Enjoy Breakfast as a Family

You’ve heard the saying so many times it seems trite: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

But even though it may be cliche, nutritionists will tell you this tidbit is absolutely true. “Not only is skipping breakfast bad for a child’s metabolism, but it also means they’ll be so hungry later that they’re much more likely to make poor food choices throughout the day,” says Heather Cupp, a registered dietitian at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Family breakfastAnyone with kids knows, however, that weekday morning meals are usually the most hectic. With a limited amount of time to get everyone up, dressed and off to camp, school or day care, it’s no wonder that fitting in a healthy breakfast can seem like an impossible feat.

No matter how busy your weekday mornings, the whole family can still eat well. All it takes are a few key planning decisions and some smart food choices. Below, our experts’ strategies for turning the rushed (or nonexistent!) morning meal into a healthy, enjoyable group activity:

1. Prep ahead.

Do as much as you can ahead of time to minimize the morning rush. If you’re having blueberry pancakes for Sunday brunch, make a few extra batches that you can freeze and use throughout the week. If hot cereal is a favorite, prep a few days’ worth of servings in your slow cooker and keep a big bowl in the fridge. Save even more time by setting the table and packing the car the night before.

2. Optimize your kitchen setup.

Save valuable minutes in the future by taking time now to organize your kitchen so you can easily find the things you regularly need for breakfast, says Kim Cosentino, owner of The De-Clutter Box, an organizing company in Westmont, Illinois. “Think of the cabinets on either side of the stove as prime real estate, and use them for items that you use on a regular basis,” says Cosentino. “If you cook hot oatmeal a lot, put the oatmeal box in the cabinet next to the stove.” Similarly, store glasses near the fridge and sink, and stash dishes and silverware near the dishwasher to save time unloading.

3. Think outside the box.

If you’ve got a picky eater who turns up her nose at traditional breakfast foods, there’s no reason the morning meal can’t be a sandwich or even last night’s dinner. “When I have leftover pasta of some sort, I heat that up or make a point of cooking some sort of pasta the night before so I just have to nuke it in the a.m.,” says Susan McQuillan, a New York City-based registered dietitian, writer and mother. “Usually the pasta already has some sort of vegetable in it, like broccoli — or I just add chopped-up cherry tomatoes and olives before serving.”

4. Put the kids to work.

The more routine steps your kids do on their own, the more time you’ll have to prepare and serve a healthy breakfast. So make it easy for them to pick out their own outfits and dress themselves every morning by organizing their closets and drawers by type of clothing (underwear in one drawer, shirts in another, etc.). Also put a “clean or dirty” magnet on the dishwasher to get them involved in setting the table and clearing it afterwards.

5. Make it quick, easy and healthy.

“The ideal breakfast includes protein and fiber, both of which fill kids up and sustain them all morning,” says Elisa Zeid, a New York City-based registered dietitian and the author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. By contrast, a couple of hours after eating a sugary, high-carb breakfast like a donut or pastry, “a child’s blood sugar will drop, and he won’t be able to concentrate.” Preparing a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to take a long time. All of the following kid-friendly meals can be put together in just a few minutes:

  • A peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk
  • Trail mix made of nuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal
  • Yogurt parfait made with high-fiber cereal and fresh fruit
  • Slice of leftover veggie pizza, warmed in the toaster oven
  • Corn tortilla with melted cheese and salsa
  • String cheese, a handful of nuts and a banana

Christmas in July

I was recently in an airport and found myself with an Christmas in Julyunexpected two and a half hour layover. As I often do in such situations I put my headphones on, turned my MP3 on random selection and began to wander the halls. I soon found myself humming a Christmas song. I know it is a Christmas song because I got it off a Christmas Album. Plus I only hear it around Christmas time and this is the source of my consternation.

I like this song-like the words and the sentiment. I found myself asking why do we hear and sing this song a few weeks a year. The song goes like this.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be…With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow; to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

It’s not overly religious; God is mentioned one time- that’s it. So why only once a year? I would like to see peace in my life, global peace. Peace between people of all faiths and beliefs, maybe not in my generation- but the generation of our kids. It seems to me we will be a lot more likely to succeed if we teach and sing this song, say these words, and hold this vision all year long. What a great gift to give our kids. We hear about war, every night on the news. We will never achieve peace by focusing on war. Imagine if we spent as much time on and focused on peace with the same frequency and verve.

PS- Christmas is celebrated in July in many cultures- so why not peace.

I wish you Peace, Jim

My New Buddy Brian – Questions for Every Parent

This past weekend I was out walking my pack o dogs on one of our many trails. We were almost back to the parking lot and let me tell you we were hot. I had some bottles of water for me and a jug of water for the dogs. Right where we were to Beautiful day for a rideturn off to the parking lot there is a “T”. You could go North or South or to the parking lot. Here at this T junction was a special needs teenager on a adult tricycle looking back and forth, North and South, North and South. I watched for a minute while the dogs panted and waited. I asked him if he needed help and his response was to ask where his Dad was. This young man’s name was Brian. He had passed me about ten minutes earlier and was alone- no one else was with him.

