Sunday, 1 November 2015

I love Autumn and all it's gorgeous colours and treasures so I thought it would be good to put together an Autumn sensory box. This was a hit for both my one year old and three year old but for different reasons. Oliver loved searching for conkers and Jessica loved flinging the leaves up and letting them fall.

Firstly we went on a Autumn trail at our local park to find things for our box. Jessica loved looking for colourful leaves, pine cones, watching the leaves fall and being caught in a shower of fall leaves during one windy gust. Oliver was more interested in picking up stones!

Once home we inspected our loot then placed it in a box. I set it out for Oliver on his own. He went straight for the conkers. He lifted them up and transported them to his own little pile. Once that was completed he moved them all again to a different pile.

I put them back in the box hiding under the leaves but he showed no interest in the leaves and just searched for the conkers. He was fascinated with them and this kept him busy for a good 15 minutes. I had to call time on the conkers when he started throwing them. I was a little wary of the conkers as thought he would want to put them in his mouth but he didn't do it once. If you are unsure don't include them.

I then tried again with both Jessica and Oliver (minus the conkers) to see if Oliver's interest was enhanced watching his big sister. He enjoyed watching her fling the leaves up and seeing them fall but other than that he didn't really want to explore them.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Halloween is fast approaching so I've got some super easy fun Halloween painting activities to keep you and your little ones busy.

All you will need for these activities is some paint, paper, paint brushes, some fruit or vegetables and some little people's hands and feet.

Footprint Ghosts

Simply paint some feet with some white paint onto black paper. Add some black paint for eyes and a mouth. You could always stick some goggly eyes on instead.

Handprint Spiders

Using black paint simply paint palms and fingers avoiding thumbs and stick onto white paper one hand at a time overlapping each palm. Add some white paint with black dots for eyes or again use sticky googly eyes.

Apple Pumpkins

Cut an apple in half and then carve your jack o lantern shapes into the apple. Using orange paint simply paint your apple then stamp onto some paper.

Carrot Ghosts

We used carrots but lots of other vegetables would work for this including sweet potatoes or cucumbers. Simply cut your chosen vegetable in half, cover in white paint then stamp onto black paper. We added some black paint eyes and mouths to complete.

Handprint Frankenstein

Paint palms green then paint fingers black, avoiding thumbs and stick onto paper keeping fingers together. Add some eyes a nose and mouth. We then used black fingertips for the bolts.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

I've been wanting to introduce Oliver to the world of painting for a while but wanted to make sure it was edible paint. I've seen many ways to do homemade painting and instantly thought he would love yogurt painting.

I wanted entirely natural colourings so chose to colour the yogurt with raspberries, mango, spinach, blueberries and carrots. I simply blended yogurt into each flavouring and popped it into a silicone muffin tray. 

I thought it would be safest to try it in the bath, limit possible carpet stains and make cleaning up easy. I put the muffin tray on the bath mat with some paint brushes then stripped Oliver down to his nappy and let painting commence! 

He put his fingers in the raspberry and looked at it then became quite engrossed in the spinach. He mostly liked rubbing it in between his fingers. He then moved into the paint brushes but was more interested in posting them in the bath handle. This kept him occupied for a good 15 minutes. I tried to engage him with actually painting and also to rediscover the muffin tray but he wasn't interested. Once he started to stand up I called it a day as the bath was really slippy. 

I showered him and the bath down. After drying him I wiped the bath with some cleaner. It was the spinach that proved most pesky in the clean up but no colour left a stain. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

What I love about baby led weaning (blw) is that it makes dining out with young children so much easier. You don't need to worry about heating jars of baby food or having to mash something up from the menu. Eating out with children is such a fantastic experience for them (you might not agree when they are screaming in a packed restaurant!) but it is building the foundations of a hugely important life skill from a young age.

