Fall Fun For Littles: Autumn Tree Inspired Painting

Oh, fall, my absolute favorite season of the year! I don’t care how out-of-style a good pair of leggings, riding boots, and vest become—I will wear some combination of the above for three-months straight until Clinton and Stacey show up What Not to Wear style, and take me into a small room for an uncomfortable confrontation. It’s just too comfy and cozy, and if you add a latte, my life feels very nearly complete.

Sending our tiny three-and-a-half-year-old off to school five mornings a week feels like a whole new ball game. We are tired and emotional and all sorts of disorganized, and she is too. But those fun-filled busy mornings of socializing and learning are just what she needs at this age, especially with my background of specializing in development of children capping out at three-years-old. What are these mood swings? What can I offer her to keep her brain stimulated and her body active? Yeah, I don’t quite know anymore, which feels like a huge difference from only a year ago.

We still try to capitalize on seasonal fun and goodies, especially now that she’s old enough to realize falling leaves and pumpkins as sure signs of autumn, and twinkling lights and jingle bells will lead the way to her favorite time of year. And with busy weekday mornings, she is craving some time at home in her jammies on the weekends, leisurely eating breakfast and then breaking into an activity in last night’s pajamas. This latest project of “Autumn Inspired Tree Painting” felt particularly perfect, as she sat at the table with her paintbrush, looking at the trees through our bay window five stories up. It’s the perfect little something to fill their morning, as you sip your pumpkin spice latte and breathe in the beginnings of fall time.

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Autumn Tree Inspired Painting

Disclaimer: All projects and activities suggested by Crib With a View are intended to be monitored by an adult.  Some supplies may be considered a choking hazard for children.

Supplies:

Construction paper

Fall-inspired paint colors

Toilet paper roll

Paint palette

Paint brush

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Directions:

1). Pinch ends of toilet paper roll, on both sides, to create a “leaf” like shape to stamp (rather than a circle as the roll is)

2). Cut toilet paper roll into three sections, creating three separate “leaf” stampers

3). Provide sections of each color of fall-inspired paint on a plate or palette for child to stamp into to collect paint

4). Encourage child to paint a tree trunk and branches

5). Encourage child to stamp leaves onto the branches of their tree

6). Hang up artwork, or turn it into a Happy Fall! card for friends or family

Like this project and want to see others?  Start following The Crib here to get up-to-date activities for children all year long!

Why I’ll Never Tell My Child To Stop Talking Again

IMG_7594I had told her we were done talking for the night.  That it was late, the day had been long, and we both needed our space to rest.

If you’ve been taking care of a child in Boston this winter, you know the long days I’m referring to.  When the first storm hit, there was camaraderie.  People took to the streets to snowshoe, ski, even sled down the piles of snow plowed high up on the corners.  My husband was home from work, and we all bundled up and went to build the quintessential snowman with the obligatory carrot nose.  Peeling our gear off, we headed to the couch to sip on hot chocolate.  Yes, it was as lovely as it sounds.

For ONE day.

But the snow continued.  The sidewalks became, literally, uninhabitable. And although preschool and elementary schools continued to close, colleges began to open again, sending my husband off to work once more.   We had little choice but to stay inside, the two of us, unmotivated to change out of pajamas or eat at proper meal times.  The developmentally-stimulating projects I used to do with her become fewer and fewer, replacing sensory finger painting for another Disney movie.  So it’s no surprise that we sunk further into our issues with each other.  Patience runs thin when neither you nor your toddler has experienced sunlight in weeks.  An open play space of four-feet by four-feet, unsurprisingly, doesn’t do a body good.

So on about Day 40 of involuntary hibernation, I couldn’t take much more.  The day needed to be over, as I continued to relay to my almost three-year-old, as if she would take that sentence into account, shut her eyes, and doze off.

As my eyes pulled away from hers in an attempt to disengage, she quieted momentarily.  And then, from behind her pacifier, I heard a statement that I’ll never forget:

“Mommy, I want to talk about skin.  All different color skin.”

