Top 10 Kid Meals that Aren’t JUNK!

Top 10 Kid Friendly Meals that Aren't JUNK!

How do we feed kids meals they will eat that aren’t junk? They LIKE McDonald’s happy meals, but is that what’s best for their growing bodies? Click here to see why kids need optimal nutrition.

eating friendship soup, bringing us together

I polled my provider friends to find out what their kids top favorite meals are and they gave me a great list. Every single thing they suggested can be made in a healthy way. There are so many ways to add nutrition to kid’s food. Click here to see how to even hide nutritious food from picky eaters so they still get the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. You can add fruits and veggies in meals in ways kids don’t expect. You can try serving them a food a new way like roasting broccoli instead of steaming or boiling it. Click here for the directions. Kid’s nutrition is so important; they are worth the effort to feed them well.

If you’re trying to plan your menu for childcare, click here to see how I break it down into easier steps. It’s one of the most complicated things we have to do as far as paperwork goes in childcare.

Make meals fun. Kids will eat a lot wider variety of foods if you give them the chance to cook it themselves. Click here to see why they should be in the kitchen as much as possible. It also helps kids to try foods when they look appealing. A fresh yummy peach looks so much more inviting than soggy ole canned peaches. Think about the flavors and textures kids are experiencing and make sure it’s something you’d want to eat too.

Kids Cooking-Lotsa Pasta

  1. Make it yourself: Panini, tacos, pizza, whatever they get to choose the toppings for, the kids will love. You can have a ton of healthy options that are colorful and fun. Pizza doesn’t just have to be pepperoni, you can offer broccoli, asparagus, onions, spinach, olives, just about anything you can imagine and they will choose what you’d least expect to put on their pizza. The kids will love it. Click here to see how to make an amazing pizza homemade. pepperoni pizza
  2. Anything on a cracker. Kids love to make a little sandwich and will pile whatever they can fit on a cracker to make a stack. Offer them cucumber slices, tomato slices, lettuce, even cooked kale or spinach and they will pile it up on a cracker with some cheese or meat. They love being creative.
  3. Grilled sandwiches. You can grill a cheese sandwich, and who doesn’t love that, but get creative with what you put on that sammy. You can add all kinds of creative and healthy items. You can grill ham and cheese, chicken breast, or turkey. It’s delish grilled.
  4. Salads are colorful and fun for kids. Don’t just stick to lettuce salad. Those are fine and can be topped with all kinds of colorful yumminess, but you can also make marinated salads, fruits salads, cucumber salad or any number of inviting foods that kids will love. If I told you a vinegar cucumber salad is one of my top favorite side dishes among my 2-4 year olds, would you believe me? That and broccoli reign supreme at Little Sprouts. Last week when I was on vacation, one of my kids told the provider he stayed with that he wanted her to make her cucumbers into cucumber salad like I do. They do love it. chopped salad with balsamic dressing
  5. What’s more fun than a meatball? You can add a ton of nutritious surprises in your meatballs to enhance the healthy factor. Click here to see how I make green powder from my extra garden greens. You can mix it in just about anything and meatballs are no exception. About a tablespoon of green powder is a serving of greens, so it doesn’t take that much to enhance the nutrients you are serving. Meatballs are delicious and can be made out of a variety of meats and other ingredients. You can serve them in spaghetti sauce, with garlic butter sauce, over rice, or any number of yummy ways.
  6. I am world famous for my cheese quesadillas. They are delish. When I see teenagers that used to be enrolled in my program, this is the top mentioned thing. I miss your quesadillas they say. I just take a flour tortilla, add some cheese, top it with another tortilla and cook it in a smidge of butter until golden brown. Easy peasy. Kids love this and it’s not full of salt and sugar. Look at the ingredients on your corn dogs or your hot pockets. You really do want to be making your kid’s food yourself. Anything can go in a quesadilla too.
  7. Make your OWN chicken nuggets. It’s not super hard to cut up some chicken breast and toss it flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Spread a little olive oil on a cookie sheet and toss your chicken on it. Bake until done. These are so good and not full of all the additives you will find in the store bought ones. Knowing what’s in your kid’s food is such peace of mind.
  8. Spaghetti is the number one kid favorite among my daycare poll answers. I hate to serve spaghetti because it’s so messy, but you can. Making your own meat sauce is simple too, just cook a chopped onion until translucent, brown up your meat, add a couple of cans of tomato sauce and some Italian seasoning and garlic. Cook it down for a bit and serve it over cooked noodles. Using elbows or other shapes can cut down on the mess of the long noodles. You can add a ton of grated veggies into your sauce with the meat and cook them down. The kids will never know they are eating extra vegetables. You can also make the meat sauce in bulk and freeze it divided in the amounts you will need. This is a huge time saver.
  9. Sloppy Joes or burgers are a big hit with kids and aren’t that complicated to make. Sloppy joes can be made with some browned ground beef and some spaghetti sauce you made yourself. Hamburgers just need a little salt and pepper in the meat and you can grill or bake or even fry them up for a tasty kid friendly meal.
  10. Fettuccini Alfredo is another favorite among kids. You can top it with some baked chicken or mix some ham or other meat into the sauce. Alfredo is easy to make, just take some butter and flour and cook it down. Add milk and cook until you have your basic sauce. Then add some grated parmesean, salt, pepper, and garlic and any other seasonings you wish and you have a delicious, easy meal with no added chemicals. Broccoli salad, cooking with kids

Meals don’t need to be all frozen chicken blobs and frozen fries. You don’t have to toss out Oreos and Pop Tarts to get your kids to eat. Mc Donald’s isn’t the only thing they’ll eat, I promise. They will behave better and you’ll feel better if you feed them homemade food that isn’t full of preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Eat WITH the kids. Eating with them not only models good manners, but it models good eating habits. Show them how yummy those healthy foods are. They are more likely to try what they see you enjoying. Slow down and enjoy doing life with them. Don’t be in such a rush. Just a little effort goes a long way for a healthier lifestyle for you and the kids. You won’t be sorry you took the time to feed them well. If you feed yourself well, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel too.

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Top 10 Kid Friendly Meals that Aren't JUNK!

Sausage, Cheddar and Potato Empanadas-Real Food, Kid Friendly Freezer Meals

Sausage, Cheese and Potato Empanadas-Real Food, Kid Friendly Freezer Meals

I am working on a new menu for my Little Sprouts and I needed to come up with some new items. I decided to add empanadas to the cycle. Menu planning can be daunting. It’s hard to find enough things that are affordable, well liked, and not too time consuming.

One great way I avoid spending a ton of time in the kitchen every day is by making things ahead and freezing them. I make huge batches of muffins, pancakes, homemade bread, cookies, and other menu items and freeze them. I place enough of the item to feed us for one meal and store it in freezer bags.

