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Family Matters: Group Activities


Group ActivitiesYour toddler probably loves group activities.

They’re important for parents, too, as you can make new friends and socialize with someone who speaks in complete sentences and gets you out of the house for a while.

Lots of toddlers like a story time at the local library or bookstore. These are usually free and often involve a story read to the toddlers, with lots of exciting voices and maybe puppets or actors, some songs and games, and maybe a craft project.

You don’t have to take a class to get involved in a music group. You probably have a parent friend with a rudimentary knowledge of music and some spare instruments. Get your toddlers together and let them make some noise, I mean, music.

Tumbling or movement classes provide great sensory input and great fun for your little one. A local gym might have a toddler class, or just go to the playground and swing, run and jump.

Older toddlers might like some kind of art or craft group, with projects fitting for gross and fine motor skills. They can paint large murals, do handprint or footprint crafts, or paint splatter projects. They might also like craft dough and finger paints.

A just play group is great, too. Let the toddlers decide what they’re doing and enjoy watching them interact.



Family Matters: Playtime


PlaytimeI just asked my sons, now 12 and 14 years old, what their favorite toys were when they were about 9 months old.

They each rattled off a list so quickly it made me laugh.

First, they probably don’t have a lot of memories from that time period.

Secondly, I guarantee they were not playing with little Legos at that age.

It was still funny to hear and brought back memories of what were their actual favorite toys in the second half of their first year.

  • Board books, especially the ones with the peek-a-boo windows, were a huge favorite of both my kids. We’d spend hours opening the windows and seeing what was revealed in each story. At 7 months, I was still opening the windows for them. At 12 months, they were trying to do it themselves.
  • Anything that played music. If they could whack it with a chubby hand and make it play music, it was a favorite. We had a plastic toy radio that they could turn on by pressing a button, and it was great to see how they developed to be able to do it themselves.
  • Wooden stacking blocks. Again, at 7 months, they had only rudimentary command of stacking, maybe two at a time, but they could manage a whole lot more by 12 months.
  • Mirrors! Anything reflective is super fun.
  • Baths. Bathtime was often the very best part of the day. The warm water, plus a lot of splashing, was a great combination.
  • Boxes. Empty pots and pans, anything they could just explore completely, with sounds, textures and experiences.
  • The shape sorter! I can’t count the number of hours we played with this. Lots. Lots and lots. It evolved from banging it around to actually sorting the shapes and naming them.

Whatever your baby likes, let him have a lot of playtime. It’s really learning time!



Family Matters: Never Leave Baby in a Car


Never Leave Baby in a CarAs the weather heats up, this blog post is for all parents, not just those with babies.

Do. Not. Leave. Your. Child. In. The. Car.

Each year, approximately 38 children die from overheating because they were left in a car during warm months.

That’s 38 too many.

So far this year, and it’s only April, two children have died from heat-related deaths in cars.

Parents and caregivers, this is 100 percent preventable.

Do not leave your child in the car, period.

It doesn’t matter if you crack the windows; the car will still get too hot. On an 80-degree day, the interior temperature of the car will reach 123 degrees in only one hour.

Heatstroke is defined as when a person’s temperature exceeds 104° F, and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed and cannot continue to function properly.

Symptoms of heatstroke include dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizures, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations.

When the core body temperature reaches 107 degrees, cells are damaged, and internal organs begin to fail and will rapidly lead to death. This happens three to five times faster in children, who cannot regulate their body temperatures as effectively as an adult.

In 54 percent of cases where a child died of heatstroke, their caregiver “forgot” them in the car.

In an additional 24 percent of cases, a child was playing in the car and could not get out.

Teach your children to never, ever play in the car. If they are in the car, you must be in the car with them.

Develop a system of double-checking the car before you leave and lock it. Some adults place their shoe or purse in the backseat, so they have to look in the back before exiting the vehicle.

If you see a child of any age in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and take measures to get them out of the car.