So we talked.  We talked about what made people look different on the outside–skin, hair, eyes, clothing.  And we talked about what bodies are made of and that we all look the same on the inside.  We talked about her three teachers at school, and how they  physically looked different from each other.  And then we talked about what they were like as people, and what she loved about them–hugs from one, drawing with another, reading with the third.  We talked about how some boys like to wear pink, and some girls like to have short hair.  We talked about how she prefers to wear dresses, but some girls like wearing pants more.  We talked about her fair skin being lighter than my father’s, and my hair being a completely opposite color than hers.  We talked about what families look like–that she has a mommy and a daddy, but some other children have two mommies or one daddy.  That all families look different.  That all people look different, and how great that is that each person can choose to look however they want.  That even though she talks about wanting long hair “like Rapunzel” now, she may change her mind when she’s older.  That she can always decide.  That whatever she decides to do is great, because whether or not her hair is short or long, she is the same person.

She eventually became satisfied with the conversation, and ready for bed.  Off I went to my own room, with butterflies in my stomach.  Because I then realized, this is what I have been waiting for without even knowing it.  This is why I wanted to become a parent.  The fact that I have the opportunity to help shape a human being into a loving, accepting small child, into a loving and accepting teenager, into a loving and accepting adult.  It was these moments that I hadn’t prepared for, that I somehow felt the most prepared for.  It had felt like a visceral response rather than an over-worked plan, worried, as I so often am, that I would inevitably make the wrong move.  My heart couldn’t have possibly been any happier, or fuller.

I’m not sure I’ll ever tell her that we’re done talking, again.  Because, really, I don’t think we ever should be. 

At Home With Crib With a View: Out of the Box Bath Time Essentials

You know what we do in our house when it’s been a hard day in Toddlerhood? Bath time. What about when we’ve had a great day? Bath time, too. And when we need to kill time? Yep, bath. And when we are tight for time but Little’s hair can’t be brushed due to last night’s dinner stuck in it? Shocker I know, but bath again.

Yes, we spend a lot of time in the tub these days, and I know quite a few other people who feel the same way. Though Mademoiselle loves splashing around, kicking her “tail” like a mermaid and dunking her hair, I find her wanting more to do. If I’m not searching for a toy, I’m probably stepping on it, so I can’t really fathom the thought of making one more purchase. Plus, I find the more toys she has surrounding her, the less she is really, in depth, playing with something. Anyone know what I mean?

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A few weeks ago I was sorting puzzles, books, and plastic animals, when I wondered what I could transfer over to the bath. Our playroom is beginning to overflow. And by “playroom” I mean office. And by both “office” and “playroom” I mean guest room. And a bed doesn’t fit, if that says anything. If you’ve been to my home, you know I’m not kidding. And if you’ve stayed with us, you really know I’m not kidding. But I digress…

Organizing child-related supplies led me to quite a few things I didn’t know I had on hand—and you very well may too! Here are some major hits in our house that are low cost (Dollar Store, people!) or you probably already have:

Ice cube trays

Formula scoops

Basters

Colanders

Sponges

Paint brushes

My daughter particularly loves to scoop water into the trays, and then “paint” the water onto the tub with a brush. To make my homemade bath paint, click {HERE}, and to see how we safely used packing peanuts in the tub, click {HERE}.

Like this idea and want to see others?  Start following The Crib {HERE} to get up-to-date recipes and ideas to keep parents and children busy all year long!

From Our Crib to Yours: Little Lovage Club “Baby Animals Event” Family Pass Giveaway

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I have a few obsessions. One: Chocolate and peanut butter, together. Two: Seasonal everything. And three: Any combination involving small children and animals. Because: adorable! So, what would I have to say about bringing my little to hang with some baby animals? Yes, please!

While other children are able to frequent places like the zoo and local farms, our little anti-vehicle, motion-sick Blondie is just begging for some sort of animal interaction; desperate for her doggy to play with her—offering toys and adorning him with plastic jewelry and dress-up galore. Clearly I need to get the kid out more. Not to mention this poor animal…

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Lucky for us, Little Lovage Club has moved right around the corner! This boutique child development center offers everything from pre-natal basics, to new moms’ groups, and unique art classes to custom-themed birthday parties. It is no surprise that we (along with the rest of the area) have been relying on them heavily this year to keep our “little” busy, and nothing gets us more excited than their twice a year Baby Animals Event! In fact, if there was ever any question of Mademoiselle’s love for all things baby and animal, well, the last few events sure confirmed it!

