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Remember those long, enjoyable meals with friends, sipping wine and engaging in uninterrupted conversation with no one throwing their food at you, whining or asking to be taken to the bathroom mid-bite? If you can hardly recall what that feels like, and the latter resonates with you in an irritatingly fresh way, you’re definitely the parent of a toddler who’s not about to still at the table! With these simple, parent-tested pro tips, you’ll be able to buy yourself a few extra minutes and instill a bit of patience that will get better with age.

First, know you’re not alone! The fact is, toddlers are all the same when it comes to sitting still—which means the length of time they can stay calmly seated hovers around the five-minute mark before they go into self-destruction mode—your nerves along with them.

It might seem like you’ll have to endure every meal from here on out in a cacophony of chaos, but I can tell you firsthand that the road to peaceful family meals is possible with this three-part approach.

Teach and Model Patience

Modeling patience is key to setting up toddlers for the inevitable delays and disappointments that are part of life. And these important teachings can be applied at the table by showing your little ones that mealtimes are meant to enjoy food and conversation together.

Child psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley, M.D., advises parents to “be present and avoid multitasking, being distracted or rushing during meals.” Yes, that means putting down your phone and really tuning in. For those littlest ones who need a little extra help, Victoria suggests using a timer to practice waiting calmly. “Start with just a few minutes (or less), then work up,” she says. “Patience is like a muscle and requires the child to self-regulate.” Depending on your child’s abilities, try adding a minute or two every couple of days until they’ve developed the patience to sit at the table for a reasonable amount of time.

Show Up to the Table Prepared

Sometimes a big plate of food set in front of a child can be overwhelming and backfire on that patience-growing plan. Just like in a fancy restaurant, serving meals in courses can set the tone for a relaxing, enjoyable meal. Victoria often uses this approach in her home, serving her child “salad or veggies first, followed by main courses or sides. Then I wait a little while, say 30 minutes [with a break from the table], before offering fruit as a dessert or snack before bedtime.”

During the meal, include toddlers in the conversation as much as possible to keep them engaged and distracted from the physical act of staying seated. Allowing a small toy or washable book on their high chair tray is also a useful alternative strategy to keep you sane when you need quiet or the conversation isn’t going as planned.

And whatever you do, do not make the mistake of letting your child get hangry. A small, healthy snack before dinnertime can make all the difference between a cooperative child and a cranky one.

Practice Flexibility

Because life isn’t perfect, you’ll have to realize when your mental health is more important than keeping your child in their seat. So, mix it up, incorporate different mealtime environments or change up the ambiance to help your toddler get excited about coming to the table. Set up picnics, eat at the patio table, plan a dinner and a movie night, go out to eat or invite friends for dinner. If staying at the dining table is your comfort zone, a little music or change in lighting goes a long way.

The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers

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Research shows that children who learn another language at an early age are more likely to achieve fluency. So whether you’re passing down a heritage language or simply want your child to have the advantage of speaking more than one language, our list of bilingual books in an array of languages is sure to kick-start your toddler’s linguistic adventures!

The Best Chinese Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

12 Lucky Animals: A Bilingual Baby Book

$8 BUY NOW

The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac come alive through vivid pictures and playful descriptions in this English-Chinese board book making for an exciting cultural adventure.

The Best French Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers


best bilingual books for toddlers and babies
Amazon

Hello, My Friend / Bonjour, Mon Amie

$7 BUY NOW

Little fans of Disney Junior’s Fancy Nancy will be delighted to learn first words in both English and French alongside their favorite character.


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

Hello, Paris! / Bonjour, Paris!

$10 BUY NOW

Your child will have a great time discovering the sights of Paris while learning helpful French phrases with a little help from a friendly cat and kitten duo!


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies

Eating the Rainbow / Manger l'arc-en-ciel

$7 BUY NOW

This book is full of adorable images of toddlers and preschoolers enjoying healthy foods in all the colors of the rainbow! Your kiddo will have fun learning the names of their favorite fruits and veggies in both English and French.

