Instant Pot Cheeseburger Pasta
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The easy recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners. It is an instant family favorite and super kid friendly. We typically serve it with a side of green beans or broccoli.
Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor and/or contact companies to independently verify safety before trying new products if your child has severe eczema and/or food allergies. That said, the following tips have helped keep my little one’s skin under control during the summer! Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice, and all content is for information purposes only.
Summer time. That means lots of sun, fun, outdoor time, water play, sweat, and, if you or your child have eczema, probably some eczema flares too. No one wants to see their child uncomfortable. Especially when that discomfort could interrupt an otherwise fun time of year.
Below are some tips for helping your little one feel more comfortable this summer, based on what has worked well for our family, other families I’ve spoken with who are managing similar skin conditions and food allergies, and our pediatrician and allergies. Please remember, everyone’s skin is different. What works for my family might not work for yours. But hopefully, by following these tips, you and your little one will also have success managing skin sensitivities this summer (and beyond!).
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Hydrated skin is less likely to have eczema flare ups. But how you choose to hydrate is as important as doing so in the first place.
Make sure you start the day with hydration. We love VaniCream products as a base (we prefer the cream, as it is a bit less oily than the lotion, though either is fine), followed by Aquaphor or traditional Vaseline/petroleum jelly as a moisture barrier. During eczema flares, our pediatrician and allergist also have us use hydrocortisone 1% first (traditionally sold as Cortisone 10), but never use any medication without consulting your child’s doctor first. While many families also love Aveeno products, we have found their line to be very triggering for my child’s skin, and therefore, avoid their products.
Other key times to hydrate skin are after baths and before bed.
2.Pick the right sunscreen and protect against the sun
Sunscreen can be irritating to skin, and some may include allergens. Plus, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, the best sunscreens should be SPF 15 or higher and absolutely not be homemade (even some products marketed as all natural may be unsafe). Luckily, there are some options that fit these criteria while being mineral based and good for sensitive skin. We have found that Blue Lizard Baby to be the least irritating for my child’s skin, after being encouraged to try it by our pediatrician. They are another brand popular in my food allergy support groups. We are event happier that their baby version is SPF 50, and that Blue Lizard offers a number of sunscreen varieties. Also remember, sunscreen is not recommended by the AAP for infants younger than 6 months of age, and you should always apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure.
We also try to reduce the amount of sunscreen we need to apply. Wearing clothing that protects against UV rays is a great way to limit sun exposure without use of skincare products. Hats and light weight clothing are two of our favorite options. And rash guards paired with swimsuits are a great way to manage sun exposure for water play.
Click here to learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for sun protection.
3. Wash the day off (the right way)
Just because a sunscreen is less irritating doesn’t mean it won’t be irritating at all. Even Blue Lizard can trigger mild eczema flares on my child’s skin if we aren’t proactive. But what does being proactive mean in our family?
We make sure to wash the day off the right way. Bath time in the summer tends to be right after coming inside for the day (usually before dinner) to make sure we remove irritants as soon as we can.
It is also just as critical to choose less irritating products for the bath as it is to do so outside of the bath. After trying multiple kinds of soaps, body washes, and shampoos, my family settled on Dove Sensitive Skin body wash and Free and Clear Shampoo (which is manufactured by VaniCream). We have found scented products (or those marketing as all natural) trigger my little one’s eczema. Dove and Free and Clear are both the least irritating, and do a great job of washing off all the dirt, grime, sunscreen, etc. from the day!
After tubby time, we make sure to pat dry (rubbing with a towel is irritating) and then liberally apply VaniCream body cream, followed by Vaseline.
You’ve heard the saying consistency is key with parenting, right? The same is true with keeping your child’s skin clear. Following the steps above should make it less likely your child will have an eczema flare during a time that seems cut out to trigger one.
