A lot of parents deal with a fussy baby during meals. Shouting, throwing food, spitting, tossing cups, arching their back and swatting at the spoon… it can be stressful when your child is frustrated and the whole meal time feels like a flop!
We use sign language for meal time that I really think help curb fussiness. When we help our children communicate they might not feel so frustrated which means less meltdowns! I love using signs in a lot of different situations, especially transitions like cleaning up, waking up from a nap, getting ready for a bath, or getting dressed.
We started signing with Baby Babe around 4 months or so. For several months we just signed to her and then one day she started signing back! “Baby Signs” are the same as American Sign Language (ASL). I learned the signs from books that I found at our library. Some signs have several different versions, and you might notice your baby has their own version of a sign. I say, go with it! They know what they are talking about!
My favorite book is Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate With Infants Before They Can Speak by Joseph Garcia. I love the illustrations, the index, the variety of signs, and there is a great DVD to go along with the book.
Some of my best tips:
- Sign AND Speak. This will help reinforce the meaning of the sign and encourage your little one to use their voice.
- Be consistent! Sign, sign, sign, sign…. then sign some more! Young children learn and pick up on ideas through repetition so even though you might feel like it’s not sinking in, keep at it!
- Sign where their eyes are looking. A lot of times before signing I say, “Look!…. (sign and say) Thank you!”
- Recognize their efforts. Babies often make up their own version of a sign, or they might not do the sign as specific as you see in a book, but that’s OK! Recognizing their efforts and immediately rewarding them or praising them is VERY, VERY helpful and encourages their behavior. If your baby kind of signed milk, acknowledge it immediately with your words and repeating the sign. If it’s not appropriate timing you can still recognize their effort and redirect. For example, Baby Babe and I are in the process of weaning from breastfeeding. If she signs/ says “milk” I respond with, “You can have milk later. Would you like water or a snack?” I don’t want her to feel ignored and I want her to know that I understand what she is saying.
- Be playful. If your child is fussing or looking away don’t make it a chore, wait for another opportunity. Add some signs into playtime or music time. One day we were working on “Thank You” and Baby Babe was feeling grumpy about it. I asked her for a bite of her food and when she gave me some I did a silly “thank you! thank you!thankyouthankyouthankyou” signing game. The silliness snapped her our of her grump and allowed me to show her the sign.
We started with: milk, more, eat and all done. “More” and “all done” are useful during playtime! After Baby Babe started using those we added: please, thank you, help, and drink. She started doing drink on her own and she uses it for “water”.
Some other signs that we use are: duck, bird, silly, bath, out, shoes, socks, hot, and hurt.Share it!
This week I am sharing toddler sweet potato muffins, spinach pumpkin seed pesto, chia seed breakfast pudding, vegetarian lettuce wraps, egg salad, and a fresh jicama-lime snack. Also included: our family stromboli recipe, a Christmas tradition!
Our bread machine is broken so no more homemade pizza night for a while. 🙁 We’ve had Friday Pizza Night as a family tradition for about 10 years now, but we also have a Christmastime tradition: STROMBOLI! I definitely don’t mind missing out on pizza for Stromboli!
My mom taught me how to make stromboli when I was little. There’s really no right or wrong to me. I even adapted the recipe to be full of yummy veggies when I was a vegetarian. The ingredients you will need are:
- One package of frozen bread dough (3 loaves)
- Italian salad dressing
- Deli Meat- at least three types
- Sliced Cheese 2-3 types
- Thaw the dough.
- Press dough out to about the size of your baking sheet.
- Spread Italian dressing on top.
- Layer your favorite meats and cheeses.
- Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes or until golden and melty.
Slice into 2″ strips and serve with marinara for dipping.
I bought prepackaged lunch meat in 7 oz packages. I got honey ham, smoked turkey, salami and sandwich sliced pepperoni. I used 3 packages of sliced cheese: Havarti, Provolone and Swiss. We use Swiss for a lot of meals because it’s the lowest sodium cheese on the shelf. You could use less ingredients but Stromboli is a special treat so I like to load up the fillings. We’ve done sliced mozzarella, cheddar, colby jack, pastrami, roast beef… just use whatever sounds good!
I’ve been exploring new ideas for foods that are high in Vitamin D and calcium. I read that pumpkin seeds were high in calcium, but no they are not, they contain about 3% of your daily value of calcium. Haha! They do offer fiber, protein, magnesium, and fat so I still found a way to use them. I toasted them before using them to make a Spinach Pesto. This pesto is good on noodles, toast or sandwiches! I just blended the pumpkin seeds until they were a fine crumble. I set aside half of the ground seeds to stir into oatmeal.
