How to Stock your Dress up Center for Less

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Kids LOVE playing dress up and it’s great for boosting their creativity. Is there anything better than pretending to be a princess, a super hero, or an animal? I love supplying my kids with a ton of creative supplies to enjoy dramatic play.

Kids learn so much through dramatic play. It helps them express their feelings, try different roles and see what it’s like to be someone else, and work through their problems in a safe way. There is so much more going on during dramatic play than meets the eye. They need pretend play for growth and development.

Small receiving blankets and bandanas are a great resource that doesn’t cost a fortune. They can be used to wrap babies, as blankets for playing house, tied up as a pouch to carry things in, You can make them into a picnic blanket or table cloth. Kids can tie them around their heads, wrists, or waist as super hero or rock star gear. The uses are limitless. I always have several available.

Some items from around the house.

Bags of all kinds can be used as diaper bags, purses, totes or any number of other things when kids are playing pretend. Plastic or real keys on rings are a big favorite for kids to pretend they get to drive a car. Kids also love wallets to put their stuff in. They can be old wallets you are done using or plastic toy ones, the kids don’t care.

Another great item for dramatic play is big button up shirts. Kids can pretend they are using them to dress up as doctors, veterinarians or pretend they are suits to be a business person or preacher or whatever they wish. These are always a big hit at Little Sprouts.

Dress up center.

Dress up clothes can be super expensive in the daycare/teacher supply stores. Another great way to get dress up clothes that won’t break the bank is by getting Halloween costumes. Many times I have had daycare parents give me old costumes their kids grew out of. My mother in law used to work at Wal-Mart and she would buy me costumes on clearance after Halloween for my dress up center. There’s nothing like blessings from other people.

Oriental Trading Company offered me some costumes in exchange for my honest opinion about them on the blog. All opinions on the costumes are completely my own. I jumped on the chance to see if their costumes were quality and would last in the dress up center. I chose Captain America, Elsa, and a Ninja Turtle. We have been playing with them like crazy and they are super durable.

oriental-trading-costumes-dress-up-clothes

The costumes are not very expensive, click here to see their selection. They are inexpensive enough to use for Halloween or a great price for filling your dramatic play area as well. I prefer to choose costumes that don’t have pants because those are hard for my young children to get off and on by themselves.

dress-up-clothes-for-childcare

Captain America costume.

The Captain America is super cute, equipped with big muscles and everything. Sometimes the kids put it on backwards and have super pumped backs. I think that’s so cute. It came with a mask that looks awesome. The kids all love to be a super hero. Who doesn’t. They have put this costume on and off 100 times and it is still holding up like new. It’s definitely worth the price and a great addition to my dress up center.

captain-america-costume-dress-up-clothes

Elsa Costume.

The Elsa dress is a dream come true for my little girls. Several of my girls have had them at home and loved bringing them over, so I knew the kids would love to have one here. It’s super cute with great features that remind them of the movie. Everyone loves being a princess.

dress-up-center-clothes

Ninja Turtle Costume.

The Ninja Turtle costume is by far my favorite. It has a chest plate and a turtle shell for their back. The costume is super cool looking. It also comes with not just one face mask, but all 4, so the kids can choose which turtle they want to be any time. It’s fun to be able to change your mind. Even better is that 4 kids can be superheroes or Ninja Turtles, so that’s even more bang for your buck.

inexpensive-dress-up-clothes

All of the Oriental Trading costumes are holding up well. I was surprised by the quality for the price they are listed. I would totally recommend you ordering from Oriental for your Halloween needs, and of course, you can do like I did and use them in your dress up center. They are a great way to get costumes your kids will love without having to spend a ton of money. They have a huge variety of costumes to choose from in so many sizes, even for adults.

How do you stock your dramatic play area?

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Safe Sleep for Infants, Reducing Risk Factors

safe-sleep-for-infants-reducing-risk-factors

Everyone wants to keep their babies safe. It’s hard to know the best practices for safe sleep for infants. There are some things we can do that can help cut down on accidental and unexplained infant deaths. SIDS is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and is when a baby dies with no explanation at all. Many infants die from SIDS, it’s much more common than you think. It’s not detectable or preventable, but there are risk factors that can be removed to keep babies safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends best safe sleep practices. 

SIDS can occur in children from birth to as old as 12 months. Suffocation and asphyxiation deaths occur at a high rate at that age span as well. Children under one year of age have no reflexes indicating to them they are in danger of suffocation, so they don’t yet know to fight to help themselves. It’s up to adults to protect them from it. Remember, SIDS is not preventable or detectable. 

SIDS rates have been reduced drastically over the past 20 years by practicing safe sleep practices at home, in child care centers and homes, and with other caregivers. Parents AND providers must work together to ensure safety for all infants.

SIDS is a tragedy that is very very close to my heart. My life has been affected by it deeply more than once. I wish there was a way to prevent SIDS but we can cut down on risk factors. We will discuss best practices to cut down on risk for SIDS and other infant deaths all together.  