By using these four tips, my child skin has remained under control for multiple summers. These steps have made such a big difference for my child compared to previous years. I’m so grateful they are more comfortable thanks to small changes in how we manage skin care.
Do you have favorite products for sensitive skin?Please consider helping me provide better data for other families by participating in a survey regarding skin care preferences. Answers will be used in an upcoming revision of this article.
You can complete the survey below, or find it by clicking here.
Father's Day is just around the corner!
What is your little one getting for their Dad (or any important male figure in their life) this year?
Homemade gifts are always a favorite in our home. Last year we did a lot of hand and footprint canvas crafts, and one of them was for Father's Day. I'll admit, my family is quite sentimental, but that aside, we do love a good canvas craft. They are fun decor, hold up well over the years, and there is something extra special about art done on canvas instead of paper. Even when it is by little hands.
We have two father's day canvas crafts from last year; one that my little one made at home with me, and another made at school.
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I'll Always Look Up To You
We used finger paints, crayon, and sharpie to put this masterpiece together on square stretched canvas. I first drew the tree trunk, then looked up a fun father's day quote and printed it with sharpie marker, and then let my little one use their hands to create the leaves with finger paint. We signed the canvas with my little one's name and the year as well (though I've censored that).
DAD - Canvas Picture Frame
I can't take credit for this masterpiece (thank you Ms. Julie, my little one's daycare teacher at the time!!), but it was so lovely I had to share the idea with my own take on how to put it together.
You can replicate this craft by using a rectangular or square stretched canvas and nontoxic finger paint to paint your child's hands or feet. Then help them leave handprints or footprints on the canvas. You'll want to help, even if you have a toddler, because if your child presses too hard they could rip the canvas.
Then cut out shapes for the letters D-A-D (you could also do the names papa, pa, or any other short word for an important male figure in your child's life) and use a hot glue gun or super glue to insert photographs of your child, or drawings done by your child.
My child's teacher signed the canvas with a sharpie as well.
Additional Recommended Products
Looking for materials to create a similar masterpiece for a special man in your child's life? Here are some products we've used in our home, and swear by!
Bath time is one of my toddler’s favorite parts of the day. Splashing in the warm water, bubbles, and of course, amazing bath toys! I’ve compiled a list of three types of toys that my little one loves. We have tested each of these brands, and regularly use at least one toy in each category (noted further below). The best thing about each of these options is they offer educational value; they each promote some combination of fine motor skills, vocabulary skills, literacy, numeracy, and imaginative skills. Given this fact, these are toys that you’ll love as much as your child does. Continue below for a round up of some of our family's favorite options, along with ideas for helping your child learn during one of the best times of the day!
The Round Up
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The Shape Sorter Option: ALEX Toys Rub a Dub Sort 'n Spray Whale
My little one loves this adorable whale shape sorter by ALEX Toys. The shape sorter promotes color and shape awareness and fine motor skills, while the whale itself has a water sprayer for extra splashy fun. While it only comes with three shapes, for a bathtub toy, it has been more than enough to keep my little one busy. You can help your toddler build vocabulary by labeling the shapes and colors, and by asking your child to match the shape or color you ask for. Shape sorters also promote problem solving skills!
The toy easily comes apart to dry, or retrieve the shapes inside. This is also a toy that can be used in a backyard kiddie pool.
The Boat Option: Green Toys
We love Green Toys because they are a sturdy, eco friendly brand. Their products are made from 100% recycled plastic, are typically labeled BPA free, and some are even dish washer friendly (like their tea set).
The Literacy/Numbers, or Puzzle Option
A last fun option my toddler loves are these Munchkin foam letters and numbers (they also make a safari version). The numbers and letters set helps build letter and number awareness (I didn't really need to tell you that, it's obvious!), as well as color vocabulary. Help your child learn phonemes (letter sounds) by sounding out the letters they play with, and asking them to repeat. As they become more knowledgable, ask them what sound a given letter makes. And as your child gets even older, you can also use the letters to spell simple words. These toys cling to the side of the tub when wet, and my kid loves arranging them in different sequences while I label. We are also working on rote counting using the numbers, and working on sequencing both numbers and the alphabet in correct order. The pieces are also quite large in size, which makes them extra easy for small toddler hands to use.
