sneaking in reading practice

5 Ways to Sneak Reading Practice into Your Child’s Day

Fitting in reading practice into a child’s daily routine is often a re-occurring battle between parents and their children. This may be due to several reasons; it may be a challenging and therefore not enjoyable task for a child or there may be the distractions from activities that are much more appealing than reading. Continued exposure to literacy and reading is important, especially throughout the summer months. If a child continues to put up high resistance to traditional reading activities, try to “sneak” in reading into fun activities. Luckily, literacy is all around us and can easily be camouflaged into fun.

5 Ways to Sneak Reading Practice Into Your Child’s Day:

  1. Cooking: Invite your children to bake or cook a recipe with you. Children love to be involved and givenHow to Sneak Reading into Your Child's Day responsibilities. Have their “job” be to read the recipe to get the ingredients and tell you what is next. Children will also learn the importance of paying attention to details, as recipes rely on the completion of specific directions. Try to find a recipe that can be tailored to your child’s skill level. The recipe can be as simple or complex as you would like; even making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be made into a reading activity. You can also adapt a recipe to include different verbs or new vocabulary.
  2. Jokes: What child doesn’t love a good laugh? Reading jokes is a great way to add direct fun to a reading activity. Children jokes can be found on the internet, in a joke book or even on a popsicle stick! A child can practice reading a joke several times, and then perform it for another caregiver or adult later in the day. Not only is a child practicing his literacy skills, but he is also gaining exposure to figurative language.
  3. Road Trip Games: The summer season often comes with long road trips. It is easy to use electronics to occupy your child’s attention during these long hours. However, a great way to continue to improve your child’s literacy skills is to play the traditional Alphabet Game! Have your child look for the letters of the alphabet in the signs and words that you drive past. This is good practice with alphabetical order, identifying letters and reading single words. This game can be adapted to be a team effort or a race.
  4. Play teacher: Use the natural dynamic between older and younger siblings as an opportunity to get in some reading practice. Talk with your child about playing teacher with his younger sibling. The older brother or sister can read a story to his or her younger sibling, teach a specific letter or even write a short story. This is a fun way for kids to feel successful with reading, especially when they get to “teach” the younger brother or sister.
  5. Put on a Play: This is a great activity if you have multiple children that can participate. Find a free children’s drama script online or buy a book of children dramas. Children love using their imagination and also getting an audience’s attention. Practice reading the scripts before the performance to highlight any words they may not know and introduce them to new vocabulary.

If these suggestions don’t necessarily fit in with your child’s personality or family routine, get creative with your own daily routine. You can write up a schedule for your child’s day, having them read it at breakfast, or write out the directions of a craft for your child to complete. Remember the goal should be to create a motivating and fun activity for your child to gain additional practice and exposure to literacy.

Click here for more tips on how to get your child interested in reading.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Cooking Greens Made Simple

Swiss chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy… the word “superfood” is synonymous with all dark, leafy green vegetables. The super greensreason why is because they pack such a large nutritional punch. In general, dark leafy greens are loaded in vitamin A, folate, fiber, and also provide minerals like calcium and iron. They are even a source of the heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. As if that’s not enough, eating your greens can help fight cancer, which you can read more about on the website for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

So we know how nutritious greens are, but what about the taste? And what do you do with those big tough leaves of chard and kale anyways?

Here are some unique recipes to help your family eat more of this nutritional superfood:

Stir Fried Shrimp or Chicken and Bok Choy*

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (made ahead)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T plus ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed OR 1 lb chicken, diced
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 bunches of bok choy, stemmed and sliced
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • Asian chili sauce

Cook shrimp or chicken in olive oil and ½ teaspoon soy sauce over medium-high heat, until cooked through. Transfer to a plate. Add scallions, ginger, Read more

Healthy Twists on Your Kids Favorite Foods

Let’s face it; kids have their favorite foods and those foods may not be the healthiest choices. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as parents, could make healthier mango icecreamversions of foods that kids actually enjoyed? Well, you can! These recipes have been kid-tested and approved in my office (and home).

Below are a few ideas on healthy twists on your kid’s favorite foods:

Rice Cake Pizzas:

  • Brown rice cakes
  • Fat-free pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Baby spinach, sliced tomatoes and/or diced green peppers

Take out one rice cake and place 1-2 tablespoons of pizza sauce on top. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of cheese and as many veggies as you can get on top. Heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds or until cheese is melted. One “pizza” is approximately 100 calories, which makes a great snack or part of a meal. These pizzas are also gluten-free.