The Best German Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

My First Bilingual Book—Numbers

$6 BUY NOW

Bright illustrations introduce babies and toddlers to numbers, colors, and everyday objects in both English and German.


Amazon

My First Bilingual Book—Love

$9 BUY NOW

Another from the MFBB series! Show your little one the many forms of love while they learn how to vocally express these emotions in two languages.

The Best Hindi Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

My First English Hindi Learning Library

$21 BUY NOW

This box set of 10 books includes all the basic learning themes perfect for toddlers—ABC, Numbers, Colors, and more! Each book has bright and realistic images labeled in both English and Hindi.

The Best Italian Bilingual Board Book for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
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Mangia! Mangia!

$7 BUY NOW

Got a little pasta lover at home? This colorful board book introduces toddlers to the delicious and diverse world of Italian cuisine (beyond spaghetti!).

The Best Japanese Bilingual Board Book for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
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Up and Down

$6 BUY NOW

An opposites-themed book in bold color block illustrations paired with full, descriptive sentences makes for an extra effective Japanese vocabulary development boost!

The Best Korean Bilingual Board Book for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

The Solar System

$12 BUY NOW

A curiosity of space is an innate human quality, so it’s never too early to explore the planets and stars with your toddler. Not only do we love the playful illustrations, but the transliterations score major points with parents who are learning Korean alongside their kiddos.

The Best Portuguese Bilingual Board Book for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

Upa! Upa! Hip, Hop

$6 BUY NOW

This easy-to-follow board book with contrasting images of baby animals is sure to capture the attention of our tiniest language-learners as they learn words to describe animal movements in Portuguese and English.

The Best Spanish Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes/Cabeza, Hombros, Piernas, Pies

$4 BUY NOW

This well-known nursery song has been translated into numerous languages and is beloved around the world. This Spanish version will have your toddler singing along in no time!


Amazon

¡Me gusta cómo soy! / I Like Myself!

$6 BUY NOW

This fun book will teach your toddler all about loving who they are through bright and quirky illustrations, while growing their sense of self-esteem and their Spanish vocabulary!


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

Palo y Piedra / Stick and Stone

$6 BUY NOW

A heartwarming story of friendship with an underlying anti-bullying message and the cutest illustrations!


The Best Bilingual Board Books for Toddlers and Babies
Amazon

Los Tres Cerditos / The Three Little Pigs

$4 BUY NOW

A classic fairytale retold in a gentle tone with equally serene visuals is sure to become your toddler’s favorite for years to come.

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‌I sometimes joke that I could sleep on the edge of the Grand Canyon and not fall off. That’s what over seven years of co-sleeping will prepare you for—the ability to sleep on less than five inches of the bed with tiny feet smushed in your face. Although this method is what has mostly worked for my family, the pressure of perfect parenting reflected in social media had often left me wondering if my children not falling or staying asleep on their own fits the norm—and I have a feeling I’m not alone.

If we look beyond modern Western culture and recent human history, then the simple answer is, yes, it is normal for children to experience varying independent sleeping skills. From an anthropological viewpoint, parents—particularly mothers—sharing their sleep space with their young children is a centuries-old practice. And in some cultures, sleeping alone doesn’t occur until adulthood.

“Teaching our kids to sleep alone at a young age is a unique piece to Western culture and one that we often teach because we want our children to have experiences that require independent sleep skills, such as slumber parties and sleepaway camps,” says Emily McMason parent, coach, and sleep consultant at Evolving Parents.

Though it really does come down to personal preferences and the health of your family. If soothing your child to sleep or co-sleeping is what results in the best rest, then there’s little reason to change it while your child is very young. However, if it’s not working or you believe your child is old enough to begin an independent sleep routine, there are some steps you can take that do not involve traumatic experiences for you or your child.

According to Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, pediatric sleep psychologist, assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “Children often develop a sleep-onset association—also known as a sleep crutch. If you’re always there when your child falls asleep or co-sleep, they begin to pair parental presence with their ability to fall asleep. So, when you’re ready to teach independent sleep skills, start by figuring out what their sleep crutch is and gradually remove these things from their routine.”

