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Fun Warm-Weather Activity – Rise and Shine Party!

With warmer days approaching, start thinking outside the box for ways to encourage some connections among the neighborhood brood.  Oftentimes, when the weather is chilly and the days are short, we lose touch with those that we spend endless summer nights chasing around the front yard and riding bikes up and down the block.  So, get everyone together for a Rise-and-Shine party!

The party idea is simple: gather the neighbor kids and their families together for an early-morning delight.  Host it outdoors if the weather is warm.  Dress is casual, and pajamas are welcome.  Serve up bagels, fruit, milk and juice, muffins, cereals and even donuts and coffee for the grown ups.  The key is to keep it simple and low-key.  Many people may be on their way to sports events or work, so make it easy on those folks as well.

Invitations can be anything from an electronic (email) message or a printed card.  Be sure to invite children and adults for adequate supervision and a chance to catch up with some big-people, too.  As the host, try to set as much of it up the night before.

In one neighborhood, as the year went on, families took turns hosting the Rise and Shine party each weekend.  It is a great way to connect with neighbors and reinforce good relations with the children!

Split-Second Breakfast Ideas

There’s oftentimes that moment of panic around here when we realize we are running about ten minutes behind in the morning: will we make it to the bus?  Will Mommy leave for work on time?  Will we remember to brush our teeth?  And, while it would be so easy to grab a toaster pastry for my children and throw them in the car or on the bus, I know that I owe them a healthier start to their day than a sugar-loaded “treat”.  While a pop tart may be better than no breakfast at all, there are quite a few easy and quick breakfast ideas that are good “standbys” on those mornings when time seems to be going against you!

Granola or breakfast/cereal bars – while these are merely a (small) step up from the Pop Tart meal, you can find some of these that are more nurtritious than others.  Aim for those that are not covered in a frosting or glaze for less of a “sugar rush” (and less of a “sugar drag” later on).  Keeping a box of these on hand can help out on those mornings where time is of the essence.  These are more of a “treat” for my kids instead of the standard breakfast fare.

Bagels and spreads (cream cheese, peanut butter, etc) – whoever is of the school of thought that believes that “all bagels must be toasted” has obviously never fed a six year-old racing for the bus.  Bagels can be filling without the sugar, giving your child energy throughout the morning.  Couple it with a cheese spread or peanut butter for a protein or dairy addition and for added “fullness”.

Make-ahead muffins (and other tasty treats) – muffins are a special treat in our house for breakfast, and they don’t take any time at all in the morning.  Make them one evening to keep on hand, especially when you know your schedule is tight.  Storing them in the refrigerator can prolong their shelf life, and muffins can be made and frozen for weeks at a time.  Choose muffins that have a high-fiber, high-grain content for maximum benefits.

Breakfast taco on the go – when I make fajitas or other Mexican food for dinner, my boys ALWAYS ask me to keep a few tortillas back for breakfast tacos the next morning.  However, I don’t always have time to scramble eggs and cook potatoes for a stuffed breakfast taco.  So, we’ve learned to improvise.  My boys love to slap a slice of cheese on a tortilla and roll a couple of pieces of bacon up for their own version of a breakfast tortilla.  Bacon can be cooked and stored in the refrigerator for days, eliminating the need to grease up the kitchen the morning of.  Or spread some peanut butter and jelly on the tortilla for a PB and J taco for breakfast.

Fresh fruit – there’s nothing simpler than a banana to fix for breakfast in the morning.  Simply peel and eat!  Or toss a small apple or pear in the mix for your child’s breakfast.  Any fruit is a good offering at breakfast time.  The natural sugars take longer to digest, and most kids love the fruity goodness of a fresh piece of fruit.

Breakfast – Its Letter Time!

Start your day off right with a few fun ideas for reinforcing letters and their sounds!

  1. Pancake letters – pour pancake batter on a skillet to form letters for the child to recognize.  Remember to pour the letters backwards so that they will be correct when the pancake is flipped!  We spell our names at least once a week in pancake batter!
  2. Set your oven to broiler, and use squeeze butter to write letters on a piece of bread.  Toast the bread in the oven or in a toaster oven (not a toaster).  The butter will brown and the letter will be very visible!
  3. Arrange dry cereal in a letter shape (such as Cheerios or Honeycomb).  See how many letters your child can create on his or her own!

Breaking the Pop Tart Rut

Breakfasts around our house tend to be more like a shot out of the starting gate: we hit the ground running and don’t look back until the carpool’s over.  It is extremely easy to fall into the “pop tart rut”…the grab-n-go mentality of breakfast, especially on school days when I can barely get my kids dressed and out the door on time as it is.  So, I’m trying to make some changes in my children’s breakfast habits.

I have found that by waking just five minutes early gives me that much more time to concentrate on providing my kids with a better breakfast than CocoPuffs and pop tarts.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those every now and then.  And, cereals are an excellent breakfast choice, as long as they are the “right” (aka healthy) cereals.  I’ve been looking for ideas to try with my boys as alternatives to the cereal bowl.  Here are some of the things we’ve been trying for breakfast lately:

  • pancakes – I have always bought the frozen pancakes that you can thaw in the microwave, and that’s great.  But, I have discovered it is plenty cheaper for me to make my own (and I can make them whatever size the boys want).  I usually mix up the batter the night before, cover it and refrigerate until the next morning.  Extra batter can be stored the same (although I never have extra batter!).  They only take a few minutes to cook, and my kids are now getting dressed while I make the pancakes.
  • Bacon and eggs – I used to loathe making bacon and eggs because of (1) the smell and (2) the mess.  My mother-in-law gave me a microwave bacon cooker, so I have been using that for a while now.  The eggs only take a couple of minutes to cook – my boys like them scrambled or in an omelet.  I usually try to offer a side of biscuits as well.
  • Breakfast sandwiches – my boys LOVE these – I make biscuits the night before, then I grill some sausage or even a slice of ham, slide it in between the two pieces of biscuit and top with cheese.  Sometimes we add a little scrambled egg to them as well. 
  • Kolaches (or pigs in a blanket!) – I sometimes purchase the frozen variety of these, but I also make my own, using crescent rolls or biscuit dough wrapped around a piece of link sausage.  My younger son loves to eat these.
  • Breakfast tacos – simple!  We put scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon along with some shredded cheese into a soft taco.  Voila!  These are great for breakfast on the go, too.
  • Yogurt and fruit salad – About every other week I serve a fruit salad at an evening meal because my boys love to eat fruit.  Some mornings, we will mix the fruit with a bit of vanilla yogurt to make a breakfast fruit dish.  This is especially great in the summertime!
  • Breads – Baking is my forte, so I make banana bread and zucchini bread by the loaves.  We will often have a slice of one of these alongside the rest of our breakfast.
  • Bagels and peanut butter – really, my kids will eat peanut butter on just about anything.  Peanut butter is a great source of protein and will fill up those little tummies before school.  Peanut butter toast is also a great idea.
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