Sunday, April 29, 2012

Healthier Food Is For the Birds (Too!)

A favourite pastime of many 2-year-olds is feeding the ducks, swans, pigeons, and other birds at Stanley Park.  Aias and Elliot take a particular liking to the birds at Lost Lagoon.  In the past, I confess we've given those birds many Cheerios, bits of crackers or other bread products as we walk by them on the way to the aquarium or wherever.  As it turns out, these aren't the ideal foods for these animals (nor are they ideal foods for most humans, but I digress).

The other day I decided we should talk to someone from the Stanley Park Ecology Society* about better options for feeding the birds.  Here are a few suggestions:

- Oats
- Veggies
- Greens
- Bits of fruit
- Barley
- Defrosted frozen corn or peas
- Cracked corn

We decided to try oats, defrosted frozen peas, and lettuce, and to turn it into a bit of a "sensory activity."  Each little boy had their own silver bowl and they were given the chance to scoop out their own oats and peas, and to shred their own pieces of lettuce.  The oats were dry and soft, the peas were slimy and cool, and the lettuce was cool and fun to shred into bits.

Checking out the goods.  I actually let them do only one at a time; first oats, then peas, then lettuce. Toward the end it was a bit of mix, though.

For the most part, the food that went over the best was the oats.  This was a particularly delicious choice of the pigeons, who liked to peck at it on the pavement.  Aias and Elliot were dumping it into the water and making sludge and the ducks and swans were sticking their heads down to gobble it up.  The peas came in a close second, but they went largely ignored in the presence of oats.  Finally, the ducks and pigeons turned their noses up to the lettuce, but the swans were really digging it. 

A swan munching on some lettuce
I love this activity because it gives them an opportunity to learn so much, including:

- How to behave around "wild" animals
- How to be gentle, generous, and show empathy
- To be aware of if the animals are actually hungry or not (teaching them not to "force feed" the animals
- How to treat the animals kindly (don't chase them, don't scare them, don't move to quickly around them, don't attempt to touch them unless an adult says it's ok)
- What animals eat and where they sometimes live
- Which animals live in the city
- How to share

As for the food choices, I have to say; all the birds were a lot more enthusiastic all the times we brought Cheerios.  It seemed funny to me that even birds seem to be carboholics who'd rather eat a baked good than a vegetable. Oh well. Next time we'll try cracked corn and barley.

On our way out, we saw these gorgeous little baby geese, which was really exciting to the boys. We named the geese Aias and Elliot, of course ;)
More pictures:

A bit of sharing drama, toddler style.
They figured the sharing drama out very fast on their own, however!
He took the lettuce shredding very seriously!

Happy that finally SOMEONE is eating that shredded lettuce!
* Supposedly there are some by-laws in place about feeding birds and wildlife in Vancouver parks.  You can read more about this here.  I'm a little confused about this, as it's clearly a common practice and "feeding the birds at Lost Lagoon" is commonly listed as a thing to in Vancouver.  At any rate, should you choose to do so, just be aware that you may be going against a by-law. 

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Friday, April 27, 2012

A Quick List of Nutritious Meal Suggestions

I'm not very creative when it comes to meals, so I keep a printed list of meal ideas in my kitchen and in my purse.  I thought it may be a nice idea to share some of those ideas here.  Some of them look a lot more fancy and difficult than they really are; these snacks and lunches are really actually quite simple to prepare.  I try to keep things healthy and simple to minimize the time spent preparing the food.  I cut the food using cute cookie cutters when possible in an effort to make the food seem more fun to eat... sometimes it's all in the presentation for a kid.

Snack Ideas

- Carrot or pumpkin bread spread with cream cheese
- Fresh fruit cut into wedges
- Bananas
- Grated or small cubes of cheese with whole-grain crackers
- Raw veggies with hummus
- Small homemade muffins (zucchini or carrot)
- Soft whole-grain tortillas spread with almond butter
- Rice cakes spread with avocado
- Yogurt
- Applesauce
- Mixed berries
- Puffed kamut
- Nutri-o's (Healthier Cheerios)
- Homemade omega-3 yogurt pops
- Fruit and cheese kabobs
- Sugar-free dried fruit bits
- Homemade apple chips
- Homemade sweet potato chips
- Whole grain waffle strips with cream cheese and jam
- Beet pancake bites
- Pretzels for dipping into yogurt or peanut butter
- Fruit salad
- Bran muffins with melon slices
- Banana pudding
- Granola and yogurt
- Apples with cinnamon toast
- Banana rings and melba toast
- Frozen grapes sliced with cheese
- Baking powder biscuits with orange slices
- Baked apples and yogurt
- Celery with cream cheese
- Carrot cake and milk
- Lettuce and cold cut roll ups

Breakfast Ideas

- Bagel with yogurt and orange juice
- Cinnamon toast, milk and a banana
- Nutri-o's, milk, and apple wedges
- Muffin and orange slices
- Granola, milk and peaches
- Scrambled eggs, toast, and juice
- Oatmeal and fruit

