Top Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Here are my picks for the Top Holiday Gifts for picky eaters this year!  

Let the magic of holiday gift giving help your mealtimes all year long.  Promoting healthy eating is something that should be encouraged in small ways throughout daily routines and across settings and most of all, it should be fun!

Rainbow Innovations Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit

I absolutely L-O-V-E this toy!  My new friend, Kia, did an amazing job creating a product that actually gets kids excited about eating colors.  I’ve recommended Today I Ate A Rainbow to parents for years and I happily use it in my own home as well.  My boys love keeping track of the colors they’ve eaten and enjoy eating a rainbow every day.   Want one for your home?  Use coupon code: chewchew10

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eater

 

Glob All Natural Paint Pigment Packets, Set of 6 Colors

Have a budding artist at home?  Check out these natural paints that are made from fruit and vegetables! Are these fun or what? Pair these with a few homemade vegetable stamps and create a beautiful gallery.  Invite me to the opening!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Learning Resources Farmers Market Color Sorting Set

I love this color sorting set.  What a wonderful way to reinforce the importance of a variety of colorful foods through play!  Color sort, sort by size, length or shape and then get creative with your pretend play!  Y-U-M!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Fruitominoes – Teal

If you’re going to play dominos, why look at plain old dots when you could be looking at the bright and beautiful colors of healthy food!

 

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

 

 

Mudpuppy Wooden Magnetic Fruits and Vegetables

I think these fruit and vegetable magnets are adorable and perfect for pulling out for all the snow days ahead.  Let your kids plant a garden on the refrigerator when the cold weather keeps you inside.  Use these fruits & veggies magnets to make art, build letters or shapes.  Let your imagination go wild!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

 

Barbecue Party Game

Here’s a fun game to get your kids cooking!  Let them grill up vegetables and serve them with a side of giggles as they try to beat this silly, popping grill!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Prepared Slide Kit – Vegetables

Microscope slides for your little (or big!) scientist!  Get up close and personal learning about food without having to eat it.  Let yourself and your kids be amazed at viewing the details of healthy foods.

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Petit Collage Nesting Blocks, Fruits and Veggies

Have a little one?  Help them build a tower full of color, fruits & veggies!  These sweet colorful blocks teach numbers, shapes and counting too.

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

ALEX Toys – Bathtime Fun, Tub Soup, 801W

Rub-a-dub-dub, there are veggies in the tub!  That’s right!  You can even reinforce the importance of fruit and veggies during bath time.  Let your little ones have fun stirring, mixing, pouring and creating a wonderful vegetable soup in the tub!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Vegetable Garden Playing Cards

They really do think of everything, don’t they?  Check out these vegetable playing cards?  How fun would a game of GO FISH be with these cards?  Do you have asparagus? (No, Go Fish or perhaps Go To The Garden?!)

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

 

Slamwich Collector’s Edition Tin

This is such a fun game!  You can expect lots of giggling as your family spends quality time flipping cards to build silly sandwiches!  “Slamwich teaches reading readiness skills, like visual discrimination and sequencing. While kids are flipping and stacking cards, they’re actually learning how to recognize a series, make combinations, and anticipate what might happen.”

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Peaceable Kingdom / Feed the Woozle Award Winning Preschool Skills Builder Game

This game will get your family doing the hula dance, the bunny hop, marching or going crazy trying to feed the woozle!  What’s better than a feeding game that gets children moving at the same time? Nothing!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Chameleon Crunch Game

I love this chameleon game!  This little guy races around your house and challenges your kids to chase him and feed him a variety of colorful foods.  Not only does it get your kids moving; it’s adorable.  This is a great game to play and also reference at the dinner table – “let’s eat lots of colors tonight like the chameleon!”
Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Sushi Go! – The Pick and Pass Card Game

As someone that loves both sushi and originality, I had to share this fun game!  Gain points for making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi.  Chopsticks optional!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Happy Eating Club

