Keeping Kids Occupied in the Kitchen

If you’ve got little kids, you know that making meals can be one of the toughest times of the day. The kids want all of your attention—right now—and you want to keep them clean and occupied so they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else. One of the best ways to keep kids busy in the kitchen is to let them “help” you with meal prep and cooking. You could give them an actual pot full of water, but your toddler or preschooler will turn that into a slippery mess in 30 seconds. A better (and far less messy) option is to set your child up at the kitchen table with some pretend food to “slice,” “dice,” and “cook” while you do the real thing at a nearby counter. Here are some very realistic kids’ cooking sets that will make your little one feel like a real grown-up.

melissa & doug sandwich makingCooking and Kitchen Sets (Melissa & Doug)
Melissa & Doug have a pretty broad selection of cooking and kitchen sets that are made of either wood or felt. The Sandwich Making Sets come with everything your child will need to make a delicious sandwich, including bread, rolls, lunch meat, pickles, hamburgers, and more. If you go for the wood set, the pieces stick together with bits of Velcro; the felt pieces stick together on their own. Both come with a wooden knife (that isn’t sharp, of course). To make sure your child gets the recommended daily allowance of pretend fruits and veggies (and, maybe to encourage him or her to eat the real thing at mealtime), check out the Cutting Fruit Set. You get seven pieces of various fruits and veggies that can be sliced into a total of seventeen pieces, which can be reassembled into some really weird combinations that will get you and the kids giggling. The food makes a fun “crunch” noise when kids “cut” it with the included wooden knife. Comes in a wooden storage crate. $20 on http://www.melissaanddoug.com

Alex Toys Tea Set Sticker PartyTea Set Sticker Party (Alex Toys)
Here’s one that combines two kids’ favorites: tea and stickers. This 13-piece, ceramic tea set comes with more than 100 stickers that your kiddo can use to decorate and customize. Then, all he or she needs to do is send out the invitations, make sure there are enough chairs for the guests (which may or may not include stuffies), and start pouring tea while you get your Alton Brown on. The Tea Set Sticker Party comes with four cups, four saucers, a sugar bowl, and creamer, and let’s not forget all those stickers. $19 at http://www.alextoys.com

b Toys Let's DishLet’s Dish (B Toys)
A lot of kitchen toys are aimed at girls, but B Toys, makers of all things awesome, has a completely gender-neutral kitchen set made of brightly colored, durable plastic. It comes with a green tray that’s perfect for serving hors d’oeuvres to special real or imaginary guests, breakfast in bed (or on the couch) to mom or dad, or chips and dip on game day. The dishes, cups, and (safe) silverware can be used with pretend foods or real foods, something the kids will get a real kick out of. Best of all, everything in this set can be washed clean with soap and water. This well-made set will last for years. $20 at Target http://www.target.com

Is That Me Yelling? + The Sense and Nonsene of Alternative Medicine

Rona Renner, RN., author of Is that Me Yelling?
Topic:
Getting your kids to cooperate without losing your cool.
Issues: becoming aware of yourself; understanding everyday triggers; adapting your parenting style to your child’s temperament; dealing with the yeller in your family; dealing with difficult situations, disorders, and differences.


Paul Offit, author of Do You Believe in Magic?
Topic:
The sense and nonsense of alternative medicine.
Issues: What is “alternative medicine”?; megavitamins actually increase the risk of some cancers and heart disease (something well known to scientists but not to the general public); celebrity spokespeople (Like Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine campaign) who have no medical background and are doing more damage than good; alternative medicine treatments that actually work.

Seek and Maybe Ye Shall Find

What’s more fun than a good, old-fashioned game of Hide and Seek? This week we take a look at three fun, new twists on that timeless classic.

education outdoors snipe huntSnipe Hunt (Education Outdoors, Inc.)
If you’ve ever been to an outdoors camp, you probably spent some time hunting for snipe. Counselors and experienced campers would talk about the elusive creature, hand out sacs, and take newbie campers out into the woods to hunt. We’re not completely sure what the purpose of snipe hunts is, except to give the older campers a chance to laugh at the wide-eyed naiveté of the younger ones who, of course never catch anything. But now there’s a way to make snipe hunts a reality. The Snipe Hunt kit comes with two snipes (named Biela and Smartin) and a “nest.” If you play with teams, each team hides their snipe, and the first team to find the other’s and get it back to the nest wins. Alternatively, one person could hide one or two snipes and everyone else hunts. If they haven’t been found 2.5 minutes after being activated, the snipes start beeping. After five minutes, the eyes start to blink.  Can be played inside or outside, day or night. A fantastic family activity. Retails for under $25, batteries inlcuded. Ages 6 and up. http://www.educationoutdoors.net/

