Mindful Music: Jazz Up the Day With Good Songs for Kids!

songs for kids, activities for kids, songs for babies, music for kids

“Is it possible to be mindful when listening to music?”

“Where can a mom or dad find good songs for kids?”

“Since when have good listening activities for kids been so hard to find? “

I hear these questions from parents all the time. I’m glad they ask because it’s easy to direct them toward good resources so their children can learn through listening.

Being mindful when choosing what our kids listen to is important. Kids are ALWAYS listening and learning. The lyrics of the songs they hear inform them about what people outside the family are doing. Hopefully, they are wholesome. Exposure to music when our kids are young weaves them a tapestry of understanding and processing sound that they will compare future music to and will influence their choices. Let’s hope the musical tapestry to which they’re exposed is complex and beautiful.

Most important, who they listen to music with as they grow will affect who they listen to music with when they are older.  Let’s set family musical listening and engagement happen as a part of the daily routine!

Did you know being mindful about music is easier than you think? If your kids have ears, you’re in business. Well, kind of.

As a musician since the age of 6, I knew music was my calling. I went to school many years later, specializing in sensory play to help kids of all ages and skill levels learn. Then several years after that, I was certified to teach Music Together, an organic way of bringing music to kids through the family.  You could say I’ve come full circle.

In all these endeavors, it became clear that in order for kids to learn and use music in the long term, it has to be seen as a family activity. I’m not suggesting that every parent pick up a new instrument, but even the most tone-deaf of parents can select music to listen to and enjoy as a family.

So you might be thinking: just turn on the radio, right?

Nope.

songs for kids, music for kids

Sound Advice on Music for Kids

If you turn on the radio today, many stations play the same kind of music. There doesn’t seem to be much variety. The music industry is primarily about selling music, and music that has “different” doesn’t make many sales. So this leaves us as parents with fewer choices and less say in the quality of music we get to choose.

Many radio stations play music with a specific signal frequency. The idea is to make it not different, but mostly the “same”, within a consistent set of frequencies. All of the frequencies are compressed down into a very narrow listening range (or ‘band’). It’s like taking a mega-sized soup pot of clam chowder, with all its diversity and goodness, and compressing it into a sardine can. Not all that exciting.

These days, Radio is controlled by a handful of huge media companies, and when they realized that the music that people buy is basically “more of the same”, they decided that originality and sonic variety weren’t qualities they wanted to emphasize.  The effect of this is that when you turn on the radio, yours and your kids’ ears don’t develop to nearly their potential to be avid listeners and develop deep appreciation of music, let alone carry a tune or play an instrument.

Below I have a sample of 6 songs in the current genre of modern country music  (which, I admit, I used to like a lot) that, when mashed up together, actually sound like one song. This means that not only are the frequencies used in the music compressed to exactly the same levels, but also that the words and themes fit together topically. Just watch as the song scrolls and the different songs are played simultaneously. Amazing.

Develop Your Kid’s Musical Aptitude:

Musical Aptitude: refers to a person’s innate ability to acquire skills and knowledge required for musical activity, and may influence the speed at which learning can take place and the level that may be achieved. (Wikipedia)

Knowing that kids have a “window” of musical development that hits its peak between 0-5 years of age, what they’re listening to is important. Educational pioneer Maria Montessori refers to this window of opportunity as the “sensitive period.” There are other schools of musical thought that say this period can go well into the 7th and 8th year of a child’s life, and beyond.

Regardless of the age of your child, the answer here to developing musical aptitude is to get your kids listening to good music. Be thoughtful about what music you choose for yourself and your family.

songs for kids, music for kids, songs for babies

Start Early With Family Music

 

Are you ready for some good music?

Your kids are ready!

You think “Where can I get some good old-fashioned music?”

Here are a few ways to be more mindful in your selection of music as a parent:

1. Try visiting your local library’s music section. By that, I mean the grownup section, and check out some CDs! Don’t check too many out of the children’s section.

Kids’ music is so often very basic.  There are exceptions, of course, but it generally means that if your kid listens to very basic music, their ear learns very basic skills. If that’s what you want, then listening to “kiddie” type music will work.

2. Listening to more complex rhythms, sounds, instruments and tonality will develop kids’ ears so they can understand and enjoy these qualities. Adult music in the classical, Jazz, folk, and world music genres will provide you with great choices. If you pick music you like, so much the better. Just make sure the lyrics are age appropriate.

Here are three resources I use all the time. The first two use kids’ songs in complex ways. The third is a masterpiece all on its own, good for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others.

For little ones, here is an example of Jazz used to teach babies a greeting that can be used when you arrive home or anytime you and your family is up for some fun and singing! It’s called Welcome My Baby.