In Dr. Schneeberg’s book Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Bedtime Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, Ages 3-10, she recommends small steps such as placing a body pillow between you and your child, giving them a nighttime toy to sleep with, and moving them to their own bed but staying in the room until they learn to fall asleep without the need for your presence.

Furthermore, helping children understand the sleep cycles—that often differ for each family member—and providing a reason for them to be excited for sleeping on their own is an effective tool. And one that Emily McMason recommends, encouraging parents to help children understand why uninterrupted sleep is important with phrases such as “your body needs peaceful sleep to grow, and I can’t wait to see how much bigger you are in the morning!”

Whether you decide it’s time to transition your child to sleep on their own or want to embrace your child’s sleep dependencies, remember that the choice and experience are uniquely yours, and it’s unlikely you’ll be their sleep crutch forever.

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Is This Normal? My Kid Won’t Eat Dinner Then Begs for Snacks Before Bed

Is This Normal? My Toddler Refuses to Eat

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Do you ever wonder about your toddler’s ability to survive on what seems like nothing more than air and the occasional sip of water? This phenomenon is also known as a “hunger strike”—a flat-out refusal to eat. As frustrating and confusing as it can be, the experts have weighed in to assure us that, more often than not, it’s a completely normal phase in toddler development.

After speaking to three pediatric nutritionists, we discovered that there are some real biological and psychological things happening during this period in toddler development that have a direct effect on their eating patterns and preferences.

Growth

Babies grow very quickly, but once they hit age one, the rate of growth slows quite a bit. So, it’s not abnormal for your once ravenous child to eat less or skip meals. It’s their biological way of regulating the amount of food they actually need. “Toddlers have itty bitty stomachs and may eat less than what their adults expect from them,” says LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD. “Toddlers tend to do better with a meal pattern consisting of small meals and multiple healthy snacks versus three main meals only.” If your toddler is refusing to eat, it could be because he or she is simply not hungry, she adds.

Food Neophobia

We sometimes forget just how much primal instincts define behavior. Food neophobia stems from ancestral intuition that protected humans from consuming foods that could be harmful. And while we know that the foods we serve are safe, our toddler’s innate senses might become activated by foods that appear abnormal or have an unfamiliar smell or texture (cottage cheese, anyone?).

Temperament

The toddler phase is challenging. A need for independence can lead to battles for control while toddlers test the limits of what they can get away with. Adding a predisposition toward a strong-willed attitude can magnify mealtime issues. “It’s up to parents to monitor their own reaction while considering the personality of the child,” says Jana Greene Hand, MS, RD. Forceful feeding methods only build more resistance, she says.

So how do parents guide their children through this phase?

Certified nutritionist and self-proclaimed picky-eating expert Danielle Binns encourages parents to try—at the onset of introducing solids—her “4 E’s to Better Eating” approach to help children develop a healthy and adventurous relationship with food.

  • Enjoyment: Create a calm and enjoyable mealtime experience, removing any anxiety that can inhibit appetite.
  • Exposure to different foods: Serve a variety of foods.
  • Exploration: Encourage the exploration of foods through feel, smell, taste and touch.
  • Expansion: Gradually grow the list of foods.

Binns does, however, recognize that there are instances when a deeper assessment and plan may be needed, stating that “[…] about 47 percent of children are deemed picky eaters, and within that category, roughly 10 percent are extreme cases. Developmental picky eaters usually grow out the phase over time, while children who really struggle tend to have underlying sensory, physical and anxiety issues.”

If you’re concerned that your child’s refusal to eat is more than a developmental phase, checking in with their pediatrician to make sure their natural growth curve and labs are all within the normal range could put your mind at ease.

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Are Puffs Really That Bad for Toddlers?

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My concern over my children’s health started well before birth. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I changed my already healthy diet to an extreme version of that. So, you can bet that when they began eating solid foods, and reports like those on heavy metals found in puff snacks surfaced, it set me on a path of hyper-vigilance. It was only when I decided to take a commonsense approach and look at the bigger picture that I found a much calmer and balanced approach to feeding my family.

