Archive for August, 2013

6 Alternatives to a Traditional First Birthday Cake

August 29th, 2013 by admin

A child diving into her first birthday cake is an iconic childhood image, but it’s also one that many of today’s parents would rather avoid. The introduction of sugars, processed foods and chemical additives is a situation that many parents would like to put off for as long as possible, but the idea of depriving their child of a first birthday cake seems unreasonably cruel. In fact, there are a host of alternatives to a traditional cake that will not only be healthier for your little one and her guests, but will also put a fun and inventive twist on an old tradition.

  • Fruit Tortes – Instead of a towering confection made of refined flour, processed sugar and chemical dyes, why not make your own fresh fruit torte for Baby’s first birthday treat? Using locally grown, organic produce is the healthiest and most ecologically conscious choice. Just be sure that you’re not introducing strawberries or kiwi into her diet for the first time at her party, as these are common food allergens.
  • Angel Food Cake – Spongy, light and delicious, angel food cakes have been the go-to for dieters for years. With a bit of creative topping and a customized recipe, they can also be a healthier alternative to a traditional cake slathered in thick, sugary icing full of dyes and preservatives. Look for recipes that use honey or agave nectar for sweetening, as well as vegan options that will exclude animal products.
  • Watermelon Cake – In addition to being delicious and refreshing, a watermelon is also a great canvas for stylized desserts. Carve a slab of watermelon into a cake-like shape, decorate with flowers made of grapes and blueberries and celebrate Baby’s first big day with no preservatives, additives or refined sugars. Creative parents can even churn out a tiered affair by stacking several slabs in graduated sizes and experimenting with edible, all-natural garnishes.
  • Vegan Cupcakes – The vegan ingredients allow your baby and her guests to chow down on treats free of animal products and excessive calories, while the small size of a cupcake may prove to be the perfect portion size. No more slabs of sugary, egg-filled cake smothered in chemical-laced icing; just reach for a pre-portioned, beautifully decorated and vegan-friendly confection.
  • Mini Tarts – Miniature fruit tarts are an ideal cake alternative, especially if you make the crusts yourself in order to have more control over the ingredients. There are even recipes for vegan, gluten-free crust options. Choose delectable, fresh fruits for the filling and skip the sugary glazes. Sweet fruits can stand alone and don’t need the thick paste of sticky, sugary goo.
  • Cake Pops – Like cupcakes, only smaller, cake pops allow for greater portion control and can also be made to suit a gluten-free, vegan diet. Choose your icing options carefully and you may be able to eliminate the addition of refined sugar altogether. Just be sure to remove the sticks from Baby’s pop and cut it into manageable bites to avoid presenting a choking hazard.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your child’s first birthday cake. Not only will you be staving off the introduction of questionable chemicals and additives, but you can also soothe any pangs of guilt by realizing that, at a year old, she’s not likely to remember that her cake wasn’t a traditional one. Start your own traditions, and celebrate her first birthday knowing that you’re giving your child the gift of a strong, healthy body.

How to Foster a Positive Body Image in Your Teen

August 19th, 2013 by admin

The process of going through puberty is a rite of passage for every human on the planet, and is a concrete sign of your child’s physical maturation. Unfortunately, it’s also a time of dashed self-esteem and negative body image in many kids, especially teen and tween girls. Fostering a strong, positive sense of self-worth and a good body image may seem like a delicate balancing act, but there are steps you can take to help your teenager mature into a poised, confident and self-assured young adult.

Start Early

The foundation for a strong, positive body image in your teenager begins when she’s a child. Before the teenage years arrive, bringing with them the nagging fears and insecurities of puberty, start talking to your little one about different body types, acceptance and the appreciation of a healthy body. Make a point of discussing the unrealistic images she absorbs from the media and the collective societal scrutiny of celebrities and public figures. The ideas your child has about body image when she reaches her teen years will be shaped by what she’s already learned, so don’t wait until she’s a pre-teen to start this essential conversation.

Watch Your Own Speech

More than almost anything else, your children will learn how to interact with the world and how to view it by observing you. If they hear you constantly speaking ill of your shape or bemoaning a few extra pounds, they will absorb those insecurities and begin to reflect them. Make a point of speaking positively about your body, even when you feel insecure. Not only will it help you model a positive body image for your kids and teenagers, it will also boost your own sense of self-worth by cutting out negative, critical thinking.

