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Infant - Month #33

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Nutrition and Dining Out

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Something Different Activity
           The following activity is designed to allow your child to better understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods.  You will be reading a book together, discussing the characters' needs and desires as they relate to your own health, and illustrating edible and non-edible foods.  During this activity, reinforce the importance of proper nutrition and exercise as it relates to one's mood and level of productivity.

  • Copy of Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
  • Two paper plates
  • Two sandwich bags
  • Two large craft sticks, rulers, dowel rods, wood spoons, or other sturdy objects (optional)
  • Tape
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper

       Learning Process:
  1. Read Gregory, the Terrible Eater together.  Make comparisons between the things Gregory likes to eat with what his parents want him to eat.
  2. Fold the paper into four sections by folding it in half once horizontally and once vertically.  Have your child cut the squares apart.
  3. Ask him to recall food from the story that Gregory liked and did not like.  Draw one piece of food and write its name on each piece of paper.  Continue until he has named and drawn as many foods as he can recall that Gregory wanted and/or Gregory's parents wanted him to eat.
  4. Tell your child to pretend that Gregory's face is the entire paper plate.  Ask him to draw a large picture of Gregory's face on one plate and then draw his picture on the other plate.  Use the scissors to cut a mouth on both plates.  Open the sandwich bags and tape them, along with the craft sticks to use as handles, to the backside of each plate so that the bags will catch the pieces he will "feed" into the front side of the plate.
  5. Pull it all together by asking your child "What do your parents want you to eat?" and "What did Gregory's parents want him to eat?"  Then place each piece of illustrated paper into the correct mouth.

  • Math - Have your child line the illustrations up in order from favorite to least favorite.  Take a crayon and number them accordingly. Mix them up and ask him to put them back in order according to his original reaction to practice number recognition.
  • Reading - Ask your child to reread the story to you to increase comprehension.
  • Writing - Encourage your child to continue to draw pictures of healthy foods he likes and to keep feeding his picture.
  • Health - Assist him in thinking through and preparing a healthy meal for your family.  This can be as elaborate as making each person his/her own place card and creating a menu or as simple as making a turkey sandwich and serving it on a paper plate.
  • Science - Plant some fruits/vegetables.  Teach him how to nurture the plants and how to tell when they are ready for harvest.


  From a Parent's Perspective
           I went ahead and cut the paper before beginning, which seemed to be a good idea since my daughter's attention span was already running short that day.  I knew she was in no mood to cut, read, color, and perform all in the course of twenty minutes.  My daughter loved the story.  The concept of eating boots, pants, coats, magazines, and newspapers was hilarious to her.  I had collected a few of these items and had them in a paper bag next to me.  As we read the story, I pulled out a non-edible item and asked her what she thought about eating it for lunch.  She just giggled and called me silly.  I used that "silliness" as a springboard into talking about what we obviously don't eat (non-edible) and what foods (edible) we ought not to eat, at least not frequently.  In terms of nutrition, I kept it simple by stating that our bodies don't know how to handle greasy foods, foods that come in chip bags, or meat that has a brown crunchy coating on it (like chicken nuggets.)  She mentioned that that stuff made her tummy hurt sometimes.  Only once did she seem really stumped.  It was when she had her drawing of fish.  She said that it didn't go anywhere.  "We are not supposed to eat that.  Gregory is not to either." She has eaten grilled fish on many occasions but seemed to have the live fish from out at sea swimming around in her head.  I searched and found pictures to help her begin to understand where the fish we eat at the dinner table comes from.  This is a big concept for such a little one to grasp.  I still am not sure that I convinced her that they were the same thing just in different forms. I plan on using the extension activities.  Since she loves to be in the kitchen, I think I will encourage her to start small and make a side-dish or a healthy dessert.


  How Your Life is Changing
           Remember those peaceful dinners when you and your significant other would spend the entire dinner talking, laughing, and savoring each and every bite of your much anticipated meal?  You might recall seeing other children acting up and wondering why their parents even attempted to venture outside of their homes for dinner.  Not only did the families as a whole have a difficult time enjoying their meal, but you are equally distracted by all the commotion.  Now that you are a parent, you might look back and chuckle at the fact that, as an outsider looking in, you couldn't have helped but hold a strong opinion of the situation.  With scenarios like this one playing through your mind, have you vowed to handle these situations with grace?  A child's temperament can make or break the best dinner plans.  You know your child best.  If getting your child to practice good table manners at your own dining table poses a great challenge for you, then the thought of being someone's dinner guest or dining out at a restaurant might cause you to temporarily stop breathing.  Try to collect your thoughts and reevaluate your plan of action to ensure a pleasurable experience.

       Brainstorm past dining experiences - What behaviors were exhibited by your child?  Does he act differently in different dining settings?  How did you handle the situation?  How did fellow diners react, if at all?  Did you and your significant other discuss the experience?  How did that go?  What conclusions did you make regarding future dining experiences?