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Now you and your littles can be part of the fun, too! Click {here} to register for available times, or enter below for the chance to win one of TWO free family passes (up to 1 adult and two children per family pass), with your choice of half hour timeslot: 10-10:30, 10:30-11, 11-11:30, 11:30-noon).

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Contest Details:

Contest opens at twelve midnight January 16th, and closes twelve midnight January 19th.  Enter to win: visit our fan page on Facebook (and please “like” us while you’re there!) and follow us on Twitter! And while you’re at it, check out Little Lovage Club’s fan page {here} and “like” them to stay up-to-date on current events and classes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entries open to US residents, 21+.  Two winners will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter.com.  Winners must respond within 24 hours once contacted.  If winners do not make contact within the 24 hour period, new ones will be randomly chosen.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a family pass to this event. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Real Shit is Hard

I’ve been busying myself by reading HuffPost article after Scary Mommy article after taking my one-thousandth BuzzFeed quiz, which seems to be rendering less and less accurate with time.  A mind concentrated solely on the mindless, because the real shit is hard.

So I focus on the other and the anti-necessities of life like embellishing the collars my large stand-alone burlap Christmas reindeers, and the hilarity in the fact that the night before when I sneezed in bed aggressively loud, my husband could only respond by asking me if I needed a Sham Wow.

Because, have I mentioned?  The real shit is hard.

So I head back to my Pinterest boards where I organize This Week’s Agenda of crafts and cooking, realizing no, I will not be able to get to the homemade gingerbread play dough I was hoping to make for my toddler.  Instead I’ll just aim for the sparkle “snow” dough and hope she can’t read my guilt about just not wanting to take out our heavy-ass stand mixer one more time.  Yes, I’ll focus on the weight of the mixer.

Because, still.  The real shit is hard.

My auditory focus shifts to a table next to me, and as the unintentional eavesdropping begins I try to appear solely to be sipping a blended drink (that I am one-hundred-fifty-percent sure contains only sugar and ice) and staring at the beauty of the beach.  But I am momentarily invested in this stranger’s story of a friend’s friend’s friend, who, in a nutshell, apparently met the “wonderfulest” guy, got pregnant, and was forced to place her baby for adoption, just before they were to become engaged.  I can’t help but wonder if this story is even true, or if an innocent game of telephone took a grim turn.  Why is this woman sharing such specifics for someone who doesn’t even know this girl?  Why am I choosing to relay them here?

Oh!  That’s right, because the real shit is hard.

So I’ll just try to continue to focus on the woman in front of me wearing the black Dior see-through beach jumpsuit (really, who knew that existed?), and the fact that my shellac nail polish is chipping far ahead of schedule, and also that every caloric sip of this cocktail will, without question, present itself straight onto my thighs and ass.  Because none of that is the real shit.

The real shit is just too hard.

The Subconscious Thank You List, Part II

Thank you, Paris, for teaching me that if I can navigate you with a toddler, zero stroller compatibility, your complete lack of empathy for parents traveling out of the country with a child (or, really, anyone else), and no place serving dinner before 7:30 pm, then I, literally, can feel confident in taking my kid almost anywhere.  Merci!

Thank you, preschool, for giving me the opportunity to plate my child’s lunch in a way that makes me feel like supermom.  When I see those blueberries next to that cucumber, side-by-side with her whole grain couscous, my denial kicks in and I picture her actually consuming all those items.  Eat the rainbow!

Thank you, endless condo construction that was supposed to be done more than three months ago.  You give me the perfect excuse to both not clean my house, and not feel bad about it.  Knowing when I wipe away that dust, another perfect layer forms almost instentaneously, I have confirmed that, yes indeed, I should be putting my time directly towards catching up on The Housewives of EVERYWHERE.  What will come of Teresa and Jacqueline’s friendship?

Thank you, newly apparent winter weather.  Your face-numbing air helps combat my hot-mess-of-a-mom scenario, and still allows me to wear large sweaters to mask my summer barbeque habits.  When that wind-tunnel air hits my sweaty forehead, I like to pretend I look as cool as I feel.  Plus, you’re the perfect excuse to wear a scarf that doubles as a tissue for my toddler.  #WhoNeedsKleenex?

