Starting a Garden

Two Little Boys And Father Planting In Garden

Planting a garden can teach your kids a lot about life. Planting and caring for a garden can teach kids independence and responsibility, it can boost their self-esteem, and it can promote environmental awareness. With all of these advantages to gardening, why not start a little garden of your own? Even if you are limited in space, there are plenty of options for you and your kids to get growing.

Flowers

Flowers are always a big hit in a garden for children because they are typically very easy to grow and they bloom fairly quickly. Kids will want to see results, so quick bloomers like Zinnias are an excellent choice. Sunflowers are also very popular among kids, and the seeds can eventually be eaten. Flowers can also be planted anywhere, from a tiny flowerpot inside the house to an outside garden in the ground. You may also get a bouquet or two.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are always a hit with kids. Children love growing things they can eat, and tomatoes can be eaten right off the vine. Most kids like any variety of tomato, but cherry tomatoes are always a favorite. Another advantage of growing tomatoes is that they can be grown either in the ground or they can be planted to hang upside down from a porch or balcony. There are a lot of different choices when it comes to growing tomatoes.

Carrots

Because kids like to see the fruit (or vegetables) of their labor so quickly, carrots are another great choice in the garden. They can either be planted in the ground or in flowerpots, and they will grow to whatever size they can. Since most children love baby carrots, these are a great choice for a kiddie garden, and they do not take up too much space either.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are fun for children to grow, especially when they will be ready by Halloween. Kids love to carve pumpkins that they have grown themselves. Although most pumpkins can grow fairly big given the space, there are smaller varieties such as the Jack Be Little. These pumpkins grow smaller, but they are a great choice if you are short on space.

Planting a garden is a fun and educational activity for kids of all ages. They will learn so much from taking care of plants that you will wonder why you waited so long to introduce them to gardening in the first place.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookie

This peanut butter chocolate swirl cookie recipe is both fun for the kids to help with and delicious to eat. Using the rolling method creates a perfect swirl effect on these sweet treats. It’s a great alternative to simply adding in chocolate chips. Have your children help mix, roll out dough and spread the chocolate.

Ingredients

Cookie dough

• 1 cup room temperature butter
• 1 cup peanut butter (creamy)
• 1 cup white granulated sugar
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs (large)
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt

Chocolate Spread

• 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
• 1 tablespoon shortening

Directions

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, peanut butter, both sugars and eggs.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Blend into wet mixture completely.
  3. Separate the dough into two equal parts. Form into balls. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for one hour.
  4. Roll out one of the balls into an 11x15 inch rectangle on a thin floured towel. Roll gently because the dough will be soft.
  5. In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and shortening in the microwave. Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth.
  6. Place spoonfuls of the chocolate onto the rolled out dough. Use only half of the chocolate. Carefully spread over the dough’s surface. Children love this step.
  7. Use the towel to help you roll the rectangle of dough into a log shape. Wrap the log with plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. It can be left longer.
  8. Continue the same process with the second ball of dough and remaining chocolate while the first log is firming in the freezer. The chocolate can be re-melted in the microwave if it’s set up. You will have two logs in the freezer until ready to bake.
  9. You can bake the cookies on the same day you made the logs or wait until a future date. When you are ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  10. Remove firm cookie logs from your freezer. Slice into ¼ inch thick cookies.
  11. Place sliced cookies onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Cookies should no longer look or feel gooey.

 

Superfood for Your Kids

Greek Yogurt With Peaches And Granola

It's not a secret that cupcakes, cookies, pizza and other not-so-good food will eventually find their way to your child's mouth. Heck, if we left breakfast, lunch and dinner up to our children, it would be nothing but chocolate and greasy pizza, and this is a big reason why you should be paying close attention to the food that lands on your child's plate.

If you want your child to eat something that is a nutritional powerhouse, here are eight superfoods your kid may actually enjoy:

1.  Eggs
Recommended serving:  One egg
Age group:  Three and up

Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin D, which helps the body soak up calcium. Consuming protein in the morning can help your child feel satisfied throughout the day, preventing those annoying afternoon hunger pains in class. Kids love scrambled eggs, and a hardboiled egg makes a good snack.