Searching for some new kid friendly delights that can be made ahead, I came across the idea of an empanada. Empanadas are like hand held fried pies. They have pie crust for the container and you fill them with savory items and bake them in the oven. They can be sweet as well, but for the purpose of a main dish for the childcare menu, I was looking for savory items.

I looked all over the internet and most empanada recipes used pie crust or a corn meal crust, so I went with pie crust in order to make it as simple as possible with what I had on hand. I looked at all the fillings. Most of them were ground beef with tomato of some sort. I really don’t care for cooked tomatoes, and they are messy, so I made up my own recipe with diced potatoes, sausage and cheese. I made a bunch of them up, baked a tester batch, and froze the rest for baking later.

stuffing empanada dough with sausage, cheese, and potato empanadas

The kids LOVED them. At first they were like, say what? After I started eating mine, I told them they were sausage because I know how much they love sausage. Then one kid tried a bite and said yum, and in a few minutes, everyone was eating. That’s pretty unusual to have 100% participation on the first try, so I call that a giant victory.

I supplement many of my recipes with green powder. It’s a powder I made from taking any greens from the garden, such as arugula, Swiss chard, carrot tops, radish tops, leaves from broccoli, spinach, kale, or whatever we are growing that we didn’t get a chance to eat.

I dehydrate it and blend it into powder in the blender. I put it in jars and sprinkle it into food. About 2 tablespoons of green powder is a serving of greens. They have so much moisture, a lot of them shrinks down very small. No one can detect them. They look like herb flakes and you can’t taste them. Click here to learn how to make them. 

I add them to scrambled eggs, casseroles, soups, sauces, spaghetti, and many other dishes. It adds nutrients without anyone knowing. For four batches of my empanada recipe, I added ½ cup or 4 servings of greens. Nutrients add up. 

I have wanted a Ninja for years and have been saving up for one. I didn’t even have a food processor before I got this. I am so excited to use it to save myself time. I used it for several steps of the recipe and it worked great.

I peeled the onions and cut the ends off and tossed them in the ninja food processor, I cut the end off the hot peppers and threw them in. I was able to throw the garlic I whole.

If you wanted to add some carrots or other veggies into the meat mixture for more nutrients, you could process those as well. I didn’t have to dice all of that up AND kids don’t like texture as a rule as much as adults, so it helped the onions and stuff disappear into the filling more.

I made a quadruple batch for my freezer. I figure if I’m going to get out the mess, I might as well make a lot. This saves so much time on clean up. If you’re getting everything out, get in it for the long haul. I am adding the recipe for one batch of empanadas and the recipe for 4 so you don’t have to figure up the ingredients if you want to fill the freezer with empanadas for your family.

butter for empanada dough

empanada dough in the ninja

My empanadas did not turn out cute, I call them ugly empanadas, but they taste amazing. Taste is all that matters. If you make them 6 inches, the recipe makes about 10-12, but that’s a huge serving for a kid, so I made mine about 3-4 inches. I got about 20 per batch.

using ninja to make empanada dough

I got up early and made all of the filling before the kids got here. I rolled out one batch and baked them for lunch, and then rolled out and filled the rest at nap while they slept. I sat those in the freezer on a baking sheet. When they were frozen solid, after 2 hours, I put a dozen in each bag and put them back in the freezer.

Sausage, cheese and potato empanadas

Emapanada dough made in ninja

stuffed empanada

I hope you enjoy these empanadas and make some for your family. You will love them. 

Sausage, cheese and potato empanada

Sausage Cheddar and Potato Empanadas-Single Batch
Small, hand held meat pie. Delicious!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. sausage
  2. ½ C. Shredded cheese of your choice (I chose cheddar)
  3. ½ lb. potatoes diced in ¼ inch dice
  4. ½ tsp salt
  5. 1 chopped onion
  6. 2 cloves garlic
  7. 1 tsp thyme
  8. ½ tsp pepper
  9. 1 small jalapeno or other mild hot pepper
  10. 1 batch pie dough
Instructions
  1. Place onion, garlic, hot pepper, salt, pepper, and thyme in skillet and cook until onions are soft.
  2. Add sausage and cook until brown.
  3. Remove mixture from skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving sausage fat.
  4. Add diced potatoes to the pan and cook and stir until potatoes are soft.
  5. Add them to the meat mixture.
  6. Let mixture cool.
  7. Add cheese and mix ingredients well.
  8. Make pie dough and roll as thin as possible.
  9. Cut dough into 4 inch circles or squares.
  10. Place two tablespoons of filling in each piece of dough, leaving ½ inch of dough around filling.
  11. Fold dough over filling and fold dough over and pinch about every ½ inch until the entire empanada is sealed.
  12. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crust is browned.
  13. You can brush them with an egg wash for a shiny crust.
  14. 1 egg with 1 T. water whisked well.
  15. If you wish you use the empanadas later, you can freeze them on the cookie sheet for two hours.
  16. Take off sheet and place in tightly sealed container.
  17. Bake frozen at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Sausage Cheddar and Potato Empanadas-Four Batches
Bulk freezer batch of handheld savory meat pies.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 lb. sausage
  2. 2 C. Shredded cheese of your choice (I chose cheddar)
  3. 2 lb. potatoes diced in ¼ inch dice
  4. 2 tsp salt
  5. 4 chopped onion
  6. 8 cloves garlic
  7. 4 tsp thyme
  8. 2 tsp pepper
  9. 4 small jalapeno or other mildly hot pepper
  10. 4 batches pie dough
Instructions
  1. Place onion, garlic, hot pepper, salt, pepper, and thyme in skillet and cook until onions are soft.
  2. Add sausage and cook until brown.
  3. Remove mixture from skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving sausage fat.
  4. Add diced potatoes to the pan and cook and stir until potatoes are soft.
  5. Add them to the meat mixture.
  6. Let mixture cool.
  7. Add cheese and mix ingredients well.
  8. Make pie dough and roll as thin as possible.
  9. Cut dough into 4 inch circles or squares.
  10. Place two tablespoons of filling in each piece of dough, leaving ½ inch of dough around filling.
  11. Fold dough over filling and fold dough over and pinch about every ½ inch until the entire empanada is sealed.
  12. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crust is browned.
  13. You can brush them with an egg wash for a shiny crust.
  14. 1 egg with 1 T. water whisked well.
  15. If you wish you use the empanadas later, you can freeze them on the cookie sheet for two hours.
  16. Take off sheet and place in tightly sealed container.
  17. Bake frozen at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Pie Dough
Flaky, tender pie crust for savory or sweet pies.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ½ c. Flour
  2. ¼ tsp Baking Powder
  3. 1 tsp. Salt
  4. 2 sticks (1 C) Butter
  5. 5-6 T Ice Water
Instructions
  1. Place flour, baking powder and salt in food processor
  2. Pulse 3 times to mix
  3. Add butter, cut into small pieces, and pulse until mixture is like coarse sand.
  4. Add water 1 T. at a time until dough just begins to come together.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and work dough into a ball with as little kneading as possible.
  6. Wrap tightly and chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Continue with empanada instructions.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
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Sausage, Cheese and Potato Empanadas-Real Food, Kid Friendly Freezer Meals

How to Plan a Childcare MENU

How to Plan a Menu for Childcare

Do you look at planning your childcare menu and feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to begin? Making a plan for your childcare menu is a big job. I would highly recommend getting on a food program because they will give you guidelines to go by. I don’t whole heartedly agree with all of the USDA rules, but I do know the program can help kids get better nutrition than they otherwise would. Think of providers that just make a package of ramen and that’s all the kids get. They would like it, but it isn’t optimal for children’s health.