NO SMOKING AROUND BABIES

The number one way to cut down on infant deaths is by not allowing smoking anywhere near your baby ever. Smoke is full of so many different chemicals and some of those chemicals alter a baby’s brain function in a way that prevents them from being able to arouse from sleep. The effect is even higher on Native American babies and even higher yet for African American babies. All babies deserve healthy air and a smoke free environment.

BACK TO SLEEP

Placing babies on their back to sleep helps make sure the airway stays the most open during sleep. This helps for adequate oxygen to move through the baby’s airway and into the blood stream through the lungs. Babies should not be allowed to sleep on their tummy or side where they can easily roll on their tummy.

Why does sleeping on their tummy pose risks? When baby’s face is close to the mattress, carbon dioxide, which is exhaled as baby breaths, can pool around their face. The baby then breaths in less and less oxygen as the sleep time continues and over time, may become depleted of adequate oxygen causing it to be difficult for baby to wake up.

safe-sleep-practices-for-infants

FURNITURE MADE FOR BABY TO HAVE SAFE SLEEP

Infants should not be allowed to sleep in car seats, bouncy seats, swings or other baby furniture that is not made for sleeping. These products do not allow for baby to sleep flat on their back which is the best way for them to get enough oxygen while sleeping.

Car seat sleeping deaths are the highest cause of suffocation or asphyxiation deaths in infants. When a baby is properly seated in a car seat which is properly installed in a car, they are in an upright position with the harness properly positioned across their nipples. This is safe for sleeping. When the car seat is taken from the car, the seat drops back further and changes the position of the airway of the child. The seat is not flat, it’s rounded, so this causes the throat to be in an unsafe position for maximum airflow.

Another problem with car seats is people usually loosen the straps when they take them out of the car. This is the biggest risk factor because many times children suffocate when they slide down into the seat. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t let your babies sleep in the car seat when it’s not properly installed in the car. Please don’t.

KEEP THE CRIB EMPTY FOR SLEEPING

Infants should never be put to sleep with stuffed animals, pacifiers with straps or toys attached, fluffy bumper pads, or even blankets. Yes, blankets can contribute to infant deaths. Children should never use a blanket or a pillow in bed until after age one. The reasons are the same, they can cause exhaled carbon monoxide to pool around babies face and reduce oxygen intake. Cribs should be clean and clear with nothing but a firm mattress and a tight fitting sheet. Pacifiers are fine as long as they don’t have anything attached to them.

DON’T KEEP BABY TOO WARM

Infants should be dressed in the same type of clothing that would be comfortable for adults for the weather conditions. If you are comfortable in shorts and a tank top, don’t have baby bundled up in footed pajamas. If you’re hot, they’re hot. Your house should be kept at a comfortable temperature for an adult in light clothing. Keeping baby too warm causes them to sleep too deeply which is a big contributing factor for SIDS and other incidences.

Remember to use your common sense when choosing the best sleeping place for your child. Co-sleeping or letting babies in bed with adults or other children is not safe for infants under 1 year of age. Adult beds are not made for infants. Do not sleep babies on couches, floors, tables or other surfaces not designed for infant sleep.

For more information on safe sleep, click here

Talk to your childcare provider, family and friends about infant death and ways to cut down on risk factors for your baby. Everyone should know. Share this post with everyone you can think of who has an infant so more people can be aware. Remember, SIDS is not detectable or preventable, but we can use what the AAP recommends as best practices. 

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Cheap Fall Activities for Kids

cheap-fall-activities-for-kids

Many times of the year can stump you for ideas of things to keep your kids busy learning and having fun. Don’t forget all the cool and awesome fall stuff there is to do with kids.

Here are a few that I have done or am planning to do with my kids this fall:

Collecting leaves (you can iron them between waxed paper and it will coat them with enough wax so they won’t get brittle and make art with them such as leaf garland).

Make fall suncatchers with this retro craft

Make leaf collages or leaf glitter.

Make a leaf tree

Learn about composting.

Make stamps from pumpkins and stamp paint.

pumpkin stamping

Visit to a fire station or have a fire truck come to your daycare.

Read.

Visit to a police station or have a police car brought to your daycare.

Visit the park.

Sing some fall leaf songs.

Paint pumpkins or carve them.

pumpkin seeds

Call the health department and ask if they have someone that can come and talk to the kids. In my town, they will send a dental hygienist to teach the kids about brushing their teeth!

Rake a pile of leaves and jump in it!

Visit an ambulance station or have an ambulance brought to your daycare.

Make leaf rubbings with paper over a leaf and then draw with a crayon.

Have an art party.

Have a teddy bear picnic?

Make caramel apples.

Have a sports day and learn a sport or celebrate one the kids like.

See if the library has a story time person that comes out, ours does!

Make the kids a fall ice tower and let them excavate it. So many science lessons in this. 

Have a color day every day of the week. Everyone can wear that color and you can do an art project using it too.

Bob for apples.

Save up your empty boxes, paper towel tubes, and empty cans and bottles that are washed out and let kids create instruments, castles, houses, buildings, roads for cars, tunnels for cars, tall stacks, or whatever their minds can create to make with them.

Churn homemade butter from cream.

