Making Tooth Brushing Fun (AKA Getting Them To Brush For Themselves)

We’re lucky in that our little guy never really had an aversion to having his teeth brushed. I can’t say that he enjoyed it, but once it was established that we brushed teeth after meals he would consistently endure the process. That said, he would NOT take the initiative and work the brush on his own. It was definitely a task for Mom or Dad to initiate and perform.

How did we get past this? We bought him an electric toothbrush.

Actually, we bought ourselves electric toothbrushes first so he could see that it was the way we brushed our teeth and established it as something adults do, whereas the non-electric brushing was something for kids. Next we bought him his own and just set it down in front of him. He’d already seen how ours worked, so he was interested to see if this new brush would work the same way. Note as well that the brush we chose prominently featured characters from the movie Cars.

Surprise, surprise, by that evening he was turning it on and off and actually doing a pretty good job of brushing his teeth. At this point he takes the first stab after each meal and either Mom or Dad will bat clean-up and make sure that all areas are scrubbed. Best of all, if WE forget to get his toothbrush he’s sure to remind us!

We ended up getting him an Oral B Stages toothbrush for those interested.

Good luck all :)

Living In Smaller Spaces

Growing up I can remember swearing that when it was my turn, I’d have a large home over a small one, and ideally a sprawling one (single storey) rather than stacked. The rationale was that it drove me crazy to feel like I was in close quarters with the rest of my family, particularly during my teenage years. Larger home meant more opportunity for privacy and bungalow meant potentially greater ‘distance’ from others.

Fast forward to 2 years ago and I found myself in the complete opposite situation. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we, like so many others found ourselves in a relatively small apartment (~1,100 square feet) spread across 2 levels. Fine for two of us, but what about baby?

Fast forward to today and we find ourselves with a relatively happy and healthy toddler in that same apartment. So far things are working well, but I have no illusions that were he to be in his teens he would see it very differently. As well, I’m starting to realize that even at his young age it would be nice to have some additional space or at least that we did a better job of using our existing space.

The following article, Chill-Out Corner: A PositiveTool for Learning Emotional Self Regulation, draws attention to the fact that as our toddler has continued to grow and mature I may not have continued to consider his needs and revisit the layout and makeup of our home environment. While the article discusses the subject in the context of a place for a child to go when he needs to ‘chill out” I think it applies equally to the discussion of other, more general scenarios as well. Does your child have an environment that allows him or her to deal with life in a safe, comforting, familiar way?

Our son has a need for privacy. He has a need for a safe, comfortable space. While he has his room, we haven’t done a good job (in my opinion) of making sure that its decorated / designed appropriately and in such a way that he sees it as HIS ROOM. Today it serves a shared purpose. We store random stuff in his closet. We hang our coats on his wall. Two of the walls are bare. The lighting doesn’t provide a warmth that makes you want to spend time in that space.

Time to get to work!

Christmas 2012. The Haul.

So, we’ve failed. Clearly. We’ve failed in our promise to ourselves that we wouldn’t allow the toy situation get out of control. I clearly remember visiting friends’ homes and cringing at the piles of toy cars and sports equipment that just seemed to occupy every nook and cranny of their previously tidy homes.

We promised ourselves that wouldn’t be us.
We failed in that promise.

As a result of Christmas 2012 I now have a new project on my hands. Identify, review and select Vancouver-based services that accept used toys, kids books and children’s clothing and put them, or their proceeds to good use.

While our situation may not be as bad as most, our little guy certainly has more toys right now than he needs, or frankly than he can manage. More concerning, where prior to Christmas he showed little interest in either presents or the idea of new toys, he now considers anything loosely resembling a present as being something that should be his, and to my dismay he’s asked me if he can have “new cars.”

I figure there’s no time like the present to try and change that attitude and to reduce both the clutter and amount of distraction for him in and around our home.

I’m open to any suggestions for worthy recipients of toys, clothes and books in good to excellent condition. Currently I’m thinking of:
Vancouver Public Library for the books.
Big Brothers for toys and clothes that our friends’ kids won’t be able to use.

