Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Gift for Your Kids This Season...A Lesson in Giving

The holiday season is a great opportunity to inspire charity in children.

The holidays are bursting with abundance. Take time to enjoy the spirit of the season with your kids.  Use all your senses!  Take in the brilliant sights, joyful sounds, the scent of pine and of gingerbread houses.  Savor each special morsel of holiday food.  Enjoy the soothing warmth of the fireplace.  Go out and be exhilarated by the snow with your kids.  Or if you live in Hawaii, like our family, or some other warm place, play in the rain puddles on a rainy winter day or go to the beach on a perfectly beautiful warm, sunny winter day.  Take time to reflect on the year and the abundance in your family’s life – no matter how poor you are; even in these difficult economic times – if you are healthy and live in the United States, you are far better off than the most of the rest of the world. 

As you reflect on the the good things in your life, however, remember that as well off as we are, the holidays are a time of sadness for many people.  There are many people with no shelter; people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  There are people who are sick and people who are dying.  And there are so many people out there who are just plain lonely.  

Your kids need to know this.  Share this information with them, and then empower your kids by teaching them to make a difference. There are so many reasons to give.  Giving not only brings a little light to others; it makes us feel good too.  

Here are just a few of the benefits of teaching your kids to be charitable:

  1. Kids gain perspective.  They see firsthand the hardships that others endure and may possibly appreciate their own abundance a little bit more.
  2. Kids develop compassion.  Hearing about the hardships of others helps to develop compassion and a broader world view.  Seeing it firsthand or interacting with individuals in need makes an even greater impact. 
  3. Let’s kids know that they can make a difference. Kids learn that even as children they have the power to bring dignity, hope and joy to others.
  4. Makes kids feel proud.  Kids want to make a positive impact and feel like contributing members of society.  Doing so makes them feel very proud.

Ways to  Give 

The greatest impact is achieved when children have personally invested in the act, and is even greater when they actually meet the recipient of their gift.  Be sure to include a kind note of inspiration and compassion with your gifts. 

  1. Bring breakfast to the homeless.  We did this last year on Christmas morning.  We wanted to make it homemade, but we ran out of time so we picked up 10 breakfast platters from McDonald’s and took them to a park where we know a lot of homeless people are.  It was our first time doing this, but the response was incredible!  The people we delivered the breakfasts to were so grateful, and several called us “angels”.  My older son, who was 5 years old at the time, decided on his own to take money from his piggy bank to share with the homeless too.  It was such a proud moment for me.  The most amazing thing is that his most vivid memory of Christmas 2007 is bringing food to the homeless; and his spirit of giving has continued throughout the year.  
  2. Make homemade snow globes and deliver them to sick children or the elderly in a hospital.
  3. Adopt a family – find a family in need.  If you don’t know of one personally, check with your church or the Salvation Army to refer you to one.  Your family could pick out gifts, drop off a wonderful holiday meal or invite them into your home for Christmas dinner.  Another fun thing to do is to drop off a festive decorated box of wrapped toys, clothes and other gifts and goodies at the door anonymously – like a Secret Santa Angel.
  4. Play Santa to nursing home residents.  Wrap up small gifts like a nice natural hypoallergenic lotion, lip balm, books or magazines, board games, extra soft non-skid socks or soft lap blankets; put on Santa hats and grab a pillow case and deliver the gifts.  Be sure to stop and chat and/or sing Christmas carols as you make your deliveries.
  5. Volunteer as a family to serve a meal at a homeless shelter.

There are so many ways to make a positive impact on others.  And giving can (and should be) done year-round. If you can’t make time this year to do something in person, here are some other ideas to plant the seed of charity in your kids:

  1. Have your kids pick out toys to donate to Toys for Tots.  Drop them off together. 
  2. Demonstrate to your kids how you set aside a portion of your income to give to charity and teach them to do the same.  Ask them who they would like to help and find a charity that serves that niche.  Help your children donate to the organizations they choose.  If the charity lists the names of donors, be sure to show the list to your kids and have them find their names.
  3. Have your children go through their toys and clothes and select items that are still in good shape to donate to a local women’s shelter or the charity of their choice (check around, though – many places will no longer accept toys because of the liability associated with recalled items). 
I would love to hear your - or your kids’- ideas for charitable giving.  The more creative the better!

Give your kids the best gift of all this year - gift that will be a beautiful memory and a lesson in appreciation and compassion. The gift that brings the greatest joy of all.  The gift of giving. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Green Gifts for Kids

My bloggy friend Small Footprints of the great blog Reduce Footprints ( kindly and generously invited me to collaborate on a post about green gift ideas for kids.    Reduce Footprints is a fantastic blog with great information about being a better citizen of this incredible planet.  It is a great blog that I am always learning from.  If you are not already a follower of Reduce Footprints, please check it out.  I'm sure you'll find it great reading!  Thank you so much to Small Footprints for this fun collaboration!  