Puzzles, even homemade. Let them draw a picture and then cut it into puzzle shapes so they can put it back together.

Make homemade mini books.

Make a seed collage with dried corn seeds that you take off the cob or other seeds you have saved.

Have a tea party.

Play Hide and Seek, Ring Around the Rosie, Duck, Duck, Goose, or Simon says.

Visit a pet store.

Make applesauce or apple cider.

kids cutting apples for applesauce

Play house.

Play school.

Decorate the front door.

Rent a movie or books from the library or attend their story hour program.

Make up a play.

Put on a puppet show.

Make a scavenger hunt for them to hunt outside (for very little kids, you can make the list of what to find from pictures so they can match a rock to a picture of a rock, etc.) Here’s a fun one! 

Build a fort.

Do some upcycling projects. 

Have a picnic inside.

Dress up.

Make slime or playdough in fall colors. Here’s even a recipe for one and a scavenger hunt for it. I spy playdough style. 

Here is another playdough that is cinnamon scented! Fun sensory experience.

Thumb wrestle.

Make up jokes.

Play restaurant or store.

Make bird feeders.

Play with balloons.

Make stick horses and ride them. You could even put on a rodeo.

Play I Spy.

Read a story and act it out.

Read a story and do an activity inspired by it like “Give a Mouse a Cookie” and then make cookies.

Bird watch.

Watch bugs under a magnifying glass, (study entomology)

Play tic tac toe.

Let the kids cook lunch or snack. Check out the blog for tons of kid friendly recipes we have cooked.

Get the kids in the kitchen for sensory experiences. 

Take a nature walk.

Make discovery bottles with fall items.

Make a collage with nature items you find.

Learn tree identification.

Make paper airplanes from your scrap paper.

Play Twister.

Rent a movie and have popcorn.

Have a pillow fight.

Write letters to grandparents.

Play card games or dominoes.

Play board games.

Build with blocks.

Play at the mall.

Play hide and seek.

Color.

“Camp” in the back yard.

Go bowling.

Make up an obstacle course.

Make up songs.

Have a dance party.

If you use your imagination, there is no limit to what you can come up with that your kids will think is tons of fun. Think about the fall season and what is available for less at that time. Halloween stuff can be bought and used after Halloween is over. It’s a great time to get cheap dress up clothes! Apples and pumpkins are much less expensive when they are in season in the fall. Think about how to get free and inexpensive materials. You can do a lot with a little when you use your imagination!

Check out these other great FALL ideas from some other bloggers:

7 Ways to Repurpose Leaves

DIY Vintage Fall Decorations

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Homemade Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

Homemade Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

ham and cheese hot pocket production

Hot pockets are convenient and can be delicious, especially if you make them yourself. Using pizza crust to make them is tender and flavorful. I use the pioneer woman’s pizza crust recipe because it’s perfect every time. She’s knows what’s up! Click here for the dough recipe. 

Conventional hot pockets that are available from the store are loaded with chemicals and additives that are not good for you or your kids.

I love knowing what I feed my kids is made from real food that is healthy and whole. These hot pockets are not only made with real food, they are also less expensive than these store bought ones. And the flavor, MAN, it’s great!

I paid $36 for enough ham and cheese to make 72 hot pockets.

With all ingredients tallied, my hot pockets costed $0.66 each to make. The store bought ones are $2.89 for two, so one hot pocket is $1.44, for a savings of $0.78 per pocket. You could use a less expensive meat like ground beef or sausage or something and make them even cheaper. I needed a ham menu item for my new menu, so i’m sticking with ham. The ham was real ham i had sliced in the deli and the cheese was cheddar.

We are not allowed to serve lunch meat on the food program. The ham and the cheese were on sale though (of course, or i wouldn’t have purchased them) 

store bought hot pockets full of chemicals

Click here to check out what’s actually IN store bought hot pockets. It might make you change your mind about eating them. This picture below is from the article. Yuck! Even if you don’t have food allergies like me, it’s gross. Do you even know what this stuff is or what it does to your body? (Poster designed by Justin Pericone, click here for more info)

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I like to make everything in bulk and freeze it.

To do that, I made 4 batches of hot pockets and froze them in batches of 10 servings. I added enough ham and cheese to each hot pocket to make it a perfect serving for a 3-4 year old. Each child needs 1 1/2 ounces of protein. I put an ounce of ham and a half ounce of cheese on each pocket. 

Instead of using lunch meat, I bought a ham and had it sliced at the deli into slices, so my kids would be eating real meat and cheese. These turned out so much better than I expected and every kid loved them so they are a shoe in for my new menu this year. 

Click here to see how to plan a menu and here to see the top 10 healthy meals kids love.

First, you make up the dough and divide it into serving sizes. I used my kitchen aid mixer to whip mine up. 

Hot pocket doughrolling out homemade hot pocket dough

Next, roll each piece out and top it with the filling. You could make pizza flavored, taco flavored, use sausage, or whatever you think sounds good. I wanted ham and cheese for a different protein for my menu.