The safari version comes in multiple pieces, allowing your toddler to use the set as multiple puzzles. Perfect for building problem solving skills while playing in the tub! We've not used the safari version yet, but knowing the quality of Munchkin products and the letters/numbers set, I'm confident it would be a good choice.
Munchkin has a variety of other great toys for the bathtub and beyond. Be sure to check them out!
What is your little one's favorite bath time toy?
Yesterday was the last day of Food Allergy Awareness Week 2020. I hope that the event can become obsolete soon; that we can finally achieve a cure. But, for right now, that remains a dream. So, with that in mind, I figured I'd end the week with a reflection on managing food allergies. My own, but more so, my child's.
Managing food allergies can often feel like a dark cloud hanging over our heads. The threat of a life threatening reaction looms, ever present. Like a summer storm, a reaction can come on quickly and furiously, leaving a trail of distruction in its path.
I pray we will find a cure. I pray each day my child will be okay; that they will make it through the day safely.
But there is a silver lining, and that is the community we've been connected with. The food allergy community, and especially the sesame allergy community, is fiercely protective. Supportive. Kind. Helpful. If we are going to live this life, at least we live it with them. We so appreciate you, fellow food allergy families. This life is hard, but you make it feel just a little more manageable. It has been just over a year since my child's diagnosis of a sesame allergy, and it has been a steep learning curve. But the process has been much easier with the support of our allergy community.
I hope you have had a healthy, safe Food Allergy Awareness Week, and wish you a healthy and safe year ahead. May the dark storm cloud remain far off, with the breeze in the opposite direction, for us all.
I didn't include the word mindful in my title for no reason. While I am certainly an evidence based parent, I am also a mindful one. Being a mindful parent means I make consciously evidence based choices about interactions with my child, and with the world. Consciously evidence based choices about our lifestyle. One of those choices is meditation. Meditation, at least in certain forms, is an evidence based practice shown to reduce stress and anxiety, among other benefits. Read more of my post about how meditation has become a family practice, and why I'm so happy it has!
There is no doubt about it; being a parent to any child involves a steep learning curve. But when your child is facing allergies, a life-threatening condition that impacts 1 in 13 US children, it can seem like there is just that much more you need to learn. What questions to ask when you call a company, how to read labels, how to communicate with those around you about safety concerns, how to administer epinephrine, what the signs of anaphylaxis are, and so on.
In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, I’ve compiled a list of five things I’ve learned as a food allergy parent. There are, of course, many other things I could add. For the sake of time, however, I decided to limit this post to just five.
1.Some people will think you are overdramatic. You can’t change that.
“You are so overbearing”. “Loosen up”. “It isn’t that big of a deal”. “They can have just a little”. “It is ridiculous to have a nut free lunch room; those overbearing allergy parents only think of themselves”. I could go on (and on, and on….) about the minimizing things food allergy parents hear. But the reality of the situation is, no one wants to join this club. We are fighting every day for our children’s lives. We aren’t being overdramatic. All food allergies are life threatening. Not everyone will understand that though, no matter how much evidence they are presented with. Sometimes, for your own sanity, you just need to accept you won’t change their mind. You already have enough to worry about trying to keep your child alive. If someone doesn’t want to believe food allergies are serious, I’ve learned to walk away. Sometimes it requires not having those individuals in my child’s life, either. It is unfortunate, but if someone believes that I am being overdramatic because I want to protect my child? They don’t deserve a relationship with me or my little one.
2.It is a major adjustment after diagnosis, but it gets more manageable.
