Mama May I Eat Healthy?

My friend Jessica from Mama May I Shop (www.mamamayishop.com) is arguably one of the most creative Moms that I know. She has a million tricks up her sleeve for entertaining little ones and helping them learn. There’s a lot more to parenting than just providing entertainment, though. It can be a challenge to get kids to eat healthy, but she has some great snack suggestions and advice for making a meal that even the pickiest toddler can’t refuse!
Her two favorite snacks to serve her girls are Trail Mix and anything with Dip. She says that, “Layla loves being the trail mix chef.” Imagine how fun it would be for a kid to mix dried fruits, nut slivers, cereal, and pretzels? Another expert tip, “Anytime you add dip or some cute utensil to pick stuff up it automatically gets eaten.”
Check out this list of snacks to fill a Bento:
toddler meal, snack, kid foodFrozen Dora beans (edamame)
Frozen yogurt sticks (like Popsicles) 
Miniature pepperoni
Cheese sticks – or cheese cubed
Applesauce
Freeze dried yogurt – and fruit
Dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, prunes
Any season fruit
Rice cakes
Homemade granola
Homemade trail mix
Celery with peanut butter and raisins
Apples with peanut butter
Carrot sticks and hummus
Hummus with veggies

What are your favorite trail mix ingredients?

What is a Real Toy?

Have you ever wondered why a child is more fascinated by a box than a present? Perhaps you’ve seen a little one fumble intently with a pair of cups for several minutes only to walk past every other toy in the room. It may be hard to see at first, but when you watch these little intentions it is very clear that our children are mimicking our actions from a very young age. More than any other form of play, they want to learn how to be like the people they care for the most. We can harness that enthusiasm by training them to follow us.

Tonight, we’re having a twitter party to talk about #Realtoys. These are toys that inspire play. Although it might be difficult to find toys like these at a big box retailer and you may never see them in a commercial, these are the toys kids need. From a very young age, children can learn and practice skills by mimicking adults.

I’m enthusiastically supporting Bull Market Toys’ quest to discover great new learning toys to sell in their store! I love these toys just as much as my kids. They are fun to play, they are fun to hold, and they are even fun to put away. Let’s share the ways we entertain our children. Let’s take pride in getting down on our hands and knees with our kids. Let’s grow great kids!

real toys

This picture was specially designed by Elizabeth of Moulage Collection. http://www.etsy.com/shop/MoulageCollection

Mr. Eco Incognito Takes on The Ultimate UpCycle Challenge

VOTE for MR. ECO INCOGNITO IN THE ULTIMATE UPCYCLE CHALLENGE HERE: Click this link to vote on Facebook
Ultimate Upcycle Challenge

It’s time to unveil my project for the Ultimate Up-Cycle Challenge being sponsored by the Philadelphia Home Show and Habitat for Humanity. In case you didn’t see it coming, I turned a big old worn out dresser into a rockin’ manspired bar. It’s even complete with some sweet swag from Victory Brewing Company. That dresser was a beast. She’s still heavier than sin and she looks really good. It’s hard to see her go, but good to know that the proceeds from the auction will go to the Habitat for Humanity. So I have to ask… What would you pay for my bar?

victory beer label bar

A few weeks ago, we shopped the ReStore for a piece to upcycle. It took me a while to decide on the best project since there was a lot of inspiration in the store. I settled on a huge dresser because I’ve always wanted to build a bar and that thing had really good bones for the project. I started by separating the top and bottom. Then I had to saw down the base since it was taller than I expected. I took apart the shelving from the original base unit and reserved the fixtures. Next, I faced the side that was the back of the dresser with hardwood flooring to make it the new front of the bar. I spray painted the ledge black and added some storage for the bartender. Finally, the top of the bar has a sheen lacquer over a carefully planned collage of Victory Beer Labels.

Check out all the pictures from the process on pinterest: pinterest.com/mrecoincognito/ultimate-upcycle-challenge/

This is a bar that I’d be proud to keep in my man cave. It’s made from items that otherwise could have ended up in a dump. Hopefully people will see the potential in old furniture and get inspired to recreate from my project and the others in the Ultimate Upcycle Challenge.

ultimate upcycle challenge

Garden State Discovery Museum Debuts a New Exhibit

California Pizza Kitchen ExhibitOn Thursday, the girls and I went to New Jersey’s Garden State Discovery Museum to tour their brand new California Pizza Kitchen exhibit. The museum is filled with creative spaces for kids to explore various workplaces in a hands-on environment. With inspiration and supplies for loads of activities in each section, kids of all ages are sure to delight during a trip to this museum.

making pizzaThe new ‘restaurant’ offers a chic, modern area to learn skills from colors to fractions. It’s likely that the youngest visitors will enjoy loading a pizza with various toppings while talking about the shapes and colors of the pieces. We used the kitchen supplies to make a felt pizza in the amazing replica wood stove. Hannah especially liked that the counter for the sink was at her height. She easily found containers like plates and cups to fill with the vibrant colored felt veggies that caught her eye. Older kids will enjoy role play games of acting out the various roles at the restaurant. It perfectly resembles the original space, but is tailored to the size of a child. The pizza slices are intended to help learn fractions, too. Learning math with objects is an entertaining way to reinforce those basic skills.

