Support for PBS Parents provided by:

  • Arthur
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Let's Go Luna
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Pinkalicous and Peterriffic
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Sesame Street
  • Ruff Ruffman Show
  • Mister Rogers
  • Cyberchase
  • SciGirls
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Martha Speaks
  • The Electric Company
  • WordGirl
  • Caillou
  • Oh Noah
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM
Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Health

I love this time of year when we get to connect with old friends and acquaintances at school. Leo and Henry share exuberant reunions with school buddies from last year and I catch up with my “mommy friends” at drop off. But there are some familiar entities I would rather not reacquaint myself with. Germs: those insidious, yucky, messy friends who stay too long at any party.
For me, the germs got to work right away. By the second day of school I had a slight stomach bug that reminded me of my first trimester. (And the answer is NO to anyone who thinks I may be on that boat again.) I visited my doctor who shook her head, saying, “It’s that time of year again” and told me about the woman who had puked in the very spot I sat not a day earlier. Ewww. For several days I was on the rice, water, clear foods diet. Welcome back to school!
For Leo, it took a couple more days. On Friday he came home from school with the sniffles and by Monday he was in full “cold with a head ache” mode. Leo didn’t have a fever and his energy level was fine. So, I sent the poor little guy off to school with a handful of tissues and strict instructions to use a lot of sanitizer. As a new Kindergartener Leo was concerned about getting permission to leave the sharing rug to blow his nose and wash his hands. I assured him that his new teacher would support him in his efforts.
So far, Henry and Gerry have not been visited by the Germs. I am crossing my fingers. But we can all do much more than that to keep germs and illness far far away from our homes this back to school season.
I sat down with the kids to re-watch the Sid the Science Kid episode “The Big Sneeze” about germs and hand washing. (You can get the episode on iTunes as a part of the Sid the Science Kid Season 2 collection.) The message never gets old. Germs stick on your hands, so wash them! Wash your hands! Even though we can’t see the germs, we still need to wash our hands.
With the fall approaching and flu season creeping up on us, even the simple act of washing our hands can make all the difference. When I visited my doctor about my stomach bug her main recommendation for helping my family was to wash my hands frequently. She also told me to use the dishwasher instead of hand washing dishes. I had never thought of that before. I need to make the boys appointments for the flu shot (or spray) and Gerry and I need to follow suit.
So, in this time of new beginnings, new friends, new schools, new outfits, and new lunchboxes I need to be vigilant and protect against new and unwanted GERMS. I know the kids will be learning more about it in school, but I love turning to Sid for a reminder.
How are your kids doing at school or preschool? Have any unwanted germs invaded your home? Share any tips you have for reminding your kids about hand washing!