Give your family the gift of happier mealtimes all year long! Join Happy Eating Club, a virtual coaching program for parents of picky eaters available January 9th! Limited enrollment! Claim your spot and save 20% using coupon code: chewchewmama

 

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating Course

6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating CourseSince the launch of Happy Eating Club in 2014, a variety of picky eating course pop-ups have emerged on-line.  Some are being offered by licensed and credentialed health care professionals and some are being offered by popular, non-clinically experienced food bloggers selling meal plans. As new moms navigate through the marketing, it’s becoming a bit more confusing to determine which course to choose. Here are six top questions to ask when choosing a picky eating course.  These questions will empower you to learn not only about the philosophy of the teacher, but also give you a solid understanding of their advanced education, clinical experience, licensing and credentialing.

1. As a Speech Language Pathologist, what is the difference between mainstream responses to eating challenges to those you counsel during pediatric feeding therapy?

I’ve seen so many different mainstream responses to eating challenges in blogs and mom chat rooms, and that includes everything from sneaking in foods, “magic” fixes, all the way to sending children to bed hungry if they don’t eat. While research is clear that none of these methods work for children in the long term, that last one, as a pediatric feeding therapist and as a mother, breaks my heart.

I work with such a giant range of children struggling with eating that I offer a completely different vantage point from my experience. I understand that when children use behavioral refusals it is absolutely an indication that something else is going on at a deeper level, so my response is to look for the underlying problems and to clear them out of the way. Refusals can have a sensory component, a behavioral component, an environmental component OR a combination of all three. I talk about each of these areas in my program to empower families to make a real change!

When children qualify to see me one-on-one for feeding therapy it means that they have an exceptional need. Many times these children are struggling with mealtimes because of an additional diagnosis, musculature weakness or an extreme sensory sensitivity. For these children, their feeding therapy plans are always unique to their individual needs, however, all parents that see me one- on-one gain the bonus of a greater understanding of the complexity of pediatric feeding.

One important component that is always the same is the education provided for parents about feeding milestones, the complicated science of eating, common sabotages to mealtimes and strategies for guiding their child successfully through all of it. Happy Eating Club members get this education too.

2. A lot of parents struggle with children that refuse to eat healthy foods, in your experience, what is a common reason why this occurs?

There can be many causes behind feeding refusals and that makes figuring out what’s happening so cumbersome for parents. Our society places a great amount of attention and focus on the physical or gross motor milestones, like when a child rolls over, crawls or begins to walk, but unfortunately we give much less attention to natural feeding milestones that occur for children as well.

An important feeding milestone that all children experience is called Neophobia, meaning a fear of new foods. Children meet this milestone between the ages of 18 months to 3 years. Some children sail through this milestone easily, but for other children this milestone can be the beginning of long term refusals occurring at the table and plenty of frustration for their parents.

During this stage, children previously judged as “good eaters” begin to reject new food and may even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed. Some evidence suggests that this is a combination of evolutionary protection paired with a psychological or behavioral component. In any case, it’s real and normal for your child to be experiencing this to some degree.

Neophobia is a developmental stage and really should not last a lifetime, but the way that parents react to these refusals will have either a positive or negative effect on their child’s relationship with food and how they move forward.

3. How does understanding feeding milestones affect a child’s eating habits?

Knowledge of feeding milestones and how to proactively meet them in a positive way is a complete game changer for families. When informed parents expect feeding milestones, like Neophobia, they are prepared when their child begins refusing foods. Since many parents believe that these natural developmental refusals are strictly behavioral, they handle these refusals with frustration and punishment. This creates negative experiences at the table and changes the parent-child relationship into one that is working against each other instead of one that’s working together.

Parents can avoid all of this by being prepared, expecting this behavior and understanding that their child has reached an important normal stage. Instead of offering punishment, they can instead offer their child more patience, temporarily lower their volume expectations of refused foods, involve their child in food activities across settings and continue to provide multiple exposures to a healthy variety of foods with a slower, more gradual approach.

