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I have been a health nut for years, so when I had my first child, the responsibility of sustaining another human being's life was somewhat overwhelming. However, I remember feeling confident that with my knowledge about health, my OT background, and my love for cooking, it would all come together.


I was going to have the "best-eating-child-known-to-man." (Cue the first time parent over-confidence chuckle.)

Truth be told, I did, initially. My son would eat anything I put in front of him. My sister would laugh when we were at the playground and he would sit down for his snack of salmon and sweet potatoes when all the other kids were eating Oreos. (Okay, I went a little overboard, don't judge me!)

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Then my son turned three and refused to eat anything that resembled a vegetable. The more I pushed a certain food, the more he rejected it, and it drove me bonkers.

It has been quite the learning process trying to figure out what works and what doesn't in terms of helping my kids enjoy healthy foods while still respecting their need for autonomy.

I'm sure every mother goes through a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions when it comes to food, especially with the first-born.

I'm happy to say I think I've finally found a good balance of letting go of control and encouraging healthy eating habits through fun and education, not coercion. I can now enjoy mealtime with my family, instead of dreading our nightly food battles.

For the record, I, by no means, have children who eat every vegetable offered to them. In fact, no matter how many times I have cooked broccoli, I know, deep down, both kids wouldn't care if I never cooked it again.

There are, however, a few things that give me peace regarding food:

  • I know (and my kids know) that I am in control of choosing meals, not them.
  • I know I do my best to provide healthy options.
  • My kids know that if they don't eat what is offered at mealtime, they will have to wait until the next meal or snack.
  • I know they will accept new and/or healthy foods on their own terms and this is their own right as an individual who has different preferences than me.

I recently took a wonderful feeding course entitled AEIOU, an Integrative Approach to Pediatric Feeding by Nina Ayd Johanson. I learned so much from this course and it really helped me connect all the dots with my own kids at home and in my OT practice.

After delving a little more deeply into training in the pediatric feeding department, I came to an eye-opening conclusion regarding my son’s eating situation. I realized I had, unknowingly, created an environment of stress in regards to eating/mealtime for my son. The more I worried about what my son ate, the more he refused the foods I presented.

It wasn't until I decided it was time to finally let go of control and be intentional about creating an atmosphere of joy around the dinner table, that my son started eating well again.

I would LOVE to help you ditch the nightly food battles in exchange for a peaceful mealtime routine with your family too! So that is why I decided to put together every facet of information I have learned over the years in my OT practice about how to overcome picky eating.

First, consider that there is a huge difference between typical picky eating behaviors that develop around the age of 2-3 years old and a legitimate eating disorder that severely impacts nutritional intake and requires extensive therapy. I am speaking solely about typical picky eating patterns today.

Find peace just in the fact that picky eating is a normal phase that toddlers go through. A nurturing and accepting caregiver is the key to helping them pass through this phase so that it doesn't snowball into a bigger problem. If what you're currently doing just isn't working, accept the fact that you need to try something new.

So without further ado, here are my top tips to help kids overcome picky eating + enjoy a wider variety of foods:

1. Sit down and have a meal together as a family every weeknight (if possible)

Sitting down with your kids and eating with them as a family as frequently as you can is the most important and often most overlooked contributing factor to overcoming picky eating.

There are hundreds of studies proving the positive correlation between regular family dinners and increased vocabulary, academic performance and even the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and micronutrients in children.

Since kids learn best through modeled behavior, they need to watch you eat and enjoy different foods to learn how to do the same. Through modeling, they learn how to chew and eat different food types and textures and how to use utensils.

A meal together implies everyone has the same meal, no short order chef action. Kids eat the same, healthy and balanced meal as their parents. It’s best to have a sense of shared control over mealtime, meaning some nights you cook adult favorites and other nights you ask for a little input from the kids on what they would like. This way, they know, while you’re in charge of what’s for dinner, they can have a say in it too.

2. Make a mealtime schedule + stick to it

Set designated times for meals and snacks and stick to the plan. This helps regulate kids' appetites and sets a peaceful rhythm in the home around meals.

Kids like to know what to expect.

Be sure to set a time when mealtime is over and the food is gone. This does wonders for kids who take hours on end to eat one serving of peas. Set a timer if you have to (it can be visible to you or both you and the kids) and let them know when the meal will end, the food will also end but don’t hold it over them, just state it as a fact.

A good time for a meal is anywhere from 20-30 minutes. There is no reason a meal should last for hours on end (I have been there!). In many social situations (think school, etc) mealtimes are usually around this amount of time.

