Sneaking Veggies into Spaghetti

I thought I’d share my win of the day! Today, as usual, I had eight wee people age 5 and under. These little ones that have previously chowed down on their veggies and fruits, have recently begin to turn up their wee little noses. Once one of the older ones balk, they all seem to follow suit. So I’ve been thinking of ways to sneak veggies in. Of course I will still continue to offer fruits and veggies in their natural state, but if I can sneak some more in, I will!

One thing they all absolutely love is spaghetti. So today I decided to sneak some veggies into the sauce. I chopped up some sweet potatoes and got out some organic baby carrots. I steamed them until they were soft, and then put them in my Ninja with a little sauce and water.

veggies veggiesblender

I already have used Barilla’s veggie pasta, which is made with zucchini and spinach. It looks and tastes the same as regular pasta, and the kids love it.spag


The sauce with the added veggies looked and tasted EXACTLY the same as it regularly does. I think it’s important to puree the veggies, as these little guys would immediately spy (and reject) grated veggies.



All of my wee people ate multiple helpings!



School Readiness – Helping Our Children Acquire the Right Skills

When young children first enter into the new world of elementary school, they benefit from some fundamental skills in order to feel confident and prepared to learn. Both early childhood educators and parents can help children throughout ordinary days in preparation for this big step. While we can’t prepare them for everything, being able to do the following things might help them to avoid embarrassing moments that can contribute to making a young child feel self-conscious.

For starters, a child should have basic body self-awareness. They should be able to identify their basic body parts, have some spatial awareness, and also some fundamental self-control. A good example of this is standing in lines. Children are expected to line-up a healthy distance from the child in front of them. Then there will be times that they will need to stop quickly without running into the other children. These acts use a combination of important skills that we might not have previously considered. Example of how we can help to prepare our children are talking about body parts while changing clothes, and playing simple games, such as red light – green light.

Another area we can help to prepare a young child for is the lunchroom. At mealtimes, we should teach basic table manners. We all know what these are, and they are learned over the early years with patience, repetition, and role modeling. There are also some needed self-help skills. When children arrive at the lunchroom, there is limited time to eat, and they need to be able to do as much as they can on their own. They need to learn how to open their own milk, insert a straw into a juice box, and open and close their own sandwich bag.

Other self-help skills every child needs to learn includes their knowing how to take their shoes, coats, gloves, etc. on and off. They should be able to go to the bathroom on their own, including adjusting their own clothing and washing their hands. They should be able to clean up after themselves. And, they should have a good concept of what it means to share.

Basic skills for learning includes being able to use tools, such as glue, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, and scissors. Some things that a child should know by kindergarten includes knowing their first and last name and being able to identify and write their own name. They should know their basic colors and be able to identify the numbers 1-10.

Children that are not prepared can begin to believe that they are uncoordinated, clumsy, or inferior. However, these are not “natural” things. Children need time and opportunity to fail and conquer little tasks without being teased. Children who are unprepared have increased stress and anxiety, and the long term effect can have a child believing they aren’t any good at physical sports, dancing, and other healthy activities.

The above skills are simple, learned concepts that parents and early childhood educators can teach through conversation, games, directed play, and lots of encouragement.


Gruber, J.J. 1985. “Physical Activity and Self-Esteem Development in Children: A Meta-Analysis.” The Academy Papers 19: 30–48.

Nieman, Peter. “Psychosocial aspects of physical activity.” Paediatrics & child health 7.5 (2002): 309.

New Year’s Craft for Children

With just two more days in 2013, we had to make a cute New Year craft. I decided on making a simple 2014 sensory art project.

First I cut out the numbers and we glued them to the paper. This gave us a chance to name the numbers and the colors and talk about it being a new year.

Then I found some shapes and colored cotton to glue onto the numbers. We named the shapes, talked about the feel of the cotton, and counted out the objects. Then we glued them on and waited for them to dry. Voila!

So colorful and festive!

Some Goals, Objectives, and Developmental Steps…
Construct objects with simple tools using a variety of materials.
Demonstrate skills, such as cutting, pouring, and fastening necessary to make things.
Describe orally objects they constructed.
Use their senses to identify differences of objects, such as size, shape, color, texture, and

Christmas Ornaments for Children

This was a fun, easy craft for the children that we did this year. The age of my daycare children ranged from 18 – 30 months.

Day One we made the dough by adding together 1 cup flour, 1/2 c salt, and 1/2 cup water. I measured and the children poured it in the bowl and then they took turns mixing.

I gave them each a ball and they pushed and pounded and rolled it out. Then they used cookie cutters to make various shapes. I helped them get it off the table onto a piece of foil for each of them, marked with their name.

They went into the oven at 200 degrees for 2 hours.

Day Two they painted one side.
Day Three they painted the second side and after it dried, we finished them off by twisting pipe cleaners for them to be able to hang on their Christmas trees at home.

This was a fun craft they enjoyed and were very proud of their creations! 🙂

We also made these cute little handprint reindeer the week before Christmas.

And we made these sweet little stockings!

Merry Christmas!

Areas of Learning:
Reading/Language Arts – comprehension skills through listening to and comprehending the directions
Recognize sequential order – predicting ‘what comes next’
Math – Counting and Matching pairs of objects in one-to-one correspondence. Identifying and sorting by color. Building an understanding of quantity while measuring and pouring.
Science – following simple step by step direction. Using measurement words and some standard measurement tools.

Anxiety Disorder in Children

I recently had to submit an informal research paper on a special needs topic. I chose anxiety disorder, and I was surprised to find out how prevalent it is in children. This is the bulk of the information…

Some anxiety is a normal part of life, even for children. However some people, including young children, suffer from an anxiety disorder to the point where they avoid people, places, and activities. Anxiety disorders affect 18% of adults and one in every 8 children. Recently a trend has been noted of mentally ill people turning up in jails and homeless shelters. Researchers are reporting that parents and teachers can potentially alter the path of anxiety and related disorders in young at-risk children.

There are several categories of anxiety disorder in children. The most common anxiety disorders are separation anxiety disorder (beyond what is developmentally appropriate), generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia. Separation anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder in children. It is a deep fear that something bad is going to happen to the child or a family member. The child may get headaches, stomach aches, or diarrhea when separated. With generalized anxiety disorder, children worry about multiple areas of their life, including the future, school, family, natural disasters, etc. Social phobia causes children to be very uncomfortable talking out loud and become “socially mute.” These disorders often make children want to hurt themselves because they feel hopeless. In one research study of eleven year olds, 3.5% had separation anxiety disorder, 2.9% had generalized anxiety disorder, and 1% had social phobia. Another study of 7-11 year old children found 15.4% of combined diagnosis.

Anxiety may be the result of nature or nurture. It may be nature as typically at least one of the parents is found to have anxiety disorder. In one study of mothers with anxiety disorder and their preschool children, 80% of their preschool children were determined to be insecurely attached. Out of twenty total children, three preschool children met criteria for anxiety disorder. 65% were classified as behaviorally inhibited. Anxiety may be the result of nurture due to the effects of negative or over controlling parenting, demographic area, and stressful situations. Some beginning symptoms can show around as young as 6 months old. Nature cannot be prevented, but nurture can be. It is important for educators to be aware of anxiety symptoms in students and respond appropriately.

Some studies have shown that young children with anxiety disorders grow up to have anxiety disorders and are at an increased risk of later depression, drug dependence, eating disorders, self-harming disorders, and educational underachievement. For example, one study followed children who were diagnosed with anxiety in first grade. They found that anxiety in first grade significantly predicted anxiety in fifth grade. Also, those fifth grade children who had been followed in the study tested lower in achievement test scores than their peers.

The most common anxiety symptoms include extreme concern about competence, excessive need for reassurance, fear of the dark, fear of harm to an attachment figure, and somatic (medical) complaints. A student with anxiety disorder may show severe separation anxiety, lower grades or test scores, or they may show trouble adjusting to changes and new situations. Sometimes students are absent more often than others, usually claiming to be ill. Sometimes students may be the ‘quiet one’ and receive less attention. Some students may suffer from depression also. They may cry often, seem sad, or just seem less ‘happy’ than the other students. Some children may not feel that they are important to anyone. Others may have irritability, anger, or hostility issues or have difficulty with relationships.

Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, students may have intense feelings of fear, panic, or unease. They may have uncontrollable thoughts that have become obsessive about normal or abnormal things. They may have frequent thoughts about traumatic experiences. They may display certain behaviors often or repeat them often with a specific ritual. They may have problems sleeping or have nightmares. They may have feelings of being suffocated, shortness of breath, nausea, or dizziness. They may lack the ability to stay calm. They may have muscle tension and will often feel uneasy.

Diagnosis and treatment can be difficult. Often pediatricians lack specific training to correctly diagnose or treat children who are depressed or anxious. A recent government report showed that there are only about 7500 psychiatrists currently treating children and adolescents, yet an estimated 5 million children are affected. Also, mental health care is expensive and often requires out-of-pocket costs as it is typically not covered by insurance. Unfortunately, there is also social stigma attached to getting mental health care which stops a lot of people from seeking help. If professional help is obtained, intervention is multi-faceted. Professional treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation training, role playing and modeling how to handle stress, bibliotherapy, group therapy, and medications. Often parents are worried about the side effects of medicine; however there it is important to note the side effect to not taking medications is that the child may remain unwell.

There are community resources available for children, parents, and teachers. The Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland in Towson accepts patients and has a wealth of information on the web. Their website is They have examples of what can be said, such as “you can do it, no matter how you feel” and “face the fear and it will disappear.” There are Panic and Anxiety Support Groups in our area that can be found doing a simple web search. One meets in Baltimore the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Church of the Redeemer on North Charles Street. It provides screening of anxiety disorders and provides support.

Teachers can be aware and help students with anxiety disorder. Children with anxiety disorder can feel alienated and set apart from their peers. Often they may be in an abusive or neglectful situation or they may just be in a high-pressured, over-scheduled, stressful situation. As educators, we need to be careful that we are not unintentionally adding to that by seeming to expect perfection. We also can be alert to the students’ behaviors. We should not try to diminish a person’s feelings, but try to be patient and willing to listen when the student has something to say. A student with social phobia will be afraid to talk to or in front of others, so we should not call on the student if they don’t raise their hand. We can reduce stress by utilizing small group discussions rather than large group discussions. We should try to model positive self-talk, and choose materials that incorporate positive messages about overcoming fears. We can encourage participation through one on one peer interaction. We can set up a ‘safe spot’ for the student to go if they need to be alone. We should respect the student by not talking about their struggles in front of others. We ideally should collaborate with the parents, other teachers, and professionals to come up with a plan based on the students’ individual needs to make a difference in the child’s future mental health.


Gail A. Bernstein, MD; Carrie M. Borchardt, MD; Amy R. Perwien, BA.
Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents A Review of the Past 10 Years.
Retrieved from

How to Help Children Under 10 Cope with Anxiety. Retrieved from

CUCARD, The Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. Separation Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from

Medscape. Pediatric Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from

WebMD Anxiety and Panic Disorders Health Center. Retrieved from

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Childhood Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from