By Gen Cohen
By Gen Cohen
We have new healthy lunch ideas for toddlers like delicious sandwiches, wraps and mini-pizzas.
Split a focaccia square in half crosswise. Spread the cut side of 1 half with peanut butter. Top with a layer of cheddar-cheese slices and then a layer of thin apple slices. Cover with the other half, cut side down and press gently.
Split an English muffin and lightly toast the halves. Spread each half with softened goat cheese or plain whipped cream cheese. Top with a thin layer of strawberry jam, followed by a layer of thin strawberry slices. Place the top half of the muffin over the bottom half, and press gently.
If it seems like that sandwich you packed in the morning makes a soggy return uneaten in the afternoon, swap in Pepperidge Farm Goldfish—shaped bread. It'll remind him of a familiar snack and get him to eat up. $3 to $4; grocery stores. Try our Healthy Lunch Maker Tool for more more kid-friendly ideas.
Whoever said you can't package hugs and kisses? Surprise your little scholar by tucking a love note into her lunch box so she knows you're thinking about her even though you're far away. And you'll know that every day at 12:30 p.m., she's reading your note and thinking of you, too!
Turn the ordinary lunch-box staple into a menagerie of animals with these sandwich cutters. Check out Munchkin's elephant cutter, above ($3; Walmart stores).
Spread dollop of store-bought hummus on whole-wheat tortilla, then layer a slice of turkey and some spinach leaves. Roll up and cut.
Pack it up: Svenja Lunch Box, $34, beatrixny.com; Small Round Containers, $16 for two, kidskonserve.com; Light My Fire Spork Little, $7 for three, amazon.com; Teacher's Pet Picnic Pouch, $7, oonae.com; White Traveler water bottle, $25, mysigg.com
Egg Salad Sandwich
Serves 1 to 2
Mix two crushed hard-boiled eggs, ½ tsp mustard, 1 tsp mayo (or plain yogurt) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve on whole-wheat or multigrain bread.
Pack it up: Maxi Storage Box in Blue, $36, mysigg.com; Sigg Cuddle Monsters water bottle, $20, mysigg.com; Light My Fire Spork Little, $7 for three, amazon.com; Jam Session Picnic Pouch, $7, oonae.com; Snack Disk, $6, oxo.com; large and small bowl set, $10, oxo.com
Mix 6 oz cooked tricolor rotini pasta, ½ Tbsp melted butter, ½ cup cooked peas, 2/3 cup quartered cherry tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.
Pack it up: Frog Zoo Lunchies, $13, skiphop.com; Large Round Containers, $19 for two, and thermos, $21, kidskonserve.com; Love, Not Waste hand Towel, $7, peopletowels.com; Beverage Bottle With Solid Cap, Spring Green 9 oz, $13, lifefactory.com; Light My Fire Spork little, $7 for three, amazon.com
Pita-Butter and Jelly
If your child's main food staple is PB&J, but peanut butter is a no-no at her school, here's a peanut-free option. Substitute butter or cream cheese in for peanut butter and spread on whole-wheat pita bread. Top with jelly, or if she loves apple pie, try cinnamony apple butter.
Hard-boiled egg (If you child hates the yolk, serve two servings of egg whites instead.)
Squeezable yogurt tube
Sliced grapes & sliced grape tomatoes
I Heart Turkey
A plain ol' turkey sandwich gets a little love with this Thanksgiving-inspired, heart-shaped version. (Kid not a heart-lover? Stars or dinosaur shapes work, too.) Spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on two pieces of whole wheat bread. Layer two slices of roasted turkey breast and sliced cheese. Use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich into the shape of a heart.
Baby carrots with ranch dressing dip
Squeezable applesauce tube
Let your little chef test his culinary skills by packing the ingredients to a sandwich á la Lunchables. Assembling his own meal right at the lunch table may inspire him to eat it as well. Slice lunch meat and cheese into small squares. Serve with whole-grain crackers and individual packets of mayonnaise or mustard.
Pear or apple slices (squeeze a bit of lemon juice on them to prevent browning)
Store-bought cinnamon pita chips
This kid-favorite gets a healthy makeover to fuel your child's busy body all day long. Make these the night before to save time in the morning. Top English muffin halves with jarred marinara sauce (if your child won't object, add chopped steamed broccoli or spinach to the sauce.) Sprinkle pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Let cool, then wrap up.
One half cup of blueberries
Individual chocolate pudding
Brunch for Lunch
Who says French toast and eggs are just for breakfast? This traditional morning meal makes a power-packed lunch. Feel free to make these the night before. French toast cinnamon sticks: Add pureed squash or sweet potatoes to egg-milk batter for an extra boost of beta-carotene. Cook French toast and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Let cool and slice into sticks for an easy-to-eat fork-free option.