3. Exposure to a wide variety of foods is key

Exposure to a large variety of food tastes and textures is crucial for future food acceptance, especially within the first year of life. Think of it this way; if your goal is to have your child eat more foods and be okay with trying new ones, how else do you expect them to get there without providing opportunities to try, see and learn about a larger variety of foods?

Every day, try to expose them to a new food type, vegetable or texture.

For textures, think finely chopped, fork mashed, soft table foods, meltable solids (crackers), crispy foods, mixed textures (more than one food texture mixed together), difficulty chewy foods.

Remember mixed textures (like lasagna or tacos) are overwhelming (this is why toddlers can find an onion in any food imaginable) Try deconstructing these types of meals.

For flavors, think spicy, sweet, bland, savory, sour, creamy, etc.spices too

To increase acceptance of more foods, you need to consider ALL sensory components of foods presented.

First, think of sight, does the food look presentable? If not, how can you make it visually more appealing? (i.e. cheese atop taco meat, noodles atop of soup)

Then think of the touch/tactile component, does the food have a new texture and is your child okay with touching it? If they won't even touch and explore it with their hands, they probably won't put it in their mouth.

Next, think of the smell, does it smell appetizing? Don't be afraid of the spice! Kids can have fun exploring with their sense of smell just by opening up the spice cabinet. The olfactory system (smell) is strongly linked to gustation (taste). This means if a child enjoys the way something smells, they are more likely to try a bite. Hold their hand in this process by helping them determine their scent preferences.

Finally, if your child has accepted all the other food sensory components up to this point, they are now more likely to be ready to taste it!

It can take around 15 trials of a new food for a toddler to accept it. Most parents assume their child doesn’t like a certain food because they rejected it the first or second time and subsequently don't present that food to their child again. Instead, keep presenting the food and wait patiently for when they’re ready to accept it.

Remember, even if your child doesn’t actually try a bite or the food presented, just interacting with it (by sight, touch, or smell) is still increasing their exposure to the food type. Maybe a few more exposures and they might take a bite!

4. Create an atmosphere of joy around the table

Be deliberate about making mealtime a fun and positive experience. Mealtime can be stressful and overwhelming for some children, especially when they spy something completely new on their plate.

Feeling overwhelmed or stressed when you sit down to eat? Take a deep breath and smile! Then just enjoy your kids and your meal. Take this time to connect and talk to your family. It will help everyone feel more relaxed and calm and maybe mealtime will even be something to look forward to with your child!

Remember to turn off all electronics so you can make eye contact with each other and focus on conversation as a family.

Here are some fun and playful mealtime icebreakers!

  • Painting with purees: Grab some baby foods and let kids paint with them on any surface (high chair topper, paper plates, etc) This will increase their tolerance to mushy textures and they might try a few bites and expose themselves to new vegetable tastes.
  • Talking about the colors on the plate: "It's important to eat ALL the colors of the rainbow to make our bodies strong. What colors of the rainbow are on our plate today?"
  • Asking: On a scale of 0-10 how everyone’s day was (take turns)
  • Food math + counting: “How many carrots are on your plate?” “Who has the most peas?”
  • Using a dip tray: Dips are great for encouraging vegetable consumption and they are a fun, modeled behavior you can do as a family. (Dip crackers or apple slices into peanut/almond butter, dip carrots into ranch, celery into hummus)
  • Use training chopsticks for kids
  • Use bento forks for trying new foods
  • Singing a silly song or saying a short blessing together as a family. This is simple and easy fun, and kids really enjoy taking part. Here is the one my son says at school and we also uses at home, it's so cute! "Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you Lord for EVERYTHING!"
  • My personal favorite is truthfully teaching them about the food that they are eating. Tell them where it comes from and what it does for the body (I.e. “Carrots make your eyes super strong, Salmon comes from a fish in the sea and it makes your brain grow, etc”)

5. Describe whats on the plate: texture + color + size + flavor + size + temperature

Food descriptors can work wonders for kids who have difficulty trying new foods. Instead of thinking “She doesn’t like sweet potatoes,” think of how she may just be nervous to try it because she doesn’t know what to expect.

Children like things to be predictable and often the unknown becomes scary and can cause anxiety. Maybe the last time she tried sweet potatoes, it surprised her how smushy they were.

Instead of, “These are so yummy!” Be more descriptive. You can say, “These sweet potatoes are orange like the sun! Did you know you don’t have to chew them very much because they are so mushy? Watch how I eat them. Oh, I can taste the butter too!” Or instead of “I love carrots!” say, “This carrot is so crunchy! Watch how I make a super loud crunchy sound when I eat it!”