 

homemade hot pockets, ham and cheese

Once the pocket is filled, fold the other half of the dough over the top, and seal the edges. These pockets would look prettier with egg wash but I am dealing with an egg allergy, so i left it off. The taste and texture of this dough was outstanding on these pockets.

hot pocket, homemade

homemade ham and cheese hot pockets, ready to go in the oven.

Once you have them all rolled and filled and sealed, then you just have to bake them. I baked them all before I froze them and I served a taste tester batch that won all thumbs up. 

homemade ham and cheese hot pockets fresh from the oven

Homemade Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets
Tasty homemade hot pocket ready to eat or freeze with no added chemicals.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 c. warm water
  2. 1 tsp. dry yeast
  3. 4 cups flour
  4. 1 tsp sea salt
  5. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  6. 1 pound of good ham, sliced thinly
  7. 1/2 pound of good cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
Instructions
  1. Combine warm water and yeast.
  2. Stir and set aside
  3. Combine flour and salt in stand mixer bowl
  4. Turn on mixer and drizzle in olive oil
  5. Slowly add the yeast mixture and mix on low until dough forms a ball
  6. Cut dough into 16 pieces
  7. Roll out each piece of dough and top one side with 1.5 ounces of ham and cheese.
  8. Fold dough over and seal edges
  9. Egg wash if desired
  10. Bake at 500 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until dough is golden brown
  11. Serve warm or cool completely and freeze.
  12. To reheat, just microwave for 30 seconds or reheat in oven
Adapted from Crust from Pioneer Woman
Adapted from Crust from Pioneer Woman
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Homemade Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets-4 batches
Bulk quadruple batch of tasty homemade hot pocket ready to eat or freeze with no added chemicals.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. Double batch of dough, do this twice
  2. 3 c. warm water
  3. 2 tsp. dry yeast
  4. 8 cups flour
  5. 2 tsp sea salt
  6. 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  7. Repeat dough again
  8. 4 pounds of good ham, sliced thinly
  9. 2 pounds of good cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
Instructions
  1. Combine warm water and yeast.
  2. Stir and set aside
  3. Combine flour and salt in stand mixer bowl
  4. Turn on mixer and drizzle in olive oil
  5. Slowly add the yeast mixture and mix on low until dough forms a ball
  6. Cut dough into 32 pieces
  7. Make second double batch of dough
  8. Roll out each piece of dough and top one side with 1.5 ounces of ham and cheese.
  9. Fold dough over and seal edges
  10. Egg wash if desired
  11. Bake at 500 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until dough is golden brown
  12. Serve warm or cool completely and freeze.
  13. To reheat, just microwave for 30 seconds or reheat in oven
Adapted from Crust from Pioneer Woman
Adapted from Crust from Pioneer Woman
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
 

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Homemade Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

Teaching Kids Where Their Food Comes From

Teaching Kids Where Their Food Comes From

A big draw for getting kids in the garden for me, is showing them where their food comes from. This year, we did a cool experiment with wheat to see how it’s grown and how it becomes bread. Click here to see how to grow it.

When I first began growing food with my kids and I asked them what they wanted to grow, I got answers like spaghetti and hamburgers. Kids today are so far removed from the process of growing and producing food, they have no idea where it comes from. I think that is a dangerous thing for our society.

Producing food is a skill people need for many reasons. It helps you relate to the process and how much work it takes to produce food. It also gives people a skill to use in case our food system fails. This is a very real possibility with our current food system. Another important reason is the food supply is very unhealthy and unsafe. People who can produce their own food can grow healthier food. Growing your own food is an important skill to have.

I make my own flour for my Little Sprouts by buying non GMO wheat berries from a local farm and grinding it in a wheat grinder. I have a Nutrimill like this:

I make the kids homemade bread in a bread maker like this:

Make your own food, so you know what’s in it. 

To insure they have the most nutritious food possible. I make pancakes, muffins, cookies, and most of their other bread products here as well. Most of these foods are 100% whole wheat from freshly ground flour. I do use some unbleached organic white flour in their pizza crust, some cookies, and I use it for pie crust and a few other things, but well over half of their bread products are made with flour I grind myself. I use store bought pasta, tortillas, crackers and some cereals.

Why do I go to all the trouble to make their food from scratch? Our food supply is full of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and other chemicals. So much that it is literally killing us. Click here to see why I don’t serve my kids store bought bread. Look into it and you will see how important the quality of food you feed your children really is. Click here to see a report about pesticides in our current food supply. Click here to see a report about chemicals added to our current food supply. 

Food looses nutrients quickly.

Freshly ground flour loses 70% of its nutrients within 72 hours of grinding. So the flour we purchase at the store, is rapidly becoming devoid of nutrients. I want my kids to have all the good health they can, so I strive to give them what it takes to do that. One way you can keep your flour nutritious longer is to freeze it immediately when you buy it and keep it in the freezer until you need it.

 

Growing our own wheat.