4. We believe in positive parenting and don’t label our kids as picky eaters because such negative labeling can be more self-fulfilling than helpful. What are your thoughts on our philosophy?

I love your philosophy on labeling, because I couldn’t agree with you more. When a child has been labeled as a “picky” eater, you’ve defined their behavior and though not intentional, you’ve given them a verbal reason or excuse to refuse new or healthy foods moving forward. As a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, I can say without question that language is powerful. In fact, once parents gain a deeper understanding of how to use language to market food to their children, they can actually begin to transform refusals into new positive food trials or exposures.

Let me explain what I mean. When I have conversations with parents about healthy foods I often hear, “my daughter would never eat that” or “he’s so picky that I stopped trying new foods.” Where do parents go from there? They’ve closed the door on themselves.

For this reason, it is so rewarding to coach parents on changing the language they use about food with their kids. When parents tell me, “it’s not her favorite,” I immediately teach them to add “yet” to the end of that sentence. “It’s not her favorite, yet.”

One of the greatest things that I guide parents to teach their children is that the taste of food changes over time. This happens as we acquire a taste through multiple exposures, but it also happens for children as their taste buds continue to change and evolve as they grow. Instead of dreading offering multiple exposures, I teach parents to use them as a fun way of discovering if their child has gotten “big enough” to enjoy them. When a child tries a food and tells us that they “don’t like it,” our response should always be, “you don’t like it yet and that’s ok for now, but you are going to love it when you get bigger.”

They may not exactly love a food the first or second time, but maybe, just maybe the next time, they just might be “big enough.” Using this strategy dials into a child’s natural desire to be a “big” kid and keeps the door open to try foods again.

5. In Happy Eating Club, you talk about a sensory, behavioral approach to feeding. Can you give some real life context in what that might mean?

Absolutely. Many people believe that eating is easy and it’s really not. Eating is actually the most complex, physical task that human beings engage in and is the only human task which requires each of our organ systems and every muscle in our body to work in simultaneous coordination with all 8 of our sensory systems. As if that wasn’t already enough, additionally, external environmental sources influence how your child grows into eating.

Let’s talk a little deeper about just one of the eight senses – tactile or touch. Children need to explore their foods on the outside of their bodies to gain the tactile feedback needed to feel comfortable enough to place food into their mouths. They need permission to touch food, push it around a little, pick it up with their hands, feel the weight of it and the texture of it.

Touch is giving the body a message about what to expect when food is on it’s way to the mouth. Think about how much information we can gather about a food beforehand: Is the food…cold, crispy, crunchy, damp, dry, firm, fuzzy, gritty, hard, hot, icy, warm, moist, pulpy, rough, slimy, smooth, soft, steamy, sticky, tender, textured, thick, thin, tough, warm, waxy, wet, etc. This tactile information sends messages to our brains and helps prepare our bodies for the texture and temperature that we are about to experience.

Food experiences can feel different for children with every meal. If the first time you offered a food choice was right after it was steamed, stir fried or pureed versus the next time when you’ve prepared it differently (say chicken in a new sauce or paired with different vegetables) — from your child’s developmental perspective, that food is new again. Your children are learning NEW tastes all the time and this includes every time you offer a new combination of foods. Does this mean you can’t mix up your meal planning? Absolutely not! It just means that members of the Happy Eating Club are going to have a greater amount of tools and strategies to guide their child through each new combination, each change, each mealtime, each day.

6. What’s one tip you can give to parents to improve one of their children’s eating habits?

If I could reach every parent out there, I would want them to know that just like it takes time and support for a child to learn to ride a bike or learn read, children also need time and support to grow into loving healthy food. Building a happy, healthy eater is a continuous process. So much research supports that staying positive and avoiding struggles at the table in the early years is fundamental for building a child that makes good food choices for their entire lifetime.