A resource for kids specifically that utilizes folk, blues, classical, and a variety of cultures is Music Together. This is one of my favorites, and you can find many resources on YouTube for free!  It called Ridin’ in the Car.

This resource my kids heard for the first time at a free symphony concert. They could not be distracted! It’s great for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others. In The Hall of the Mountain King

3. Being Consistent with Music Engagement teaches children to be mindful of what they listen to on a daily basis as they grow.

Make family music time a priority. When you hit the library for books, hit the CD rack too. Go to YouTube and see what you like. See what your significant other likes. See what your kids gravitate to. If your kiddo likes the idea of a trumpet, google search “top trumpet players” and see what you can find out.

There is no doubt that your musical ear will be developing on a growth curve if you take this approach. And remember, even if you don’t love a particular genre at first, music has a way of growing on you.

Just make sure to start the habit of Music Mindfulness-and keep it going. If you should break out into random singing and dancing as well, so much he better! If you start singing in the shower, more power to you. Just have fun.

Your kids will surprise you if you give them the chance.

Your children deserve a good shot at a lifetime of good music.

kids play music, songs for kids, music for kids

Different cultures mindfully chose to expose their children to culturally relevant music and teach them how to be a part of it.

We hope this was informative for you and your family. Let us know if you tried some of the ideas shared in this article. We love your comments, because they help us learn what your needs are and what we can do to make Swami Mommi even more relevant.

A baby playing a drum while listening to good music.

 

 

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Avoid Constipation: Don’t Make the #1 Baby Feeding Mistake (I did!)

A feeding guide for parents to help their kids with constipation.

We all make mistakes, so here is my lesson learned. Hope this story helps you feed you kids with confidence.

If you are ambitious enough to start your baby early on homemade pureed foods or if youare able to find a high quality fruit puree at the grocery store, why not try organic pears? I always start babies on pears when they are transitioning to first foods. Well, of course that after I realized that they were so important.

Starting out as a new mom, I was overtaken by cute baby food books, and stressed to be the best feeder ever since I was a feeding therapist by trade. But I forgot about all those foods that were so good and relieving constipation. I didn’t start with them. So when my baby got constipated from drinking too much cows milk, I was stuck.

After quickly thinking what food would help, I started trying them with her. Due to all my effort to get her to enjoy feeding time, with everything from puppets to silly spoons, she took to them pretty quick. But it still took a few days, and we had to wait it out. Thanks to our doctor’s recommendation, we were able to reduce her cow’s milk intake, switch her over to goats milk, and with the added laxative type foods, she was OK.

After that, I made it a point to talk to all my families about getting laxative type foods into their babies and kids diets. Just in case they should need it someday. Sure these foods have great nutrient benefits too, but on a real basic level, I wanted the babies and kids I saw to have these laxative foods on their menus.

There are several types of laxative foods I like and my top 10 are below:

Top 3 Foods that Relieve Constipation in Babies and Kids:

  1. Prunes
  2. Peaches
  3. Pears

The Three P’s in Pooping; prunes, peaches and pears is what I like to call these awesome three fruits. They get things moving weather in solid form, pureed or in juice form. A little mindful parenting and planning should be all that is needed to get your kids to tolerate these foods early. Feeding them regularly will get your kids the road to a healthy digestive system.

Focus on Pears for Constipation Relief

I really want to focus on pears with the main reason being that pears are a safe food to start very early. The other reason is that pears are usually very well tolerated by the youngest of kids.

Peaches and pears should be tired as well, but focusing on pears gives you a template on how to approach feeding these laxative rich foods to your littlest.

Let’s explore why pear work great for babies first, then move into more ideas for older kids.

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Can we do something about this constipation?

Pears for Babies: Great Constipation Relief

#1: Why is pear puree a safe first food for your baby?

While working as a developmental therapist, the Speech Language pathologists would never worry if a little pear juice got in the airway of a child with which they were working. They always told me it was the safest choice because it was most like saliva. I thought that little nugget of insight was quite brilliant. So I used it…and with good results.

#2: Do pears have a laxative-like quality?

Something you probably already know, but just in case you don’t, pears are a great laxative. This goes for adults and children alike. Pear juice, pear puree, and pears all work well to get the mail moving. After a nice meal of pears, most kids and babies have no problems with constipation. If they do, or if their constipation is a consistent problem, the simple pear remedy might not be enough. It’s time to consult your pediatrician.

However, if you are simply wanting to start baby on solids, and you really aren’t concerned with constipation in baby, it’s a great food to try. It can be easily pureed to an almost liquid consistency if it’s put through a good food processor. Add some breast milk or formula for added taste familiarity for baby, and you are all set!

how to help a baby who is constipated, baby laxative

Texture/Consistency Considerations When Feeding:

I usually start transitioning to solids with a texture that is most similar to breast milk or formula. Most nearly a liquid. I always want the first tastes to be fun and an adventure for baby, so giving them a liquid like consistency to start with will not be hard for them to manage in their mouth. I am interested in taste when first transitioning babies because they are still getting their nutrition from the breast-milk or formula they receive.