This year one of our experiments in the garden was to grow our own wheat. We planted some of the local wheat berries I buy for making flour and watched it grow. Wheat needs to be planted in Oklahoma by November 31st according to my cousin who farms wheat, so we made sure we did that. It grew all winter and was ready to harvest in early summer when the heads were golden brown and starting to bend down to the ground. I remember helping farm wheat as a kid, so I knew that part.

kids growing their own wheat. learning where food comes from

kids growing wheat in the gardenkids harvesting wheat

We cut our heads of wheat off with scissors and beat them on the inside of a bucket until the seeds came out. This is called threshing and it was a ton of fun. Then we had to winnow the wheat or clean it of all the hulls and things that were in the seeds. You can do this by laying your wheat out and blowing it or placing it front of a fan. The chaff blows out of the wheat and your berries are left.

wheelbarrow of harvested wheat, teaching kids where bread comes from, growing your own food.farming wheat with kidsgrowing food with kids

We got a few cups of berries from our little patch of wheat. The next thing we did was run them through the wheat grinder and make flour. The kids were fascinated with the texture of the flour. It was a fun sensory experience.

kids growing food, learning where flour comes fromkids winnowing wheat, learning how to grow flour

Making bread from wheat we grew. 

Next we tossed the flour and the other bread ingredients in the bread maker pan and let the bread maker do all the work. When it was done, we punched it down and put it in a bread pan. After the second rise, we baked it and had it as a side dish with meatballs and veggies for lunch. The kids thought it was delicious and ate the whole loaf.

home grown wheat berriesnutrimill with home grown wheatpunching down homemade bread dough, teaching kids where food comes from

homemade bread from flour we ground from home grown wheat

I loved how when we talked about the wheat berries and I asked the kids what we could do with them if we didn’t grind them into flour, they said, we could plant them. They knew they were seeds. I love all the things they are learning in the garden. It’s an amazing place to teach so many things to your kids. Click here to see more benefits of gardening with kids.

I’d love to hear what your kids are learning about the food supply; please comment with anything you are experimenting with.

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Teaching Kids Where Their Food Comes From

Feeding Toddlers, Can it be Peaceful and Healthy?

Feeding Toddlers, Can it be Peaceful and Healthy-

If you have young children, I’m sure there are times you struggle with what to feed them, am I right? Kids can be picky. Feeding toddlers is not a simple task. It’s hard not to worry they are eating enough or eating enough of the right things.

If you are in this situation, please remember that a toddler portion is very small. What we think a serving of food is may just absolutely too much for a small child. Remember when feeding toddlers, kids don’t need a pound of protein, toddlers only need about an ounce and a half of protein 2-3 times per day. Protein is in meats, nuts, whole grains, some vegetables, cheeses, milk and all kinds of other things.

MILK IS FOOD

Remember, milk is food. Children only need 3, 6 oz. cups of milk PER DAY. That’s it. Most sippy cups are 12 to 16 ounces, so if you give your child a sippy cup full of milk, that may be all the milk they need for that day. Many children drink tons of milk and juice and then won’t eat any solid food. This is one of the key things I have learned about feeding toddlers. Do you know why they don’t? Because they are full.

There are enough calories in those big cups of milk to keep them from getting hungry. Make sure kids have water to drink throughout the day, and just a few small cups of milk with meals. Juice and other sugary drinks are totally unnecessary and give kids way too much sugar in their diets.

feeding toddlers

Mealtime should be fun.

 

Keep the pressure off at the dinner table. Dinner time should be fun, full of conversation, lots of smiles, and good times. It should not be full of eat your food, eat more, one more bite, Mommy wants you to eat. That’s just not pleasant and children will learn they don’t like to sit and eat with the family if it’s not a pleasant experience. This will help you greatly when feeding toddlers. 

If all your child wants is junk food, skip the snacks between meals. Your child will get hungry for real food if they are truly hungry at meal times. Children do not need candy and Little Debbie’s. Leave that stuff at the store.  I have been feeding toddlers for years. Click here to see how I get my kids to eat healthy foods.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to review a book written by a Pediatrician. I jumped on the chance when I found out she wrote it for helping people get kids to eat healthy food. I read it and loved every bit of it. After 21 years of feeding other people’s kids and 24 years of feeding my own, I know a lot about feeding children and the author of this book is right on target! “Feeding Toddlers. A Pediatrician’s Guide to Happy and Healthy Mealtimes” is a great find for any parent or caregiver. Click here to download your copy today. 

Amazing book full of wisdom!

This book has some of the best tips I’ve seen on happy and healthy mealtimes. Whether your child is fussy, picky or a great eater, there are great tips in the book to help you give them the optimal diet. It also helps with tips to make your mealtimes peaceful again.

Feeding Toddlers

The book includes:

  • The Problems with Toddlers
  • Let Go of the Stress
  • What is Healthy Eating?
  • Your Healthy Eating Routine.
  • Some Other Bits and Bobs.
  • Cooking Tips.
  • And
  • Some Really Easy Recipes.

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Establishing healthy eating habits for kids is key to helping them become healthy adults.

What they put in their bodies establishes habits for a lifetime. Help them grow into their very best selves by doing your best to feed them well.

Click here to download your copy of the book.