One of the basic principles of blw is that your child eats what you eat but when dining out, sometimes that is not often practical. When eating out with a young child I would always bring my own food but this involved lots of different tubs hiding in my change bag that was highly unpractical. So I started researching lunch boxes and instantly I was attracted to the Yumbox. The Yumbox encourages healthy, well balanced meals that are the perfect size for young dinners.

Photo 08-10-2015 09 57 24

There are two different styles of Yumbox, the classic and the panino. The panino has one large section and 3 smaller sections while the classic has 6 small sections. I opted for the classic as I felt it was more appropriate for younger dinners. The classic 6 sections are designed to encourage a well balanced, varied diet with offerings from different food groups: dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains and protein. This is handily illustrated on the tray to reinforce the importance of a varied diet.

What I love about the Yumbox is that when sealed it is leak poof. You can safely pack yogurt, dips and fruit purees in the safe knowledge that they won't leak out of the Yumbox or leak into another compartment. Every section is sealed so you don't need to worry about soggy bread!

The Yumbox is the perfect size for a child's lunchbox. It's roughly 8.5 x 6 x 1.8 inches so fits in tote bags. If I've packed something that needs to stay chilled like yogurt you can easily fit the Yumbox in a tote bag with a few ice blocks and it keeps it lovely and chilled. The Yumbox is completely food safe as it is BPA free and contains no phthalates.

We are the proud owners of two Yumboxes, we have the older design and the newer design. The newer design has slightly bigger compartments so is great for my pre-schooler. They come in a variety of colours and the tray inserts can be changed or you can keep it clear.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

We have just come out of a horrible two week long eating nightmare. Initially I thought we had entered the "fussy" stage as he was refusing to eat his favourite foods, not trying new foods and generally living off yogurt for dinner. Most children do go through a fussy stage at some point and we have been previously battling it but this was on a different level.

Unsettled nights and a full blown cold then led me to think it might be teething. Lo and behold, 4 molars in the space of a week decided to make an appearance! 

This has been the biggest challenge I've come across since we started weaning. He literally wasn't eating a single thing at dinner time and this went on for days. His other meals didn't suffer as much so knew he was still getting something but I thought I would get some advice from a health visitor. 

So here I thought I would share some of my tips to help how to survive teething or a food strike. 

Firstly stay calm! It's easier said than done! If you start to get anxious then you will convey that anxiousness to your child.  

If you know it's teething, keep it soft. You don't need to revert to mash or purees but obviously don't offer anything that is going to aggravate sore gums. Try offering something cold like a homemade popsicle or smoothie. 

smoothie bowl

Try something new, if it's a sunny day try having a picnic outside. It might be enough to distract them. 

picnic outside

If your child is not eating try offering them their favourite things. If they don't want to eat their favourite then they are not likely to eat anything. 

Don't spend hours preparing meals if your child is on a food strike. Keep it simple. It's soul destroying when you spend ages preparing a meal for it only to be fed to the floor. 

tuna pasta

If your child is not eating big meals or seems to have a loss of appetite try offering smaller snacks throughout the day instead of 3 big conventional meals. 

During a food strike or teething it's really important to make sure that your child is still drinking. If your child stops drinking or stops having wet nappies it's really important to seek medical advice. 

Finally this is only temporary. It may seem like forever but it's not! There is light at the end of the tunnel, well until the next bout of teething!  Try not to make a big deal about it as you don't want any negative eating habits to appear permanently. Just persevere and try to continue as normal. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

I recently had a query about portion size via my Instagram page so thought I would touch on this a bit more. 

One of the things I love about blw is that your baby guides you - it's called baby led weaning for a reason. After starting blw it became apparent quick quickly that Oliver loved food. I mentioned in a previous blog post that he progressed very quickly. So with the quick progression became a lack of interest in milk. He was on four bottles a day when we started at 6 months old and by the time he was 9 months old this had dropped to two. He just lost interest in milk completely, the two bottle feeds during the day became such a battle that he ended up dropping them. As his love of food grew and subsequent drop in milk happened I decided to give him more food at each meal. It wasn't a case of just increasing the portion size, I wanted to make sure he was having a varied diet and he was getting enough vitamins and nutrients.  