Brian did not know whether to go North or South or which direction he had just come from. On his own he did not know what to do. He did know his Dad’s cell number. Brian did not have a phone but I never go anywhere without mine so we called his Dad. Of course we got voice mail but Brian left a message. We walked/rode to my car and we all had some water. Within about 10 minutes, Dad called back, very worried. Dad did not know the area very well and another hiker and I were able to eventually talk him to where we were. Brian had actually made it quite far- several miles at least.

When Dad along with Mom showed up one of Mom’s questions was to ask whether or not Brian had asked for help-whether or not he recognized he was in trouble on his own and asked for help. My answer to Mom that he did not- visibly upset her. Even though this was a minor event that turned out well- I’ve given it quite a lot of thought.

  • When does a child know they are in trouble?
  • When do they know it is time to ask for help?
  • When is a child too young to go off riding on their own or walking to a neighbor?
  • A recent article here on PediatricSafety reminded parents to teach the 911 number to their young children. Along with 911 do our kids know our phone numbers?
  • What is the right age to consider a cell for our kids for emergencies if for no other reason?
  • Do our kids know our real names are not Mom and Dad?
  • Do they know their address?
  • If we are separated from our kids do they know what to do? Do we?

I like to think that I’m a pretty decent guy and I tend to think most people are too. Most- not all as the headlines remind us. It only takes seconds or minutes for something bad to happen. I realize this asks more questions that it provides answers. I hope others chime in and offer sound advice.

Summer Homework Battles

Katie Marshall, a middle schooler from St. Louis has to read two books before school starts. That’s 350 pages in all, and each one is turning slowly, says her mother, Jan, with a sigh. “Great. She only has 330 summer homework - yuckmore to go.” Last year, Katie ended up bagging the book and watching the movie version, Holes, the night before school began.

It’s the worst feeling: Summer’s almost over, and your child hasn’t cracked that first book open yet. Or gotten a grip on the poster project. Or started the report on Neil Armstrong. To keep you both from getting steamed over summer homework assignments, try a different approach from the one you use during the school year. Sara Lise Raff, creator of the blog “Ask The Educator” and a former K-8 teacher, tells you how:

Summer-ize the schedule Sit down with your child and choose two or three days per week for homework. Saturday and Sunday may work best for day campers, plus one other evening, Raff suggests. If your child wants to keep weekends free, opt for his least-scheduled days. Try to keep the days consistent so your child knows what’s coming up.

Play to his strength Match the weakest subject to the child’s best (and happiest) time of day. If he’s more energetic and thinks more clearly after a lazy breakfast and before the movie at the mall, hit the hardest subject during that time frame. Let him choose the times he wants to work on the other subjects.

Incorporate technology — to a point Access to a computer or laptop is a given by now. But talking or texting on the cell during homework time — especially to pals trying to lure him to the pool — won’t get the job done. Set the ground rules upfront: He can check the phone every 40 minutes or after he has finished — whichever comes first.

Loosen up on the setting Summer is about freedom. If a child has a laptop, let her take it to the backyard for writing assignments. Tweens can tote their laptops to a coffee bar and settle in with a muffin, provided a parent is nearby to stem forays into Facebook. “The cool factor can make a big difference to kids this age, who want to look social and hip,” adds Raff, herself a mother of three.

Bend the rules Impromptu trips to the lake and spur-of-the-moment barbecues are the special gifts of summer. When they get offered to your child during a scheduled homework time, be flexible once in a while. On the spot, decide together when he’s going to do the work, then tell him to go have fun. “Your flexibility will prove you’re willing to compromise, so perhaps next time there’s a battle brewing, he will too,” Raff remarks.

Keep her reading Some schools require students to read a certain number of books of their own choosing; others allow them to select titles from a list. In either case, your child should choose carefully, according to advice from the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. A child is more likely to complete a book about a passion or in a favorite genre than one selected randomly. Breaking the reading into small chunks also helps, says Raff. She recommends a minimum of 20 minutes every night — more if your child can handle it. Suggest reading in different parts of your home or outside and bring your own book or magazine along to keep her company. To entice a reluctant reader with new technology, consider buying a wireless book reader, like a Kindle, that the whole family can use. At $300 and up, “it’s expensive,” says Raff. “But it’s worth the investment if it encourages a child to read.”

Summer Days

So far between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, over 70 children have already summer sportsdrowned and there have been another 80 near drownings. Since this heatwave began just a few days ago, over 9 people have died from heat-related events. Being outside in 100-degree weather causes adults to lose a quart of water each hour. Water loss in children is proportional. Very young children are more susceptible. And the effects of the heat- may be fatal in as little as a day.

