Healthy Nutrition For The New Year!

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By: Cindy Nyquist (Guest Blog Writer – ECFE Teacher)

It is that time of the year when we try and make some positive changes! ECFE and School Readiness is trying to help our school snack be a much more healthy experience for our students. I am an ECFE teacher, not a dietitian, but here are some healthy suggestions that I have incorporated on my journey to better nutrition.

I think food is very complicated because it starts with how we were brought up. My parents grew up on farms where they did physical labor and ate 6 times a day. I don’t do physical labor, but unfortunately I grew up eating 3 meals and 3 sugary snacks. Eating healthy snacks was not done. I wasn’t exposed to raw vegetables with the exception of a carrot or even fresh vegetables. I don’t want to be offensive, but I don’t think anyone is going to jump up and down about a canned vegetable. When I see the kids that are exposed to fresh vegetables eating a piece of cucumber or a cherry tomato like it is the best thing ever, I have real regrets for not serving raw vegetables to my children. They say it takes 20 exposures to a new food to like it, so keep trying with those fresh vegetables!

If I could have a do over with my kids, I would swap out the orange juice they had with a green smoothie for breakfast. That way they are getting a vegetable even for breakfast. Spinach mixed with frozen fruit is very palatable! It is better for their blood sugar level also, and the increase in diabetes is definitely a motivator for wanting to have better nutrition! There are many inexpensive options for blending a smoothie. You can put beans in a smoothie and not even taste them, which is a good source of protein and fiber. I would also serve my children steel cut oatmeal or healthy multigrain pancakes instead of the high sugar, over-processed cereal they ate.

When I first started on a journey to better nutrition, I started with the goal of taking what I was already eating and adding more vegetables to it. Instead of tacos, I switched to chicken fajitas with peppers and onion; instead of spaghetti with just meat, I added zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Now I look at a bunch of veggies and get excited. It has so much more texture and color than what I had been eating.

Next, I started to overhaul my starches. Out with the white bread and pasta, white rice, and potatoes. In with the multigrain foods you will prefer if you continue eating them! Yukon Gold’s or sweet potatoes are good! Grains like quinoa are now more easily available. You need to have the mindset that you will someday like this new choice.

Now I am working on getting more proteins. I try and add beans to dishes, eat almonds as a snack, and an avocado on my eggs instead of cheese.

Snacks can be a real downfall to good nutrition. Try and think swapping what you’re enjoying for something better. Try eating popcorn without butter instead of chips. Instead of fruit snacks, offer apple slices to dip in almond butter or yogurt. They have many healthy Popsicle recipes online and you can make them in a Dixie cup with a stick.

I hope that you implement some healthy choices that keep moving in the right direction in 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

Get Moving!

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By:  Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

As a child, I never thought about exercise or even knew what that meant.  We would bike ride, roller skate, or run around the block or throughout our neighborhood.  We spent most of our playtime outside always moving.  Even in the winter, we were skating for hours on the outside ice rink or sliding up and down, “Monkey Hill.”  The great feat was trucking back up the big hill to slide back down again.  I rarely sat still, watching TV was something we only did on Saturday mornings, and computers and video games were not yet in the homes of American families.

Today, families are bombarded with social media and digital gadgets.  In fact, children spend an average of three hours a day watching television!  Children no longer run around the neighborhood all day returning home when the streetlights turn on.  Children spend more time in-doors, spending less time moving and more time sitting still.  Exercise is now something that needs to be planned or embedded into the day’s schedule.  From the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Children should be getting at least one- hour of physical activity every day.”  In order for children to be healthy, physical activity is essential.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or work . . . it should be fun!  Large motor development is significant for growing children.  Physical activity should be age-appropriate.  For young children, exercise is using their muscles and simply moving their bodies.  Parents play a significant part in helping their child become more physically active.  Listed below are 11 ways suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to get started:

  1. Talk with your pediatrician.  Your pediatrician can help your child understand why physical activity is important.  Your pediatrician also can suggest a sports activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity.  Help your child find a sport that she enjoys.  The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely it is that she will continue.  Get the entire family involved.  It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate.  For example, a seven-year old in not ready for weight lifting or a three-mile run, but soccer, bike riding, and swimming are appropriate activities.
  4. Plan ahead.  Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment.  Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe.  Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys.  Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model.  Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child.  Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV!   Limit television watching and computer or digital game use.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games each day.  Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise.  Some children are so over-scheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it.  When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body.  Exercise and physical activity should not hurt.  If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity.  As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it.

Source: Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Last updated 6/3/2013)

Physical activity begins as young as infancy from tummy time to crawling.   Physical activity should be enjoyment for children.  Physical activity promotes a healthy body and life style.  Just get your body moving and have your children involved by going for a bike ride, nature walk, or building a snowman.   There are many benefits to exercise from a better nights sleep, maintaining a healthier body, and improving motor coordination (just to name a few).

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  ~Jim Ryan.  I hope you become motivated to incorporate exercise into your family life.    Physical activity doesn’t have to be labor; we just need to strive to find the time for physical play and enjoyment!  As famously put by Nike, “Just Do It!”

