Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is an Apple a Grain?

Do your kids know if an apple is a grain?
Should they?

As parents, we have so many things to teach our children, and for me, teaching them as much as I can about the food we choose to eat is very important. From the age of 3 or 4 I discuss with them what I put in their lunches and why. Soon enough they will be the ones choosing what to pack and eat for lunch and if I don't give them the information they need, how can I expect them to make healthy decisions?

They see their friends with packaged snacks at school and they get those treats at soccer games and birthday parties when they are being handed out, but I use every opportunity I can to talk to them about making healthy choices. In the grocery store we look at labels - recently we've been checking out the sugar content of everything. We compare sugar in milk to that in juice and then look at a can of soda . .they get it when they can see it themselves.

Canada's Food Guide is a good teaching tool, but kids will may learn more at
the dinner table and from cutting apart weekly grocery store flyers, or helping pack their own lunch! All great places to start to talk about the food you are eating. My 5 year old came home from Kindergarten with some great work she had done in art. Gluing pictures of food from the flyers into its proper food group!! How fun! And what a great way to teach them that we need to eat foods from all the food groups . . . and wait . . candy isn't a food group??

My kids understand that we eat 'brown' bread and whole wheat pasta's because it is better for us . . even though that starchy white stuff might taste good I explain why we choose not to eat it. They know that at each meal we should try to eat something from all the food groups and sometimes we take turns at dinner to see who can name the food groups on our plates.

From all these conversations, they are learning what Protein, Fruits, Vegetables, Diary and Grains are. They know these are the 'healthy' foods. They are also normal kids that would rather have ice cream and jelly beans for dinner so we do make 'treat' food a part of our day too. . .but the kids are learning to choose healthy food first!

It takes more than a glass of milk and gummy vitamins to raise healthy kids! Do you talk about the food you make with your kids and what the food groups are? Do you think understanding this now will help them as teens and as adults?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen!

I'm a Mom who believes there will be rewards if I teach my kids to cook at an early age. I have the same belief about sleep training, feeding themselves, getting dressed, packing their own stuff and putting away laundry. My theory is if I give them the tools and the lessons now, I can kick back and finally enjoy that coffee one day in the near future (a girl can dream!).

However, sometimes the thought of cooking with my three kids is way more fun than the actual cooking with my kids!!! The extra patience required, the equal dividing into 3 of all the tasks, the extra mess (flour flies!) and the extra time . . .and somehow there is no extra help with the dishes !!!

No matter what the cost in time and patience, I still think it is important to cook with our kids, for so many reasons. The kids love the time with Mom, and for Mom its a chance to teach them about so much more than just cooking. The measuring that is involved in baking is a giant math lesson. . .finding 1/2 and adding 1/4 is big stuff! The mixing of different ingredients and how they change shape & texture in the oven is science at a level they can relate to, and teaching them the difference between folding, stirring, and whipping is like a gym workout for little arms !

Then there is cracking eggs, how much fun is that . . . who doesn't enjoy a crunchy scrambled egg!! That got me thinking of a few tips that make Kids in the Kitchen a little more fun . . .

Tip #1 Crack eggs into a little dish on its own . . makes getting the shells out a whole lot easier!
Tip #2 One hand on the bowl! Especially stainless steel bowls, they spin right off the counter!
Tip #3 Wash their hands . . .obvious I know, but forgetting is yucky!
Tip #4 Teach the difference between stirring liquid (small circles) and stirring dry ingredients (big circles) . . .and have towels and a vacuum nearby!
Tip #5 Let 'em make a mess!! They will learn eventually, but expect messes!
Tip #6 Make it FUN! Anyone can stir chocolate chips into the batter, how about using the chips to decorate the top of the muffins? Make smiley faces, add a circle, or practice counting 1,2,3 chips on each cookie.
Tip #7 No sharp knives or hot ovens for little cooks . . but you knew that!
Tip #8 Get them their own supplies - mini rollers, hot pink PLASTIC measuring cups and a personalize apron all makes it more FUN!
Tip #9 Take lots of pictures - nothing is as cute as kids at the kitchen counter!

The pride the kids feel when the family sits down to a meal they helped make is immeasurable. My 4 year old recently made an entire chicken & veggie lasagna. I cooked the noodles and the meat and shredded cheese while she did all the stirring and assembly. Look at all the vegetables! She was so proud at dinner!
A little extra effort from us to include the kids in doing what we consider 'chores' can create valuable lessons for them. The kids are far more capable then we sometimes think and who knows, a couple lessons in the kitchen, might just turn into breakfast in bed!! I am such a dreamer!

What gerat things do your kids make at home?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Capital of Canada is . . .

We had planned this all winter . . . this was the year we could finally take the kids to experience Winterlude in Ottawa. Our youngest had just turned 5 and I’d taken her skating every week to practice so she could keep up with her older sister. We even incorporated a bit of our family business into the trip by having IronKids team up with the YummyMummyClub to promote Winterlude and families getting outside and being active together. Our trip to Ottawa was going to be an event full outdoor fun and learning about a new City! Was I in for a surprise, I had no idea how much they had to learn!!

I went to university back in the late 80’s in Ottawa and fell in love with the city. I skated from my little apartment to my classes and spent many winter weekends on the canal. I loved the old buildings in the downtown and on Parliament Hill. I got used to the cold and enjoyed many of the outdoor patio’s and the Canadian pride on Canada Day! I couldn’t wait to take my kids and show them all the great sites, the canal, the BeaverTails, Jacque Cartier Park, the Mint and the stray cats that still live behind the Parliament buildings as they had 23 years ago.

Imagine my surprise when I asked my kids as we drove down the 417 approaching Ottawa, “What is the Capital of Canada?” . . . . and from my 9 year old in the back seat, “C!”

Once we stopped laughing (it was a great answer!!) I couldn’t help but wonder why my 9 year old, who is in grade 3, didn’t seem to know much about Canada. How did I miss that? I am a pretty involved parent. I volunteer in their classrooms, I make their science project booklets, I study spelling with them, I help with math homework and I test them when a quiz comes up. I read over everything that comes home in that zippy bag and I guess I hadn’t realized that I hadn't seen much come home about Canada. My kids sing Oh Canada at school and know about pioneers and bartering, they know about the 4 states of matter, about Indians and holiday traditions around the world, but they know very little about the country they live in!

It became my mission that weekend to teach my children about the Parliament Buildings and Canada! We talked about voting and government, counted dozens of Canadian flags atop every building, studied the flags from every Province flying in a row near the canal, toured the Mint and we talked at length about Quebec as we crossed the bridge into Gatineau. What started out as a fun family trip to skate on the Rideau Canal turned into a lesson in history, geography and social studies.

I always wanted to travel as much as possible with my children and show them the world. I am a firm believer that they can learn as much on a family vacation to a foreign country as they can in the classroom . . .I just didn’t think I would start teaching them in Ottawa !!

What do your children know about the country you live in?