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DIY: Edible Finger Paints

April 30, 2014

Article and photograph by Nikki Cecala

The writer's son looks up at the photographer as he puts the edible finger paint in his mouth.

Finding activities for infants and toddlers can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. As a parent to a one-year old son, I wanted to find a fun activity for him and I to try. After a little fiddling around in my kitchen, I found a solution: edible finger paint! I have read many different ways to approach this activity, but I tweaked my own version that is taste-friendly and safe. All you need is plain yogurt, food coloring, and a plastic tablecloth.

  1. Take a dollop of yogurt and put it in a small bowl mixed with a few squirts of food coloring.
  2. After mixing it, scoop the colored yogurt out of the bowl and place on a plate. Repeat this for as many colors you are using.
  3. Then place a plastic tablecloth on the floor of the room you are doing this experiment in. Using a plastic tablecloth is best because it’s cleaned easily. If your child is still too young to sit up alone, you can put him or her in the highchair and place the colors on the pullout table.
  4. Depending on the temperature of the room (and how strict you are with messy clothes), strip him or her down to just the diaper. Place the plate in front of your child and watch him or her curiously engage in the "paint." If it seems like he or she is not as interested as you, talk to your toddler. What a child sees, he does, so scoop a little paint up with your finger and put it on his or her arm, leg, or cheeks. My son didn’t seem too interested in the concept until I sprinkled some baby puffs in… then he was thrilled!

This activity provides several development benefits, including encouraging colors, texture, individuality, creativity, exploring senses, and, depending on how your child is playing with the paint, sound effects. This activity is good for ages as young as six months. As your toddler gets older, you can also add more to the project such as including paintbrushes and paper or enhancing the "paint" to make it thicker. Have fun!


Stop Bullying: Promote Child Confidence

April 29, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

A young girl smiles proudly as she shows her A+ test score.

While working with families as an early childhood intervention specialist, I’ve seen children become bullies. But there are ways for parents to help their child learn to avoid acting out in negative and destructive ways. Bullies are almost always looking for control and attention. By equipping your child with the confidence and assurance he or she needs, you can prevent your child from becoming a bully.

There are many ways to boost your child’s self-esteem. Start by praising your child’s efforts, accomplishments, and desired behavior. Acknowledge the wonderful things your child does every day. It’s easy to get caught up with all of life’s challenges, but take the time to highlight the positive instead of the negative. A simple "you are so smart" can go a long way. When praised frequently, your child will believe in him or herself and feel confident to begin facing challenges. As you focus on your child’s good behavior, his or her need for negative attention will decrease.

Empower your child by giving him or her control over things that are appropriate. For example, let your child pick out clothing to wear, choose an afternoon snack, or select paint colors for an arts and crafts project.

As your child matures, giving him or her more control over other things can continue to foster confidence and independence. Confidence helps a child feel successful and eliminates the need to degrade or bully someone else.

Practice these tips to help prevent your child from bullying:

  • Role-play different social scenarios with your child and work out possible solutions together.
  • Talk to your child about his or her self-worth and unique strengths.
  • Help your child understand that he or she is in control of the outcome of any situation he or she faces.
  • Provide the necessary attention every time your child does something that you want him or her to repeat.
  • Encourage positive social-emotional development by being a role model of respect and consideration towards others.

Start using these tips today to help stop bullying. You can take small steps to build your child’s confidence so that he or she does not feel the need to make others feel bad and bully them.


3 Tips for Holding Healthy Disagreements with Your Teen

April 28, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

A mother and father talk listen to their son.

It’s bound to happen. At some point, you and your teen will argue and disagree over something. Although there is no cookie-cutter way to approach every disagreement with a teenager, there are some basic concepts to keep in mind in order to have a healthy conversation. The next time you find yourself in a disagreement with your teen, remember to choose your battles wisely and try some of these techniques.

  1. Look at the big picture. Step back and think about what the disagreement is really about, and how important it is. For example, is it worth having a heated discussion over one outfit? Or is the real issue about how your teen’s overall style is inappropriate for school? If you can figure out the root of the problem, you can focus the conversation on what’s really important and not just on a one-off irritation. By limiting the disagreements you have with your teen, he or she is more likely to listen when you do voice a concern.
  2. “It’s my life.” Yes, those are the lyrics to a song, but there is some truth to them. Remember to let your teen live his or her life. As parents, we want them to have more opportunities than we had. Perhaps you never became the star athlete you wanted to be or were not the most popular kid in high school. The danger is in pressuring your child to accomplish it for you. In a misunderstanding, all these feelings may be subconsciously swimming in your thoughts and influencing how you react to your teen in an argument. Try to separate your hopes for your teen and focus on the issue at hand.
  3. No name-calling or yelling. This may be the toughest one. You may come home from a long day at work only to find that the chores that your teen is responsible for are still not done. As tempting as it may be to yell or to call them “lazy,” it is best to recollect your thoughts. Take some time to change your clothes, look through your mail, or even go for a quick walk to cool off. You can then address the issue with your teen in a calm manner without letting the frustration get the best of you. Your teen will be more likely to listen when you’re calm.