Here is a quick tip that you can try tonight at dinner! If you notice your child has slowed down or isn’t focused on eating, instead of telling them to “eat,” try offering them a controlled choice. (i.e. Are you going to choose broccoli or chicken next? I can’t wait to see!”) When parents offer a controlled choice, it’s a win-win for everyone. Their child gets to feel empowered by making independent decisions about eating and the parents can relax knowing that since the controlled choice offered two healthy options, no matter what choice is made their child’s body is getting the nourishment it needs.

Lastly, I want parents to know that I recognize that since my launch of Happy Eating Club there are now several more options to consider at all different price points. I’m proud that Happy Eating Club offers families the support of a licensed and nationally certified pediatric feeding expert.  Feeding therapy is not about the food or the menu or one mom’s journey. It’s about your child’s body and mind’s response to the act of eating.

It’s about picking an expert that will know what to do for each unique child. There are well-educated, licensed and credentialed health care professionals that work exclusively in pediatric feeding. Parents that are really struggling with mealtimes should always seek out a feeding program ran by a licensed and credentialed expert in the field.  Parents of children who are not meeting milestones should reach out to their pediatrician to ask for a referral to see a Speech Language Pathologist for a pediatric feeding evaluation that will help them get local expert support.

If you are looking for a program that offers the support of a licensed and highly credentialed pediatric feeding specialist with over 10 years of experience helping thousands of children in the health care setting, consider joining Happy Eating Club.


Join my global community for our next round of information sharing, expert advice, researched-based tools and tips and the support of a fully licensed and credentialed pediatric feeding therapist!  You have the power to build a community of true experts in the field of feeding and swallow who understand clinically-based pediatric feeding!  Choose wisely!  Registration for May starts now!  Click here to claim your spot in Happy Eating Club – May 5th!


 

Our OIT Food Allergy Journey – Phase 3

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As many of you know, three years ago, after much research and prayer, my son Ben started a clinical research trial for desensitization to his severe peanut allergy. Our oralimmunotherapy (OIT) clinical trial journey began at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and has ultimately brought us to Mt. Sinai’s Children’s Hospital in New York, New York.

The Impact Peanut Study has three phases.  Phase 1 is the escalation phase that begins with a very minuscule amount of peanut protein that gradually increases in small increments under inpatient supervision to build tolerance.  You can learn more about the earlier days of our journey by reading past posts herehere, here and here.

The second phase of the study is called the maintenance phase. During the maintenance phase of the trial my son drank a daily dose of 2000 mg of peanut protein under my supervision and with quarterly appointments with the hospital staff.  After months and months of doses, we have reached the end of the maintenance phase.  It’s kind of amazing actually. In hindsight, even with the initial days of symptoms and concerns, our participation in the trial has gone by very quick.  It’s stated that in parenthood, “the days are long, but the years are short”…so is true with oralimmunotherapy (OIT).

The next and final phase of the trial is the avoidance phase. During this phase, we continue to carefully avoid any contact with peanuts and we stop taking the daily dose.  This phase will last for six months.  In order to transition into the last phase of the study, Benjamin had to participate in two, blinded oral food challenges.  The goal of the food challenges was to see if Ben’s threshold for exposure to his allergen has changed.

During Benjamin’s initial oral food challenge at the start of his participation in the study, Ben went into anaphylaxis after ingesting approximately 1/2 of a peanut (i.e. Hives, vomiting, respiratory distress).

For three years I have single-handedly gone to close to 50 appointments, with his baby brother on my hip and have given Ben over 900 home oralimmunotherapy doses, handling their side affects.  My love and commitment to my son and to this clinical research study is and continues to be immense and unwavering.

Today, my brave little boy faced his second oral food challenge and tolerated the equivalent of 16.6 peanuts without a single symptom. Nothing. This is quite honestly, nothing less than a medical miracle.

We don’t know what will happen in Phase 3 (the next six months of no maintenance dose) or if this new miracle allergen tolerance will remain during that time?  We don’t know if the absence of the daily treatment will cause his allergy to come back in full swing?  This is where we continue to place our trust and confidence in the plan that God has for us.  We will know more about how Benjamin’s body responds in six more months when he does an additional set of oral food challenges.

