Design Awesome Outdoor Sensory Play

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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!)

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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!)

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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

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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

As a developmental therapist, Montesssori homeschool teacher, and mindful mama, I frequently think of how to set things up so they go smoothly. This time however, it went all wrong. Hopefully, this learning moment for me will help you avoid the same mistake with your little one!

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!

Montessori-based Sensory Set Up

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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Simple Montessori-based Sensory Play Set Up

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 mindful 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.

Mindful Parents 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.

Our little ones learning through sensory play is the idea that we as mindful parents are trying to create. The very idea that you read this article till the end says you are well on your way to preparing a great sensory and Montessori play time for you child.  Most importantly, have fun! Remember, you are loving you baby when you spend time playing with them! Hopefully this little tutorial will help!

 

Superbowl Sunday Cooking With Kids: Easy Potato Skins for the Whole Family.

baked potato skins

Cooking for kids can be downright CRAZY, not to mention when it’s Superbowl Party time! So I did something even CRAZIER. I enlisted them into my kitchen. Now my food making team is as ready and tough as the football teams we are going to watch this weekend. Less stress for me, and more fun for the kids! They love it!

We’re talking “cooking with kids” instead of  “for the 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 earlier this week, she got out her Junior Chef cookbook from Paragon Publishing Junior Chef Cookbook and found this great recipe for potato skins.

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. Her baby sister 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! These delicious little bundles could working for a party, a lunch box with a microwave near by, or for football  Sundays. Here in Steeler Country you always have to be prepared for game day. Great Pittsburgh football food is a must.

The best part of this easy to prepare food is that it help meal planning. Mom, Dad, kiddo and baby all loved them. One kid makes them, and everyone gets to eat.

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

Recipe: (for safety a grown up is 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.

Feeding Baby: How Do I Feed My Baby Solids?

Everyone loved these Potato skins, and baby could pick up little potato balls I molded myself from the potato mash. Baby found them easy to smash even without teeth!

Most importantly, 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 and a little milk, etc. Safety First!

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

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My little one had a fun time with the potato rainbow which ended up being a great fine motor task for my baby who is obsessed with using her pinch to pick up everything these days! When I use this for football Sunday, she will enjoy herself as much as all of us adults chowing down on ribs!

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Mindful Meal Planning for the Whole Family

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, as well as a food the rest of the family enjoyed as well. Who said a little mindful meal planning for our football parties wasn’t possible? Now I have proved that it is!

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.  As for my immediate meal planning, these are going down in history this Super Bowl Sunday with a big side of baby back ribs! This is one Superbowl party food that kids can cook! 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

Baby Sensory Play for Halloween!

halloween cute bug

So it’s super easy, indoors or outside.

Outdoor sensory fun!

Grab these materials for some fun and some great Halloween pics. Smiles are easy with all the sensory fun!

Materials: Box, Blanket, Halloween costume, nature toys, pumpkins, different texture fabrics, camera

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It’s good to pick a cozy blanket. This makes for a warm and nurturing base for exploration. The spandex costume makes for great deep pressure input, but costumes of any kind make for great new sensory experiences. They are wonderful to use more often than just on Halloween night.

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Toys and blankets should be baby safe, meaning they are safe to explore with their mouth. Babies need input to their mouth and tags and strings are a real treat!

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It’s even great that they explore all the parts of their costume. Babies are learning not only about their body and how it works, but also how it works in relation to the world. Let your baby explore her costume.

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Different textures are a sensory explorer’s dream! Give your baby several different fabrics to explore.

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Different toys are also great! This little bug had the chance to explore some stuffed nature critters. I went with a nature theme. A quick visit to the plush animal bin and we had all we needed.

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We thought we would head outside for more fun and photos. I was amazed how curious baby was about this big pumpkin. Grass, cooler air, more texture, more colors. Nature based sensory play brings its own advantages.

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Baby was happy for a long time out in nature. I was happy because she was happy AND I got some cute photos!

Happy and Calm Sensory Play Baby!

One good way to know your little one has enjoyed their sensory play, is to see them calm and eventually tired. We’re not talking about being over-stimulated from too much sensory input. Calm, fun, new exploration. That’s the way to go.