Breakfast at 8 months

As he was having less than 15 ounces of milk a day I was concerned about the vitamins and nutrients he was missing out on. I consulted with a local health professional who advised me to increase his dairy offerings. This was something I was already doing and it was reassuring to know that by offering him a varried diet he was still getting all his essential vitamins and nutrients. I had his weight checked regularly and he continued to progress along the same centile line. 

We went down the path of offering extra at meal times but this could easily have been introduced as snack time instead. Introducing snacks into your child's routine is an individual parents decision. Some children can't get by without snacks as they need to eat little and often where as other children get by without snacks. When they start dropping milk they will guide you. As it turns out Oliver doesn't need snacks to see him through the day. He gets what he needs at each meal time. This is not set in stone though, during growth spurts or teething this can all go out the window and we rely on smaller meals and snacks. Just listen to your child and learn their cues. 

Yumbox at 9 months

Instagram is a great place for inspiration but try not to worry about how little or how much other people's children are eating, all children are different. If you are ever in doubt please contact a health professional. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Every baby will progress with solids at their own pace. With Oliver I wanted to establish lunch and see how he got on then introduce dinner maybe a month/two months later and then finally breakfast after that but Oliver had other ideas! On the second day of blw he had some lunch and it went really well and I wasn't intending on introducing dinner but he was literally all over our plates so I had to get the highchair out and give him some of our dinner! What I love about blw is that you don't have to make a different meal for your baby, they eat what you eat (well most of the time). So that night on day 2 of blw I gave Oliver some of my cauliflower and carrots and from day 2 he was having two meals a day. This is unusually fast, Jessica did not progress this quickly so just listen to your baby and take their cue, that's why its called baby led!

blw week 4 - pasta and bolognese

So once your baby has mastered individual foods in their clenched fists it's time to start offering them a variety of foods with varied textures and introduce different tastes that will test their capabilities.

You can introduce them to spaghetti, rice, mince, noodles, risotto, mashed potato. Don't worry if your baby doesn't actually manage to eat anything it's all part of the learning process. A word of warning though, be prepared for mess!!

You can start to offer smaller things like sweetcorn and peas that will test their pincer grip. The pincer grip is where babies pick up items with their thumb and forefinger. This is normally established between 8 to 12 months. Your baby may still grab these items in a fist to begin with but practice will make perfect. 

blw week 6 - chilli and rice

Something that I have found crucial in the success of blw is offering your baby a variety. As adults we are all normally guilty of eating the same foods week in week out and I found this had a negative effect on Jessica's blw experience. Around the age of 2 when her speech development was improving vastly coupled with the beginnings of the terrible twos I found that being stuck in a food repeat soon turned into a eating nightmare. She refused to try new foods, foods that she had not had in a while she would not eat and eventually meal times became quite stressful. It didn't help that I was pregnant with Oliver and my sense of smell made me gag at a lot of foods. 

blw month 3 - overnight oats 

When Oliver started weaning this definitely helped Jessica's eating habits. She was curious about what he was eating and she wanted to try some of the things he was eating. She has started eating carrots, scrambled egg and potatoes which were all complete no nos for her. We still have a way to go and there are some foods that I know she might never eat but I will keep offering her them and take it meal by meal. 

So I hope that by offering Oliver a varied diet now we will not encounter the same reluctance to try new foods when he is older. I find a meal plan a massive help. I try to do them two weeks at a time so that I don't fall into the food repeat trap and helps keep on top of my food budget too. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Having solid food for the first time is such a big step for your baby so you need to choose a good time of day to approach this momentous event! Ideally it should be in between feeds so they are not too hungry and not too full and the same applies to naps, so choose a time where they are not tired. 

blw day 1 - broccoli

When starting out at 6 months babies mostly hold items with their whole hand in a clenched fist. Food needs to be chunky enough for them to hold that will not fall apart in their fist but also not too hard - a fine balance! 

