Thursday, 24 January 2019

Healthy School Lunches Ideas– 10 Tips To Get Organized

Are you getting tired of the same old recipes that you trot out week after week, when getting the kids’ lunches ready?  You know that healthy school lunches for kids are usually much better than what they can get at any school cafeteria. The only problem is that it takes longer and you have to be really organized to get them ready in time. But follow these tips where we will give you some useful ideas. Best of all, you can get the Real Plans app which will help you get organized.

Let’s see what the healthy school menu looks like.

Healthy school lunches ideas 

1. Think outside the box and go for hummus, yogurt and wholegrain bread, rather than dull sandwiches with the usual filling. You can always include some leftovers form previous dinner if they went down well. If they did, then you might not have any left at all.

2. It is not a given that the kids will want something different every day. We all like routine and that goes for kids so you have to try and collaborate with them on what they really like. A certain predictability will make it easier for you though!

3. Wrap it up!  Wraps are a great alternative to boring old sandwiches. Have some left over turkey? Chop it up and add in a few gated carrots with some julienned red pepper and then add your kid’s favorite mayonnaise or salsa sauce.

4. Ask your older kids and get them to help you with healthy school lunch menu. This is a sure way that they will eat what they made! They are less likely to throw this in the playground rubbish bin. Also, preparing stuff the evening before means less chaos in the morning rush.

5. Some fruits are better for older kids, like oranges because they can peel them quickly. Time is short and younger kids may not be able to cope with all that peeling. Soups and stews are great in the winter if you put them in a thermos but again you have to make sure that the kid knows how to manage it so that there are no messy accidents.  Also, go for crackers rather than bulky rolls which can be really difficult to bite and chew on.

Watch the video here where you will see one of the best meal planning apps in action. All you need is your smartphone!

6. No junk food but….. No point in totally banning junk food as we all need a treat now and again. No harm in packing in some muesli, pita bread chips, nuts, chocolate, and a few snacks.

7. Use your kids’ favourite veggies as often as you can. Try pita bread if they like it and also ask them what they want in their tacos with low fat sour cream, rice and beans.

8. Make a week’s lunches ahead. Do them all in the one day and then organize your cold lunch bucket in the fridge so that they are easy to put together. An even better idea is to get the kids to assemble them together just before leaving. They are more likely to eat their choice.  Here are some things to get ready for the week ahead.  Peppers can be thinly sliced, celery sticks, carrots, mandarin oranges, apples and oranges already sliced. It’s a great idea to have a stock of cherry tomatoes  ready to go.  Cut up melon when in season and add grapes and cherries when you have them. Berries and kiwi fruit can be popular too.  Then you can have a stock of yogurt cups plus babybel cheese and also string cheese. You can also keep a box of dry items (not in the fridge!) so that these can be quickly added at the last minute. These will include beef jerky, chips, crackers, muesli mix, brownies, cookies and granola bars.

9. Cut pizza into roll up sizes so that they will fit nicely into the Bento box. You can easily use left over chicken and turkey by mixing them with a favourite sauce and shove them in a roll, wrap or sandwich. Cream cheese and strawberries can make a healthy sandwich option.

10. The sooner kids get involved in their own lunch menus, the better. It will give you a break and also help the kids to make healthier choices. They are also much more likely to eat what they have themselves prepared or packed. It will also reduce any whining about what you prepared. Always ask your kids what they want and then work out what is also easiest for you.

Monday, 24 December 2018

How to Raise Resilient and Independent Kids

Here's my take on overprotective parents. This was written by myself and

Originally published at

When we were young, my uncle defended his kids even when they were in the wrong and let the headmaster know about it in no uncertain fashion. We looked on in disbelief as our parents had completely different ideas and they would never have done that. We had to stand on our own two feet and they very rarely intervened. When we were mocked in the street, my mother’s response was :-

Helicopter parents are really ruining kids’ sense of autonomy and resilience in the long term. This quote says it all:-
“Helicopter parents. Before I started at Pirriwee Public, I thought it was an exaggeration, this thing about parents being overly involved with their kids. I mean, my mum and dad loved me, they were, like, interested in me when I was growing up in the nineties, but they weren’t, like, obsessed with me.” -Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
You can watch the video here of Lenore Skenazy who has a great site called Free Range Kids and she defends her position very well in this video and I completely agree with her. She says that society has become obsessed with child protection and some parents are even charged with negligence when their kids are playing unattended in their own backyard!