So until that time, today I celebrate our results in a BIG way and I stand in awe of God and the clinical trial He led us too at just the right time. A trial filled with MDs and Nurses that are gifted with His wisdom to make real life miracles happen.  A clinical trial that has protected my son and lessened the fear in an allergy mamas heart.  A clinical trial that has potentially saved my son’s life and that is paving the way for a cure for life-threatening food allergies in his lifetime.

Thank you, God! ❤️

Thank you, Johns Hopkins, Mt. Sinai, our family and friends who have shown us so much support through the trial!  We are blessed beyond measured and humbled by the amazing and beautiful love that God has for us.

I’d love to hear from your family with questions or with comments about our OIT journey!  We have shared it with open hearts for you because we know all too well that happy hearts and happy families surely take a village filled with love!

OIT

OIT

Plant a seed and watch them grow into healthy eaters!

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Oh how I love trail mix!  What an incredibly easy way to pack in some energy, protein and nutrients….that is of course, unless you have a child with a peanut allergy.  Long before I was called “mommy” a title that I love more than words can ever accurately describe, I appreciated that peanuts were a quick source of inexpensive protein…throw in a chocolate chip…and I wasn’t complaining!

BuChewChewMamaSeedst alas, one day my sweet baby boy started to swell after a kiss on his cheek and my life and my view on peanuts changed forever. Sadly, I said good-bye to peanuts and to trail mix along with it. I thought about making my own safe version and even attempted to accomplish this daunting task once, but honestly, trying to hunt down each of the individual ingredients and making sure that they weren’t crossed contaminated with nuts was frustrating and expensive.

I had thrown in the towel, but i’m happy to report that I don’t have to anymore.  Enjoy Life Foods has leveled the playing field once again for allergy parents across the world by adding a new line of allergen free trail mixes. They are loaded with seeds, dried fruits and yes…one even has their delicious chocolate chips.

As an active mom, i’m thrilled to have another safe and healthy option to use when we are on the go, to sprinkle on salads and to use in school lunches! To learn more about this awesome new seed mix, please visit my good friends and sponsors at Enjoy Life Foods!

Happy, healthy eating!

Need some tips on getting your picky eater to expand their diet?  Check out Happy Eating Club!

Phase Two – OIT UPDATE!

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I can’t believe it’s been FOUR months since I last wrote an update on our journey!

If you haven’t read our last update, you can find it by clicking here.  As far as routine, our lives have been pretty consistent over the past four months. We still drive to Baltimore for our up dose appointments every two weeks and we still give our son his daily dose after dinner which signals the start of our chilled-out, bedtime routine over here at the house of Chew Chew Mama.

Several people have asked me if our son gets treatment once every two weeks at Johns Hopkins. The answer is no. He gets a dose every single day that we give to him at home.  We travel to Johns Hopkins every two weeks only to increase the amount of his dose in the presence of our experts to make sure he tolerates it safely. When those appointments go well, and for us they have, they send us home with two weeks worth of dose cups that we give daily until the next appointment.

The last time I wrote we were about to reach 175 mg (equivalent to about a half a peanut) which was a significant milestone for us, because it was the dose where our son began to escalate into anaphylaxis during his food challenge back in October 2013. Matching that volume was a great day, because we realized with absolutely zero doubt that OIT is working for our son. He tolerated it fine with just a few “itches.”

Since that time we have up dosed seven more times and I am happy to say that our son is currently tolerating 1600 mg!! (equivalent to just over 5 peanuts)

To say that this treatment is life changing is an understatement.  

I’m not sure if every mom fears loss with the same intensity as I do, or if my past muddies the water…but this allergy business is tough stuff.  Teaching him, keeping him away from peanuts, reading labels are all manageable things, but the constant fear and worry of the worse case scenario…that gets pretty intense sometimes.  In participating in this clinical trial, all of the fear has diminished for us and hope, excitement, peace and thankfulness are in it’s place. This is the greatest possible gift and far beyond anything we had hoped for or imagined.