Lunch isn’t Leo’s favorite meal of the day. To be truthful, Leo isn’t a voracious eater at any meal and he is a self-proclaimed “plant eater.” If Leo had his choice, I think he’d eat snacks all day long. I am sure you all know his type: a fly-by eater, small bites, and minimal meat. I don’t think of him as a “picky” eater but he does like to eat “pickies.”
Pickies is our family name for appetizers or finger foods. I often set out Pickies for dinner on family movie night or big sports events. We all pile on the couch and stuff our faces. I usually serve crackers and cheese, some sort of chip and dip, veggies and ranch, fruit kabobs, and chicken bites. Of course I get fancier depending on the event. I basically clean out the fridge and make it all look nice on platters. Pickies is Leo’s favorite dinner — and his requested birthday dinner.
When it came time to pack lunch for preschool, I was worried about Leo. He tends to eat slowly and hardly ever finishes a full sandwich. He likes to chat, use the potty, and stare into space while eating a meal. It takes a while. I had to come up with some creative ideas to get food in his tummy at school. I began making Pickies for lunch:
Here are some of the lunches we came up with:
Homemade Lunchables: My kids love these pre-made lunches, but they are full of salt, sugar and other fillers. I buy them every once in a while for a treat or while traveling, but we prefer to make our own. I save the real lunchable containers and fill it with crackers, turkey, and shredded cheese. I seal it up with plastic wrap.
Chicken Fingers: Leo has a thermos that he loves. I discovered that I can fit 3 or 4 hot chicken fingers in the thermos and they stay warm all day! (Duh.) I put ketchup in a small container and voila! It becomes a very special lunch. With fruit on the side, it makes the perfect meal.
**A Special Note About Ketchup: I have spent a lot of the last year researching the processed sugar content in foods because Henry is very sensitive to sugar. I had no idea how much sugar was in ketchup!! And ketchup is practically a food group in my house. I am not able to eliminate it completely, but I do buy organic ketchup because the sugar is less processed. And it isn’t that much more expensive. I buy the Trader Joe’s brand.
Fruit and Cheese Plate: Fancy, right? This meal is so very simple and Leo loves it. I pack a big bowl of fruit, a cheese stick, and crackers. For protein I send cashews. (Leo’s school was peanut free, but cashews were okay.)
Cheesy Roll-ups: Leo isn’t crazy about sandwiches, but he is willing to eat the inside of a sandwich. I roll up cheese and turkey or ham into long logs. Sometimes I cut them into wheels or I just leave them. As a treat, I sometimes add a soft sweet Hawaiian roll.
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: Leo will eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for any meal on any day. I love packing this lunch on a rainy day when I know they will be playing inside and this have more time to eat lunch. Soup goes in the thermos and I make a grilled cheese sandwich, chop it into little squares and wrap it in foil. It isn’t hot at lunch, but he doesn’t seem to care.
I don’t have time every day to make special lunches but I try. Never underestimate the power of the cookie cutter. Cookie cutters transform sandwiches from blah to WOW! For drinks, I tend to pack water. Sometimes, I send a juice box, but not every day. I fill a bigger sized cup and he can sip on it at lunch and then on the playground.
I love lunch containers, don’t you? I am always searching for the perfect little sectioned containers. I try and find containers the boys can open on their own, but I also know they have help from teachers and aids. I can’t say enough about our SnackTaxis. If you haven’t seen these before, you will love them. It is a snack bag made out of fabric, coated on the inside for easy cleaning. I have seen online tutorials for making them and I know there are several companies you can buy them from. I found SnackTaxi when Henry was a toddler.
Don’t forget about the power of a good breakfast! I love that Sid the Science Kid often shows the family sitting down to a hearty breakfast before school. I have to be purposeful about breakfast and make sure the boys load up before heading out. I could write a complete blog about breakfast alone!!
Finally, I try and remember the sage advice of my favorite family pediatrician: Children eat when they are hungry. If Leo comes home with an uneaten lunch, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I simply sit him down at 2pm and we eat. It doesn’t matter if he eats at 11am or 2pm, as long as he eats when he’s hungry. This was a hard lesson for me learn. I can always offer Leo a healthy snack and send him on his merry way.
Happy lunch packing! I would love to hear your lunch ideas! I am taking all my tricks up to Kindergarten, but I would love to have a few more! What kind of lunch makes your kids happy?

