniotic fluid. So, if you want your child to grow up loving vegetables, start eating more of them yourself. Not only will this make for a healthier pregnancy, but you’ll also be more likely to feed your children foods that you already frequently consume when they get to the finger food stage. Too late for this tip?  It’s never too late to start leading by example in the area of vegetable consumption!

  2. Offer veggies first!

    We’re all familiar with the fact that most children will eat the things they like most first and save the least favorite for last.  Even adults do it. 🙂 If your children fill up on foods they like, getting them to eat those remaining vegetables will be even more difficult.  On the other hand, if you offer the veggies first when they’re still hungry, they’ll be more likely to at least try a few bites.

  3. Slice, dice, or even puree!

    This might be obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me thirteen years ago.  The smaller the veggies are, the less offensive they are to sensitive palates.  My all-time favorite, couldn’t-live-without-it kitchen tool is my food chopper.  If I place a nice helping of normal sized broccoli in front of my youngest son, he’ll immediately turn up his nose.  However, if I chop that broccoli to bits, he’s more willing to eat it – especially if it is combined with another food or a sauce.  I know some moms who add pureed butternut squash and other veggies to the famous toddler favorite, Mac’n’cheese. The possibilities are endless when you dice and then ….disguise.

  4. Disguise those veggies.

    I looooove casseroles/slow-cooker meals for many reasons: only one dirty pan, time to do other chores while food is baking, etc.  But my biggest reason for serving up lots and lots of casseroles is because it allows me to sneak in a lot of vegetables that my children wouldn’t eat alone.  I add petite diced tomatoes, finely diced onions and mushrooms, and sometimes even bell peppers to spaghetti sauce and chili.  I add California blend (diced, of course) to our chicken divan.  If we have scalloped potatoes, you bet I’ll be hiding some veggies in there. Shepherd’s pie, homemade potpie, even fried rice – all of these dishes are veggie-friendly!  You can even hide veggies within other veggies.  How, you ask? If I gave my 7-year-old purple cabbage to eat, I’m sure he would run the other way.  But he eats it in a salad, along with pieces of fresh radish and spinach.  Twice baked potatoes, anyone?  Stuffed bell peppers?

  5. Substitute veggies for other starches.

    In addition to hiding veggies, I’ve recently learned how to substitute vegetables for pasta and potatoes.  The spaghetti I mentioned above?  Instead of pasta, use strings of baked spaghetti squash.  The shepherd’s pie?  Instead of potatoes, used mashed cauliflower.  For chili broth, I use low-sodium V8 juice (and then I add even more veggies).

  6. Add cheese, sauce, or dip.

    Although this method can easily turn healthy veggies into big calorie veggies, when used in moderation, it’s an effective technique.  We have a son who loooves condiments of all kinds, so I’ve learned to offer a small amount with his fresh vegetables. Low-fat cheese works well with cooked vegetables.

  7. Offer a variety.

    As I mentioned in How to Make Food Fun, research supports that offering a variety can lead children to eat more of a single food group than they realize, especially if the variety is colorful.  For example, if you offer bell peppers, offer multiple colors of bell peppers.  If you’re offering broccoli, why not offer California blend instead. A variety of vegetables gives children choices, as well, and we all know they love the power of choice! 🙂9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies, how to get kids to eat their vegetables, want my child to eat veggies, sneaking vegetables into kids' food, my picky eater won't eat vegetables

  8. Try, try, and try again…and then some more.

    As a rookie mom, I had no idea how many times young children need to try a food before deciding whether they like it or not.  But when our picky eater came along, I learned that children may need to try a food 10-15 times before making up their minds about it.  It makes sense really! One day Johnny loves peas, and the next day he’ll have nothing to do with them.  Often, we give up too soon on new foods and assume that they just don’t like them.  Even if your child has repeatedly demonstrated dislike for a particular vegetable, tastes can change over time.  It never hurts to pull a rejected veggie out after a few months and try it again!

  9. Find the Why behind the “No.”

    Sometimes there is a reason behind a child’s refusal of a food other than a dislike for the taste.  I saw this clearly when our twins began to eat finger foods.  Our daughter began to refuse banana, a fruit she previously loved mashed up.  At first, I was baffled. One day I saw her try to pick up a piece of banana and she made the most disgusted face ever.  It wasn’t the taste of the banana, but the sticky texture she was objecting to. I happily fed them to her from a spoon until she learned to use a spoon herself.  Consider physical reasons for refusal as well, whether it be a texture issue (I still cannot eat beans unless they are pureed) or a possible food allergy.