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Feeding Toddlers, Can it be Peaceful and Healthy-

 

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

I really really really really hate squash bugs! They are the bane of my existence. We scarcely ever even get a single squash from a single plant in our garden. If there was a way to remove those suckers from the face of the earth, I sure would do it. They are disgusting! Boo!

I have heard 100 tales of how to rid my life and garden of those creepy creatures, and I have tried every single one. Rotate crops, intercrop, hand picking, use Seven, even that doesn’t work! I have not tried it but a friend of mine used it when our first year gardening and I handpicked mine and we ended up with the same results, a million more came. It seems like there is nothing, and I mean nothing that will rid my life of squash bugs.

Squash bugs STINK!

Squash is attacked early in the season in Oklahoma by the squash vine borer. These little monsters are a black and red wasp looking bug that lay their eggs in the stems of the squash and when they hatch they eat the stems from the inside, killing the plant all at once within a few days.

Squash bug damage

squash bug

They are stinky little bugs. When I was a kid we always called them stink bugs. They make a yucky smell when you squish them. I have heard hand picking in the best way to decrease the population. Last year after we picked thousands of them, we went out and saw thousands more. Squash bugs are relentless.

Hand pick squash bugs.

The best way to hand pick them is wrap your hands in duct tape with the sticky side out and just press it onto the adults, nymphs or eggs and they stick right to it. You can do it until your tape is full and then make another “sticky glove” and start again.

squash bug eggs

Another method for hand picking is pick and smash, this is a little much for me. You can also hand pick them and throw them in a bucket of soapy water and they will die immediately.

Many people have said if you rotate your crops, they will go away. I rotate every year, but in the case of the squash bug, I really think you would have to rotate to China to outrun the suckers.

Some people have suggested planting a large variety of squash and the squash bugs will eat one kind and leave the others alone. I have planted 10-20 types of squash yearly and they eat it all, they eat summer squashes first, then winter, then onto the cucumbers, then the melons and finally whatever else is left in the garden. Those things are evil.

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Try everything you can think of. 

This year I decided to do an experiment and test the numbers. We planted 15 kinds of squash all over the garden in different places than we planted squash last year. We planted one kind in the three sisters plan, with corn for the trellis, beans for the nitrogen and they climb up the corn, and the squash grows on the ground to shade the roots of the other plants. The other plants are supposed to deter the pests of the squash plants.

I had placed pumpkins all around the perimeter of our fence on the outside last fall after our trunk or treat at church and let those sprout up on their own. I thought maybe the bugs would go there and stay outside of the garden. Sadly, the borers took those out very quickly.

growing squash

 

We also did an old wives tale where you let the seed sprout, then you cut and x in an aluminum pie pan. Then you feed the seedling carefully through the hole in the pan. The pan is supposed to deter the bugs from getting to the plant.

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In addition, We did a method where you inter-plant your squash with white icicle radishes. So we had five different factors to check.

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No squash ever survives.

I will report to you that no squash survived in our garden. The variety did not seem to help as all of the squash is eaten. The pumpkins, of course went first, then next to go was the pie pan method. I don’t know if the pans and the hot sun burned those up or what but inside the garden, they were the first to go.

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Next to die off was the three sisters squash. The corn and beans did great, and the beans are still going strong, but we got no squash from there. Last but not least, the longest lasting squash survivor were the ones that were planted with the white icicle radishes. We planted the radishes all over our garden where there were squash, melons, or cucumbers after that. Not many of them germinated because it’s so blasted hot right now, but I do think it will help deter the little bugers. So far it has anyway. We are just now losing our cucumbers to them and usually we never get to harvest this long.

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Plant a lot of squash.

We planted new squash plants all over the area as well, hoping maybe to get some type of harvest later in the season. In Oklahoma we have a really long growing season, so you never know. It depends on when old man winter decides to show up. Quite frankly, it’s hot and I miss him a lot! Hopefully it was not too hot for the seeds, but we will try to plant again in a few days if we get a cool spell of under 95 degrees. Maybe they will have a chance then.

Some people suggest using Diatomaceous Earth to cut down the population. It’s a great natural product and does help with the nymphs but not adult squash bugs. Also, it can harm pollinators, so you have to be careful not to get it in the flowers. Another draw back of DE is that you have to reapply when any moisture gets on it. Here, it’s so humid, that means everyday. Click here to see more about DE. 

I won’t lie and say any of these methods are sure fire or give you hope you can totally get rid of them. I’m being honest, some methods help and some don’t. I know that being vigilant and removing as many as you can is your best hope. Also, at the end of the season, clean up your garden well so they won’t have places to hide and winter over.

The best advice is to do these things early and often to have the best season possible. Be vigilant, and don’t give up because gardening is fun and you get to have veggies. 

If you have a great idea of how to get rid of these awful creatures or at least slow them down a bit, I would love to hear it! 

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How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

 

How to Save Money on Quality Toys

How to Save Money on Quality Toys

Toys are a big expense for a family childcare provider. They are a big expense for parents as well. Even grandparents get to buy toys for the little people in their life. In my childcare, things get broken on a regular basis with so many kids playing with them.