Gerry and I took the boys to the dentist for the first time when Henry was 4 and Leo was 2. It was a wonderful office, populated with friendly faces and decorated with cartoons and bright colors everywhere. The goal was to have a preliminary examination and have the kids’ teeth counted. No big deal. I was happy to see that each exam chair had a TV and that there was plenty of space for the parents to sit and stay close by, and stuffed animals were strewn everywhere. Henry was nervous and Leo was completely oblivious.
Leo got into the big chair first. He didn’t flinch as the kind dentist counted his teeth with a metal instrument. Gerry and I got a gentle lecture about the dangers of a pacifier for new teeth and Leo was done! Things got dicey when Henry took his seat. He was very uncomfortable in the chair and nearly jumped off when the dentist tipped the head back. Then Henry started to squirm as the dentist tried to look in his mouth. Finally, Henry went into hysterics when he saw the pointy metal instrument the dentist wanted to use to count his teeth. It was bad. I tried to soothe Henry, but he was terrified. And his screaming was starting to scare the other kids in the office. Ultimately, I had to hold a crying Henry in a back (soundproof room) as we coaxed him to let the dentist count his teeth. The ordeal was emotionally exhausting.
I haven’t been back. It’s 2+ years later and Henry is almost 7. Neither of my boys has had their teeth cleaned, x-rayed, or checked for cavities. I won’t go into my own personal dental horror stories, but suffice it say, we have been scarred as a family. But I am a parent, and it is my job to keep my kids healthy. Dental health is so important and I simply dropped the ball, or brush, if you will.
So this month I scheduled an appointment. I decided to take things slow. I talked to all of my friends and found an office I was comfortable with. I called, explained the situation, and scheduled a simple “meet and greet” appointment with the dentist. I told Henry all about the plan and promised him that we could go back as many time as he wanted before we even had a check up. I wanted Henry to be comfortable. I wanted him to feel safe.
Last week, we went to the dentist. The office was amazing, decorated everywhere with murals of safari animals. The waiting room was full of toys, puzzles, books and VIDEO GAMES. Henry was thrilled. Leo was excited. When we met the dentist, the boys were enchanted. She was beautiful, petite, non-threatening and to the point. I could tell that she was itching to get a look at the boys’ teeth. So she gambled.
“Do you want to watch another child have their teeth cleaned? Maybe you can try it too?”
Henry and Leo were interested. So we stayed. We watched the incredibly friendly and cheerful dental hygienist go to work on a tween girl. The boys were mesmerized and tempted by the choices of bubblegum flavored toothpaste and cherry flavored fluoride. The dentist stopped by again to tell the boys that they were welcome have their own teeth cleaned and join in the fun. She invited them to simply sit in the chair and learn about the tools. I decided to take advantage of the situation and offer a bribe.
“Boys, if you get your teeth cleaned, I will let you stay afterwards and play video games. We will stop any moment you want, if you feel scared or uncomfortable.”
It worked. The dentist called Leo over first and Henry watched as his brother picked a strawberry flavored toothpaste. Leo was a trooper, I tell you. He was a little scared by the instruments because they made noise, but I held his hand. He was nervous when the dentist counted his teeth, but didn’t make a fuss at all. No cavities! Clean teeth! It was a huge step forward for our family!
I looked at Henry, trying to gauge his readiness. But he surprised me by climbing right into the chair and saying, “Let’s do this. I want bubblegum toothpaste.” I couldn’t believe it! He sat still as the dentist counted his teeth (no cavities!) and began the cleaning herself (no hysterics!). He endured the entire cleaning and fluoride treatment. I was so proud of Henry in that moment that I actually got misty eyed.
I learned a lot at the dentist. I learned that I need to let my kids face their fears and just be there for them no matter what. I know that seems obvious when I put that in words, but I had been sheltering them by not going to the dentist. I was projecting some of my own fears onto their experiences and not making the best choice for their overall health. I also know that it is time to get myself to the dentist…if they could do it, then so can I.
Have you taken your preschooler to the dentist? How did it go? What advice would you give about the first trip to the dentist?