6. Get your kids involved in cooking + meal prep

Being involved in the cooking and food preparation helps to prepare them for the meal to come and eliminate the element of surprise. They can be the ones to help you chop and mix the bananas into their yogurt instead of being surprised at the chunk in their mouth when they were expecting a smooth texture

Cooking with kids can be challenging, but it also can be a lot of fun. They feel more in control which is so important (remember the idea of shared control). They are also more willing to try new things if they helped assemble it. My son tried hemp hearts (aka sprinkles) on his peanut butter toast because he helped me sprinkle them on.

Letting them get their hands on the foods prior to eating them will increase their chances of putting it in their mouth also because now they have experienced the texture of that food.

So take a deep breath, embrace the mishaps and the mess and try to break everything down into very simple steps.

7. Offer three or four choices + always include one safe choice

Anywhere from 3-4 choices is the perfect combination of allowing room for exploration of new foods and textures and allowing more choices to help balance the meal, regardless of the choices your child chooses to eat.

Having a safe choice or preferred food on the plate can help to alleviate tension over new foods and help your child feel safe and excited about mealtime. Think of it as “bait on the plate.” If you made a vegetable soup, maybe you sprinkle a few favorite noodles on top so visually that’s the first thing they see.

Another type of food bait, especially for vegetables, can be spreads, sauces or dips. I personally don’t like eating a dry sweet potato so I don’t expect my kids to either. Veggies roasted in olive oil, butter atop of potatoes, cream cheese atop of cucumbers or a side of dipping ranch with carrots are perfect examples.

8. Remove the words "eat it" or "try some" from your dinner vocabulary

Children instinctively resist persuasion and reducing coercion will help reduce the child's anxiety.

I’m sure you can recall an event where you tried to make your child eat something and the more you tried to “pitch” or “sell” the food, the more they resisted. My son refused to eat pizza for about three years because of this and then finally decided on his own terms to try it.

So offer the foods, enjoy your plate, and move on, mama!

9. Have a safe bowl handy

Make trying new foods safe and give them an out if they don’t like it. Children are more willing to try something if they know they can spit it out. Using a bowl next to their plate where they can choose to remove items they tried and don't like is helpful because it gives them some control over the situation

Here is how to use one.

Simply keep a small plate or bowl next to your child's dinner plate. Encourage by example when trying a new food and if they touch it and don't like how it feels or taste it and don't like how it tastes, they can spit it out or place it on the safe bowl.

10. Allow total autonomy (but offer help if they need or request)

Being an occupational therapist, my goal is to teach children skills for successful independence, so I have my own personal qualms with spoon feeding. Again, we are back to the control issue. Children (and all humans really) like to feel in control, especially when it comes to things that are coming directly into their mouths.

There are, however, certain types of foods that require a little more help. Or sometimes your toddler or baby simply wants or requests help, and that’s okay too. But for the most part, allow your child to feed themselves so they can feel in control of the eating experience.

So, let yourself off the hook for this one (except the mess, unfortunately) and let your child explore textures and food tastes on their own. They might even develop some new utensil skills along the way.

11. Accept where your child is on this journey to food acceptance + move on

This is by far the hardest for most parents, myself included.

Do your best to accept your child for where they are along their journey to enjoy a wider variety of foods. You cannot force them to be anywhere along this journey that they are not. Fortunately, though, you can be the single most important contributing factor to helping them move forward on this journey of food enjoyment and exploration.

So that's it, mamas! My hope for you is that using these silly simple steps, you can start enjoying mealtime with your children again (and hopefully your kids will learn to eat new and healthy foods along the way too!)

Originally posted on Helping Hands Occupational Therapy.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Some days, what our family really needs is a good distraction from the news. With weekend days wide open and normal activities canceled, now is the perfect time to host your own at-home family "Olympics."

You can make this family indoor activity as simple or complex as you want. Break out the craft supplies to make paper torches and medals, spend some time learning about different countries to "represent" in the games, divide family members into teams and get started with as many of the games below that sound doable and fun for your crew. You might even support local businesses by getting some international takeout for a victory feast at the end of the day.

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Don't feel limited to the usual games either. Throw in some intellectual rather than physical games if you want and make sure to include something every member of the family is good at.

Let the games begin with these 20 game ideas for an "At-Home Olympics"

1. Find countries on a map

Challenge your kids' geography skills as one team tries to stump the other with finding different countries on a map.

