Get a balance bike!

If you do one thing this year as the parent to a lively toddler, get him/her a balance bike!

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I cannot recommend this brilliant yet simple piece of play thing/equipment highly enough and have taken it upon myself as a mission to spread the news to as many parents with young ones as possible. No, I haven’t been sponsored by anyone to do this post. I just love how a balance bike has transformed our daily walks in the park into something I actually look forward to everyday. Read on to know more

We were given a rather lovely balance bike by a lovely couple we’ve known for a few years here in the UK (thank you Vidya and Aswin!!) as a present and at the time my son was about 1.5 years old. My toddler had by then become rather attached to his beloved scooter and I wasn’t very sure if I could convince him to try the balance bike. Sure enough he tried it and on finding it different to his scooter, soon gave up wanting to ride it and stuck with his trusty scooter for a while longer. I hadn’t given up though. I’d previously read on the internet about the benefits of starting kids on a balance bike rather than a pedal bike and thought I would give it a try to see how effective it really is. So every time we went for a walk, I took the bike with us and lo and behold, my toddler eventually got on it and starting walking his feet slowly. My boy just turned 3 two months ago and still rides it everyday, morning and sometimes in the evenings too. Take a look at this video to see how he’s progressed from when he began. You’d be amazed!

Since my boy started riding the balance bike

  1. I’ve gotten considerably fitter! What with all that running around and playing, that is! I am truly blessed to be living in an area filled with lovely parks. So in the summer, I would take to wearing running shoes and jogging beside my toddler on his balance bike along cycle routes and pavements. I’ve also been doing my local shopping with him on the bike, which is a lot quicker and convenient than having to lug a bored toddler in a pushchair around!
  2. We’ve become more outdoorsy! The rain and the wind don’t bother us anymore, as long as we’ve got our parkas on. We can still whizz back home if it suddenly starts raining. It is also nicer that my toddler to stop and get a closer look at flowers, ducks, squirrels, dogs, kitties and any other interesting thing that might cross his path
  3. He has become more aware of his surroundings. With being out so much comes a lot of opportunity for bonding and communication that you just don’t get when you stay indoors. We talk and learn from each other a lot. I’ve learnt to stop and smell the roses and enjoy these fleeting and precious moments I get with my wee boy.My toddler on the other hand, now knows to stop and press the button at the pelican crossing and knows what I mean by ‘Stop’, ‘Turn right/left’, ‘Slow down’, ‘go faster’ etc. He also can spot most types of vehicles on the road and has learnt to stop by and say ‘hello’ to passers-by who admire how good he is on the bike.
  4. We usually end up having way too much fun! Time really does fly by quicker. Everytime we head out to the park, it would feel like we’ve only been there a few minutes before we realise nearly two hours have passed! Especially if there is an interesting terrain for my boy to ride on .i.e, a gentle slope, ramps, a puddle etc, we would be there until he gets bored with riding over it.

So if you plan on buying anything for your toddler, grandkids or as a present for a child you know, get a balance bike. Not a trike. Not one of those expensive battery operated cars or something similarly silly. I’m not sure a child needs all of that. Besides by starting with a balance bike, your child will progress to a traditional bike with pedals rather quickly, without ever having to resort to use stabilizers. If the child in question is a bit younger, I would recommend either a kiddy scooter or a Scuttlebug (trike with no pedals). My son has used both and has liked each for different reasons.

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I know that my son won’t always want to hang out with as he grows older and starts having more friends. However I will always cherish the times I’ve gotten to spend with him wandering about in parks and having the most wonderful carefree times of our lives.

Here’s another picture of my boy with a leaf bunting I made recently. I hope you have a wonderful beginning to the month of November ahead.

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New Toddler Gear & Handling Fussy Eating!

Look what arrived in the post today!