Today’s Sid investigation was a perfect recipe for a fun and successful science activity.
3 preschool people
2 moms
1 mirror
3 prepared lunches
1 Sid investigation on my iPad
Have children wash hands. Give them a mirror. Ask them to examine their teeth. Teach them the vocabulary for the types of teeth. Give them lunch. Ask them to think about and use their teeth as they eat lunch. Talk a lot about teeth. Laugh often.
Honestly, can it get any more delightful and simple to teach our children about teeth, supply them with academic vocabulary, and then put what they learn into action? I think not.
In all seriousness, I have stated MANY times on this blog that I appreciate the thoughtful academic design behind the Sid the Science Kid investigations posted online. Today we had a lunch date with our friends Devon and Morgan (returning guests to this blog) and it was so simple to incorporate the investigation into an ordinary activity. Let’s face it; feeding kids multiple times a day is less than glamorous. But if I bring learning into everyday activities a tedious time can become interesting and fun. Of course, I can’t pull this off in every tedious moment of parenting but it is totally worth is to sprinkle in the science every once in a while.
My friend Hillary filled in as my teaching assistant today. Ironically, Hillary is actually a teacher. It’s always a bonus to have her help. First we made sure the kids washed their hands. Then we asked them to show off their pearly whites for the camera.
Next, I pulled out a simple hand mirror and began showing them their teeth. It was interesting to see them touch and prod at their own teeth as if they had never seen them before. My guess is that Devon, Morgan, and Leo haven’t spent much time thinking about their teeth as individuals. But there we were with a mirror pointing out incisors.
I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful their tiny teeth are and reflect on the havoc those teeth caused on these preschoolers as babies. The trials of teething seem like a distant memory. It was sweet and a little strange to see my baby Leo looking at his own canines in wonder.
We talked about molars as they chomped down. Interestingly, the vocabulary was challenging to them. I kept repeating the names of the teeth, but for some reason the kids weren’t readily able to repeat them back. It must have been the mirror distracting them. I did tell them that canine is another word for dog and that struck a cord with the three of them. They won’t forget it now!
After looking in the mirror, we went to the kitchen for lunch. I prepared a meal with soft and crunchy foods, so we could continue talking and learning about our teeth.
As Leo, Morgan, and Devon eagerly dove into their pb&js, I asked them to tell me which teeth they used to get the job done eating. They knew for sure that the molars did the chewing but it was harder to narrow down the first bite. Incisors or canines? It took a few bites to figure it out: incisors! With the apples and carrots the kids knew for sure that they needed to use the canines…which they employed with gusto and giggles.
Then I asked them to try and eat a bite with only their front teeth. It was hilarious watching them try and figure that out. Not such an easy task and it led to some pretty funny faces.
I was grateful for Hillary’s help as we extended the conversation to the teeth and chewing habits of animals. We talked about elephants and sharks, which lead to a conversation about plant eaters and meat eaters. Talk about building on a concept!
Lunch today was a science adventure. I can’t say what will happen tomorrow, but I sure will keep my eyes open for other science opportunities. And Leo DID spend a little extra time brushing his incisors, canines, and molars tonight before bed.

I can’t help but notice a shift happening as we head towards the spring season. There are flowers on the trees and the wet mornings a little less chilly. We are definitely feeling the effects of the time change over the weekend. At seven in the evening the boys observed the twilight sky from the car windows with wonder. “Is it night or day?” they asked. I love that question because it is neither night nor day. It is the magical time of the day that harkens to evening baseball games and picnics on the beach in July. Spring makes summer feel closer, right?
Henry and Leo were chatting in their beds well past nine o’clock on last night. Another time change side effect. I tried to be stern about quiet in the bedroom but it is so sweet to hear them chatting away in whispers. It fulfills a dream I have for them as brothers and best friends. But this morning was decidedly groggy.
Little league season has started. Morning games are chilly and afternoon games are hot. What a happy sign of spring! Baseball is full of science learning around physics, speed, and nutrition. Yes, nutrition. I am trying to teach Henry and Leo about correctly fueling their little bodies for sports. We are learning how to read labels and count our sugar intake. We are drinking lots of water and eating protein before practice and games. Henry, especially, needs to fuel up or he crashes (literally) mid-game and plops down on the grass in the infield. Both boys love baseball (so far) and the exercise is much needed after a quiet winter.
The season of birthday parties has also begun. Outside birthday parties are a clear sign to me that folks are willing to risk the elements in the hopes that spring provides sunny and clear days for celebrating. We got lucky this weekend! And the party was a science party! We were treated to a reptile show in the backyard of Leo’s school buddy. It was so much fun! In the hour-long show the kids were introduced to scorpions, spiders, snakes, lizards, and frogs of all sizes. While the show was entertaining, it was also full of great science facts about the animals: what they eat, where they are from, how they hunt, how the protect themselves from predators. The kids were riveted and I was impressed. And what 4-year-old boy wouldn’t be thrilled by a ride on a tortoise?
On a Sid note: I overheard Leo talking with his friend Devon about friction the other morning. He said, “These socks have friction. I need to change.” And then Leo charged upstairs to change his treaded socks to ones without treads on the bottom. He also brought down a pair of socks for his barefoot friend. And then they started sliding all over the place. I love that for Leo, friction is a noun. Things have friction or they don’t. I couldn’t resist jumping into their fun and asking all sorts of questions about friction. I was informed that the sliding wouldn’t work on the carpet (duh mom!) or without shoes or with socks that have bumps on them. I tried to take a clear action shot of the sliding…but the boys were just too fast!
Spring inspires me to plan new science activities and explorations for us. In April we have new Sid the Science Kid Easter episode to look forward to. I am excited to explore a new science museum on our trip to San Francisco over spring break in a couple of weeks. There is something to be said for spring cleaning: open the windows, put on some shorts, and start adventuring!
Do you have any spring activities planned? How can you bring more science into your springtime?