Lunch Examples*

- Quinoa with tuna, peas and parmesan
- Quinoa with salmon, black beans and parmesan
- Brown rice with cheese blocks
- Lasagna with secret veggies (blended veggies)
- Turkey meatloaf muffins with secret veggies**
- Homemade macaroni and cheese with secret cauliflower
- Homemade nuggets (ground turkey or chicken, brown rice, cheese, zucchini, breaded)
- Homemade soup (Lentil, Chicken Quinoa, Broccoli, etc)
- Whole wheat or brown rice pasta with secret veggies in the sauce
- Homemade pita pizzas with secret veggies in the sauce and various toppings
- Tofu strips
- Apple cheddar quesadillas
- Bean burritos with secret veggies
- Frittata with secret veggies
- Stir fry
- Tuna fish sandwich, celery, and apple wedges
- Cheese sandwich with tomato soup
- Spaghetti with sauce, veggie sticks and apple slices
- English muffin pizzas with veggies and apple slices
- Chicken noodle soup, crackers, and cheese sticks

*All lunches are served with fresh cut fruit.  Types of fruit generally include whatever is in season; grapes, bananas, apples, oranges, pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, etc.


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thinking About Temperament and Toddlers

I find it hard to reflect on my experiences with toddlers without the word "temperament" coming to mind.  More often than not it's just the word "temper" that really resonates with me, but I digress.  Judy Graham, a human development specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, wrote a piece on Temperament that I've found really helpful in relating to my own son and his somewhat challenging temperament. 

Graham identifies nine traits of temperament, as follows:

1.  Activity Level
2.  Regularity
3.  Adaptability
4.  Approach/Withdrawal (acceptance of new things)
5.  Sensitivity
6.  Intensity
7.  Distractibility
8.  Persistence/Attention Span
9.  Usual Quality of Mood

Graham proceeds to describe what I consider to be a binary whereby children are either "easy" or "difficult."  Within this system outlined by Graham, I can easily see where Aias would fall.  While I'm not sure it's helpful to label children "easy" or "difficult," I think it's important to consider the temperament of your child, or children you care for, when it comes to choosing how to most effectively interact with them.  A course I'm currently taking with the Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre provided the following exercise to me, and I'd like to share it with you here.   Perhaps it will help you look a little closer at the temperament of a child or children close to you.  Please remember this is more about reflection than about a diagnosis of any sort. 

1.  Activity Level: How much does this child wiggle and move around when you read to him/her, at the table, or when playing alone?  Is the child active or relatively quiet?

2. Regularity: Is this child regular about eating time, sleeping time, the amount of sleep needed, and bowel movements?  Is the child regular or irregular?

3. Adaptability:  How quickly does this child adapt to changes in his schedule or routine?  How quickly does he/she adapt to new foods, places, or people?  Does the child adapt quickly or adapt slowly?

4.  Approach/Withdrawal:  How does this child usually react the first time to new people, new foods, new toys, or new activities?  Does the child initially approach, or does the child initially withdrawal?

5.  Sensitivity:  How aware is this child of slight noises, slight differences in temperature, differences in taste and differences in clothing?  Is the child very sensitive to these things, or not sensitive?

6.  Intensity:  How strong or violent are his/her reactions?  Does he laugh and cry energetically or does he just smile and fuss mildly? Does the child react with high intensity or mild intensity?

7.  Distractibility:  Is this child easily distracted or does he/she ignore distractions?  Will he/she continue to work or play when other noises or children are present?  Is the child very distractible or not distractible?

8.  Persistence/Attention Span:  How long does this child continue with one activity?  Does he usually continue if it is difficult?  Does the child have a long attention span or a short attention span?

9.  Usual Quality of Mood:  How much of the time does this child show pleasant, joyful behavior compared with unpleasant crying and fussing behavior?  Does the child seem to have a generally positive or negative mood?

How does knowing your child's temperament help you relate to your child on a daily basis?  Have you found their temperament changes from time to time?


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A True Tale of a Vaccination Near Miss, Sort Of...

Before Aias was born, we researched vaccinations to the point of exhaustion.  This was easy, as there are LOADS of studies to read about vaccinations.  Even after choosing to limit ourselves to non-biased, peer reviewed studies that lacked emotionally charged anecdata, we still found ourselves reading approximately ~45 studies before Aias was born.  When I say we read these studies, I mean we read these studies.  I don't mean we read abstracts, or blog entries reviewing studies, or that we went to websites that picked choice quotes from these studies.  I mean we sat down and read sometimes 50+ page studies.  Why did we do this? We were terrified of vaccinations because we knew we could be damned it we didn't vaccinate, and we could be damned if we did.  It seemed horribly unfair to be faced with this possibly life threatening decision that couldn't simply be ignored or walked away from: we had to vaccinate our child, or we had to not vaccinate our child.  You know all about this struggle from your own parenting choices, I'm certain of this.