Thank you, Pinterest.  Though you’re sometimes a sneaky bastard and convince me to try things like “make your own crayons,” you provide me with the tools I’m lacking as a chef.  Did you know you can make meatballs in the slow cooker, just by forming meat into a ball and pressing “ON”?  Well, you can.  Ding-a-ling-a-ling, dinner’s ready!

Thank you, Disney’s Frozen.  Despite stooping to a new low and pulling out my robot dance moves in duet form with my husband whenever we hear the line “Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation,” you have created one happy toddler.  And a potty-trained one at that!  Though I curse you when I see Elsa “granola bars” in the market, directly sending my child into a screaming fit for one, your mass-produced figurines made for some serious incentives to just “let it go,” if you know what I’m saying.

Thank you, “for here” lattes.  I’ve decided that whether I’m checking my Facebook or writing a post, you sitting in front of me at a coffee shop gives me credibility.  Because only really serious conversationalists or writers commit to ordering an adult beverage like a brew to stay.  Bonus points for fancy designs in your foam.

Thank you, glass of wine.  A decade ago when I first met your evil step-sister, The Shot, I didn’t know how much I would one day appreciate you.  Paired with a real meal and perchance lacking the company of small and loud human beings, you give me the occasional moment of grown-up relaxation only the mother of an emotionally conflicted two-year-old knows.  Clink, clink.

Thank you, random stand owner at the farmer’s market.  Though you have taken the time to bend down at eye level with my child, and reprimend her for touching your tomatoes by explaining they bruise easily, you are highly missing the point.  See how she’s holding a Frozen “Anna” doll?  That came from Amazon with specific purpose in mind–to use it as a threat when the desired behavior in public is not being met.  Do I have an educational background in child development?  Yes.  Do I always use it?  Hell-to-the-NO.

Thank you, friends without children.  The energy behind your public stance that she’s “just having a hard day” is not only borderline convincing, but ridiculously generous of you considering she just threw a toddler-sized kitchen frying pan past your body, narrowly missing your head.  And for the record, yes, I take comfort in the knowledge that you would never sue me.

And of course, thank you, loyal readers.  Though many of us only have a relationship over the internet (sounds scandalous!), I feel like we can have real adult conversations.  I don’t have to kneel down to your eye level to make sure you are paying attention, nor ask for you to repeat my requests back to me for assurance you heard my demands.  You get it.  You appreciate it.  And I appreciate YOU.

Why I May Or May Not Breastfeed My Next Child, And Why You Most Certainly Should Not Care

I could tell you I was unable to breastfeed because my child wasn’t gaining weight.  Or that she had a dairy and soy intolerance that made it impossible for her to sleep more than an hour long stretch.  Or even, that I should have been on strong anti-depressants for my post-partum depression, which I wouldn’t have wanted to transmit into her system.  But the truth is, making the decision to stop breastfeeding my daughter when she was two-months-old was not necessarily of necessity.  It was because I was miserable, and she was miserable, and it was a big contributing factor in making our relationship increasing miserable.  Go ahead; insert the “breastfeeding is essential to bonding” shpiel right {HERE}, if you wish.  But in all honesty, that wasn’t the truth for our situation.  It was a far cry from bringing us together, and a strong reality that it continued to break us apart.  And it’s time to talk about it.

When I decided to stop breastfeeding, I was slightly devastated.  I had never had a doubt that this way of feeding would be sure to take us through the first year.  After all, I had done all the prep, taken the classes, and read up on the subject.  And yes, even talked with other moms.  But somehow, none of it mattered in the moment when I pulled the plug.  In fact, it felt an awful lot like I hadn’t prepared ahead at all.  Like when you wake up in a cold sweat from having that recurring nightmare where you’re sitting at your desk in class–the only one unaware that there is a big exam that day.  And there’s no time to cram for the test, or to take a make up.  It’s now or never.