DSC_0856 The Munchkin Portable Booster Seat! My 2.5 year old has been refusing to sit in his much-loved low chair during mealtimes lately and I resorted to propping him up on top of two cushions at the family dinner table the past few days. DSC_0865Although he had been enjoying sitting on top cushions, i thought he needed a sturdier portable version for when we visit family and friends . So after much research on the Internet, I settled on the Munchkin portable seat and ordered it on Amazon for under £ 20. Here’s a picture of my son giving it a test run. My first impressions are that, it’s quite well made and definitely fits the purpose I bought it for. It is also lightweight and high enough for my son to reach his food at the table. The seat is actually a padded and hollow plastic compartment that can hold quite a few baby necessities. It comes with a shoulder strap for carrying around easily too. Overall, both sonny boy and I love it. I think we are going to get good use out of it everyday, especially when we go travelling to India to see our families. On to a topic that can be a right pain in my neck on occasions, but thankfully for the most part is an enjoyable and healthy every day affair – My toddler’s mealtimes.   Gleaning from my experience of feeding a sometimes-fussy 2 year old, here are my suggestions for helping you through mealtimes with your toddler or young baby

  1. Allow your child to self feed. I weaned my son on to solids roughly around 5 months of age and since then mostly followed baby led weaning (BLW) than the traditional methods (feeding him cooked & mashed or pureed food) I think that practicing BLW early on with my toddler gave him the right foundations to being a good eater.  If you haven’t heard of Baby led weaning so far, it is basically letting your child feed him/herself, no matter what their age. Although it sounds crazy, it does work and I have seen it with my toddler. He eats more when he is feeding himself than when I am spoon feeding him. Its OK if you didn’t wean your child the BLW way, you can start letting them eat their food on their own at any time.For me, It was important that he has good memories associated with mealtimes and that meant him having fun and exploring the food with all of his senses. So be it handling a spoon or feeding himself with his fingers and making a right mess of his surroundings, it’s all good for my son and I. I can always clean up any mess afterwards, but letting my child enjoy his food is vital to forming a good bond with food and healthy eating. Be warned though, it does take a while; when my son was much younger it would take between half an hour to 1 hour for him to feed himself. Of course, if your toddler gets distracted and starts playing, you can always carry on from where he left and feed him the remaining food. BLW or child led feeding is great in that even fussy kids show great improvement in just a matter of weeks of being allowed to feed themselves.
  2. Don’t stress if your toddler or baby skips a meal. He/she will make up for it in the next meal. It takes a few tries before your child starts eating or liking a new food item. So be patient and try offering the same food prepared in a different way perhaps at a later time. You can also place some cut up fresh fruit on a coffee table or a place he/she can easily reach, and if they are interested, they will reach for it and fill up as they play and move about. As tempting as it may be, do not try to force food into their mouths. It may put them off you and mealtimes, and memories of being repeatedly force-fed can have a negative effect, lasting well into adulthood. Plus, switch that TV off. Let food and eating be the focus during mealtimes. Distraction strategies may work for a while, but on the long run you want to encourage good eating habits.
  3. Split the week into cooking-heavy days and cooking-lite/raw food days. If you are Indian like my son and I, it can be very easy to eat rice based cuisine everyday and ignore fresh foods. So try just steamed vegetables, cooked lentils/beans or a colorful salad with boiled eggs or croutons for a few days every week.
  4. Go easy during snack-time. With my son I’ve noticed that even a small snack tends to make him too full for mealtime. So I offer the snack as a treat for finishing the meal instead, if he is still interested.
  5. Eat meals at the same place and time everyday. Kids love familiarity and routines and they get easily conditioned to eating at regular times preferably in the same place at the dining table or highchair. So try to encourage that practice by having consistent mealtimes everyday. For my son, his mealtimes are at 8.30 am, 12 pm and 5 pm with a snacktime or two in-between depending on how much he’s had to eat and how much activity he’s had.
  6. Let them take part in the cooking process. Children love observing and helping in the kitchen. It makes food and ingredients rather fun for them. See one of my previous posts on this topic for more information. Kids are more likely to eat foods they see being prepared in front of their eyes. So let them hang around while you prep.
  7. Sometimes kids just need a break! Once in a while kids will go through a time of not wanting to eat much or ask for their favorites repeatedly; you cannot avoid it. Just stay calm and try again the next day. Although it is easier said than done, don’t get worked up. Offer them alternatives or take your meal outside and eat it as a picnic.

There you have it. These are my words of encouragement for helping you through mealtimes with your toddler. If you have any tips or suggestions that have worked for you, tell me by commenting below. I hope you have a blessed start to the month of March ahead.