So what’s changed as the doses have gotten higher?

Ben’s main symptoms used to be “itches” (eczema), flushing and hives. As we’ve progressed over the past eight months and the doses have increased his symptoms have changed. Ben still complains of “itches” from time to time, but it isn’t nearly as intense as when we started and eczema flairs are rare. New symptoms are ear pain, mild gastrointestinal discomfort and vomiting. Ugh…I know…vomiting.  On a few rare occasions, Ben’s body has just decided to refuse the dose and send it back out? Before you start to panic about our little Ben, let me assure you that our little dream boy is doing fine. In over 240 doses, he’s only vomited 3 times — and when we saw it starting to be a problem, our doctor had a plan to help us make that stop immediately.

So at this point, our number one symptom is “belly-aches” paired with the fact that Ben absolutely despises the taste of his dose. We heard that once children are desensitized to their allergen that many absolutely despise the taste. We met some kids that experienced this early on in other studies and this is proving to be true for Ben as well.  Not a fan.

1200mg

We have A LOT more flour to mix into food now, so the applesauce hit the road a while ago and we upgraded to chocolate milk.  His dose cups smell exactly like a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup….sounds great, right?  Not to Ben. At 1200 mg, he told me that his dose was “so gross” and that he didn’t want to do them anymore. Nope. NOT AT ALL. Arms crossed. Lips closed. Done.

So I finally had a talk with Ben to tell him why he is taking his doses.

You may remember from past posts that after the very first dose last year, Ben (then age 3) went into preschool and told his teacher that he took medicine and didn’t have a peanut allergy anymore. This evoked panic that all of our work teaching him how to protect himself would be undone, so we’ve always kept the trial details to a minimum and told him that his dose was just “allergy medicine.”

But that night, I looked at my brave little boy and we had a heart-to-heart. Benjamin (now 4 1/2) had a lot of great questions, but the highlights went like this. I explained that his doses are “medicine” that his doctors are using to try with all of their might to get rid of his peanut allergy. He replied, “Mommy, you mean like I could eat peanuts and they won’t hurt me?”

I replied, “Yes, baby, that is what they are trying to do.  They aren’t sure if it will work, but they are trying really hard to help you. So tell me what you want to do. Do you want to keep doing your doses or do you still want to stop?”

He looked at me with determined, little eyes and said, “I want to drink my dose, mommy.  I don’t want my peanut allergy.”

It is such a turn events in our lives to go from worrying about the slightest chance of cross contamination to reaching the “problem” of trying to find ways he likes to eat it.  What a very wonderful problem to have!  Amazing.

So here we are getting VERY close to the next stage of the study — the maintenance phase. All of the appointments up to now were part of phase one – the escalation phase – to get us up to 2000 mg. In order to stay in the trial, one of the main goals is being able to make it to this 2000 mg dose amount.  In two weeks, Benjamin will up dose to that amount and we will enter the next phase of the trial! Hooray! He did it! This means that we move forward and my drives to Baltimore will change from every two weeks to every 13 weeks! (woot! woot!)

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So what happens in the next phase?

We will spend the next 18 months giving Ben his dose every single day. We will be monitored by our doctors and then at the end of 18 months….we stop.

The third and final phase of the trial is the avoidance phase. At this point, Ben will stop taking doses for 6 months and then he will go back in for a food challenge to see if he is still desensitized.  In previous clinical trials, 50% of children got their allergy back.  It is our hope that Benjamin will be a part of the percentage whose allergy is cured indefinitely. This current study is hoping to see a big change in previous numbers. It’s different from ALL of the previous trials, because it is treating the youngest kids ever treated (early intervention) and it has a much longer maintenance phase (1 1/2 years).