I hadn’t yet considered launching my own website, and was writing for another blogger at the time.  Posting my personal experience led to my fair share of support from some pretty amazing people, but with a strong interspersing of negativity and judgment.  Confessing that our journey with breastfeeding had to end, I was faced with comments of how although I gave up, others didn’t have to.  As if my post comparable to a “Dear Diary” entry was somehow meant to be equated with a national PSA announcement.  The tone of these responses was accusatory, with an obvious allegation that I had a lack-of-information.

The professionals I knew quickly became extremely unprofessional, pushing me further downward into a guilt trip rather than lifting me up, woman-to-woman.  I get it.  I feel you.  And of course, there was my favorite unsolicited suggestion: “You should really talk to other women.”  As if I hadn’t already polled every friend, friend’s sister, friend’s mother, friend’s friend, and friends’-friends’-of-friends. Follow me?

It’s really true what they say: the people who are the harshest on women are other women.  The judgiest?  Women.  Who do we dress for?  You guessed it–women.  And let’s just put it this way: I wear sweatpants.  So if you can’t get to know me in sweatpants, and like me in sweatpants, and appreciate me in sweatpants, you probably don’t belong in my life.  And if you have something unhelpful to say about the fact that I made a personal choice about how I fed my child, and how I may or may not choose to feed my child the next time around, well…you also probably don’t belong in my life.  And I suppose this is the first time I’m comfortable enough, in my sweatpants, to say I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to keep on keeping on.  And you’re welcome to join me.  Or you’re welcome to go down your path.  I’ll admit, mine is often windy and treacherous, and even sometimes dark.  But my guess is that yours isn’t always straight or manicured, and you occasionally may need a flashlight.  And really, we’re all just walking each other home in the end, aren’t we?

6 Deals My Daughter Doesn’t Know

IMG_0424She no longer fits in her crib.  Her highchair is unnecessary.  And anything baby-related has been stored away.  I can’t deny it any longer; she is growing up, and fast!  Before I know it, she’ll be asking for my advice or will kick me out of her room for giving too much of it.  Either way, time is slipping by.  So, my dear Little, I’ve made a few deals for you that you’re not aware of quite yet.

1.  I’ll let you break down and cry, but I won’t let you unpack and live in that place, no matter how much you want or feel you need to.  Because I know what both sides of that looks like, and I promise, it’s much much better to move.

2.  I will support and respect your privacy, and I also very well may read your diary.  Privacy starts as a right, and can quickly turn into a priviledge.  Tell me what you know you should be telling me.  Trust in me, and I will trust in you.

3.  Your father and I will always put you first, but you will not be our life.  That would be way too much pressure–on everyone.  We will expect you to be a large participant in our family, while knowing you are creating your own life.  I think that’s what they say about the whole roots and wings thing, right?

4.  Similarly, I will always expect you to ultimately put your family first, even if there are days you choose to be with your friends.  That sounds a little confusing, I know.  But part of putting your family first is making a healthy life for yourself, including education, friends, and healthy relationships–because more than anything, your family wants you to be happy.

5.  I’ll always love you, even if I don’t like you.  But I really hope I like you, and I hope you like me too.  I hope we’re the kind of mother/daughter team that can set boundaries in line with our respective roles, and still have a glass of wine and laugh together.  But if you end up at an Anime convention the evening I’m working hard to throw our annual Christmas party, I’ll still love you.

6.  I promise to always work just as hard at parenting you as I do now, just in a different way.  I don’t believe parenting ever ends, nor the effort behind it, even when you turn of legal age, move out, and create your own family–whomever that may include.

Though I can’t foresee the future, I know this isn’t the end of our deal making.  They’re sure to be broken, adapted, enforced, and ignored.  But what I do know is I won’t stop making them.  With myself, and with you.

The Short Answer to the Big Question

“Mommy, do you like taking care of me?”

I couldn’t believe my two-and-a-half-year-old was looking up at me, asking such a complex question in such a straightforward manner.

“Yes!  Of course I do!” I enthusiastically replied.  Which, when I add it up correctly, makes that the one and only time I have ever answered that question in a simple and positive fashion, rather than explaining how difficult my experience has been, and then ending the conversation with the conclusion that yes, overall, it’s good to be a mom.

She smiled with that answer, and went on playing, not needing further details or more information from me to satisfy her curiosity.  But I sat with her question, and my answer, burning a little hole in my heart.  And there it stayed, privately contained away from any other human to contemplate what it meant–even myself.

