Fun Finger Foods for Toddlers

(I am tagging this entry as “silly Beard moment of the week”, when in fact it is awesome Beard moment of the week.  I apologize for any confusion.)

I have posted before about Bitsy Girl’s wonderful eating habits.  She really has never been a picky eater, and she has always loved the most random but nutritious foods like sweet potatoes and avocados.  Recently, though, she has grown a bit pickier about the things she puts into her body, especially things with different textures.  I know this is natural in toddlers her age; she is becoming so aware of colors, tastes, textures, and temperatures, and it only makes sense that she would prefer some over others.

Although I understand this change in her eating habits is natural, it is still a little frustrating.  Bitsy Girl has been pickier about what vegetables she will eat, and if given the choice between multiple foods, she will always pick the carbohydrate, then the meat.  Oh boy!  A meat and potatoes kind of girl.

A few weeks ago, Beard and my good friend’s husband were watching all of our children (so my friend and I could spend the day at IKEA; score!).  The two men were better at feeding preschool age children than I had expected.  It was that particular day that Beard taught our little toddling Bitsy Girl how to enjoy raw vegetables with dip!

Apparently dipping foods and eating them is very fun for young children.  Who knew?  Our daughter loves dipping baby carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, and even some broccoli in ranch dip.  Both Beard and I eat veggies like this often, and I think that is part of the novelty for Bitsy Girl; she feels like a big girl who can dip and eat her veggies.

I know this method of serving veggies won’t necessarily work for all picky eaters, but it is worth giving a try.  So far we have only tried ranch dip, but I plan to try hummus and maybe even peanut butter (which I use to dip baby carrots in).  I could probably try other vegetables as well.

What methods do you know for getting picky eaters to eat their veggies?  Anything tried and true?

Getting Toddlers to Sleep Away from Home

Today I write you from my father’s house in New Jersey, and I write you after having had a long, stressful morning, complete with more online research than I think I have done on any parenting topic:  sleeping.

Our daughter is usually an excellent sleeper.  At home she will easily sleep 11 or 12 hours a night plus go down for two solid naps of 1 hour or more.  I really am spoiled since we didn’t have to work too hard to get her into this habit.  Bitsy Girl usually only needs her music playing, a stuffed animal or doll, and her pacifier to fall asleep.  At home we never rock her to sleep.

Away from home, these lovely sleeping habits seem to fade away.  Bitsy Girl is nearly impossible to put down for a nap anywhere, at any time of day, and although she will go down at night alright, she will wake up a few hours too early.  This leaves her cranky most of the day, and it isn’t really fun for anyone involved.

This morning was no exception.  After only 9 hours of sleep last night, Bitsy Girl woke up at 6am, bright eyed and bushy tailed.  I tried to get her to go right back to sleep, but that was unsuccessful, so I tried getting her up, giving her breakfast, and wearing her out a bit.  Around 9:30 she was rubbing her eyes and really looking beat, so I thought it was my shot.  An hour and a half later, after having rocked her to sleep four times only to have her wake up once I put her down, I was about ready to pull my hair out.

I came downstairs to find out some other methods.  Of course the internet has usually been helpful in other sticky situations, like cleaning, cooking, etc., so I thought it would be helpful.  Most of the advice out there says to “parent your child to sleep”.  Meaning set a consistent routine and stick to it.  They also suggest taking certain special items from home to help your toddler feel more at home.  Well with her pacifier, her usual blanket, her favorite stuffed doll, and the usual music playing, Bitsy Girl still didn’t quite feel at home.  Instead of laying down to sleep, she quickly got up and cried.  Which is why I even attempted to rock her to sleep.

Consequently it does work, but it is very hard to lay a sleeping baby down without waking them up.  Any suggestions here would be welcome.

It’s been almost 3 hours since I tried to put Bitsy Girl down for a nap, and I still hear movement in the bedroom.  I’m at a loss on how to get her to sleep, and today, readers, I am pleading with you to help me with some advice.

How do you get a toddler to sleep while away from home?