I’m linking up this post for My Parenting Challenge linky hosted by a lovely blogger at taughtovertea.com. Do check it out x

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Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Cooking with a Toddler around…

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It can be very daunting at first to cook with a toddler or young baby at home. I have a little sunshine of a boy aged 2 years and 6 months, and it is only now that I have learned a few tricks to keep him occupied and happy while I quickly go about cooking dinner or lunch. When my son was much younger, I mostly did all my cooking during his naptimes and that worked a treat for me until he became more active and reduced his naps to just one a day.

These days I’ve braved up and started cooking while he is still awake and around me; I can tell you that it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. Here are my two pennies worth on how to hang out with your toddler in the kitchen and make it fun!

  1. Kids of all ages love cooking. So let them join in the fun. Their little brains come to life at the variety of colors, textures and smells of ingredients we use everyday and it is a feast for their senses just to see food being, rolled, stuffed, mixed, chopped and then see it bubble, boil or bake away to it it’s last form before it reaches our plates.
  2. Make sure it’s all safe. A bit of safety can assure you and your toddler have lots of fun. Rearrange any knifes, crockery, glasses lying around to keep them out of sight. Only have your child around if you are doing some light cooking like sauteing, steaming or pan frying. Save anything that requires vigorous boiling, deep-frying or pressure cooking for when he/she’s not near. If you can help it, try not to cook with raw meat in front of your toddler either. Use your judgement and trust your instincts. Only you know your child and if it scares you to cook around him/her in the early days, start small and cook easier ‘safe’ dishes or use recipes that need little or no cooking (and hence less child-monitoring) until you are sure your toddler can be trusted to listen to you when warned. It is also a good habit to teach kids to wash hands properly before and after cooking. If your child is too young, put them on a high chair or prop them on to a stable chair so they see can what’s happening. Remember to always stay calm. If the child is reaching for something hot or sharp you happened to miss moving before they spotted it, say it to them calmly and explain why, without raising your tone
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  3. Make it a regular affair. The more your child sees you carrying out everyday chores
    Helping mummy roll out Chapathis
    Helping mummy roll out Chapathis
    around the house, the more comfortable he/she will get with you being a little occupied and not having your full attention for a few minutes. My kitchen isn’t very big but I have a bit of counter space that I seat my toddler on. You can see from the picture that he is rather close to the stove top, but then my son and I have grown so accustomed to cooking together and have good boundaries established that I feel confident he will listen to me (and he usually does!) when I tell him something’s hot. Plus he has a great sense of awareness himself from observing me constantly all these days.
  4. Be ready for a bit of mess. I do most of my lunchtime cooking with him near me as in the picture, and I am much more relaxed about having him around than I did when I started out. Don’t let the health and safety boffins ruin all the fun. Just relax and stay calm. If your child messes anything,  show him/her how to clean up properly.
  5. Offer your child a specific task and watch them do it with enthusiasm. My son loves picking out herbs (most mint, coriander and fenugreek) for me to store in the freezer. He also like whisking eggs, mixing flour, peeling potatoes, rolling out dough, mashing vegetables, chopping with butter knifes etc. You can also allow them to help you with washing up. It could be something as simple as passing rinsed dishes to them to put back on the drainer or even wiping a cup or two. You’ll find that more often than not, they are quite happy to be your ‘little helper’.
    image_2DSC_0761Whishking eggs for an omelette
  6. Offer them a taste of raw vegetables and other ingredients. This is a great opportunity to let them explore different tastes and textures of ingredients you are planning to cook with. My little man loves onions ( yes, onions!!) and he’s always sneaking some into his mouth every time I have some around chopped and ready for use.
  7. Give them utensils to play with. My boy loves mimicking me and he has his own spare pot, pan and wooden spoon to pretend he’s cooking.  He likes raiding my larder my cloves of garlic to toss around with his spoon, to make things look more real.
  8. Put on a show! Pretend you are a TV chef and announce what you are about to do next. Throw in sound effects (Use a blender, mixer or pressure cooker and show them whats about to happen to the food you put inside) But be warned not all kids start liking new noises instantly.
  9. Finally, have fun whatever you are doing. Cooking together is a great time of bonding for me and my son. I know that soon there will come a day when our kids wont be that interested in hanging out with us in the kitchen. So try to relish these moments. And when you are done, always eat your meals together. Kids pick up good dining etiquette and other manners easily when they see it being modeled for them. So go on. Switch off the Television and turn on some good music and get cooking with your wee ones. I hope you will have as much fun as my son and I.

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Do the thing you fear, and the fear of death is certain – Mark Twain