Months have crept by, and with them, big changes in our lives.  My husband, once vastly flexible due to his student status, has finally landed a full-time job as a professor, along with three adjunct positions he had previously committed to. Though we are sometimes able to sit down to dinner as a family, our days are split completely: me and my daughter on one side, my husband on the other.  I know this is a common theme in many of the families we are close with, but it is new to us.  And new to our daughter.  And feels different.  And difficult.  And absolutely exhausting.  And often more than not, isolating.

Mommy, do you like taking care of me?

How does one answer that?  “I do sometimes.  Like when I’ve slept well enough to be clear-headed, patient, and kind to you.  When I have enough mental and physical energy to bring you someplace you enjoy, and let you be yourself and explore in whatever way you choose.  When you control your toddler impulses and try things just enough but not too much, because I can’t take my heart sinking one more time, as you fall off the giant play structure, that really isn’t so giant but feels like the size of a ship when the tiny toddler you birthed is working on learning about her environment by testing everything out.  And when we eat peacefully together, and you say, “Mommy, this is so yummy!” as you taste something I felt proud of making for you.  When you let me hold you while watching Frozen, and you belly laugh as Olaf’s head falls off.  And the moments of taking care of you when I’m not feeling my best, and somehow you know it, and give me an extra hug, or hold my face with both of your hands, and kiss me.  Or when I’m completely disheveled and you couldn’t care less, saying things like “I yuv your hair.  It’s like Sleeping Beauty’s.”  And then I remind you that my hair is black, and Sleeping Beauty’s is blond, but you compare the two because of the length.  And the times I take care of you when you try something I made you, and say, “I don’t yike this so very much.  Maybe when I’m older,” which is the terminology we have worked so hard to use so that you, hopefully, don’t end up with any negative food connotations.  And also, there are those times when I feel like my head is going to explode because you can’t just choose a damn pair of big girl undies, because somehow we thought it was a grand idea to buy you all the different toddler underwear ever, not realizing it would be comparable to the decision making only parents sending their kids to elementary school in the city deal with (not that I’d know anything about that).  And then I finally hit a wall and cry into a pillow because the day has just been too much, and as I watch the drops of water hitting the floor, coming from our brand-new, four-month delayed, finally “finished” construction, I’m reminded of when you want the hand shower on in the bath, and you, giggling, exclaim: “It rained me!” when water falls on your head.  Sometimes the good.  Sometimes the bad.  Somehow, there’s only one true answer.  And it’s quite simple, really.

Do I love taking care of you?  “Yes!  Of course I do!”

Lunch With Crib With a View

Now that the kiddies are old enough for school a few days a week, a couple of my mom friends and I are enjoying a little break.  And by “break,” I mean using the time to run errands, work, or one of the million things that need to get done and are much easier to complete when a toddler isn’t whining for a cracker or making her Barbie doll go potty in the toilet.  The adult toilet.  Nope, never happened.  Not our house.

But one thing that comes along with this whole preschool gig is packing lunch, which I never thought would be the least bit tricky.  Or stressful.  But sometimes it kind of is.

It’s a fine balance of making sure you’re sending nutritious items with your Little, while keeping in mind what they’ll realistically eat.  Because we all know a hungry kid is less likely to pay attention and be able to learn, and is approximately one-thousand times more like to be a complete monster upon pick-up.  Then you’re feeding them a full meal at three in the afternoon, and then they won’t eat dinner. And be starving at bedtime.  It’s a cycle, my friends, and we must break it.

A few weeks into the school year, I finally feel like I’ve nailed a pattern in my packing.  If I present it an easy way, and offer familiar choices, her lunch box is more often than not returned mostly empty.  Don’t worry, this isn’t the spot where you’ll be finding sandwiches in the shape of a fire truck or Elmo’s face outlined in the hummus.  #Ain’tNobodyGotTimeForThat

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Rolled up ham, cucumber rounds, chopped green beans, leftover tomato and mozzarella couscous, quartered grapes

Crib Picks Top Five Lunch Box Packing Tips:

Divide and Conquer:

We all know toddlers love everything separated out.  And honestly, so do I sometimes.  Whether you’ve invested in a lunch box that has sections, or are using Tupperware, this is an easy thing to do.  My favorite way to do this?  Buy an inexpensive pack of silicone muffin liners.  They fit into almost everything since they are soft and have some give, and are a great way of providing your kids with designated pods to pick from.

