Make Blueberries an “Event” for Your Baby and the Whole Family.

blueberries muffins

Weather you are trying to teach your baby good eating habits from the start, or just want to have some summer sensory fun with your family, blueberries are the way to go. They are jammed with nutrients and anti-oxidants and are easy to work with in the kitchen. Plus, a trip out to the farm for U-pick blueberries is a great way to show our kids exactly where our food comes from everyday!

Our Family Blueberry Event

This past fall we went as a family to pick apples on a nearby farm, and having had such a great time with the experience, we decided mid-July blueberry picking was worth a try. Two trips to the farm, 13 pounds of blueberries and two cans of sweet cream later, we find that we are quite a natural picking bunch!

Our first trip was in 90 degree heat, and we literally all almost melted. My husband with the spray bottle, my daughter with her sun hat, and myself with the bottled water in the middle of the blueberry fields to pick the plumpest of blueberries. But all of our “cooling provisions” could not sustain us in the heat, and we left with a mere 5 lbs of berries. Actually, we ate so many directly off the bushes, it was probably more like 5 1/2 lbs.

Several days passed, and my husband’s idea of berries and cream had hit full stride.  We were soon to run out of berries and I knew we would be back in the fields soon.

Friday came with wild storms, and a cooler weather forecast for the weekend. When I suggested that we go pick berries, there were smiles all around. This time, the weather was breezy and sunny. We spent a good hour in the fields and left with 8 pounds of blueberries. On the way home we stopped for another container of ice cream ! Yum!

So here’s a few ideas to make blueberries an “event” in your home too. I start with berries and cream, progress through berry muffins, and end with a song we sang while in the fields. I posted the song so you can learn and sing as a family too!

Berries and Cream
Fresh blueberries
Vanilla Ice Cream
Cute dessert bowls for fun eating!

blueberry muffins for kids, toddler recipes, blueberry toddler recipes, baby food

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins (or try a regular recipe if you are not gluten intolerant)

1/2 cup organic canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
11/4 cups soymilk (or rice milk)
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Sucanat, date sugar, maple sugar, or org. unrefined sugar
4 cups brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole fresh-picked (or frozen) blueberries

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan or line it with paper liners and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons maple syrup or sugar and 1 teaspoon brown rice flour as a topping to drizzle over the muffins just before putting the muffins in the oven.

Mix the oil, syrup, soymilk, vinegar, and vanilla in another small bowl. In a separate, larger bowl place the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Sift the flour to ensure there won’t be clumps. If you are good with the mixing, and feel it is consistent throughout, you really don’t need to sift. It’s up to you!

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not overwork the batter. If the batter is stiff, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time. Fold in 2 cups of blueberries and do not overwork the batter or it will turn blue. (This actually could look interesting if you dare try it!)

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with the topping mixture prepared ahead of time. You may place a few berries on top of each muffin to make them extra juicy on top.

Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pan a half turn to ensure even baking. Bake 5-6 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

(This muffin mixture was adapted from “Simple Treats: Wheat-Free and Dairy Free Guide to Scrumptious Baked Goods by Ellen Abraham)

Blue Belly Button Boy/Girl (A song/recipe For Fun!)
Once we were out in the fields, we had a blast with this song! With each verse I would pick a blueberry and put it on baby’s  belly button. We would cover it up with her shirt and after each round of the song, we would look to her bellybutton to see if she was the blue belly button girl! She loved it and asked for more over and over again!) The next day, and for weeks to follow, we were singing this song and having fun with these berries in baby’s highchair. I cut them so they were not a chocking hazard, and baby got a great snack with tons of great nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Check out the audio of the song Blue Belly Button Boy here.

Chorus:
There once was a blue belly button Boy (girl)
Boy oh boy was his belly button blue
If you could see blue belly button Boy (girl)
You would say it’s the bluest too!

feeding baby, baby food, baby puree, developmental milestones for feeding

Feeding Milestones: What do you need to know to feed your baby and toddler blueberries?

Feeding a baby who is just starting solids should try blueberries in a very liquid type puree. Some recommend steaming fruits and veggies before making puree, but I never did. Baby didn’t have any difficulty so I never bothered, but if your baby seems to have digestive difficulty with them, I would suggest giving them a little steam.

