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Toddler - Week #113

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Your 27-month-old toddler (week 113)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

The Art Of Sneaking Healthy Food Into Your Toddler's Diet
           Toddlers are picky, plain and simple.  And if you thought that you were home-free regarding your little one becoming a "difficult" eater, think again.  Despite the fact that your little one may have loved to eat everything and anything that was placed before him just a few months, or even weeks ago...times they are a changin'!  This month, meals are going to require a little more tweaking here and sneaking there to ensure that things balance out and all the requirements are met.  Creativity is the key right now, and it's time to teach your toddler that the four food groups are not waffles, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream.

       When it comes to breakfast, try to reach for the whole-wheat waffles if you're in the frozen food section, and replace the syrup with a little dollop of applesauce.  Even better, if you're making things from scratch, toss in a jar of sweet potato or carrot baby food with the pancake batter, and then after they're cooked top them off with fruit preserves.  Next, do yourself and your toddler a favor, and axe the sugary cereals, replacing them with something low in sugar and high in fiber like Cheerios (they've even come out with Fruity Cheerios that look just like Fruit Loops!).  And last but not least, replace the doughnut or pastry with a mini-whole wheat bagel topped with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter, and a little bit of jelly to sweeten things up.

       Now, for lunch or dinner-time, pizza is always a hit so make a healthy version on a whole-grain English muffin, with low-fat mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Better yet, sneak a few scoops of pureed vegetables into the sauce, and your toddler won't know the difference...but his body will.  As for the chicken nuggets, whatever you do don't fry them!  Bake them in the oven along with a few sweet potato fries, and try dunking them in a little honey mustard sauce instead of ketchup.  Macaroni and cheese is also a standard toddler favorite, and it is the perfect place to sneak in a few pureed vegetables right under his nose.  Lastly, if it's protein that your little one needs but has chosen to snub for the time being, silken tofu can do just the trick...it takes on the flavor of everything and anything that you make, and best of all it magically disappears right before your eyes when blended into your toddler's favorite dipping sauce.

       One last little trick for those parents out there with a toddler who prefers little snacks as opposed to having a "regular meal."  Take advantage of this knowledge, and give them what they want.  Personally, I often find that my own 27-month-old twins eat much better when they have many options to choose from at mealtime, especially if the options are small portions placed creatively on divided plates where they can't roll and touch one another (another common toddler pet-peeve).  In fact, a sure fired winner in our house lately has been a few whole-wheat crackers, low-fat string cheese, raw baby carrots (sliced in very thin pieces), raw yellow pepper, hummus, grapes, and a few rolled up deli slices of chicken breast.  This is so simple, very nutritious and most importantly extremely toddler friendly.

       When it comes to dessert, there is no reason to skip it, particularly when it's most likely your toddler's favorite part of the meal.  This is one place where your toddler will least expect your "tweaking," so dive right in and make the most of this opportunity.  Graham or animal crackers with a little peanut butter or yogurt dip are wonderful alternatives to more sugary and fatty choices.  Also, fruit salad or frozen yogurt with a dollop of whip cream is a crowd favorite, and if you bring out the sprinkles it's a guaranteed hit.  Believe it or not, chocolate can even be done in a healthy manner, especially if you teach your toddler to reach for the chocolate covered raisins or dark chocolate covered plums instead of the M&M's.  Homemade trail mix is also the perfect alternative...a few organic teddy grahams, yogurt covered raisins, fruity Cheerios, dried pineapple, dried apples...Yum!  The only problem is...you might actually end up fighting your toddler for the rights to hold the bag.


Food Rewards and Short-Order Cooking
           Along with having an extremely finicky toddler right now, there are many other issues surrounding food, and eating at the dinner table that may be beginning to surface.  How these situations are dealt with when they initially emerge can directly impact how nutrition and healthy eating develop in the future, so take a few moments to figure out your best plan of attack.

       The first issue facing many parents is whether or not to use food as a reward for good behavior.  Although it may be tempting to reach for that strategically placed bag of cookies while waiting in line at the check-out counter in order to avoid a last minute meltdown...think twice.  When your toddler realizes that candy and other tasty treats are the ones most often used as "bribes," she may A) have an intentional tantrum just so that you will beg her to stop with M&M's, or B) reach for sweets when she gets older as a reward, or purely as a "comfort food."  Both options are better left alone.

       The second issue on the table (literally) is how to deal with a toddler who refuses to eat what is placed before her and sends you back into the kitchen to whip-up something else in her shrinking repertoire of foods.  Many parents will tell you that children need to eat what everyone else is eating when everyone else is eating, however, the recent school of thought from the mouths of the "dietary experts" believe the opposite to be true.  In fact, researchers have actually found that "food battles" (including forcing children to eat what they don't want, when they don't want) in childhood may actually lead to weight problems, and even eating disorders later in life...who knew?