Listen When She Talks About Her Body

When it seems like you and your teen are speaking a completely different language, figuring out how she feels and the standing of her self-confidence can seem like an insurmountable task. Teens naturally become a bit more withdrawn and reticent in their quest for independence, but you may not be as cut off from your teen as you think. Make a point of listening to her when she speaks, especially about herself. If she makes self-deprecating comments about her body, even in the form of a joke, you’ll know that it’s time to have a serious conversation about self-esteem and body image.

Encourage Her to Get Involved

Teenagers that are involved in their community or peer group through sports, clubs and other activities, have something to focus on other than their changing body and the way they feel about themselves. Organized sports, athletic programs and social or academic clubs can have a very real impact on a teenager’s self-esteem, so make a point of encouraging her to get involved with things that she’s interested in and pursue her hobbies in an active, engaging way.

Emphasize Physical Activity for Fun

As childhood obesity rates skyrocket and bring along with them a host of attendant health problems, encouraging kids to engage in active play and sports programs seems like a natural solution. Sedentary activities can increase a kid’s likelihood of gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, but focusing on physical activity for the sake of adhering to the narrow definition of beauty can lead to very real problems as your kids become teenagers as well. Rather than emphasizing the importance of exercise as a method of weight loss, make a point of praising the fun and exciting attributes of getting up, out and moving.

Help Kids Form Healthy Relationships With Food

Using food as a reward or a punishment, insisting that they clean their plates or withholding food can all contribute to unhealthy, skewed attitudes and a troubled relationship with food. Allow your child to eat when she’s hungry and stop when she’s full, and avoid treating food as something inherently bad or unfailingly positive. Foster an environment in which food is viewed as fuel, not a reward or a punishment.

Helping your teen to establish and maintain a positive body image doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lifelong process that begins when she’s a young child and will continue well into her young adulthood. Realizing that there will be peaks and valleys in your child’s view of her body is important, as is helping her to realize that unrealistic standards are not only unattainable, but also unhealthy and dangerous.

9 iPhone Apps That Could Save Your Teen’s Life

August 13th, 2013 by admin

Parenting a teen can be very worrisome these days. From news stories about teenagers that have gone missing to the startling statistics on how many accidents are caused by texting and driving, it’s no wonder that many parents sit at home and bite their fingernails until their kids are home again. Since letting kids have some freedom is a requirement if they are to ever lead independent adult lives, one thing that can give parents peace of mind is safety themed iPhone apps that can look out for kids when their parents aren’t there to do so. There are applications that have been created to ensure safe driving, steer clear of predators, find a lost teenager and assist in medical needs. There is even an app for kids who may be suffering emotionally. Knowing your child has these safeguards and tools at his fingertips can help you breathe easy and offer your teen child some guidance when he is venturing off on his own.

  • Life 360 Family Locator – Life 360 Locator is a must have for families with teens. The app lets the family know where each family member is located. If your teen is missing, you can find out his whereabouts if you have this app installed. They can also find you if they are lost in a large shopping center or amusement park. The app also lets your teen know what safety points and threats are nearby them. Price: Free
  • Canary –  Canary is essential for driving teens and the peace of mind of their parents. This app knows when the vehicle your teen is in is moving more than 12 miles per hour, and it notifies parents if the phone is being used in any capacity during this time. The app also sends parents updates as to how fast their child was driving and where she has traveled.  Price: Free
  • FBI Child ID – This app was developed by the FBI so that parents have a convenient place to store identifying information on their children, such as photos, height and weight of each child. This information can be sent to the authorities with one click if your child goes missing. Price: Free
  • Sex Offender Search – This app will let you know if there are any registered sex offenders in your area or in the neighborhood where your teen is spending time. You can also sign up to be alerted if an offender moves in to your neighborhood. Price: Free
  • DriveScribe – Reward your teen for being a safe driver! DriveScribe is a driving coach that monitors your teens driving and allows you to sponsor them so that they can accumulate points that they can trade in for gift cards. Price: Free
  • Teen Safe – Teen Safe is an iPhone monitoring system that also monitors Facebook and other online interactions. Parents will see all text messages, call logs and contacts. While this might feel like an invasion of privacy, if your child was ever in danger, this would be a good thing to have in order to track them down. Price: Free for six days, then $14.95 per month.
  • Pocket First Aid and CPR Guide – This app shows videos, illustrations and text in order to easily reference adult, child and infant CPR and First Aid. It can be easily accessed in an emergency situation and has a search function to make information simple to find. It also has a medical profile section so your teen can easily access medication, allergy, insurance and doctor information if they need it. Price: $1.99
  • Lock-Screen Pro – In case of an emergency, Lock-Screen Pro acts as a medical alert bracelet. It makes your teen’s home screen wallpaper show pertinent information, such as allergies, emergency contact numbers, and more. This is helpful for first responders in case anything goes wrong when your kids are away from home. Price: $1.99
  • Talk Life – Talk Life is a social networking app for people, mainly teens, who are struggling with mental health or self-harm issues. It is an anonymous site that users use to help one another and vent their hardships. Price: Free

