Beat the Boredom. Tips for packing a healthy school lunch

As back to school season arrives, the discussion about school lunches is in full swing. How to get it done faster? What should we pack? Will they eat it? All of these questions can make it challenging to pack a healthy, kid-friendly lunch for your child. Today I want to share a couple of ideas to help make packing lunches a little easier, while inspiring your kids to make some healthy choices.

1. Tap into the Rainbow

Studies show that kids often eat more food if they are presented with more colors. Presentation really does matter when it comes to food. Do you need to get every color in? No, but try to get a mix of those blues, oranges, reds and white. Start with a goal of three colors and see if you can later add in one more.

2. Move Beyond the Paper Bag

The number of choices of reusable lunch bags is awesome. Once you narrow down your choice to one that is BPA and phthalate free, let your child pick the print. Including them in the process is the first step in getting them excited about sitting down for lunch.

3. Do the Little Finger Test

The big push towards bento boxes and small plastic storage containers allows for some beautiful lunch presentations. However, I have found some that are really hard for little fingers to open (even big fingers!) Let your kids test out new containers in the store or upon delivery to make sure they can easily manage at school. Independence is a key factor in creating a relaxed environment during your child’s lunch.

4. Introduce New Foods During “Non-Nag” Time

When our kids are away from their parents during lunch, most educators are not sitting with them telling the class what to eat. Kids are allowed the time and space to make their own choices. It can be a great time to introduce a new fruit or veggie, without pressuring the child to try it. Will it come home untouched? Yes, there is a very good chance that will happen. But try again and maybe they will surprise you. Or maybe they will eat it the first time and now you have a new lunch idea.

5. Add in a bit of Whimsy

Draw fun faces on oranges in the kids school lunch.

Another parent once said her daughter came home asking for a “kitty orange” after she saw Madison with one. The parent was so thankful as her daughter never ate oranges before!

I know some parents really dread making lunches, while others truly love it. If you are in the first camp, let those in the second inspire you. There are fun ways to add in a little surprise to your kids lunch, without losing your mind trying to pack it up while you are rushing in the morning. The bento box is a great first step in pulling off a fun presentation. It’s still the same lunch, but in a pretty container, you already check off on of your “colors” in the rainbow. My little guy loves pirates so I plan to include this pirate cake topper on occasion, which will surely delight him. You can find inexpensive accessories for your kids lunches online, or just include a silly joke on a paper for older kids who can read.

6. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut

Use your cookie cutters to create fun sandwiches.

There are tons of inspiring ideas on Pinterest and Instagram when it comes to school lunch. I’ve learned a lot of fun lunch ideas from Weelicious Lunches, both the cookbook and by following #weelunches on Instagram. She doesn’t spend time on cutting up sandwiches into cute shapes, but does offer a ton of variety of foods. If you and your kids are tired of sandwiches, check out this recipe book full of non-sandwich lunch ideas.  This ebook is 35% off until 9/7 with code: NOSTRESSLUNCH.

 7. Include the Kids in Packing Lunch

My daughter wants to stay up “late.” We have talked about how we will use that time in the fall to pack her lunch the night before. I’m hopeful she will enjoy making some of the choices of what to include in her lunch the next day. It gives the child a little more control over a small piece of their day.

8. Don’t Forget about Snack Time

This year we have to pack two snacks for our kindergartener. We choose the dual Pottery Barn Kids lunch box so I could have a separate place to keep snacks ready to go. Another option one parent suggested is placing snacks in a front pocket of a backpack so they are easily accessible. I pulled together some of my favorite snack ideas in my “Snack Break” Pinterest board if you need some inspiration.

9. Milk or Water?

milk or water

This is a hot topic among friends and while we like the idea of milk in the lunch box, the reality is it often comes back unfinished or worse, all over the lunch tote. Pack what your kids will drink, and make sure you have a water bottle that fits easily in their tote or backpack.

10. What else helps you make packing lunches a little easier? Leave a comment to help other parents!

Thank you to Pottery Barn Kids for providing these lunch totes and accessories to demonstrate the tips in this story. You can find their full assortment of lunch boxes and food storage containers at Pottery Barn Kids.

safe sunscreen choices for your family

Have you ever stood in front of the selection of sunscreen products and been intimidated by all the choices? Mineral, UVA/UVB, Spray, Non-Nano and so on. It’s a little more confusing now, and finding which sunscreen is right for your family can be a bit daunting. I am often asked what sunscreen we are using, and why. Today I’m sharing some of my top picks this year and how we making our sunscreen shopping decisions. {some affiliate links are included in this post}

A couple of things to look for in general when shopping for suncreen.