Keeping Breakfast Interesting – Toddler Version. Banana Pancakes From Scratch.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this previously or not, but our typical breakfast consists of some variant of a smoothie with the most common including the following ingredients:

2 bananas
1 huge scoop of peanut butter
1 – 1.5 cups of quick oats
~200mL of yogurt. If using peanut butter, then vanilla, else fruit flavored
milk or more recently coconut almond milk

While this continues to be consumed with enthusiasm, there is also a new found appreciation for pancakes and waffles. For a short while we fell into the bad habit of having waffles once or twice a week, and using frozen store-bought waffles to meet the need. Not healthy.

So, we’ve started to make large batches of pancakes from scratch. We store them in the fridge and toast them in the morning as needed. This has been a huge hit and provides a nice alternative to smoothies especially as the weather is getting cooler. I’m including the typical ingredients below for a single batch. Usually I’ll make a double batch of pancakes since we’re storing them anyway.

1.5 cups of flour
0.5 tsp of baking powder
0.25 tsp of baking soda

In another bowl:
1.5 cups of milk
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of sugar

Melt about a tablespoon of butter and add to the milk mixture after about 5 minutes
Add an egg to the milk mixture.

Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir with a fork. Lumps are fine.

Mash a very ripe banana with a fork. Stir it into the batter.

That’s it. Now it’s time to cook the pancakes and enjoy.

Exercise Ideas Needed For Rainy Winter Days In The Pacific Northwest

Walking in the woods in the Pacific Northwest

We live in the Pacific Northwest and as such, winter brings very little snow, but an absolute TON of rain and gray. Last year we managed pretty well as our little guy wasn’t terribly mobile, or at least didn’t require a large expanse in order to wear himself down. This winter promises to be different. VERY different. Thus far he’s occupied himself before bath time by running from the front deck window through the living room, dining room and kitchen over and over. While this does seem to tire him out, it reminds me of the monotony of a hamster wheel and I can’t bear to condemn him to that all season.

So, what are our choices?
1. Continue with the hamster wheel approach.
2. Ignore the rain, dress appropriately and get outside for walks anyway.
3. Look for activities insides elsewhere.
4. Have friends over, and vice versa.
5. Other?

At this point I’m looking at a combination of numbers 2, 3 and 4 :)
Coordinating activities elsewhere certainly seems like a good way to burn off energy, do it in a warm, dry environment and get the little guy playing with new friends (and allowing his mother and I to meet new people in the neighbourhood as well). My only pause with this relates to getting myself organized and learning what the city has to offer someone of his age, and coordinating this after childcare and between meals, bath time and sleep. Just writing it has me thinking it will easily tire him out, as it will us.

Ignore the rain and get outside anyway. This has been our weekend approach given a number of small parks in the area, well-groomed woods and a beach / seawall easily accessible. The challenge here being that someone of his age does not care about waterproofing or hypothermia which leads to attempts to launch himself into rather deep puddles despite being deep in the woods and only halfway through the walk. Good times, and requiring of planning for the unforeseen with additional backups boots, clothes etc on hand.

Have friends over. This one seemed to be the easiest and most obvious, but also the one that hasn’t come together cleanly at all. Short of quick visits on the way home from day care we’ve found challenges with coordinating with parents who have their own commitments in the evening, dinners planned and so forth. With post-day care pickups occurring at roughly 5pm that gives a short window before dinner followed by a short window between dinner and bath time. Add to this coordination across families and you can understand the challenges.

I would LOVE to hear how some other folk out there coordinate their weekdays and weekends in order to allow for playtime in the evenings with others as well as ensure appropriate, safe exercise / exhaustion before bed :)

Babies, Vitamins and Mixed Messages in the Media

I’m one of those people who, every morning consumes a small cup worth of vitamins. My current alottment is comprised of:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D (I live in the Pacific Northwest and have dark skin)
  • Fish oil (with DHA etc)
  • Flaxseed oil (someone told me once that it helps lubricate your eyes)
  • Glucosamine with Chondroitin (I had knee surgery a few years ago and have experienced several shoulder dislocations. As a result I’m happy to try anything that might help)
  • Branch chain amino acids (I like to pretend I go to the gym regularly)
  • Some green pill since I don’t eat enough greens

Crazy right?