Hard-boiled egg (If you child hates the yolk, serve two servings of egg whites instead.)
1/2-cup fruit salad
An under-the-sea adventure right in your child's very own lunchbox: Tuna fish sandwich shaped like a fish. Cut a corner off of the bread and reverse it, placing the point at the middle of the cut line. Use a round slice of baby carrot for the eye.)
Baby carrots (Write "Fish Food" on the plastic bag)
Blue-raspberry "water"—an individual Jell-O container
Mini goldfish-shaped cheese crackers
While your child would no doubt enjoy diving into a meal of sticky sweet fruit leather, this guilt-free version offers nutrients and energy to keep her going for the second half of the school day.
Spread blueberry or strawberry-flavored cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla wrap. Top with fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries and roll tortilla.
Small container of hummus
Celery sticks and sliced cucumbers for dipping
A real fruit roll-up for dessert
Kid-friendly Chicken Salad
Sliced grapes and cubed apples add sweetness to plain old chicken salad. If your child eats nuts, add crushed cashews for extra crunch. Serve in a small container with whole wheat crackers or flatbreads.
Cook-free S'Mores: Spread Marshmallow Fluff on one graham cracker square, nutella on the other and press together and enjoy!
A colorful, super-healthy lunch choice. Spread white bean dip on a whole-wheat or spinach tortilla wrap. Layer with lettuce, sliced tomato, cheese, thinly sliced cucumber (or pickle if your child is a fan), avocado and other favorite vegetables. Roll up the tortilla. Then slice into 4 1-inch cross-sections to make the wheels.
Kids love finger foods—why not serve up a whole meal of uniform, easy-to-eat cubes? Serve with a toothpick if your little one doesn't want to use his hands.
Cubed rotisserie chicken
Cubed cheddar cheese
Cubed sweet potato (microwave the whole potato for 8 minutes, let cool, then cut.)
Cubed brownie bites
Ham and veggie pinwheels
Pinwheels aren't just cute toys. Try these tasty sandwich alternatives.
Don't forget the snacks!
It's always a good idea to toss some after-school snacks in their lunchbox, too. Stock your pantry with these delicious and nutritious munchies, sure to keep them happy until dinner.
Brain Snacks for Kids
These yummy, healthy treats make great back-to-school snacks
7 No-Mess Snacks
These neat eats are yummy, healthy and easy to clean up
7 Delish Snack Mixes
Salty pretzels, cheesy crackers, protein-packed nuts, sweet raisins and more—all mixed up for some yummy snack packs
6 Naturally Sweet Treats
Your kids will love these dessert-like snacks—just don't tell them how healthy they are!
7 Snacks that Teach
Kids can learn about numbers, letters, colors and even bugs with these yummy treats
8 Fruity Snacks Kids Love
They see: cookies, gummies and chips. Yum! You see: fiber, vitamins and calcium. Score!
7 Healthy Kid-Friendly Dips
Kids will have fun getting their fruits and veggies with these yummy sauces and spreads
7 Snacks That Won't Spoil Dinner
Stave off "when's dinner?!" whining with these nutritious treats
By Gen Cohen
Before we dive into this awesome list of 7 bike trailers for kids, it's important to remember to protect those baby blues with our kids' rubber sunglasses. They're light, comfortable, and they keep your junior's eyes safe from harmful UV rays!
By Gen Cohen
Have you ever wondered why we even bother buying our kids toys when all they really want is the cardboard box to build a fort? Grab your kids, and some scissors, and get ready to make some memories with these creative kids fort ideas. These ingenious cardboard forts will provide hours of fun!
Calling all outdoor aficionados! Forts like this don't roll into town very often. If the recreational life suits you right, this one-of-a-kind RV fort could be in your future. All you need is a box cutter, duct tape, a paintbrush and some paint. Don't forget the license plate!
Rocket Ship to the Moon
Blast off with this adorable rocket ship fort, complete with turnable knobs and colorful accessories. Kids will love playing inside and peeking out the window as they pretend they're floating in space.
Fit for the Farm
Fit for Royalty
No princess could resist this elaborate castle fort. Its delicate climbing ivy and turrets are enough to impress any royal.
Grocery Shop Till You Drop
Give your little one his very own telephone booth to transform from mere mortal to superhero. You'll only need a box cutter, tape, and some paint to "mask" the cardboard box.