There you have it: Nine ways to sneak in more veggies.  One last helpful hint – you can even use these tips on husbands – true story! 🙂

If you have a clever way to sneak in veggies, pretty please share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy:

6 Principles for Picky Eaters

How to Make Food Fun

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How to Make Food Fun!

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Yesterday I shared with you 6 Principles for Picky Eaters, including our pediatrician approved Toddler Technique for mealtime.  Learning how to deal with toddler stubbornness over food relieved a lot of stress for us!   So today, I want to add some detail to one of those principles: Make food fun.

Let the kids help!

If having children underfoot in the kitchen absolutely drives you batty (and honestly, some days this is me), then let them set the table if they are old enough, or let them help plan the menu for the week.  Research shows that the more involved children are in any process, the more likely they are to take ownership of it.  The more ownership they take, the more cooperative they become.  Even if all your children can do is bring you a spoon to stir with or put out napkins, etc., encourage them to get involved in the process.

  • As a mama who easily falls into “maintain control” mode, I can see how kids in the kitchen might seem like a recipe for stress.  However, if I prepare myself mentally ahead of time for the extra mess and potential disasters, I’m much more likely to enjoy the time spent cooking with my children.  That said, some days I just prefer to cook alone. 🙂

Be an artist!

This is an area that I’m still growing in, but we all know that even adults enjoy food that is more visually appealing (it’s all about the presentation).  If you want more ideas on how to get creative with food, check out my parenting board on pinterest.  While I’m not confident in my abilities to reproduce the more intricate results, the more simple pins are probably doable. They are at least inspiring me to get a little more creative.

  • A good place to start is to arrange food into different shapes (make a smiley face) or to make sure the plate contains what nutritionists refer to as “a rainbow of color” with various shades of fruits and veggies.  Additionally, you could add food coloring to bread dough, mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, or soup for fun.
  • Take advantage of holidays and create holiday-inspired plates of food.  I even have a really creative friend who, once a month or so, creates a themed meal complete with décor!
  • Research validates that the more colorful the plate is, the more interested children will be in eating  and even in trying new foods.  Did you know that people presented with a bowl of multi-colored m&ms will eat more in one sitting than those who are presented with bowl of m&ms that are all the same color?
  • We can use this mind trick to our advantage with fruits and veggies! 🙂 If you offer multiple colors, you’re likely to see the kids eating more in one sitting.  Think about it: would you rather eat a cup of raw carrots only, or a cup of mixed raw veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, and so on?  I would definitely eat more if more than one veggie was available at a time.

 

how to make food fun pinterest

Tell a story about the food or play “let’s pretend” with it.

We once told our twins that raw broccoli trees were really dinosaur food, and it worked – for a few meals at least.  (Be sure to be honest about made-up stories, though, or you’ll be busted for lying when your children get older and wiser). We also tell all of our children how important healthy food is for their bodies – vitamin C helps keep you healthy, protein gives you energy, fiber helps you poop, and so forth.  I guarantee if you have young boys and you mention poop, they’ll eat that fiber in a heartbeat!! 😉

  • Once, our middle child practically inhaled a bag of carrots within the span of a few days because he wanted to improve his vision (I think he read about it at school).
  • When stories or facts don’t work, get silly.  For example, I encouraged a boy I was babysitting to eat a sandwich he didn’t really like by telling him to eat it like Cookie Monster would.  Maybe even tell your children to make noises while eating– it will make them laugh! Remember Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story eating like a pig?? 🙂  I’m not sure I personally would go to that extreme, but it’s the right idea.

 

Make the table a fun, family-oriented place.

Our four kiddos love suppertime because we are all together at the table (most nights).  It’s a time when everyone gets to share a story or a joke and each child has his or her own moment in the spotlight.  We talk a lot. We laugh a lot.  And while they’re busy laughing, they’re eating!  Unless of course, things get a little too crazy.  But most of the time, having fun at the table keeps them interested in staying longer and at the same time, strengthens our family bond. Win, win!

Picky Eaters can easily drain the joy from mealtimes, if we allow them to.  My husband and I decided years ago that we wanted to be able to enjoy family mealtime with our children.  In order to accomplish that goal, we had to first do some training and disciplining in so we could  have peace at the table.