How to Tell if Your Child is Ready for a Smartphone

August 7th, 2013 by admin

It’s hard to believe that cell phones haven’t been a part of the cultural landscape for generations, especially considering their ubiquitous presence now. While today’s parents remember a time before everyone carried a powerful mobile device in their back pocket, the fact is the tween and teens of today’s generation do not. When kids’ pleas for a device that connects them to the Internet and the world at large become deafening, it’s hard to objectively determine whether or not they’re actually prepared for such a responsibility. Before rushing out to pick up the newest and most advanced device, however, it’s imperative that parents take a variety of factors into account.

She’s Learning to Take Care of Her Possessions

Even smartphones on the lower end of the price spectrum can be quite expensive, and aren’t an investment that you’ll want to make if your child is still careless and inadvertently destructive. If she still tends to lose her school supplies or leave things behind, it’s a fairly strong indicator that she’s not ready for the responsibility of carrying around a small, fragile and exorbitantly expensive piece of technology on a daily basis. Safety concerns and the possibility of distraction aside, a child that isn’t capable of keeping up with less expensive items or keeping sturdier ones whole simply isn’t a good candidate for smartphone ownership. It’s probably best to stick with cheaper and more hardy phones until she matures a bit. On the other hand, if she tends to take care of her belongings and she’s mature enough to keep track of her phone, it may be a sign that she’s ready to upgrade to a phone that reflects that maturity.

Your Phone is Crowded With Homework Apps

One of the most valuable and attractive aspects of a smartphone for parents of tweens and teens is its ability to help kids with complex homework and assignment logging tasks. If your own smartphone is clogged with homework help and management apps, it may be time to consider upgrading your child’s phone to one that more accurately meets her needs and reflects her growing level of responsibility. This especially holds true if she’s holding your phone hostage during homework sessions.

Her Schedule is Becoming More Crowded

Today’s kid has more than attending school on the daily schedule. She also has athletic programs, clubs and teams, extracurricular activities and a social schedule to balance. One of the things that a smartphone brings to the table is an increased level of schedule management, but one feature that makes a smartphone especially enticing to parents is the capability of tracking and monitoring apps to ensure that your child is where she’s supposed to be throughout the day. With a dedicated family locator app, you can ensure that your child reaches her destination and remains there, especially if she’s dependent upon buses and carpools for transportation.

Consider Her Reliability Track Record

When you’re in the process of determining whether or not you think your child is mature enough and capable of handling the responsibility that comes along with owning a device that’s capable of pinpointing her location and potentially sending out dangerous amounts of personal information, it’s important to take more than just your child’s age into account. Consider her track record and the level of reliability she’s established in other areas of her life. If she’s mostly responsible and makes a point of following the rules, she may be ready for a smartphone. If, on the other hand, she’s showing signs of a rebellious streak and has shown questionable judgment that gives you cause to worry about how she would comport herself while in possession of a smartphone, you may want to wait a bit longer before making the switch.

She Has a Basic Understanding of Appropriate and Safe Use

The Internet is a powerful educational tool, but it can also be a dangerous world for kids that aren’t fully apprised of the risks that come with irresponsible use. Before you hand a smartphone over to your tween or teen, make sure that she understands how imperative it is to maintain proper boundaries and privacy standards. From online predators to identity thieves, there is a plethora of ill-intentioned people in the world that would, if given the chance, take advantage of a child who isn’t aware of the dangers.

You Have an Open Dialogue Regarding Internet Safety and the Dangers of Cyberbullying

Unknown predators are the stuff of nightmares for parents, but your child’s peers can prove to be just as dangerous. Smartphones allow kids to access the wide range of information available through the Internet, but they also open them up to attacks from cyberbullies. Make sure that your child knows not only how to deal with cyberbullies that target her, but also all of the reasons why she should never, under any circumstances, engage in such hateful and harmful behavior herself. Only then is she truly ready for a smartphone.