When I learned my child had a sesame allergy (on top of a tree nut allergy), I felt lost. What could I do to keep them safe? What foods were sesame free? What lifestyle changes would we have to make? But over time, I learned the right questions to ask, what our safe products are, where our safe restaurants are, how to pack a bag to keep my little one safe while we are away from home, and what we need to be wary of. I won’t say managing food allergies ever gets easy. It doesn’t. But it does become more manageable as you find support and learn how to live with the condition. My allergy resource portal has a list of websites, downloads, products, and Facebook support groups that can help you get started if your child is newly diagnosed or you just need some direction.
3.Reading labels isn’t enough. There are tons of loopholes in labeling laws that allow for allergens to sneak their way into products.
I will have to do another post on this, but let’s put it this way. The only food ingredients manufactures are mandated to explicitly label on the product are those within the Top (or Big) 8*, or that are primary ingredients. Natural flavors, spices, and other terms can be used to hide any number of ingredients in a product. Additionally, there is no obligation for manufacturers to label if a food product has shared lines or facilities with any allergen (Top 8 or otherwise). This in turn means allergen proteins could be in a food item due to cross contact, even if the product doesn’t say so. Oh, and “peanut” or “nut” free just means there are no nuts in the recipe, not that the product is nut allergy safe! So no, reading labels isn’t enough, especially if you are managing an allergy outside the Top 8.
You can learn more about how to read a food label for allergies here.
4.Lots of people confuse intolerances and true allergies.
You can read more about one encounter we had with this misconception here. Ultimately, if you have a true allergy, you run the risk of a life-threatening reaction any time you come into contact with that food’s protein (regardless of reaction history). In contrast, while intolerances are uncomfortable and may be severe, they are not life threatening. Those with intolerances may be able to ingest small amounts of a trigger food without subjecting themselves to danger or discomfort. If someone tells you they have a food allergy, never assume they can have any of their allergen, or anything that has come into contact with their allergen. It could cost them their life.
Read more about the difference between food allergies and intolerances, and get answers to other frequently asked questions related to food allergies here.
5.You are your child’s advocate and it is perfectly acceptable to speak up. This is life or death.
My child can’t advocate for themselves yet. Because food allergies are a life-threatening condition, I need to be their voice until they can speak for themselves. Their life depends on it. Sometimes this means I look like the bad guy, especially when someone insists my child should or can ingest or come into contact with something that would be dangerous. You have a right to stand up for your child when others are not acting in their best interest. Whether that person is a family member, friend, teacher, or another caregiver doesn’t matter. It is absolutely acceptable to speak up on your child’s behalf.
As I noted earlier, this list is far from exhaustive. Furthermore, I continue to learn more the longer we are managing food allergies. But these five things are major lessons I’ve learned during the time we’ve been managing food allergies.
What is something you would add to this list?
*Top 8 Allergens: Milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish
10 Toys Your Toddler Will Love
Are you looking for the perfect gift for a special occasion or birthday? Just a new toy to keep your little one occupied? Read on!
Being stuck at home due to social distancing means I’m really learning about what keeps my toddler occupied. While outdoor play is essential, and we try to do it every day, it isn’t always an option (and as the weather grows colder, I anticipate outdoor time will become less and less). Unfortunately, that means lots of time indoors some weeks.
I know I’m not the only parent facing the “what can I do to keep my kid occupied” dilemma. While bloggers, including myself, offer a range of activities and crafts to keep your little one busy, sometimes you just want them to play independently, right? Of course!
Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the toys my little one is currently obsessed with. I love them as well, because they offer a wide array of benefits (including building fine motor skills, building cognitive and academic knowledge, keeping my child physically active indoors, and helping my child develop life skills).
I know your toddler will love them as well!