  1. Look for mineral based sunscreen: zinc or titanium dioxide
  2. Avoid chemical based suncreen: oxybenzone. There is concern that it’s more detrimental to your skin if you don’t have enough on and it can accelerate skin turnover…aka skin cancer. Avobenzone is a concern, but less of a hazard to your body. {further detail: EWG recommends that consumers avoid this chemical because it can penetrate the skin, cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones (Calafat 2008, Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012).} 
  3. Don’t buy sunscreen wipes. The FDA has barred them going forward.
  4. Skip the aerosol sprays. I do miss them, but the concern about inhaling nano-particles is enough to make me take a pass.

EWG does not recommend powder and spray sunscreens because of concerns about inhalation. The FDA is reviewing safety and efficacy data for sprays…EWG is especially concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in powdered sunscreens and makeups. Inhalation is a much more direct route of exposure to these compounds than skin penetration, which appears to be low in healthy skin. If you want the benefits of a mineral sunscreen, choose a zinc- or titanium-containing lotion but not a powder. If you use a pump or spray sunscreen, lower your inhalation risk by applying it on your hands and then wiping it on your face. {source}

Coola baby sunscreen, EWG rating of 1

 Babies and Kids

  • Coola Baby SPF 50 is again one of our top picks for this season. After trying multiple mineral based sunscreens, this is the only brand that does not cause our son’s skin to turn red and bumpy on his face. It rubs in well and isn’t too thick, which is so helpful for wiggly children. The one bummer is the price. At $36, it’s not cheap so I find it’s often used on the littlest bodies in the house, and also for faces. Note- if it’s a little cool, the lotion becomes a little thick. Warm the bottle in your hands. EWG rating of 1
  • Block Island Organic Baby SPF 30– another safe option and one we are using on the big kids in the house. A lower SPF so you need to be mindful of reapplying it. This also has an EWG rating of a 1 and is locally made in Rhode Island. Bonus~~ all readers can order Block Island Sunscreen at a 20% discount. Use code: emilyr
  • BabyGanics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick– loving this stick as it has a broader application stick than most others. It’s awesome for faces. There is a lot of whiteness because of the zinc, but it’s quite helpful when you let a five year old try to apply sunscreen herself. This is not rated by the EWG at this time

block island sunscreen, EWG rating of 1

Mom & Dad

  • Block Island Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40.   This is starting to be the go to sunscreen as we dash off to the pool or playground. It’s a little thinner than other sunscreens so it’s really easy to apply. It does leave a whitish cast, but works very well around water. You could see the water bead up on the skin. At $27.99 it’s a reasonble price for a sunscreen with an EWG rating of a 1. Again- the 20% discount is available by purchasing directly from Block Island Organic. 
  • Mexitan SPF 50 Natural Sunscreen. This one makes the cut as it’s at a lower price and has an EWG rating of a 1. I haven’t tried it myself but have read many great reviews from other bloggers doing sunscreen reviews.

The other component of protecting your skin that bares mentioning is clothing. We put our kids in rash guard swim suits that cover most of your body. It makes it easier to keep their body covered, use less of the expensive sunscreen and helps us avoid having to reapply sunscreen too often. We have used Mini Boden, One Step Ahead and now Cabana Life suits with success.

Got a “burning” sunscreen question? {so punny right?} Let me know and I’ll try to answer it!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ZYRTEC®.

5 beauty tips for dealing with seasonal allergies

Every spring it starts with a sniffle. Then itchy eyes. Once the itchy ears start, I know it’s officially allergy season. I’ve suffered from them since I was a teenager, and sadly they haven’t disappeared. Over the years, I’ve learned to plan ahead and pick up my ZYRTEC® so I avoid the puffy eyes and red nose look of ALLERGY FACE®. Somehow there are still times when I’ve forgotten to take it and pay the price with never-ending sneezing. As a busy mom, I don’t get a day off to recover from a tough allergies. At least ZYRTEC® starts working in an hour!