Keep It Simple:

Too much too soon for adults is difficult.  So for kids?  Overwhelming!  If your child is just starting school, they have a ton of new experiences going on.  Meaning, you don’t need to contribute to them feeling unsettled by offering too many new or elaborate food choices.  Packing things like cut up fresh fruit and veg are great, but don’t feel bad about throwing in something easy and familiar like a cheese stick or Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies.  Know your kid loves cucumber, cheese, and pear?  Awesome.  Try packing those three familiar items, and throw in something a little more unknown like rolled up turkey or a little bean dip with crackers.  With only one newer food to explore, they’re more likely to feel less pressure.

Double Down:

Although I make time to cook dinner a few times a week, there is no chance that I would feel I had enough time to make school lunch starting from scratch.  A big time saver for me is simply making a larger amount of whatever dinner is, and packing some of the leftovers.  Or baking off a tray of muffins, freezing them, and individually popping them out when needed.  Don’t really cook?  No problem!  A simple pot of whole grain pasta is a great thing to keep on hand throughout the week.  Mix with some jarred sauce and parm, or a little pesto (without pine nuts!) for the bulk of your child’s meal.  Or if your child likes meat (unlike my own), buy an already-cooked rotisserie chicken, cut some up, and throw it in with the pasta.  Put some thawed frozen peas next to it, and a piece of fruit, and you’re done!

Stress Less:

We heard this all the time when our “Littles” were, well, little.  “Don’t worry about their solid foods, it all evens out,” the pediatrician would remind me.  But I think as they get older, this is harder to remember.  As adults, we may indulge at a special dinner one night, and make up for it the next day by deciding to eat a bit healthier.  Though children certainly don’t have that sort of outlook yet, I strongly believe it is best to think about what they consume throughout the day, rather than an isolated meal.  Kids grow, taste buds mature, and one day we won’t be counting the carrot sticks they ate but the seconds ticking past curfew.

One From Each:

As parents, it is our job to offer our children healthy options.  And as growing minds of their own, it is their job to decide what to eat.  I have found that I feel like I’ve done my part as long as I’ve offered one from each of the following categories: veg, fruit, protein, carb.

A great way to keep things organized is to have a few different fruits and veg on hand, as well as some shelf-stable items (BPA-free canned beans, applesauce, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, No-sugar-added jarred sauce, flaked coconut, dried banana chips).  In our house, we try hard to take advantage of the farmer’s markets still going on.  Buying cucumber, bell peppers, and tomato means I can pick and choose what veg I pack for her.  If I couldn’t make it to the market, I’ll open a bag of frozen peas.  Fresh fall fruit is fantastic, but pre-sliced fruit is a wonderful option and always available in all grocery stores.  Not to mention it makes for some super easy last minute lunch box fillers.  And BPA-free cans of organic beans are inexpensive, readily available, and last forever.  Buy a pack of cheese sticks and some nitrate/nitrite-free deli meat, and you’re set for the week.

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Sunbutter sandwich, quartered grapes, thawed frozen peas, shredded unsweetened coconut

Here are a few ideas to choose from:

Protein: Leftover meatballs or chunks of chicken, nitrite/nitrate-free turkey and ham, cheese sticks, yogurt, sun-butter sandwich, black beans, garbanzo beans, tahini-free hummus (Trader Joe’s has one, or you can easily make your own from a can of garbanzo beans).

Veg: Bell pepper sticks, cucumber rounds, halved cherry tomatoes, thawed frozen peas.

Fruit: Apple slices, pear sticks, applesauce, chunks of peach, blueberries, quartered grapes, unsweetened flaked coconut (make sure this abides by your school’s nut-free policy), dried banana chips.

Carb: Crackers, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, Cheerios, bread, pasta, leftover rice, quinoa, or couscous.

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Cheese stick, leftover black beans, leftover cilantro rice, whole wheat homemade goldfish crackers, chopped tomato

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