Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Teach Your Child Healthy Eating

Healthy Habits: Introducing Your Family to Red Foods

Cheryl Tallman

In Japan, the color red signifies energy and power and is often used as a color for heroic figures. This is a good description because when you include red fruits and vegetables in your child's meals, they will grow up strong like superheroes.

Red foods are packed with lots of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. Red foods also contain compounds called phytochemicals, which have been shown to have positive health benefits. Phytochemicals you might have heard about include flavonoids, lycopene, reservatol and capsaicin. 

Make a game out of letting your kids choose one "superhero" red food to eat every day. Our favorite red foods include:
  • Strawberries - Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Strawberries are best fresh, for a special treat add them to yogurt, cereal and smoothies. 
  • Tomatoes -Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, potassium and vitamin C. They taste great fresh off the vine and cooked in sauces, stews and soups. Try them with scrambled eggs. 
  • Red Peppers - A bright red pepper contains potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Red Peppers can be served raw as a snack or in salads, cooked in pasta and stir fry dishes or roasted in soups and stews. 
  • Apples - The wonderful shiny red apple contains soluble fiber, pectin and flavonoids. For a healthy afternoon snack, slice an apple and top with peanut butter. Yummy! 
  • Watermelon - You know its summer time when you see watermelons. Watermelons are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopene. A big slice of fresh watermelon is sure to put a smile on your little one's face. 
  • Red Beets - Red beets contain iron, niacin and potassium. Start introducing red beets to kids in salads or roasted with olive oil and ground pepper. Pickled red beets are also a good introduction. 
  • Red Grapes - Red Grapes contain flavonoids, reservatol and quercitin to help keep your heart healthy and strong. Grapes are a great snack. Freeze them for a hot summertime treat. 
  • Cherries - Cherries are considered a nutritional super food because they are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins and, they taste great! Remove the pits to make it easier for little ones to enjoy this delicious treat.
About the author
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hippotherapy: A New Therapy for Autism

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

The word hippotherapy is derived from the Greek word "hippo," which means "horse." It describes physical, occupational, or speech therapy that uses the multidimensional movement of a walking horse to stimulate the rider and help enhance balance, good posture, mobility, coordination, and strength. Often, hippotherapy aids mental functioning, improves mood and self-confidence as well.

The rhythmic and multidimensional movement of the horse provides variable yet repetitive sensory stimulation to patients. That stimulation can be varied and manipulated by a trained therapist to fit a patient's needs and stimulate improved functioning of daily living. For example, physical therapists can use a variety of horse movements to improve gross motor abilities, such as sitting, standing, and walking.

According to the American Hippotherapy Association, hippotherapy is indicated for children and adults with mild to severe neuromuscular dysfunction. It aids impairments such as abnormal muscle tone; impaired balance, coordination, and sensory function; postural asymmetry; poor postural control; and decreased mobility. Hippotherapy has been used for conditions such as cerebral palsy (CP), developmental delays, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and autism.

Hippotherapy has been used in the U.S. since the 1970’s. However, it is still considered an experimental and investigational treatment because there is insufficient scientific evidence for its effectiveness in the treatment of CP, autism, and other conditions characterized by motor dysfunction.

A recent study by Bass, Duchowny, and Llabre (2009) examined the effects of a 12-week-long therapeutic horseback intervention on social functioning in children with autistic spectrum disorder. The results showed improved social interaction and less inattention and distractibility in autistic children. These findings indicate that hippotherapy may have a place in the treatment of children with autism. However, more studies need to demonstrate its therapeutic effectiveness before hippotherapy is widely recommended as a treatment for autism.

Photography by Joanna Jodko

Bass, M., Duchowny, C., & Llabre, M. (2009). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1261-7.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Does my toddler have a bladder infection?

My toddler has been potty trained for a while. Now, all of a sudden, he started to have accidents during the day. He pees in his pants several time during the day. He does not appear to be in any discomfort, but he pees more often and in his pants. Could he have a bladder infection?


"Accidents" in potty trained children may indicate a bladder infection or diabetes. You should schedule an appointment with your child's health care provider as soon as possible.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Baby Signing

Is my baby signing- or am I imagining things?! 

Monta Z. Briant

Your baby is sitting in his highchair working on a lunch of finger foods while you wash dishes nearby. Suddenly, you sense movement in your peripheral vision. You look over and your son is making a clapping-like gesture. Could this be his first sign? You have been working on some basic signs with him for several weeks, but he has yet to sign back to you. Maybe it's just wishful thinking -- he's probably just clapping. You often clap together when he finishes his food, as in "Yeah! Were all done!"

First signs can be easy to miss. Babies make random gestures all the time, but at some point, these gestures take on a deliberate meaning. How can you tell the difference between ordinary clapping, for example, and a clapping-like version of the sign for "MORE"?

Here are some clues to watch for. Look at the expression on your baby's face. Is he wearing his happy clapping face? Or is he looking intently at his hands, expectantly at you, or at a box of Cheerios just out of reach on a nearby countertop. If it's any of the last three, choices, he's almost certainly trying to tell you something!

