Friday, January 8, 2010

Family Literacy Day, held annually on January 27th, was developed by ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation in 1999 to encourage families to make reading and learning together part of their daily lives. Thousands of Canadians take part in this initiative every year by hosting FLD parties or participating in literacy activities in schools, libraries and literacy organizations across the country.

Reading, writing, playing a game, following a recipe, or even singing a song can help sharpen literacy skills in adults and kids alike, to say nothing of the fun you'll have together!

As it happens, a new mom I know recently asked me to recommend some books for her daughter. Here are some of our family's favorites, for new readers on up to the Kindergarten set and beyond. What better time to stock the shelves? Visit your local bookseller or library to get ready for Family Literacy Day 2010 and a new year of story time at your house! Happy reading!

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill
The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
Shrek by William Steig
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Wednesday, January 6, 2010' Eats

One of the moms at my son's daycare asked me recently what I feed our 4 yo for supper. When I was first envisioning my life as a mother, I imagined that my kids would be encouraged to eat what we adults were eating and that, as often as possible, we'd sit down to a wholesome dinner together. The reality of our lives is that he needs to eat before the grown ups are ready and, thanks to some food allergies and his, er, discerning palette (he's the only kid I know who won't do pasta), he doesn't always eat what we're eating.

During my son's first year, he ate strictly organic homemade food. I was motivated by the promise of good health and fewer allergies. And I was a first time mom...a keener to say the least. Well, he's healthy enough, but we were blindsided to discover a tree nut and sesame allergy anyway.

Sensitivities aside, we lucked out with a great eater. Our boy will eat any variety of raw or cooked veggies, so the foundation is there. Lay on a protein and we're good to go. He likes baked beans or even plain kidney beans and chick peas, sausage, meatballs, chicken fingers, cheese and fish sticks. Heck, he'll even eat tofu. And then there's his lay-down-on-the-tracks devotion to hot dogs.

Here are some guiding principles that work around here:

Size matters...
Anything mini is an easy sell. Invest in mini muffin tins for anything from quiches and meatloaf to, well, muffins.

It's how you slice it...
My innovation for 2010 was to purchase a wavy knive...a blade that allows me to make krinkle-cut carrot coins and such. The krinkle cut knife is a fancy addition to the arsenal, but applying varied styles of cutting food up layers on interest and reinvents foods. Julienne, sticks, coins, shreds and cubes all add fun and interest to the plate (plus an opportunity to introduce geometry!) Last night's dinner was a one-man cocktail party of cheese cubes, turkey kielbasa triangles and carrot coins. All served with toothpicks to make it fun for the lad. He ate every last one of his kindergarten canapes.

What's in a name...
Get creative when referring to the foods you're serving. If you want to convince a kid to eat a vegetable pizza or quiche, call it "Rainbow Pie". Cut cucumbers into sticks and call them "spears" (boys dig any reference to weaponry, for better or worse). Cut French Toast into fingers and serve with a teeny bowl of syrup and call them "Toast Dippers". Serve hot dogs with baked beans as "Beaners and Wieners". Introduce edamame as "pea pods" get the idea. Best part about this name game is that I can offer carrots two ways (you want coins or spears?) and he chooses one. Empowerment for the child AND victory for the mom.

Keep it liquid...
I found a high protein soy-milk based vanilla chai drink at our local market that packs a protein whollop. I often give this to the little guy with his meals and it takes the pressure off knowing he's had something nutritious once he's guzzled down his "milkshake".

Give yourself a break...
Find healthy versions of the most convenient foods possible (chicken or veggie dogs over pork...low fat chicken meatballs...whole filet fish over minced preparations...steamed edamame...etc.) and have your child's favorite veggies at the ready. Taking the pressure off at mealtime makes it peaceful and more appetizing for everyone.

Bon appetit and good luck!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lately, a lot of people are asking me "how's the blog?"...and as much as I've loved it so far, I gotta admit: it's a bit like homework sometimes. Anyone who ever knew me in school knows I am a master procrastinator when it comes to homework. Hence the silence since we busted into this brand new decade.

But don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you. I'm sharpening my pencil.