Once baby turned toddler, I could cut the berries into tiny bites and put them on her tray. I would usually cut them in half and then cut them again to be extra sure they were not a choking hazard. Remember to do whatever you need to insure your baby or toddler is working with a safe texture or size during feeding. If you aren’t sure what is safe, ask you pediatrician.

I also use puree blueberries and small blueberry bites to practice with the spoon too. Babies and toddlers love the challenge of getting the berries into their mouth and they love to taste the reward too!

So have fun this summer, with baby and the whole family. Make blueberries an annual “Event” in your home for some real down home fun and for a family of happy eaters!

A Better Way To Swing Your Kids

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If it’s warm or cold, doesn’t matter. Find a place outside to get moving with your kids! It’s good for you and your kids, and babies especially love movement play. Fresh air, natural light, and good old fashioned movement stimulation for the brain! Ahhh….life is good!

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I took my little one and first grader out for a swing ride, and although this may seem simple, there is an easy way to get provide great movement with little effort. All you need to know is the Sensory Movement Hack!

I can assure you these smiles you see are the real deal. Baby loved her time in the swing, as did my first grader, but having a developmental therapist as a mom, well, you get a little more bang for your buck!

The official name for movement input, in sensory integration theory  is “vestibular” input. (OT Nerd Alert! 🙂 The term was first coined by Jean Ayres, Phd., OTR/L, an American occupational therapist, educational psychologist and pioneer in sensory integration theory. She wrote many books and published many research articles in her day, as well as made great contributions to the field of occupational science. She was the one who started it all. Without her, we might not think about sensory play in the same way we do today.

Her groundbreaking book in the 70’s was entitled Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.

I was fortunate to have one of her colleagues as my master’s thesis advisor. My advisor worked with Dr. Ayres in California for years before switching to University life. I somehow won the lottery to get her as my advisor! Jackpot!

And so began my complete obsession with all things development and sensory. I have been learning ever since, and have enjoyed applying my findings to thousands of kiddos. Let me share my #1 favorite sensory hack for movement play so you can indulge yourself in a little movement play geek-dom too!

Movement Hack for Brain/Language Development

When you are providing linear movement for your baby or child (like swinging!), make sure you stop every 30-60 seconds to ensure that you re-activate the brain. After approximately 1 minute, there is a brain habituation process that happens. Habitu-what?? Brain habituation means that the brain detects the sensory input coming, but quickly gets used to the input and stops sending signals to the higher brain centers. To short circuit this habituation process, you simply have to change the movement.

Remember to keep the movement linear, and simply stop the movement and restart the movement. That’s all you need to do. Tell the brain movement is starting. Then tell it that it is stopping. Then tell it again it is starting over and over, every 60 minutes or so.

Do this in a consistent manner, and bingo, you have sent the upper centers of the brain all kinds of great movement input that not only is calming and organizing for your little kiddos, but also great for developing their sense of movement. Calm and organized kids = healthy emotional development. 

sensory play movement play

2 common questions I get from parents:

1. Do you have to change the direction of movement? You can if you like. But stop and go movement works the same way.

2. Should I add some spinning or circular movement? Well, you can, but for truly                    calming and organizing input you want to keep it linear.

So, try this on your backyard swing. Try this playfully in a swimming pool as you play tug boat, or in a wagon on a trail. Just remember this hack is a simplicity hack. Simple is best.

For even more giggles for babies, I usually add the game of “stop” and “go” with sign language to engage language skills. I have noticed significant increases in how my baby initiates sounds and words during this type of play. This actually makes sense scientifically because the movement receptors are located in the inner ear, so, of course we see greater language engagement! Movement and Language play all in one!

For my older kiddo, I usually play “red light/green light”. Giggles ensue, I promise you.

One last piece of advice, be sure to have fun!! Make memories with this simple hack, that you will remember long after your kids are grown.

For more sensory play ideas outdoors, visit Design Awesome Outdoor Sensory Play

movement play on a swing

 

 

 

 

Design Awesome Outdoor Sensory Play

outdoor sensory play for kids

Most kids can’t get enough outside time, but how do you provide sensory play outside that is not overstimulating? Play that actually helps kids regulate and chill out?