Simple Homemade Mango “Ice Cream”:

  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 1 package (16 oz) of frozen mangoes

Let mangoes sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to thaw slightly. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth so that the consistency is similar to ice cream, or for about 5 minutes. Serving size is ½ cup, which is 100 calories. This is a great option for a healthy dessert. Mangoes are high in vitamin A and the yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium.

Kale Chips:

  • 4 large kale leaves, washed and stems removed
  • 1 tablspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. After washing kale and removing stems, tear kale into bite-size pieces (approximately 2 inches x 2 inches each). Put kale pieces into a large bowl with olive oil and salt. Toss to coat. Spread out on a rectangular cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until kale is crispy like chips. Recipe makes 3-4 servings;however, this snack is so healthy that there is really no limit to the serving! Kale is a superfood and is high in many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

These recipes are all winners- for parents as well as kids. They are low in calories but high in nutrients, which is the best combination. What are some of your kid-approved healthy twists on recipes?  I would love to hear about your recipes in the comments section below!

A Week of Meals for Mom and Toddler

Do you feel as if you are in a rut of making the same meals for your family each week? Are your kids eating the same things over and over? I sometimes breakfast for kidsfeel this way. Someone once asked me, “Do you really follow all of the nutrition advice you give people?” And the answer is: yes! I would never tell someone to follow nutrition advice that I don’t agree with or have scientific evidence to support it. So, I thought it might be fun to share what a week’s worth of meals looks like for this dietitian mom and her toddler.

Breakfast is usually a similar rotation of a few things:

  • Scrambled eggs and whole grain toast
  • Oatmeal and fruit (my daughter’s favorite)
  • Multi-grain pancakes with blueberries
  • Barbara’s Multi-grain Shredded Wheat cereal or Gorilla Munch cereal and some fruit
  • Yogurt-fruit-spinach smoothie with toast or cereal

When it comes to lunches, I often serve leftover dinner for lunch. Otherwise, we will have something such as:

  • Sunflower seed butter and superfruit jelly sandwiches with fruits and vegetables, such as peas or carrots.
  • Black beans or garbanzo beans, sautéed with onions and spices on soft corn tortillas with cheddar cheese and fruit.
  • Rice cake and hummus with peas, cheese and fruit.

So that leaves dinner. This was our week:

  • Day 1: Grass-fed, organic ground beef hamburgers on whole wheat buns with homemade kale chips and roasted potatoes.
  • Day 2: Went to a relative’s house and packed dinner to take there. I ate falafel on whole wheat pita with cucumbers and tomatoes. My daughter had a 100% beef, nitrite-free hot dog on whole wheat bun with carrots and grapes.
  • Day 3: Homemade chicken stew in the Crock pot (organic chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, vegetable broth) with a side of dried cranberries.
  • Day 4: Spaghetti made with grass-fed ground beef, whole grain noodles and organic tomato vodka sauce with green beans and mangoes.
  • Day 5: Black beans sautéed with onions and spices on soft corn tortillas with cheddar cheese. We also added applesauce with cooked quinoa to the meal.
  • Day 6: Baked organic drumsticks with Harvest Grains (Trader Joe’s product) and green beans.
  • Day 7: “Picnic dinner”, which means we ate on a blanket on the floor. My daughter is thrilled by this aspect of dinner. I had a leftover drumstick, string cheese, steamed broccoli and tortilla chips and salsa. My daughter had a sunflower seed butter and superfruit jelly sandwich on whole grain bread with steamed broccoli.

In terms of what foods I buy and cooking methods required to prepare them, my goal is to keep things simple. I do cook almost every night. In fact, it’s actually rare when I don’t cook. I do not often make very elaborate recipes and I only cook using whole food ingredients. My daughter has been raised by being offered these kinds of foods for the past few years and this is what what she is used to eating.   I hope you enjoyed a look into our week!

*If you are interested in meal planning for your family, please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy to schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians. Stephanie can even come to the grocery store or visit your home to teach you how to make a week of healthy meals for your family. She will also get your kids involved, which helps to encourage them to enjoy new foods.