Do you get tired of your kids acting out or having trouble napping? Did you know food additives can cause a whole plethora of behavior problems AND health problems like cancer and other illnesses? Do you run out of energy every day before you run out of day? I promise, if you change your diet and the kid’s diet, you will change your life!

Nutrition is important for kids. Their growing bodies need nutrients to grow strong and healthy and for proper brain development. Kids are with us in care for 2/3 of their meals so what we feed them is so important. You may think, what difference does it make if mom or dad drives through Mikey D’s on the way home from daycare and gets the kids a happy meal every day. That’s when it makes even more difference because the only nutritious food the kids may be getting is in your care.

Think about it. It’s worth the effort to do your best to make super healthy meals for your kids. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the right way. Our kids deserve our very best. I read a book years ago that changed my life, click on the image below to check it out. 

When preparing your meals, it’s best to try not to use processed foods. These foods are full of chemicals, preservatives, and extra sugar, salt and fat. They do not promote good health in children or any of us for that matter. You can make some chicken strips for the kids almost as easily as you can throw some frozen chicken blobs on a pan and throw them in the oven. All you have to do is cut up some chicken breast, toss them in flour, salt and pepper and toss them on a pan and throw them in the oven to bake. It’s not that much harder to make things from scratch.

kids enjoying healthy food

If you do use processed foods, which we all do sometimes, try to give the kids a balance of healthy verses processed. It’s easy to cut up some apples or bananas instead of reaching for a can of peaches that are void of any of their original nutritional value. So if you’re going to serve the kids hot dogs, which we all know they freaking love, give them some quality sides to go with it.

Now where do we start with this daunting task of meal planning?

  1. Decide how many weeks your cycle menu will be. The minimum on the food program is 2 weeks. You should plan whatever works for you. I do 4 weeks because I do my main staple grocery shopping every 4 weeks when I get my food check. That’s what works best for me.
  2. Pull up excel if you want a program that will make neat columns for you on the computer, or grab a notebook and write out a space for each meal. For me, I would write out 20 squares to fill with meals.
  3. Make a list of the proteins you like to use. We don’t have a steak and shrimp budget at Little Sprouts, so my protein items include: Peanut butter, cottage cheese, cheese, ground beef, chicken, turkey or ham, eggs, hot dogs once a month, beans, sausage, and canned tuna. These are the meat or meat alternates that I find the kids eat well. I can find a variety of ways to use them as well. I get bored with the same ole same ole around here and no one wants to throw away food every day, so stick to what the kids like for the most part.
  4. Remember that a new food has to be introduced 11 times before it’s a familiar food, so please don’t give up on feeding the kids healthy items. Click here to see how to get kids to eat healthy food. It can be done. My kids are over here eating broccoli, cauliflower, greens, salads, peas, and all kinds of other things like brussel sprouts that everyone says kids won’t eat. They love it and I love feeding them well.
  5. Now, next to each protein, list all the ways it can be fixed. I like to leave places on my menu that say something like ground beef and then pasta in the bread column. When I do that, I can make spaghetti, goulash, soup, cheeseburger mac, or a hundred other things so our menu won’t get so boring for me. Decide if you want to do it that way or have specific dishes listed on your menu. Don’t forget peanut butter, boxed mac and cheese and other meats/meat alternates need supplemental protein. You can use cheese sticks, cottage cheese as a side dish, chopped up ham or hot dogs, or whatever you like to make these proteins count.
  6. See how many menu items you have. Are there around 20 there, or around 10 if that’s your goal? If so, try to take one or two off or add one or two until you have the number you need for your weeks of menu. You can repeat the same ones if they are popular and easy on the budget, so do that if you need more and can’t think of any.
  7. Next, write in the bread item that will go with that meal. If it’s spaghetti, of course it would be pasta, if it’s sausage biscuits, you would write or type biscuits. If you want to do cheese and crackers, that’s a great kid friendly meal. If you have a meal like scrambled eggs (kids LOVE breakfast for lunch), you could serve toast, biscuits or muffins for a bread to go with it.
  8. Once you have the number of main dishes you need, add fruits and vegetables. I love serving two veggies for lunch, but the USDA is about to make that against the rules, so we will need to be serving a fruit and a vegetable for lunch each day. Let me repeat again, I hate that rule. Okay, moving on. Some providers have been told the menu needs to just say fruit on one line and vegetable on the other. Some have been told that all items that will be served ever must be listed somewhere on the cycle menu. Check with your food program sponsor to find out how they want your menu done. If you need to list each fruit and veggie that will be served, we can make a list of those now. Then plug those items into the menus they sound good with. If I am going to make tuna casserole, I always put peas in it, so I can list peas there with a fruit for a side dish such as a banana or an apple.
  9. Easy peasy, now your lunches are done. Let’s move on to breakfast. Breakfast needs to have a bread and a fruit or veggie. Soon we will be allowed to substitute a meat for the bread a few days a week, but you don’t have to, so we can focus on the bread and fruit for now. My kids aren’t big into eating a lot of veggies for breakfast, so I usually just do fruit. Make a list of all the breads you could serve for breakfast. Pancakes, toast, muffins, cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, rice, French toast, and grits are all good breakfast breads. I’m sure you can think of 100 more as well.
  10. Now make a list of how many cycle menu days you have and plug one of those into each day. You can repeat any menu items you wish, so don’t worry about that.
  11. Add a fruit (or veggie) to each bread or meat item you have chosen to serve.
  12. Now look at your meal, if it’s super easy like a bowl of cheerios and some bananas, put that with your lunch that is a little more work. If you are making a casserole that takes 30 minutes to mix up, that’s a great day for cereal. If you need to make pancakes that day, serve that with an easy lunch like cheese and crackers. That way you can avoid being in the kitchen for too long in one day. We all know how that can turn out. Remember also, if you make something like pancakes from scratch, you can make 2 or 3 or 10 day’s worth at once, even on a Saturday and store them in the freezer so your breakfasts are much less stress. I urge you to make things yourself to avoid as many chemicals in the kid’s diet as possible.
  13. Now you have breakfast and lunch each day, we just need a snack. I find serving a morning snack makes the kids too full to eat a good lunch. Young kids need their meals to be about every three hours, so I do breakfast at 8:30 and lunch at 11:30 so I don’t have to worry about that. Then we have snack after nap which is at 3:00. It works really well for us. Snack needs to have a fruit or veggie, OR bread, OR meat/meat alternate, OR milk. You just pick any two. I’m not sure how that will change with the new rules coming out, but for now, it’s pick any two. I tend to choose bread and fruit and serve it with water, but you can choose whatever works for you. List out what you’d like to serve to the kids. I do things like muffins, toast, crackers, cereal, pretzels, cookies, and things like that with whatever fruit is in season. Occasionally we do carrot sticks or something else in the veggie category, but usually it’s fruit.
  14. Now that your menu rough draft is sketched out, look at each meal and check for a variety of colors. An all yellow meal is not that appetizing, so don’t serve mac and cheese, bananas, yellow squash and cheddar cheese. Do you have a variety of textures too? If everything is mushy it’s not a pleasant dining experience either. Do some hard, some soft, some crunchy, some smooth, etc. Make sure to mix temperatures in your lunches too. If your entrée is cold, make sure some of the sides are warm like roasted broccoli or something else that’s tasty. If your menu looks balanced, affordable, and easy to manage, you’re in good shape. Just print it up and start using it. how to plan a daycare menu

