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Helping Your Teen Excel in High School

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It’s time to head back to school, and if you have a teen (or two) in high school, you’re probably already thinking about ways to help him or her survive mentally, emotionally and academically. Even if it’s not your teen’s first year, high school can be scary, stressful and dramatic.

In addition to the physical changes (and raging hormones!) associated with puberty, for most teens, high school is the start of dating, building deep friendships, planning for college and figuring out where they fit into the world. It’s a perfect storm of social chaos (e.g., gossip, hurt feelings, peer pressure and popularity contests), academic challenges and a quest for independence while still living at home.

To help you help be a supportive parent, we’ve put together some tips to help your teen excel. Remember, if they think high school is hard, just wait until they get to college! The better you can prepare your high schooler now—in terms of independence, academic excellence, accountability, confidence and resiliency, the better.

  1. Get them a padlock to practice on. If this is your teen’s first time user a locker with a padlock, they may be feeling worried about not being able to open it fast enough—or at all. It’s a small gesture, but one that can go a long way to build their confidence.
  2. Encourage them to sign up for a club or sport. Feeling like you’re part of a team or group with common interests is a great way to build confidence, make friends and boost your academics and/or fitness levels.
  3. Host sleepovers or parties. The girl who throws the sleepover is rarely the one to be left out of things. For older kids, you may be willing to host a coed movie night or pool party. Just be sure everyone understands the rules in advance!
  4. Remind them that they’re not alone. Teens of both genders can be very dramatic and think they’re the only one experiencing something. Help ease their feelings of loneliness or sadness by reminding them that other teens are going through the same thing.
  5. Enroll them in personal brain training. If your teen struggles academically, take them to a one-on-one brain training center for a cognitive skills assessment. The assessment will tell you which cognitive skills—like attention, logic & reasoning, memory, processing speed, and visual and auditory processing—are weak. Once these skills are identified, a customized brain training program is created to help target those skills. The results can be life-changing!
  6. Get involved at the school. Too often, teens suffer because their parents aren’t involved in their education. Volunteer at the school when you can, even if it’s only working the concession stand at football games or helping to raise money for new band uniforms.
  7. Encourage them to take leadership roles. Being involved in a lot of clubs and sports looks good on college applications, but leadership roles are even more impressive. Encourage your daughter to run for Student Council president or your son to offer to be team captain in Mathletes. Leadership roles build confidence, help them get to know more people and earns them respect among their peers and teachers.
  8. Review their school-related papers, assignments and homework each night. Even seniors miss assignments, forget to do homework and wait until the last minute to write papers that count for a quarter of their grade. By staying involved and asking questions, you’ll help your teen stay on top of things and plan their schedules accordingly.
  9. Download apps to help with time management and organization.
    With so much going on—tests, assignment deadlines, college applications, after-school activities—teens can always use a little help with organization and time management. Forget the “Trapper Keepers” of your generation and consider instead free or low-cost apps. You can read recommendations and reviews online or ask the most organized people you know (adults included!) how they stay so organized.
  10. Talk about personal responsibility. No one likes it when they mess up, but constantly blaming others for your mistakes doesn’t add to your character or credibility. Talk to your teen about peer pressure, risk-taking and taking responsibility for their actions. Help them understand why you or the coach or the school has consequences and that the rules are for everyone.

 

About LearningRx
LearningRx specializes in one-on-one brain training. We train cognitive skills through game-like exercises that are both fun and challenging—and we do it with a unique personal trainer approach. LearningRx’s customer satisfaction speaks for itself with an average rating of 9.5 out of 10. With 80 centers across the country, LearningRx is a pioneer in the one-on-one brain training industry. Learn more at www.learningrx.com and find testimonials from past clients at www.learningrx-reviews.com.

 

LearningRx Brain Training Reviews 10 Ways Parents Can Partner With Teachers

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At LearningRx, we’re big fans of teachers. In fact, we’ve had teachers serve on our executive board and scientific advisory board, work as personal brain trainers, and even purchase LearningRx franchises. (Our founder, Dr. Ken Gibson, actually started his own preschool!) We also offer a FREE online continuing education course from the Professional Learning Board and regular recognitions for teachers, like the Crystal Apple Award.