Happy 2012! I have been reading a lot of blogs this week all about New Years resolutions. As a concept, I have nothing against resolutions. I think it’s a good idea to “clean house” and set some goals for the future. My goals don’t change much year to year. Be healthy, move more, work on being a better mom, and eat a few more green leafy veggies. These are things I always work on and I don’t need the turning of a year to remind me. Usually.
This year, however, I realized that once again, I have an opportunity to model some healthy behaviors for Henry and Leo. I decided to voice a healthy resolution and the get the kids on board with helping the family make it happen. It’s simple, it’s affordable, it’s fun, and it’s something we all like to do: bicycle riding!
When I was a preteen my bike was my constant companion in the summertime. My bike afforded me freedom, exploration, and solitude. Our house was near an enormous reservoir and I loved riding along the shore road. It had huge hills, rambling orchards, horse stables, and few cars. I dreamed a lot on those bike rides…mostly about owning a horse and writing novels someday. It was quiet and flying down the steep hills was thrilling. I was young and strong…exercise was a bonus I never thought about. It was splendid.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped riding my bike. Who knows why, but we all have our stories about leaving childhood behind. When I turned 30 I lived in Boston and my parents bought me a wonderful city bike. I rediscovered the joy of biking, this time along the Charles River. But it wasn’t as easy or as freeing…exercise hurt more and I was somewhat resentful of my bike. I was tired and felt far from free. I lent the bike away and only got it back when we moved to California a few years later.
And here I am, with two active boys who want to be outside all the time. They want to explore and be free. Henry and Leo just want to move. They are naturally healthy and naturally strong. It is time for me to find the bicycle mojo again. There’s no excuse because I actually like being on a bike. That feeling of freedom as you fly down the road does not disappear with age. And I want my kids to know that freedom.
Over the past 10 years many communities around the United States have invested in creating safe family bike trails along old railway lines, beach paths, and scenic town roads. From Cape Cod to Ventura Beach there are thousands of choices. Of course, the boys can’t go off on their own to explore the town, but we can find new places together. But I can let them ride ahead a little bit and experience the feeling of an empty road ahead with the ocean at their side. The wind, the air, and the views are enough to make anyone, child or adult, feel free.
And of course, we will be exercising as a family. As I said above, and have written about many times, modeling is the best kind of education for my preschoolers. Henry and Leo want to be with Gerry and I all the time and they look to us for tool to how to live a healthy life. Someday, they will be preteens and, just like me, they will search for some solitude along with their freedom. Until then, I will hop on my bike and ride the adventures with them. And we call all feel healthy and free together.
What healthy resolutions have you made? What tips can you share about modeling healthy behaviors for your preschoolers?