And what about parents who are just not even bothering to supervise their kids on the Internet?
It needs to be monitored (without hovering around them all the time!) because there may be a need to restrict media activity. Again, parents setting the example can be a great help. They can be much more active in restricting use of devices at mealtimes, family get togethers and even on outings. 

In a way, overprotective parents are having a knee jerk reaction to hysteria about child safety and protection and that is understandable but this is not the answer to raising resilient and independent kids.

Originally published at

Friday, 21 December 2018

Upgrade Your Parenting in 2019 – Spend More Time With Your Kids

Upgrade, you say? You must be joking and as for time, forget it. I am exhausted at the end of the day and never get through all the things on my to-do list.

Well, here are my 5 top ways to actually make more time so that we give our kids more quality time.

  1. My top one is dinner time together. Maximize the time you spend together. That means no TV (why on earth would you invite a loud-mouthed commercial gadget to sit with you at dinner?).  All smartphones are switched off. Now, there is a time saver. No interruptions on our own phone so we can actually TALK and Listen to our kids.
  2.  Listening to my kids. So, a recent trick is that as soon as I get through the door, I switch off my phone so that I can actually listen to what my kids are telling me. They might want to tell what happened at school. Again, I have carved out more time for them. The experts reckon that we do not listen enough. Nothing worse than greeting your kids with your face buried in your iphone.
  3. So, my kids are playing their own video games and I am on the computer answering emails. Do we even know what these games are like and do we know how to play them?  A great way is to carve out a few minutes fun to play with them.
  4. Who is doing the chores? Me, of course!  Well, there are ways that we can get kids involved and ask them to do simple things and which they will get into the habit of doing. Prizes for the fastest and most efficient.  Even very small kids can learn to put toys away. We save time all round and that means we might have more time at the end of the day, to spend winding down and getting ready for bed.
  5. Reading. Good old fashioned reading bedtime stories!  All the experts tell us that all the light from screens is going to keep us awake that much longer and also interfere with our own wake-sleep patterns. Switching off all media one hour before bedtime is the best way of doing that.

There are lots of other ways of saving time so that we can become more efficient and spend that time with our kids. Getting informed about delivery services, sharing collecting kids from sports and dance lessons, meal prep and planning ahead so that the morning rush is less hectic.

Now, does upgrading our parenting for 2019 seem such a difficult challenge? Try these tips and see how you get on.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Top 100 Toys For Christmas 2018 - 5 Tips To Avoid The Worst Toys

You know the scene. Loving aunts, uncles, in-laws and grandparents come laden with new toys for the kids. You are not sure where, how and why they have selected their top toys for Christmas 2018 from! 

You think that this is going to be another toy tsunami with undesirable toys being washed up all over the house.  So how do you avoid the toy situation getting out of control? Here are my top 5 tips. 

1.      There are some very stupid and insulting toys on the market.  We have all sorts of toys such as babies that actually pee and some very gender oriented toys such as the Lego kits for girls which build a beauty salon.  It might be no harm to let the relatives know that such toys are not a good idea and that your kids have a wish list. Tell them about it. That can avoid many an embarrassing situation when presents are opened.

2.      Maybe you cannot stand noisy toys like me. So that goes on to the list too and then there are the toys that should be banned which are downright dangerous, scary, sticky or run on batteries. The latter tend to be consumed in a ridiculously short space of time and are basically non  environmental friendly.

3.      Set the rules for a limit on the number of screen devices so that your kids are not overwhelmed. Try telling all the loving relatives and friends that no cell phones no new WII, computers or play stations are needed. As parents, we can decide what toys are needed. We want to reduce time on screen devices and help our kids get out in the open air and do healthy things like sports. If not they will risk end up being zombies.