In addition, because almost all of us are parents, we’re constantly creating articles to help parents and teachers better communicate (check out our piece on “Red Flag Phrases for Parent-Teacher Conferences”) and work together (see “Individualized Education Programs (IEPs): The Basics”), for everyone’s benefit.

There’s no doubt that teachers and parents can make an incredibly strong pairing when everyone works toward realistic goals with mutual respect. So we’ve gathered some ideas from teachers and our staff mommies and are sharing their tips on some of the best ways make teachers feel supported. If you’ve got other ideas, please share them in the comments below!

  1. Offer to help at home. Not everyone can volunteer in the classroom. Parents work, stay home with younger children, take care of sick or elderly family members, or live too far away to make multiple trips to school. But many teachers have things that can be done at home instead. “I have sorted and stapled piles of papers, cut out materials, done online research and sorted art materials into plastic baggies for a craft project,” says one mother of two. “I was surprised at how much I could help from home, and found it to be incredibly relaxing! There’s just something about cutting colored construction paper that takes you back to simpler times.” If you can spare even an hour a week, ask your child’s teachers what you can do at home to help with materials for the classroom.
  1. Share good deals. Even if you can’t afford to buy a ton of extra school supplies for the classroom, you can share extra-special deals that you run across. “I make a list of businesses that are offering freebies during Teacher Appreciation Week and give them to my kids’ teachers,” says one mom. “It doesn’t cost me anything and they love knowing about places like Chipotle and Chick-fil-A that offer freebies or BOGO deals.” Sites like Donors Choose and Fund My Classroom let teachers in high-needs communities post requests for financial assistance for specific projects, equipment, field trips and events. “I couldn’t always afford to donate a lot of money, but I would donate $25 and then use a promo code I’d find online to get a matching the donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, so the teacher would instead get $50 toward her project,” says another mom. “Then I’d share the code with the teacher and other parents, so any parent in the class who donated funds could double their money.”
  1. Volunteer as a chaperone. Most schools have at least one outing, a field day or school dance that needs chaperones. If you plan in advance, you should be able to help out at least once. “We did a field trip to Rock Ledge Ranch, a living-history farm and museum which is spread out over 24 acres,” one fourth-grade teacher recalls. “We hardly had any parent volunteers, so we had to watch close to 20 kids each. It was a very long day. They lost our lunches, one of the kids got sick and, of course, no one had to go to the bathroom at the same time.” Even if you can only go for part of the day, offer to help out at off-campus events. Every set of chaperone eyes helps keep things under control and more enjoyable for everyone.
  1. Offer your services. You don’t have to wait for career day to share your professional talents. If you’re a copywriter, offer to help with the class newsletter. Web designer? Offer to create a free page for the teacher to keep parents updated on everything. Dietician? Ask if the teacher would like you to give a short talk on nutrition during health class. Ask your spouse if they’d be willing to offer their time. “I’m an electric lineman, so I volunteered to do a presentation on electricity for my son’s first-grade class,” says one dad. “I was so worried it would be too boring for young kids, but they loved it! The school invited me back the following year.”
  1. Keep your kids’ learning skills strong. Cognitive skills are the core skills our brains use to think, read, learn, remember, reason and pay attention. When even one of these skills is weak, learning can be a real struggle and even the best teacher can’t make new information “stick.” Enrolling your child in one-on-one brain training to target weak brain skills can create lasting improvements in your child’s ability to learn anything, which makes your teacher’s job easier and more rewarding. “When a child, teen or adult comes to LearningRx, we administer a cognitive skills assessment,” says mother of four and LearningRx Vice President of Research & Development Tanya Mitchell. “The test takes about an hour and allows us to identify which cognitive skills are weak. Once we know which skills to target, we can create a customized program for the student that uses intense but fun training to work on those brain skills that need the most improvement. We’ve had program graduates tell us that their teachers couldn’t believe the results, and what strong, confident learners their students became thanks to personal brain training.”
  1. Head up a party. Teachers sometimes throw parties for holidays, big achievements or the end of a semester. In addition to needing help providing food and drinks, it’s nice for teachers to have a party organizer—someone that coordinates who will bring plates, drinks, food and do set up and clean up. You can also organize a teacher appreciation week. “At our school, the parents host a week-long teacher appreciation luncheon,” says one elementary school teacher. “Each grade provides the meal for a day and they do themes. So first-grade parents provide a buffet of Mexican on Monday, second-grade parents provide a soup and salad day on Tuesday, third-grade parents provide Italian food on Wednesday, and so on. It makes us feel really appreciated and we all agree that it’s one of our favorite weeks of the schoolyear.”
  1. Donate supplies. Time magazine reports that teachers spent, on average, $500 of their own money on classroom supplies. If you have contacts at stores or large companies, ask if they can donate supplies. (Some schools will even supply you with their tax ID number in order for the company to get a write-off.) You can also check yard sales and thrift shops to pick up cheap deals, or ask the teacher to create a list of classroom “needs” and “wants” that you can offer to copy and share with other parents.
  1. Review your kids’ papers nightly. Your kids’ teachers don’t send home papers to waste trees. Read their notes, sign and return papers promptly, and mark your calendar for important dates. Teachers need to focus their attention on educating kids, not making calls to parents who ignore requests for permission form signatures or parent-teacher meetings. “Sometimes, the classes get rewarded for getting all their forms in by a certain day,” explains one teacher. “If there are a couple stragglers who don’t turn in their signed papers, the whole class loses out.”
  1. Show your appreciation. A tiny box of chocolates, a tall mochaccino, a $5 Starbucks gift card for the drive home‑it’s the little things
    (accompanied by a note of appreciation) that show you care and value your teachers. “We had one mom who would bring us little gifts throughout the year,” says one assistant teacher. “A bottle of our favorite Snapple peach iced tea, some homemade soup or a container of raspberries with a nice note of encouragement. We get quite a few gifts around the holidays, but this mom would just bring us little tokens of appreciation randomly. She was so thoughtful that we actually gave HER flowers on the last day of school!” All of the teachers we spoke to said that gifts aren’t necessary, but even a nice note (from the child or parent) can make their day.
  1. Keep teachers in the loop. If your cat died, your ex is getting remarried or your child is having a hard time coping with a new school, let the teachers know. In addition to being able to involve a school counselor, if needed, it allows teachers to consider the role of situational sadness, anger or anxiety on the child’s performance. “When my husband deployed, I spoke to my daughter’s teacher in private to fill her in,” says the mother of an 8-year-old. “When my husband came back on his two-week leave, the teacher gave my daughter a much lighter homework load in order to maximize the time she could spend with her father.”