First signs can be rough or vague approximations of the adult version, but by following your baby's gaze and examining his facial expression you can often gain valuable clues to what he's trying to get across to you. Be patient and try guessing a few things. If you absolutely have no idea what he's signing, respond to your baby in a positive way, by saying something like, "Good job Max! I see you are signing to me with your hands!" This type of response encourages your baby to keep trying by letting him know he's on the right track and that you are proud of him.

Above: Naomi signs "cold".

About Author
Monta Zelinsky Briant is the author of the best-selling Baby Sign Language Basics series of books and learning materials, and she also offers classes for parents and children all over San Diego.
To open a window into your babies mind and personality, please visit for information on classes, online lessons, and home learning materials.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Natural Mosquito Repellant

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

My property is situated in the woods with a lake on one side and a swamp on the other. It's the perfect breeding ground for bloodthirsty mosquitoes. For years, I have been using various mosquito repellents with little results, and I always frowned on the continuous exposure to DEET, the most common ingredient of many mosquito repellents. So when a colleague of mine mentioned using a natural mosquito repellent and expressed his satisfaction with the results, I decided to do some research on the product. 

Mosquito Barrier, a natural mosquito repellent, is a strong liquid garlic made with garlic cloves. Turns out that using garlic as an insect repellent is not new. It has been used for years to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and even black flies. The magic ingredient in garlic that makes it so effective is sulfur. Garlic is not toxic to humans, pets, and it does not destroy plants, thus it seems like a perfect product for families to use in their backyards.

Mosquito Barrier kills mosquitoes on contact, suffocates mosquito larvae in standing water such as puddles, under a deck, or depressions in your lawn, and last but not least, garlic-coated plants keep mosquitoes out of the area. 

According to the manufacturer, four applications of Mosquito Barrier should be sufficient for the entire mosquito/tick season. However, that may vary depending on the terrain of a property.

After hearing about such great results, I decided to give Mosquito Barrier a try. I mixed it with water and liquid soap in a garden sprayer according to the manufacturer’s directions and sprayed the areas of the yard that are immediate to the house, including under the deck. A distinct garlic aroma hung over the house for the rest of the night, but it was gone by morning. The following afternoon, when I took a stroll among my flowerbeds, I did not seem to be bothered by mosquitoes as much as before. I re-sprayed the yard a week later and was pleased to notice the lack of mosquito frenzy. 

Three weeks have passed now and the mosquitoes are back. It’s time to spray again if I want to enjoy summer evenings in my garden. I will continue using Mosquito Barrier because it is effective, natural, and safe around children and pets. A big plus is that Mosquito Barrier can be safely used around people with respiratory disease, such as asthma. 

More information on Mosquito Barrier is available at

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Children Snore?

My 7-year-old has been snoring for years, but recently it got worse. He snores very loudly and every night. He is restless at night, and wakes up very tired each morning. I heard him stop breathing in the middle of the night a couple of times maybe for about 5-10 seconds. Then, he would make a gurgling sound, snore, and resume breathing. He has not had any illnesses since last winter. What could cause his snoring?
Snoring can be related to a number of things: allergies, colds, sinus infections, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, and sleep apnea.

If snoring has been going on for a while, especially that it is getting worse, you should make a visit with your child's regular health care provider as soon as possible. He or she might recommend a neck X-ray to rule out enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids and possibly schedule a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tips for Helping Children Handle Their Emotions

Lisa Firestone, PhD

Author and humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote, “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” As parents, we all have moments when we would like to hide away, avoid confrontation, and wait for the quiet that follows the storm. Parenting is an incredible challenge, full of foibles, fits, and frantic attempts to calm and soothe our children. In our efforts, we’re frequently left to follow our instincts and try our best, sometimes reaching thrilling victories and other times falling foolishly off course.

Though it can seem like we are stumbling blindly through the web of challenges parenting presents, there are ways to better understand our child’s rapidly developing mind and strategies to help our children through their own personal challenges and emotional lows. Some of the most valuable of insights come from a new book by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive. In this acclaimed text, parents are introduced to a new science illustrating how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. With this understanding as a base, parents can implement techniques that help turn meltdowns into opportunities to integrate their child’s brain.

Like all human beings, children are ruled by their emotional right brain and their logical left brain. Helping children to understand and integrate both sides of their brain equips them with an invaluable tool that enables them to lead a more balanced, emotionally stable, and mentally healthy life. Even though our goal is to raise calm and happy kids, very often we make mistakes in the moments when our children are at their most vulnerable. For example, when our kids throw tantrums, we may attempt to appeal to them through pure logic, instruction, or worse case scenario, by “losing it” ourselves. When we comprehend what is going on in our child’s brain during these meltdowns, we learn a better way to relate to our children as well as a powerful method to teach them effective tools for coping with their own tumultuous emotions.