Mark (exhibits manager), Steve, Nick(Not pictured) John, Matt, Jeff, Katie

Mark (exhibits manager), Steve, Nick
(Not pictured) John, Matt, Jeff, Katie

We met a few members of the design team and learned about the work behind the scenes. They use a small space in the back of the museum to assemble everything on site. A lot of the wood in the exhibit was repurposed from an older display. There are quite a few areas, including a recycled arts and crafts area, that promote the ideas of reusing and upcycling.

Our favorite space in the museum is the Little Discoveries Barnyard. It is a large, farm-inspired area for the up-to-4 crowd that boasts an actual scaled-down barn. Take a look on the walls for helpful inspiration on age-appropriate activities for little ones. A little guidance can help a child discover an exciting skill from performing an activity like sorting carrots into holes.

Everything you need to know about visiting the museum is on the website: http://www.discoverymuseum.com/

BabyGap VIP Reading Event with Diapered Daze and Knights

toddler with bunnyTo celebrate the new Peter Rabbit- inspired clothing line, BabyGap hosted reading parties at 30 US locations fit for a VIT (Very Important Toddler.) The girls and I went to watch my friend Heather, who writes the blog Diapered Daze and Knights (www.diaperedknights.com) read a story. Starting outside, my toddler found lots of rabbity excitement. We had no idea that the Gap at King of Prussia Mall was throwing such a swanky event!

carrot potsThey cleared a special section on the floor so that the kids had room to color, meet Peter Rabbit, hear a story, and then sample some sweet and savory goodies. First of all, I have to show you the food table. How cute are those little carrot pots? They had a small portion of hummus or ranch dressing that all the kiddos loved. They also served mini PB&J’s cut into bunnies and a ton of garden-themed cupcakes.

Baby Gap's Peter Rabbit lineAll the clothes are swoon-worthy. If I didn’t have a budget, I could easily purchase two of each item for my little girls! I loved the boy’s polo with rabbit-print, too. Heather and I both agreed that we love Gap’s clothes because they are generally made from cotton so they’re soft on kid’s skin. Plus, we can always find coupons for a deal. Recently, I’ve made an effort to shop at the end of the season for next year to catch the best deals. When it comes to our wardrobe, I like to keep it small. By having less items total, we can purchase higher quality goods on the same budget. Lucky for us, we get to use everything twice!

How to Interview Preschools – Main Line Parent Early Childhood Education Fair

By: Jeannette Bezinque

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

Main Line Parent Magazine hosted two Early Childhood Education Fairs to showcase some of the best learning centers in the area on the weekend of January 26-27. It offered a great opportunity to meet with representatives from each school to learn about their programs. Plus, UrbanSitter.com hosted a mingle to help families meet babysitters and nannies in the area. As usual, I brought my two co-correspondents to help.

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

The best part about taking your kids to an event like this is having the opportunity to see the creative ways the teachers will engage your children. As a parent, it’s important to get involved with the education program you choose for your kids. Although it wasn’t the usual setting, every school brought a little bit of the classroom to demonstrate a typical activity. I was instantly drawn to the large wooden activity at the Kimberton Waldorf School’s table because several kids of varying ages were all intently playing together. The Riverbend Environmental Education Center showcased  an eye-catching display of skulls and pelts from animals on the table. The instructor enthusiastically greeted Hannah and then told me about the birthday parties and summer programs available.

I really enjoyed speaking with the Walden School. The teachers there have a great concept of focusing a Montessori education with a foundation of respectful social interactions. Even at a young age, their students grasp complex ideas of sharing and conflict resolution. Nearby in Chester Springs, the Montgomery School hosts a Mommy and Me program on the 1st Thursday of each month. Their fourth and fifth graders are the teachers for this FREE community activity. We are planning to attend soon and hope you can join us!

The School in Rose Valley has a terrific, natural concept for their education program. The students compost, garden, and participate in lots of outdoor activities on their Earthy playground. Many of the schools had multiple facilities. For instance, the Hildebrandt school of Berwyn is also in Exton, PA. In addition to school presenters, there were also programs designed to help parents learn these skills. SparkPark offers a ParentPark in conjunction with the kid’s activities.