If you’re not sure how you can best support your teachers, just ask! Also, be sure to check out “6 Things Teachers Wish You Would Do” to get direct insight from surveyed teachers.

 

About LearningRx
LearningRx, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest one-on-one brain training organization in the world. With 80 Centers in the U.S., and locations in 40 countries around the globe, LearningRx has helped more than 95,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier, and perform better. Their on-site programs partner every client with a personal brain trainer to keep clients engaged, accountable, and on-task—a key advantage over online-only brain exercises. Their pioneering methods have been used in clinical settings for 35 years and have been verified as beneficial in peer-reviewed research papers and journals. To learn more about LearningRx research results, programs, and their 9.6 out of 10 client satisfaction rating visit http://www.learningrx.com/

Beyond the Bin: 10 Cool Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

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Buying back-to-school supplies, clothes, sneakers, backpacks and lunch sacks is about to require me to refinance my house. Considering that I only have two kids and they have to wear uniforms (which are cheaper than designer duds!), I should count my blessings. I have a friend who has eight kids—seven of whom are in school. I started wondering, How do moms of big families, or for that matter, mom of any size family, save on back-to-school shopping?

So I started asking around and searching the web for the best tips, tricks and advice. Here are 10 of the best. They go beyond the typical “Look for sales in your local area” to give you some more unique ideas. Hopefully there are at least a few that are new to you!