So what do you do if you end up with ALLERGY FACE® and you have a big event to go to, like a graduation or a wedding? Or just heading to the school pick up line? Here’s the plan from Jamie Greenberg, a celebrity makeup artist, who has created six makeup “looks” perfect for allergy sufferers trying to look their best

barest beauty makeup look

5 Tips to Help Allergy Sufferers Look their Best

  1. Clean your makeup brushes. Soak them in some castille soap and water for about 20 minutes and let them dry thoroughly.
  2. The 1-2-3 rule: keep blush no more than one year, mascara for about two months and check your lipstick for discoloration every three months.
  3. To compensate for irritated eyes, look for a concealer two shades darker than your skin tone. Be sure to pat on the concealer with your index finger or brush.
  4. Color correct redness by dabbing on a green-tinted concealer. The green tint can help combat redness. Lightly apply a skin-colored concealer over the green and any other uneven areas.
  5. Drink lots of water! Hydration is key to improving the look of your skin.
1-2-3 Beauty Rule

Pin this for later when you can’t remember the rule!

 

I had no idea that green tinted makeup could help alleviate some of the redness on my face.  Physicians Formula has a green-tinted concealer that has an EWG rating of a 2.

Also, a good moisturizer is also helpful when the skin around your nose gets a little chapped. I swear by Aquaphor for when anyone’s nose is in need of a little TLC during allergy or cold season.

 What do you do to save face during allergy season?

 

 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ZYRTEC®.
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Daniel Tiger pbs kids

Have you ever wanted to peek at what your kids are doing online at that very moment in time? Maybe you are at work or you are trying to give them some quiet alone time. Are they watching videos or still working on an educational game? PBS Kids recently came out with the Super Vision app (for iPhone) that allows parents to check in on their child’s activity on pbskids.org in real time.  It’s like you can be Super Mom with eyes in the back of your head.

The technology connecting your child’s activity on pbskids.org and the app on your iPhone is very new and very cool. After a one time sync, you can get a snapshot of what your kid is working on, plus a report card for the day or week’s activities. Maybe your kid loves Curious George but is ready for something new. The app will make suggestions for other PBS Kids shows they may enjoy.

PBS Kids Super Vision app has a timer to transition kids from online activity to meal time or bedtime.

Another wonderful feature is the timer. If you are making dinner and want to let the kids play online for a little while, you can set a timer to close out their show or activity. You can choose it to transition to meal time, snack time or bedtime. I love that I have a helping hand in transitioning the kids to the next activity of the day.

If you download the app and start thinking of other features you would like to see, there is a feedback button where you can submit your ideas. PBS Kids wants this app to be helpful and they appreciate hearing your comments which helps prioritize what new features will be added.

pbskids.org

My kids have been into tv shows a little more than I would like lately and I’m trying to offer up the pbskids.org site as an alternative. I think it’s cool to get a glimpse into the types of activities they are choosing, either math, science or literacy. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

PBS Kids Super Vision app

Learn a little more about the Super Vision app at a Twitter party Wed 5/21 9-10PM ET using the hashtag  #SuperVisionPBSKIDS .

Disclosure: I am a PBS Kids VIP blogger and my kids love Curious George, Peg + Cat and Wild Kratts. All opinions shared here are my own. 

Mother's Day Gift Wish List

 

As all the many catalogs come pouring in with lovely gift ideas for mom, here are just a few that have caught my eye. Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday to all the many wonderful mother’s in my life.

For many moms, once they get pregnant, they become aware of buying organic food and making healthy eating choices. At some point,  you may question your beauty care routine, the cleaners you use in your home and the toys your kids are chewing on. Our buying choices are not that simple these days. Today there are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., many of which have not been tested for human safety. These toxic chemicals are entering our home environment, and we need to be educated to make the healthy choice.

Support the Chemical Safety Improvement Act

Postcards I wrote encouraging US Senators to support for the Chemical Safety Improvement Act.

This month I’m partnering with Seventh Generation and Healthy Child Healthy World to spread the message to support the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) that is up for approval by congress. This bill hasn’t been changed in 35 years, and clearly times have changed. Remember all the baby bottle manufacturers that had to remove BPA in it’s products? It’s not because the government told them to, it’s because MOMS got together and were very loud and demanded a change. It would be awesome to see more Moms get together and voice their support for CSIA. You can learn more here and also show your support of updating the CSIA.  The stat that always jumps out to me is that there are 1328 chemicals in the European Union that have been banned….only 11 have been banned in the U.S. Let’s do something about it.

So are you ready to learn a little more about what to be aware of on product labels? Who can you trust? I got to participate in a virtual Healthy Baby Home Party and even I learned some new info about what to be concerned with. Turns out the “natural” unscented baby wipes I have been using have some questionable preservatives in them. I’m going to try out the Seventh Generation Wipes and see how we like them. (Seventh Generation baby products are now easily found at Target!)

We watched this video and it was eye-opening. What do you think?