Here are some resources on physical activity for children:

Exercise For Kids

http://www.parenting.com/fitgeneration

Kids Exercise: The 4 Types You Need

http://fit.webmd.com/kids/move/article/exercise-types

The Many Benefits of Exercise

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html

25 Exercise Games and Activities

https://mommypoppins.com/newyorkcitykids/25-exercise-games-indoor-activities-for-kids

Physical Activity in Early Childhood

http://www.excellence-earlychildhood.ca/documents/parenting_2011-04.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FALL BUCKET LIST

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Teacher)

I love making lists and a bucket list is especially fun. Each month I make a list of ideas for the season. I get lots of inspiration from Pinterest and fun activities that we have done as a family each year. Here is a fun filled Bucket List for Fall:

• Go on a hayride
• Go to a pumpkin patch
• Make an apple or pumpkin pie
• Have a campfire
• Go to an apple orchard
• Stay up until dark and watch the stars and moon
• Drink apple cider hot or cold (depending on the weather)
• Make a pile of leaves and jump in it
• Go to your local high school football game
• Go through a corn maze
• Collect acorns and leaves
• Watch Halloween kids movies – My favorite is, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
• Leaf rubbings with crayons
• Break out the fall wardrobe and jackets
• Fly a kite
• Run/walk a mini-marathon
• Go to the farmers market
• Decorate the house in fall colors and window decals
• Make homemade soup with the kids
• Go trick or treating
• Roast pumpkin seeds
• Carve pumpkins
• Make pinecone bird feeders
• Host a Halloween party
• Make a costume from scratch
• Send homemade Halloween cards
• Bob for apple
• Make Carmel apples
• Plant a tree
• Take family photos outside
• Visit a farm
• Go to a fall festival
• Take a hike
• Go on a leaf drive during the leaf color peak
• Read outside
• Picnic in the park
• Take a flashlight walk at night
• Plant fall flowers
• Make S’mores
• Ride Bikes
• Make a gratitude jar
• Photo shot in Halloween costumes
• Play outdoors whenever possible
• Go to the zoo
• Donate to the food bank
• Enjoy the weather!

What’s on your Fall Bucket List?

Quotes to Inspire Kids!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

I love quotes. Often, I can find the words I am trying to express by starting with a famous quote. Here are a few I found that can help inspire the youngest of minds.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present’.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“The time is always right to do what is right.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
-Judy Garland

“Don’t let what you can’t do
stop you from doing what you can do.”
-John Wooden

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Anything can happen child, anything can be!”
-Shel Silverstein

“If you have good thoughts…they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
-Ronald Dahl

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
-Robert Munsh

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can!”
-Watty Pipper

“The more he gave away, the more delighted he became.”
-Marcus Pfister

“It is when we are most lost that we sometimes find our truest friends.”
-Brothers Grimm from Snow White

“When you know better you do better.”
-Maya Angelou

“No one is perfect – that’s why pencils have erasers.”
-Wolfgang Riebe

“Never waste a minute thinking of anyone you don’t like.”
-Eisenhower

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
-Dr. Suess

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
-Dr. Suess

“We must be the change we want to see.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
-Mark Twain

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
-Helen Keller

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
-Dalai Lama

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
-Walt Disney

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
-Dr. Seuss

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
-Dr. Seuss

“Only surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.”
-Oprah Winfrey

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
-Anthony Brandt

Helping Your Child Through Separation Anxiety

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

When my daughter first started daycare as a toddler she suffered with separation anxiety. I remember each day dropping her off and she would cry and look at me with bewildered eyes. As soon as we got into the car each morning, the lower lip would drop and I could see the anxiety in her face as we drove to child- care. I dreaded each morning because I knew she would be sad when I left and sometimes would cry or pull on my leg; it broke my heart! This went on for over a month. Finally, my daughter made a new friend and looked forward to playing with her. She also started to have fun making art projects, playing on the playground and being with other children her age at daycare. We finally came to the day when I would drop her off, give her a hug, walk to the door and say good-bye without tears (from either of us). I remember how hopeless I felt until we came up with some strategies for her separation anxiety with her teacher that truly helped. One thing I also learned was that it helped to have a “Good-bye Routine” that was expected each day, which made it much easier for us both to separate. I must admit, it was hard for me to say good-bye too, but when she saw my happy face and enthusiasm at each drop-off, she began to smile as well!

Separation Anxiety in young children is a normal stage of development. One thing to keep in mind is that separation anxiety is also a good sign that healthy attachment has been developed between child and caregiver. It is important for children to realize that even when their parent separates from them, that they will return. Separation is a great time to develop coping strategies and independence.