2. Race to tie your shoes

Choose a skill your child has been working on and turn it into a game—for example, have a race to see who can tie their shoes the fastest or who can pump the highest on a swing in 30 seconds. Any simple skill can be turned into a game!

3. Spelling bee

Have an Olympics-themed spelling bee as part of the games, with words like badminton, archery, equestrian, gymnastics, anthem, compete and representative.

4. Clean up race

Set up a race to see who can clean their room the fastest or who can pick up a bucket of dumped Legos in the shortest time.

5. Name that country

Find some fun facts about different nations and cultures and quiz each other.

6. Throwing competition

Choose a ball or a frisbee and see who can throw the farthest.

Alternatively, play a competitive game of catch, where whichever team keeps the ball from hitting the ground the longest wins.

7. Cartwheel contest

Make sure to include some sports where your kid probably has the advantage, like a cartwheel contest. See how many cartwheels you can do in a row or set up some subjective judging like in the real Olympics.

Have a little gymnast on your hands? Include somersaults and balance beam "routines," or encourage them to come up with their own floor routine to music.

8. Basketball

Basketball can be an indoor or outdoor sport if you have a little hoop and a ball.

Don't have a basketball set? All you really need is a bucket (or laundry basket for the little kids) and a ball. See who can make 10 baskets the fastest or compete to see who can make the most shots in 2 minutes.

9. Races

Three-legged races, pillowcase races, jumping races, galloping races—mix it up and include as many as you like!

10. Long jump

Practice jumping as far as you can, marking where each person lands.

11. Paper plane throwing contest

Each team creates a paper airplane and then throws them to see whose goes the furthest.

12. Tug of war

You know the rules for this one! Make sure an adult on each team stands at the back, which minimizes the chance of kids slipping and falling.

13. Stacking contest

Who can stack the highest? Use blocks, rocks, whatever you have on hand.

14. Water bucket relay

You can't have the summer Olympics without some water sports!

Fill a few buckets with water and place them at one end of the yard. One member of your team stands by the buckets and the other stands across the yard. Race to see how quickly you can transport all of the buckets.

15. Hula hooping contest

Try to get this one on video if you can as it's sure to get silly. See who can hula hoop the longest. Consider adding style points for fun tricks!

16. Sailboat racing

Use a water table, blow up pool, or bathtub for an at-home sailboat race. Talk about what materials float and what holds up in the water and let your kids lead the way in designing a sailboat. See which one crosses the water the fastest or which one stays afloat the longest.

17. Jump rope contest

Who can jump rope the longest? Who can jump rope backward the longest? This is a fun and super simple "event" for an at-home Olympics.

18. Cycling race

Race balance bikes, tricycles or bikes around the perimeter of the backyard. Want to give your kids a leg up in the race? Try riding one of their little bikes instead of your own—it's harder than it looks!

19. Soccer

No soccer goal at home? Not a problem!

If you don't have a real goal, use some chalk to mark off a big rectangle on the fence in your yard. Play an actual game of soccer or have a goal-kicking contest depending on the age and skill level of your kids.

20. Balance challenge

See who can walk the farthest with a book or beanbag balanced on their head. Who can walk the fastest balancing a ball on a spoon? Who wins a race hopping on one foot? There are so many fun (and funny) ways to compete on balance!

No matter what sports you choose to include, hosting an at-home family Olympics is the perfect way to turn a day at home into something your kids are likely to remember forever. It's also an excellent chance to work on skills like teamwork and good sportsmanship.

Take pictures of the day and make a scrapbook. It just might become a repeat event in your family!

Learn + Play

It's the kind of news no one wants to report and that no elected official wants to have to give to constituents, but on Wednesday Connecticut's Governor, Ned Lamont broke the news that an infant in his state died due to complications of COVID-19.

"It is with heartbreaking sadness today that we can confirm the first pediatric fatality in Connecticut linked to #COVID19. A 6-week-old newborn from the Hartford area was brought unresponsive to a hospital late last week and could not be revived," Lamont tweeted.

According to the governor, the baby tested positive for COVID-19.

"This is absolutely heartbreaking. We believe this is one of the youngest lives lost anywhere due to complications relating to COVID-19," he wrote.

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Lamont continued: "This is a virus that attacks our most fragile without mercy. This also stresses the importance of staying home and limiting exposure to other people. Your life and the lives of others could literally depend on it. Our prayers are with the family at this difficult time."

Lamont initially said the baby was 6 weeks old, but Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin later confirmed the baby girl was 7 weeks old, NBC Connecticut reports.