Makes you think twice about the toys the kids are chewing on…especially in my case with a 5 month old teething baby.

Ready to learn a little more? Join in the Twitter chat next week on Thursday, November 14th at 1:00 EST.

Click here to join in and follow the conversation: http://twtvite.com/healthybabyhome

Join Seventh Generation for a fun, informative Twitter party to talk about all-natural baby product options! We’ll also talk about the Healthy Baby Home Party which give moms an interesting and engaging way to educate friends and family on topics like creating a healthy environment for the next generation. There will be a chance to win a month’s worth of diapers and wipes from Seventh Generation! There will be 5 winners, all chosen randomly from answering trivia questions.

Hashtag: #HealthyBabyHome

Hosts: @TheMotherhood, @TheMotherhood25, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

(If you are not following me on Twitter yet, you can find me here @EmilyARoach)

 

I participated in this program on behalf of Seventh Generation and The Motherhood. It’s a cause that means a lot to me and the more parents that speak up, the better it will be for the healthy of our children. And their children. All opinions shared here are my own.

Planning a party when you have little kids is no small feat. Whether the party is for 10 or 30, it still requires cooking, coordinating, and cleaning. This past weekend we baptized Connor and hosted a party for twenty. I’ve learned a thing or two about planning an easy menu, utilizing the slow cooker and taking the appropriate short cuts to make life a little easier. As I prepared for the party, I decided to take the opportunity to test out the Peapod curbside delivery service. We are big fans of grocery home delivery so I was curious to see how the curbside pick up would stack up.

 Peapod Pick Up at Stop and Shop

Here is what I experienced during the Peapod pick-up experience.

PROS

  • Free service with no minimum order. My order was under $100 and it was still free.
  • I pulled in to a covered area and an attendant came right out to the car so I didn’t have to get out with the three kids in the car.
  • Groceries were loaded into the car while JJ slept…awesome.
  • I could get the groceries while out and about doing all the other shopping. I didn’t have to stay home for a three hour window.
  • Cold items were already packed together so I could easily put them into a cooler as I continued my party prep shopping.
  • Attendant gave me a heads up on an item that was out of stock so I could deal with it before I got all the way home. (although I wish they had called to let me choose a substitution.)
  • Staying out of the store means no impulse buying so you can save money.
  • Done in about 5 minutes total.

Peapod pick up

CONS

  • Not as easy as home delivery. I could be in my PJ’s and get my groceries.
  • My closest location is 7 miles away so it’s really not super convenient.
  • Wish there was an option for same day pickup. Delivery times start the next day, but it is open 7 days a week.

Overall it was a positive experience. For Moms who have a pick-up option at their local Stop and Shop, this is a great time saver. It does take some planning to make it work, but in the long run, this can save you time and money. I did receive a gift card to test out the service, but all opinions shared here are my own.

In the four months since I’ve had my third baby, I’ve realized that making time to exercise is rather challenging. There is just more of everything else to do…laundry, cooking, cleaning, playing with another little being, and the list goes on. I’ve also realized that when I am able to sneak in some exercise, I feel a lot better throughout the rest of the day. So here I am trying to pull together some tips and reminders for myself on how I can create some time to exercise with the kids.

make time to exercise with the kids

One of the reasons I am paying more attention to my workout schedule is because I partnered with PlanetShoes on their Fit For Fall campaign. They sent me a pair of new sneakers (long over due!) and they are just adorable. Having cute sneakers is one of those silly things that just makes me happy when I get to go to the gym.

The first time I got up early to go for a run on the beach this summer, Madison came screaming out of the house after me wanting to join me. It was cold and bitter that day, but she came along and we “ran” the beach. I realized that carving out time for Mom to escape for a run isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Turns out there is a lot I can get done at the playground, even while wearing the baby.

I’ve been doing some of the exercises in this article, written by Parents magazine. It’s a full body workout using playground equipment. The slide lunge is a great one!

stroller workouts

Recently I discovered my love for stroller walks again. I did  it all the time when I had just one baby, but it got more complicated when I had two. It’s just as complicated now with three, but I can bring a double stroller and let Madison ride her bike now. It may not be super fast, but it’s a great way to get us all outside and moving our bodies.

There is still time for you to create a workout plan for the fall. Plus, share some of your goals on the Get Fit for Fall site and you could win your own pair of new shoes! Share your progress with friends and get new workout ideas from other community members. 

