Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Literature for Babies

I discovered these books in a parenting magazine while waiting to get my hair cut. I was curious to see how they could possibly recreate these stories from William Shakespeare and other classic authors without making them completely inappropriate. Well, I looked them up on Amazon.com where you can flip through the pages of each book. Turns out they are extremely cute and simple books with colorful illustrations that mainly focus on counting. These would make an excellent addition to any expecting parents nursery library.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Bath Paints

These paints are so simple, and the tots love them. All you'll need is some shaving cream and food coloring. Yep, that''s it. We used a muffin tin to mix each color in. Put a few drops of each color in each cup then put  foaming shaving cream on top. I suggest putting the color in first so it's more of a surprise for the little ones when the white shaving cream magically turns colored ;) My son had a blast helping make it and creating a masterpiece on the shower wall. It rinsed off really easy too, no colored stains left behind.

Friday, January 27, 2012

MotherReader: Twenty-One Ways to Give a Book

MotherReader: Twenty-One Ways to Give a Book: I can be a little bit obsessive. When I get an idea in my head, I can’t let go. And lists... oh, am I obsessive about lists. So after think...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shark Cake Topper

I made this shark cake for my nephews eleventh birthday. Originally we decided on a shark fin but I couldn't resist making something a little more challenging that I knew would wow my nephew. Here are the steps I took to make the cake topper.

Step 1 Shark Teeth:
Days before assembling my shark topper I hand molded the shark teeth with fondant. I just flattened the fondant and cut out triangles in different sizes. To make them more realistic and sharp looking I flattened two of the edges with my fingers. Then you set them out to dry for a couple of days so they harden. I would suggest making extras just  in case some brake.

Step 2 Mold Shark:
I made a batch of Rice Krispies treats (the recipe is on the rice krispies cereal box). I used the whole batch to mold my shark head. Be sure to make indentations for the eyes and cut the mouth open.

Step 3 Frost Shark:
Once your happy with the shape of your shark cover with a layer of frosting. This will help your fondant stick and minimize bumps.

Step 4 Color Fondant:
I cheated and bought my fondant from the store then colored about a tennis sized ball worth of it. I used cauliflower blue gel food coloring. Apply to the center of your fondant ball with a toothpick then knead the color in until it's completely blended. The amount of gel food coloring completely depends on what shade of color you are trying to achieve.  I would start with very little food coloring and add more until you achieve your desired shade.

Step 5 Roll it out:
You'll need to roll out your blue colored fondant along with white (same size). Roll your fondant out about an eighth inch thick. Make sure you roll it out larger than the surface that needs to be covered, keeping in mind the shape and indentations.

Step 6 Apply Fondant:
I started by cutting the bottom of my fondant to make
 a strait edge then lined that up with the base of the shark. Use your hand to smooth surface and fill the indentations. You'll end up with a fold of extra fondant on the nose area, just cut and smooth seem with fingertips. In addition you will have to cut off the extra fondant making a straight line down the middle of your shark. Do the same with the white fondant.

Step 7, 8, 9...:
Cut a Whopper in half and use some left over frosting to glue his eyeballs on. I painted the inside of his mouth with rose peddle pink gel food coloring. The gums are made out of pink frosting that I happen to have a tube of on hand. I added pink gel on top of that to give it a realistic wet look. I also cut slits on the sides for his gills and put some pink gel inside. I poked holes for his nose with a cake decorating tool (a skewer will work), added the teeth, and for the finishing touch I steamed it to give it a wet look.

If your not using your shark topper right away don't forget to REFRIGERATE IT.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Benefits of Reading to your Child

Many studies have demonstrated that reading to your child has many priceless benefits.
For example, a study was made in Rhode Island Hospital to compare two groups of eight months old – one group was read to often as babies, while the other was not.  It was shown that those who were read to have their “receptive” vocabularies (number of words they understand) increased 40 per cent since babyhood, while the non-reading group increased by only 16 per cent.
Indeed, reading to your kid is one of the most effective way of building the “language” neural connections in his growing brain.