Before this baby's death, the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in Connecticut was 35 years old. The Connecticut case follows the death of a 9-month-old infant in Illinois on March 23. That baby's death is still being investigated as it is presumed to have been caused by COVID-19 but that has not yet been confirmed. The results of that cause of death investigation are expected within days, The Chicago Tribune reported this week.

Health officials are asking parents to take the social distancing guidelines seriously because while preliminary research suggests that children with COVID-19 usually don't get as sick as adults, a study posted by the journal Pediatrics found babies and preschoolers can become severely ill if they get COVID-19 (older kids are also are not immune, as the recent deaths of teens in France and London, England illustrate).

We are not reporting on this news to scare you, mama. We are reporting it to inform you so that you can make the best choices possible to protect your family.

Here is how you can protect you babies from COVID-19:

According to Dr. Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and an infectious disease expert at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, the best way to keep our kids from getting COVID-19 is to avoid exposure. That means staying home and avoiding contact with people who don't live in your home or who are sick or have been exposed to sick people.

"Children are exposed to COVID-19 when the virus contacts their eyes, nose, mouth or lungs. This usually occurs when a nearby infected person coughs or sneezes, which releases respiratory droplets into the air and onto the child's face or nearby surfaces such as tables, food or hands," Dr. Milstone explains.

Speaking on Good Morning America this week, another expert, Dr. David Kimberlin (professor and co-director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham) reminded parents that there are other viruses going around that are not COVID-19.

"Not every fever, not every cough is going to be this new COVID-19 virus," said Kimberlin. "That said, the coronavirus is circulating widely and so it has to be on our radar and part of what we're thinking. Pediatricians across the country are on heightened awareness with this."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents call their doctor if their infant is showing symptoms that could be COVID-19 (including fever, cough and shortness of breath). Your pediatrician can tell you if you need to take your baby to the ER.

If your infant or child has difficulty breathing, can't keep down liquids, has bluish lips, confusion or won't wake up, call 911.

[An earlier version of this post stated the baby's 6 weeks old. It has been updated with clarification from Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who says the baby was 7 weeks old.]

News

Easter is almost here, mama. But if you're anything like me, you haven't had time to prepare. Surviving during the coronavirus outbreak with a preschooler and 11-month-old has taken up much of my energy. And since I'm constantly thinking of fun activities to entertain them, I find myself exhausted with the mere thought of having to think of cool Easter crafts—I'm tapped out!

Thankfully, there are tons of Easter crafts that are perfect for the season (and really, any day). So grab some paper, scissors, glue and googly eyes and let your imagination fly.

Here are 10 easy Easter crafts your kids will love making:

Speckled egg planters

Bring the outdoors indoors with a fun spring gardening project.

What you'll need:

  • Eggs
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Mini cups (disposable or whatever you use for crafting)
  • Paper towels or newspaper
  • Organic potting soil
  • Spoons and bowls (disposable or whatever you use for crafting)
  • Small fresh potted flowers
  • Empty egg carton to display planters

Instructions:

1. Gently tap the top of each egg against a hard surface until it has started to crack. Carefully remove pieces of shell from the very top of the egg, leaving about three quarters of the remaining shell intact. Pour out the yolks and whites, then wash and fully dry the empty shells.

2. Fill up your mini cups with paint in the colors of your choice.

3. Using a brush, start splattering paint by tapping your paint brush with your index finger. Let the shells dry completely.

Craft from Nellie's free range eggs.

Pom pom bunnies

There's nothing sweeter in the spring than fuzzy little animals.

What you'll need:

  • Scissors
  • Tacky glue
  • Yarn
  • Cotton balls
  • Felt
  • Beads

Instructions:

1. Start by creating a small pom-pom for the head and a large pom-pom for the body. Wrap yarn around the "arms" of your pom pom maker and make sure not to wrap too tightly. The more yarn you use, the thicker and fluffier your bunny will be! For the small pom-pom, we wound the yarn about 15 times. For the large pom-pom, we wound the yarn about 40 times.

2. Cut a 10-inch piece of yarn and tie it in the center. Tie the yarn so it leaves one long tail. Gently remove the yarn from the pom-pom winder.

3. Take scissors and cut the loops to create your pom-pom. Make sure not to cut the long tail on the pom-pom. Repeat steps with the large pom-pom maker to create the bunny's body.

4. Take the two pom-poms and tie the long tails together to create the bunny. Trim off any excess yarn.

5. Decorate your bunny with felt and beads! Make eyes, a nose and a tail, and glue them on the pom-poms.

Craft from Kiwico.