Beach Babes

For Memorial Day weekend Beard and I took Bitsy Girl to the nearest beach.  We had taken her to the Outer Banks last summer, but she was only about 8 weeks old and really couldn’t absorb what was going on around her.  This time we chose Smith Mountain Lake, a fairly local man made lake with tons of shoreline.  The Smith Mountain Lake State Park has a nice little beach, and since Beard never works Tuesdays, we thought that would be the best day to avoid crowds and help our little Girly enjoy the sand, sun and water.

Here are some highlights:

All ready to go, but hating me for making her wear hot pink flip flops.

Testing the sand.  Luckily the sand wasn’t too hot, otherwise I never would’ve gotten her to touch it.

Daddy is protecting her from the gross wet sand, but she’s loving the water.  I caught her mid-splash, actually.

She got pretty confident and wanted to stand on her own.  That’s my adventurous girly. 🙂

At the end of the day she was all smiles.  I think it was a good first experience at the beach for the little Bits.

While packing to take a baby to the beach for the very first time I had lots of things running through my head.  I’m a first time mom, remember.  I had visions of my daughter being carried away by an undertow (of which there aren’t any at this particular body of water) or her eating fistfuls of sand and ingesting some nasty garbage along with it.  I wanted to have everything we would need.

At the same time, I have minimalist tendancies, and I want to really only carry what I would find absolutely necessary.

So for those of you taking a trip to the beach soon with an infant or toddler, I’ve come up with a few things that really are essential to everyone having a good time:

  1. Sunblock.  I really like Coppertone, and I would never use less than SPF 50 on Bitsy Girl.  She is not a particularly pale baby by any means, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I let her get a sunburn.  While we’re talking about sunblock, might I remind you that proper sun protection includes a hat, some sweet shades, and maybe even a sun cover-up (big T-shirt).  I always bring a hat for the Bits, and if you have a more pale baby, a sun cover-up wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  2. Swim diapers.  If baby is going to be in the water at all, these work wonderfully.  They are a bit pricey, but they are most definitely worth the extra cash.  They don’t get puffy and soggy, and they hold in urine very well.  My friends tell me they don’t do a great job with solid wastes, but I have no personal experience to back that up.  We used Huggies Little Swimmers because that’s what our local grocery store carries.  I was amused by the little Minnie Mouse cartoons on them, and they did their job just fine.
  3. First aid supplies.  If you are going out with a baby or child it is always a good idea to have some bandages, antibacterial cream, water, and maybe peroxide on hand.  Since we were going to a State Park with a visitor center 20 feet from the water, we omitted this from our packing list.
  4. “Toys”.  Why in quotations?  Because anything can be a toy.  I grabbed a few of Bitsy Girls non-plush, non-battery-operated toys, then a few plastic cups and food storage containers.  At her age, she likes to fill up and dump cups with all sorts of things, including sand.   Beach toys do not need to be expensive, large, cumbersome, or unitaskers.  They can be anything that can be cleaned off and you don’t mind getting a bit wet and sandy.
  5. Towels.  You don’t need a million, just one or two.  Usually if it’s warm enough to go swimming, it’s warm enough to sit comfortably outside while wet.  Baby won’t be catching a cold from being wet, so don’t be obsessive about drying every inch of her.
  6. Water and snacks.  As a family, we never, never, never buy food “when we get there”.  Not only is it not usually in our budget, but food at concession stands isn’t really known for its nutrient content.  Of course we bring some treats along, like Goldfish, but I like to know what it is we’re putting in our bodies.  I also like to bring plenty of water; you never know what the water tastes like when you get there, and I will not by bottle water for $3 each.

You may notice a few things missing from this list that you normally bring to the beach.  Swimmies or a flotation device, perhaps.  Although those can be nice to have, I would hardly classify them as necessary.  If you hold your child the entire time they are in the water (which is not difficult due to water’s great buoyancy), you won’t need a flotation device.  And, of course, I would suggest you always hold your baby or toddler at all times when in the ocean, even if they are wearing a flotation device.  Currents and undertows can carry away a small floating child much more quickly than you think.

That pretty much covers it, folks.  Some things you could pile into one duffel bag is all you need to take your favorite little person (or people) to the beach.  I hope this post helps you to breath, relax, and enjoy the fun in the sun with family and friends.