  1. Add Honey, the Chrome extension. Honey adds a new button to your checkout page at any of more than 100 stores, including Amazon, Kohl’s and Sears. With a simple click, Honey will search the web and apply the best coupon code(s) or deal to save you money on your purchase. As Time magazine says, “It’s basically free money.” You can also earn cash back. Just shop at any of thousands of stores that support the Honey extension and if there’s a cash back offer, the Honey button will appear at checkout. Just click the “Activate Cash Bonus” before you finish your purchase.
  2. Shop on a sales tax holiday. Nearly 20 states now offer anywhere from two to seven days of tax-free shopping on certain items. For example, in Texas, May 28-30 and August 5-7 were the tax-free days to shop in 2016. Specifically, during the August three-day holiday, you could purchase clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks for elementary and secondary students without paying sales tax. Those savings can really help a tight budget!
  3. Co-op with other families. Buying in bulk at places like Costco and Sam’s Club is great, but what if you don’t need 100 red pens? Create a plan to buy school supplies and divide them up with other families.
  4. Use cash back websites. Start all your online school shopping at sites like Ebates, which offers cash back and even double cash back at all the major stores. Right now you’ll earn 2% cash back on qualifying purchases at Walmart.com, 6% cash back at JCPenney.com, 10% at Samsung.com and 10% at Dell.com just for starting at Ebates. The Penny Hoarder offers a good list of cash back sites HERE.
  5. Sign up for text-to-get coupon programs. Most major stores now offer “texting clubs” that allow customers to receive mobile coupons on their smart phone. For example, if you text the word “JOIN” to 32453, American Eagle Outfitters will send you coupons via text message. For Famous Footwear, text the word “PROMO” to 326687. For Kmart, text “KMART” to 414141. You can often find these text codes on stores’ websites, but there’s also a good list
  6. Use professional and courtesy discounts. Did you know that Overstock.com offers free Club O Gold memberships for free to active military and veterans, teachers, students and first responders? The Club O Gold membership gives you reward dollars, free shipping on all orders, early access to deals, email offers, up to 40% cash back and more. There are sites that list stores offering discounts to specific professions and groups, including: GovX, which lists discounts for current and former military, first responders and law enforcement; Gift Card Granny lists 81 stores that give discounts to teachers; and The Simple Dollar lists 60 places you can get a discount just for showing a student ID (so bring your college kid with you when you do your shopping!).
  7. Buy discounted gift cards. Places like Cardpool.com sell discounted gift cards for up to 35% off. (You can also sell your unwanted gift cards for up to 92% cash back.) Right now, for example, you can buy a $25 Gap gift card for $21.75 (13% off), or a $25 Old Navy gift card for $21.12 (15.5% off).
  8. Download a price comparison app. Free apps like Shop Savvy let you scan a barcode or search for a product to find out which of 40,000+ stores has the best price. You can even create a shopping list and Shop Savvy will automatically watch the items on your list for the lowest prices. SnipSnap lets you snap a photo of a product in order to get coupons, mobile rebates, best prices and price-match opportunities.
  9. Price match over 100%. Price matching isn’t just for groceries. Some stores like Staples offer a 110% Price Match Guarantee certain times of the year. (Staples’ current 110% guarantee is in effect until September 17, 2016.) The Krazy Coupon Lady has an example of using the Staples offer to price match a 12 count of Bic Ballpoint Pens. Staples was charging $1.00, but Office Depot/Office Max was advertising the same 12 count of pens for $.25. So Staples matched the price, plus gave her 10% of the difference ($.75) which was rounded up to $.08. The final price? $.17 for the box of pens. Fry’s Electronics (which sells office supplies, computers, art supplies and more) will refund 110% of the difference if you see a competitor with a lower price. Other stores that price match over 100%: Shoplet.com, BrandsMart.com, eBags.com, OnlineShoes.com.
  10. Get a refund when prices drop. Paribus tracks the price changes associated with your online purchases. When it spots a price drop, it follows the store’s special procedures to file a claim for you. Paribus takes a 25% commission, but you only pay it based on the money they get back for you.

Do you have a great tip to help other parents save money on back-to-school supplies? Please share it in the comments below.

 

About LearningRx
LearningRx, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest one-on-one brain training organization in the world. With 80 Centers in the U.S., and locations in 40 countries around the globe, LearningRx has helped more than 95,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier, and perform better. Their on-site programs partner every client with a personal brain trainer to keep clients engaged, accountable, and on-task—a key advantage over online-only brain exercises. Their pioneering methods have been used in clinical settings for 35 years and have been verified as beneficial in peer-reviewed research papers and journals. To learn more about LearningRx research results, programs, and their 9.6 out of 10 client satisfaction rating visit http://www.learningrx.com/. 