Easter egg suncatcher

Similar to a wind chime, a suncatcher can be hung near windows to "catch" light. Make your own by following these easy steps.

What you'll need:

  • Clear contact paper
  • 2 sheets of construction paper
  • Tissue paper in various colors
  • 1 sheet white paper
  • 12-inch piece of yarn
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pushpins
  • Foam board

Instructions:

1. You will need a sheet of contact paper that is twice the size of a piece of construction paper. Lay the contact paper, clear side down (do not remove the backing yet!) onto the foam board and tack it in place with pushpins, one in each corner.

2. Draw an egg shape on white paper with a black marker. Slide the egg drawing underneath the contact paper on the left side. Carefully peel the backing off the left side of the contact paper (the sticky side should be facing upward) and fold it over to the right, tacking it under the pushpins on the right to hold it in place.

3. Have children decorate the sticky side of the contact paper with tissue paper, using the egg drawing underneath as a guide.

4. When children are done decorating, peel the backing off the right side of the contact paper and fold it over to the left, sticky side to sticky side. This will sandwich the tissue paper design between the contact paper.

5. Take the egg drawing and cut it out. Use that as a guide to cut egg shapes from the purple construction paper. Stack both sheets of construction paper together and cut around the egg, leaving about a 1-inch border all the way around.

6. Use the egg cut-out to cut the decorated contact paper in the same fashion, only leaving about 1/2-inch border all the way around.

7. Tie your yarn into a loop. Use a glue stick to adhere the egg inside the two construction paper eggs, creating a frame for your suncatcher. Be sure to glue the yarn inside with the contact paper egg.

Craft from Crafts by Amanda.

Crafty cascaróns

Making cascaróns is a great way to gather friends, family, and neighbors together to celebrate Easter and share Latino traditions.

What you'll need:

  • Newspaper, craft paper, or a plastic tablecloth
  • One dozen eggs (and carton)
  • Easter egg coloring kit or natural dyes
  • Small bowls
  • Vinegar (optional for vibrant colored eggs)
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper, cut into small squares
  • Glue
  • Paper confetti (you can make DIY confetti by hole-punching construction paper)

Instructions:

1. Prepare the egg decorating work area by covering your table with newspaper, craft paper or a plastic tablecloth. Be sure to have plenty of napkins handy for little decorators to dry their hands on or to clean up any spills.

2. With a spoon, gently tap the top of an egg.

3. Remove the bits of shell, peeling away enough to make a small 1/2-inch hole.

4. Empty the contents of the egg out into a bowl. Thoroughly rinse the egg shell inside and out, shaking out excess water. Let the eggshell air dry upside down in an empty egg carton.

5. Dye the egg shells using an egg coloring kit or natural dyes in individual bowls. Add a splash of vinegar to the dye for vibrant color. Note: Brown eggs produce pretty earthy colors, and usually need to sit in the dye a bit longer.

6. When the egg shells are dry, fill with confetti to the brim. Once filled, apply glue around the outside of the hole and cover with colorful tissue paper. Let sit until completely dry.

7. Find an unsuspecting friend to sneak up on and gently tap your colorful cascarón over their head, then watch the confetti fly!

Craft from Nellie's free range eggs.

Rainbow play dough

Playing with playdough is a classic activity kids love and it's very easy to make.

What you'll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup cream of tartar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Food dye
  • Wax paper

Instructions:

1. Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan. Add water and oil; mix well. Add 20 drops of desired food color.

2. Cook about 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture holds together.

3. Remove from heat. Scrape dough onto wax paper to cool. Knead lightly until the dough is smooth.

4. Store in an airtight container. May be kept for 2 to 4 weeks.

Craft from McCormick.

Egg carton floral garland

Spring has sprung and it's the perfect time to add color to your kitchen, living room or your child's bedroom. Use this garland to liven your home.

What you'll need:

  • Empty egg carton
  • Mod podge
  • Oversized needle
  • Green thread/string
  • Tissue paper (purple, pink and green)
  • Scissors

Instructions:

1. Cut the empty egg carton into individual cups.

2. Cut tissue paper into 3-inch squares.

3. Apply mod podge onto the outside of each egg cup. Place a tissue paper square onto the bottom of the cup, pressing to adhere, and then press onto the sides as well, gathering the paper to fit and forming a crinkled flower. Repeat for as many flowers as desired, and set aside to dry completely.

