Fun summer activities to keep kids busy

Do you remember summers as a child? You probably were bored at some point during the summer, right? Like maybe by day three. I’m sure we all were bored at various times. Honestly, it’s okay to be a little bored and to have to come up with ideas on your own. It’s healthy.

But now you have children of your own and you are already dreading the “I’m soooo bored,” melodies coming from the mouths of babes, as per every summer ritual.

We know that you have lots of experiences to draw from and plenty of ideas, but it can be hard to remember them all when put on the spot by a whiny wee one. Well, we’ve got your back. Here is a list of fun summer activities for you and your family to enjoy. Read to the bottom for a longer, downloadable list to pin to your refrigerator. (I told you we had your back.)

1. Build sandcastles. If you don’t have a beach or bay you can drive to, bring the sand home. Many homebuilder businesses such as Home Depot or Lowes sell bags of sand.

2. Go swimming. Even if you don’t have a pool in your backyard lots of cities have community pools, or maybe your friends have a pool or visit a YMCA. Swimming is an excellent way for kids to get their daily exercise in with the added bonus of getting them plum tuckered out for a great nights sleep.

3. Paddleboarding. What, you haven’t been on a paddleboard yet? It’s awesome. Try it on a lake, lagoon or bay for beginners. It is a great work out, easy to learn, affordable, and perfect for a wide range of ages.

4. Photography. If you put a camera in a child’s hands they will be entertained for hours. Take them on a nature walk or hike and show them how to use extra features such as zoom (it’s fun to take a close up of a bug) and record mode. Bring another camera along and take pictures of your little ones taking pictures; they’ll love it and you’ll have memories saved.

5. Trampoline. If you have space in your backyard trampolines can be hours and days and weeks of fun. I do recommend you use one with a netting to keep your kids from becoming test pilots and flying off onto the not so soft outer reaches. No room for one, no problem. Trampoline parks are becoming all the rage right now and it is likely that there is one in your town or at least a nearby town.

Want more ideas to keep the kids busy or entertained this summer? Why not ask them? Hand them a piece of paper and have them make a list of things they would like to do. And…you could download our printable list of summer  activities here. Summer Fun Activities

Have other great summer fun ideas? Feel free to share in the comments and help spread happiness.

Where to look for approved babysitters

You’re getting stressed and need a break,

but you don’t have a babysitter, let alone an “approved” sitter, so where do you look? What, you didn’t know you needed to have an approved sitter to watch your foster children? Well, yes. Talk to your social worker about your state and county’s regulations. Here in California, sitters need to be over 18 and background checked before they watch the little ones.

It’s the same rule that applies to anyone who lives in your home who is over 18 – background checked. It’s all for the safety and well being of the children. You aren’t able to use the neighbor’s 15-year-old daughter, despite the fact that she babysat your kids for the last two years and you’ve known her forever. She is considered a child herself, despite what she thinks.

So where do you find a babysitter who fits the bill? Here are some suggestions:

  • a local gym – ask the workers in the childcare area if they are interested
  • a local elementary school – the workers in the after-school program may be game
  • a college – the child development students who work in the on-campus preschool
  • your foster agency – ask the receptionist if they keep a list of approved sitters
  • other foster parents – get to know other foster parents and offer to take turns with the kids or ask for the name/ number of their babysitter, if they’ll share
  • friends – if you have friends who love kids, offer to pay for the Lifescan if they are interested
  • online – try sites such as http://www.care.com  and post an ad for a sitter including requirements

There you have it, a list of places to find babysitters over the age of 18 and “approved”. If they already work with kids, they should have been fingerprinted and background checked, but you can ask to be sure.

Have some other suggestions on where to find approved babysitters? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Thanks for reading and have a peaceful evening.

 

15 food hacks to get your kids to eat more vegies

 

Part of being a good parent and foster parent is making sure that not only we eat healthy (being good role models), but that our young ones eat healthy too. Easier said than done, I know. Not everyone likes vegetables, raw or cooked.

So I put together a free download that you can save, in case you are needing some new ideas on getting your crew to eat healthier. After all, lifelong health habits start at an early age, but it’s never too late to start.

Bon appetite. Click on link below for downloadable version.

15 food hacks  

15 Food Hacks to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegies

  1. Green Hulk smoothies – (or your child’s favorite green character, be it Kermit or Ninja Turtles) Add raw (washed) fresh spinach to a fruit smoothie. Here’s one of our recipes: frozen bite-size pieces of banana, sliced peaches, strawberries, spinach and coconut water. The frozen banana gives it an ice cream shake feel. The coco water is more hydrating with fewer calories than milk or yogurt. The fruit disguises the taste of spinach. Proportion the fruit servings to your taste.

  2. Vegie tails – Using raw vegies such as celery, carrot sticks, radishes, grape tomatoes fashion critters to sit on their plates (use toothpicks to hold it all together). You can use peanut butter and raisins for the eyes as an extra touch.

  3. Ispy broccoli-not. – Steam broccoli or cauliflower and puree; add it to spaghetti sauce and they’ll never be the wiser, but will be healthier.

  4. Brownie gems – Again using steamed and pureed broccoli, but this time you can add it to brownies. The chocolate will mask the vegie flavor, as long as you aren’t adding 5 cups.

  5. Christmas trees – Sometimes renaming an undesired food has a desirable effect. Broccoli becomes a Christmas tree with a pile of snow (ranch dressing) to dip it in. My son didn’t like waffles (go figure) until I started calling them wrinkled pancakes. As adults now, I don’t think they’d eat anything called “wrinkled.” My kids still laugh at all the weird things I did to their food.