It’s true; some kids can get so wound up at the playground that playdates with friends can get out of hand, and outdoor smells and sights can be just too much for some kids, especially if they have already had a full day tagging along for errands, or a day with too many activities.

What about kids who just naturally get over-stimulated easily, or kids who really just need to calm and regroup after the constant barrage of distractions they run into on a daily basis?

Outdoor sensory play is an ideal way to provide sensory soothing and regulation. We could make it so outdoor play provides the opposite, of course, where it amps up our kids too. But outdoor and nature settings seem to intuitively provide calm. So let’s take what nature gives us and use it to our advantage in designing a Outdoor Sensory Soothing Playdate!

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How to Design Your Own Outdoor Sensory Playdate:

First of,  you have to think ahead. Think about what your kiddo likes and what soothes them. It takes planning, but a little prep work will save you time in the end. And just think, your kid will be sensory regulated, focused, and ready to enjoy the rest of their day.  Sensory regulation has a lot to do with how the environment is set up; you as their parent or teacher have the greatest impact on how this activity is structured.

So let’s use an example of a sensory playdate I planned last week, when the sun was so inviting I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. It should give you an idea of how to go about planning your own sensory playdate.

My setup was really basic, one that could be easily duplicated. All you need are some basic materials you have around the house. Then, think of which ones are soothing in general or for your child specifically. I thought soft and warm things, and of course, a way to provide MOVEMENT! When outside, I can’t help but think big, big movement. Baby loves it! And so do the older kids!

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The old Town and Country wagon set the stage for a good supported surface. Baby is still developing her righting reflexes, and the older kids found it a fun and novel challenge. What are righting reflexes? They are the reflexes that keep you sitting if you tip and lose your balance. If you have a baby that is sitting or learning to crawl or walk, this activity will be a bonus workout for your baby’s abs, a few other trunk muscles, and the righting reflexes themselves…but who’s keeping track, right? This is all about fun!

outdoor sensory play

After setting baby up with a few extra blankets and pillows for safety, we were ready to move. The blankets and pillows provided a back up support in case baby fell off balance and couldn’t catch herself. Safety first! A soft bunting was added texture for her to feel and extra cuddle to make the ride all that more nurturing! We packed in the other kids and were off!

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I had a textured ball with knobby extensions, so I threw it into the wagon. Baby loved it, and it was safe to mouth. I thought this was a good alternative to her usual outdoor mouthing choice of leaves or random dog food kibble (yes, I had to stop her once!) Her ability to mouth something is really calming to her. Even better, I wish I  would have had something she could have sucked on, as the sucking reflex for babies is also very calming. Since babies suck naturally, it’s like they come with a built in calming device. Too cool.

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Once we started to move it was all smiles and eye contact. A true “Hey mom, this is so awesome!” memory making event!

I pulled the wagon in a circle to the right first, and then after a few starts and stops, we turned the circle in the direction to the left. I wanted to stimulate her inner ear in opposite directions. This really makes a difference; changes in movement during vestibular sensory play (aka movement sensory play), especially in direction and position, always deliver a more robust experience. Huh? I mean you get more bang for your buck. More input is registered in the brain so more neurons are formed, and more regulation results. Input and regulation are so important, and so beneficial, for natural development and soothing.

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Movement, in itself, is really soothing. Well, at least the kind a wagon provides.  Straight lines and a little curve. The wheels provide the rhythmic sounds of linear movement and nothing is chaotic. It’s predictable, for the most part.

When movement is wild and unpredictable, or if there is too much movement, as a rule of thumb, it can turn from soothing to over-stimulating. We sure didn’t want to over-stimulate baby or the older kids right before a nap, so we took it slow and steady.

 

After about 20 minutes, baby was so calm and was all snuggled in the wagon. It really was too cute. And I felt great. The big kids felt great too. Plus, this simple activity met some of my nurturing, sensory and nature activity goals for the week. (Yes, I have goals I write for the week….total developmental geek… I know.)