If you are interviewing in the hopes of selecting a great pre-school, I have a handful of questions that you can ask to get a good understanding of the education program.

Top 5 Questions to Ask a Potential Preschool / Daycare/ Nanny in an interview

1. How would you describe the learning style?

2. What are the features that make your school unique?

3. How much time do the kids spend watching TV on average during the week?

4. Does the chef use fresh ingredients to prepare healthy foods for the children?

5. Do you offer enrichment programs to help parents better understand and implement the learning styles at home?

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

I was thrilled to meet Jen Capone (http://jencapone.com/), who took these beautiful photos. Not only is Jen an amazing photographer, but she is also living a green lifestyle and a community advocate. She shared about her experience raising four kids and saving beaucoup bucks by being conscientious and cheap. Her motto? “If I can’t compost it or recycle it, I don’t buy it.”

There were so many fantastic schools, after-school programs, and summer camps that I didn’t have a chance to meet them all so I want to share this handy list of sponsors from the Main Line Parent Website so that you can research the ones that may offer the best fit for your family’s needs. Thank you Main Line Parent for hosting a well-planned event to help parents find excellent childhood learning centers!

Agnes Irwin School Ithan Avenue and Conestoga Road | Rosemont | 610-526-1672 Agnes Irwin is a PreKindergarten through 12th grade all-girls independent school.


Baldwin School 701 Montgomery Avenue | Bryn Mawr | 610-525-2700 Established in 1888, The Baldwin School is an independent Pre-K through 12 school that develops “thinking girls” into accomplished women.


Brain Balance Centers of Wayne 250 West Lancaster Ave, Suite 110 | Wayne | 610-688-2700 Our program is intended for children who suffer from the effects of AD/HD, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, processing disorders, PDD and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Bricks 4 Kidz King of Prussia, Main Line, Newtown Square, Phoenixville | 610-871-LEGO Bricks 4 Kidz teaches children ages 3-13+ an integrated curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through center-based activities, on-campus after school enrichment programs, spring break and summer camps, field trips, and more! Our social programs designed to stimulate young children’s minds and encourage technical and technological discovery include Kidz Nite Out, Birthday Parties and Challenge Days.


Bryn Mawr Hospital/Nemours 240 N. Radnor Chester Road | Radnor | 484-580-1037 Bryn Mawr Hospital and Nemours expand pediatric partnership to bring specialized pediatric care services to the five-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania.


Country Day School of Sacred Heart 480 S Bryn Mawr Ave. | Bryn Mawr | 610-527-3915 ext. 214 A Catholic, independent school, Sacred Heart educates, nurtures, and values one girl at a time. Flexible before and aftercare available.


Friends School Haverford 851 Buck Lane | Haverford | 610-642-0354 Founded in 1885, Friends School Haverford is a co-educational preschool 3s through eighth grade Quaker School. Friends School Haverford inspires the imagination and challenges the intellect.


Happy Family Brands 139 Fulton Street, Suite 907 | New York | 484-466-3084 HAPPYBABY is committed to providing families with the healthiest, most optimal nutrition possible. Besides using the best organic ingredients, we also incorporate the best nature has to offer when it comes to added nutrition, like our sustainable source of DHA, pre and probiotics, and supergrains like Salba and quinoa.


Hildebrandt Learning Center 1001 Old Cassatt Road | Berwyn | 610-390-8883 We are a NAEYC accredited, 4 star Keystone Stars program that provides an exceptional foundation for children infant to preschool aged.

ING Financial Partners  1880 JFK Boulevard, St 1600 | Philadelphia | 215-399-5558 ING Financial Partners offers a comprehensive range of financial planning services.


Kimberton Waldorf School 410 West Seven Stars Road | Phoenixville | 610-933-3635 x107 Kimberton Waldorf School serves approximately 300 children in preschool through 12th grade, and is the second oldest Waldorf School in North America.


Montgomery School 1141 Kimberton Road | Chester Springs | 610-827-7222 Montgomery School is an Independent School serving grades Prekindergarten through Grade Eight in Chester Springs, PA.


Our Lady of the Assumption Preschool and Kindergarten 135 Fairfield Lane | Strafford | 610-983-0310OLA is a Prechool, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and Pre-First Grade School where children learn in a safe, nurturing and loving environment! It only takes a spark to get a fire burning! Our Lady of the Assumption Academy Excellence where sparks fly!


Open Connections 1616 Delchester Road | Newtown Square | 610-459-3366 Youth ages 2-18 attend our programs 1-3 days a week. We serve as a community base for families seeking an innovative, collaborative, and Process Conscious environment.