Listed below are a few tips that can help you and your child at times of separations (especially the first day of school):

  • Role-play with your child what will happen at drop off time. Practice pretending to walk to the door, give each other a hug and wave good-bye. Make a good-bye routine and practice it with your child. Then when you need to separate, follow the same routine you practiced together. End with a special ritual whether it is a giving a high-five or hug, before you exit (never sneak away).
  • Practice separating from your child by having a caregiver watch your child for a few hours or plan a play date.
  • Read stories to your child about school and separation from parents. My daughter’s favorite book was, I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

Other Helpful Books:

What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff

Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss

Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

  • Make good-byes short and sweet. It never helps your child if you linger. Even if they begin to cry, do your last good-bye ritual, smile and tell your child you’ll be back, and head out the door. Always keep a brave face, and if you need to cry do it when you’re out of sight of your child (I did this for months!). Keep in mind, your child is fine and there are teachers and other children that are with him/her.
  • Make sure to get up a little extra early the morning of the first day, so no one feels rushed!  The mornings we are not rushed tends to make for a better drop off.
  • Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep and is going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.
  • Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.
  • Drive by the school/daycare and point out, “There’s your new school!”
  • Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House). Show your child where you will be dropping off and where you will be saying good-bye. Let your child explore their new room making sure they know where their belongings go and where the bathroom is.
  • Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at preschool or daycare (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school/childcare.
  • Go Shopping for school supplies with your child. Let them pick out their own backpack or folders. Make it a fun excursion just to get ready for school
  • The night before the big day, have all items laid out with their outfit and all school supplies needed. Let your child help too. They’ll enjoy picking out what they would like to wear.
  • Putting comfort items in your child’s backpack will help if they start to feel homesick. If it is a necklace they can wear, a picture of their family taped in their folder, or a special teddy bear can help children feel less anxious.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate with your child at pick-up time! Tell your child how proud you are of them!

It will generally take a few weeks before your child fully adjusts to a new school or childcare. Keep your morning routine consistent and your good-byes short, and your child will ultimately separate without tears or struggle and this will also build your child’s confidence.

Listed below are some other websites for more strategies on separation anxiety for young children:

http://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-tips-for-reducing-separation-anxiety-in-young-children/

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/starting-preschool/separation-anxiety/dealing-with-separation-anxiety/

http://moms.popsugar.com/5-Tips-Easing-Your-Baby-Separation-Anxiety-27330657

http://www.ounceofprevention.org/ready-to-learn/separation-anxiety-in-children.php

http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/toddlers/helping-your-toddler-with-separation-anxiety

Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

• Go back to school shopping with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.

• School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.

• Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.

• Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.

• Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.

• Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.

• Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
o Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
o Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
o Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
o Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

• Start reading books about going to school for the first time.
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.

• Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Daniel (Tiger) Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, Nickelodeon: The First Day of School, Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School, and Leap Frog Let’s Go To School.

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.

• Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy summer!

Outdoor Fun Around Town!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Summer is the perfect time of year to enjoy all the fun places you can go in Minnesota with the kids! Listed below is a list of activities and places of interest around our state and town that you can do outdoors:

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/
Free Family Event Schedule 2016
https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/2016%20Event%20Schedule(2).pdf
Wildlife and nature viewing from sandhill cranes, eagles, plants, butterflies and the smallest of the animal species.

Elm Creek Park Reserve
https://www.threeriversparks.org/parks/elm-creek-park.aspx
The park features more than 20 miles of paved hiking and biking trails, miles of turf hiking trails, a chlorinated swimming pond, children’s play area and more!

Downtown Elk River Riverfront Concerts
http://www.elkrivermn.gov/DocumentCenter/View/469
Check out the Thursday night live concerts at downtown Elk River’s Rivers Edge Commons Park all summer long.

Oliver Kelly Farm
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-farm
Meet the animals in the barn and help work on the farm by picking vegetables or churning butter in the kitchen.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/
Over 1,100 acres of gardens, woods and trails.

Walker Arts Center Sculpture Garden
http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2008/walker-on-the-green-artist-designed-mini-golf
There are many free events including Free First Saturdays.

Como Zoo and Conservatory
http://www.comozooconservatory.org/
Not only can you visit the animals and gardens, the zoo and conservatory offers many different activities, classes and programs. Blooming Butterflies opened on June 17th.

Minnehaha Regional Park
https://www.minneapolisparks.org/parks__destinations/parks__lakes/minnehaha_regional_park/
Minnehaha Regional Park covers 167 acres of nature, gardens and waterfalls.

Harriet Alexander Nature Center
http://www.ci.roseville.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=183
The boardwalk and trails circulate through 52 acres of marsh, prairie and forest habitats.

Woodland Trails Park – Elk River
http://www.elkrivermn.gov/facilities/Facility/Details/31
Bike, walk or hike the trails.

Lake Maria State Park – Monticello
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_maria/index.html
The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Things to do in Elk River with the kids!
http://www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-usa/elk-river/mn
Many activities and attractions listed with detailed information and directions to each location.

There are so many ways to explore Minnesota and there is so much that our state has to offer. For even more events and activities go to:
Explore Minnesota
http://www.exploreminnesota.com/things-to-do/

Time to put on the sunscreen and discover all that summer has to offer. See the sights and travel around! Minnesota summers sure fly by . . . so take pleasure in it while you can. We’ll be shoveling snow soon enough!