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As a mom, I hope you use these ideas to get some great photo ops. As a developmental therapist, I hope you get the idea about great sensory play. It’s fun and exciting for baby, but in the end it’s calming as well.

Sensory play is simply the “work” of our kids!

Six Easy Tricks for a Well Fed Infant

feeding an infant

When moving from milk to solid foods, use these tips and enjoy the pics!

MASTER TRICK! Make sure you tell your little bundle she’s a great eater. No matter what! They are too little to be deviant so all they can do is their best! They know when you are happy and if you tell them they are “great”- they will be. Sounds like magic? Nope, just psychology. It’s called positive identity development.

First Foods! Yah!

Let your infant explore textures in their mouths when they first ween from only milk. They are familiar with only liquid, so give them a chance. Give your baby 10 opportunities for each new food, because it can take that many exposures for them to like it.

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Mess is Best! Let them explore the food with their hands too!

Messsssssssy Hands!

Let them explore the safe baby spoon. They see the family with their spoons and they want to try too.

A spoon can be so very interesting for an infant!

Don’t worry that most of the food comes out instead of going in, at first. Your baby is still getting milk as their main form of nourishment at the beginning, so they won’t miss out on needed nutrients. They have a reflex called “tongue thrust”, and it pushes out the food as a safety for not choking should a larger unsafe item enter their mouth. Texture exposure is what we are after in the beginning, not nutrient intake.

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All smiles at the table with this little SWEET PEA!

Let your baby explore safe solid food, that won’t break into small pieces, so they won’t choke.  Good examples are a hard carrot or sugar snap pea. They see the family eating it and want to try.  This is called “Baby Lead Weaning” and it is all about following the baby’s lead. Safe food, liquid, puree or something that they won’t choke on is OK.

Breastfeeding Secrets

 

Breastfeeding Joys are as many as grains of sand.

Breastfeeding Joys are as many as grains of sand.

Breastfeeding is hard work, but joyful in so many ways. Its an experience in which so many women should be supported and encouraged, as well as celebrated for doing.  So here are  2 great breastfeeding secrets to make life easier! I found both by accident really, living in Pittsburgh, one when I had my first daughter, and the 2nd when my dear friend Jacki had her second child. I would assume you could find these great secrets in other cities too.

I say these are secrets, because I was not told about them, but rather stumbled upon them. Because my doctors did not discussing these helpful breastfeeding aids, I assume yours might not eaither. So…I will.

Both of these items made a HUGE difference in my breastfeeding success. Without these 2 items, as well as my husband’s patience and support for the first 3 months on, I don’t think I would have been able to nurse. Breastfeeding is hard work, and these two items definitely make it easier.

Breastfeeding Secret #1: Newman’ Nipple Cream

I used this cream to sooth my sore nipple during the first few weeks. This cream gave me relief when I needed it. My nipples were so sore when I started nursing, i could only wear my husband shirts. I had no idea how I was going to leave the house in my strange outfits let alone keep nursing. After using this cream, I breathed a sign of relief. It was good enough to keep me going, and I am now gratefully at 6 months nursing.

It is a light cream that has an analgesic, anit-fungal and anti-bacterial property to it, and it can only be purchased at a compounding pharmacy. It was $35.

SO…where can you get it? I originally got a prescription from the doctors at the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh  and got it compounded at the Murray Avenue Apothicary. With my second daughter, my physician, Dr. Galligher prescribed it after I told him how much discomfort I was in the first time around.

Breastfeeding Secret #2: Breast Friend Breastfeeding Pillow

Can a pillow really be your best friend? In times of trouble….YES! The Breast Friend pillow was recommended after my friend had trouble nursing and was given the “Breast Friend” pillow to try. She said she couldn’t have done it without her “breast friend” and nursed for over a year with it. I use it whenever I need a positioning shift or baby needs to focus on eating.

The pillow is designed for perfect ergonomic comfort for both baby and mom, and has even stopped some nursing behaviors we were experiencing this time around due to it’s awesome support and comfort for baby.  It works in so many different chairs too, even some that are not very supportive or ideal for breast feeding. I LOVE THIS PILLOW. It is my best friend.

