Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall Themed Snacks - Healthy and Delicious!

Nobody loves a theme more than me!  I think a great way to introduce healthy foods to some of our children is to make it fun.  So I decided to round up some of my favorite Fall Themed snacks for children, or grownups!  Some of them are easy and take no time, other's take more prep time.  But they look so fun!

We provide two snacks a day for our children, and create a snack menu based on healthy choices.  We no longer allow families to bring in cupcakes or other sweets for birthdays, so we like to provide a "Birthday Alternatives" list.  I think some of these healthy options would be awesome for making snack fun and special, while still keeping it healthy.

It would be even better if you can get the little ones to help you prepare these snacks.  You can turn a cooking lesson into discussions on healthy foods, turn taking, measuring, cause and effect, and so much more.  Plus, children of all ages like to help out in the kitchen!  Take a look at some of my favorites below.

Candy Corn Popsicles - Delicious and Nutritious! By Girl Inspired
Girl. Inspired created these delicious looking homemade popsicles.  She lets each layer freeze for at least 5 minutes before pouring in the next layer.  This does require a popsicle mold, but I can think of so many other combinations that would be just as delicious.  This is a fantastic alternative to real Candy Corn, and all of the high sugar candies that start to come out this time of year.  Kids will feel like they are getting a special treat, since we don't do popsicles very often, when in fact they are getting a healthy alternative to candy or treats.
Microwave Sweet Potato Chips by Baked by an Introvert
We generally don't offer potato chips as a snack for our children, but these all natural sweet potato chips would be awesome.  And since all you need is a microwave kids could definitely help make them!  How easy are these, you literally slice, rinse, microwave for 3 minutes on each side, sprinkle with salt...and enjoy.  Anyone could do it!  I can't wait to try!

Fried Cinnamon Sugar Tortillas by Mondo
While on the topic of chips, look at these delicious looking friend cinnamon sugar looking tortillas.  With fall themed shapes, like these leaves, you can make something extra special for the kiddos.  Children can definitely help cut the tortillas with cookies cutters to make fun fall shapes.  But then you will need a separate space to safely fry them in oil.  Sprinkle them with a cinnamon sugar mix and serve immediately.  These look so tasty!

Baked Apple Chips by The Beach Body Blog
Now this recipe will definitely take more preparation and time, it takes over 2 hours to bake.  But you could always prepare them the day before.  During this time of year the majority of my students have recently gone apple picking.   They come in after a weekend excited to tell all about their time at the orchard, and many of them bring in bags of apples to share.  This is a really great way to use some of those apples!  These Baked Apple Chips are extremely easy, just time consuming.  Slice the apples, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake.  Ta-da!  I think children will be excited about a new way to enjoy their apples!

Other great apple recipes are apple bran muffins or home made applesauce.  We do this with the crockpot in my classes almost every year.  The children love being able to measure ingredients, check throughout the day to see how the apples change, smell the smells, and then get to enjoy the finished product.  This is a wonderful science experiment for them as well.  How do apples go from solid to liquid?  And the classroom smells unbelievably delicious All. Day. Long.

Very simple pumpkin snack by Surviving A Teacher's Salary
So simple, but this brings new life to boring snacks!  How adorable is a peeled clementine or small orange and a stick of celery?!  I love how easy this is, but will excite children for a fun Healthy Pumpkin Snack.
Fall tree with Carrots, pretzels, and raisins
Fall tree with Pretzels and Tomatoes
These last two I found while looking around but don't have a source to send you to.  I love how both of these snacks incorporate vegetables for a healthy snack.  There is no way that they would stay looking this nice and neat, but they sure do make a statement!  I think that children would also enjoy making their own food art, and changing up the pictures as they eat parts of the snack.

Do you have any go to snacks for the fall time?  How do you make eating healthy fun?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Benefits of increasing water consumption and a delicious recipe!

We have all heard before that you are supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day.  But why?  Is there a real reason behind that magic number?  I don't know about you, but I for one find it actually really hard to make it through that much water a day.

I did a little research to find out why we need so much water a day, and what the actual benefits are.  The CDC states that water helps your body regulate it's temperature, lubricate and cushion joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and aid in getting rid of waste.
Infusing water naturally is a great way to enjoy  those 8 glasses painlessly!
I dug a little deeper and found some added benefits. 

  • Water helps your kidneys.  When your kidneys have enough fluid they are able to help cleanse and flush your body of toxins.  Increasing your fluid intake can also help prevent kidney stones.  Sounds pretty beneficial to me!
  • Water can help control your calories.  If you're drinking enough water you probably aren't craving the sugary high-calorie drinks you might normally reach for.  Also, foods high in water content take up more space and help you feel fuller.  Think things like fruits, vegetables, beans, soups, etc.
  • Water can help kick-start your metabolism.  Many people recommend drinking a full glass of water before every meal.  Not only will it help with your metabolism and digestion, but you also won't be as hungry and won't feel the need to eat as much.  Pretty natural way to achieve portion control!
  • Water can help energize your body and muscles.  Particularly if you are getting ready to exercise, making sure that your muscles have adequate fluid will prevent fatigue and increase stamina.
  • Water helps with the appearance of your skin.  Skin is made up of 64% water, so replenishing the water that you loose throughout the day can prevent a dull appearance, wrinkles and even blemishes.  Say what?  How could water be the best skin care routine, its free?!  From what I read I learned that without proper hydration your skin can appear duller, and wrinkles or blemishes become more prominent.  Women's Health states that as we increase our water intake our skin plumps up, filling in cracks, wrinkles and pores.  As a bonus when our skin is hydrated, plump and elastic, it is less likely to crack and let in external particles that can cause future blemishes.  Check out this article if you would like to read more!
So overall I've learned that Water can give my skin a healthier appearance, energize my body, help cut down on wasted caloric intake, positively effect my metabolism and digestion, and improve my kidney function.  To me these look like huge benefits without needing to go out and spend any money.