2.  Fruit
Recommended serving:  Two cups a day
Age group:  Three and up

Just about any fruit on the market is going to be great for your kid. Fruit is packed with a ton of minerals, vitamins and fiber to keep your child's digestive system on track. While all fruit is healthy, consider a variety like melon, kiwi, blueberries, grapes and oranges.

3.  Greek Yogurt
Recommended serving:  One cup a day
Age group:  Three and up

Low-fat greek yogurt is known to contain healthy bacteria that can help boost immunity and aid digestion. This kind of yogurt is also known to have three times more protein than a regular yogurt found on the store shelves. If your child isn't a fan of plain yogurt, consider adding a pinch of honey or maple syrup to give it some flavor, or mix in some fruit! Add a sprinkle of granola for crunchy fun. Use as dessert with sweetened fruit and granola layered for a parfait.

4.  Milk
Recommended serving:  Two cups a day
Age group:  Two and up

The protein and calcium found in milk is your fuel to keep the brain and body going strong. The protein found in milk can help build brain tissue, while calcium can help keep kids' teeth and bones strong.

5.  Nuts
Recommended serving:  Two ounces a day
Age group:  Five and up

Nuts, which could be the number one superfood, are made up of healthy fats, which is extremely helpful for growth and development. The healthy fat found in nuts can give your child a burst of energy to get through the long school day. Start younger kids on softer nuts like cashews.

6.  Oatmeal
Recommended serving:  Two cups a day
Age group:  Two and up

Studies have shown that children who eat oatmeal are able to concentrate better in school. Oatmeal is filled with nutritious fiber-rich grains, and since it's digested slowly through your system, it creates a steady stream of energy.

7.  Tomatoes
Recommended serving:  Half cup a day
Age group:  Three and up

Tomatoes are known to be packed with a nutritious ingredient called lycopene and is known to help protect us from many cancers. A great way to throw tomatoes into a child's diet is by creating a homemade pizza sauce, meatloaf or a bowl of salsa.

8.  Squash
Recommended serving:  a cup a day
Age group:  6 months and up

Squash is packed with nutrition and fiber, and can easily be pureed for babies and toddlers. It's naturally sweet and is good mixed in with applesauce, in soups and as a side dish with other veggies. Don't let the thought of cutting up and steaming squash prevent you from serving it; these days you can find pureed squash in frozen blocks and cut into chunks (raw and frozen).

 

“Summer” Party

Five cheerful kids looking through hula hoops

Do you find yourself daydreaming about sandy beaches, barbecues and pool parties when snow still blankets the yard? If winter’s got you down and your kids have cabin fever, consider throwing an indoor beach party. Dig out your flip-flops, put on some dance tunes and fire up the grill. A beach party will help you shake off those winter blues. Here are some great ideas for a summer-themed beach party that kids and adults will enjoy.

Guests
Tell your friends to wear their coolest summer duds, flip-flops and sunglasses. Kids can even wear bathing suits and shorts. Give your guests leis when they arrive. Turn on the Beach Boys and let your visitors dance away the cold.

Décor
Hang some colorful lights around the room, light a few coconut-scented candles and drape your furniture with colorful beach-towels. Turn up the heat so your swimsuit-clad children can frolic. Dig out your beach umbrellas, sand toys and summer attire. An inflatable kiddie pool can be filled with plastic balls or balloons so your kids can go "swimming" indoors. Now turn up the summer tunes and get into the swing of summer.

Food
The best way to celebrate summer in winter is with a barbeque. Offer guests hamburgers, potato salad, chicken wings and cole-slaw. Homemade lemonade will be a hit with the kids, and chilled margaritas will have parents longing for the hot days of summer. For dessert, serve popsicles or ice-cream cones.