I don’t know many parents who have the time to sift through lengthy reports and analyze the data to find the answers to their questions. For most of us, an almost certainly exaggerated headline and a quick scan of worrying bullet points are enough to send us to our pantries, purging foods deemed unsafe.

And these reports emerge quite often, like the latest congressional report titled Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury, which warns that those metals are associated with adverse “infant neurological development and long-term brain function.” If you think that sounds terrifying at first read, we agree!

The predominant foods of concern were jarred baby foods and puff snacks containing fruits, vegetables and grains. That’s right, those conveniently packaged foods we have all probably fed our children at some point are now on many parents’ lists of foods to avoid. Of course, parents have every right, and should, do their research on topics concerning the health of their children. Though, if you’re looking to spare yourself the long read and heightened anxiety, I’m sharing some food for thought and expert advice from a nutritionist.

First, fruits, vegetables and grains make up a large part of our diets—avoiding them entirely is not possible. The same goes for those heavy metals. The truth is, they exist in the very soil that our food is grown in and the water that those plants, and we, consume. Some foods naturally have higher levels, such as root vegetables, fruit juices and yes, grain products.

Still, as a result of the rice puff frenzy, you might have noticed some grain-free alternatives popping up on grocery store shelves. But many contain substitute ingredients—such as cassava flour and meat-derived products—that are new and not fully tested, meaning they come with their own set of potential risks. So, the trick here really is all about balance.

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN and mother of five, agrees that parents are inundated with so much information around food and that looking at the overall picture is key to remaining calm among the wave of panic—a piece of advice she regularly offers to her clients. She also emphasized that “most kids are not consuming these snack foods in quantities that would raise concerns about the harmful effects of the ingredients in question because these snacks make up a relatively small part of their overall intake.”

The amount of attention we put into helping our children establish a healthy relationship with food is of greater importance than counting each potentially harmful snack they consume. Modeling a peaceful relationship with food, instead of one full of fear and uncertainty, is a great way to help our children reach this goal.

Because babies and toddlers often need subdued introductions to flavors and textures to develop a more adventurous palate, these first foods—like their beloved puffs—can play an important role in helping them feel more comfortable at eating times, Karges says. “And when your child feels more comfortable, they’re more likely to build positive associations with food and eating.” That’s why parents should focus on variety, and not just the what, but also the how, she adds.

Ultimately, creating a nutritional plan based on a wide range of healthy whole foods while remembering that the occasional store-bought cupcake at a birthday party or cupful of puffs is less harmful than the stress caused—to parents and children—by trying to avoid them is a great strategy in finding balance.

 

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As busy parents of toddlers, finding ways to encourage independence, learning and movement that don’t involve screen time isn’t always an easy task! That’s why adding this list of our favorite kid-focused podcasts to your arsenal of parenting tools is something you can’t afford not to do. Then all you’ll have left to do is turn up the volume!

Little Stories for Tiny People

LSFTP is a collection of children’s stories with heartwarming characters that foster inclusivity of diverse feelings, experiences, cultures and families. Episodes average about 30-minutes—a perfect addition to your toddler’s afternoon quiet-time or bedtime routine. And kids are sure to fall in love with the creator Rhea Pechter’s debut picture book, Little Fox Can’t Wait to Dream, too!

Noodle Loaf

If you’re looking to get your toddler’s wiggles out through play-based, sensory learning, Noodle Loaf is the podcast for you! Episodes are wild and fun—just the thing for those restless littles—and encourage kids to move and sing along with the help of real listeners while learning about and celebrating our endlessly interesting world!

Storynory

Fun-filled adventures, classic fairytales and ancient history come to life in the Storynory podcast! And with an array of super-short stories (think 5-10) available, this podcast is great for keeping toddlers’ attention while you make a call or take a solo bathroom break.

Busy Kids Love Music

A wonderful voyage through the world of music and intriguing instruments awaits your toddler in this podcast, which will introduce your littles to different musical styles, techniques and the people who create the magnificent music!

Circle Round

Each episode of Circle Round encourages children to think about themselves, the world around them and their place in it through adapted multicultural folktales. And they all end with an activity prompt that will inspire children to explore the ideas they learned with their parents. Circle Round is aimed at children ages 4-10, but with endearing themes and manageable lengths of about 10-20 minutes, older toddlers can easily join the adventure!