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We ended up having a super fun time, with baby LOVING it and asking for more! She really did ask for “Wa-gon-train”! She tried to say it. It came out more like “wa-wa-ta” but I was happy that she was trying to speak in order to get more rides on the wagon! It looks like the inner ear stimulation activated her brain for speech! How cool.

What about your design?

I hope you try to create your own Sensory soothing playdate sometime soon. Or if you have done this already, please let us know what worked or didn’t work for you.

The weather is getting to be just perfect for this type of activity, and all you need is five minutes to think and plan for your children specifically.  Then just grab your kids and the materials and head outdoors!

As an update, since the initial “Wagon Train” as the kids now call it, we have gone out two more times to enjoy the weather. It appears to be an activity that both the kids and I really enjoy.  The kids feel like they are on a festival ride, and I get out and move for some fresh air and sunshine. Ahhh….life is good.

(Please note that a helmet is recommended for kids in this activity. I did not use one but I have almost two decades of safety training in working with kids with special needs. I know my safety limits well, and was OK not using one with my set up. I strongly recommend that you use one with your kids.)

Mom Mega Hack So Your Baby Is a Happy Eater (even if you are picky yourself!)

feeding baby solids .jpg

If you take the time to eat well when you are pregnant, you win and your baby wins.  Sure, you get a healthy start to postpartum, but you also have a healthy food habit you can pass on to your baby when they start eating solids! Double win.

If you are pregnant, a new mom, or a mom with kids already, eating well sets a good example, right? If your whole family is already eating well, then you have surely experienced the benefits.

But what if you are a picky eater yourself? What if you are struggling with an eating difficulty or with unhealthy habits you learned when you were younger?  Hey, it happens.  But it’s never too late to make a fresh start.

picky eater toddler recipes

Research indicates that kids who get the “picky eater” label statistically often have parents who are “picky eaters” too. Now, this is not in all cases of course, but it is an indicator.

Isabella, my friend and therapy colleague, found in her own work with children with feeding difficulties that moms often don’t model healthy eating habits, but expect their kids to eat well. Jacki, when asking one of the moms she works with if she herself would eat a piece of steak she was trying to get her baby to eat, her response was “Heavens No!”

If you’re in fact a healthy eater, you undoubtedly have the advantage here. But if you are picky, or struggling with what to eat, then let’s talk Whole Family Feeding.

Whole Family Feeding.

Whole Family Feeding uses foods that are already in the meal, and uses them to feed baby too.  This is a MEGA time saver and hack because you have so little time as a mom.  Who can really make special dishes for baby everyday, in addition to a family meal?

 

The main benefit of Whole Family Feeding is baby food of course, but the example that the family sets while eating instills, on a very basic level, what happy eating looks like. It’s a social thing.

So, what if you are having a hard time gobbling down carrots, corn and chicken? The first and most obvious solution is to try to make small changes that work for you. If it is more serious than that, work with a professional that you trust to make gains in happy healthy eating for yourself.

A second solution, which is not quite as obvious, is to make a family food plan. Talk with your spouse and come up with a meal plan that adds new and nutrient-rich food to your weekly meals. Adding new foods slowly, over time, will change things for your family. Do your best personally, work with your family, and place importance on Whole Family Eating. Every family member can make a difference in setting a good example.

It might take awhile to see the changes, but eventually you will see them.

baby puree messy eating is ok

When it comes to making food for baby, it’s really simple. Just makes sure to plan one or two items from each meal that baby can try. The food would be in their regular form for the family, and then made baby safe, via puree, grinding or chopping.

So let’s break it down.

Whole Family Meal Planning:1-2-3

#1: It’s a Mindset: Think about the old times.

You know what the old times are, right? When people sat down and ate? I’m talking my grandma and great-grandma here. Think about how people during the early 1900’s ate. If you have some family history you can remember on this topic, great! If not,  I’ll share my grandma’s daily meal ritual. It rocks, and she wasn’t even a super great cook. But she got the job done. (She was a Rosie the Riveter.  No kidding!)

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Rosie the Riveter symbolized the  American World War II effort that women put forth, working in mills and factories at jobs that were earlier only for men.     Tough work!