 

Preschool Math Activities

Do you remember thinking math was fun when you were a kid? Is it a struggle for you now? Math was never one of my favorite subjects, even though I generally did well in school. I want my kids, especially my daughter, to learn from a young age that math can be fun.  With the help of educational sites like PBSKids and Pinterest, I keep finding easy ways to integrate math into our daily life. Baking together lets me talk about fractions, restaurant play offers an opportunity to talk about money and snack time can become a counting activity.

In celebration of PEG + CAT, PBS KIDS’ newest series, Whole Foods partnered with PBS to create some fun ways to build math skills and encourage healthy eating habits. You can find activity sheets, grocery store bingo cards, recipes and more inspiration to get kids excited to make healthy choices. PEG + CAT focuses on preschool math and problem-solving skills and starts October 7. My kids got a sneak peek and keep asking to watch it again which is always a good sign!

Use a muffin tin to serve a variety of food

The red pears were the top choice in the muffin tin of fruit.

We created our own activity using a mini muffin tin and fresh fruits from Whole Foods. Using a muffin tin to serve food is a great way to ensure you are offering variety, both in options and in color. We cut up the fruit and then sorted it by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and so on. For early learners, you could also do this activity and have kids count how many pieces of fruit are in each cup. There is a fun pirate craft you can print out and make with your kids that encourages counting, plus you can work on learning colors too with a variety of fruits.

Peg + Cat Treasure Chest

 

How else do you incorporate math and problem-solving skills into your daily life?

For more ideas, visit the PBSKids.org/healthykids website. Check your local listings for the time of PEG + CAT starting on October 7th on your local PBS station! Thank you to Whole Foods who partnered with PBS Kids Ambassadors to bring you these tips and activities! All ideas and opinions shared here are my own.

Lunch ideas besides sandwiches

At the beginning of September, packing lunches for the kids was just one more thing to do at the end of the day (or first thing in the morning.) Now a few weeks into the month, staying motivated to pack healthy lunches with variety can be a bit draining. There are two new books on the market that I think will help you with packing lunches, whether you are cooking from scratch, or not. It’s real lunches here, not the super fancy bento box creations that are all over Pinterest and Instagram. Today I’m sharing my thoughts one of those books.

The Healthy Lunch Box eBook by KitchenStewardship 

I know I was guilty of always sending a sandwich into school towards the later half of the school year. Raspberry and cream cheese was the staple, since school is nut-free. This ebook has changed how I think about the kid’s lunches, so there’s hope my kids will get something different even when lunch packing time is nutty. The Healthy Lunch Box is an ebook which you can read as a PDF, or on your iBooks app, Kindle or Nook. The first half is all about strategy…I learned that there is a right, and a wrong, way to pack the ice in the lunchbox to keep the food safe. It also made me think about packing the next day’s lunch throughout the day, not just at the end of the day when you are tired.

Kitchen Stewardship Healthy Lunch Box

The first half of the ebook is filled with tips and tricks with new ways to think about packing lunch.

This collection of both tips and recipes is geared towards moms who are cooking with real food. Think fresh fruits, homemade yogurt, mayo, dips, etc. Many things are totally doable, or you can purchase part of the recipe and make it your own. The ideas are helpful when it comes to moving “beyond the bread.” There are a number of recipes that I liked for dinner, which would then translate into a healthy lunch for the kids the next day. Plus there are ideas for lunch that I tend to forget about, like sending in guacamole and pita bread. A healthy, fun option for the kids, yet now a sandwich. (Click here to see the entire table of contents.)

What are some fun new ideas I’ve gotten out of this book?

  • Fruit and protein skewers
  • Guacamole, shredded chicken, salsa and GMO-free tortilla chips
  • Lettuce wraps with a mix of proteins
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Nitrate free pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and pita bread slices

Click here to order your copy of The Healthy Lunchbox  If you are a real food newbie, this book is also helpful in educating you on what to be mindful of as you grocery shop. Katie’s site, Kitchen Stewardship, is one of the first blogs I started reading four years ago and it really changed how I cook today. We make our own yogurt now, regularly make our own chicken stock and because of her articles, I know why bone broth is so healthy for my family. Her Healthy Lunch Box book fits into our cooking lifestyle and it has given me a lot of good ideas to continue to test out in the coming months.

The Healthy Lunch Box eBook by KitchenStewardship

I received a copy of the Healthy Lunch Box to review and I’m so glad I did and happy to share it with you. There are some affiliate links in the post, but really I’m just sharing this because I know a lot of moms struggle with what to pack for lunch and I think this is one helpful resource.

photo credit: kayepants via photopin cc