This post is partially borrowed and modified from the collaborative article posted today on Reduce Footprints.  

With a blog called Wellness KIDS, our focus, obviously is on kids' wellness. Kids’ wellness encompasses not just physical health, but psychological, social, and moral health as well.  Our goal as parents is to raise children who become positive, healthy adults who see beyond themselves, beyond their small piece of the world and actively try to make the world a better place each and every day.

With that goal in mind, we are keenly aware that there are teachable moments in nearly every choice we, as parents make.  And the holidays are no exception.

The holidays are such an exciting time of anticipation and expectation for children!  Children who watch television are especially full of wishes for the latest and greatest toys that are flashed incessantly before their little eyes.  Fortunately, this is not the case with our kids.  They do, however, go to school with other kids who talk about the latest and greatest "have 2 have" toys. 

We have a comfortable home, but it is not large, so we are constantly trying to downsize the clutter.   It seems as if every time we give away a toy, two more come in!

So this Christmas, we are doing something different.  We are downsizing the "getting" side of the holidays and upsizing the "giving" side of the season.  We will try to use this economy to teach the kids about not spending in excess.  We will use our gifting choices to teach our kids about caring for our planet.  And we will use this season of joy and excitement to teach the kids about those less fortunate and how good it feels to help others.  My fellow mommy friends and I agreed not to exchange gifts this year.  Instead, we will use the money we would have spent on each other to demonstrate charity to our kids (those ideas will be my next blog post).  

Of course, our kids will get gifts from Santa (us) this year, but he (we) are making an effort to give them gifts that are gentler on our planet than the normal battery loving, buzzing, ringing, noisy shiny plastic stuff. 

I love the challenge of finding gifts that stimulate the mind, encourage creativity, are fun, and good to our planet. If you Google “eco-friendly gifts for kids”, you’ll find lots of great online retailers carrying a wonderful variety earth-friendly natural wooden, fabric and other types of toys. This year I tried to think of gifts that are not only natural or recyclable, but items that actually use or teach how to make use of recycled materials, and/or do something beneficial for our planet.

Here are 5 of my favorite kids’ gift ideas this year:

$8.76 - Recycled Crafts Kit

I absolutely love this one. Get the book, Recycled Crafts Kit, by Laura C. Martin and pack it in a decorated recycled box along with lots of great recycled materials to be used in the projects from the book. The book is full of great information about waste and recycling, as well as fun projects for kids to make. Cheap, educational, fun, and eco-friendly! What more could you want?

$25 - Gardening Kit

Buy a great gardening book for kids, like Roots, Boots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together With Children by Sharon Lovejoy ($11.16 on For about $25, you could get the book, and pack it together with some great kid-sized gardening gloves, a trowel, a pot and some seeds. Or you could go all out and provide and all the items needed to do one of the great gardens in the book. This is a great way for parents to spend time with their kids, for kids to learn the wonderful art of gardening and to add back to nature.

$50 - “Adopt an Animal” at

Give the gift of giving. Make a $50 donation to the World Wildlife Fund in your (or another) child’s name. 82 cents of every donated dollar goes toward the World Wildlife Foundation’s conservation efforts.

A $50 symbolic adoption includes as a thank you gift: A plush, stuffed animal, a species spotlight card, an adoption certificate, a 5”x7” color photo of the chosen animal and a drawstring gift bag. Choose from 80 available species. Or you can send an adoption card and allow the recipient to choose their own favorite animal. Order by 12/17/08 for arrival by Christmas.

Note: For a gift closer to home, support your local zoo. Many zoos have great adopt-an-animal programs too! Some of them include great behind the scene tours and other great benefits. Check your local zoo for more information.

$64/$84 Earth Friends (

These adorable dolls are made entirely from organic or recycled materials. They are just the kind of soft, loveable dolls that become instant favorites with children. There are nine boys and girls to choose from. Each Earth Friend arrives with his or her own little backpack with a tree planting kit inside.

$1299 – MacBook

Okay – it’s a high-end gift, but I just saw the commercial for the new MacBooks and was amazed. Kids love Macs because they are great for gaming and graphics programs, plus they are sleek, streamlined, cool-looking and seemingly immune to viruses and spyware.

Now there is another reason to love MacBooks. According to Apple, they are the most environmentally friendly notebook computers in the world. The new version of their most popular MacBook can run on just one quarter of the power of a single light bulb!

According to Apple’s website, each new MacBook is designed with the following features to reduce its environmental footprint:

  • Arsenic-free glass
  • Mercury-free LED-backlit display
  • Brominated flame retardant-free internal components
  • PVC-free internal cables
  • Highly recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
  • Up to 41 percent smaller packaging

So, if your kid has been especially great, this would be one heckuva gift!