 

10 Tips for Traveling with a Child with Special Needs

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The rewards of traveling with your family are myriad, and include time together, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and fond memories. (Even plans that go horribly awry provide fodder for some of the best stories!)

But let’s not kid ourselves. There are challenges, too. Kids of all ages can get tired, bored, hungry, cranky, and demanding. And if you’re traveling with a child with special needs, the challenges can be even greater.

If you’re the parent of child with special needs, you may have already found yourself wrestling with the transportation of wheelchairs or special medical devices, or dealing with sensory issues, restricted diets, incontinence or social fears. Perhaps hyperactivity or behavioral issues have led to a meltdown at the worst possible moment (like when your plane is stuck on the runway for two hours).

As you’ve probably learned, preparation is your best offense and defense. To help make your next trip a little simpler, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when planning your vacation and packing. We can’t guarantee smooth sailing, but following these suggestions just might make that family cruise around the Bahamas a bit more enjoyable.

Tips for booking your trip:

  1. Consider using a travel agency that specializes in helping people with special needs. Flying Wheels Travel (flyingwheelstravel.com), for example, helps people with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses experience accessible travel around the world. Autism on the Seas (www.autismontheseas.com) offers cruises for people with autism, Down syndrome and other related disabilities.
  1. Choose a destination that caters to people with disabilities. Morgan’s Wonderland (morganswonderland.com) in San Antonio, Texas is a theme park designed to accommodate children of all abilities. Every ride is accessible to guests with disabilities. Many major state beach destinations now offer free or low-cost beach wheelchairs rentals.
  1. Check out your seat options on Seat Guru (seatguru.com). This site lets you evaluate seating based on legroom, seat width, and overhead storage capacity, as well as DC power, food and Internet accessibility. This will help you determine where your child might do best on the plane. You’ll also want to consider proximity to the restroom and whether a window, middle or aisle seat will work best.
  1. When figuring out the best time of day to travel, weigh as many factors as you can. It’s important to identify the time of day your child travels best, but don’t forget to factor in other dynamics. For example, if flying at night when your child is normally asleep sounds like a good plan, will you be more exhausted? Will you need to wake your child to deplane for layovers? Will a later flight be more susceptible to cancellation or overbooking?
  1. Get a note from your doctor. A letter from your pediatrician explaining your child’s condition/disease/disorder can be helpful when you’re asking for special accommodations (e.g., being seated together when a flight is nearly full) or upgrading. Offer to fax or email the letter to the airline or travel agency, and carry a copy with you as you travel.

Before your trip:

  1. Review the airline’s (and TSA’s) rules in advance. You don’t want any surprises if you’re traveling with assistive devices or wheelchairs, and you may even learn that there are special baggage claim areas or check-ins, like the TSA’s Precheck lane. Check-in online at home if possible.
  1. Evaluate medications. Plan so you won’t run out of medications while you’re on vacation or immediately after returning home.
  1. Identify pediatricians, specialists, or urgent care facilities in your destination city before you need them. If you suddenly need to seek medical assistance for your child while on vacation, it’s best to know in advance where you can go—especially at night or on weekends.
  1. Practice the travel routine at home. You can read a book about going on a plane, practice the procedures at home with a “mock flight,” or even visit the airport in advance to get your child used to the sights and sounds.

 

 

Packing reminders:

  1. What to pack:

Besides medications, you’ll need to consider your child’s specific medical, behavioral, dietary and emotional needs. Must-pack items may include:

  • Headphones to drown out noise
  • Soothing music
  • A tablet, smartphone, laptop or other technology with games, music, and movies that don’t require Internet access.
  • Snacks
  • Wipes and hand sanitizer
  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate and immunizations (in case they get hurt on the trip or will be in daycare)
  • A favorite blanket and/or stuffed animal
  • A sweater or coat
  • A change of underwear or Pull-Up, if necessary
  • Books and quiet, no-mess toys and art supplies
  • Stroller and car seat
  • EarPlanes (to relieve air pressure discomfort)
  • Dramamine for kids (for motion sickness)
  • A favorite sippy cup or bottle (though there are restrictions to bringing liquid on planes)
  • Postcards and stamps
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hats

Make a list of the five or so things you HAVE to bring (e.g., medications, passports, tickets) with the assumption that other things can be purchased on the trip if necessarily. The more preparation you put into the trip, the more you and your family can enjoy it!