When the boys and I are at the park, I sit with my friends and we watch the kids run around for hours. Inevitably, from time to time, one of us says something like: “Can you remember having that kind of energy?” Or “Don’t you wish they could bottle that?” One day last week our kids ran around the park for over 4 hours! My favorite comment on days like that is: “They will sleep well tonight!”
My boys don’t think about keeping their heart rates up while exercising like I do while trying to walk off my extra pounds. The boys just run and play. Nature and metabolism do the rest. (I am guessing on that point…not a scientific observation.) However, in light of the Sid the Science Kid Health cycle this week, I thought it was a good idea to illustrate the power of the heart.
On one of our park days I called the Henry, Leo, and their friend Logan over. They came running, explaining a complicated game I was interrupting. When I asked if they wanted to do an experiment they all yelled “Yeah!” I hope their future high school science teachers received the same kind of enthusiasm.
I had the boys sit on the grass and listen for the thump thump of their heartbeats. It was challenging for them — mostly because they kept talking as they searched. I asked them to be very quiet and very still and showed them where to place their hands. Eventually, they all felt the steady rhythm of their heartbeats at rest. It was sweet to watch them listen in earnest.
I also tried to show them how to feel heartbeats through their pulse, but we were less successful. I did, however, talk with them about the job of the heart and helped them understand how important it was to keep it healthy–specifically with exercise.
Then, I told them to run: “Go up the little hill, run around the big tree, run back down the hill, come back to me, and then DO IT AGAIN!” They took off in a sprint. Of course, they fumbled the directions and balked when I sent them back out again, but they ran with gusto!
By the time Leo, Logan, and Henry flopped back on the ground they were obviously energized. I quickly told them to put their hands on their hearts and tell me what they felt. All three boys were amazed at how swift their hearts were thumping. They didn’t feel challenged to find their heartbeats this time. I asked them to cover their ears to feel the sensation in their heads of their hearts beating after exercise.
A moment later Henry asked, “Can we go now?” and off they went back to their game. Energy unbound. Hopefully our little investigation on a sunny summer day will have impact so they remember and understand the importance of heart health through exercise. It is somewhat like the nutrition instruction I try and work subtly into their lives. I don’t force the information on them; I try and weave information about health into our everyday lives. For now, I can feel good about the fact that Henry and Leo will run and play and swim for hours a day without complaint. I hope they make time for that as adults too!
What activities keep your kids’ hearts pumping over the summer? How do you talk with them about heart health?

The cycle on Sid this week is about health. In one episode, called “Must See TV,” Sid decides to watch TV for a whole weekend. Sid soon discovers that his body doesn’t feel great after a while and the kids explore exercise at school. I like the concept of the show and it really got me to thinking: Why do I let Henry and Leo watch television?
As many of you can attest, television watching is one of those hot topics that parents talk about on the playground along with sugar intake, video games, and potty training. Television elicits some pretty strong opinions, for and against, that sometimes can turn into a competition or an awkward moment among parents. I, for one, have found myself feeling alternately guilty and comfortable about letting Henry and Leo watch television regularly; depending on what friend I am talking to.
Let me state, for the record, that I am not an expert on preschoolers and television. I feel like there has been a lot of information swirling around out there about the dangers and benefits of watching television at an early age. Some studies give an age when it is appropriate to watch television, others give a time limit, while others say children shouldn’t watch at all. I try and keep up, but ultimately, as with all the other hot topics, television watching is a decision that Gerry and I make on our own for our family.
I know why I let my boys watch television (we’ll get to that), but what about my peers? Instead of asking for reasons why parents DON’T let their preschoolers watch television, I thought I would ask my friends on facebook why they DO allow it. I got a nice batch of responses. One of my cousins told me that she is able to put dinner together while her children watch television. My friend Sam said that every mom needs a break every once in a while, and the TV helped her get that. My friends Michaela and Susan spoke about commercials and advertising and limiting exposure for their little ones. Some friends said that PBS was the only channel their preschoolers watched. I, of course, agree whole-heartedly.
My favorite response was from my friend Liz, mother of four:
“Some days none, some days more than I even thought I would. Usually I do it when I need time with another kid/s for talking, reading or homework, but even when it was just the two boys I let them. Not to get all soap boxy about it but I think our society is always telling us to go, go and multitask and fill every moment. I also think we need to teach our children the value in allowing your self to relax, veg, do nothing or nothing of any importance. I watched when I was a kid. I think I turned out alright.”
There seemed to be a general consensus about television providing us, as parents, with a time out of our own to take a breath, and get things done. Frequently, I do let Henry and Leo watch television just so I can reclaim a bit of my sanity. I do not think there’s anything wrong with that. But what does it provide for them?
I can only speak for my family when I explain why I allow Henry and Leo to watch television. My boys are active, in constant motion, running around the house, playing in the yard, and having daily adventures. I (along with Gerry) am in charge of their health and well-being. I am not worried that TV will make my kids sedentary. I, like my friend Liz, believe that television gives them a change to stop and relax for a little while. I have also noticed that Henry and Leo self-regulate when it comes to the television. When they’ve had enough, they stop watching and start playing.
I believe we live in a media-driven world. Parents have to make their own decisions about when to introduce their children to that world. In our family, we made the choice at preschool. We limit the time the boys spend watching and we often watch TV as a family. I do not let the boys watch a show that I have not screened. We try to watch channels that do not market products to small children. We set our own rules and we are aware of what is needed for our own family. I think that is key.
I am also a strong believer in the power of excellent children’s programming. I am a first generation Sesame Street kid and I am grateful for the experience of growing up with that show. My boys love the programming on PBS and often use the content as a springboard for play. Just this week they were animal rescuers in the jungle and became animal superheroes; all based on a new show they are watching. Finally, as most of my readers know, Sid the Science Kid has changed that way I think about science for preschoolers. The show has provided me with countless opportunities to explore, create, learn, and communicate with Henry and Leo. I wouldn’t think of pulling the plug on us now.
I am really interested in knowing why you let your preschoolers watch TV. What goes into your decision-making? What advice would you give to a parent who is trying to make the right choices?