The Round Up
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This is one of my child’s all time favorite toys. The food truck offers a ton of fun activities for toddlers; a steering wheel for driving, a grill for cooking, a sink for washing, a cash register with menu cards, and a recycling bin with shape sorter. The toy has several other cute features as well, like a drying rack, a refrigerator, storage shelf, and more. Plus, it comes with some utensils and play food. My child is at the age where they like to imitate daily activities, such as hand washing. Sometimes they will even make me wash my hands (which is adorable). They also spend a lot of time pretending to drive. This set has given us hours upon hours of independent playtime.
This play set also offers educational value. It is excellent for building fine motor skills (with the cash register, shape sorter, and food items that fit together like puzzles)), matching skills (shape sorter and smoothie bar)), and color, number, and shape concepts, vocabulary, and, of course, imaginative play.
Choo Choo! Here comes your child’s new favorite train! My little one spends hours putting together and taking apart different train configurations and counting the blocks. Check out my child having a blast with this toy here. This set also offers the opportunity to buildfine motor skills (see a post on the matter here) and concepts related to numerals.
3. Mega Blocks - First Builders Big Building Bag
My little one adores this building set. They spend hours building towers, walls, and other shapes, then taking their work apart and trying something new. The blocks are very large; perfect for little hands still developing fine motor skills. As with the DUPLO set above, these blocks support fine motor development as well as coming in bright colors that can be used to support teaching color words. Having your child build towers of one color is a great way to work on color concepts. You can also use the varying sized blocks to work on relational vocabulary like smaller and larger, and tower building to work on concepts such as "up", "down", "on", "together", or "in".
This shape sorter is multipurpose wonder toy. Part truck, part shape sorter, all fun! Like other Melissa and Doug toys, it is wooden and high quality. I love the educational value, and my little one loves all the imaginative and puzzle solving possibilities. It comes with 9 different shapes, a male and female driver, and the truck really does tip to dump out the blocks.
To conclude discussion on this toy, I want to note that shape sorters are not just a ubiquitous childhood toy. They are amazing for building a wide range of cognitive and fine motor skills. I am working on a new blog post about why shape sorters are the most underrated educational toy on the market (including tying in research done on the topic), and will link to it when finished.
Being indoors doesn’t mean not getting active! One of our favorite active indoor toys is this awesome Melissa & Doug tunnel. Perfect for kids from crawlers up to toddlers, this has been a lifesaver in our home for rainy day movement time.
This is another awesome indoor active toy for children from crawling age up. We’ve even had 4 and 5 year olds enjoy this set at a birthday party we held last year. For very little ones, this set is great for crawling and then climbing on. Older kids can stack and build with them. I’ve been recommending this set to friends and moms in my local mom’s group for almost a year now (and the blocks are still going strong). We have even seen this set at some local indoor play areas. What is even better is the brand offers extension sets, so the blocks can grow with your child.
My little one has been really into puzzles lately, and we have used this one during our speech therapy sessions as well as free play. The puzzle pieces are thick, chunky wood, and the puzzle is of the high quality we’ve become accustom to from Melissa & Doug. I recently shared about this toy on my Facebook page and will be publishing a few ways to help use it as a structured educational toy soon!
If your child is anything like mine, they love to copy everything you do. And that includes cleaning! Because of my child’s age and hearing about issues with suction, we passed on the mini version of the real thing and instead bought this Fisher Price version. My little one enjoys “helping” me vacuum and always makes sure to make the vacuum sound while pretending to clean (it wouldn’t work without the sound, right?!).
This toy is a newer favorite. The Melissa & Doug Monsters Bowling Game has soft, fun monster pins and a monster bowling ball (though we often use a different, smooth ball instead). My little one loves using the set for bowling and for imaginative play.
This play set has been a household favorite for some time. It is entirely functional, though a smaller version of the adult tools. These help my little one feel like they are helping, while keeping them out of the way, while I am cleaning.
Looking for other great gift ideas? Check out all my family's favorite Must Have Products here!
Toys, games, books for the whole family, organizational products, kids furniture, craft supplies, and more. All in one convenient location.
What has been your child’s favorite toy during social distancing?