Story Time

Story Time is produced by a group of talented, international storytellers—who also happen to be parents—who understand the importance of access to creative stimuli and free stories for all children. Together they deliver original tales that will take your toddler on new, exciting learning adventures!

Kids Short Stories

Toddlers will love Kids Short Stories creator Mr. Jim and his silly short stories full of imaginative scenarios told with captivating voices and a rhythm that will keep them entertained from start to finish. Mr. Jim also accepts story idea submissions, turning your child’s ideas and interests into fun stories that they’ll be thrilled to hear flowing through the speakers of your car or home!

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Board games are a nostalgic activity that brings families together in a way that technology just can’t compete with. You may have fond childhood memories of playing Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly with your siblings and best friends, and now that you’re a parent, you can’t wait to play them with your child.

Because many of our favorites are a bit too advanced for our littlest players, we’ve come up with a list of introductory board games that will help your toddler build the skills needed for tackling trickier games that the whole family can play together.

(Note: While these board games are geared toward toddlers, we strongly recommend joining in the fun and keeping an eye on pieces your child might try to taste!)

Best Games for Getting the Wiggles Out

Monkey Around

$19 BUY NOW

This game is all about getting toddlers moving (balance, hop, march!) while learning about spatial concepts, developing coordination (catch the banana!), and building listening skills.


Ready Set Discover Twister Shapes Game

$20 BUY NOW

Your toddler’s little limbs will love this mini version of the original Twister game you grew up playing! Ready Set Discover Twister Shapes Game will help them learn the concept of taking turns, while the bright colors and fun stars, triangles, squares, and circles will help them learn and recognize colors and shapes.

Best Games for Building Fine Motor Skills

Lewo Colored Stacking Game Wooden Building Blocks

$20 BUY NOW

The Lewo Colored Stacking Game is just like Jenga but with colorful blocks and cute baby animal faces. Toddlers will put their fine motor skills to the test using the little hammer to try to move the pieces without knocking over the tower—though we think watching the tower tumble to the ground may just be the best part!


Aitey Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game

$23 BUY NOW

Toddlers will have a blast stacking, fishing, lacing, and balancing in Aitey’s Fishing Game! And if all the skills your child will be learning and practicing aren’t reason enough to love this game, we know you’ll appreciate its eco-friendly materials. $19.99

Best STEM Games

VATOS Board Magnetic Kids Game

$20 BUY NOW

VATOS Board Magnetic Kids Game will help even the littlest tots build their math and engineering skills while stacking magnetic pieces into colorful patterns. $19.99


Play Brainy Shape and Color Matching Puzzle Game

$15 BUY NOW

Play Brainy’s Fun Color & Shape Game is a great way to get your toddler’s cognitive thinking skills in gear. Once they understand the concepts, they can play on their own (hooray!).

Best Cooperation & Community Games

Peaceable Kingdom Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game Emotional Development Cooperative Game for Kids

$18 BUY NOW

Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game takes a simple matching game to a new level with social-emotional concepts that teach toddlers empathy and compassion while helping friends and neighbors they encounter along the way. And there’s no competition or winner in this game—just FUN!


Daniel Tiger's Welcome to Mainstreet

$14 BUY NOW

Toddlers will enjoy interacting with their favorite PBS characters as they make their way through town in Daniel Tiger’s Welcome to Mainstreet—all while building essential social, counting, and coordination skills.


Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It

$28 BUY NOW

We couldn’t end our list without a trip down memory lane! Who didn’t grow up loving Richard Scarry's books? The Richard Scarry Busytown Eye Found It board game may have simple, easy-to-follow instructions, but toddlers will be challenged to use their matching and attention skills while they race across town finding hidden objects and solving mysteries.

—Candace Nagy

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Looking for fun and free ways to bring excitement to your child’s day? Have some joy delivered straight to your mailbox! Kids will love seeing their local postal carrier arrive with free samples by mail, and there’s good news for parents: our list is full of items that encourage kids to learn about themselves and the world around them. From books to free stickers by mail, scroll down to see how to request them today.