Buying a quality toy is a great way for me to save money on this big expense for my business. If I buy a really good quality toy, it’s going to be an investment in the future. If I buy cheapo toys, I may have to replace those in no time. Melissa and Doug make some of my favorite. Every toy they make is high quality, they have many wooden toys, and they are all educational in some way. I love the values they have in their products.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

Shop Groupon Goods

When I am looking to save money on toys, I look to Groupon Goods first. Click on the red link to check out what great deals they have to offer. They carry a good variety of Melissa and Doug toys. I can always find some when I’m looking.
saving money on toys

Right now, Groupon Goods has a great deal on foam alphabet floor play mats and many other high quality products. The whole set marked down from $49.99 to $24.99. I love these mats! Click here to check them out. I also saw a great deal on Duracell batteries. 100 AAA or AA batteries for only $27.99. Head over to Groupon Goods to check them out! I know I have tons of toys and other things that need batteries. I love Duracell because they last much longer.

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Buy used toys

Another way you can save money on toys is buying used. I have gotten some of my very best toys my kids have played with for 20 years from thrift stores. I only buy things used that can be disinfected, but I love to scour the children’s used clothing stores for really cool toys that are new to my kids. Don’t forget about garage sales too. You never know what you will find.

Don’t forget, less is more. You don’t need every single toy ever made for your kids to have a good time. Actually, you will find that if you have too many toys out at once, the kids get bored and don’t play with any of them. I keep many of my toys stored away in totes and just leave out a few all of the time. When I rotate new toys out from the totes, the kids find interest in them again and enjoy playing. It really cuts down on behavior problems for me. I would totally recommend it.

Share with friends

Another great idea to get more mileage out of a toy is to trade toys with a friend. I used to have a family provider friend that I shared toys with. We would borrow toys from each other for each unit we were doing. That way we only had to buy half the number of toys over the year. I recommend you having someone you can really rely on to use this method. I have shared things with people for all kinds of reasons and most of them never return them. I only traded with her because she was reliable in bringing them back. I made sure I took good care of her things as well. If you have someone like that, share away!

Shop around

Make sure when you decide on a toy you’d like to purchase; you check in as many places as possible for the best price. If you can buy it local, great. If not, make sure you are getting the best deal. Groupon Goods is a great website to keep in your favorites to check the price on every item. You could save a bundle of cash. We all know daycare is not a lucrative business, so saving every penny is important. Each dollar you save on expenses is another dollar that goes toward taking care of your family. It’s worth the time to check it out. Click here to check out Groupon Goods.

What are your favorite ways to save on toys?

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How to Save Money on Quality Toys

 

9 Benefits of Companion Planting

9 Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting is the practice of planting certain things together that help each other.

companion vegetable planting, three sisters.

For instance, you can plant basil with tomatoes and it makes the tomatoes taste amazing. Basil repels some pests that like tomatoes. In addition, basil tastes great in tomato recipes, so it’s easy to harvest them when they are next to each other. This is companion planting.

  1. Companion planting helps control pests.
Companion planting is a legendary art.

It takes planning, but it will help you obtain a wonderful harvest. We have been growing the three sisters method for years. It’s an ancient Cherokee Indian practice. It involves planting corn for trellises and once the corn is a few inches high, you add squash and beans. The beans feed nitrogen to the corn, the squash keeps weeds out and shades the roots and the corn gives them both something to climb on. They repel each other’s pests and encourage growth in each other.

companion planting, three sisters method

It’s a great system. I recommend growing winter squashes and drying beans so you can pull all of your crops at once after the corn is done producing because it gets pretty crowded in the bed and that way you don’t have to worry about digging around in there and knocking over your corn.

2. Companion planting helps support the needs of the plants.

3. Companion planting supports plant diversity, which is beneficial to the gardener, the soil and our eco system. Plant diversity gives us insect diversity and that decreases the overall number of parasites while it increases the number of beneficials.

There are so many different combinations of plants that can be grown together and there are tons of benefits.

Years ago, there was a book written called “Carrots Love Tomatoes”. The book went into detail about all of the plants that made good companions and all of those that didn’t like growing next to each other. It is still the best resource for this. Click on the picture below if you’d like to get a copy. I couldn’t live without mine.

 Companion planting helps with pollination.

  1. Companion planting saves space.
  2. Companion planting increases productivity.

Companion planting can help with pest control, pollination, making the best use of your space, increasing crop productivity, and providing habitats for beneficials. Typically, these days, most products are grown in a mono crop fashion, meaning there are giant fields of one single type of plant.

Obviously, this makes it easy to water, care for and harvest the crops. The down side is that mono cropping causes farmers/growers to have to use a lot of chemicals to control pests. For instance, if the crop is tomatoes, every tomato hornworm in the tri state area is going to be attracted to that field. If you mix tomatoes with lettuce, for instance, the tomatoes provide shade for the lettuce and the lettuce repels some tomato pests. 

 

Companion planting is God’s natural way.

Think about how things grow in nature, they are mixed and hodge podge. Nature knows best.

  1. Companion planting supports nature’s natural cycles, plans and behaviors.
  2. Companion planting reduces improves flavors.
  3. Companion planting allows you to grow more variety.