It took quite a bit of time and a lot of consistent effort, but I’m happy to report that mealtime battles are very rare in our house anymore, even with our preschoolers! 🙂  (I cannot however claim that they are non-existent.  Everyone has an off day now and then and children especially like to randomly challenge previously established boundaries.)  Now we look forward to those evening meals together and can focus more on that funny thing our middle child just said rather than on what is or isn’t being eaten.

children are a gift

I hope you are able to employ some of these tips in order to make mealtime less stressful at your house!  The older my children get, the more I realize that these early years pass all too quickly.  Thus, it’s important to do the necessary training in order to be able to enjoy these years to the fullest (although, I realize there are some moments that are just NOT enjoyable whatsoever). 🙂

While I still have your attention, let me also humbly admit that I am not a perfect mom.  I’m not even perfect in the parenting boundaries that I myself have agreed to, along with my husband.  Sometimes I break the “rules.”  Sometimes I’m so weary of battling that I choose to surrender for the night. We can always try again tomorrow, right? 🙂

If you struggle with feeling like you just aren’t doing things right, please take some time to read The Superwoman Myth or Peaceful Parenting, No Thanks to Pinterest.  Moms are so hard on themselves, and I definitely don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on a mama who is already at her limit!

These are simply techniques that I found helpful for our family, but each family is different and each child is different.  What works for us may or may not work for you!  If mealtime is still a battle at your house, don’t give up;  find a solution that works for you. 🙂

Do you have a great tip for how to make food fun?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Happy Eating,

Jen 🙂

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6 Principles for Picky Eaters

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We’ve all experienced it: the transformation of that babbling baby who happily ate ALL of the baby food groups into the terrible toddler who only wants to eat crackers.  Every child goes through a picky eater phase.  Of course, some children take picky eating to more of an extreme level than others! Our firstborn was easy, our second was challenging, and our third and fourth (twins) offered another perspective altogether.

Nevertheless, how we react to this picky-eater phase (much like any other phase) helps determine whether our children remain stuck in that phase or whether they grow through it. Thus, I offer you these 6 Principles for Picky Eaters based on my thirteen-plus years of parenting so far:

1. Decide ahead of time where you’ll draw the line and stick to it!  If you first set out with the goal of having your child clean his or her plate and later decided that’s too difficult, your child may see this as a sign of weakness.  Any sign of weakness can lead to a doubled effort on the child’s part to break you – seriously.  Trust me: at the first glimpse of weakness, your tiny tyrant will “seize the day” and your job will suddenly become that much more difficult.

2. Use the “Try at least one bite” rule.  This rule came directly from my mother, and I find it very suitable still.  At our house, the kids are not allowed to turn down an entire plate of food, especially something new, without even tasting it.  Even now that they are older, every food group must be at least tasted before they are allowed to reject it.

When he was a toddler, our middle child became so adept at turning down food, that I feared he would be adversely affected.  However, when I mentioned my mommy fears to our seasoned pediatrician, he just smiled knowingly and kindly pointed out that my toddler was perfectly chubby and wasn’t going to “starve” any time soon. It was our doctor’s obvious revelation that gave me permission to wait our strong-willed toddler out.  Here’s the technique we used:

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  • Offer the plate several times, giving the child a few minutes to try in between. Be on your toes during this phase. If it lasts too long, you’re likely to experience the ceremonial dumping of the plate. 😉
  • If the food is repeatedly refused, take it away and end mealtime altogether. (This step will prevent much frustration for everyone – including older children – and can even prevent irritations such as plate dumping, fit throwing, cup tossing, etc.)
  • Remove child from highchair or table with the reminder that the food will be waiting when he or she is hungry.
  • Cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate if necessary.
  • Re-heat whenever the child asks for food and offer plate again. If your child is very strong-willed and you don’t want to reheat the food often, show the child the plate.  Tell the child if he or she is hungry, this is what he or she can have.  If  he or she immediately refuses, don’t even bother re-heating.
  • If the food  is again refused, put it back in the fridge.
  • Repeat cycle until the child eats (how much is up to you) or until bedtime.  Most children will break down and eat it when they get hungry enough.  However, I once re-heated a plate FIVE times within the space of two hours for our middle child.  So, don’t be surprised if your child continues to test until the process is well-established!
  • Important Note: absolutely NO snacks or milk should be given in the meantime (only water). This was per our pediatrician’s advice, and it makes sense.  A glass of milk is more than enough to satisfy hunger pains for an hour or two, especially for small children.  By caving in with a little bit of milk or even a single cracker, you will undo all of your hard work thus far. (Obviously if your child has a medical condition that does not allow for depriving them, follow your own doctor’s advice.)
  • Above all, be consistent!  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Once we started using this technique, we rarely had to employ it after the first few victories.  Toddlers and Preschoolers alike are quick to learn when we are consistent in our parenting.