daycare menu planning for food program
You are more than welcome to pop on over to the Little Sprouts Facebook page and ask any question you may have on menu planning or leave a comment here and I’ll be sure to answer. I know it has taken me years to get a good rhythm going with my menu and sometimes I have to make changes.

food program menu planning for childcare

menu planning for childcare daycare food programI make a grocery list that has every item I buy at the store on it, and it lists how many times I will be serving each item I need for my menu in that 4 weeks. This way, when I make my monthly or weekly shopping list, I can refer to this list and see what I need to check my supply of. It saves me tons of time and I already know how many servings of cheese I approximately need for the month.

I buy lots of food in bulk like beans, rice, oatmeal and other things in 10 or 25 pound bags online. I also buy pasta and things by the case. I buy produce weekly in the winter and in the summer, I pick it from the garden and we eat what’s growing, so my monthly trip is enough to supplement our supply. This saves me tons of time and money on my menu.


In a recent food program meeting I attended, the monitors showed us if we wanted to serve snack cakes, like little Debbie Swiss cake rolls, the serving for an after school child is 6 or 8 cake rolls. For a toddler, you would have to serve 4. I know there are children who would eat that many, and I know it’s easy to use prepackaged sweets as a snack, but please don’t serve things like that to your kids. You can do so much better than Pop Tarts and Little Debbies. Your kids deserve it!

If you want to serve them a cake, just whip up a batch of cupcakes or cookies on occasion for a special treat and stick to healthier options on the regular. Their future depends on good health.

If you want to serve flavored yogurt, you can avoid a ton of sugar and chemicals by buying a quart of plain yogurt, adding a few tablespoons of honey and come chopped fruit. You will know what’s going into your kid’s diet, and you will avoid feeding them this:

Go-Gurt_Strawberry_Splash_and_Berry_Blue_Blast

What even is potassium sorbate?

You can even buy the containers to make your own gogurts, click on the image below to check them out.

Read labels, do some research, think about what you are putting in their bodies. You’ll be so glad you did when you see them growing healthy and strong. For many years in daycare, I thought the easy way was the best way, but then I discovered that it’s not that much harder to feed them really well and I feel so much better myself. I have very few behavior problems from my kids, they rest well, they are growing, and I have energy, can think more clearly and have a lot more patience with them. I KNOW that food is the reason. Putting in the extra effort in what they eat makes my job so much easier and more fun!

DSCN7677

Check out the blog for many dishes kids love to eat that are manageable to make for them. Our favorite taco soup is posted, my world famous roasted broccoli is there, as well as many other dishes the kids love to eat. Also, come back and check out next week’s post: Top 10 Kid Meals that Aren’t JUNK! Don’t forget to watch the blog for some new recipes I’m working on for the menu.

Take the extra time to give the best of yourself to your kids. You will take more pride in yourself and the work you are doing and it will be a lot more fun.

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How to Plan a Menu for Childcare

 

Does Play Matter?

Does Play Matter-

Do you think play matters anymore for kids? Over and over again I hear parents saying they want their kids to learn. They mean flash cards and learning to read. Over and over again I try to stress the importance of free thinking and free play where the child directs the game or activity they are doing. That is the best form of learning.

free creative play

Modern day school in this country is NOT developmentally appropriate. We start teaching kids to read as early as they enter school when study after study has told us over and over again that children are not developmentally ready to read until age 7 or 8 depending on the child. And the child who cannot keep up? We say they’re behind.

We keep pushing kids faster and faster to do everything earlier and earlier. We take more and more of free play time and anything creative in school and we give them more and more work, more homework, and more testing. We don’t even teach art here in Oklahoma public schools until the 5th grade when children’s creativity is determined by age 8! If no one creates, who will be the architects, the engineers, the artists, and the musicians of our future? We place importance on who can finish first and learn it the earliest, but guess what we are getting instead of smarter kids? Mental illness, depression, anxiety, behavior problems, obesity, and poor physical health as well.

I love watching kids create, build, direct, explore, and really master skills. It’s so satisfying to watch a child learn to care for their own needs and their own environment. At Little Sprouts it’s one of our top priorities to teach kids to be independent so they can have success in school. I want my kids to be able to think for themselves, come up with their own ideas, know right from wrong, build great relationships, stand up for themselves, and take care of their own needs. I want them to succeed.

When my daughter was young, I thought the best thing for her was for me to do everything for her, but in reality, me taking her plate to the sink every night after dinner did NOT teach her to carry and dump her lunch tray at school…she dropped it. Me doing everything for her did NOT teach her to care for her own needs at school…she was frustrated.

The most important school readiness skill for children is social skills. Children need to be able to build and nurture relationships to find success in their school future. Children need to be able to say no and stand up for themselves. Children need to be able to share and be kind to others too.

the power of play

Guess how they learn all of those important things? Through play! Play is children’s work. It’s what they do to act out and figure out life. There are so many things kids can do in a session of self-directed play that will build a successful future for them. Ask Mr. Rogers, he knows what’s up!

We as caregivers need to offer children lots and lots of time to explore and figure things out. We need to guide them with gentle kindness when they get off track. We are here to teach them the way to go. Most of a child’s day should be engaged in activities they choose and direct.