We learned about the word “oomph” this week and we are all the better for it. Oomph is Sid-speak for “force” and during the episode called “Sid’s Super Kick,” we had lots of opportunities to explore oomph. Leo was particularly struck by the episode because he just began taking a pre-soccer class at the recreation center in our town. After only a few Saturday mornings my boy is hooked. Leo already has great moves and strong focus. So, having the show open with Sid asking question about kicking a soccer ball was great.
I am always saying that preschoolers need to have concrete ways of understanding science concepts. Force is no exception. The example of the soccer ball was a perfect way to get out to the park with the boys and practice our oomph with kicking. Honestly, the idea that you have to kick the ball harder to get it to go farther was not unfamiliar to Leo or Henry. They knew intuitively as we practiced kicking the ball with different degrees of force what the outcome would be.
However, knowing the concept is different from mastering the words and using the academic vocabulary on your own. So, although Leo and Henry didn’t have trouble understanding the concept of force, they didn’t have the science vocabulary until this week. And I think that is cool. I’ve notice that the boys discuss new ideas in the car, and all week they’ve been chatting about force and “oomph.” I love listening from the front seat.
Sid’s use of the word “oomph” and soccer example also got me thinking about another True Trina Confession. (Yes, I need to trademark that.) So far in this blog I have confessed to not liking vegetables, forts, or playground snacking. This week, I will confess to not really doing a good job at all at being an active mom. My kids are very active, don’t get me wrong, but this Mom need to get her rear in gear.
I had no idea that baseball and soccer oomph would be just the thing I needed!
Leo’s soccer class requires parent participation. So there I am, at an early hour, running around with Leo, passing the ball, and chasing him around. Leo absolutely loves it. To be honest, I do too. I get winded, but to share that time with Leo and watch him learn to be healthy and active is really inspiring to me. It’s the same kind of excitement I get when we read a really great book together and the story makes us laugh or learn something. I never realized that I could get the same enjoyment out of running around. It’s the best incentive I’ve ever had to exercise. And boy, do I need it.
Henry is also beginning his first season of sports with baseball. My town takes little league very seriously and T-ball is the first introduction to the culture that makes my town tick. Gerry and I are pretty excited about it. Henry, unfortunately, is not as jazzed. So, what that means is that Mommy needs to don a glove at practice every week and help to motivate Henry.
My job is to warm Henry up before practice by playing catch. I have never played catch in my life. Really. When Henry whips that ball at me, it is all I can to keep from yelping and hiding my face in the glove. I am terrified, but exhilarated. Anyone who knows me will tell you about my fanaticism for the Boston Red Sox, but I have never ever played the game. It’s fun because Henry gets to watch me learn a new skill and I get to participate in his practice. He’s getting more comfortable with the idea of playing and I am trying to throw with “oomph.”
I am always looking for news ways to build some “oomph” into my life. I like the idea of finding ways to exercise and be active with my kids. The benefits are boundless and the rewards will show in my waistline and in my relationships with Henry and Leo.
Do you have any advice for how to be a more active parent? What sports or activities do your preschoolers like? How do you motivate your kids? I would really love to hear from you on this one!