*Disclaimer: this technique doesn’t work as well when that stubborn toddler becomes a sly four-year-old.  One day, we set out the plate at lunch time and had to put it back in the fridge.  We got it out at snack time and put it back. We got it back out at supper time and put it back.  We got it out once more at bedtime, at which point my son grinned wickedly and said, “But I won’t have to eat it for breakfast.”  Well-played, son, well-played. I decided to let him have his small victory, but he still went to bed hungry. It hasn’t happened since then. 🙂

*Disclaimer #2: This technique should only be used for healthy children!  Please see the note of caution at the end of the article.

Micah

3. Create a test to see if your child is truly full, or if they just don’t want to eat what’s in front of them.  If our children are asking for more of something they liked (or for dessert), but they haven’t eaten the other items on their plates, I ask them to finish the majority of the other items first.

For example, our daughter loooooves bread.  When presented with a plate of half of a sandwich, fruit, and fresh veggies, she will often eat the bread and the fruit, leaving the meat and the veggies.  Then, she’s likely to ask for more bread or more fruit.  We make her eat the majority of what she left behind (the meat and veggies) before giving her more of what she desires.

Tip: I use a similar method when my children ask for seconds of an unhealthy treat or snack.  “If you’re really still hungry, have some carrots.”  If they eat the carrots, they were really hungry and they ate a healthy snack.  If not, then they weren’t hungry and just wanted more cake, cookies, etc. Children are often smarter and more devious than we realize!)

4. Use the “take ______more bites” rule.  If one of our children wants to be excused from the table, but I can see they haven’t eaten very much of their meal, or very much of their veggies, I usually insist on at least a few more bites.  I only do this if they’ve eaten less than half of the portion.  Most times, they are able to stomach at least a few bites of whatever food group they’ve chosen to reject.

Start with a lower number of bites and then increase the amount as they grow older.  For example, our preschoolers might be required to take only two or three more bites, but our older children might be asked to take closer to ten (especially the sly middle child who takes the tiniest bites ever known to mankind).  An alternate method would be to divide the portion in half and ask them to eat only one half.  This method works well with older children.

*Disclaimer: if your child is visibly gagging on the food, think long and hard about whether or not you want to clean up a pile of puke before you choose to enforce this rule.   I’ve learned through experience that sometimes, they just CAN’T eat the foods we’d like them to – it’s not a matter of disobedience or control, but rather an uncontrollable physical response to a particular taste or texture. Again, see the note of caution at the end of the article.

gracie plate

5.Make it fun!  Remember when your stubborn child was a smiling baby and you would makes spoonfuls of baby food into airplanes, or choo-choo trains, etc.?  Remember that baby smushing food on the high chair tray and running a finger through piles of goo?  But to the stubborn toddler we say, “quit playing with your food” or “sit still and take a bite.”

Now, I’m all for table manners, but somewhere along the line, we parents often quit making food fun!  If you make food fun, or even the eating experience itself fun, your child is likely to stay at the table longer and eat more of that healthy food you worked so hard to prepare (or at least arrange on a plate).  How do I make food fun, you ask?  Tune in tomorrow for a short post on Making Food Fun! 🙂

6. Be patient….. OR…. Win the war, not the battle. Naturally, patience is the last thing on your mind when your picky child dumps his or her plate for the second, third, fourth time of the day. Many of my most desperate prayers for patience were inspired by mealtime battles with our middle child. However, take a moment to remind yourself that this is only a phase.  You may lose battles here and there, but the goal is to win the war!

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In retrospect, I think the mantra for all mamas of small children should be, “This too shall pass” because it is true.  The parenting problems that so often seem unbearable today will be gone tomorrow, replaced by a new phase with its own set of problems.

If we can keep the years of picky eating in perspective, we realize that there is no need to stress about our children’s eating habits.  All we can do is our best to encourage them to make healthy eating choices, and then we have to trust God with the rest.

If you’re looking for tips specifically on how to include veggies in the diet without a fuss, click here!

I hope you find these picky-eater tips helpful.  If you have a tip to share with the rest of us, leave a comment!

Jen 🙂

*Reader Kimberly makes an excellent point – if your child is extremely picky, please consult your physician! There may be underlying physical issues, such as food allergies or intolerances, that are causing the trouble.  Thanks, Kimberly! 🙂

Enjoyed this article? Check out this post on how to keep those Eaters happy during meal-prep:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/top-5-toddler-approved-tips-for-preventing-pre-meal-meltdowns/

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