Anyway, we recently heard that the DHA/fish oil supplementation is good practice for kids so I just picked up some capsules of the stuff which of course our son tried, but now refuses to eat. I can’t say that I blame him. They’re tiny fish oil capsules (about the size of a typical vitamin D capsule) and flavoured with the usual artificial strawberry flavoring. Once ‘popped’ the strawberry flavored fish oil syrup flows out and you’re left with the very sticky capsule skin… I tried one. I would refused to eat it as well if I was a toddler that didn’t understand that it was supposed to be beneficial. Next time I think we’ll go with the Gummy version. You can find a number of different Nordic Naturals Children’s DHAoptions here.

Additionally we give him a multivitamin gummy that we cut into 6 pieces each morning. This he takes to with gusto. Not surprising given that its an almost perfect mimic of a gummy bear so there’s absolutely no argument about taking them. The specific childen’s multi that we buy are Yummi Bears Multi-Vitamin & Mineral Gummy Bears

Now, the question. Consumer Reports recently did a spot on vitamins and supplements making the argument that many of them are unnecessary and in fact some of them can do some harm. They laid out the risk as well that both vitamins and supplements lack the quality control process and standards that true medications are bound by, so you take at your own risk. That makes me nervous.

It seems like every other week the common wisdom around vitamins, supplements and other promising foods shifts one way or the other. This week fish oil is dangerous so we all throw it out, the next week there’s a study that it can help with cancer treatment or something else we’re all concerned about. Frankly I don’t know if I should even bother trying to keep u.

For those of you out there, what are your experiences and thoughts?

Making Friends on a Saturday Morning. Quick and Easy Pancakes

When our little guy woke up on Saturday we asked the questions we always ask.

Me: “Did you have a good sleep?”
Him: “Yes”
Me: “What did you dream about?”
Him: “Pancakes”
Me: “What?”
Him: “Pancakes”

Challenge accepted. Here’s the recipe I used. It was quick, easy, didn’t make too many and clearly idiot proof as I pulled it off.

In one container, whisk:
    A couple tablespoons of sugar.
    1.5 cups of milk.
    A couple teaspoons of lemon juice (I used Reallemon…)
Then mix in:
    1 egg (I was told room temperature. No idea what difference that makes).
    About a tablespoon of melted butter.

In a second container, whisk together:
    1.5 cups of flour (I used white as I didn’t have any of the ‘healthy’ stuff.
    1 teaspoon baking soda.
    Around 2 teaspoons baking powder.
    A pinch of salt.

Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff and mix with a fork. It’s ok for it to be a bit chunky.

Now spoon its out onto a pre-heated (i keep it on medium to medium-low to avoid burning) greased heavy frying pan and cook. Flip them when you see bubbles bursting on the pancake’s upper surface.

By the way, our son prefers his with either almond butter or guava jelly.

Toilet Seat Locks. How to Remove That Cursed Adhesive!?!!

Why is it that our child safety devices almost never come with instructions for uninstalling them? Case in point our Safety 1st toilet lock, as well as the oven lock we recently installed. Fortunately the oven lock is working well and can be left installed for the time being, especially as our toddler becomes more and more interested in what we’re doing in the kitchen.

The problem is the Safety 1st toilet lock. First, the spring mechanism snapped a week ago so that the arm just swung freely rather than locking anything. Next, the mechanism just broke entirely as I demonstrated to my wife that the toilet locked no more. Finally, when I sat down (crouched actually) to remove what was left of the lock it became apparent that it wasn’t meant to be uninstalled. Sigh. The adhesive used is certainly quality stuff (unfortunately). The only reference I could find online had to do with someone tearing the finish off a wooden (ouch, splinters) toilet seat in an attempt to remove the toilet lock when their kids had outgrown it.

All I can think of is to just pour Goo-B-Gone or nail polish remover on the seat in the hope that it will make its way to the adhesive and give us a hand.

If you know the secret, please, please, please let me know. For now I’m off to pry the finish off our seat.

Making Sure Your Child Eats a Broad Range of Healthy Foods

Following up on my earlier post about teaching children where food comes from, I thought I’d put up a quick post on how to get your kids to eat healthy.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who also has children at home, in fact they have 3 ranging from a few months to about 5 years old. It seems that we’ve been very lucky with our toddler given his willingness to eat pretty much everything we put in front of him regardless how bland, spicy, wet, dry, brown or green the meal might be. My friend was telling me that not only are his kids picky, but they have structured their meals around certain foods that the children are willing to eat and its come to the point that there is concern that nutritional requirements may not be being met.