The Incredible Igloo
This intricate, igloo-inspired fort will take a bit more than a coat of paint to construct. The family at the blog Tales of a Monkey, a Bit, and a Bean used templates and a calculator to make it just so. Then they grabbed their blankets and pillows and cozied up inside.
Ready to slay some dragons and save the princess? Super Mario Bros. fans can delight in this unique fort. Go ahead, give Luigi a call and get building.
It's going to take some extra cardboard to create this gigantic fort, but the results will be worth it. Even an architect would be impressed with the modern angles of this cardboard fort tower.
By Gen Cohen
To jumpstart your routine, try practicing these family yoga poses by using the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song or with the acronyms PEACE, LOVE, and JOY.
While the holidays are meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, they can also be a stressful time for many. Too many activities, even if they are fun ones, can be overwhelming and leave both kids and adults feeling frazzled rather than fulfilled. Taking the time to practice a few minutes of yoga every day during the holidays can go a long way to help alleviate the stress of the season.
More and more people are beginning to recognize the many health benefits of yoga for adults, but what they may not realize is that kids who practice yoga can receive the same advantages. Some of the diverse benefits include developing discipline, increasing focus and concentration, building balance and flexibility, promoting calmness, and easing stress.
Remember to pick a quiet place to do yoga, and focus on breathing in and out through the nose while practicing the postures; doing so increases lung capacity and helps prevent the fight-or-flight response that occurs from mouth breathing. Hold the poses anywhere from 8-15 seconds. Since it takes time to get into the poses, counting should begin once you are in the posture. As you get more proficient with the poses, you can slowly increase the time spent holding them.
To jumpstart your routine, try practicing the postures as a family by using the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song or with the acronyms PEACE, LOVE, and JOY. Start with the pretzel pose on the first day; on the second day, add easy pose; and gradually add all the poses to have a 12 posture yoga routine at the end of the 12 days. Let's get started with our 'Twelve Days of Christmas' yoga poses:
Twelve Days of Yoga
- On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses. 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 8 Ys for yoga, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 9 lion poses, 8 Ys for yoga, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free
- On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 10 oyster poses, 9 lion poses, 8 Ys for yoga, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 11 volcano poses, 10 oyster poses, 9 lion poses, 8 Ys for yoga, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
- On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 12 eagle poses, 11 volcano poses, 10 oyster poses, 9 lion poses, 8 Ys for yoga, 7 otter poses, 6 Jack-in-the-box poses, 5 elephant poses, 4 cobra poses, 3 airplane poses, 2 easy poses, and the pretzel pose to twist and feel free.
PEACE, LOVE and JOY acronyms
P is for Pretzel pose
E is for Easy pose
A is for Airplane pose
C is for Cobra pose
E is for Elephant pose
L is for Lion pose
O is for Oyster pose
V is for Volcano pose
E is for Eagle pose
J is for Jack-in-the-box pose
O is for Otter pose
Y is for Yoga pose
Images provided by ABC Yoga for Kids.
Teresa Anne Power is an internationally recognized expert on children's yoga and the author of the bestselling and award-winning book, "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids," which has been translated into four languages. Her newest book, "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Guide for Parents and Teachers," is coming out on Kids' Yoga Day, which is on April 8, 2016. For more information, visit ABC Yoga for Kids.
By Gen Cohen
Going broke funding your kid's extracurricular activities? Try these 11 tips on how to spend less on after-school extracurricular activities.
1. Register early
Fill out your child's registration paperwork and pay the fees as early as possible. Some organizations give a discount for early registration, and registering early gives you time to prepare for the activity so that you can accommodate it into your budget without last minute surprise expenses, says Clare K. Levison, author of Frugal Isn't Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better. Another reason to get your child enrolled early: you don't have to worry about forgetting to do it in time and then having to pay a late registration fee!
2. Ask for a discount
Some activities offer a multi-child or sibling discount, but you may not get it if you don't ask. Even if you only have one child participating in the program, check if there are any other discounts for which your child or family might qualify. You never know. A program may give a small percentage off if you or your spouse are military or law enforcement, or if your child is on the honor roll at school. "It never hurts to ask for a discount because every little bit helps," Levison says.
3. Look for a coupon
Yep, you may be able to find a coupon for your child's baseball team or dance class. "Thanks to sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, there are coupons for just about everything now, including extracurricular activities," says Michael Catania, co-founder of the savings community PromotionCode.org. "Do a quick search for the activity along with the month and year (for example, Pony League Baseball, Las Vegas, August 2016 offers) to see if what discounts might be available before you register," he says. It's also a good idea to look for discount codes when shopping for uniforms, equipment and other required items. Even if it's only a 5 percent off or BOGO offer, those savings add up.