Basil is good for most garden crops. It improves the flavor of lettuce and tomatoes and it repels mosquitos. Speaking of repelling mosquitoes, who doesn’t want that?

Beans should not be grown near onions, but should be planted with marigolds or potatoes, both of which repel the Mexican bean beetle.

Tomatoes make a great partner with carrots and onions. They provide shade to keep them from getting too hot.

Radishes are great companions to cucumbers, lettuce, melons and peas and they deter the cucumber beetle. I have also heard white icicle radishes deter squash beetles. We are working on a science experiment about that now.

Onions deter many pests, but shouldn’t be grown near beans or peas. They do great with Cole crops, carrots, and lettuce.

companion planting, onions and peas

Intermixing herbs in all of your crops is always a great idea.

They deter many pests and don’t have plants that don’t like them. Oregano, parsley, thyme, sage (not with cucumbers), rosemary and dill (not with carrots) are all great deterrents for a number of pests. Parsley is especially good for corn, roses and tomatoes. Rosemary is good for beans, cabbage, and carrots. Sage helps cabbage, carrots and especially tomatoes. Tomatoes grow better with sage nearby. Dill is a great flavor enhancer for cabbage type plants, as well as cucumbers, lettuce and onions.

Many flowers improve growth of plants, especially nasturtiums and marigolds. They are good around all plants and deter a host of pests. Sunflowers make a great trellis for cucumbers, but they do inhibit the growth of a lot of plants, so other than that, plant them off to themselves. They still make a great addition to the garden.

Corn is a good companion for beans, cucumbers, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, squash and peas.

Cucumbers should not be grown near potatoes, but are great with beans, cabbage, corn and radishes.

Garlic should not be grown near peas or beans, but is great with cabbages, tomatoes, and fruit trees.

Peppers are great with carrots, onions, parsley, tomatoes, and basil, but don’t love cabbages or fennel.

Knowing what works well together is a great way to improve your productivity in the garden. It just takes a little research and some careful planning to rock your garden to the max.

For more information on what grows well together, check out this article from Mother Earth News

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9 Benefits of Companion Planting

Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

Right now green beans are in full production at Little Sprouts.

I used to hate green beans, in fact I did most of my life, I remember hating them as a young child. About 4 years ago, when my gardening career was just budding, I asked one of my daycare families if they wanted me to water their garden while they were out of town for a week and it was 100 degrees every day. They said sure, and said I could pick whatever was ripe from it. I jumped on that, but when I got over there, I saw they had a ton of green beans ready to pick.

Green bean production, growing, using, and storing

I thought to myself, ew, but I knew I should not let them go to waste on the vines. I picked a sack full and brought them home thinking I could feed them to the kids. I cooked them up and to my surprise, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED them! They were amazing. I have been helping the kids plant green beans and enjoying eating them with them ever since.

I LOVE green beans! Yum yum!

This year we planted a variety of green beans including a purple variety we got in our seeds of the month membership. We just picked our first batch of purple ones today and they look so beautiful! I can’t wait to try them. At Little Sprouts we plant most things in succession. That way we have a longer season of harvest as well as less glut all at once of one thing. Every two weeks we put in another row of green beans. As the plants get tired and worn out, the new ones are ready.

Growing green beans is fun.

The vines and bushes are really pretty and the little beans are so cute as they come on. I LOVE growing them. When we get enough to save, it’s super exciting to think about eating them in winter too. We are not allowed to serve home canned foods in daycare, so our green bean storage choices are dehydrating or freezing.

green bean cooking, world famous green beans

If you dehydrate your green beans, cut them into one inch pieces before you start. Dehydrate them until they are totally dried. You can use them in soups and stews. They retain their flavor and most of their nutrients. Another way you can use dehydrated green beans is to put them in the blender dry and make them into powder. Then add them to dishes for extra nutrients. No one will ever know. Trust me, it works great!

We freeze our extra green beans.

To freeze your green beans you wash and snap them into one inch pieces. Then blanch them. Bring a big stock pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon or so of salt. Toss in a few handfuls of green beans, and let them cook for 3-4 minutes or until bright green. Take them out of the water and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain them and bag them up. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and get it to the freezer as quickly as possible.

Many people say they don’t like frozen green beans, but I find if you cook them right (long enough), they taste amazing and have a wonderful texture. Believe me, texture is a big ole deal to me.

There are so many ways to use your fresh or stored green beans. You can make a side dish with them. There are many green bean casserole recipes or you can just serve them plain with some salt, pepper and butter. My last post was my world famous green bean recipe. It’s so good, kids are talking about it all over the place. Click here to check it out.

world famous green bean recipe cooking

Green beans are great added to soups and stews.

They can be added to casseroles. Green beans can be used in stir fry. You can marinate them in a fresh salad, they can be pickled, they can go in pasta salad or pasta dishes. They can be used fresh or blanched in salads. You can roast them in green bean bundles. There are unlimited ways they can be served for something new and exciting.

Don’t shy away from the humble and familiar green bean. All it needs is some new perspective. What’s your favorite way to eat them?

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Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

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