Stickers

The Wildlife Conservation Society has been preserving wildlife and their natural habitats since 1985 through education, conservation and encouraging people to join in their cause. Recognizing the importance of inspiring children from a young age to be a part of these efforts, the WCS offers of range of learning resources, as well as free stickers by mail, featuring amazing animals that kids will love.

Chances are your little ones love to play in the dirt, dig for worms, and make mud pies. A group of some big kids (ahem, adults) that love dirt as much as yours got together to start the Soil Science Society of America so that they could study and support this super important part of our natural ecosystem. The SSSA wants everybody to learn and get excited about soil so much that they mail free I LOVE SOIL stickers straight to your home.

Do you have a little animal lover in your house? If you do, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will send free stickers by mail so your child can show off their love of animals while inspiring others to show kindness to all of our furry (or furless) friends!

iStock

Books & Magazines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might be a go-to for COVID-19 facts and updates, but did you know that they're always looking for ways to help teach children about the health of themselves and their communities? Since books are always a hit, the CDC will mail free ones to kids when their adults request them here. Our favorite one, Amazing Me: It's Busy Being 3, that the CDC is currently offering follows Joey the kangaroo and friends along a developmental milestone journey.

Dolly Parton founded Imagination Library in 1995 to encourage the love of reading and literacy among children. Today the organization mails free books to kids from birth to the time they begin school. Check here to see if your child is eligible to receive free high-quality books from Imagination Library.

PETA is on our list again, this time with their Kids’ Guide to Helping Animals’ Magazine. The magazine includes puzzles, stickers and quizzes that aim to help kids learn about animals and how they can protect them. Want a free magazine mailed to your child today? It’s as simple as filling out this quick online request form.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to get kids excited about protecting their environment. That’s why they offer free activity books by mail such as Planet Protectors Club: Follow That Trail, which takes kids through a fun-filled mission to protect their environment. You can request one here.

LEGO bricks are the ultimate imagination building toys around, so it’s no wonder that kids around the globe are passionate about their colorful creations. But sometimes, children need a little bit of inspiration to help kickstart their LEGO builds. Your kids will never run out of ideas with the free LEGO Life Magazine mailed to them four times per year.

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Letters

If your child dreams of getting mail from their favorite Disney character, encourage them to write to them. Follow this guide for tips on where to mail your child’s letter and which characters are most likely to respond.

NASA astronauts love getting letters from kids. So, if you have a space-loving, aspiring astronaut in your home, have them write to NASA today. In a few weeks, they’ll be surprised to see a (free) autographed photo of an astronaut arrive in the mail just for them. We think that’s pretty far out—and your kids will, too!

The White House receives all kinds of mail, and you guessed it, a lot of that mail comes from children eager to share their thoughts on everything from the environment to White House pets! Does your child have something important to share? While they may not receive a personalized response, The White House secretary diligently attempts to mail a reply on official White House letterhead when you follow these instructions.

iStock

Seeds

The Live Monarch Educational Foundation needs your kids' help supporting monarch butterfly populations by planting milkweed. And while they do encourage small donations to help keep their foundation going, they are happy to send free seeds by mail when you send them a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The Rob Greenfield Free Seed project strives to help people learn to grow and share food within their communities. We think this is a fun (and delicious) way to teach children about where their food comes from and get them excited about preparing and sharing healthy meals! Check out the requirements and join their 2022 waitlist, so they know you want free seeds mailed to your child.

—Candace Nagy

Featured image: iStock

 

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Mealtime with toddlers can sometimes feel like a game of chess, especially when vegetables are on the table. At times you may find yourself dodging carrots catapulted by knights, while other times an all-out stalemate leaves both players exhausted and unsure of the next move. And while walking away from the game might seem like the easiest way out, we assure you there are plenty of creative ways to feed your toddler greens that don’t involve a complicated strategy.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers should be consuming 3-5 servings of vegetables per day (roughly ¼ cup portions). But since the growth-rate slows and a need for independence starts around age 1, the AAP suggests approaching mealtime with flexibility and variety to give your child choices while they learn about different foods and avoid putting pressure on your child that could result in a negative relationship with food.