4.      Art supplies and craft kits should be high on the list and drop hints about these, when you can. This encourages creativity and finished products can be given to loving grandparents on birthdays and so on. It helps to keep the toy tsunami at bay. Which reminds me that all our old and unused toys are given to charity and room is made for new ones. Learning to code  is a fabulous new skill to learn. The Botley Toy is one of my favorites 

5.      Kids love books and if they have ereaders such as Kindle, then this is a great way to encourage them to read. Telling relatives what types of books (traditional ones or ebooks) is a great way to encourage the best gift of all which is a book. Any sort will do! Click on the banner here for the Holiday Toy List Top 100. 

How to Tactfully Tell the Grandparents What NOT to Give  #1: Set the Rules — Give yourself permission to ban certain types of toys altogether. Let me suggest a category or two: toys that 1) make excessive noise, 2) require a ridiculous amount of battery power, 3) are gooey or sticky, and 4) are just plain annoying. Remind the grandparents that those are the types of toys that like to visit THEIR house permanently.
#2: Start the ‘Toy In, Toy Out’ Tradition — Set a maximum safe toy capacity limit. For example, the stuffy collection must fit into this designated toy box. If the stuffy collection has reached maximum capacity, tell both the children and grandparents that for every stuffy that comes into the house, an equal (or greater) amount must leave (hopefully that will break them of the habit of attaching a decorative stuffy to every gift).
#3: Suggest Collections or Sets — Start collections or toy sets that grandparents can add to so at least the new additions can live with their fellow toy mates (and most sets tend to have small pieces of varying price ranges). Keep an updated list of the missing pieces that your kids would love to add to their collection to share with grandparents who may be nervous about buying duplicates.
#4: Ask for Consumables — Tell the grandparents how much Little Suzy loves to make beautiful pieces of art to give to the grandparents. Suggest buying art supplies (paper, stickers, glitter glue, Popsicle sticks, etc.) and maybe even an how-to book or craft kit. It’s a win-win-win because the kids get something they will enjoy, the grandparents get beautiful works of art and you get toys that magically disappear.
#5: Be Honest About What Matters the Most — Remind the grandparents that no matter how anticipated, all toys are quickly forgotten and what the kids value the most is time spent with them. If they are far away, suggest a gift of a visit or a meet-you-in-the-middle arrangement and if they are nearby, suggest a special grandpa

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

More Recesses And Fresh Air – Is This The Key To ADHD?

I have just been reading an article about a US family who moved to Norway. They were really brave in that they left their ADHD son’s medication behind. The good news is that the child who had lots of problems in the US school started to thrive in Norway.

The family were delighted to find that the child started to enjoy schoolwork and was keen to do homework. But they were also more than impressed with the school environment in Norway. They noticed that things are done differently there and it seems to help the children a lot:-

  • 3 recesses instead of 1
  • much less technology in the classroom
  • teacher gives undivided attention to the pupils
  • the school day is one hour shorter – gives the kid more free time
  • child has two hours of playtime which is four times the US average
  • a half day field trip is obligatory every week.
  • extra curricular activities encourage students to cook and do other manual tasks
  • in Finland, every hour lesson has a fifteen minute recess which must be taken outside, whatever the weather!  Finland has one of the lowest rates of ADHD in the western world.

Scandinavia scores highly in OECD ratings

OECD ratings have put the Scandinavian countries at the top of the list as regards literacy and numeracy.  Norway comes in at 6th in the rankings while the USA is doing very badly at only in the 21st category for numeracy while coming in at the 16th for literacy.

What can we take away from this story?

Well, a change of scene to a Scandinavian country will certainly not cure ADHD and the above story was probably a coincidence and there may have been many other factors at play which meant that the ADHD child was able to stay off his ADHD meds. Lucky him and lucky parents too! But there are some pointers that we can take away from all this:-

  • we need to give our children more time outdoors
  • we need to reduce screen time
  • we must look at alternative ADHD treatments rather than relying on amphetamine meds
  • we should organize our homes to be more ADHD friendly. 

                          Great Savings On These Natural ADHD Rmedies This Weekend

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Tips For Giving Younger Kids Consequences.

When I hear parents in the mall giving long winded explanations to their child as to why s/he should not eat or do something, I sometimes wonder. The explanation is long and it sounds terribly sensible and reasonable. But not to a young child of three of four years! In fact, it goes over their heads. Can you imagine if the child has ADHD with all the distractions he or she has to cope with?  Yelling and shouting might have been more effective but I am joking of course!