Here are more great green gift ideas from Small Footprints:

  • When buying holiday gifts for the kids keep in mind that it’s better to buy products that are made of organic cotton and wood.
  • It's OK to give slightly used gifts. Look for items that are in good shape and that don't contain toxic materials.
  • Have a little artistic genius on your list? Buy earth friendly ... and animal friendly supplies.
  • Bedding ... what kid doesn't like to jump into a bed with his favorite cartoon characters on the sheets? Look for organic, Eco friendly materials in colorful, playful designs.
  • Furniture ... when I was a kid, my parents got us a little table and 4 chairs. It was kid-sized and we thought it was just about the coolest thing in the universe. I'm sure that they thought we'd eventually do homework on our little table ... we, however, imagined tea parties and art projects and car tracks and table games and ... well, you get the idea. So ... how about some kid friendly, earth friendly furniture. Look for organic wood and non-toxic paint.
  • For the outdoor kid (and those wonderful nature hikes), consider a backpack made from natural or recycled materials.
  • How about a LED flashlight ... after all ... what would ghost stories around a campfire be without one. There are green varieties available which are solar powered and still others which are kid powered (a crank is used to power it up).
  • For the little ones, how about a fun, animal shaped toothbrush. Recycline has a series called Preserve Jr. Check out their link below in the list of resources.
  • Toys never go out of style. Here are a few options (be sure to look for Eco-friendly materials and minimal packaging):

·         Fuel cell racing cars (they run on water ... wow)

·         Wooden building blocks or balls

·         Stuffed animals

·         Science kits

·         Crayons made out of soy wax

·         Did you know that ToysRus has an Eco-friendly line of toys? Yep ... it's true!

  • Don't forget about homemade treasures (again ... made with Eco-friendly materials):

·         Scarves, hats and mittens

·         Clothing

·         Stuffed dolls and animals

·         Candies and cookies

·         Doll houses and furniture

·         Kid friendly jewelry

  • Get the kids involved and help them make gifts for the people on their list.

For additional ideas and resources, check out the Internet. Here are a few suggestions:

Just remember ... with any gifts, consider packaging and materials. With a little effort and creativity, you can give the little ones on your list a gift that will not only bring smiles to their faces, but will make the earth happy as well.

Thank you so much to Small Footprints for initiating this great collaborative effort!  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Great Big Secret to Getting Kids to Eat Just About Anything

I am constantly amazed at how many articles I come across with recipes "That Your Kids Will Actually Eat!" or "Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables."  I've seen so many pieces about cutting food into adorable shapes or arranging broccoli into forests, or turning bell peppers into funny monster faces.  Honestly, who has the time for that kind of stuff?  It may be a fun, cute way to express your love once in a while, but do you really want that to be the only way your kids eat nutritious foods?  

I can't tell you how many times people approach us with utter amazement that our kids will eat just about anything.  Sure, our kids don't LOVE all of it, but they eat it and enjoy most of it. People wonder how we got our kids to be that way.  They tell us about how their kids will only eat Chicken McNuggets or grilled cheese sandwiches.  Our secret is this...we feed them what we eat.  We all eat the same thing.  No special meals.  No fancy presentation.  We cook nutritious meals and we eat together as a family.  Also, our kids drink water, so they are not full of juice.  They are super-active, rarely watch television and don't play computer games, so they have enormous appetites.  And we expect them to eat.  

Every morning we all eat some type of fruit and maybe some yogurt as a first course.  After the fruit course is eaten, they get their second course, which may be oatmeal, a homemade egg sandwich, or a slice of Amy's whole wheat pizza, or any number of things.  We call it "second breakfast."  At dinner, we almost always have a salad, which is served as a first course.  Once they've finished their salad, they may have the main dish.  When it comes to dessert, we go against the standard advice that it should be an occassional treat that is not to be used as a reward or punishment.  If the kids eat their salad and a reasonable portion of their dinner, they get dessert...every day.  It works for us and our kids are REALLY active, so weight issues are not a problem for them.

The truth is, kids do what you expect them to do (mostly).  If you assume they will eat, they will. If you think a food is not "kid-friendly" it won't be.  But think about it.  If you think, say, Indian food is too exotic for a child, what do you think kids in India eat?  Seriously, if you incorporate a variety of foods into your diets on a regular basis then they are not exotic.   And just because a food may be strange or exotic to you, doesn't mean your kid won't love it.  Kids take their cues from us, so if you don't like a food, just suck it up, eat it and pretend that you're enjoying it.  You will be rewarded with kids who enjoy the many exciting flavors of food.  Not to mention all that time you'll save by not making bell pepper monster faces.