4. Volunteer or barter
Volunteering with the organization can often reduce or remove the participation fees for your child, says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. "You can offer to help with bookkeeping, coaching, or cleaning a dance studio, or you could offer your professional skills, whether that be marketing or web design," she says. Whatever you do, it doesn't have to be too time-consuming. It could be as simple as running the concession stands once a week. Every little bit helps, so talk to the program coordinators to see if there are ways you can pitch in while also reducing your child's fees. A couple of bonuses: You get to spend more time with your child doing something he enjoys, and depending on the activity, you may even get in a mini-workout.
5. Do a trial run
It's frustrating and financially draining when your child asks to participate in something, you fork over the cash, and then she begs to quit a couple of weeks later. If you're not sure that your kid will stick with a particular activity, ask if there's a way to try it out before making a full commitment. Some organizations will let your child to attend a class or two on a trial basis. It may be at no cost, or you may have to pay a small fee. Either way, it will give you and your kid time to see if this is really an activity she wants to be involved in, without you having to pay (and possibly lose) the whole fee.
6. Think thrifty
Of course, there are some things that should only be purchased new (such as mouthguards and helmets), but for many other things, secondhand is just as good. Asking family, friends, or neighbors for hand-me-downs is a great way to score gently used items like cleats, uniforms, bats, and art supplies for free or cheap. Buying used can keep more money in your pocketbook too. Check out thrift stores, eBay, Craigslist, yard sales, consignment shops, resellers like Play it Again Sports, or swap sites like SwapMeSports.com. And don't think that buying used means your child will get beat up gear. "A lot of times people try something, decide they don't like it (see above!) and then they have a piece of equipment that's practically brand new that they don't have a use for anymore, so it ends up at a thrift store [or other resale shop]," says Levison.
7. Rent equipment
Rather than paying for instruments, which can be expensive, look into renting. You can likely find rental options locally or through an online dealer. Another possibility: your library. "Some libraries, particularly those in big cities, offer rentals of musical instruments with just your library card," Catania says. Since you obviously won't be able to keep a library rental for the full school year, this option is best when your child is undecided about which instrument she wants to play and trying out different options. Once she's found the instrument she likes, you can look into a long-term rental from a music store or online.
8. Make meals/snacks ahead of time
In addition to the costs of the activity, many families shell out extra cash on food and snacks. Think about it: When you're leaving a long day at work and then heading to this or that practice or game, the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove. So you load up on snacks at the concession stand or grab takeout on the way home—and increase your spending. "Usuallly we find we spend too much money when we find ourselves in a time crunch," Levison says. "So if you can plan your meals ahead, do your shopping at the beginning of the week, and plan easy but healthy meals on the nights you have activities, it can save a lot of time and money."
9. Save on gas
Another area that many parents don't factor into their budget with extracurricular activities is the added travel expenses. "Organize carpools with other parents and take turns driving to practices, games, and performances," Woroch says. Since everyone's schedule is likely to be busy, reach out to others to try to create a game plan as early in the season as possible. When it's your turn to drive, make sure you save on gas. "Start off by finding the lowest local prices with an app like Gas Buddy—a crowd-sourced app that offers near up-to-the-minute gas prices sorted by zip code," Catania says. And most gas stations have affiliations with credit cards and grocery stores, so if you carry a card or shop at a specific store, look to see if it can help you lower your fuel expenses.
10. Skip the add-ons
Just because your child participates in an activity doesn't mean he has to have every little item the team offers for sale. "Professional photos, videos, and extra shirts are fun to have, but the costs can really add up," Levison says. So pass on things that aren't necessities. You can take your own photos or videos, and skip the team shirts for mom and dad and show your support by wearing the team colors instead.
11. Just say "no"
If your kid wants to do football, soccer and swim, you may have to give him a choice. "I think we tend to want to sign our kids up for a lot of organized activities these days, but you don't have to go overboard, especially if it's affecting your finances," Levison says. Limit your child to one activity per season, and tell him to choose the one he wants to do most. If he has an interest in something else, he can do it at home or find a community center that is more affordable than, says, private art lessons. Sure, there may be some whining (or even tears), but you have to do what's right for your financial situation. And, add Levinson, this is a good opportunity to something else that's beneficial to your child: have a conversation about budgets and the cost of activities.
With savings like these, you can treat you and your kiddos to rad rosmbo shades! While your kids are out playing, make sure their eyes are safe! Added bonus that our shades are unbreakable.
By Gen Cohen