So for all Pittsburgh breastfeeding mom’s, let me first say that “You are awesome for doing the hard work required to breastfeed.” For all Pittsburgh pregnant mom’s hoping to nurse, I wish you the best and offer these two items that I would never be caught without again. For mom’s everywhere, I hope you can get these products in your hometown too and I wish you all the joys possible from breastfeeding your baby!

Bananas On the Beach Or On Your Kids Plate!

healthy breakfast snack banana Our kitchen is spotlighting healthy foods in an effort to make a Nutritional “FARM”acy we can use when meal planning.  Good things are in the foods we eat, and we want to know what they are. We want to know how to cook them up tasty, and as an added bonus were asking kids why they love them! So get your cutting board ready, whether you have a picky eater or athlete to feed; this week we are focusing on Bananas!

What’s in Bananas?:  This fruit has B3 (Niacin) for good overall health; B6 which is good for clearing away waste; Vitamin C for immunity enhancement; and manganese which works with the vitamin C to create virus fighting substances.  This fruit can give the whole body a boost! Bananas have fiber and potassium which regulate body fluids. They also contain magnesium, which is good for relaxing muscles and plays a huge role in the metabolism of food!

How To Eat Bananas: You can sautée a banana in a bit of butter with brown sugar, make frozen banana chocolate covered popsicles, and make smoothies. You can also cover them in peanut butter and roll them in chocolate for a sweet treat or roll them in Rice Krispies for breakfast sushi! Lastly, you can dip bananas in chocolate fondue.

Why Do Kids Like Bananas? “Bananas are sweet and they look delicious!”  “You can make “Banana Splits!” and “You can make fruit salads with them!” Did we mention they are really easy to carry and work great for toddlers on the go?

Make sure to check out Swami Mommi on Pinterest! The “Great Desserts” board has several banana recipes to kick start the fun!

Warming Up Winter: Acorn Squash Sundaes Toddlers Love and Kids Can Help Make!

Warm Acorn Squash

It’s cold. Kids are inside. Tummies are growling. Time to have some quick and yummy fun! Squash Sundaes are the answer.

This recipe is super easy and can be tailored to any eaters needs. Toddlers can eat it pureed, and older kids can help make it. It’s warm, comforting, and fills the corners of hungry bellies. I used it as a dessert, but it can fit easily as a snack or even better, a warm healthy breakfast. Plus, did I mention it is jammed with nutrients and other good stuff to keep families healthy when it’s cold outside? Oh…it is!

Ingredients:

Acorn Sqush

Olive Oil

Blender or food processor (to puree for early eaters and toddlers)

Cranberries, pecans, butter (Earth Balance), maple sugar to taste

Any other additions or substitutions that you think might work, such as walnuts, raisins, maple syrup or cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut Acorn squash in half, scoop and discard the seeds, and with about 1 tablespoon olive, coconut or grape seed oil coat the inside of the squash. This helps it stay soft and not burn while cooking. Depending on the size of your squash, cooking times may vary, however with a medium squash it took about 40 minutes to roast on the middle oven rack.

After the squash is roasted, let it sit a few minutes until you can easily scrape out the flesh. It makes a great mash as it is being scraped out of the rind, but if you need it to be pureed for your early eater or toddler, use a food processor or blender. If you don’t you may encounter a few strings or textured parts that are not safe. Additionally, kids can’t really help with this part of the recipe, as using the stove and scooping out warm squash is not safe either. However, kids do love to push the buttons on a blender, as long as they are well supervised.

Once the squash is in a bowl it is easy to get kids involved. I recommend setting out a couple small bowls with the cranberries, pecans, butter, walnuts, raisins, etc. so they can add in their favorites. If it is for the whole family they can add in what most of the family would like, or each child can get a bowl and make an individual “Squash Sundae”. Add more or less as each person desires, use them as toppings or mix throughout.

That’s it. Simple, easy and very little clean up! Tomorrow morning I’ll be trying this for a healthy breakfast, and I hope you too get to try it during these cold days of winter!