Games, activities, and crafts
•  Have a hula-hoop contest – kids versus adults.
•  Play the limbo - a fun activity if you have the space.
•  Play a rousing game of indoor volleyball with an inflatable beach ball. Everyone can try and keep the ball from hitting the ground.
•  Try sand painting. Have kids use craft glue to draw a design on a piece of cardboard. Sprinkle colorful craft sand, or even regular beach sand over the glue. Shake off the excess and let your sand painting dry. Hang them up for the party-goers to admire.
•  Create unique seashell creatures using shells, google eyes, pipe-cleaners and glue.
•  Play Marco Polo minus the swimming pool, letting kids take turns wearing a blindfold and trying to tag kids hiding throughout the room.

An indoor, summer beach party is a perfect activity for those short, dark days of winter. If winter just won’t quit, plan your beach party today.

 

Olympic Sleepover

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One of the coolest ideas to celebrate the Winter Olympics is to have a Olympic theme sleepover party for your kids to really enjoy the experience. After all, this special event only comes around every four years, which means that you need to make the most of it while it's here. And if you don't want to have a sleepover, you can have a small party. Here are some wonderful ideas you can use to make your Olympics party a blast.

Have an International Potluck

One of the most fabulous ideas you can use for your Olympics party is to have an international potluck for your food. The theme of the Olympics is all about bringing together all the nations of the world in a spirit of friendship, and you can celebrate this by having each guest bring a dish to celebrate the food of one of the countries participating in the Olympics. You should be sure to coordinate this with the mothers of the other children to ensure that no one is bringing the same dish. Having a potluck will make the party economical, and it will also save you a lot of work.

Decorating

You don’t have to break the bank to decorate for the party. You should start by simply taking a white piece of poster board and drawing the Olympic rings on it. It is easy to make perfect circles for the rings by simply tracing the outline of a dinner plate.

A really fun way to add to the decorations is to allow each child who attends to paint the flag of one of the countries participating in the games. This not only will be a lot of fun, but the results will be a very colorful way to decorate your home to create a better atmosphere for the party.

Medals

Of course, the Olympic Games include winning medals. You need to make sure that you award medals as prizes during your Olympics sleepover party. It's easy to get some cheap plastic medals at a party store to hand out for prizes for games.

If you want to take this idea up to the next level, you can create your own medal podium. It is easy to make one out of old cardboard boxes. Just be sure to reinforce them with a few layers of duct tape to ensure that they will support the weight of the kids.

As long as you get into the spirit of the occasion, your Winter Olympics sleepover party will be sure to be a hit. Have fun and remember to keep things from getting too competitive.

 

Valentine Treats

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Being a mom is not easy. It would be nice if things were easier every now and then, wouldn't it? If doing laundry only took 15 minutes a week, or if dishes were magically washed and put away, or even if everyone in the family could pitch in at meal time, life would be a bit easier. Well, here are a few easy recipes to please every member of the family on Valentine's Day. These treats are "mother tested and kid approved"...and easy, too!

Valentine's Day Chocolate Dipped Wafer Cookies

All you need for this recipe is parchment paper, wafers of any flavor (or madelines, or other plain cookies), a bag of chocolate chips or candy melts and a bottle of sprinkles. You first melt the chocolate. Your children can do the rest of the steps with your supervision. Get them to dip the wafers in the melted chocolate and place the dipped wafers on the parchment paper. Then have them put sprinkles over the chocolate. The last step is to put the dipped wafer cookies in the refrigerator for about 10 minute to help speed up the hardening process.

Chocolate Pudding Cookies

This easy recipe takes only 10 minutes to cook and 15 minutes to prep. Your kids will love mixing their yummy treat. For this recipe you will need:

  • 4.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 (3.4 oz) packs instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups softened butter
  • 1.5 cups packed brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Start prepping by mixing together the salt, baking soda, and flour, then set it to the side. In a much larger bowl mix and beat the white sugar, butter, brown sugar and instant chocolate pudding mix. Blend in your dry mix. Next, add the vanilla and eggs. Once mixed well, add the chocolate chips. Lastly, drop spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack and let your family dig in!