To the remaining seeds I added a handful of raw spinach, a pinch of minced basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese and blended until smooth. I popped one container in the fridge and the other I froze with a layer of olive oil on the top to preserve the bright green color.
spinach pumpkin seed pesto
toddler sweet potato muffins
I had some sweet potatoes that I needed to use and I decided to try my banana bread recipe but replace bananas with mashed sweet potato. It worked! These are a big hit with Baby Babe. She actually snatched one out of the basket when I was taking this photo! Of course since I’m adding fat to her diet I serve this with a dab of butter or cream cheese. I also mixed in a handful of crushed pecans to the muffin batter for added fat. I made over a dozen muffins then froze them so I can have quick snacks and breakfast.
I adapted the recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I’ve learned so much from this book and I really enjoy being able to flip the pages instead of scrolling on my phone for recipes.
I baked, peeled and mashed the sweet potatoes and used them in place of bananas.
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1.5 c mashed sweet potato (2 small)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional 1/2 c finely chopped pecan
- (Next time I’ll add cinnamon!)
Directions: Preheat oven to 325. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl with a mixer beat butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Alternately mix in flour mixture and sweet potatoes. Scoop mixture into muffin cups and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely then freeze in a gallon size storage bag.
OK, I am a HUGE fan of Noosa. I know that sounds funny to be a fan of yogurt, but that’s how good this stuff is! It is so rich and creamy, it’s like a treat to me! It’s great for Baby Babe because of the high fat content. I use it for her smoothies and stir fresh berries into it for breakfast.
Sadly, Baby Babe has come down with a terrible stomach bug. It’s been pretty rough. She really wants to eat but we are trying to stick with BRATY or Chicken Noodle Soup during her pukey spells. She was bored of BRATY so I blended up a simple smoothie of banana, almond milk, avocado and noosa. She liked it and I think it made her feel full but it wasn’t too much for her poor little sick tummy. I sure hope she’s better soon!
This is one of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh. I use my cheese grater to grate it into crumbles. Once you cook the shreds in a pan with oil they are almost like a ground beef texture. I toasted the tempeh in sesame oil then splashed in some rice vinegar and soy sauce. Make sure you give the tempeh time to toast very well or it will taste like weird raw beans. Once toasted is has a delicious nutty flavor. I sprinkled in some toasted sesame seeds (which contain some calcium!) and served as a lettuce wrap. Baby Babe got a mini lettuce leaf that she mostly explored and played with.
egg salad snack
Egg salad has been a great fatty snack and lunch. The mayo provides fat and the eggs have Vitamin D and protein, awesome for a growing tot! I serve it on crackers or as an open faced sandwich. I’m not grubbing on the egg salad as much as Baby Babe is. With holiday treats and stromboli I want to save my splurges for other things.
chia seed breakfast pudding
“Ch-ch-ch- chia!” Yep, the same seeds that you may have spread onto a terra-cotta animal and watched it sprout are also a great source of calcium that you can eat! I made a little overnight breakfast pudding by mixing:
- 1/4 cup of chia seeds
- 8 oz of Blueberry Noosa
- 1/2 c of almond milk
Let mixture soak overnight in the fridge. When you wake up you will see the seeds have plumped up and it’s almost a tapioca texture. I topped Mommy and Daddy’s with toasted pecans. If you don’t want to try the breakfast pudding you can also just blend the seeds into a smoothie. I would try about 1 tablespoon in a smoothie.
I thought of my busy working mamas when I served the simplest snack ever: a plain ole almond butter spoon. I thought, “How could moms pack that for daycare?” For our picnics I’ve wasted a lot of peanut and almond butter when I put it in a tiny container and forget to finish it or leave it on the counter.
Then I tried loading the almond butter spoon and using a travel toothbrush cover. It worked! 🙂 Let me know what you think of that idea. One spoonful contains a good amount of fat and protein for your toddler for an afternoon snack. I’ve been serving a nut butter spoon with banana or other fruit after Baby Babe’s nap and it seems to hold her over until dinner time.
We needed to break out of the ordinary and add a new fruit to the menu this week. Actually, jicama is a root. To me it has a mild apple flavor with a watermelon texture. It’s simple, fresh, and tastes great with lime juice. It’s high in fiber and it does contain some calcium (7% of DV) so I like that!