How Can I Help My Toddler To Have Healthy Food Habits?

I’ve said it a hundred times lately that I’m so excited, and out of all the projects I’ve been working on, this is the one that just has me PUMPED! Seriously. So excited!

Like any toddler, mine goes through roller coasters where for weeks we fight through 90 minute dinners just to have him take five bites, and then last week, he ate his weight each day of whatever we gave him. But it was in those weeks where he wasn’t eating that I tried desperately to explain to him why he needed to eat dinner before dessert, or why I wouldn’t let him snack before lunch, or why he couldn’t have a spoonful of brown sugar straight out of the packaging. Sometimes those things all happen. Regularly, even. Don’t judge. But in my house they can only happen if he also eats what we have prepared for him to be healthy. Or just if I’m desperate. The odds are usually in his favor. I’m not alone on that, right?

But how the heck do you explain to an irrational small human why they get it sometimes, but not now? After a lot of thought, I think I’ve got some suggestions, aaaand some awesomely applicable resources/games to help! If you’d like to purchase this 40+ page Expedition of Chinese Food, you can keep reading/scroll to the end, or click on any image to go to the China Shop.

What should I say when my child demands dessert/snacks before meals?

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty proud of the explanation I’ve come up with during quarantine:

Oh, I can’t wait to eat ice cream tonight, if that’s what you want to do! BUT. If we eat too much sugar, it’ll make our bellies hurt. So we need to eat more fruits and vegetables than sugar. Can you eat a lot more fruits and vegetables tonight before we have a little dessert tonight?

I mean, that’s a pretty soundly scientific explanation for a two year old, right? It keeps in line with the food pyramid, and also doesn’t deprive them of a healthy love of sweet food. Win-win, I’d say!

It’s all about Yin and Yang and having that balance, right? So I went a step further and did an activity that illustrates exactly that!

How do I encourage them to CHOOSE a healthy diet?

I’m a full grown woman – old enough to have two babies, at least – and I still am 5000x more likely to get excited and dive in to a pretty plate of totally new food, than one that I have eaten 50 times and know is good, but is just, well, colorless. Afredo, chicken and rice mixes, rice and beans. You can’t go wrong with any of them. But to me, they’re last picks because – apparently – I’m mentally a toddler about food. I want a RAINBOW on my plate. Luckily, that also happens to be a pretty guaranteed way to get a variety of nutrients.

You’ve maybe heard of the rainbow diet – try to eat as many colors of the rainbow as you can at each meal. Really, it’s pretty brilliant. It’s also a ridiculously simplified branch off of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Chinese Food Therapy. If you don’t know anything about TCM, the theories are based on food being used to heal and enable the body. We can all get on board with that, right? I believe that’s exactly what food’s purpose is. But TCM takes it way further and break down foods and people by colors, tastes, target organs and even seasons to help keep people healthy. It’s old, and the details are scientifically outdated, I know. Still, I decided to use it as my model to encourage having a variety of foods on my son’s plate each day, because colors, tastes, body parts and seasons are right up a toddler’s alley. You can see how I approach it with the Food is the Best Medicine Lesson. Try it for yourself!

Expedition of Chinese Food

40+ pages of activities directed toward helping your child better understand their body's relationship with food and encourage them to eat healthy, all based on Chinese food practices.

$5.00

Includes:
6 Easy-to-Follow Expeditions of Food and the Body with Discussion Prompts and Activity Instructions/Ideas to lead you through every page
A list of Additional Resources – Books and Videos – with links to purchase and/or access for free
Bonus Activity Ideas
A pretend play Chinese Restaurant setup with all the pieces needed

What Do Different Cultures Say About The Tree of Life?

Tu Bishvat, also called Tu B’Shevat and The New Year of the Trees, is coming up on February 9, 2020! And I wish I had a whole tree unit done already, but for now I have this super fun freebie that I think is equally perfect for this holiday. You see, this Jewish tradition involves planting trees. So, what better time than now to learn about how they grow and what they symbolize to different people!

The tree of life story seems like a tale as old as time, reaching across countless cultures, which makes it a great tool for comparing cultures. Plus, it’s chock full of symbolism and often comes with stories of great adventure and struggle to reach it, much like the Holy Grail. And if you know me, you might know I love these two things a lot – ancient symbols, and stories that apply them. My family spent a lot of time this month enjoying all these different tales we could find and created this freebie for you!