Crafts are fine some of the time, but there is so much more to be learned when children are allowed to CREATE on their own and direct their own talents. I recently downloaded this e-book off of Amazon and I loved all of the fun play activities that could be self-directed by the kids. One of our favorites so far was salt painting. You mix equal parts of salt and boiling water. Stir until the salt dissolves in the water. Then the kids paint with it on dark paper and when it dries, the salt forms small crystals that shimmer in the light. We called it Elsa paint because it looks like ice crystals. (and who’s not into Elsa right now?)

20160602_170305

Click on the book below to check out The Undeniable Power of Play on Amazon. You’ll be glad you downloaded it. It’s chock full of fun activities for the kids to do (and you will enjoy them as well)

Study after study has been released about the importance of free play for learning. We have cut out so much recess, music, and physical education in schools that there is scarcely any time for kids to play at school any more. We are not teaching anything; we are preparing for tests all of our school hours. It’s a shame. Our kids and our future will suffer for it.

Kids AND adults benefit from free play time during our day. Even as adults if we don’t play it can cause serious behavior and health problems. Click here to see the importance of play for adults and children for health. 

play is powerful

Not only does The Undeniable Power of Play give you tons of fun activities to help kids play, it also has lots of information on the importance of play and the meaning of play. Be sure to check it out.  

The undeniable power of play

Behavior problems are on the rise, health problems are on the rise, we are headed for big trouble. Take the time to make play a priority in your life and your children’s lives. We have to do something before it’s too late.

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Does Play Matter-

Why Dads Are Super

why dads are super

Dads, don’t fall into the stereotype of a back seat driver for the family. You have so much to offer your little ones. They and their mom need you to be awesome!

dads are amazing

You can be a superhero, a rock star, your kid’s best bud, your family’s anchor, or whatever other great thing you want to be. Don’t let people’s expectations for you be too low. The world shows dads and men in a negative light far too often. On TV, in the media, it’s a man haters club out there. I’ll admit, I haven’t always given dads the props they deserve. But lately I have been realizing a few things.

  1. I have some awesome daycare dads and that’s a wonderful blessing for my business AND for the kids I keep.
  2. Relationships with dads are really important too.

I have always shied away from making friends with my daycare dads or friending them on Facebook or whatever, but I realized when I do that, I’m cheating the dads out of being more involved. It’s okay to friend your daycare dads if you friend their moms. Dads should be in on the daycare stuff too. So this year, I started friending the dads too.

super dad

Dad, you have so much to offer your children. Your input in their lives means a lot, so don’t let them miss out on what you have to give. Of course anyone can give these gifts to kids, but if you’re a dad, it’s part of your job. Props to you single moms out there who put in your best effort. Your kids are going to be just fine because you are doing your best!

  1. Dads can play wrestle: Play wrestling teaches kids limits and helps them develop gross motor skills. Also, a little bit of play wrestling helps kids know it’s okay to be a kid. It teaches them resilience.
  2. Dads can be protectors: When the boogeyman strikes, we need dad to chase him away. He’s tough and there’s a reason boyfriends are afraid to meet their girlfriend’s dads.
  3. Dads can teach kids their hobbies: Many dads are super excited to take their kids fishing or show them some other skill they have. It’s great to pass on those traditions to your kids and it’s okay to teach a girl to fish and hunt or teach a boy to cook. People need skills, it doesn’t matter if they are a boy or a girl.
  4. Dads can make corny jokes: Some dads are notorious for pulling a silly one liner out of thin air. It helps us remember to keep things light. Mr. Kent cracks our daughter up with his dumb jokes. 
  5. Dads can fix stuff: It’s great to have dad around to save the day when the washer goes out or to lift a heavy snowball on top of your snowman for you. Dads can save the day in tons of ways, they just have to be present.
  6. Dads can get into mischief: It’s lots of fun to sneak off with dad for ice cream before dinner or something fun that mom would never let you do. It’s not okay all the time, but special fun times with dad are awesome memory makers for kids.
  7. Dads can give the best piggy back rides: Bonding times with dad are irreplaceable. Be present in your child’s life and you’re doing everything right. Make your child a priority and that’s all that matters.
  8. Dads can be a great help to mom: Making sure you take care of your family is your biggest job. Make mom a priority and you’re teaching your kids what to expect from a husband or how to treat a wife. You are showing them what they deserve, make sure you paint a good picture.
  9. Dads can make life fun: Sometimes dads come up with the best ideas for silly and super great fun. Let your inner child come out and be the life of the party for your kids. They need you.

Dads have so many gifts to offer and loving their mom and being present in their life are the most important ones. I know a bunch of dads who are awesome and their kids are blessed. Find a dad who is doing an awesome job and give them a high five for me because they are rocking it! If that’s you, give yourself a big ole pat on the back because you are making a difference in the world in the best possible way.

dads are awesome

Check out these awesome dad saves

For some other great Father’s Day inspiration, check out these other great posts, you’ll love em!

What Does Your Husband Really Want for Father’s Day? 

23 Lessons I Learned from My Father 

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why dads are super

15 Ways to Stop Throwing Your Money Away on Food

15 Ways to Stop Throwing Your Money Away on Food (1)

Are you tired of throwing your money away? Groceries are a big expense for your family and much of it gets wasted. Get the most out of your produce. Stop throwing away what could be used. Help your budget and the earth. It just makes good sense. 

There are tons of things we are throwing away every day that are useful, nutritious, and tasty. In America we waste over 40% of the food that is grown for consumption. Forty percent folks, that’s no joke! We cannot continue to be such a wasteful society!

save money, don't throw food away, little sprouts learning

There are so many hungry people in this country and the food we are throwing away could help them thrive if we had one thing, transportation! The reason there are hungry people and people wasting in the same place is all a matter of getting the food to those that need it. We all need to do something thinking about how we could help those in need.

Many foods are wasted because they are ugly, not uniform sizes, have a mark on them, or are otherwise unappealing to consumers in some way. I watched a Food Network special one time that showed how we wasted and I’ll tell ya, I was horrified and moved to tears. There are people going hungry all around us. We need to take the resources we have, and make them last. We need to use what we have to the best of our ability and make sure we save as much of our income as we can to help others who have nothing.

In the special, the chefs on the show were challenged to feed 100 people meals using nothing that could be bought. In many places it’s illegal to feed the hungry, did you know that? You cannot just walk out onto the sidewalk and serve soup to hungry people. I am amazed by that. The chefs on the show had to go to the fields and glean produce that could not be sold, and most of it they were taking to the compost piles was perfectly good food. The show was life changing for me and for the chefs competing.

There are so many ways we can cut down on waste in our own kitchens, here are a few I want to share.