Other benefits of reading to your kid are as follows:
  • Reading to your kid makes you bond with him, and this gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.
  • The intimacy of reading to your kid is such a pleasurable experience to him that he will have a positive attitude towards reading as he grows up.
  • It calms your child, especially when he is fretful and restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • Pre-school children who are exposed to language by hearing words that are read to him and in conversation tend to do well in school.
  • It promotes longer attention span, which is an important skill for your kid to be able to concentrate.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
  • Your young child learns about colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, while your older child discovers an expanding chain of knowledge.  His interest in cars, for example, will expand to his interest in trucks, and other transportation like planes and rockets, and soon he will be reading about outer space, science and technology, and so forth.
  • Books teach your child about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world he lives in.  Fantasy books provide material for his imagination and free play.  Fairy tales fascinate your kid, and help him distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Here are some tips to remember on reading to your kid so he will grow up a reader:
  • Since your kid imitates your behavior, let him see you read books.  Let him know that reading is a part of life!
  • Let your child feel that reading a book with him is a pleasurable and enjoyable experience, and not a stressful activity that you are forcing him to do.
  • Form a habit of reading to him at the same time each day, or at least several times a week.  Choose a time when you and your child are both relaxed and not rushed.
  • Choose books that your kid will be most interested in, and appropriate for his age. A young child likes colorful drawings and pictures of people.
  • To help your child understand that letters and words are symbols that are used to communicate, run your finger under the print but don’t force your child to follow your finger.
  • Sometimes, your kid likes a particular book and wants to read it repeatedly.  Do not discourage this, since he finds reading this book pleasurable - and pleasure is what he should get from reading!  Also, he is getting the most out of this book and is giving you a hint about his interest!
  • Expose your kid though to a variety of books.
  • You can use reading as a way to allay your child’s fears or prepare him for changes in his life.  For example, you can choose books about using the potty, going to school, or moving to a new house when he is about to have these new experiences.
  • Teach your child to treasure books and treat them with respect – keeping them clean and in good condition.
  • Surround your kid with books.  Keep books where your kid can easily reach them so he will be able to browse them by himself.
  • Take books to read to your child on long trips and places where you have to wait like the doctor’s office.Tips on Reading to Your toddler:
Tips on Reading to Your toddler:
  • Do things that will make reading a book more entertaining to your child – and to you.  You can use different tones of voice for different situations, choose different voices for characters, and so on.  It is not just what you are reading that matters, but also how you read it.
  • You may tell the story in your own words if the words on the book is too complex for your child, and you don’t want him to lose interest.
  • Give your child time to make the most out of every page of the book.  Encourage him to look at the pictures, point out objects, repeat words, and talk about the story.
  • Ask questions like “Who did that?”, “What is she doing?”, “What is that called?”.   Also, to keep your child involved in the story, do not read straight through.  Ask questions like “Why do you think it happened?” and “What do you think will happen next?”
  • After reading a book, take time to ask your child question about what he liked or didn’t like about the story.
  • To build your child’s vocabulary, ask him about where an object is in the book.  Praise him every time he points or names an object.
  • Choose books that tell a story with a lot of repetition and have the same words appearing over and over.
  • If you have more than one child, read to each child separately, especially if they’re more than 2 years apart.  Reading to children with different ages together is also a good practice.

Potty Training Books

Here are some of our top picks that we checked out from our local library. These were mommy approved and my son's favorites from our selection. I found that my son wasn't interested in the potty books that were too long, or tried to incorporate other subjects, like the abc's etc.
For the Trainee

Superhero Potty Time is a step by step "how to" guide but with a fun superhero spin on it including some interactive pull tabs etc. that will keep them enthralled.  
Everyone Poops is a funny one. It takes you through a journey of poop, explaining that anything that eats must poop :)
Potty is a simple book about a toddlers thought process before using the potty.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Zucchini Carrot Muffins

These Zucchini Carrot Muffins are delicious and a great way to sneak some vegetables into your kids diet without a fuss. I’ve tried a healthier version of this recipe a few times (substituting some sugar with applesauce, and additional whole wheat flour). The texture just never came out right.  I even baked it for almost double the time required and the middles still came out gooey. Gooey middles aren’t very reassuring when egg is one of the ingredients in the recipe.  I found a few other similar recipes that I added to, and took some things out, coming up with my own concoction.  They turned out great. These would be a hit with both moms and kids at a morning play date, or just to have around the house for a healthy snack.

2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1cup all-purpose flour
1cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
Grease and flour 12 muffin cups or use paper cups. Heat oven to 375°.
In a mixing bowl, beat the oil with eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract.
Combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; add to the wet ingredients; stirring until blended. Fold in the shredded zucchini and carrots.
Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or granulated sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool in the muffin tins for a few minutes then place on the wire rack.
Makes 12

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hug a Pretzel

Here's a quick, cheap, and easy snack that is sure to impress. Usually I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate, but in this case the combination of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and salty pretzel complement each other perfectly. Enjoy!