Use the logic of left brain to make sense out of feelings in the right – Simply telling our children to “calm down” or “stop crying” is not an effective way to help them through what Dr. Bryson calls “emotional tsunamis.” Demanding our kids be rational when they are operating under the influence of their irrational right brains is a mis-attuned effort often made in vain. Instead, offer your child empathy. Acknowledge that they are feeling bad, scared, frustrated etc. and express that you are sorry they’re in pain. As they become calmer, ask them to explain what upset them and help guide them through their story, while investigating what triggered the meltdown.

Help kids tell their story – Protective as we may be, our kids will all experience at least mildly traumatic events. Mean teachers who ridiculed them, scary seconds when they got lost in the supermarket; instances that incited fear, anger, or sadness will arise. We can help our kids resolve these traumas when they occur by supporting their effort to make sense out of what happened to them. This process starts with talking to them about it. Don’t avoid stressful topics in hopes that your kids will forget all about the incident. Instead, gently guide your children, as they tell you their story. “When did you notice your mother wasn’t around? How did you feel when you realized you were lost?’ Talking may seem difficult at first, but the more a child can make sense of his or her story, the more integrated and calm he or she will become. Contrarily, any unresolved trauma can present problems later in life.

Teach your child that feelings go through us – When our child has calmed down, it is helpful to explain to them that feelings, even intense emotions, come and go. Our emotions pass through us like waves, building and building until finally they reach their peak, crash, and subside. We can’t choose these feelings, but we can decide how we will behave when they arise. We can be curious about them and talk about them, all the while understanding that they won’t last forever.

Rupture and repair – Parents are human. We mess up, we say the wrong thing, and sometimes we let our own emotions get in the way. When this happens, we can help our kids a great deal by talking to them about what happened and how we behaved. We shouldn’t be afraid to say sorry when we make mistakes. Be open about your own story. Explain how you overreacted because you felt angry or afraid. By relaxing and acknowledging your reaction, you are demonstrating how to calm down, a lesson your children can apply when they find themselves in similar situations.

Keep calm and carry on – We’ve all either seen or been that mother who is getting into a full-on argument with their two-year-old about putting a sweater on, or that father who is practically throwing his own tantrum as his kid cries over what he’s served for lunch. No matter what the scenario, losing our temper is never the solution. Letting our emotional right brains take over only teaches our kids to feel as out of control as we’re behaving. Our own unresolved traumas and negative early experiences will constantly inform our reactions to our kids. Be aware of what triggers you, and be sure to separate the emotions these events stir up from your kids’ independent experience.

By being more attuned to our kids, understanding their developing mind, and actively seeking out and implementing effective strategies to help them cope, we are doing them a great service in arming them with tools that will not only strengthen their own resilience but will be passed on to future generations.

About the Author
Dr. Lisa Firestone, PhD, is the Director of Research and Education for The Glendon Association. Since 1987, she has been involved in clinical training and applied research in suicide and violence. In collaboration with Dr. Robert Firestone, her studies resulted in the development of theFirestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts (FAST) and theFirestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT)Dr. Firestone has published numerous professional articles, and most recently was the co-author of the books: Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships (APA Books, 2006),Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice(New Harbinger, 2002), andCreating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy (APA Books, 2003).

Reprinted with permission from

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sewing with Rescued Materials

Advancements in technology have increased the pace of our lives.  As a response, a vibrant Do It Yourself movement has risen to reclaim age old traditions the reconnect us to slower and simpler times.

With this in mind, award-winning blogger Maya Donenfeld offers a guide to working with her favorite recycled materials.  In Reinvention: Sewing With Rescued Materials, you will find 28 projects that seamlessly merge stitching, sustainability, and resourcefulness with simple, clean design.  Each chapter is dedicated to a single material; linen, burlap, wool and more, with accompanying projects.  Readers will learn details on the history of the material, deconstruction techniques, sewing tips, and information about the environmental impact.

Reinventing everyday materials into remarkable items of beauty and utility for the modern home and family will excite new and experienced sewers alike.  To add an element of personalization, Maya draws on her experience leading print workshops to share easy methods for transforming gently-used fabric with paint and ink.  Stenciling templates and thorough instructions are provided, as well as encouragement to invent your own designs.

Maya’s eco designs have been highly celebrated in print and across the web from Country Living, Green Craft Magazine, Treehugger, Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy and more.  Her signature style of simplicity, beauty, and function is woven throughout Reinvention with gorgeous photography, her mother’s barn and the surrounding countryside an the backdrop.  Aditionally, stories, a favorite recipe, and nature activities are woven into the book to offer the reader an invitation to slow down, and create with intention.

About the Author
Maya Donenfeld writes the popular green crafting and simple living blog,  Her distinct designs utilize sustainable resources and fibers while weaving in elements from the natural world.  SHe find the imperfection of handmade endlessly inspiring and seeks out simple, and often humble materials to transform into useful items of beauty.  Maya is passionate about encouraging others to find their unique creative voice and gain confidence in their own capable hands.  Her award-winning website is filled with projects, inspiration and eco tutorials to light a fire under anyone wanting to artfully recycle, repurpose, and reinvent.