       So, instead of pressuring your little one to eat Brussels sprouts and poached salmon, give her options that she likes, as well as the choice of eating what the "big kids" are having too.  Toddler's this age love to feel in control (even when you are manipulating the situation to make her feel that way), and she may be more willing to try something new if it's not being forced upon her.  Remember, eating should be a pleasant experience for everyone involved, not a screaming match inevitably resulting in more food on the floor than in your toddler's mouth.


           Food Art       

       If your toddler is getting tired of crayons and paper, it may be time to take things up a notch and start adding a little texture to his artwork.

       Begin by providing your toddler with a variety of different shaped dry pasta and let him explore the new textures.  Next, help your toddler to create a fun pattern in white glue on a large sheet of paper, and then show him how to place the dry pasta onto the glue and let it dry.

       Once the image has dried, and the pasta is securely attached to the paper, provide your toddler with poster paint (one color at a time works best), and show him how to paint on top of and around the pasta.

       The end result is a very interesting image, and a great way to introduce your toddler to the concept of 3-dimensional art.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I had no idea how many different types of pasta there were in the world, in fact, the most difficult part of this entire activity was picking out which type we were going to use in our "masterpiece."  However, once my 27-month-old twin boys agreed on using the tri-colored pasta that looked like racecars...the remainder was a breeze.

       After arriving home from our weekly grocery store adventure, I placed large sheets of white construction paper in front of Andrew and Devin.  Next, we got creative with a little Elmer's glue, and hand-over-hand dribbled it in a random pattern covering a large portion of their papers.  Lastly, I handed them each a bowl filled with tri-colored car pasta and showed them how to place them one-by-one onto the glue "road" that we had created.  Surprisingly, and with only a little re-direction, both boys were able to glue all of the pasta onto their papers and we left them to dry while naptime quickly approached.

       A few hours later after Andrew and Devin awoke, I brought out their pictures along with a few cups of poster paint.  Learning from my mistakes of the past, I only provided one cup of paint to each of my boys at a time, and then placed a nice fat paintbrush in each of their hands.  Without hesitation Andrew and Devin painted away, and appeared to enjoy the added dimension that they had to work with in the process.

       When all was said and done, and the paint was not only covering every inch of their pictures, but every inch of their arms, splattered in their hair, and somehow or another managed to work its way into Andrew and Devin's mouths...we called it quits, and ended up with two very interesting images, along with two very dirty little boys.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           How have I turned my toddler into a "junk food junkie"?  And how can I kick this habit before it's too late?       

       The good news is, you are ultimately in control of what your toddler puts into his mouth at this age.  The bad news is, poor eating habits are difficult to break, even for a 27-month-old, so prepare yourself.  Because you personally get to select the food that is in your home, this is the perfect place to begin.  Remove all of the unhealthy snacks that your toddler appears to gravitate towards, and replace them with healthier alternatives.  If your toddler does not have the junk food available, he will have no choice but to eat healthy foods when the hunger pangs strike.  Gone are the days of chips, sugary cookies and candy...say hello to whole-wheat Goldfish, multi-grain Cheerios, raisins, low-fat cheese sticks, raw vegetables and dried fruits.

       The allure of junk food to children this age is quite often the look of the brightly colored product and packaging, so take this information and run with it.  This is your opportunity to make the healthier options just as exciting as the unhealthy options, so it's time to get creative in the kitchen.  Toddlers are greatly impacted by the way something looks, so make his new choices look fun and enticing.  Yes, it's true, initially you may have to trick your little one into giving his new healthy food choices a shot...that is until he realizes how good they actually are.

       Keep in mind that this pantry overhaul does not mean that "junk food" is off limits forever, and that a piece of cake or a cookie here and there is taboo.  Like everything in life, moderation is the key to success, so do your best to keep the "special" food with the "special" occasions, and the healthy basics for every day.