4. To make the leaves, cut out the flat top of the egg carton lid, recycling the off-cuts.

5. Use mod podge to apply green tissue paper onto the lid and let dry.

6. Once the tissue-covered lid is dry, cut lid into leaf shapes, each about 1-inch long. Once the tissue-covered egg cups are dry, use scissors to trim the excess tissue from the edges.

7. Thread an oversized needle with green thread. Carefully pierce the egg cup as close to the base as possible, and pull the needle all the way through.

8. To add the leaves onto the string, poke two holes into one side, as shown. Then, put the needle through each of the holes.

9. Continue adding flowers and leaves onto the string. Once all flowers have been added, cut contrasting tissue paper centers. Pinch the center of each circle and crumple the excess. Add a dot of mod podge into the center of each flower and attach the new tissue paper center onto each dot. Let dry completely, then hang as desired.

Craft from Nellie's free range eggs.

Easter egg wreath

Wreath making isn't just for the holiday season. This colorful wreath from paper plates is perfect for kids of all ages to create.

What you'll need:

  • paper plates
  • construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • ribbon

Instructions:

1. Cut the middle out of your paper plate. Cut ovals out of construction paper or encourage your child to try cutting the ovals.

2. Decorate the eggs with markers, paint, or stickers. I envisioned polka dots, stripes, and springtime decorations. Instead he made Angry Birds, Tic Tac Toe, and happy face eggs. It's times like these when I remember it's all about the process and creativity and not about the end product.

3. Arrange and glue the eggs onto the paper plate.

4. You can layer the eggs or arrange them onto your wreath in any way you want. You could even add a ribbon to hang it. This craft would also work well with egg shapes cut from craft foam.

Craft from Kiwico.

Yarn pom pom bunny tails

There's no doubt that Bunnies are an important part of Easter. Make your own bunny costume and start with a super cute tail.

What you'll need:

  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Yarn winder

Instructions:

1. Take your scissors and cut a piece of yarn that is about 4 feet-long. This will act as a belt to secure your pom-pom tail. Put it aside.

2. Hold the pom-pom winder in one hand. Using your dominant hand, start winding the yarn from the skein around and around. Don't wrap it too tightly or it may be difficult to remove from the winder. Keep winding. One full yarn skein will create a big fluffy pom-pom tail.

3. When you are done winding, take the 4 feet-long piece of yarn and tie it around the middle of the looped yarn between the arms of the pom-pom winder. The long string of yarn will act as a belt so make sure to secure the bunny tail in the center. Tie it twice to make sure it is extra secure.

4. Pull the yarn off the pom-pom winder. Take the scissors and cut both ends of the looped yarn. Adult assistance may be required! As you do this, make sure not to cut the piece of yarn that was used to tie the middle. Once the loops are cut, you will have your pom-pom tail.

5. Take the long string and tie it around your waist to secure the tail in place. Now get hopping!

Craft from Kiwico.

Homemade Easter marshmallows

Forget store-bought treats and create your own Easter marshmallows.

What you'll need:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Instructions:

1. For the colored sugar, place sugar in a large resealable plastic bag. Select your desired Marshmallow variation in the tips section below and add the designated amount of food color with the sugar. Seal bag and knead gently until color is evenly distributed. Spread colored sugar in a thin layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and break up any large lumps. Allow to dry thoroughly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sift or press through sieve, if needed. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with no stick cooking spray then coat with some of the colored sugar. Set aside.

2. For the marshmallows, microwave 1/2 cup of the water, sugar and corn syrup in a medium microwavable bowl on high for seven minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Microwave on high for five more minutes. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the microwave.

3. Place remaining 1/2 cup water in a large mixer bowl. Sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand 5 minutes. Gradually beat in hot syrup mixture with whisk attachment on medium-low speed. Beat 8 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high. Beat 10 to 12 minutes longer or until mixture is fluffy, shiny and at least tripled in volume. Beat in vanilla.

4. Spread marshmallow mixture in prepared dish. Smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle some more of the colored sugar on top to coat. Let stand at room temperature overnight or refrigerate at least three hours. Reserve remaining colored sugar in a large resealable plastic bag or airtight container.

5. Cut marshmallows with 1 to 2-inch cookie cutters. Add marshmallows in batches to reserved colored sugar in the bag; toss to coat well. Shake off excess. Store marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

Marshmallow color variations:

  • Pink Marshmallows: Add 10 drops pink color with the sugar.
  • Purple Marshmallows: Add 5 drops purple color and 8 drops blue color with the sugar.
  • Blue Marshmallows: Add 15 drops blue color with the sugar.

Craft from McCormick.