But, the hardest part is actually drinking the water.  A while ago I created a blog post with a recipe for some really yummy Naturally Flavored Water.  Check it out for a very fruity and delicious water recipe.

I decided to make another simple one the other day.  By making my water interesting I find it easier to drink the recommended amount.  And, I'm not spending money on pre-flavored water.  In addition, since this is natural I don't have to worry about extra additives or unnecessary sugar additions.
Strawberries and fresh Mint from the garden ready to infuse water!
We still have a decent amount of Mint in our garden from this summer, and I had some strawberries left in the fridge, so I decided to make a Strawberry-Mint flavored water.  I gathered my supplies, sliced the strawberries and muddled the mint leaves, and then I filled my water bottle with freshly filtered water.

Add in 20 oz. of water and let sit overnight, lovely and subtle flavor the next day!
I stuck the water in the fridge and let it sit over night.  Then in the morning I filtered out the strawberries and mint, tossed in a few ice cubes and enjoyed!  

I used 4 strawberries and about 2 full sprigs of Mint, and my water bottle holds 20 oz. of water.  This is equal to about 2.5 cups of water.  The flavor was subtle but tasty!  If you want a stronger flavor you could also muddle the strawberries, or increase the amount you use.  

I finished the full 20 oz. at my desk that morning, and barely even realized that I was already 1/3 of the way finished with the recommended water intake for the day!

For me, this is a great alternative.  I enjoy water, but when I have to force myself to drink 8 glasses I'm less inclined to drink.  There are so many different ways to flavor your water, I would encourage you to see what flavors you have an play around.  This week I think I will be trying a watermelon basil flavor, mainly because I have basil from the garden I need to use before it's too late in the season!

What flavors would you enjoy?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Math Exploration - Final Pinecone Roundup

Today I am going to complete my Pinecone activity Roundups with Math activities!  Please check out my post on Pinecone Art Activities as well as Pinecone Science Activities.  I've had a lot of fun gathering ideas for different curriculum elements using natural materials that our youngest learners inquire about.  Fall has definitely hit New England and it was great to be able to bring nature inside and get those little minds inspired and little fingers engaged!

The first place I visited was Nurture Store: Creative Kids Learning for their Math Station.  I love that their math station leaves room for it to be an independent activity, group activity, or teacher directed activity, so many choices!  An investigation sheet leaves room for various questions, that you could come up with ahead of time, or come up with together as a group.  Then there is room for an estimation, as well as the actual answer.  Teaching young children how to estimate, and then test their answer is a valuable tool!  Cathy then goes on to use various tools to help identify answers.  Some of these tools included a ruler, tape measure and kitchen scale.  So many great conversations and ways to incorporate new math vocabulary!  What a rich math station.
Pinecone Math Station from the Nurture Store
Next I stopped over to Living Montessori Now, where they had some great ideas for math time outside!  By bringing chalk outside they had a whole huge canvas to use!  The possibilities are limitless.  Here Deb used the pinecones as math counters and children were able to match the correct number of pinecones to the written numeral.  She also recommends bringing two colors of chalk, that way younger children can trace numbers that you write.  Excellent way to think outside the box!
Outdoor Math Station with Living Montessori Now
And finally I stopped over at Toddler Approved where they created a Simple Counting Game of Pinecone Toss.  This not only included our math skills, but also hand eye coordination, bonus!  Kristina set out three bowls, big - 1 point, medium - 2 points, and small - 3 points.  Children took turns rolling a die, based on the number they rolled they tossed that many pinecones and tried to get the most points.  So for example, if they rolled a 3 and tossed all 3 pinecones into the furthest bowl they would have a total of 3 points.  If they tossed 3 pinecones, missed 2, and got the 3rd into the smallest bowl they would also get a total of 3 points.  Children can practice writing their numbers, or even tally marks, as they keep track of their scores.  What a simple and basic game, but I can see it being a lot of fun!
Pinecone Toss over at Toddler Approved
I hope that you all enjoyed my three Roundups on various pinecone activities.  Who knew that there were so many ways to use nature in the classroom?  In one day you could incorporate a Math, Science and Art activity into the classroom all with nature.  Let me know if you try any of these, and what your children think!

As a reminder, if you gather your own pinecones and want to get rid of bugs, sap, or other grit before using them with children, this is a great article to walk you through how to properly clean and preserve them.

Happy pinecone hunting!

All content, including text and original photos, are copyrighted and property of Jen Caffelle

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