Why giving consequences is a long term investment
This is where giving consequences comes in. Once we start giving them consequences and do it consistently, then we are really laying the groundwork for them to become responsible adults. This will help them to mature, to be able to control their instinctive urges and to get along with everybody at school and in relationships with siblings and so on. 

How do you explain consequences to a three year old?
The first thing to do is show them examples of consequences of your own actions. If you do not cook, the family goes hungry. If you talk loudly on the bus, people will treat you badly. If you are always punctual at work and finish projects on time, the consequences will be more money and even promotion. There are lots of examples we can give.

Writing every thing down
Let us say that established a few simple consequences for when our kids start biting or hitting. We can write these on the noticeboard. Consequences can be no playstation, no television or an earlier bedtime and so on. We should also make sure that rewards for good behavior are also prominent on the list so that there is more emphasis on the good behavior in an ideal situation.

The consequences are there in black and white so when it happens, there is no need for long explanations. Just point to the notice and give the consequence. This has to be done immediately. If the child overreacts and has a meltdown, you will have to make sure that he or she has some time out in a safe environment. You may want to take time out too!

You are set up and ready to go
 Once these are in place, you can be confident in applying them consistently. If you start to waver or get emotional, then the child will spot the chink in your armour and exploit it for all it is worth.

It is also wise to make sure that all the family are fully briefed and that older siblings and both parents are all on the same page. The last thing we want is that there is a good cop and bad cop parenting attitude especially when one of the parents is at work or away from home. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Are Your Teens Aware of Privacy and Do They Care?

Latest statistics from the wonderful world of Facebook show that teenagers are not really concerned about privacy at all. They share, like and comment on everything on Facebook.

The latest relaxation of the lifting of sharing restrictions on Facebook for 13 – 17 year olds has got parents worried. They fear that cyber bullying may become even more of a problem than it is now.

That is the view of the parents. But what about the teenagers? What do they feel about privacy and is their idea of privacy different from ours?

The American Life Project reported just a few months ago that the figures for sharing among teenagers is quite alarming.  They targeted that very group that Facebook is now relaxing its restrictions. For example they found that:-

  • no problem about sharing photos – 91% do it
  • like sharing videos too – around 25%
  • vast majority post their real name – around 90%
  • birthdays are also shared – over 80%
  • school they go to and their town – around 70%
  • birthdays are also popular – about 80% have no issues about this one
  • cell phone numbers are shared  but that is only about 20%
  • around half of them will share their email address

In the UK, the figures and trends are following a similar pattern to those in the States.  The case of Paris Brown who lost a £15,000 a year job as a youth police commissioner should be borne in mind.

She was forced to resign after her Twitter comments (made when she was aged between 14 and 16) were found to be racist, homophobic and violent.  The alarming fact is that her Twitter account was not included in the vetting process before she was offered the job.

The teenagers’ idea for privacy is not so much to do with sharing actual data as the above figures show. They are not worried that future employers or others may use the data against them in a not so distant future.

Their management of privacy settings is easy for them and about 60% said that they were managing this quite well and that they were able to ban people and delete posts and so on. 

Their real worry is not about companies or government agencies gathering hard data about them but what their inner circle may actually see on their profile. Many of the profiles contain lies so they are much more worried about the figures of authority who are around them such as parents and teachers. There could be consequences for them down the line and that is their main concern.

Strategies teens use on the Internet


  • about 25% admitted to using a false name
  • information is often coded so that prying parents are kept in the dark
  • inside terminology and jargon allow them to communicate with each other
  • in jokes are used a lot

These strategies show that teenagers are keenly aware of some of the privacy issues but their priority is to be seen hanging out with the right group of friends and looking for peer acceptance. They are aware of how this information may be used against them so they will delete tags when they see fit.

The use of snapchat is encouraging in that any pictures and videos sent will be deleted automatically after a certain time frame which they can set.

So, the picture is not all bleak, fortunately. Teens are aware of the need for privacy and would put that first if there was to be a choice about finding about anti-terrorist groups. Interesting!