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Family Matters: Kids and Crafts


Kids are naturally creative. They’re not restricted by the rules of what ‘should’ be matched and how we arrange designs. If they like it, they do it! With such a liberating view of the world, it’s no wonder kids never run out of things to create.

As a parent, you balance the creativity with a little bit of order. You encourage bold, exciting ideas, but you also make sure that safety comes first. Safety often means organization. Here are some ideas for organizing your kids’ craft activities: 

  • Put materials where they’ve visible and accessible. Labeled boxes and colorful folders help children see the value in keeping everything in its place.
  • Less can be more. Stacks and stacks of paper, and boxes and boxes of crayons just get overlooked. Stock a good amount of inventory, but don’t overwhelm with too much.
  • Craft together. Kids watch how adults do things and take hints from that. If you demonstrate scissor safety and how to squeeze the most glue from a nearly-empty bottle, little ones will learn a lot.
  • Let the process guide the project. If there’s only one correct way to create a project, it can be frustrating. But if just about anything will work, that encourages expression and creativity. This isn’t about scoring points or winning. It’s about having fun!


Family Matters: Juice, Juice, Juice!


How much juice should you give to your baby, and when? Mothers and pediatricians have debated this for ages. Interestingly, opinion is shifting on the matter. While fruit juice is extremely healthy, it’s also extremely sweet, so should actually be given in moderation. After all, it takes a good 10 oranges to make a cup of orange juice. That’s a lot of oranges to be consuming—and a lot of calories!

Pediatricians generally agree that before age 6 months, babies should only receive breast milk or formula, because those are complete foods. (source: American Academy of Pediatrics) After 6 months, if your baby is drinking from a cup, you can introduce some juice into his or her diet. Don’t give juice in a bottle and never put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice. The natural sugars can lead to cavities. Four to six ounces a day is plenty. An option to juice is mashed or pureed whole fruits and vegetables.

As your baby gets older, his or her needs will change. Fruit juice is sweet and many toddlers will overindulge if given the chance. Don’t give your toddler a sippy cup full of juice, or a juice box, to walk around with all day. The prolonged exposure to natural sugars can cause dental problems. Use juice, instead, as a treat or a snack.

When it comes to beverages, babies and toddlers do just fine when introduced to water as the drink of choice. And as always, discuss food concerns with your family doctor or pediatrician.



Family Matters: Compromise, Not Sacrifice!


My kids are much older now, but when they were little, I was a real fanatic about serving only the most-healthy foods possible. Compromise was out of the question. In the years since then, I’ve softened my position, and while my family still eats healthier than most, sometimes you have to give a little here and there. And it’s compromise, not sacrifice. We stay true to the most important aspects of our food plan, but there are some areas where a little splurge now and then can be a good thing!

For instance, in their lunch boxes, or in the snack bag when we went to visit friends, I used to insist on ultra-healthy, ultra-natural foods. And I’m still not going to put cookies and chips in the bag, but I have decided that some of the pre-packaged items I’d always boycotted weren’t really that bad! Crust-less sandwiches, frozen yogurt tubes and juice boxes were still a lot cheaper than buying fast food, and they weren’t as pure as foods I prepared myself, but you know what? They’ll still work just fine. Kids do like to fit in with their friends, and the convenience of ready-to-use items is really handy. At home, they’re happy to eat what they’ve always eaten, but when it’s a special time, the food can be special, too.

We saved these items for play dates and lunch boxes, and it turned out to be a compromise that worked.



Family Matters: Parakeet Health


Sometimes toddlers like to eat the same food, day after day after day. Mothers wonder what’s wrong with them—because most folks like a little variety in their diet. 

It’s the same with birds, too.  If you have a parakeet, do you offer a variety of foods? It’s easy to fall into the pattern of the same foods, but your bird will thank you for switching things up a little. 

Many experts say that instead of a seed diet, parakeets do better with a diet of special bird pellets. It’s a lower fat diet that keeps birds more active and healthy. If your bird is currently eating a seed diet, you may want to talk to your vet or pet care provider about making a gradual switch to the pellet food plan. 

Pellets (or seeds) should make up about 60 to 70 percent of your parakeet’s diet. The rest can be a mixture of fruits and vegetables, including grated carrot, raw broccoli, apple slices and leafy greens. Vets recommend no fruit seeds, avocados, chocolate, alcohol or caffeine. Remove uneaten food every day and replace with fresh. Birds also need clean water, changed daily. 

You’ll know you have a healthy parakeet if you see alert, sociable activity, dry nostrils and bright eyes, and a body full of smooth, well-groomed feathers. 

(Material collected from the ASPCA Complete Guide to Pet Care)



Family Matters: Take ‘Em Along!


Do you dread taking your kids along to the grocery store? I have to admit, it’s always easier when I’m alone, and I definitely stick to my list better when there’s nobody else along to sneak forbidden foods into the buggy. But what about when there’s no choice and the kid(s) will be joining you? Don’t groan; you CAN make this work!

And of course, the key element is to plan ahead. Sometime, totally unrelated to the shopping trip, gather a few tools that will make grocery trips more do-able. Depending on the age of your children, maybe you can make up a bingo card of items to spot in the store; maybe you can have your child match up coupons with products; younger children can help make veggie choices—like broccoli over carrots, or red grapes instead of green. Kids are great at matching colors—even the youngest child can help you look for the reddest bell pepper, or the largest beet.

Does your child pester for treats and candy? How about making a coupon, one per child; once they find what they want, they redeem their coupon to you, and that’s it. Whenever they see a great potential snack item, you can ask your children if they feel this is the best choice for their coupon….often they’ll reconsider!

In short, the success of your shopping trip will depend on a positive attitude all around, as brief a trip as possible, and if you know of any trouble areas (the candy aisle, perhaps?), discuss them before you ever enter the store.

Grocery shopping with kids is a great educational opportunity. You can learn about fractions, budgets, prioritizing, nutrition and making change. It really is worth it!



Family Matters: My Baby Spits Up!


Almost every baby spits up from time to time. It usually happens because a baby’s digestive system is still developing. The muscle that keeps foods in the stomach may not  close tightly when babies are young. As a result, it’s easy for a baby’s most recent meal to splash back up, so be prepared to do a few extra loads of laundry for a few months!

Usually spit up is nothing to worry about. Talk with your doctor, and if your baby is gaining the proper amount of weight and is thriving, you can be confident that he’s getting enough to eat. Another strong sign that your baby is well fed is having six to 10 wet diapers a day. To reduce spitting up, try feeding your baby only when she shows signs of hunger, keep him in a semi-upright position during feeding, and burp him regularly throughout the meal.

Sometimes, however, lots of spitting up is a sign of a serious condition, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. If a baby is not gaining weight, is crying excessively, is choking or seems to be in a lot of pain, he may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which your doctor can diagnose. Fortunately, most children outgrow spitting up by the time they’re a year old.



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