Ultimately, we decided to vaccinate.  How it boiled down to this decision was both science, emotionally driven anecdata, and a series of math equations we had written up on a napkin during dinner that evidently brought us to the conclusion that the odds statistically of Aias being harmed  by a vaccine ultimately was less than if he wasn't vaccinated.  I wish I still had the napkin, and I know if you Googled such information you would be able to find stats and equations that support both sides of the question (To Vax, or Not To Vax!). As far as our opinion on vaccines in general, we both think it's ultimately up to the parent whether or not they want to vaccinate their children.  In fact, much to my surprise I recently discovered that despite our having a vaccinated child, I'm one of the few child care providers in my area that doesn't require the children in my care to have their vaccinations. At any rate, we delayed the vaccines due to my own likely senseless paranoia of having him vaccinated during the "high SIDS risk" period, so Aias didn't have a single shot until he was 6 months old.

In the last few weeks I've noticed two websites appearing on my Facebook feed; and  Both websites are dedicated to two very important things, and both devote themselves to this with equal passion.  However, their messages are exactly opposite to each other. Shot By Shot tells stories of kids who became gravely ill or died from illnesses that most definitely could have been prevented had the child or others been vaccinated.  Think Twice tells stories of people who suffered from vaccine injuries, or sicknesses/illnesses/death from having received vaccines.  When people post stories from these sites, I always go have a look.  In nearly every case, I feel horribly saddened by what happened to the life impacted, but I'm still left with that "damned if they didn't, damned if they did" sort of feeling in my stomach that makes me feel a little ill.  If you can't see into the future, how can you possibly prevent these things from happening?  

Now, finally, without attempting to make a "pro-vaccine" or an "anti-vaccine" argument, I want to share some of my own anecdata.  Please remember I'm not implying anything here, because this story is just something I pondered quite a bit having experienced it myself and it's something I've thought about a lot.  As I said above, we delayed Aias's shots until he was 6 months old.  When he received his first shot at 6 months, nothing out of the ordinary happened.  I was paranoid and freaked out, and analyzed every breathe he took after receiving the shot and even took his temperature an embarrassing amount of times out of fear he'd get a fever.  I scheduled his next shots for 9 months and then lined up more shots for when he was 12 months old.  When his 12 month appointment came, it had been a rainy few days.  Not only was it rainy, but the shots were scheduled for 9am which was all too early, and the appointment was about 45 minutes away by bus.  He was due to have the shots at 9am but I called the day before and I rescheduled.   The next morning at instantly 10:15am, as though a ball had dropped, Aias got sick for the first time in his entire life.  Until this point he had never had a fever, not even once.  The fever raged and raged, he vomited (which he had done only once in his life, he'd never even spit up before) and he was sick for a good solid 3 days.   All in all, he wasn't himself. It was like he became a totally different child for those days and for weeks after.  It was a nightmare, as it usually is, when a small child gets sick.

All I could think to myself after this experience was how if I had taken Aias for his shots at 9am that morning and then he had gotten sick at 10:15, I would have been 1000% sure that the shots had caused this illness.  I would have bet any amount of money, my life, whatever, that the shots had done it to him.  I would not have been able to be told otherwise.  Not only that, but I would have blamed myself endlessly for making the "wrong" choice about vaccinations.  But because I had cancelled, Aias DIDN'T have his shots that morning, it was just a CRAZY coincidence that he happened to have gotten sick for the first time in his life 1 hour and 15  minutes after his shots had been scheduled.  If I had gotten him the shots that morning, I probably would have been freaking out and swearing off vaccines forever. 

Like I said above, I'm not suggesting here that vaccines don't do bad things to some kids: I'm certain they do, as are many others whose kids have most definitely suffered from vaccine injuries.  This is simply food for thought, and it's an experience I won't soon forget.

In case you are curious, Aias has had his remaining shots. We don't do the "bonus" shots like the flu shot, and I keep myself vaccinated so that the kids I work with don't catch something from me.  As far as the debate whether to vaccinate or not, I'm happy it presses on, because I think in the end, vaccines are AWESOME in theory, and the more pressure put on society and the medical community to make them SAFER and BETTER, the better off all our kids will be in the end.


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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bouldering With Toddlers?

The only thing better than doing something you love, is doing something you love with PEOPLE you love.  Today we took Aias to a private bouldering cave to check out one of daddy's favourite activities.  Luckily the place was empty so it was just the three of us (that makes it a lot safer, no risk of someone landing on Aias).  We showed Aias how bouldering works and tried to lure him into trying it himself by placing some of his toy trains on the higher rocks, but he was more interested in the box of holds.  Maybe next time he'll take more of an interest in climbing himself, but for now he certainly gets a kick out of watching Daddy dangling from the wall!

Daddy placing a train track on the holds in an effort to entice Aias to climb up to it, but no dice.

Checking out some holds in a bucket. Those are ice axes there, so yeah, gotta keep an eye on kids in an adult environment like this.

Reaching the top of a route


Bouncing on the squishy mat!


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