Every day she would have a small breakfast and lunch. Dinner, however, was another story. There was always a salad on the table, a broth-based soup for a starter and a piece of fresh fruit and occasional sweet for dessert. The meal itself was a meat, a starch and a vegetable. The meat was usually a roast or chicken that lasted a couple of days and veggies were sometimes frozen or canned, but there were always veggies.

Do I do this every day?  No. BUT, I do try.

I usually aim for something close to this during the week. Sometimes a salad starts the meal and if we’re on the go, I cut out the dessert till we return home. I usually don’t work with canned veggies, which adds time, but frozen and fresh veggies of some sort usually make it to the table.

#2. Plan and Buy Food Ahead of Time

Plan a few meats, a few veggies, make some broth, and buy salad greens and a dressing you like. Pick your favorite fruits and a dessert or two.

If you want, assign them to each day of the week.

DONE.

You can do it!

#3: Cook 

Make ahead. Make the same day. Whatever works in your schedule.

I personally “want” to make ahead but have not mastered this yet. The point is that once you make it, leave time to pull one or two items from the meal to serve baby. A good mashed potato or a smashed banana can really work well. Just make sure you add slowly to baby’s diet, so he accepts a food and tolerates it before adding more foods

baby food recipes

What about days that are just too hectic to cook? Going to a restaurant can be easy if you think about planning for the whole family. Pick a place with many home-style selections that everyone can benefit from.  Planning for the whole family becomes a habit. It just takes a little practice.

So should you start planning when you’re pregnant? YES!

how to stay fit and healthy when pregnant

Here is why eating well and feeding the whole family is a good idea when pregnant:

  • Eating habits support health in mom so she can have energy during pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Once baby is born, good food choices are in place. The amazing but also busy time when baby arrives is change enough. Have meals made ahead and frozen, or have someone else cook! Pregnancy is the time to plan.
  • Babies eat what they see the rest of the family is eating.  Mom, you are the example. You go mom!!!
  • When you are pregnant, you have more time to learn about foods. Organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, non-RBH milk, food color/dyes, preservatives, etc. should be in your grocery buying language. It’s important to know your food source if you can, and over time, you will know how to save money doing this too.

And it may seem obvious, but no matter where you are in your parenting journey, you can start planning family meals, and making food for your whole family that makes a difference. You CAN have HAPPY EATERS in your family. We’ve seen it done.

To support all of you who want to give this a try, here are two resources I personally can’t live without!

#1: Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents

  • I found this lovely cookbook by Cynthia Lair, and it was a major help to me. So many recipes for the whole family, and specific instructions on what to set aside and prepare for baby.

#2: Environmental Working Group: This group helped me be a smarter consumer.
They explain what you are buying, from a perspective of best and safest products for the consumer. Find them at ewg.org

Please let us know here at Swami Mommi if you try this out with your family! We wish you all the best of Happy Eating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Sensory Play: Don’t Make the #1 Mistake (I did!)

how to do sensory play with kids without mistakes

So the scene is set.  My little cutie is ready to play and I have all my materials and a whole bunch of space in the family room. Perfect! Let’s do sensory play.

I set up my special textured rug first. It was soft to the touch, with fringes throughout, and vertical lines and love bugs all over it. After that, I put our a soft red blanket, a winter bear, and Montessori inspired toys including wooden balls, wooden snowflake cutouts, wooden bowls, spoons and little non-edible puff balls. Lastly, I went with the soft and warm theme and had a basket of hats, gloves and scarves.

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Before we even got onto the rug, baby was ready for sensory play. She wanted the puff balls and pushing them into her sock made her giggle. She enjoyed the added sensory feeling on her toes and liked the challenge of using her thumb and pointer finger to get them out!

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The room was quiet, the sun was shining and baby was headed for the center of the carpet. First the bowls were interesting and the snowflake cutouts attracted her attention. Unfortunately, her attention didn’t remain on these items long, and I was a little curious as she usually spent 5-10 minutes with these items when seated at the table. She moved on to the bear and then the hats and gloves, then onto the puff balls again, and then back to the bear!

After several minutes of baby switching toys every other second, I realized I had made a sensory play mistake, one commonly made, but still, not one I thought I would make as a developmental therapist. I should know better!

#1 Mistake in Sensory Play: Set up too many items, or items that are over-stimulating. Baby loses attention and instead of exploring, they just go wild!