Do you have a tip or trick that helps you travel with your child with special needs? Please share below in the comments to help other moms!

 

About LearningRx
LearningRx specializes in one-on-one brain training. We train cognitive skills through game-like exercises that are both fun and challenging—and we do it with a unique personal trainer approach. LearningRx’s customer satisfaction speaks for itself with an average rating of 9.5 out of 10. With 80 centers across the country, LearningRx is a pioneer in the one-on-one brain training industry. Learn more at www.learningrx.com

 

Sugar on the Brain

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Tips, tricks and advice for shifting your kids to healthier snacks

Last year, my son’s class ate lunch at 11:30 a.m. By the time he got home from school at 4 p.m., he was famished.

My daughter wasn’t far behind, although her big complaint was feeling sluggish in the late afternoons. She said her classroom looked like a bunch of zombies by 2:30 p.m., something akin to the zoned-out students in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I had my work cut out for me. Their 4 p.m. snack had to be both nutritious and delicious. Here are some of the things I considered when looking at my options.

Get colorful

color wheel by fruits and vegetables from an angle There are a couple reasons that using rich-hued fruits and vegetables (and even pistachios!)—like blueberries and carrots—makes for great snacks. They’re colorful, which generally makes kids attracted to them. (Do you think it’s a coincidence that the cereals on the lower shelves of the grocery stores are brightly colored? Guess who’s at eye level with sugary cereals!) But they’re also full of phytochemicals, which have been found to provide health benefits beyond what essential nutrients can give us.

In “Today’s Dietitian,” the colors are broken down into categories based on their pigment and health benefits. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Blues/Purples

Pigment from: anthocyanins
Examples: Plums, blueberries, pomegranates, blackberries, prunes, eggplant (especially the skin)

  • Greens

Pigment from: chlorophyll (These foods are rich in isothiocyanates)
Examples: broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts

  • Yellows/Greens

Pigment from: lutein
Examples: Kiwi, pistachios, avocado, spinach, other leafy greens

  • Reds

Pigment from: lycopene
Examples: tomatoes, guava, watermelon, cranberries, pink grapefruit

  • Yellows/Oranges

Pigment from: beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin C
Examples: Carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, mangos, winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes

RECIPE: Rainbow Veggie Pinwheels

 

Get nutty

Nut allergies withstanding, every kid should be able to find some kind of nut (or seed) they love. Nuts are incredibly nutritious, packed with protein, “good” fats, vitamins and minerals. They also keep well (in school lunches or as snacks they don’t need to be refrigerated).

In addition to choosing between shelled and unshelled, you can purchase them in butter form or make your own at home. The same is true for sunflower seeds.

So, which nuts are the best?

According to “Health” magazine, all nuts are healthy when eaten in moderation and are about equal in calories. The trick is usually to buy them raw or dry roasted.

Pound for pound, your healthiest options are almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts and pistachios. The two to avoid: macadamia nuts and pecans.

RECIPE: Peanut Butter, Banana & Honey Roll-Ups

 

Get seasonal

Spooky green apple monsters for Halloween party

Sure, buying seasonal fruits and vegetables is usually cheaper and tastier, but “getting seasonal” also applies to having fun with holidays (e.g., Easter, Halloween, Christmas) and themes (e.g., boats, snowmen, flowers, pumpkins).

What about giving your kids a plate of fruits, vegetables, cheese, nuts and pretzels and telling them to design their own edible monster or bug? Or giving them each a spinach wrap, some sliced cheese and thinly sliced pears with some cookie cutters to make their own green Christmas tree sandwiches? Be sure to include some almond butter, honey or peanut butter to serve as the “glue” in their creations.