All you need is one bag of these butter snap pretzels, and a bag of Hershey's Hugs.
Step #1: Put a layer of pretzels on the pan.
Step #2: Place one Hug on each pretzel.
Step #3: Place in oven on 350 for two minutes.
Step #4: Place another pretzel on top of the kiss, and let cool.

The hardest part is unwrapping all the Hugs, but worth it. Plus the kids like to help with the unwrapping anyway :)

Clean Out the Fridge Smoothie

If you have a toddler in the house, like us, then your probably going to have a verity of fruits available. Sometimes we don’t get to all our fruit before it goes bad. A great way to get rid of an abundance of fruit before going bad is to make SMOOTHIES. It’s a healthy snack that the kiddos love, and love to help toss the ingredients in the blender. For this smoothy we just through together all the fruit we had available that was nearing it's expiration date along with a few other ingredients, hence the name Clean out the Fridge Smoothy. It's easy and delicious.

1 banana
about 1/2 cup blueberries
1 peach snack cup in light syrup (drain the syrup)
2 yoplait snack cups (strawberry banana flavor)
about 1/3 cup milk
about 1 tsp sugar

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Pre-Potty Training

    These past couple of weeks I have been focusing on paving the road ahead for….DUM, DUM, DUMMM, potty training. It’s one of those milestones you hear horror stories about so I’m going to make sure this momma is prepared.

    Getting Ready
    Pre-potty training is more or less about introducing the concept of having to use the potty, but without actually putting your child on the Potty. This is to warm the child up to the concept so it’s not a total shock the day you start potty training. Here's Some examples of  suggestions I've found for pre-potty training that we've been incorporating in our daily routine. This one we've been doing ever since my son could walk, involuntarily. When our son fallows us to the bathroom it came pretty natural for us to narrate the steps we took to use the potty, ending it with a joyous “bye, bye- pee,pee!”. I think once most babies learn to walk they fallow mommy and daddy into the bathroom anyway. If they don't already, and your looking to start potty training soon...well you know what they say, "monkey see, monkey do". During diaper changes we’ve been incorporating potty vocabulary more often then regular (pee-pee, poo-poo, wet, dry, clean, dirty, when your ready your going to learn to pee and poop in the potty like mommy and daddy).  My toddler already enjoys trying to be more independent, and when he’s potty trained he’ll be in a whole new league of independence. I’ve been trying to back off and encourage him to try to do some things on his own, if we have time (put on his socks, pull up his pants, get in his seat’s by himself, pour his own water, etc). This will give him a taste of independence, build his confidence, and make potty training less intimidating. I also checked out a few fun potty training books for the whole family . Word of advice, read through the book before showing them to your child.  Some may illustrate some habits you don’t want your child do pick up, like peeing on the wall or waring the potty for a hat.  I checked out every ”how to” potty training book they had available, even one for dad. I will be posting our favorites later.

    Three Crucial Factors
    From what I’ve read so far I can tell you there are only three crucial factors before starting potty training. These will help in achieving a pleasant and successful potty training experience.

    #1 Don’t dwell on the fact that little Timmy down the street is already running around in his Scooby-Doo underwear. I know sometimes we can feel pressure from friends, family, and even daycare providers. Regardless of contrary belief you can rest assure there is no study that provides a correlation between kids who potty train sooner, and kids with high I.Q.’s. Here's a great tip to get those people who question your parental choices about the topic. Quote a doctor or a book. Many people accept your point of view if a medical professional or published has validated it.

    #2 Do not start potty training until your child is ready. I think this is the most important factor. If you start before your child is ready you’ll run into a lot of setbacks. This can ultimately end in having to stop the process altogether than restart when your child is ready, or make the process longer than necessary. There are many signals to look for to determine if your child is ready (the potty dance, squatting, stopping activity, etc.). The book I’m reading even has a quiz you can take that tells you if your child is ready. Isn’t that great?

    #3 Your attitude. It’s going to be a challenge at times but remain calm, positive, and supportive. Accidents are bound to happen, just deal with it and move on. Try to make it a fun experience for the both of you. Reward him with some special stickers or a prize of some sort for every time he does his business in the potty. Try to be creative and have fun with it.