  1. Carrot tops: Did you know carrot tops and the greens of many plants are tasty and nutritious? You can cook them down like greens with some fat and seasoning, you can use them in stir fries, eat them raw in a salad, or just about any other way you can think of to eat greens, carrots can be eaten that way as well.edible carrot tops, saving money, little sprouts learning
  2. Cruciferous vegetable leaves: Broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and the outer leaves of cabbages can be eaten as greens as well. The stems are also super tasty and can be cooked right along with the main part of the vegetable we are used to eating. Click here to see how I roast my veggies like broccoli.
  3. Radish greens: The greens of radishes are a bit spicy and delicious in salads or cooked down as well.
  4. Corn cobs: When you are processing a bushel of corn, don’t throw away those cobs! They can be boiled down to get the last of the nutrition and flavor out and used in soups and chowders. Corn broth is AMAZING! (Don’t forget the husks can be used as well for wrapping tamales, making dolls or other old fashioned crafts)
  5. Tomato cores: If you take out the cores and pulp from the tomato for your recipe, don’t throw them away, juice them, blend them up and cook them down for sauce, save them in the freezer in a bag for the next time you make stock, they will add amazing flavor.
  6. Vegetable skins: When you peel your carrots or potatoes, or other veggies or cut stems and other things off of them, save those in the freezer as well for making stock. You can fill a big stock pot with water, add your vegetable scraps and some seasonings, and boil it for 30 minutes to an hour. You will end up with an amazing stock for soups, stews, and sauces. Super yummy and you’re saving all of that stuff from the trash! That saves it from going to the landfill AND keeps more money in your pocket! Even if you have orange peels, lemon peels, grapefruit peels, or lime peels, you can boil them in water on the stove for a room freshener or you can steep them in vinegar for a couple of weeks to enhance the cleaning power of your vinegar. use veggie scraps for nutrition, little sprouts learning
  7. Apple cores and peels: Apple scraps can be fermented to make apple cider vinegar, click here to see how to make it. 
  8. Herb stems: Herb stems can be boiled in stock to add flavor. They can also be cooked in olive oil or butter and then removed before you add your other ingredients to the pan when starting a sauce, casserole, or stir fry. They will flavor your oil and add a depth to it. saving money on food, stop throwing it away, little sprouts learning
  9. Onion tops: Onion tops can be saved and used to flavor cooking oil as well or thrown into stock. You can also slice up the green tops and use them in your recipe in place of green onions. onion tops, money saving, little sprouts learning
  10. Sweet potato vines: Sweet potato vines are edible. Instead of tossing them all way when you harvest your sweet potatoes, cut the leaves off the stems and cook them as greens. They are tender and delicious!
  11. Garlic scapes: When you trim the scapes off of your hard neck garlic to encourage bulbing under the ground, don’t throw them away, chop them up and use them to flavor soups or sauces or stir fry them and add texture and flavor to your dish.
  12. Pepper cores: When you core your hot or sweet peppers to use in your recipe, save the cores and boil them up to add amazing flavor to your stock.
  13. Watermelon rinds: Watermelon rinds can be pickled and eaten. They are a tasty treat, click here to see how to pickle them.
  14. Potato skins: Potato skins make a great snack, trim them from the potato thickly and bake them in the oven until done, add some toppings like cheese, bacon, chives, or whatever you like and you have a delicious snack or side dish!
  15. Vegetable skins and peels: Another thing you can do with your skins and peels is dehydrate them and grind them up in your blender. You can add them to dishes like soups and casseroles for added nutrition, use them as a thickener for sauces and soups, sprinkle them under pizza sauce to add vitamins and minerals to your pizza, or use them in breads and cakes to add nutritional value to those goods. stop throwing away money on food, little sprouts

There are so many ways to preserve your food to make it last longer. Click here to see how to dehydrate greens and herbs and here to see how to store produce so it will last as long as possible. If you need a tutorial on how to make a nourishing soup stock from your bones and scraps, click here. It’s easier than you think!

If all else fails and you cannot think of one single thing to reuse your scraps for, please don’t send them to the landfill, mix them with leaves or dried grass and compost them for enriching your yard or garden. How you do keep from wasting food at your house?

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15 Ways to Stop Throwing Your Money Away on Food (1)

How to Make Your Own Bug Spray and Bug Bite Sticks

How to Make your Own Bug bite sticks and bug spray

Summer time brings on the bug bites like crazy. You can make your own anti itch sticks that work wonderfully to take the itch out fast. I love making my own products because I know what’s going on my skin and my kid’s skin.

Make your own bug bite sticks for itching and stings, little sprouts learning

bug bite sticks, homemade, little sprouts learningI am leery of all the harsh chemicals we have available for our use on our bodies. Most of this stuff can be grown in the garden or bought locally, or you can order it in bulk from amazon. Either way, using pure ingredients will help protect your health.

making your own bug bite sticks that take itch away, little sprouts learninganti itch sticks, saving money, natural products, little sprouts learning

infused oil, bug bite sticks, little sprouts learningDEET is the main ingredient in most insect repellents but it’s not good for our health and can be particularly dangerous for use on children. If you want to learn more about the dangers of DEET and other ingredients in conventional bug spray, click here.

natural products, essential oils, little sprouts learning

I love being able to make my own remedies and help protect my kids and my family from miserable itching throughout the summer. 

Natural Bug Spray
Bug Spray made with all natural ingredients to repel bothersome insects.
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ C. Apple Cider Vinegar
  2. ¼ C. Distilled Water
  3. 1 Teaspoon Homemade Vanilla (Click here for the recipe)
  4. 15 Drops Lavender Essential Oil (I use DoTerra brand oils and have much less reactions with my allergies)
  5. 10 Drops Lemon Grass Essential Oil
  6. 10 Drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  7. 20 Drops Melaleuca or Tea Tree Oil
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients and shake well.
  2. Shake well before each use.
Notes
  1. You should always test any product on a small patch of skin before use. Use caution when using essential oils on children.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
 natural insect repellent, bug spray, little sprouts learning

Natural Bug Bite Sticks
Sticks to rub on bug bites to take out the itch or sting.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Teaspoons Dried Plantain Leaf
  2. 3 Teaspoons Dried Lavender Flowers
  3. 1 ½ Teaspoons Dried Echinacea Leaf
  4. 1 ½ Teaspoons Dried Echinacea Root
  5. 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  6. 3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  7. 1 Tablespoon Lanolin
  8. ½ C. Beeswax
Instructions
  1. Combine oils with dried herbs in a crock pot and turn on the lowest setting
  2. Leave 2-3 days watching carefully so it doesn’t get too hot. You can turn it off at night.
  3. Strain your oil with cheesecloth or a strainer.
  4. Clean out your crock pot.
  5. Return your infused oil to the crock pot.
  6. Add beeswax and lanolin and stir until dissolved and combine.
  7. Pour mixture into empty chap stick tubes or small tins.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Here are some more cool diy’s for you to check out! 