While flexibility is key, there are a few basic rules that parents should aim to enforce and model.

Stay Seated During Meals

When it comes to young children, safety during mealtime is imperative to prevent choking hazards, so the staying seated during meals rule should be followed whenever possible. It’s also a great way to help children focus on their meal, learn table manners and participate in quality family time.

Adhere to a Regular Meal and Snack Routine

Children thrive on routines that give them a sense of security while helping them learn what is expected from them each day. So just like a bedtime routine helps a child understand when it’s time to wind down for the day and prepare for a restful night’s sleep, meal and snack routines establish healthy eating habits that help children recognize hunger cues and the nutritional needs of their bodies.

photo: iStock

Eat from All Food Groups

Meals should be balanced and offer foods from all five food groups. And more importantly, toddlers should be encouraged to eat from all food groups at every meal. It might seem like you’re being flexible to let your child skip an entire food group at a meal, and sure, that may be okay here and there, but too often may risk your child not getting enough of an important set of nutrients.

Even equipped with these rules, it can be tough to put them into play when your child is refusing to eat their greens.

Having recently parented two toddlers, I know first-hand how confusing and frustrating the ups and downs of their dietary preferences can be. Some days toddlers may devour an entire head of broccoli, while on others, they look at it with total disgust. That leaves parents with two choices: Fight against it or join the game and get creative—and perhaps a little sneaky, too. I chose the latter and am sharing a few tried and tested recipes to help you incorporate greens into your toddler’s diet.

  • This 4 ingredient Spinach Mango Banana Green Smoothie may have leafy greens in it, but masked by bananas and sweet mangoes, your toddler won’t be the wiser.
  • These Fruit and Veggie Bug Snacks may not be hiding the veggies from your toddler, but your toddler will have a hard time resisting veggies that look this cute, especially when they get to help prepare them.
  • When you’re in a rush, getting as many food groups as possible into one bite can be a lifesaver, so it doesn’t get much easier than these Mini Broccoli Cheddar Bites that your toddler will love.
  • Sorry, potatoes don’t count as a “green,” but cauliflower most definitely does, and switching out the spuds in these Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese will trick any toddler into eating cruciferous veggies.
  • We don’t know one toddler who would turn down a popsicle, so feel good about offering these bright Fruit and Veggie Popsicles to your little one this summer
  • Kids will love dipping these familiar-shaped Carrot and Zucchini Fries into a side of ranch or hummus.
  • Pasta is almost always a hit with toddlers, so the next time you’re serving up spaghetti and meatballs, top it with this delicious Hidden Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce (use this sauce for pizza, too!).

I hope that these tips and recipes will get you on your way to successful eating habits with your toddler!

—Candace Nagy

 

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13 Indigenous Heroes Every Kid Should Know About

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With holidays such as Indigenous People’s Day and Native American Heritage Month, popular culture and our history books may remind you of only a few indigenous people. We have many heroes, historic and modern, who are working toward goals that help elevate Native American and First Nations people along with protecting things vital to all of humankind, like water and food. Read on to learn about a few more indigenous heroes that your kids should know by name.

Chef Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart

Chef Kimberly Tilsen Brave-Heart's, Rapid City-based Etiquette Catering provides a modern twist on traditional indigenous recipes. Travelers to Rapid City can interact with Etiquette Catering by booking private dinners with Etiquette Catering to experience authentic indigenous cuisine, ordering and picking up Etiquette Catering’s new charcuterie boxes created with locally sourced ingredients, or joining Etiquette Catering for a cooking class.

"As the original inhabitants of this land, it is important to teach all children the significance of Indigenous foods, history, and existence," says Chef Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart. "We all reside upon the ancestral lands of indigenous people."