I feel like a lot of my daily mental energy is taken up by food: what to make for my family, how to get the boys to eat, what to give for snack, how to say no to requests for treats, how to get dinner on the table before 6pm, and how to manage my budget at the grocery store. Of course, healthy eating is something I strive for, but with so much to juggle, I can’t say that I always succeed.
As the boys get older, I find myself loosening the food restraints I have traditionally enforced. This is especially true for snacking. When our world was more home-oriented, snacks were always healthy, rarely sugary, and never ever given on demand. As our world has expanded to include school, sports, and play dates, I have been unable to follow through with all of my at-home rules.
Every Monday we have a play date with Henry’s classmates at the park. We all bring a snack, potluck style. At the beginning of the school year I always tried to bring fruits, nuts, or crackers. As time goes on, however, it is easier to buy a bag of cookies. I know how busy we all are and somewhere along the way I stopped caring about big buckets of cheese balls. I let the boys play with their friends and feast at the snack table, no matter what’s there. To be fair, there is usually a fruit in the mix, but the kids don’t really gravitate that way. The times when Henry would pick a strawberry over a cupcake are long gone.
Let me be clear, I ALWAYS want to eat cake, just like Sid does on the show. I totally understand the struggle for the boys. We just get in a rut, and I lose my routine. I sometimes need to reboot, and remind myself about what’s important for the whole family. Henry and Leo are learning the tools of how to make eating choices for the rest of their lives right now. In honor of Food Week on Sid the Science Kid, I am going to make some changes. The first step is to educate my boys about healthy foods vs. sometimes food.
So, Leo and I headed to Trader Joe’s to grocery shop and have a lesson about healthy eating. Once we got in and Leo was pushing his own little cart, we started talking about what kinds of food are healthy choices and which foods are only to be eaten sometimes. We decided that only healthy foods would land in his cart.
We began in the vegetable and fruit area and he clearly knew that both varieties are definitely healthy foods. When we moved over to the whole grains and bread area, he wasn’t so sure, but I helped him understand that this food group is important.
He was very happy to get these cookies in his hands, and not so happy to put them in the big cart. But he knew right away that this was a sometimes food.
Once again, Leo was way ahead of what I think he knows. He ran around that store on a mission. He never got it wrong. For some reason, Leo was insistent that I take his picture in front of the healthy yogurt.
Our last stop was by the chips and snacks. He loves to snack on cheesy crunchies, although he did know to put in my cart as a sometimes food.
Once again, it is evident my kids are way ahead of where I think they are. They can only eat what I offer them, and I feel like it’s my job to provide them with the healthiest foods I can. To give them credit, Henry has been known to insist that a mom call me when he’s offered a sugary snack on a playdate. Makes me proud. They will have plenty of time on their own in the future to choose for themselves. I just need to be mindful and not let the occasional “treats” become everyday routines.
What tips do you have about healthy eating? Tell me about some of your successes with your kids and healthy food habits.
NOTE: Leo fell on the corner of a coffee table last week. That’s why his cute little face looks a little blue. I keep telling them not to jump on the furniture…

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

What's this?

PBS Parents Picks

  1. Wild Kratts image

    Wild Kratts App Teaches Young Children How to Care for Animals

    In this app, kids are charge of feeding, washing, and playing with baby animals.

  2. Curious Kids image

    How (And Why) To Encourage Curiosity

    "...when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better."

  3. Gardening Benefits image

    The Benefits of Gardening With Kids

    Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. A few containers and soil in a sunny spot will do.

PBS Parents Newsletter

Find activities, parenting tips, games from your child's favorite PBS KIDS programs and more.