The changes that we’ve seen in the past 8 months are astounding. We thank God every single day! We are witnessing a miracle and are so grateful for this hope!  Thank you for all of your support and prayers.  So many of you have been following us, have reached out with a note, a phone call, a text or a package that has arrived at just the right moment and we are so grateful for your friendship, love and support!

Before I close, I want to answer one last question that I was asked. Can a child reach a point where their body can’t tolerate anymore? The answer is yes, it’s called reaching “threshold.”  Some children in this study are having more difficulty escalating than Ben.  Children have had to drop out of the study, because they were at threshold and not able to continue up dosing to 2000 mg. There is still research that needs to be done to find out why some children tolerate this treatment and others can not.

We are definitely doing our part to find a cure every single day. We know that the results of this study go beyond our family’s wishes and effect the entire community of children.  With that in mind, if you are able to join us this year for the 2014 FAREwell to Allergy Walk on September 28th, we would love to have you come join us and walk with us on our team!  You can find our Team Mighty Morrisons walk page by clicking here.

Big Hugs & Love To You ALL!!

Cindy

Chill God's got this

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Will You Be My Safe, Candy Free Valentine?

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It’s that time of year again!

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and heart-shaped candies are filling up the store shelves already, can you believe it?

Recently my sweet little boy asked me, “Which holiday is next, mommy?”

He was utterly disappointed when I sang, “Valentines Day!”  Instead of smiling his big smile and overflowing with excitement over the sweet valentine crafting we can look forward to (like I was), he showed all signs of being a sweet, awesome, little boy and cringed.  No, not because the presence of unsafe candy will increase exponentially in the world around him, but because “Valentines day is a girl holiday, Mommy.

It made me laugh out loud. I love my son! His reply got me very excited about the fun ahead for us in the month of February.  Now that he’s a bit older, I can’t wait to share the story of St. Valentine and watch him grow in understanding of the true meaning St. Valentine’s Day and what these Valentines (notes) that we give to each other really memorialize.  Hint: It has to do with that crocus photo that I used up above.  Leave me a comment or a “note” if you know why I chose that image for this post.

I know that once my sweet son realizes there is much more to St. Valentine Day than mere “girl stuff“, he will be excited once again about making valentines for our friends and family.  As always, we love being creative and staying allergy safe by choosing candy-free, valentines.  Check out our 2013 list of candy-free valentines here and our 2012 list of candy-free valentines here.  With over 30 adorable choices collected over the past three years, you are bound to find the perfect choice for your family this year!  Be sure to send me photos of your child’s creations to share on the blog or to let me know which one’s you’ve chosen.  I love hearing from you!

These are Chew Chew Mama’s Top Ten Candy Free Valentines for 2014!

Don’t you just love this adorable zoo animal valentine from Blue Robin Cottage?  So, so cute!  Wouldn’t your heart just sing if your child got something this safe and cute?  I can already see my sweet, little cub making this guy march across the floor to munch on imaginary leaves.  Often you can find animal packs at the dollar store, so this can be cheap, easy and fun!

Blow me a kiss, Valentine!  These are absolutely adorable and so fun!  It’s so fun to make noise!  My little one would love this.  My only allergy note, is that sharing these would be a big no because of cross contamination risk, but from the perspective of a non-allergy mom…no one wants their kids sharing spit any way, so these are go!  Click the photo to link on over to atsecondstreetblogspot!

Blow me a kiss valentine with printable!

 

Paper Airplanes!

These are Chew Chew Daddy’s #1  pick!  I found two versions that I love.  The second is a quick and easy print out (they don’t fly as far), but they are both awesome.  Click on the photos to link to the awesome bloggers at nobiggie.net and mom.me who created these.

free printable paper airplane Valentine - NoBiggie.net

 

 

Free Airplane Valentine Printable

LEGO Star Wars Valentines with free printables from the stitchcraftcreations blog!

Glow sticks, LEGOs…need I really say more?

Totally fun and you can find the glow sticks in the Target dollar bin!