Phil Lucas

A member of the Choctaw Native American Nation, filmmaker Phil Lucas is most well known for the series of documentaries he created with Robert Hagoplan called "Images of Indians". This five-part series explored the Indian stereotype portrayed in movies and how that stereotype impacted indigenous people's own image of themselves. He also played characters and served as a technical advisor on cultural content in TV series like Northern Exposure and MacGyver

Sean Sherman

Founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef, Sean marries his passion for cooking with his rich heritage by raising awareness of indigenous food systems. As the winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook, Sean uses his platform as a way to create opportunities for education around Native foods and culinary techniques. As a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, the work Sean does is deep-rooted in a sense of pride and connection to his people.

Amber Gueteiber

Josephine Mandamin

Born in 1942 in the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory (Ontario, Canada), Josephine was the founder of the Mother Earth Water Walkers and fierce leader of the water protection movement who strived to bring awareness to water pollution. Having great influence on many people in her community, it comes as no surprise that her great-niece, next on our list, follows her path.

Autumn Peltier

Member of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Autumn Peltier, was only 15 when she first spoke before the UN General Assembly on the issue of water protection in 2018. Known as a “water warrior,” she follows in her great aunt Josephine Mandamin’s footsteps, advocating for the rights of Native American communities to have access to clean water.

Edmonia Lewis

Born in New York around 1844 to indigenous parents—her father was African American and her mother was a Chippewa Indian—Edmonia spent a great deal of her career as a sculptor in Rome, Italy where she gained international notoriety in the world of fine arts. Although many of her sculptures depicted prominent American figures, Edmonia never forgot her heritage, paying homage to both her African American and Native American origins in sculptures such as “The Arrow Maker” (1866) and “Forever Free” (1867).

Neely Snyder

Descendant of Red Lake Nation and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Neely is passionate about creating healthier Native American communities. Applying her education and background in philanthropic leadership, Neely, as Executive Director of Dream of Wild Health, advocates for the organization’s mission to help indigenous Native American communities recover their natural ways of life, especially through indigenous food and agriculture. 

Hilaria Supa Huamán

A native of Peru and a member of the indigenous peoples of Quechua, Hilaria says her adversities are what have given her the strength to fight for many causes that affect the Quechan, as well as people all around the world. She is an activist for women’s and land rights, using her influence as a member of the Peruvian Congress to lobby for and enact laws that would benefit these causes.

Jessie "Little Doe" Baird

Jessie "Little Doe" Baird is a linguist who helped revive the Algonquian language of her ancestors that had not been spoken for more than 150 years. As a citizen of the Mashpee Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, she started to create a dictionary in 1996 chronicling the tribe’s ancestral language as part of a research fellowship with MIT. The dictionary holds more than 11,000 words.

Bill Reid

Not many kid’s history books talk about the Haida peoples of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, located off the west coast of British Colombia. Their preservation of land and water are admirable environmental achievements. Having a deep respect for his mother’s heritage, Bill Reid dedicated much of his work in the arts to the Haida peoples. Bill created, alongside other native artists, a sculpture depicting the story of human creation as passed down by Haida legend, among others. His work in bringing awareness to and preserving the stories of the Haida peoples is remarkable.

Joy Harjo

A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Joy Harjo is an American poet who has served as the incumbent United States Poet Laureate since 2019. She is the first Native American to hold that honor. She has written nine books of poetry and two award-winning children's books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming. As the U.S. Poet Laureate, she has introduced the country to the many Native poets who live in these lands through her signature project, “Living Nations, Living Words”.

Winona LaDuke

Descended from the Ojibwe tribe in Canada through her paternal blood, Winona has spent the past three decades actively working to recover lands for tribes such as the Anishinaabe. In addition to reclaiming lands, she also works to restore and preserve natural, indigenous cultures through the cultivation of native foods and products. Winona ran for president of the United States in both 1996 and 2000 as a member of the Green Party, and although she was not elected into office, we think the work she is doing carries just as much importance.

Isidro Baldenegro López

As a leader and indigenous member of Mexico's indigenous Tarahumara people, Isidro (b. 1966) staunchly defended the old-growth forests in his territory. In 2005, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for organizing peaceful protests that led to the protection of the forests and its indigenous people.

Got a hero to suggest? Email us at kate.loweth@tinybeans.com

—Kate Loweth & Candace Nagy

 

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