Temperatures on the asphalt are typically ten degrees more than surrounding grass. And autos- even with windows ‘cracked’ may reach temperatures in excess of 130 degrees in just a few minutes. This is never a safe place for kids or pets-not even for a few seconds-NEVER. Don’t do it. It’s also difficult to know the right thing to do when it comes to kids sports activities such as little league and youth soccer. When is it too hot? When should a game be called on account of heat?

You rarely if ever hear of a little league game being called due to heat but at least once a year there is a headline about a child who dies playing in the incredible heat. And we wonder why, why did they play? No kid wants to be the wimp and no parent wants to be the only one- the only holdout who hears, ‘but Mom all the other kids still get to go.’ Here are some tips to help keep your child safe this summer.

Pool Safety-What can you do?

  • Never let kids swim alone- keep a close eye- look for problems. If you can’t keep a dedicated eye- postpone your child’s swim even if you must endure some whining.
  • Make sure all pools are fenced and gated. Invest in floating alarms.
  • Keep flotation devices poolside.
  • If your pool is not deep- is not designed for diving- tell kids it’s not allowed- mean it.
  • Learn CPR

This Heat- What can you do.

  • Keep water handy. Drink up before you feel thirsty- stay ahead of dehydration. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are not as good as water and sports drinks.
  • Keep kids cool especially infants they simply have the same temperature regulation capability that we do.
  • Same with seniors- the most dangerous place for many seniors is in their home. Either they have no AC or won’t use it due to limited funds. Take them to a senior center, mall or cooling station.
  • If you must go outside for any time- WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  • If a person in this heat stops sweating get help immediately- this may be heat stroke- a serious medical emergency.
  • Learn CPR

Sports Activities- What can you do?

  • Speak up- voice your concerns- talk to other parents and coaches.
  • Have these discussions with league authorities prior to the first game being played. There are similar understandings and rules for when there is lightning in the area. Make it a rule.
  • Get a doctor involved. Perhaps one of the parents is a doctor and can help set realistic guidelines.
  • Remember too that this is not a safe environment for grandparents, siblings, and others with heart and other health problems.
  • If it comes down to it- when all else fails, even if you are the only one- keep your child back if you feel its too damn hot.

The Importance of Teaching Kids to Use 911

Would your child know what to do in an emergency? Does your child know what is a real emergency (and what isn’t) and how to call 911?

9-1-1 for Kids 2Have you talked about and practiced how to handle a variety of emergency scenarios?

Kids as young as three years old can begin learning how and when to call 911 in the event of an emergency. Knowing what to teach kids about 911 is essential to ensure they use it properly and do not call 911 unnecessarily.

Here are some helpful tips for teaching the proper use of 911:

  1. Always teach your child the number is 9-1-1, not 9-11. You and I know there is not an “eleven” button on the phone, but young children do not and may waste valuable time trying to find the “eleven” button. Teach your child how to dial the phone using a play telephone or an unplugged or non-working phone. Do NOT actually call 911 while teaching your child. Pretend to be the dispatcher and ask what the emergency is and where. Coach your child on how to talk clearly and give the information necessary to help the dispatcher.
  2. The right time to call 911: Role-play different scenarios with your child, such as, “What would you do if the house was on fire?” or “What would you do if someone was very badly hurt or unconscious?” Talk about different types of emergencies and how to respond to them. It is also critical to teach kids never to call 911 as a joke or prank, and not to call for non-emergencies, as this can cause emergency responders to waste time that is needed for true emergencies elsewhere. In most cities, calling 911 as a joke is considered a crime and legal action may be taken. If you accidently dial 911, stay on the line and tell the operator that it was an accident. Do not hang up before telling the operator that it was a misdial, otherwise responders may be sent because they will assume there is an emergency. For non-emergency calls to the police or other authorities, post the non-emergency numbers near the phone.
  3. Call from a safe location: If the house is on fire, make sure your child understands that they need to go to a pre-determined meeting place or to a neighbor’s house before calling 911.
  4. Stay calm: It is easy to panic in an emergency. By practicing and discussing different types of emergencies, your child will be better prepared to stay calm and be able to talk to the dispatcher. Explain to your child that it is important to stay as calm as possible so they can give information to the 911 dispatcher and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.
  5. Give your name, address (or location if the emergency is not at home), and state the nature of the emergency: Kids need to know their name, address, and tell the dispatcher what is wrong so the dispatcher can determine which responders need to be sent. It is also a good idea to have your address posted near the phone, along with 911 and other emergency numbers.
  6. Do not hang up until the dispatcher tell you it is okay to hang up: Dispatchers are trained to stay on the line with callers, especially kids, to make sure the emergency responders arrive at the appropriate location and in case any thing changes with the situation that needs to be communicated to the responders.
  7. Check out the following resources for additional help with teaching kids how to use 911:
      • There is a great new educational DVD, “9-1-1: Getting Help is Easy”, starring Cell Phone Sally, which teaches life-saving 9-1-1 skills to kids ages 5-8 (but I think all ages can learn from and enjoy it). Check out the trailer and videos with your kids here:
      • http://www.youtube.com/user/CellPhoneSally911

Additional resources: