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Preparing food is a big part of Montessori classrooms for young children, and for good reason. It helps develop independence and confidence as children see that they can make food for themselves. It also helps develop organizational skills, as things must be done in a certain order for a recipe to be successful. Measuring ingredients and deciphering recipes are also great ways to practice math and reading skills in a real life situation.


Even very young children can help with things like gathering ingredients, measuring and adding ingredients, mixing, scrubbing fruits and vegetables and cleaning up afterward. If your child enjoys helping in the kitchen though, you can take it so much further.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Fresh orange juice

With citrus season in full swing, it’s a great time to break out the juicer. Using a small, simple juicer, children of two or three can be successful making fresh juice with a little help.

2. Baked oatmeal

If your child enjoys baking, preparing a baked oatmeal dish can be a great weekend morning activity. If your little one is anything like mine, he’ll be up bright and early, leaving plenty of time for the oatmeal to bake before everyone is ready for breakfast. There are so many wholesome recipes available, making it easy to find one your family will enjoy.

3. Homemade Granola

At its roots, granola is simple and healthy, made of oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. So many store-bought versions are loaded with sugar though. Making granola at home is super easy, not to mention cost-effective, and lets you control the ingredients. Even young children could make almost the whole recipe by themselves too, as it mostly involves adding ingredients to a big bowl and mixing.

4. Quiche

Quiche is a great thing to make with kids because beating eggs is a fun task that young children can do independently. They can use a small whisk or a hand mixer. Many children will also enjoy helping to wash and chop the vegetables. You can make the quiche lighter by using less cheese or omitting the crust if you wish to do so.

5. Fruit salad

Every child is different, but many children are ready to help chop things in the kitchen when they are around three to four years old. These wavy choppers are a great way to introduce chopping without involving sharp knives. Of course it’s still important to give a lesson on using the chopper safely and to supervise while your child is becoming comfortable with the tool. Protective gloves are also available when your child is ready to use a real knife.

A fruit salad is a great thing to make together as your little one practices his chopping skills. If he’s just beginning, you can assign him the easier fruits like bananas while you tackle the tougher ones like apples or grapes.

Alternatively, try fruit kebabs! Your child can help thread sliced fruit onto skewers for a tasty snack.

6. Vegetable soup

Making vegetable soup is another fun and healthy cooking project for children learning to chop. Soup recipes are so adaptable and hard to mess up and many children are much more interested in eating vegetables if they helped with the preparation.

7. Smoothies

Even many picky children love smoothies and it can be a tasty way to incorporate fruits (and vegetables!) into your child’s diet. Your child can help measure the ingredients and dump them into the blender. This is a great one for even the smallest chefs to help with.

8. Homemade crackers

If your child likes baking cookies with you, making healthy crackers together can be a fun twist on the activity. Some recipes simply involve spreading the dough on the pan and breaking into crackers after it bakes, while others let your child choose a fun cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

9. Kale chips

Even young toddlers can help tear kale leaves into little pieces and spread them on a cookie sheet. I love recipes like this for introducing kale to children who don’t yet have molars and can’t easily chew the raw leaves.

10. Homemade bread

Making bread is a little more involved, but it’s also a really fun thing for children to help with. If your child is too young to measure, you can pre-measure the ingredients and invite your child to help mix. Kneading the dough and watching it rise can be fascinating for children. Try this whole wheat version or gluten free option, depending on your family’s needs.

11. Pizza

If your child likes to help in the kitchen, having a weekly pizza night can be a really fun tradition. You can control the ingredients to make it a little healthier and kids can make their own individual pizzas and choose their toppings. Try using mini pizza pans and a kid-friendly pizza cutter to make it even more fun.

12. Veggie burgers

If you’re not comfortable with your child handling raw meat (so hard to keep those little fingers out of mouths…), making veggie burgers can be a fun way to get your child involved with the entrée. Mixing the ingredients and forming the burgers is really fun for children who enjoy getting messy. This is my personal favorite recipe, but there are so many to choose from!

13. Guacamole

Guacamole can be as simple as mashed avocado with a little lime juice and salt, or you can follow a more formal recipe. Either way, mashing avocado is a fun task for children to do, whether with a fork or with a mini potato masher.

14. Hummus

For a chunkier hummus, let your child mash some cooked chickpeas in a bowl and then stir in the other ingredients. For a smoother option, let them measure the ingredients and add them to the food processor.

15. Cutting herbs

If your child can safely use scissors, she can help you cut herbs. This is a great task to involve your child with while you’re making dinner, since you can throw fresh herbs on almost anything.

Once you start cooking with your child, you will see things they can help with every time you cook. This can be a great bonding experience and a wonderful way to make dinner time a little less stressful and a lot more fun.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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