usaopoly treasure traxTreasure Trax: The All in One Scavenger Hunt Game (USAOpoly)
This is one of the most engaging games for the preschool set we’ve seen. The idea is pretty simple: scatter a series of clues that ultimately lead to some kind of reward (what that means is completely up to you). Treasure Trax comes with 60 brightly colored, illustrated, thick cards: 30 depicting locations, 18 with clues, and 12 with animals. There are several ways to play. One person (most likely an adult) can set up a step-by-step hunt. For example, you might start by giving the hunter(s) a card with a picture of a kitchen table. On the kitchen table, there’s a card with a picture of a bookcase. On the bookcase is another card leading somewhere else. For older kids, you can incorporate the color and animal cards and make a matching game. Start with an orange card and send the child off to find a card with a picture of something orange (a tiger, for example).  Treasure Trax is great for matching, focus, and memory. But we especially loved how flexible it is. You can have as many or as few steps as your child’s attention span will allow—but be warned: this game is so fun that attention spans have a tendency to get longer. It can be played with teams or as a one-on-one parent-child activity. You can play it indoors or out, and it’s a wonderful way to turn rainy days into adventures. For ages 3-5, but slightly older kids will have fun too. Retails for under $20 wherever you buy your toys or at http://usaopoly.com/

r&r games hide and seek safariHide & Seek Safari (R&R Games)
This is a moderately high-tech version of the old hotter-colder game. The box comes with two items: a monkey (or tiger, depending on which package you buy) and a wand. Someone activates the monkey (batteries included) and hides him somewhere. Everyone else activates the wand, which has LED lights that flash when you’re getting warmer and beeps when you’re really hot—like a Geiger counter. Unfortunately, the monkey has to be hidden in sight—the wand won’t work if he’s in the fridge or under the bed. But it’ll give hours of fun for kids 4-6. Retails for under $35. Additional wands are $13.99. http://www.rnrgames.com/

 

 

 

Co-Parenting After The Divorce

bob kornitzer

A guest post by Bob Kornitzer

bob kornitzerCo-parenting following a divorce (or following the split-up of a non-married couple) presents unique challenges to both parents; but especially to the dad who is now assuming an active parenting role in functions that were previously the sole domain of mom. A good example rests in dad’s interactions with his child’s pediatrician and the child’s health-related needs. Not only is active involvement in the child’s day-to-day medical needs a foreign subject to many newly divorced dads, but there are unique legal issues that I see frequently in my practice as family law attorney that cannot be ignored. For my illustration, I am assuming that dad has joint legal custody (involvement in major decisions involving the health, safety and welfare of the child) and also physical parenting time with the child.

Dad must keep in mind that he needs to be pro-active in learning everything about the child’s health-related needs. This means understanding any special problems of the child, researching those problems, joining the child at medical appointments and being part of the child’s medical decision process. A mom who is used to solely handling this role may not take kindly to what she perceives to be an intrusion into her historic parenting role. She may resist and either actively or passively leave dad out of the “loop”.

It is up to the newly active dad to sometimes bite his tongue, be diplomatic, but be persistent and consistent in participating in the child’s medical needs. Dad has the legal and moral right to help care for the child’s needs, but if dad is not consistent and active, he will effectively erode and minimize his role in the future. It is one thing to talk the talk, but dad must walk the walk.

The importance of cooperative consistency plays out in critical custodial issues. For instance, the more active a dad is in being involved with attending pediatric appointments, the more he will be recognized by the child, the mother, the pediatrician and potentially by the courts as a necessary ongoing component of the child’s life.

Keep in mind that even though I am using medical involvement as my example, this extends to all areas of a child’s needs such as education, sports, activities and religious training. Many divorcing dads who fought so hard to have the right to be active in their child’s lives then turn around and effectively give up that right by reverting to an uninvolved status that may have been prevalent during the marriage. This undermines dad’s legal strength in the future if a) he is seeking additional parenting time or b) mom is seeking to reduce dad’s parenting time. Very critically and not understood by most dads is that being a very involved dad may be the most effective method of preventing your former spouse from relocating to a geographically distant location with the child. When it comes to having meaningful rights to be an active parent, “use it or risk losing it” may be the mantra that dad needs to keep repeating to himself.

Mr. Kornitzer is a partner at the law firm of Pashman Stein and the Chair of its Family Law Department.  His practice focuses in all aspects of family law including divorce litigation, mediation, arbitration, post-judgment litigation, custody, relocation, domestic violence, premarital agreements, assets protection agreements, grandparents rights, spousal and child support. Mr. Kornitzer can be reached at 201-488-8200 or at rkornitzer@pashmanstein.com.

When it Comes to Making Career Choices, Let Your Child Do the Driving

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter just turned 15, and I want to start preparing her for the future. Specifically, I want to make sure that she’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after she graduates high school. She’s only got a few years left, and I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer her toward the right career choice?

A: As parents, we all want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. But parenthood is an ongoing lesson in the difference between control and influence. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your daughter’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).
[Read more...]