Seasonal could also mean experimenting with cool treats in the warmer months. Try letting your kids choose their own ingredients for smoothies or popsicles.

Got a rainy spring day? Put out bowls of pretzels, gold fish, yogurt-covered cranberries, raisins, nuts and popcorn and have the kids make their own snack mix for movie time!

RECIPE: Fall Special

 

Get them growing

Boy with vegetable harvest

Years ago we had a huge garden that could have made me a pretty penny at the Farmer’s Market—had my kids not eaten everything before I could pick it! From tomatoes and peas to carrots and peppers, my kids ate more vegetables that summer than any year before or since! Why? Because they had a hand in growing them.

Seeing your hard work come to fruition is incredibly satisfying at any age, but especially for kids. They had helped plant, label, water, fertilize and compost, and knowing those vegetables were “theirs” made them taste that much better.

We go back to school in mid-August, so the kids were still reaping the rewards of their work in their school lunch and after school snacks. They were so proud to show off their carrots and snap peas to their classmates!

Freezing, pickling and canning also works great to preserve the harvest. There’s the traditional tomato sauce, jelly and pickled beets, but you’d be surprised at the number of things you can pickle and can, freeze or dry for later use!

One of my kids’ favorites? Toasted pumpkin seeds.

RECIPE: Veggie Train

 

Get them grabbing

Last year, a nationwide study found that families who keep fruit out on their kitchen counter were more likely to have a lower BMI and weigh 13

pounds less than those who didn’t. I actually keep three bowls of fruit out, largely for variety, and also because apples need their own container due to the fact that they’ll ripen other nearby fruits too quickly. I’ve found the kids are more likely to eat fruit when it’s within reach.

I also keep a designated snack cupboard (for crackers, pretzels, nuts and cereal) and a bin in the fridge just for cold snacks. These include things like yogurt, cheese sticks, turkey pepperoni, hardboiled eggs, sliced lean meats and baby carrots. Sometimes I even have small containers of pre-made tuna or chicken salad. I’ve found that just having a stocked, highly visible and accessible bin makes them more likely to grab something healthy—even when I’m not around. 

RECIPE: Cucumber “Sushi” Rolls

 

Get (or be) a role model

Mother and her son eat healthy food Getting kids to eat healthy is nearly impossible if they see you eating junk food. “Do as I say, AND as I do” is the only way to create realistic expectations on healthy snacking.

Of course, just because I love broccoli doesn’t mean my daughter does. (My son is a freak of nature. When he was 7 years old he listed “kale” as his favorite food on a school worksheet.) One trick that worked for me was having my daughter’s uber-unpicky friend over for snacks. The girl would eat any fruit or vegetable I gave her to snack on, which made her a good role model for my daughter. (It worked so well that one night I got up from the dinner table for something and heard my daughter yell, “Mom! He stole my Brussels sprouts!” I’m quite sure that’s the only time in history that phrase has been uttered.)

A few times I made the mistake of assuming my kids wouldn’t like something, only to discover that they loved it at first bite! Refried beans, for example, are packed with protein and fiber, but I thought the consistency would scare them off. Both my kids now love them—even right out of the can. 

RECIPE: Homemade Hummus and Pita Chips

 

Get talking

Getting your kids to eat healthy snacks is about more than what you put in front of them. After all, you can’t be with them 24/7.

Part of the shift needs to come from conversations about nutrition and how different foods make our bodies and brains feel. Ask your kids to monitor their bodies after they eat something high in sugar. Do they feel a surge of energy but then a sudden crash? Now ask them how they feel after they eat ants on a log (i.e., peanut butter and raisins on celery) or a tuna fish sandwich. Do they have more sustained energy to jump on the trampoline or ride their bike?

I’ve talked to my kids about how addictive sugar is and that I love junk food but have to work hard to only eat small amounts or I crave more. Start your conversation early. I wasn’t sure my kids were old enough when I first started talking about “brain fog” and needing a nap after overeating, but they still repeat things back to me years later!

Getting your kids to eat healthy isn’t hard if you start them early and make it easy. Teaching kids to enjoy nutritious food and the way they feel when they eat healthy are habits they’ll likely continue through adulthood. 

Check out this “cool” ice cube tray idea!