Family Matters: Honey Boy Pink Salmon Croquettes


Honey Boy Pink Salmon CroquettesI am so excited to share this salmon recipe with you because my two boys (my husband and son) are not that crazy about fish. You can imagine their faces when they saw me in the kitchen the other night opening up a can of Honey Boy Pink Salmon to make salmon croquettes! Yeah, they were not happy. They were even talking about eating something else instead, but neither of them can cook.

I was prepared to take all of the leftovers to my parents. I knew they would appreciate tasty salmon croquettes. However, as we sat down to dinner, I watched my husband and son gulp down two croquettes each, and they asked for more! You can bet this will be on my dinner menu again in the near future. As for my parents, there were no leftover croquettes to be had!

The recipe is really easy and can be found right on the Honey Boy Pink Salmon can.

Honey Boy Pink Salmon Croquettes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 6

1 can Honey Boy Pink Salmon, drained
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
1/3 cup onions, finely minced
1/4 cup Brookshire’s Milk
2 eggs
2 Tbs parsley, minced
1 to 2 Tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dill weed
dash of pepper
cooking oil for browning

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix well. Heat enough cooking oil to cover the bottom of a non stick pan. Form the salmon mixture into patties, and cook over medium heat until browned on the bottom. Turn them over and brown on the other side.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Family Matters: Fun with Mom


Fun with MomSome of my favorite memories with my mom happened in the kitchen.

Whether we were at the kitchen counter cooking or at the kitchen table crafting, to say that the kitchen was the heart of our home is probably an understatement.

My mom can create anything. She’s a wonderful cook and an amazing seamstress. She can master any craft or art, and she can grow anything beautifully. She has a million more talents I don’t even have room in which to enumerate.

She tried to pass along those things. Key word: “tried.”

I’m a good cook. Better than average, probably. However, when it comes to sewing, crafting or any other visual talent, I’m strictly skill level glue gun and spray paint.

Still, those times spent with my mom, learning something new, at least being exposed to it, are better than any material possession she could have given me. As a small child, we made clothes-pin dolls by the hundreds. Remember the wooden, stationary clothes pins used to hang clothing on an outside line that had two “legs” and  a “head?” We turned those into dolls with fuzzy yard hair, painted faces and all sorts of elegant clothing culled from my mom’s bag of scraps. We did the same thing with dried corn husks. Mom would twist and turn then fashion them into robust women figures, and I’d paint them, dress them and play with them until they fell apart. Mom spent hours trying to teach me how to sew and quilt. I can whip out a hem or sew a button with the best of them, and for years, I slaved over my grandmother’s solid metal Singer sewing machine until I conceded that sewing just really isn’t in my temperament. I remember painting a rock one time – red – and painstakingly cutting letters out of a magazine that I decoupaged onto the painted rock, “I love you, Daddy.” One year, we used stained glass paint in clear glass ornaments for Christmas décor. She let me punch down the dough and knead it when she made her famous raisin bread each holiday season. I stirred red sauce simmering on the stove for hours. I licked the beaters after she made chocolate chip cookies.

Now, with Pinterest offering projects galore, you don’t have to have great skills to spend time with your kids, at the kitchen counter or table, making memories.

If the memories turn out better than the project, well, that’s fine, too.



Family Matters: The More Movement, The Merrier


The More Movement, The MerrierYour small pet, like a hamster or guinea pig, spends most of his day in a cage, so he needs a good outlet for exercise.

You can purchase a tunnel system for many small pets, which extends the area in their cage and gives them a great opportunity to climb and run. If your cage doesn’t accommodate this type of exercise run, build one within safe confines where your pet can’t get loose, and let him work his way through it.

You might have to start by hiding a small treat in the tubing to help motivate your pet to move through the course.

A wheel is also a great form of exercise. Hamsters, gerbils and mice especially love to run on a wheel mounted in their cage.

Create an enclosure (outside of the cage and in a much larger space) where your pet can roam free. They will like the feeling of vast freedom that they will experience.

Small balls are wonderful playthings, as your pet will chase them.

Finally, invest in a collar and leash for your small pet. You can walk them, too.



Family Matters: Keeping Your Feathered Friend Active


Keeping Your Feathered Friend ActiveEvery once in a while, you have to let a caged bird sing or, in this case, exercise.

