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Kids, Veggies and the Food Mover

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If you’ve ever wondered “Have my kids eaten any vegetables today?” then this post is for you.

Like many moms I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to get my kids to eat more vegetables. With my son it’s easy. He’ll try anything from kale to artichokes. My daughter on the other hand prefers “crunchy lettuce, washed broccoli” and not much else.

Keeping track of what they actually eat is difficult. So I decided to try an experiment. I ordered a Richard Simmons Food Mover Kit for each person in the family. On Amazon they were less than $7 each.

The kits came with inspirational videos which I donated to the library as well as instructional booklets.

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You can customize each  Food Mover with different caloric needs. There’s also a social emotional learning component at the bottom that focuses on qualities like being forgiving and patient.

I don’t want anyone in my family to lose weight; I just want us to focus on balanced eating. If we eat more calories than the Food Mover says that’s no big deal. But I do want everyone to close their vegetable windows!

Each night at 6:30 we sit at the kitchen table together, eat dinner and close off our windows.

A week into this experiment my daughter has learned what protein is and that she probably doesn’t eat enough because she never eats meat, poultry, fish or tofu. But now thanks to the Food Mover she’ll ask me for almonds. I feel like that’s a step in the right direction. She’s still indifferent to eating vegetables, but the rest of the family is fully committed.

For me as a mom the Food Mover makes me a better meal planner because it forces me to think ahead. How exactly will I help my family close those vegetable windows? As the primary chef and shopper it’s mainly up to me.

I’m not sure how long this experiment will last, but hopefully mindful eating will have a lasting effect.

 

What Parents Can Learn from Bronies

Why should I give a hoof?

Why should I give a hoof?

I’m Generation X which means I’m old.( sigh) I guess that’s why I never heard of Bronies until the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony popped up on my Netflix screen. For the uninitiated, Bronies are tween, teen and adult males who LOVE the television series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” created by Laruen Faust, (NOT the previous shows from the 1980s.)

I’m not a Millennial, so my first reaction was “What the heck?” But then the third grade teacher in me had an epiphany. Social Emotional Learning–how to get along with our fellow human beings– is one of the hardest things to teach. For some reason, young men who have previously felt excluded from typical boy society are connecting with this show. They are learning social skills, making friends online and through conventions, and expressing themselves through art, music and charity. Their lives are better, and all because of a cartoon.

I wanted to find out why…

To be honest, I’ve overheard “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” dozens of times while I’m making dinner, but I had never sat down with my four-year-old daughter and watched it with her in its entirety until this week, when she’s been home sick.

From the very first episode, I can see the appeal. The series starts out with Twilight Sparkles being her own worst enemy. She is so lost in books and learning, that she ignores all of the conventional steps needed to make and keep friends. It’s hard to tell if she doesn’t know how to make friends, or just doesn’t care.

Any parent who has struggled to teach kids social skills can relate. “When somebody hands you a book, say ‘thank you’. When you ask someone for a favor, say ‘please’.” Some kids come out of the womb already knowing these things, and others need to be taught explicitly. It’s easier to teach a child to read than to be charming.

As “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” moves along, the episodes sprinkle social emotional learning lessons with other aspects that hold an adult’s attention. There are huge vocabulary words, alliteration, and creatures pulled from ancient mythology. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, although there’s a lot of that too.

The Easiest Way to Teach Social Emotional Learning

The Easiest Way to Teach Social Emotional Learning

I talk a lot on my blog about Afterschooling, which is when parents provide meaningful, structured instruction to their children at home to help shore up learning gaps, or provide extra enrichment. Sometimes, for certain children, learning deficits are social. I’ve shared ideas for promoting social emotional learning in the past, and would like to add “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” to that list.

It turns out, “My Little Pony” is something to neigh about.

Someone Else’s Shoes

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A while back I reviewed Gratitude Attitude, a new CD coming out in August that I think is a great way to help kids develop Emotional Intelligence.

Now I’ve got a new CD to add to our playlist.  Someone Else’s Shoes – The Best Foot Forward Children’s Music Series from Recess Music is my latest complimentary CD to review in exchange for my honest opinion and review.  It’s from the same people who produced Gratitude Attitude.

There were a lot of songs on “Someone Else’s Shoes” that I absolutely loved: “There’s No Such Thing As Normal!” by Dan Dan Doodlebug, “Be Nice To Old People” by Jamie Broza , and  “Just the Way You Are”, by  Kelsey Friday & The Rest of the Week are all top favorites.

A couple of the songs near the beginning of the CD struck me as being best suited for the under 5 years-old-set.  I’m pretty sure that if you played “You Hurt My Feelings” by Troubador to a third grade classroom the eight-year-olds would mock you.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a good song, it’s just very earnest.