Now, I’m not going to kid myself. I expect that our situation is due perhaps in part to the fact that we’ve exposed our toddler to a wide variety of foods and food types since he was big enough to eat solid foods, but that its likley more a case of good luck than anything else. It would not surprise me one bit if in the near future he just decided that he was no longer open to trying anything but a handful of food items, so I figured I’d better get prepared.

I’ve managed to source some interesting options that ‘hide’ healthy foods in more tasty options. For example, the Whole Foods near us sells chicken sausage that includes a great deal of kale. Provided your child doesn’t recoil at the idea of eating a green sausage this might be a good option. Another approach we’ve used is to put vegetable-based juice in the breakfast shakes we all drink in the morning. This is not V-8, but rather those green / spirulina drinks you see these days, like:

Happy Planet Extreme Green (their site)
Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness (their site)
Arthur’s Green Energy (their site)
Odwalla Superfood (their site)

A couple of shakes we alternate between for breakfast include (we make enough for three of us):

Peanut Butter & Banana:
2 bananas
Huge scoop (~5 tablespoons) of unsalted peanut butter (no additional ingredients)
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Water as needed.
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

Mango & Banana:
2 bananas
Flesh of one average sized mango (2 if you use the smaller Philippine mangos).
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Water as needed.
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

Banana & Greens:
2 bananas
~ 1 cup of Green drink of your choice (see above)
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

I’ve polled a few folks including the friend mentioned above and they’ve provided a couple of options for making food that kids will eat (note that I said ‘make’ as I like the idea of knowing exactly where the ingredients are coming from and what is going into the food we feed our kids). One book we’re been recommended more than once is Deceptively Deliciouswhich is apparently authored by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife. My copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll plan to update this post once we’ve tried some of their recipes.

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food

Toddlers and Balance Bikes. Here We Go.

Various balance bikes we considered.
Red Strider ST-2 Balance Bike
Various Strider Balance Bikes
Wooden Balance Bikes

Earlier this year Grandma bought our little one a shiny red balance bike, specifically a Strider ST-2. Note that they’ve since released the Strider ST-3 (don’t ask me how they differ) which appears to be very similar.

Strider balance bikes come in pieces but are very easy to assemble, so don’t let that put you off.

Anyway, this past weekend was the first time taking the bike out to the park and allowing our little guy to give it a shot (he’d tried his new balance bike a couple times in the living room wiht limited success). I was a bit concerned that since he’s not yet 2 years old the bike might be a bit much, but after seeing kids in the neighbourhood who are if not younger, are at least smaller manage them pretty well I figured, why not. Interestingly I’ve seen these referenced as for 5 years and older which strikes me as a bit too conservative.

Initially there were some issues with actually balancing the balance bike. It took a few attempts to successfully catch himself when he leaned to far to one side or the other, but once he got the hang of that it was off to the (slow) races.

I will note that we started with the seat almost as low as is possible (almost touching the back wheel). As such he was walking while straddling the seat rather than sitting and pushing himself so he glides on the Strider. I figure that’s ok as he can first learn how to steer and generally work the bike and then we can raise the seat so he can focus on gliding rather than walking. Time will tell if this works.

There are numerous balance bike brands out there and we opted for the Strider in part for the bright colors as well as the solid metal construction. The various wooden balance bikes certainly have an edge in the style department, but come at a much dearer cost for the solid ones and in some cases looked a bit too fragile.

Finally, helmets. We picked up helmet from day 1 and have established that he won’t be riding the bike unless the helmet is on. The one we chose is the Bell Tater Kids Bike Helmet, specifically the blue dragon version. It’s pretty funny, but he loves the helmet almost more than the bike itself. In fact, he’s taken to asking to wear the helmet when he’s hanging around the house. Last night almost as soon as we started our Skype call with his grandparents he ran to his room, grabbed his new helmet and insisted he be allowed to wear it until the call was over. For those interested we opted against the round ‘bucket-style’ helmets which, while they look cooler lack the ‘overhang’ front and back that I’ve convinced myself will provide more face and head protection should he fall directly forward or back. Does this make sense? Who knows.

Various balance bikes we considered.
Red Strider ST-2 Balance Bike
Various Strider Balance Bikes
Wooden Balance Bikes