DIY Upcycled Corkboard
Slow Fashion – Sashiko

How to Build your Own Vermicompost Factory

DIY- Vegan Body Butter Bars
 

Please be cautious when using essential oils or any products on children. 

Information shared on this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, and has not been evaluated by the FDA. These are simply recipes that I use.

This post may have affiliate links. If you click on these links it may allow us to earn a small commission with no added cost to you. We are working hard to keep this blog free to you and these commissions are part of the plan to do that. 

 


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How to Make your Own Bug bite sticks and bug spray

Cooking with Kids-Ice Cream in a Bag

Cooking with Kids-Ice cream in a bag

Ice cream is a super fun treat for kids and adults and it couldn’t be easier to whip some up in a zip lock bag by hand. Kids can do the mixing all on their own and have a tasty treat to enjoy in just a few minutes. 

kids making ice cream in a bag

You need a gallon sized zip lock bag and a quart sized bag, some rock salt, ice and ice cream ingredients. I have made this with my kids several times and it’s always so much fun! It’s also good motor skill building since they have to put in the work to get the reward. The sensory experience of the cold ice, the smooth plastic, and the sweet, yummy smelling ice cream is awesome as well. And SCIENCE is involved in watching the reaction of the milk as it turns from liquid to solid as it freezes. 

Ice cream in a bag, Little Sprouts Learning

This activity has so much to offer kids, plus they get a yummy, chemical free snack from the deal in the end. Who doesn’t love a super fun dessert? I know I do. 

Ice cream in a bag, cooking with kids

Ice Cream in a Bag
Simple homemade ice cream made in a zip lock bag.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 C. Heavy cream
  2. 1/2 C. Whole milk
  3. 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
  4. 2 T. Raw Sugar
  5. Quart Size zip lock bag
  6. Gallon Size zip lock bag
  7. 6 C. Ice
  8. 1/4 C. Rock Salt
Instructions
  1. Wash hands and have kids wash theirs.
  2. Hold quart size bag open and let kids pour cream, milk, vanilla and sugar into bag.
  3. Zip bag tightly for each child.
  4. Let child place ice cream back into gallon sized bag.
  5. Let child add ice and rock salt to gallon bag.
  6. Zip gallon bag tightly for each child.
  7. Let them shake for 5 minutes vigorously until ice cream is firm.
  8. Remove quart bags from gallon bags carefully making sure not to spill salty liquid.
  9. Place quart bags in freezer until ready to eat.
  10. Snip bottom corner from bag with scissors and squeeze ice cream into dish.
  11. Eat and enjoy!
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Whip up a batch of this super fun treat, or check out the blog for other great cooking with kids recipes and activities. Cooking is a wonderful way for kids to learn so many things including healthy eating, trying new foods, math, science, and reading skills and so much more. Get your kids in the kitchen today. Click here to see why it’s so important!

kids shaking ice cream in bags

How to Work with your Heart

How to work with your heart

Love notes in my heart.

Do you ever have one of those days when you feel like just packing up your car, driving away and never coming back? I think we have all had one where our heart feels that way at least once in our lives. It’s natural to get frustrated sometimes and want to take a break.

I have a drawer full of blessings. You’d be amazed at what it means to me. When you are a provider, the days can be long and hard. It’s not a job everyone can do and I take pride in doing it as well as I possibly can. I am not perfect, far from it, but I have a passion that burns in me for giving kids the best of me.

blessing counts

Over the years, I have been so fortunate to have people come into my life that know and see the value in it. People want the best environment they can possibly get for their kids and they know when someone puts their heart and soul into caring for children.

When I have a bad day, or feel like giving up on what I do (which is not often at all lately), I open my blessing drawer and fish out a few notes from these people who have loved me over the past 21 years I have served.

I find notes like this one …

childcare is a blessing

Or this one…

blessings of love from children

And they remind me why I do what I do.

Childcare is a super hard job and has a really high burnout rate, but you can do things to make you keep wanting to come back and try again after a bad day. Please remember if every day is a bad day, it may just be time for a change in careers. You should enjoy what you are doing most of the time. If you are miserable, so is everyone else you are working with. It’s time to go.

Click here to see how to avoid burnout by taking care of yourself.

Click here to see how to deal with stress so it doesn’t overwhelm you.

I enjoy the feeling of a family’s love for me. I let it rejuvenate me. I let it recharge my battery. These things do not cost a lot of money or take a lot of time for a parent or child to make, but they are precious because of the meaning behind them. They mean the world to me. I appreciate each and every one.

affirmations for childcare

I keep the pictures children draw or color for me, I keep the cards people take the time to write something special in, and I keep the notes I receive that bless my heart. Even 20 years later, those same pieces of paper can still bless my heart.

parent blessings in childcare

 

I was looking through my blessing drawer to write this post, and I found a very special letter from my Mother in law who passed away about a year ago that told how much she appreciated the mother I was to my daughter and the blessing I was to her son and their family. She wrote me stuff like this often. She loved me dearly and I loved her. I miss how proud she was of me. I miss her kind words and prayers. My love drawer has notes from my family as well.

Back to the daycare. I LOVE doing childcare. I am very gifted at it, and I love trying to be the best I can be at whatever I do. Childcare is so important. Did you know children learn over 50% of what they will learn in their entire lifetime by the age of 4? From birth to three, there are some incredible connections forming in the brains of young children that need to be stimulated. The more sensory stimuli (sight, smell, feel, taste, sound) a child receives, the more plastic or flexible their learning paths remain which allows for even more learning later on.

Every stimuli a child experiences fires a pulse in their brain that reaches out to find another piece of pathway to connect with to form learning. Those pathways, if not used, then prune themselves from the brain as the child gets older. So learning is critical for children and they need to be exposed to all kinds of information to process. The best way they can learn is by unstructured play. Exploring their own ideas.

I KNOW how important early childhood is and I hope everyone who reads this will bombard everyone who will listen about this importance until we refocus our attention in our governments, childcares and schools to getting our funding into education! Call your representatives and bend their ear to stop cutting education and start building it any way they can! Our state’s future depends on it and so does our country’s.

Back to my drawer of blessings. This thing is chock full of so many wonderful memories, people, and expressions of love for me. It’s so amazing to flip through the pages it contains and feel the love that is poured out in the words and pictures in there. I love reminiscing about the people who have given them to me. I love running into people and knowing they still love me even if they have been gone for years.

blessings of love from daycare parents

There is a teenage boy I see regularly that even now, when he’s about to graduate from high school and become a man, his face still lights up when he sees me. It does a person’s heart good to feel love like this. These kids mean the world to me even when they are no longer kids. I love them fiercely. They know it, and they still feel it even when their attention in on all the other things in the world.