You’d feel all penned up in a cage, wouldn’t you? While it’s not exactly the same for your pet bird, you do need to make sure it gets enough exercise to keep him healthy and happy.

One thing you can do is put a ladder in his bird cage so that he can climb up and down it at his pleasure. When he sees the ladder, he will be compelled to climb it to the top.

Purchase foraging toys from your local pet shop. These toys allow you to hide food or millet treats inside so your pet has to work for them.

Let him fly, literally. Provide a safe, enclosed space, and let him flap his wings. If your bird’s wings are clipped, take him out of his cage and put him on a perch to let him flap around.

Hang a small bell in your bird’s cage; he will reach for it and ring it.

Offer your bird things to tear up, like newspaper or eucalyptus branches. He’ll get a good workout shredding.

Finally, place your bird on the floor at one end of a hallway (with doors to the hallway closed). Go to the other end; call him and let him hop to you.



Family Matters: Caring for Your Kitten


Caring for Your KittenYou just brought your new bundle of fuzzy joy home. Now, what do you do?

Most kittens are ready to be weaned and rehomed at 8 weeks, so you’ll have a little ball of love on your hands.

First things first: take your new kitten to a veterinarian for a complete checkup and shots. You want to start his life with you in a healthy way.

As for food, offer your kitten a brand of food specially formulated for a younger cat. Either wet or dry food is okay. Just make sure it’s chock full of the nutrients kittens need to grow big and strong. Kitten meals should be about 30 percent high-quality protein.

Teach them good bathroom habits immediately. Most cats love to stay clean and don’t need much litter box training. Introduce them to the litter box in the space where it will remain permanently. Let the cat scratch around inside. Bring her back to the box frequently the first several days or until she has it down pat.

Pet your cat frequently to help it socialize. If it tolerates being held, snuggle with it and let it fall asleep on your lap or chest.

Provide your cat with toys like small balls, squeaky toys and things that move. You might need to provide it with a scratching post to protect your furniture as your kitten’s claws grow.



Family Matters: Exercise is Fun with Your Dog


Exercise is Fun with Your DogWhen I mentioned that I was writing a blog on doggie exercise, my boyfriend immediately offered that some people dance with their dogs.

Um, okay

I can just picture him twirling Astro, my 95-pound mutt, around the dance floor. Maybe they could get matching tuxes or something.

He wasn’t kidding.

Sure enough, get your dog to exercise by having him move and groove around the room with you.

Start by clearing furniture to give you both a large enough space to dance. Turn on some tunes and encourage him to weave through your legs, turn circles, leap into the air, spin around and back up to you.

Keep some low-fat treats in your pocket to reward him for participating.

Did you know doggies do yoga, too? Where do you think “downward dog” came from? Astro has downward dog mastered. Partner yoga moves can help your dog relax and relieve stress. Look for YouTube videos guiding you through the moves with your pup.

Play! Of course, this is great exercise. Throw your dog a Frisbee or a ball, and let him catch it or fetch and retrieve.

You can always take him on a brisk walk as well.



Family Matters: Terrifying Threes


Terrifying ThreesThe Terrible Twos had nothing on the Terrifying Threes in my house.

Both of my sons sailed through the second year with ease, but it was the older toddler years that were, ahem, challenging to say the least, with us.

I don’t think I’m alone in that, either.

Between tantrums and talking back, that was a tough time period.

Toddlers are testing their boundaries, whether they’re two or three years old.

They WANT to know what their limits are. Knowing their limits helps them feel safe to explore within the boundaries, so to speak. Don’t be afraid to set firm limits.

Knowing what to expect helps them cope, so a schedule, a bedtime, manners, behaviors and familiar activities can have a beginning, an end and a firm structure in place.

Sure, kids need free play; that’s not what I’m saying. Don’t let them set their own bedtime or wait until they’re too strung out because they’re ravenous to feed them.

Don’t let them continue with a bad behavior because it’s “cute” or it’s easier for you. It won’t be easier in the long run, I assure you.



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