Result of Mistake: After sensory play, baby is all charged up, and hasn’t seen or processed any of the toys designed for exploration and learning.

Rule of Thumb to Avoid This Common Mistake: Make play balanced so that the sensory items are not over-the-top stimulating. If you have all the senses involved or too much of one sense at one time, baby can lose focus. We call this “shutdown” where the growing nervous system shuts down and focus can’t happen. Baby goes wild, or at the very least gets quite hyperactive.

In this case, I overdid the visual and touch senses. Too much color, too many toys, too many things to touch and explore.

 

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After a few more minutes of play, as I tried to figure out how to correct my mistake, baby just about lost her marbles. Well, at least her puff balls. She went back and forth between snow cutouts, wooden balls and puff balls till she just couldn’t stand it any longer.

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She handled it well for the most part, crawling off the rug and sitting her bottom in the basket for a giggle. I wish I could be so calm and jovial in times of stress!

 

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Sensory overload! Too much visual stimulation with too many “feeling” toys on top of it all!

So I regroup and try again after a few minutes pass and baby calms down. I let her just crawl it off in her natural play space. Good thing she is a pretty good self-regulator.

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My new sensory play set up, was much simpler. I scrapped the overly visual rug and went with the soft blanket. Still red and alerting, but just one tone. I also focused on the winter wear, thinking her positive experience with them in play would help when she needed to actually wear them, when we were headed out the door into the cold winter weather.

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After spending 10 minutes with the winter gear, she approached the wooden cut outs behind her. She attempted to get them herself, and explored them for 10 minutes as well. Now I feel like I am doing something right. She is able to focus and learn within this new sensory set up.DSC_0019

After a few more minutes, she went back to the winter gear and showed me her skill at combining. Combining is a developmental milestone where babies take one toy they know about and put it with another toy they know about. You know, to see how they might work together, or not!

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So after a total bomb at the beginning, this time, winter sensory play went well.

After working with thousands of kids, developing sensory plans and playing with them directly, I can only hope you realize as a parent that there is a bit of trial and error that has to happen when it comes to your specific kids sensory play needs. My baby needed it toned down, but your baby might have been just fine with the original set up.

Basic Sensory Tip to Avoid Mistakes: Simply look to see if your baby is able to focus on the items presented in the sensory activity. If they can’t, the set up is too much for them. If they can, you probably nailed it.

Learning through sensory play is the idea here. So most importantly, have fun! You are loving you baby when you play with them!

The Family Lunch Box: Easy Potato Skins for the Whole Family.

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Cooking for kids can be downright CRAZY, so I did something even crazier. I enlisted them into my kitchen. Now we’re talking “cooking with kids” instead of only “for” kids.

You might find this a smart move, but it didn’t come from me. After my daughter got downright tired of me complaining about how much cooking I do, she got out her Junior Chef cookbook from Paragon Publishing http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Kits-Boxset-Junior-Chef/dp/1445490196, and found this recipe.

I had no idea she planned to do it right then and there.

With some items for dinner already started, I was happy for the help. Baby would soon be  ready to eat and I thought these little fancy twice baked, already mashed, potatoes would work.

And it did work. These skins were actually an amazing success! I could see these working for a party, a lunch box with a microwave near by, or game day. Here in Steeler Country you always have to be prepared for game day. Great Pittsburgh football food is a must.  But these really work for the Whole Family. Mom, Dad, kiddo and baby all loved them. So try it yourself!

Here is what you’ll need:

4 large Potatoes (we used red, and they even worked fine.)

1/2 stick butter (we used Earth Balance)

4 oz. thin sliced ham, turkey or chicken

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

4 oz cheese optional

Do it: (parents needed for oven work, piercing with fork and cutting)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C/gas mark 6.
  2. Prick potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes, until they are soft inside and the skins crisp.
  4. Remove from oven and cut potatoes in half once cool
  5. Scoop out the soft insides into a mixing bowl. Don’t damage the skins.
  6. Mash the potatoes and add butter, salt and pepper.
  7. Place the skins on a baking sheet.
  8. Lay a thin layer of meat of choice on the bottom of each shell.
  9. Spoon the mashed potato mixture on top to fill the shell.
  10. Grate the cheese and sprinkle on top.
  11. Place them back in the oven and cook for 15 minutes more until the tops are golden brown.
  12. Serve and Enjoy!