I have seen children graduate right and left over the past few years, and I even had my first child ask me to keep his son. It’s been an amazingly blessed 21 years and I hope I have a lot more years left in me. I can certainly tell as I age, how much harder the job gets every year. I tire more easily, I forget more things, and I wonder if I have 10 more years, or another 21…  I do know one thing, God has great plans for blessings in my life in the future, just as He has in the past.

childcare blessings

My drawer is stuffed full and there are so many kind words and pictures in there, I couldn’t take the time to read through all of them to share with you. These are a few really fun ones, but certainly I have many more favorites. I love them all. This one is super cute that says, thanks for taking care of me when I was a child. This kid was probably 5 or 6 when he wrote this, ha ha, but he felt grown. So cute.

focus on your blessings

Make sure you keep a blessing drawer where you can find comfort and rejuvenation when you are down or having a tough day. When you see it begin to add up over time, you will be blessed by the volume of it. If you aren’t receiving notes of affirmation, I’m sorry. You should be. Are you writing kind notes to your parents? Are you doing your very best job? If so, it’s a shame that people don’t appreciate your efforts, but keep on keeping on because your kids deserve the best of you and they are worth it.I know God created me to love children and support families as they raise them. I know He has blessed me for every sacrifice I have ever made to do this for a living. I know He has helped me by sending me families that would be a blessing to me. I know I am smack in the center of His will. And I know I am blessed.

letters of love for childcare

Do you love your job? Can you imagine doing anything else? I know I sure can’t. This is my heart and soul. On days when you feel like giving up, look for the blessings in your life and you’ll be amazed at how it turns your heart around. Your attitude can make or break your life and you NEED to look for good in things, for your own wellbeing. Tell me how you are blessed, I want to hear all about it!

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How to work with your heart

How to Grow your Own Wheat

How to Grow your Own Wheat

You wouldn’t believe what wheat means to me. I can’t tell you the memories I have of planting it, harvesting, taking it to the elevator for sale, and any number of other things. One of my fondest childhood memories is of sitting in the back of the wheat truck when the combine would come up beside it and dump wheat all over us and bury us. That’s good stuff!

We would chew the wheat for “gum” while we worked hard in the fields at my grandparent’s house during harvest time. After all the wheat was cut, we would go back and cut straw from the stems that were left in the ground. Farming wheat is in my blood. These fun memories were at my grandparent’s house and they were some of the best times of my life.

My grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents were wheat farmer’s by trade and my uncle and cousin still farm wheat today. It’s an important part of my history. My Mom’s Grandfather ran in the Oklahoma Land Run with his parents to get their family land.  

I was raised in the city, but the memories of what went on at the farm always cried out to me in the back of my mind. The cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, grandma’s big ole garden, and the wheat and alfalfa grandpa grew are part of my upbringing and are part of who I am today.

My mom is a smart woman and has so many skills from her time growing up on that farm, it’s amazing. She has talents and abilities as do her brothers and sisters that would amaze you.

I make all the bread I feed my kids from scratch and I make it from freshly ground flour. I use non-gmo, local, top quality wheat berries to make my flour so my kids get the very best I can give them Click here to see why I don’t feed them store bought bread and click here for my everyday bread recipes if you want to make your own.

whole wheat bread maker bread

Many people talk about gluten intolerance and grain free food, especially gluten free, but I really feel that what makes a lot of people sick and tired is not the gluten or the wheat itself, but the genetic modification of that wheat with GMO’s. Most of our food supply is GMO wheat. Couple that with the massive amounts of chemicals in the bread products that wheat is made into and you have a recipe for some pretty serious diseases and illnesses. I’m not sure it’s the gluten for all people, although I KNOW it is for some. I think much of it is the process we’ve done to the wheat.

I wanted to show my kids where those wheat berries come from. Although I don’t plan to grow all of our wheat as cleaning it is quite a chore that we don’t have the equipment for, I wanted to grow some wheat to show them the source of those beautiful golden nuggets of flavor.

 

wheat growing

We took some of our wheat berries we grind for flour and planted them back in November. Previously, I tried to grow wheat with the kids, but I didn’t remember that you grow it throughout the winter here in Oklahoma (no natural instincts for growing), so I talked to my cousin Joe about what could have gone wrong. He said to have your wheat in the ground by November 30th. This is called winter wheat and it’s the only wheat you can grow in Oklahoma. It’s too hot here for anything else.

Winter wheat or hard wheat is good for making bread or other products that are made with yeast, spring wheat or soft wheat is good for pancakes, muffins, and things that don’t contain yeast.

Last year, we met that goal and watched our tiny wheat grass grow throughout the winter a tiny bit at a time. Once the days started getting longer, our wheat took off and now it’s making seed heads. Our rows aren’t straight like on the farm, but we are farming this wheat nonetheless. We have a 3 x 10 bed of it growing and will harvest it when it turns golden and the seeds will shake out of it. I’ll come back and update the blog when that happens.

planting wheat with kids

Steps to growing wheat:

  1. Find your wheat berry seeds. Research what type of wheat will grow in your area and when it needs to be planted. If you are in or around Oklahoma, do what we did, and get winter wheat in the ground by the end of November.
  2. Prepare your soil and make a trench about 2- 2 ½ inches deep. If you have a huge area to cover, you can broadcast your wheat seeds and then till them into the ground to about 2 inches. If you are planting spring wheat, you will need to plant it around 1 inch deep instead. Cover the seeds with dirt and pat down the earth gently to remove any air pockets.
  3. Water weekly until grain stalks and heads begin to turn golden and heads droop toward the ground.
  4. Check your mature grain weekly. Shake a few seeds out of the head and taste them. If they are doughy, they are not ready, but if they are firm and you can chew them for a while without them disintegrating, they are ready. Remember the “wheat gum”?
  5. Store them for a few weeks in a dry place until they are ready to clean. They will be dry and won’t dent with your fingernail when ready.
  6. Beat the heads on the inside of a trash can until all of the seeds fall out of the heads. Then winnow the seeds by pouring them from one container to another in the breeze or in front of a fan until all the chaff blows out of the seeds. Get them as clean as possible before use.
  7. Store them in an airtight container so moisture or bugs won’t be able to reach them.

growing wheat with kids

wheat, growing your own

I can’t wait to see how excited the kids are and how much they learn when we harvest our little wheat patch and grind it up into flour to make bread. What a wonderful learning experience for them that will stimulate all of their senses. Sensory experiences are the best way for kids birth to three to learn, and can you think of anything else that smells as good as homemade bread coming out of the oven? It can carry you away.

 

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How to Grow your Own Wheat

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