Riverbend Environmental Education Center (Gladwyne) 1950 Spring Mill Road | Gladwyne | 610-527-5234 Riverbend connects children to nature with quality programs for schools, family programs, year round holiday camps and Summer Exploration Camp.


The School in Rose Valley 20 School Lane | Rose Valley| 610-566-1088 The School in Rose Valley (SRV) is an independent, progressive school for children in preschool through sixth grade located on a beautiful, seven-acre campus near Media, PA. SRV’s program balances academic instruction, indoor and outdoor play, and the arts.


Spanish Workshop for Children PO Box 693 | Blue Bell | 610-489-5595 Spanish immersion program for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children.

SparkPark 950Montgomery Ave | Narberth | Enrichment programs for kids with classes in science, art, woodshop, and foreign languages: Spanish, French and Mandarin.


Upper Main Line YMCA Early Learning 1132 S. Leopard Road | Berwyn | 610-647-9622 UMLY Early Learning offers full and half day options. Our unique facility offers enrichment classes in arts/humanities, nature, sports, and swimming.


UrbanSitter.com Founded by four busy parents, UrbanSitter is an online resource where parents go to find & book babysitters recommended by people they know. Looking for the occasional sitter, full-time nanny, or last minute help? UrbanSitter will find available sitters—and show you the ones recommended by parents in your social circles (mother’s group, child’s school, sports team, etc.). Search sitters by date & time, book jobs, and even pay online—it’s quick, easy and efficient.


The Walden School 901 North Providence Road | Media | 610-892-8000 Founded in 1967, The Walden School is a Montessori-based pre through grade 8 independent school in Media, PA. At Walden, parents find academic excellence in a respectful atmosphere that inspires confidence and celebrates the uniqueness of each child.


Wayne Art Center413 Maplewood Ave | Wayne | 610-688-3553 Opening in 1930 as the first Art Center on the Mainline, the Wayne Art Center is a non-profit center dedicated to enriching our community through the arts.


West Hill School 1455 West Hill Road | Rosemont | 610-525-7660 The West Hill School is a unique co-educational Preschool designed especially for children ages 2.7 to 5 years old.  We are  situated on over two beautiful acres in Rosemont.

 

Disclosure: I received compensation to attend the event in exchange for social media coverage. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

America, Stop Acting Like a Teenager

americaWe can all agree that there’s a problem in America today. I’m not going to say that I’ve got the solution, but I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong. America has turned into a teenager. She needs sleep, guidance, healthy food, room to test her boundaries, and a hug. Most of all, she needs to grow up.

For many generations, America was the baby nation. We were so cute and cuddly and filled with a vibrant youthful spirit that others, for the most part, couldn’t help but want to be around us. Sure, we bounced on the walls a bit and couldn’t help but fall down. At the end of the day, we were growing and learning. A few decades ago, we hit an awkward pre-teenage phase. Our clothes were always too big or too small, we never had enough money, but we still came home and had dinner at the table. We were in a hurry, though, so those microwave meals and fast food hit an all-time high of popularity. Recently, we have entered the God-Awful teenage years.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Americans, in general, are putting on the appearance that we’re a group of rambunctious, immature, gossipy idiots and we’re spoiling things for the good kids. The people who act out the worst are getting the most attention. We’re diverting resources from those who want to help and giving them to those who won’t help themselves. The art of parenting has turned into a busy dance of babysitters, with few people accepting full responsibility for the charge of raising their own children. Parenting does not stop at the age of 18. We need to form lifelong bonds in order to get back to our roots and build a better future for our kids.

We can’t keep up like this. People are getting hurt.

How do the best parents handle the teenage years? They offer forgiveness mixed with sternness. Maybe America needs to be grounded for a little while. No more amusement parks, no more new cars, no more allowance until you make an effort to change. Stay home, be with your family, do your chores. After that, we’ll see if we can start to fit in some rewards. And, no, you don’t need another bag of Doritos. Have an apple.

We’re in a rough patch right now, but I’m hopeful that better times are ahead. I don’t know how long it will take everyone to grow out of this phase, but I think that things will get better when America cleans up the mess from the keg party, quits drinking cheap beer, and settles down. Look how much people change when they find love. If the answer is that simple, all we need is to support a love for the Earth. Whenever things are difficult, I go outside and get back to nature. People might be doubtful that being green is the way to go, but I know that it’s true. The Green Kids aren’t all the most popular people in our crazy-America-high-school, but they’re the ones who are going to be our bosses in a few years.

When all else fails, more rules won’t help. Let’s give things time. Watch a garden grow, go camping, make food from scratch. Do something that takes time. We’ll look back and these teenage years will flash by in an instant. Right now, they’re dragging, but the end is in sight. Get ready for graduation.