DIY scented rainbow bubbles

What's better than bubbles? Rainbow-colored bubbles scented with essential oils. Have fun experimenting with colors, smells and bubble recipes at home.

What you'll need:

  • Empty egg cartons
  • Unscented dish soap
  • Glycerin
  • Essential oils
  • Food coloring Bottles or jars (with lids)
  • Scissors
  • Wire and/or pipe cleaners
  • Wire cutters

Instructions:

1. Open up the empty egg carton and cut along each hinge so that you have three pieces. The two egg-compartment pieces will be used for holding bubbles, while the flat lid piece can be recycled, set aside for another craft.

2. In a pitcher, mix together 6 cups of water, 1 cup of unscented dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of glycerin. Use a large spoon or whisk to stir the solution until well combined.

3. Pour the solution into eight jars or bottles, one for each color of the rainbow.

4. Add a drop of food coloring into each jar. Once the colors are mixed, add a drop or two of essential oil to each color and stir to combine.

5. Have fun forming the wire into loopy shapes, making sure that they either fit into the openings on your jars or are the size of one egg compartment. Use tape to secure the handles if necessary, or simply twist the wire together. Pipe cleaners work in a similar way and are a great option for younger kids. Once shaped, your bubble blowers are ready to use, but you can choose to give them a quick coat of spray paint if desired.

6. To set up your rainbow bubble station, pour the colored bubbles into the egg compartments. Dip your DIY bubble wands into each solution, gently blow and watch the bubbles take shape!

Craft from Nellie's free range eggs.

Lifestyle

Dear mama,

When you find out you're pregnant, oftentimes you're hit by a wave of emotions. You immediately wonder and worry about so many things.

How will I give birth? Where will I give birth? What classes should I take? How will I feed my baby? What do I need for this baby? Should I get a doula? Will I be a good mother?

Never in a million years did you think you'd have to worry about giving birth during a global pandemic. This is certainly an unprecedented time to be delivering a baby.

Just a few weeks ago, my doula business was busy—I was attending birth after birth, all while standing right by each of my client's sides. Then, things changed.

FEATURED VIDEO

As we began to hear more and more about the coronavirus each day, we began to realize just how much this was going to impact us as doulas and, in turn, all the families we were in the process of supporting or planned on supporting. Things changed rapidly.

My last in-person support was a few weeks ago. I walked into the hospital to be with a couple that morning, and by the afternoon that very hospital changed their policy to say only one support person would be allowed in the delivery room.

I felt your wave of emotions and worries now shift completely. You wanted me there and I wanted to be there for you—like we planned.

As a doula, it truly is an honor to be there with you to witness the miracle of your baby coming into the world.

As a doula, I aim to support you emotionally, physically and educationally before, during and after the birth of your baby.

As a doula, I aim to reduce fear and instill strength.

Just as someone might hire a wedding planner for their wedding, I am that for your birth. We spend a lot of time together discussing and preparing for your big day. And just like a wedding, rain or shine, the big day is going to happen.

Global pandemic or not, your baby is going to be born.

Changes in your birth plan or not, your baby is going to be born.

In-person doula or not, your baby is going to be born.

Things have shifted, mama, and it breaks my heart that I won't be able to be there physically in the room with you. What shatters it completely is knowing that this is breaking your heart, too. Knowing that you are scared and feeling doubt as you wonder, how am I going to do this?

But remember all the many ways doulas can support you. Just because the physical aspect has been taken away, doesn't mean I am completely taken away. Now I will be focusing on supporting you emotionally and educationally. I can still be part of your birth team—virtually. I will be on the phone talking, texting and FaceTiming with you every step of the way.

Yes, I know and understand it is not the same. I know this was not what you envisioned for your big day.

But here is what I want you to remember: You can and will get through this.

You have been through difficult times in your life and you have made it through to the other side.

You have done everything you needed to do to prepare for this day and you know what to do.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are ready.

You are a mother.

Remember to take it moment by moment, one breath at a time. Allow yourself to move, listen, connect to your body and baby. Remember all the strong women before you who have birthed life into this world. Remember you are not only connected to them, but to every woman across the globe who are also getting ready to birth their babies.

This is a historic moment. YOU are the women giving birth to babies born during a global pandemic. YOU are superheroes.

Now, take your arms and wrap them around your belly and close your eyes. Take a deep inhale and slowly exhale. Know you have the strength and power within you. You can do this—with or without me—because you are your baby's mother. Even though I will not be with you in the room, my heart and my words are right there by your side.

Sending virtual (for now) hugs,

Your doula

Life
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