Ideas for Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Dinners

People choose to have a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons. There are some nutrition advantages to being a vegetarian, especially when it is done vegi childcorrectly. In other words, when eating as a vegetarian, it is still important to eat quality foods. If abstaining from meat implies consuming more processed carbohydrates and cheese, this is not exactly a healthy trade-off. Fruits and vegetables should be emphasized, of course, but a variety of quality protein sources and healthy fats should be included in a vegetarian diet as well. See my previous blog on protein sources for kids for a list of alternatives to meat.

I believe it is great to include one or two vegetarian meals a week. It introduces variety to your family so that dinners do not always involve a rotation of meat, starch and vegetables. It can also save money to feed your family a vegetarian meal; for example, if you use dried or canned legumes as the main course. Finally, vegetarian dinners tend to be lower in fat and higher in fiber, which are the ingredients to a heart-healthy diet.

Here are three easy recipes for vegetarian dinners that are also kid-friendly:

White Bean and Quinoa Panini-Wraps

1 small onion, chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 can white beans, drained and rinsed (estimate 1 can for about 4 servings)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
½ tablespoon cumin
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup plain yogurt
6 whole wheat tortillas

Heat olive oil in a medium or large pan over medium heat. Saute onions until soft. Add beans, quinoa, spinach and cumin. Continue stirring over medium heat for a few minutes until all ingredients are heated thoroughly and spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt and cheese. Heat another skillet or griddle over medium heat. Scoop ½ cup of the bean mixture and place into the center of the tortilla. Fold tortilla sides inward. Place wraps on the skillet or griddle, seam side down. Press flat and let toast 3-5 minutes on each side.
Makes 6 servings.

Since this recipe incorporates protein, whole grains and vegetables, the only side you need to add is fruit!

Peanut Butter-Drizzled… Tofu Stir Fry

1 block of organic, extra firm tofu, cubed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of your favorite vegetables, chopped. (Let the kids pick! Or go with colorful bell peppers)
1 cup chopped dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard, etc.)

1/4 cup peanut butter or almond butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/3 cup water

Saute tofu in olive oil over medium heat until tofu starts to brown (approx 10 minutes). While this is cooking, mix all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir with a whisk frequently until it is smooth and heated thoroughly. In the tofu pan, add vegetables and greens; continue stirring frequently. Let the tofu and vegetables saute until the vegetables are softened and the greens are wilted. Pour sauce over the tofu-vegetable mixture and mix well. Serve with noodles or brown rice and fruit.
Makes approx 4 servings.

Scrambled Egg Burritos

6 eggs
1 tablespoon butter
6 soft corn tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Condiments- chopped avocado, cilantro, and salsa or any your family chooses.

Melt butter in pan and cook eggs, scrambled-style. Warm the tortillas so that they are softened prior to assembling the burritos. Place each condiment, including the cheese, in small bowls on the table. Let the kids assemble their own burritos and pick which condiments they would like. Serve with a side of seasoned black beans (can of beans that has been drained, rinsed and heated in a small pot with salt, pepper, cumin and pinch of red pepper) and a side of fruit.

Try creating and serving these recipes once a week with your family. Help them enjoy a new meal by showing your own enthusiasm for it and asking them to help prepare it. Remember to use words to name the meal that they are already familiar with, such as Panini, peanut butter and burrito. This may help them feel more comfortable with the meal rather than saying quinoa and spinach, tofu and vegetables or eggs and beans. Enjoy!


5 Fun And Easy Activities to Promote Speech And Language Development During Summer

Three Happy Children Coloring On Construction PaperSchool’s out, which means you have extra time to spend with your child. As you plan activities to fill the day, you might find yourself needing a few “tricks” to tie in learning with fun. Here’s a list of my top five activities to encourage speech and language development while still having a good time.

1. Create a summer scrapbook.

Take digital pictures or save ticket stubs and brochures from special summer outings, and glue them in a construction paper book after special events throughout the summer. Help your child write a sentence about each page. Where did you go? Who was there? What did you see there? Afterwards, encourage your child to share their book with family and friends.

2. Have fun with sidewalk chalk!

Winter is finally behind us and the sidewalks are snow-free, so enjoy being outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Draw pictures of summer words or different shapes. Play a listening game by encouraging your child to step on the pictures as you name them: “Hop to the sunglasses”, “Bear crawl to the sun!” or “Skip to the beach ball!” Read more