Ultimately, our children, regardless of age, look to us for comfort and approval. Making it safe to talk to us about anything is a good start. Teens will test the limits to see how far they can go, but it is up to us as parents to show them the boundaries and the expectations that not only will define them today, but will also shape them into fine citizens in the future.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


5 Ways to Help Kids Eat Their Veggies

April 24, 2014

By Lorena Villa Parkman

A young girl makes a pouty face in front of her salad.

Kids aren't getting enough fruits and veggies. According to research, only 20 to 25 percent of children ages 2 to 5 meet government recommendations for vegetable consumption. As children get older, it just gets worse. Only 10 percent of kids ages 12 to 18 meet those requirements.

Children need to eat balanced meals in order to be healthy and in shape to fulfill their academic and overall goals. But kids always seem to have a hard time eating veggies. Why is that? Is it their color? Shape? Texture? Whatever the reason that’s preventing your child from fulfilling his or her vegetable and fruit requirements, here are a few tips that can help you convince your child that vegetables are tasty:

Be a good role model.
At YOU Parent, we always stress that children model behavior, so remember that you are their role model. Children mimic their parents’ eating habits, so let your child see that you enjoy eating veggies. If you are not doing this yet, try, try and try to love vegetables. If you research vegetable-based recipes, you will find scrumptious options for your family to enjoy.

Serve vegetables when your child is hungry.
Dr. Ann Kulze, author of "Eat Right for Life," suggests serving an appetizer of vegetables, such as carrots and cucumbers with hummus or another low-fat dressing, before dinner. When kids are hungry, they will eat them.

Give them cute names.
Be a marketing specialist for vegetables. You can refer to broccoli as “tasty small trees” or carrots as “X-ray vision carrots.” Help your child have fun naming veggies and learning the special powers he or she will get from them.

Make fruits and vegetables available.
Have a kid-accessible shelf in your fridge with small Ziploc bags of cut fruit and vegetables. Hand them out as snacks and avoid having chips, cookies, or salty treats at home so that only fruit and vegetable options are available for snacking.

Have your child be part of the process.
Picking out fruits and vegetables at the supermarket or farmers' market can help pique a child’s interest in them. If he or she spots a weird-looking vegetable or fruit, offer to buy it so he or she can try it at home. You can also ask your child to help with kitchen chores like washing up greens, stirring things that aren’t hot, like a salad, and pressing buttons on the food processor or other kitchen appliances—supervised, of course.


The Gift of a Card – Free Download

April 23, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

Card illustrations by Leah VanWhy

Today is my birthday, and while I don’t normally tell everyone that, I wanted to share it with you for an important reason: to share a story of why cards are so important. To celebrate and help your children share cards with their loved ones, the YOU Parent team created these card templates that you can download and print for your use.

Now, for my story:

I was recently visiting with my beautiful 81-year-old mother and came upon a colored box, which she kept near her bed. I asked her about the box and she told me that its contents helped her relax when she got anxious, helped her go to sleep when she couldn’t sleep, and helped put a smile on her face every day.

Is it a magic box? No, but it’s a very special box! It was full of birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and retirement cards. I asked her which ones brought her the greatest joy and she said that she only kept the ones with handwritten words inside. Greeting cards come with beautiful and thoughtful messages pre-written, but the most special cards are those that have an extra handwritten message by the people you love.

I immediately realized that I had been mimicking this behavior ever since my children were born over 30 years ago. I have an old hatbox that I keep my cards in! Anytime I receive a handwritten card, I put it in my hatbox instead of throwing it away. My mother helped me realize that there is still joy and comfort that these cards will bring me in the future.

We live in a very busy world that is dominated by technology. We text, we email, etc. It makes us more efficient in many ways—I know it helps me a great deal—but this communication cannot take the place of the very special messages inside my hatbox.

After finding my mom’s box of cards, I took a look inside my hatbox. I was surprised at what I experienced. I laughed, I cried at the beautiful memories, and I also felt like I touched many people’s lives. It was a journey looking back. I particularly paid attention to the handwritten messages and I have to say that those became more meaningful.

I quickly started searching for only those that had handwritten messages. Reading the cards made me pause and think. It made me slow down for a short time and reflect.

I believe I will go through my hatbox from time to time but I now know that it will be one of my prized possessions by the time I am 80. It will help me relax, it will help me go to sleep, and it will put a smile on my face every day.

Take those extra minutes to write your thoughts in the cards you give, and encourage your children to do the same. Those handwritten cards will be a gift that lasts a lifetime.

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