Ideal first foods include:
Steamed broccoli 
Steamed cauliflower
Steamed carrot batons
Cucumber sticks
Avocado wedges
Steamed Apple wedges
Sweet potato wedges
Toast fingers
Rigatoni pasta tubes
French toast fingers
Porridge fingers
Vegetable fritters cut into fingers
Long strips of meat

You may see my love of steamed veggies. It really is worth having a steamer as steaming vegetables keeps all the vitamins and minerals in opposed to boiling or microwaving. Also steaming vegetables ensures they are perfectly cooked and flavourful. 

blw day 5 - chicken and green beans

So these are all good starting points but there are some foods that you should avoid. 

No honey for children under 12 months
Undercooked eggs

The Department of Health in the UK recommends that children under 1 have no more than 1 gram of salt a day. So considering the average slice of bread has 0.4g of salt per slice it soon adds up! Obviously fast food, processed meals, jars and tins usually have high salt contents so shouldn't be offered to your baby. My bug bear is the amount of salt in cheese! Once you start looking at nutritional labels you will be shocked by what you find in some of our most loved foods. 

Also keep an eye out on sugar content. Sugar does not contain any nutritional value at all so really does not need to be offered to your baby. It will only make things harder in the long run! Use naturally occurring sweet fruits and avoid refined sugar. 

blw day 9 - avocado

Monday, 22 June 2015

When it came to weaning first time round with Jessica I had never heard of baby led weaning (blw). As she was approaching 6 months old I had it all figured out in my head what I needed to buy and what I was planning to do. I bought a beaba babycook blender/steamer, purée freezer pots, an Annabel Karmel weaning book, bowls, spoons along with all the usual essentials.

The thought of weaning her early had never crossed my mind. She was such a good milk drinker and I actually didn't want to start weaning at all. I had just started to feel confident about milk routines and the thought of weaning and changing and compromising our routine filed me with dread to be honest.

Nevertheless as 6 months was nearly here the week before I spent ages in the kitchen steaming and blending fruit and vegetables then freezing and labelling them up. Then weaning day came! We started with some baby rice and she absolutely loved it. The next week went by without incident, she was really loving this food malarkey then all of a sudden we hit a brick wall! She completely changed and was not having any of it. I tried loads of different things but she was just not interested. Then one baby play date the next week changed everything. I was still offering her a bowl of food but she just didn't want it so my friend suggested finger foods. So she kindly shared her sons picnic and well she absolutely wolfed it down!

So there was no second thought involved when it came to weaning Oliver. I knew it would be blw before he was even born! This time round though I wanted to prepare myself for blw from the very start. I had previously borrowed the Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett from my friend when I was thrust upon blw with Jessica and it was a great help, especially for me who knew nothing about blw.

Moving on from simple individual foods I felt like I needed more help though when it came to actual recipes. That's when I bought the Baby-led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett. It is a really great book that has over 100 family recipes and also gives you a blw background, the basics and helpful advice. I would thoroughly recommend the cookbook for anyone starting out with blw.

So when Oliver was approaching 6 months out came the blw cookbook. Again as with Jessica I didn't consider weaning early. Oliver loved his milk and was absolutely thriving! In the UK the recommended minimum age for starting weaning is 6 months.

For blw to work successfully your baby ideally needs to be showing signs they are ready for food. This includes being able to sit unsupported, taking toys/their hands to their mouth and being able to reach out and grab items successfully. 

I did a test run to check his capabilities at 51/2 months with some bread sticks and while he could bring it to his mouth if you gave it to him he got frustrated at not being able to pick it up himself so I knew he wasn't ready.

Oliver trying out a bread stick at 5.5 months

When it comes to equipment you don't really need anything other than you, your baby and some food! A high chair or baby seat will come in handy and make things easier. We use a rubber scoop bib or sometimes I just strip him completely depending on what it is he is eating. One other item I would recommend is a mess mat. These are great for containing the mess and protecting your floor/carpet! All we use is a metre of pvc fabric from The Range.