As a mum, there are a number of essentials that you should should keep iny our handbag to help with those emergency moments, or to keep the little ones entertained. Here are some items that we recommend you try to keep on you at all times:-
- wet wipes
- pack of wax crayons
- notebook (for sheets of paper)
- dry snacks
- bottle of water
- mobile phone
Of course, if your little ones are still in nappies then there's a whole load more that you'll be carrying around with you!
Look out for practical and small versions of everything. Carry handy packs of wet wipes and tissues, a small pack of crayons, the sort that restaurants give away with kids' meals, and small packets of dry snacks, such as the little boxes of raisins or other dry fruits. Although all of these are more expensive than full sized items, many are available in multipacks which makes for slightly better value. You don't want to become a pack horse, but having these to hand could be helpful when you find yourself stuck outside of home.
No one goes anywhere without their mobile these days but beside being available those emergency calls ('I've locked myself out of the house!' or 'The car won't start!'), smart phones can store photos and music. Download a few toddler friendly games too to help kill time when you're stuck in a queue, or waiting for a doctor's appointment etc.
When childminders give children snacks and meals, the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework requires that they be 'healthy, balanced and nutritious'. It's fairly easy to whip up a meal that fills the criteria because you can balance a meal with fresh vegetables and use fresh ingredients.
If you are providing processed foods such as sausages, ham, nuggets, fishfingers or burgers then check the ingredients and the nutritional breakdown of the foods you are buying. To buy the healthiest options, compare the fat, sugar and salt content. Processed foods are often far more laden with salt and sugar to create flavour than if you were to make the same fare at home. When comparing fat content of products, go for ones with the least saturated fat which is more harmful than unsaturated fat. Better still, try make your own products at home and then you are aware of their contents. You can easily make burgers, fishcakes and breaded chicken or turkey nuggets - slightly time consuming but not difficult.
Try to ration meat to two or three main meals a week, offer vegetarian options (eg. jacket potato and baked beans, mild vegetarian chilli, vegetable lasagne etc.) and fish (fishcakes, jacket potato and tuna, breaded fish etc.) on other occasions.
Processed snacks can also be much less healthy than you might imagine. Snacks are often packaged to make them appear to be healthy but when choosing snacks, again, make sure you compare the fat, sugar and salt content. It's very easy to give children a high salt diet without realising and some healthy looking snacks contain more saturated fat than a packet of crisps! Better still, make snacks yourself. Fruit and vegetables chopped into portions perhaps make the best snacks. Buy yourself a hot air popcorn maker and make fresh popcorn but without the salt or sugar.
Providing healthy, balanced and nutritious food isn't difficult but it can be deceptive if you are offering factory processed foods. Check the food labels and know what you are feeding your little ones.
Don't have a battle at mealtimes, everyone at some point has a bit of trouble with a fussy eater in the house so the first thing to remember is keep cool about it. You are not alone in your struggle to get food down a stroppy toddler or a moody and tired pre-schooler. Don't think your child will starve if they don't eat properly for a few days... they won't! They may be genuinely not hungry or a bit poorly, so don't get angry with them and claim they are being defiant or naughty, this may not be the case. And, don't blame yourself.
Many fussy phases pass, so don't worry for the first few days. If eating is becoming a problem on a frequent basis and some difficult habits are forming, then try some of these tips:
- Play with food: allow your toddler to handle the food and roll peas or fly carrots like planes. If it gets them eating then allow it! Don't be too strict.
- Give small amounts of lots of choice: so have a few sorts of vegetables for them to choose from. Try using a compartmentalised plate or a muffin tray and fill each hole with something different!
- Try giving 4-6 smaller meals a day rather than the usual 3 large meals. Healthy snacking is just as nutritious and possibly better for smaller tummies to cope with. Grazing minimises low blood sugar so will lessen any undesirable or difficult behaviour too.
- Make the food fun. Cut bread into strange shapes (eat your mountains or bread crown sounds a bit ore fun!). If you can cut into shapes of use cookie cutters to make sandwiches or toast then do.
- Or get them cutting things themselves (give plastic, blunt knives to cut cooked carrot) and the food is more likely to disappear. Or, get them spreading their own spread onto bread.
- Use fun plates and even get some party plates to serve a meal on. Pretend its a party!
- Call in an older cousin or friend who eats well and have a meal together. See if any good eating habits rub off!
- Sitting on a chair with dangling feet is something that toddlers don't enjoy (try sitting on a stool for a whole meal) so place a step or box under their feet to support them. This may keep them still a while longer and many help them concentrate more on eating and less on wriggling.
If eating problems persist and really do become a barrier, then you may want to seek medical or professional help, but on the whole, eating fads come and go and this is a normal part of growing up.
Now summer is here, the children can't wait to get outside in the warm sunshine, but what can you do to keep them as cool as possible on the hottest days? Here are a few ideas!
- Squirt - find some water guns and have a water fight! Or, use an old washing-up liquid bottle which are possibly easier for little ones to use... just squeeze rather than pulling a trigger. Or, if you have any water sprays for plants, fill these with water and have fun!
- Set some ice to freeze in the freezer the night before. Colour the ice cubes with food colouring and watch them melt in the paddling pool. Or, use larger containers: ice-cream tubs make huge blocks, or fill sandwich bags with water to make funny shapes. You could float plastic mini beasts in the tubs before freezing so the children can watch the creatures appear as the ice melts! To make clear ice, boil the water in a kettle first to remove the air.
- Fill the paddling pool and have story time with your feet in the cool water! A great idea for calming the children down before nap time and nice and cool for you too!
- Put cartons of juice in the freezer and use them for drinks. If you defrost for a while, before you need them they will be icy cold. Or freeze tubes of yoghurt so they make a creamy icy snack.
- Eating ice lollies can be expensive, so make your own! Make lolly pops by freezing juice in paper cups and pop a lolly pop stick inside.
- Making a crushed ice drink is a fun way of keeping the children hydrated. Make up a juice in a plastic cup and pop in the freezer. Keep stirring to break up the ice crystals as they form and when half way between drink and ice, serve with a straw.
- Cool snacks such as strawberries, watermelon, grapes and cucumber taste refreshing straight from the fridge, so keep some prepared ready for a quick fruit feast.
- Make a den using old sheets and frames such as an ironing board, clothes airer, chairs etc. It will be cooler inside and keep the kids occupied for ages.
Have fun, and keep yourselves as cool as cucumbers!