       Consider your dining options - Now that you have revisited past experiences, you can begin to wrap your head around what works and what does not.  To discover a win-win dining solution, begin by working from the outside in.  This means to look at the atmosphere and how conducive the restaurant is for children in general and then consider your child's specific needs.  Fancy water goblets, stark white linens, quiet conversations, and flatware that lines three sides of your plate is most likely not going to be a kid-friendly place.  Consider a place where the overall noise level is louder, color/activity books and crayons are as popular as the menu itself, and kids' drinks come in plastic lidded cups.   If you do have a poor dining experience, don't be quick to scratch out a restaurant completely.  Be open-minded to the fact that your child might just have had a bad day, which then led to the yelling, screaming, and throwing of food.  Give the restaurant, and most importantly your child, another chance.

       Be prepared - Here are a few useful tips that might help your whole family enjoy a pleasant meal together.
  • Plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Discuss your expectations with your child prior to entering the establishment.  Pick one or two table manners you want your child to focus on during dinner to help set the stage.  Also discuss with your partner how you plan to handle any issues and be sure you are in agreement.  Then stick to the action plan, be consistent with your expectations, and keep your cool.
  • Keep a bag of tricks handy - magnetic games like checkers and tic-tac-toe, coloring books, doodle boards, half the pieces to a game of memory, a barrel of monkeys, action figures, small mirror to make funny faces into or count his teeth, etc.  Only pull these items out when you are dining or in another desperate situation when you need to quietly entertain your child.  Get only one or two items out at a time.  The novelty of these items will help keep his attention for a longer duration.
  • Be prepared to order your meal when you give your drink order.
  • Have on hand a child size fork and spoon.  Many restaurants provide utensils that are as big as their serving sizes which makes it difficult for toddlers to feed themselves with grace.
  • Be prepared to engage your child in a fun conversation.  Intellectual stimulation will help keep his little body from flailing around the table.
  • Praise your child for a dining experience well done.  Explain to him what important table manners were exhibited well.


Scrumptious Summer Snacks
By Lindsey Hill, edHelperBaby

           Parents of young children concern themselves with hydrating and energizing their little ones during the summer months. Here are a few easy and healthy snack ideas for keeping those little ones energized and hydrated:
  1. Watermelon Popsicles: Place a piece of wax paper over a small metal tray. Cut fresh, seedless watermelon into various sized squares and place on a tray. Push a popsicle stick into the center of each square of watermelon, cover each watermelon popsicle with plastic wrap or place one piece of plastic wrap over the entire tray. Freeze overnight and enjoy a frosty, delicious, and nutritious treat.
  2. Go-Gurt Yogurt Sticks: Place the individually wrapped yogurt sticks into the freezer overnight. Pull the sticks out about three minutes before they will be eaten. In place of a sugary popsicle, kids will love this icy, creamy and fruity yogurt treat.
  3. Ocean Bagels: Place a spoonful of spreadable cream cheese into a small mixing bowl and add several drops of blue food coloring and mix. Pull apart a bagel (mini bagels are great for little hands) and spread the blue cream cheese to thoroughly cover each half of the bagel. Place goldfish crackers (baby goldfish fit best) randomly on each slice of the blue-covered bagel and serve. Kids love the blue food and goldfish "swimming" into their mouths and the delicious and nutritious treat. Serve with blue colored ice water for that added ocean appearance!


Cory's Corner
By Lindsey Hill, About my child Cory

           Being the typical three and a half year old that he is, Cory wastes no time eating and drinking more than is necessary to stay energized for his next busy activity. Therefore, getting him to make a healthy selection is difficult. We tried watermelon popsicles first since he eats a bowl of fresh watermelon daily.  He ate three popsicles after an afternoon of swimming, but really "just liked softer watermelon" and not the "hard stuff on a stick". My ten month old son, Camden, however, smiled throughout his frozen watermelon treat.

       Ever since the discovery that milk can be flavored, Cory drinks very little white milk. Therefore, my goal is to get some kind of calcium into his growing little body with smaller amounts of sugar. Freezing the Go Gurt yogurt sticks was a no-brainer for us since Cory asks for a popsicle each night as a bed time snack. Handing him a frozen yogurt rather than a sugary popsicle makes everyone happy and full of calcium! They also worked great with my baby's sore gums from teething.

       Getting Cory to try new foods is a challenge unless it is made into an exciting activity. Keeping in mind his love for bagels and goldfish, I colored some cream cheese with blue food coloring (another attempt to fill him with calcium), spread the now blue cream cheese onto a bagel and Cory placed the goldfish onto the cream cheese. With a blue tongue and a full belly, Cory smiled as the fish "went swimming" in his tummy, asking for more! Camden just loved the fish!       


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