But the fact that I was thinking about using this CD in a classroom setting at all, is one of the reasons I really liked it.  Yes, it’s great for home use, but it could also be good for school.

When I was a teacher in California my district did not provide Para educators to supervise recess. This meant that the teachers had to take turns for yard duty. If it rained, everyone was stuck indoors, teachers too.

Probably any CD in the “Best Foot Forward” series would be a really great soundtrack to rainy day recess.  You could also play this music when kids were practicing cursive.

Both “Someone Else’s Shoes” and “Gratitude Attitude” offer really positive messages to kids and family.  That’s a shot in the arm that we can all use.

“This is hard. This is fun.” — Carol Dweck

I am in the middle of a mommy-ed reading list to help me be better at fostering resiliency in my kids. Why resiliency? Well, I want both of my kids to be happy, but happiness can be fleeting. Being able to tackle whatever challenge life throws at them with grace and resiliency is so much more useful.

The first book I checked out from the library was Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck’s research is about fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets. Do you view intelligence as static or as something that can be increased through hard work? If you got a C on a chemistry test does that me you aren’t very smart at science or that you didn’t study hard enough? If your two-year-old refuses to eat your dinner does that mean you are a bad cook, or that you weren’t sneaky enough about how you presented those green beans? Do you approach life’s challenges with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Dr. Dweck argues that a growth mindset will help you become more successful in the long run.

When I was a teacher at a very wonderful charter school, our entire population of parents, teachers and kids went through a 2 year reform effort on Social Emotional Learning. Part of this involved learning to be mindful of offering children encouragement instead of praise. It’s better to say “Wow, you are really working hard on that,” instead of “You are really smart at that”. Another example would be to say “You must really like to explore with oil pastels,” instead of “That picture is so pretty”.

In Mindset Dr. Dweck offers the quote “This is hard. This is fun.” which I absolutely love! I used that just the other day when Jenna was learning to use scissors. I’m also going to try to model using that phrase myself, so that my kids watch me work on something difficult and hear me say: “This is hard. This is fun.”

On a personal note, I was really excited to see the Olympic wrestler Patricia Miranda mentioned on page 21. She was a college friend and teammate of my husband, and truly is an inspiration. I think that wrestlers in general embody a growth mindset because unless you live in the Midwest, nobody enters wrestling hoping to get huge scholarships or lots of fame. Wrestlers work hard because they love wrestling, and are constantly trying to improve their skills no matter what the cost. They don’t call them “meatheads” for nothing.

This summer I am going to sign my son Bruce(7) up for the two week free trial of Dr. Dweck’s Brainology program on the computer.  But the way Bruce is already cranking through Harry Potter 7 is making me think there is already “meathead” in his blood.

Rataouille and Gifted Children

There is some debate in the education community as to whether or not you should tell gifted children that they are “gifted” or not.  To me, this debate is utterly ridiculous.  Truly gifted children will already know that they are different.  I can’t understand knowing the name or explanation for their difference offering anything but relief.  To think about it in another way, would you ever consider not telling a child with diagnosed allergies, “By the way, the reason you are sneezing so much is that you are allergic to dust,” or would you just let that kid sneeze for the rest of his childhood without knowing that there was a name for his condition?

One of the best vehicles I’ve seen to start a conversation with gifted children about their differences is the 2007 Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille.  In this movie Remy is clearly different from all of his rat friends and family.  His sense of smell is so acute that he can detect rat poison.  He feels more comfortable walking upright, rather than on all fours.  Leading and ordinary rat life depresses him because he thrives on challenge, stimulating conversation, and activity.  To put it bluntly, Remy is Highly Gifted.  If you gave him the WISR, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Rats, he’d score a 146 or above no problem.  (I just made that part about the WISR up, btw.)

As a gifted rat, Remy has different social and emotional needs than his peers in the rat community.    Leading and ordinary rat life depresses him because he thrives on challenge, stimulating conversation and activity.  Intellectually, Remy fits in much better with humans with whom he shares equal curiosity levels about food, flavors and creativity.  But socially of course, he does belong in the human world at all.  This is very reminiscent of how gifted children so often relate better to adults than to their age level peers.   Just like Remy, gifted children have the raw talent, but not the skills, expertise, education and experience that adult humans have.  Like Remy, gifted children are constantly navigating the rat world and the adult human world, trying to forge a path that works.

So if you are the parent of a gifted child who ever happens to go through some tough social situations, try checking out “Ratatouille” from the library.  It will be a good jumping off point for lots of different conversations you can have with your son or daughter.