What to Do if a Mercury Thermometer Breaks
By Pam Worthen, edHelperBaby

           This morning my ten year old daughter broke our mercury thermometer.  She had awakened at six a.m. and decided to take her temperature herself while I was still sleeping.  She came and told me after she had cleaned up the glass from the thermometer.  I tried to explain to her that the mercury inside was dangerous.  She had placed the glass from the thermometer on the counter but there was no mercury left in it.  I was searching the kitchen floor trying to find the mercury.  I pulled out the refrigerator and found mercury.  I knew I should not throw it in the regular trash, so I put it in a plastic lid and continued to clean up the mess under my refrigerator with a wet paper towel.  At least I did that part right.  After I cleaned everything up, I went searching on the Internet for what to do with the mercury.  I wish I would have read it BEFORE I cleaned up the mess.  I am posting this because it is something every parent should know before you break a thermometer so you can handle the mercury properly without causing harm to your family.  We also must educate our children on safe handling of the mercury thermometer.  Here is what the EPA states you should do to clean up after breaking a mercury thermometer:       
  • Find out whether your state sponsors a thermometer exchange or recycling program.
  • Have everyone else leave the area; do not let anyone walk through the mercury on their way out.  Make sure all pets are removed from the area.  Open all windows and doors to the outside; shut all doors to other parts of the house.
  • DO NOT allow children to help you clean up the spill.
  • Mercury can be cleaned up easily from the following surfaces: wood, linoleum, tile and any similarly smooth surfaces.
  • If a spill occurs on carpet, curtains, upholstery or other absorbent surfaces, these contaminated items should be thrown away in accordance with the disposal means outlined below.  Only cut and remove the affected portion of the contaminated carpet for disposal.
       Items needed to clean up a small mercury spill:       
  • 4-5 Ziploc type bags
  • Trash bags (2 to 6 mm thick)
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Cardboard or squeegee
  • Eyedropper
  • Duct tape, or shaving cream and small paint brush
  • Flashlight
  • Powdered sulfur (optional)
       Clean Up Instructions       
  1. Put on rubber gloves
  2. If there are any broken pieces of glass or sharp objects, pick them up with care.  Place all broken objects on a paper towel.  Fold the paper towel and place in a zip lock bag.  Secure the bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
  3. Locate visible mercury beads.  Use a squeegee or cardboard to gather mercury beads.  Use slow sweeping motions to keep mercury from becoming uncontrollable.  Take a flashlight, hold it at a low angle close to the floor in a darkened room and look for additional glistening beads of mercury that may be sticking to the surface or in small cracked areas of the surface.  Note: mercury can move surprising distances on hard-flat surfaces, so be sure to inspect the entire room when "searching."
  4. Using the eyedropper to collect or draw up the mercury beads.  Slowly and carefully squeeze mercury onto a damp paper towel.  Place the paper towel in a zip lock bag and secure.  Make sure to label the bag as directed by your local health or fire department.
  5. After you remove larger beads, put shaving cream on top of small paint brush and gently "dot" the affected area to pick up smaller hard-to-see beads.   Alternatively, use duct tape to collect smaller hard-to-see beads.  Place the paint brush or duct tape in a zip lock bag and secure.  Make sure the bag as directed by your local health or fire department.
  6. OPTIONAL STEP: It is OPTIONAL to use a commercially available powdered sulfur to absorb the beads that are too small to see.  The sulfur does two things: it makes the mercury easier to see since there may be a color change from yellow to brown and it binds the mercury so that it can be easily removed and suppresses the vapor of any missing mercury.  Where to get commercialized sulfur?  It may be supplied as mercury vapor absorbent in mercury spill kits, which response supply manufacturers.  Note: Powdered sulfur may stain fabrics a dark color.  When using powdered sulfur, do not breathe in the powder as it can be moderately toxic.  Additionally, users should read and understand product information before use.
  7. If you choose not to use this option, you may want to request the services of a contractor who has monitoring equipment to screen for mercury vapors.  Consult your local environmental or health agency to inquire about contractors in your area.  Place all materials used with the cleanup, including gloves, in a trash bag.  Place all mercury beads and objects into the trash bag.  Secure trash bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
  8. Contact your local health department, municipal waste authority or your local fire department for proper disposal in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
  9. Remember to keep the area well ventilated to the outside (i.e., windows open and fans in exterior windows running) for at least 24 hours after your successful cleanup.  Continue to keep pets and children out of cleanup area.  If sickness occurs, seek medical attention immediately.  For additional information on health effects, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provides a Mercury Fact Sheet that also presents information on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury.
       Recommendation: If there are young children or pregnant women in the house, seek additional advice from your local or state health or state environmental agency.       

       Elemental mercury effects       

       Elemental (metallic) mercury primarily causes health effects when it is breathed as a vapor where it can be absorbed through the lungs.  These exposures can occur when elemental mercury is spilled or products that contain elemental mercury break and expose mercury to the air, particularly in warm or poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.  Symptoms include these: tremors; emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness; insomnia; neurological muscular changes ( such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching); headaches; disturbances in sensations; changes in nerve responses; performance deficits on tests of cognitive function.  At higher exposures there may be kidney effects, respiratory failure and death.  People concerned about their exposure to elemental mercury should consult their physician.       


Pretend Versus Reality
By Pam Worthen, About my child Leah

           It is amazing to see all the changes happening monthly with Leah.  Last month she was having so much fun pretending.  I was amazed watching her use her imagination.  This month she seems to not want to play pretend.  If you pretend her stuffed cat is talking to her, she quickly tells me cats cannot talk, they sing "meow."  If I pretend to talk on her play telephone, she listens and says, "No one is talking" then puts the phone down.  She has a cold so I do not know if that is part of it or not.  She acts like she is a big girl now and does not want me to believe that she can be "fooled" by such things any more.  I cannot wait to see what next month brings.


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