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Despite the time it took to bake the potatoes, and the curtains I have to replace due to extensive butter splatter (I’m not kidding), this recipe is a winner. Everyone loved them, and baby could pick up little potato balls I molded myself form the potato mash. Baby found them easy to smash even without teeth!

(note: Make sure this texture is right for your baby. Always adjust the potato mash to what is right, even if you have to puree it in a food processor, etc. Safety First!)

Easy to make into balls, and no lumps. This is my “Potato Rainbow” for baby.

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Not to mention, great fine motor practice for my baby who is obsessed with using her pinch to pick up everything these days!

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The whole family loved them! And what pride my junior chef experienced after they were all eaten. She could not believe that she cooked something for baby to eat. Heck, that’s mom’s job, right? Thankfully, not anymore.

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Smash it up even a third time for fun! These went down in a minute and baby was looking for more. Out of luck, all gone.

This recipe was a happy accident for us.  I could see these being an easy, family oriented Lunch on the weekend too. AND picky eaters might just groove on these cute little skins too. A side of soup or salad would be delicious as well!

As for my immediate meal planning, these are going down in history this Super Bowl Sunday with a big side of ketchup! Enjoy.

 

Feeding Your Baby: Teach Your Baby Strong Emotional Skills Naturally!

Have fun trying first foods with your baby!

The most important idea to remember when feeding your baby new foods: Emotional foundations are laid when baby is eating.

There are, of course, hundreds of baby- and toddler-oriented cookbooks to help you with meal ideas, and so many great organic baby-food pouches you can buy. Great! But how do you get the food in? And how do you help your baby feel like they are good little eaters? Easy….

Tons of Exploring to warm up! The feeding chair is a place of great curiosity.

Tons of Exploring to warm up! The feeding chair is a place of great curiosity and safety.

Parent Referencing: When your baby is unsure about something, they look to see your facial expression for a hint. This is so important to emotional and social neuron formation! They look at you and if you are smiling, they know it is OK to explore the food. If you are angry, scowling, frustrated, or distracted, and your eyes, face and body position show it, they will tense up or won’t be sure if the food is OK. Who likes to eat when they’re all stressed out, right? Teaching kids to trust that you are there for them during feeding builds the foundation for kids with good social skills and self-regulation later.

Look at the focus on baby! Asking

Look at the focus on baby! Asking “This looks great, but I’m not sure. Mom, is this OK?”

This food is Wicked Good....or maybe just Wicked! I don't know but I'm willing to try.

This food is Wicked Good….or maybe just Wicked! I don’t know but I’m willing to try.

Don’t give up too soon! New foods and new textures seem to get the same response. It’s a response that says”What in the world is this?” Usually, baby will spit out some food while making silly (and sometimes horrid) faces! Add texture slowly and combine it with a pureed food that baby likes. An example would be fruit with a small amount of baked chicken breast pureed in the food processor. For more recipes go here.* This is OK around 8 months and I love to do this with bananas or avocado.  It takes 10 to 15 tries for a new food to be accepted. Don’t give up! And take it slow!

Look at me! I can handle this! What is this anyway?”

This is your chance to eat well!  Moms model that the food is safe. Babies reach for mom’s and dad’s mouth to learn what is safe to eat, so let your baby explore. This means you can’t eat junk food and processed food if you want your baby to eat and be healthy. Remember, food is always better than cold and flu medications, so it pays off to put in the effort. I usually cook healthy items for our family dinner that I can puree in the food processor. I have the food processor ready and clean most of the time!

By the end of meal time, baby is more confident! “Mom, I so got this! Don’t Mess with my mess! Bring it on mama!”

The last idea is basic (Sometimes I still forget). Make sure baby is hungry. Not too hungry, or you’ll need to get her started with a bottle or breast to calm her down. With solid foods, regular feeding times work best for me because I can get a feel for times of day when she is most hungry and then plan my food prep around that.

puree banan and peaches with chicken new