  6. The curious case of killer cupcakes – Instead of making traditional white cupcakes, make zucchini cakes. Use a zucchini bread recipe, pour into cupcake tins and lower the cook time. Filled with zuch’s and carrots it’s a much healthier choice, but with the looks of a cupcake, kids still think they are getting a treat. And they are.

  7. Broccoli or cauliflower rice – This straight up is the easiest. Trader Joe’s sells bags of these two vegies that look and taste like rice but are pure vegetable. There may be other stores that sell this as well, but we happen to buy ours at TJ’s.

  8. Vegie balls – Cook and puree carrots and add them to your turkey burgers or meatballs.

  9. Spaghetti squash – If you haven’t tried this yet you are missing out. Slice open a spaghetti squash, literally that’s what it’s called, and place face down in a baking dish with a little water and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes (depending on size). Once out, let cool a bit then use a fork to scrape the “meat”. It will come out stringy looking like spaghetti noodles. Add your favorite pasta sauce and voila. A no carb, high nutrient meal.

  10. It’za pizza – Thinly slice your vegies of choice to your own homemade pizza, cover with sauce or cheese to hide the vegies. Zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms are all great pizza toppings.

  11. Appetizers – Before you are even thinking about dinner, the kids start asking for food, so why not put out a tray of vegies and a little dip. I put out a variety so they won’t get tired of eating the same ones all the time. Celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, snap peas, and olives are all part of our appetizer tray. Also, we keep a ziplock bag of cut vegies in the fridge and the kids know if they are ever hungry before any meal they are free to eat all the vegies they want.

  12. Soup or stew – Sometimes it’s as simple as serving it in a liquid that changes their perception of what they are eating, so why not make vegie soup or stew.

  13. Create-a-face – This may sound odd, but let them “play” with their food. Place a variety of vegies – shredded lettuce, grape tomatoes halved, sliced olives, strings of celery, shredded carrots, a little dressing etc. and let them make funny faces on their plate using the foods. When done they eat.

  14. Grow your own – Face it, kids love to get dirty, so why not let them help plant a garden (it doesn’t have to be big). They are more likely to want to eat the vegetables they grow themselves out of pride if nothing more.

    15. Let them choose – Take your kids to the store and let them choose which vegetables to have for dinner. Not                   only do they enjoy being included in the decision-making process, but they feel empowered by making-choices             which helps their self-esteem. A win-win-win.

Remember to empower your children and include them in the process: letting them pick out which vegies to eat, having them help cook, growing their own food; they all have added benefits other than just vegetables. Kids grow up before you know it, enjoy your time together, and help them learn life skills all at the same time. You’ll all be healthier for it.

 

 

Why we need a new children’s charity

Allow me to share a story with you about why I love children in the foster system and why helping them is my passion; essentially, why we need a new children’s charity.

Twenty years ago, I had a baby store (we sold infant apparel and furniture, not babies)…Wait, let me start over.

It was a dark and stormy night (it really was) when a woman came into my store with three little ones under the age of five. None were wearing coats, or warm clothes for that matter, or shoes. “What are you doing dragging those children out in this freezing weather dressed like that?” I demanded.

“They aren’t my children. I just picked them up from the foster agency. They have nothing. Can you help us?”

My attitude toward this woman immediately shifted. “Of course,” I said.

She walked up to the counter where I stood and set the smallest child down on the counter. She was 18 months old and had been so neglected she didn’t know how to walk, but she could crawl. Across the counter, her bony little knees and hands carried her, all the way to me. Her big blue eyes looked up at me while she raised her arms. This beautiful little baby girl was asking me, a total stranger, to pick her up and love her! I wept.

The kind woman shared her story of caring for children who had been abused and neglected, children in the foster system. All in need of love, stability, food and medical help. Their parents: addicted to drugs, live in filth, neglect their children’s basic needs, or physically and emotionally hurt them.

That night my purpose in life became clear: help these children. No child deserves to be starved, beaten, left alone, locked up, neglected or molested.

Several years later, with three of my own biological children, I became a foster mom. It was the most rewarding and fulfilling time imaginable (along with raising my own babies.) In this time, I had the pleasure to help raise nine children, each one remarkable.

Every child who came through our doors was resilient, strong, smart and loving. They were also scared, anxious, worried, hungry and behind academically.

The preschool age children were already behind their peers.  Not one knew any letters of the alphabet, or numbers or colors or shapes. One child didn’t even know his name, which left me wondering what his parents called him.

Immediately, I saw many needs: preschool, tutoring, parenting classes, youth support systems, free resources for clothing, toys, furniture, school supplies, and more loving families to adopt these lovable little ones. They needed a charity for children.

My first priority was to put the tots in preschool. In case you didn’t know, preschool costs roughly $400-$600 a month, per child. That was out of my budget. So I called Headstart, which is a state-funded preschool. It took two months for someone to call me back and then two more weeks after that for someone to come to our home and do an evaluation. Weeks later…I called them to find out the children qualified (of course they did) for the free preschool, but there was no room. We’d have to wait for an opening. Six months later, still no opening. Nine months later the children moved into another foster home. And guess what? The process had to start all…over…again.

Now several years later, I am embarking on a mission to make a difference. With old friends and new friends at my side to help, I know we will succeed.

Our mission: to help all children experience the joys of childhood.

Our vision: to provide a free preschool (for children in the foster system only) and offer resources to help youth (both in and aged out), succeed in life.

This is our children’s charity – Fostering Hope For Youth.