Mozzarella And Tomato Salad for Kids

This recipe is the easiest on the list. No baking or mixing! Arrange basil leaves on a plate in a heart shape. Form a large heart shaped outline with cherry tomatoes. Last, fill the center with mozzarella balls. Let your kids do this or do it yourself.

On Valentine's Day, don't let your children forget who your favorite Valentine is...them!

 

Snow Day Blues

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Every winter, there are two words that can make kids jump for joy:  Snow day. After they are done jumping, however, they sometimes start moping. And when kids are moping, chances are that you are getting a little frustrated yourself. Before your kids’ time off melts into the snow day blues, try some of these activities to make the most of the day.

Make a Snow Family

When Mother Nature gives you a snow day… make snowmen. Pull together a pile of old hats, scarves, mittens and the like and challenge your kids to each make a snowman as part of a snow family.

Go Sledding

Get out your sleds and head to your backyard hill or a local park. There’s nothing like walking up a hill a million times just to slide back down to get your kids active and use up their energy. Just watch how fast they’ll fall asleep tonight.

Make it a Photo Op

Make sure everyone has a photo-taking device, whether it’s an iPod, smartphone or digital camera, and assign them to go outside and capture the prettiest snow day scenes. When they are done taking selfies, challenge them to photograph what’s high above them, like snowy branches against the sky, and what’s down beneath them, like paw prints across the lawn.

Enjoy a Day in the Kitchen

Get out some hearty recipes to warm the soul and belly. Have everyone wash their hands, grab a potato to peel or an apple to core and get to work. Cooking together is fun and when it’s over, dinner is done.

Play Old-Fashioned Games

Dig out those board games, chess sets, cards and other games that you haven’t seen in months, or maybe years. Have the older kids teach the younger ones how to play. Play a round yourself, and then turn the games over to the kids. Bring in snacks to keep the active play going.

Make it a Wild Card

Invite your kids to come up with their own ideas of how to spend the day. Have everyone jot down one idea on a piece of paper (approve them all, if necessary) and then draw one or two out of a bag. Then turn the kids loose.

Try some of these ideas and you’ll help your kids turn their snow day into such a memorable time they’ll be making deals with the snow fairy to send another snow day their way.

 

Healthy Hash

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If you are a mom, dad or care giver to children, you know how challenging it can be to prepare deliciously healthy, make ahead meals everyone loves. While make ahead meals do not necessarily have to be designed using a "one size fits all" strategy, healthy dishes which can be easily prepared and frozen can come in handy for many meal-planning occasions. Never underestimate the power of freshly frozen, healthy recipes you can make ahead and thaw out in a hurry. Make a big batch to have a little now and more later!

Two of the easiest recipe categories to rely on for breakfast, lunch and dinner are hash and hash browns recipes. They may sound the same, but each has its own unique, full-bodied characteristics which involve recipe creating fun and scrumptious end results. The magic, of course, is in the ingredients!

Ideas for the tastiest hash browns begin with nicely browned, grated potatoes. Always a favorite! Adding a little butter, garlic and onion offers promising delight for discerning taste buds. Mix it up a little by using red potatoes, sweet potatoes or a combination to incorporate varying textures and flavors. Crispy, savory hash browns make perfect side dishes or single-serving meals. Easy to make, easy to freeze - hash browns can conveniently become an easy go-to part of any meal planning effort.

Cooking up chock full of flavor dishes is easy to do when exploring delicious hash recipes. With a few extra fresh vegetables like cauliflower, zucchini and green peppers in the works, simple hash suddenly becomes a main course. Toss in some seasoned ground pork, aged cheddar cheese and organic eggs, and watch another fabulously fulfilling dish magically come to life for your hungry army! Draining ground pork (or any ground meat) will remove high caloric fat while still providing healthful flavor. Or Try adding cubed ham with your cheddar cheese for a yummy hash.

Don't forget the delicious hash browns you prepared earlier. When hash ingredients are combined with the roasty-toasty flavor of hash browns and fresh vegetables the world of tasty delights just keeps getting better. Like it spicy? Add a little cumin or pepper flakes for that perfect bite.