I hate to string you out and say that you’ll have to wait for my tree unit to finish before I can pull my thoughts together on how each culture views the tree of life differently, but I can say that the thing that stays the same is that the tree of life is always viewed as a type of paradise and rest. And that’s what I tried to capture most in my coloring page.

The coloring page is full of different symbols that I thought represented some of my favorite parts of each story we read in some way or another. Some of those symbols include:

  • 7 branches. In Hebrew, 7 represents something being perfect or whole.
  • 10 fruit. Multiple accounts talk about the fruit being “most desirable” and compare the fruit to blessings. In Hebrew, 10 can just mean a lot, or even numberless. Like numberless blessings coming from the tree.
  • The tree of life in many accounts is near a body of water, but in some interpretations, the flow of water seems to come from the tree itself.
  • The tree is associated with a higher power.
  • The Baobab tree is considered the tree of life in Africa, and I read that elephants are one of its only natural predators. The way elephants can sense the water in the trees is amazing and, I thought, symbolic.
  • The flowers drawn on the trunk are structured like the Kabbalah representation of the tree of life.

I also included a very brief summary of each of the traditions that we read from. Our favorite story though, was The Legend of the First Baobab Tree. So I made it into an easy, printable coloring book for you to enjoy with your littles!

Enjoy this look into the book and then subscribe below to get your own copy!

Follow along on social media this week to learn more about these with fun story-tellings and videos!

To receive access to all of my freebies, including this one, just subscribe below! I promise I don’t have time to spam you and will use your email only to send you the most exciting and informative occasional updates, like when more freebies are added to the vault!

3 Easy-Setup Toddler Activities for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is here again! And if you didn’t know, it’s on January 25, 2020. So what do you need to celebrate this Lunar New Year event? Not much, actually. Just some food, friends, family, games and hong bao! And though I can’t control the friends and family for you, I can help give some suggestions for the other areas.

In this post I’ll offer three easy and so inexpensive activity ideas that you can do, along with resources I’ve made myself for a couple of them!

NOTE: any purchases are made through PayPal and the download will arrive in your email within a day.

Chinese Food

There are so many delicious chinese foods! The most popular for celebrating Chinese New Year is dumplings, according to my VIPKID students! But of course, it depends on what region of China you find yourself. The most important thing is just to feast with family in the spirit of moving forward into a new, prosperous year.

My 2-year-old son’s favorite Chinese food at the moment is egg rolls, and so that is what we will be eating this weekend alongside some homemade orange chicken!

When it comes to fried food, I have a strict perimeter the kids have to maintain in the kitchen so that nobody gets hurt. But leading up to the frying part, egg rolls are a super fun and the easiest food for little hands to practice folding and wrapping! It’s seriously such a simple side dish! Maybe I’m late to this knowledge, but here’s a tip from our favorite way to make egg rolls – use some broccoli slaw instead of normal coleslaw! YUM!


The Chinese Zodiac

Legend tells of a time long ago when a loud fight broke out among the animals over what to call each of the years. To solve the problem, the Jade Emperor of Heaven commanded each animal to race for a position to have the years named after them. The first twelve animals to cross the finish line would be given the honor of having a year named after them.

This year, 2020, is the year of the rat, which happens to also mark the beginning of another zodiac cycle! Spoiler Alert: the rat wins in the traditional great animal race story. And though this game I’ve created is skewed to help the clever rat win, it’s not a guarantee.

In this fun game, learn about the 12 animals that won the race, what characteristics helped them win, and then lead your own race to see who wins in a rematch! Purchase it here and receive to have it emailed directly to your inbox!

The Great Animal Race Game

Playing board, 12 animal pieces, spinner, game rules, and a short version of the great race story to read! (a total of 5 pages) This is all so easy to print and put together that makes for a lot of fun! Ages 3+

$3.00


Hong Bao

Hong = red , bao = package. More than any other tradition, this is what my Chinese students show off to me after their month-long New Year vacation. The red package that comes stuffed with money from moms, dads, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles. It represents good fortune for the upcoming year, as most red things do in the Chinese culture.

An example of hong bao that is so easy to do at home!

You can purchase this fun printable I made to be emailed to you to make your own hong bao and surprise your children this weekend!

Hong Bao

Just print, cut, fold, glue, and then stuff your hong bao with notes of love and/or money! Three different styles vary from somewhat traditional to a fun one for the year of the rat.

$1.00

If you want to learn more about Chinese New Year, its legends and traditions, then check out this post from last year: C is for China Celebrates!