Over the weeks and months that follow, the texture and consistency can move away from liquid and more towards a true puree, smooth in consistency at first and then with very small lumps. Make sure that the texture is safe for your baby, as each baby has different skills and abilities. I always lean on the side of caution. Go slow, take your time increasing the texture and consistency, and enjoy this very fun time with baby.

I also highly recommend that moms use their finger to provide the puree. Mom’s pointer finger is safe, familiar, and easy for baby to hug and hold while exploring the puree taste and texture. A very small spoon can be used too, but it’s really not necessary.

Sensory Play During Feeding:

Play is the way babies and kids learn. So when babies are still learning about food, they will play with it in order to figure it out. They will actually explore it with their hands and mouth and even rub it on the tray and their hair (yuck!) But let them go at it, it will make them feel like food is just like so many other exciting discoveries they are making each and every day. It really does help them in their development.

I often use toys that babies enjoy so we are combining something new (the food)  with something familiar (the toy) so baby feels comfortable and enjoys the experience. Even a cool spoon would work. It’s really important that baby can touch the food, smell the food, and get to know the food. I always encourage messy eating, and want those little fingers covered in food by the end of a feeding. There will be plenty of time for manners later. This is food exploration time!

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Once babies enjoy the taste, they will usually take it again and again. But remember it can take a baby up to 15 trials to accept a food. So, don’t ever give up too soon. Keep trying the food, even if at first your baby makes silly faces. Actually, silly faces are what I find part of the fun! The face I get almost every time a new food is offered says something like, “Oh my, what in the world is that!”

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DONE! Yum!

Once baby  enjoys pears, you will have a natural remedy to take care of all the important business that happens on the diaper changer. What a difference a poop can make when it comes to a pleasant kiddo! Easy pooping makes for a happy and content baby.

Pears for Kids: Great Constipation Relief

The great thing about getting you kids started early on pears (and prunes and peaches) is that you always have them in your back pocket (literally!) when they need some constipation relief. I know many mom’s would suggest prunes first, but they are not as easily tolerated as pears. Picky eaters even like pears more frequently due to their mild taste. Also, its easy to add pureed pears to other foods like applesauce, pudding and clear soups.

Pears are also really easy to make into cute food. When you kid is down in the dumps from not being able to poop, and meal time is just not that appetizing, fun food is in order. Maybe a pear bug, or a pear dog. Maybe some great whole grain (I still pick gluten free grains) pancakes with pear eyes and a berry nose. Pears are easy to cut up and make into silly shapes. Maybe try a rice-cake with peach jelly, pear strips for hair, prune eyes and nose, and a real peach slice for the smile. Your creativity is the limit.

A pancake with pear eyes and a berry nose to make kids have fun while eating.

Pears are easy to cut into playful body parts for food. Kids love it!

For very picky eaters, no matter what age, there may be either behavioral or issues or issues with gut health present, so consulting as many resources as you can might be helpful in not only getting your kids to eat laxative type foods, but food in general. I have seen many kids struggle when they are not given whole foods from the early feeding years. Also I have seen some kids personally not tolerate foods that are highly allergenic such as wheat, milk, corn and soy, among other. Once they eliminate these foods they do much better, and they often have more frequent poops.

The good news is that now days, so many kids have food issues, that many products are available at grocery stores that were once hard to find. The key here is to still decrease the amount of processed foods, and increase the amount of whole foods. To help you get your family headed in the right direction I have included your very own copy of my Free Feeding Guide: Happy Eating Essentials.

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Thanks mom! A huge poop! I’m ready to take on the world….let’s go!

Let us know at Swami Mommi if you tried pears with baby or if you found another laxative-type food that worked for constipation relief with your baby!

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Feeding Baby: Happy Eating Essentials

how do I feed my baby that is picky?

Messy babies have fun when they eat real food.

This is a guide that every mom should have when they think about how they are going to be feeding baby and their family.

If you are a mom who is curious how to ensure a HAPPY eater, the tips below will help get you started on the right path. These are the essentials for feeding baby first foods. Enjoy.

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Baby feeding should be fun! We hope this guide helps you and your little one!

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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!

Ideas for Family Activities that Center Around Blueberries

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. It’s a fun song about blueberries!

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!

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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 gross motor skills. Plus, 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 fun outdoors,  try to design some fun outdoor time with your kids. It’s Easy!

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 own outdoor sensory play 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.

Feeding My Family

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 per 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: Old Fashioned Food

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!)

Rosie tries baby food recipes and does it!-316691_1280

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!