The bottom line to incorporating healthy smorgasbords on the go is about preparing, freezing and serving flavorful foods on the fly. Turn up the hash-style meal planning volume. When meals are this mouthwatering and easy everything else seems to fall into place!

 

Easy Chicken Soup

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For moms who are dedicated to making a healthy meal for their families every night, and can be difficult to find new recipes that are both easy to make and that are in your budget. Making soup or stew is an easy dinner that is both healthy and uses ingredients that are affordable. Chicken soup is a recipe that is quite versatile and can be easily changed to make it very hearty without much effort. The following is a description of how classic chicken soup can be changed into a hearty chicken noodle stew.

The first thing you will need to do is dice up three cups of celery, two cups of carrots, one cup on onions, and 2 cloves of garlic. Melt four tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a large soup pan and add the celery, carrots, onions, and garlic to it. Let this simmer for a few minutes, and then slowly add a half cup of flour to the mixture. Once this is mixed in, pour two 32 ounce boxes of low-sodium chicken stock into the pan and bring to a gentle boil. While this is boiling, cut up one cup of zucchini, one cup of green beans, and open one eight ounce can of corn (or equivalent frozen). Add these three things to the pan as well. Season everything generously with salt, pepper and parsley to taste. Allow this to simmer for about ten minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, you can begin working with the chicken. Cup up one pound of chicken (preferably beast meat) into small pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat four tablespoons of olive oil or butter a frying pan, then toss the chicken into the pan. Cook the chicken until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from the heat and set to the side until the next step is completed.

Once the chicken is done, scoop out one third of the veggies from the soup pan and place them in a blender. Purée them until they are smooth and then pour them back into the soup pan. This will make your stew extra thick and creamy. Mix the chicken into the stew along with twelve ounces of dried pasta. If you would like, use alphabet pasta to make it fun for the kids. Allow this to boil until the pasta is fully cooked. For best results, serve the stew hot with a loaf of crusty bread.

 

Make Candy with the Kids

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Homemade candy is a fun way to spend a rainy or snowy day inside with the kids. These treats also make a great holiday gift; although, you might not want to share!

Chocolate Pretzels

Combine one package chocolate chips (or 12 ounces of chocolate of your desired flavor) and 1 tablespoon of shortening in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the mixture in short increments until the chocolate has melted.

If using pretzel rods, dip the rod just before dipping your fingers. Use a pair of tongs to dip folded pretzels. Gently shake the pretzel to let excess chocolate drip off. Lay the pretzels on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper or parchment paper.

Pretzels are easy to add your signature touch. Sprinkle cookie sprinkles, crushed candies or chopped nuts onto the pretzels to add texture and flavor. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. After waiting, you can drizzle a small amount of contrasting chocolate over the pretzels to finish them off.

Tiger Fudge

Melt one cup of peanut butter and 8 ounces of white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in short increments, stirring frequently, until smooth. Repeat the process with 1/3 cup peanut butter and 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Line a 8x8 pan with wax paper or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Place alternating spoonfuls of each chocolate mixture into the pan. Cut through the mixture with a knife or spatula to create swirls of color. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Homemade Reese's Cups

This recipe requires a little patience, so it's better for the older kids.

Break apart a Hershey's bar and place two squares into each silicone baking cup. Place the cups into the microwave and melt until the chocolate is melts to the bottom of the cups. Carefully remove the cups with oven mitts and place on a baking sheet. Place a spoonful of the peanut butter of your choice into the center of the chocolate and freeze.

Place two to three small squares of chocolate per peanut butter cup into a microwave-safe bowl and melt. Spoon the chocolate over the frozen peanut butter cup until the peanut butter is completed covered. Try to flatten the chocolate as you do. The cups should fill the baking cup 1/3 or 1/2. Return the cups to the refrigerator for 2 hours to solidify.

Remove the candy from the baking cups and wrap with cellophane and a tie with a ribbon to give as a gift!