Looming Valentines!  

Check out these looming Valentines from 30 Handmade Days. I am just not sure which ones my niece and nephews will choose, but i’m guessing that this one is in the running!  Get your kids busy looming now (you’re welcome), so they are ready for the big day.

Your Friendship is Illuminating! Fun Valentine's Day idea using loom bracelets with free printable  www.thirtyhandmadedays.com

 

Dinosaur Valentines!

After all, RAWR means I love you, right?

Find this adorable free printable over at SweetCDesigns.

Valentines for boys- 4 awesome free printables! Just add a toy!

Frogs!  

Another adorable valentine and the frogs are another dollar store find.  I can already see these frogs being launched hopping all over our home.  So fun!  Have a little girl that likes to hop? Print these out on pink or purple paper to make them more girly.  I couldn’t find the link up to these — if you know who made these cuties, please let me know so I can link up!

frog valentines by lullabylubbock, via Flickr - have to search but there are a bunch of free printables for candy free valentines

My heart BEEPS for YOU! (i’m dying over here with all of this cuteness overload!)

Keep it simple with a cute robot printable and call it a day!  This is so sweet that it makes my heart skip a beep!  You can find this free robot printable over on Flickr.

Free printable robot valentines

 

Feeling crafty?  Have time to make large batches of play dough?  Fear not, I don’t have time to make play dough in bulk either, but I LOVE the sweet idea.  Play Doh brand makes miniature sized play doh packages in Valentine’s colors to re-create this exact thing.  You can find the ready made Play Doh here.

Valentine Ideas: Homemade Play Dough Valentine for Kids

 

Healthy FRUIT!  (I can hear some of your eyes rolling…keep reading!)

The kids might not appreciate these as much as the parents might, but I love these cute and washable valentines!  A washable valentine makes this a safe bet for our little man…and a peel…when I see that extra layer of food protection (from risk of cross contamination), I completely geek out and get all excited.  Rubber bands and sweet, sweet words!  Bring it!  I can see this making our sons lunch bags when they get a little older!

Healthy Valentines  Print out cards saying:   “I’m bananas for you”   “You are plum perfect”   “You are the apple of my eyes”   “You’re pear-fect”.  Cut in circles or squares. Punch a hole in each card. Match these cards with the coordinating fruit. Use a rubber band to attach the card to the fruit. Great for non-eating candy folks or for healthy eating. It’s also cute to put in someone’s lunch box.

“Love Juice”

Here is an adorable idea from tatertots and jello blog.  Attached to the bottle of water is a packet of Hawaiian Punch that turns clear water into a red, love juice.  If you go to the blog,Kalleen’s been completely generous with free printables and tells you where to get the Hawaiian Punch packets to magically turn this water into red juice.  The idea is awesome.  My son loves color mixing, but he’s four…and I can’t bare to give him Hawaiian Punch yet.  I know. I’m Lame.  But the idea is still really awesome and I can see older kids loving the fun in this!

Until he’s a little older, I think we will totally make some “love juice” at home, but use a natural red cherry juice to change the water from clear to pink or reddish.  My son is going to love doing the pouring!  He loves being my kitchen helper!

 

Valentine, you rock!

So do you, Goexplorenature.com!  One of my favorites, because it’s something my son can really make!  Collect the best rocks, draw a heart on them with a sharpie and have your kids color or paint it in.  A fun way to be creative and boost those fine motor skills all at the same time!

 

Blooming Cupcake Liners!

How cute is this!  Find some yellow cup cake liners and make a crocus to give someone a real St. Valentine treat!

How To: Make Blooming Cupcake Liners

 

Photo Valentines!
Grab your camera, secure a few construction paper hearts to your wall with painters tape and have a photo shoot!
Print the images out, write you sweet note on the back and your done!  I love this sweet idea from deliacreates.
Valentine's cards
And as always, have a Safe and Happy Valentine’s Day!  XOXO!
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