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Tips for Cooking with Kids

Written By: Evelyn Turner

Study after study has shown that kids are more likely to eat food that they have helped prepare. If you have concerns about raising picky eaters, consider making dinner an activity that the whole family can help with.  Here are some tips that will make cooking with your kids fun for them, but help you keep from losing your mind.

For Your Mental Health Teach your kids useful skills during family time.

Involve the kids from start to finish. Let them help decide what to cook and bring them to the store to shop for ingredients.  If they are picky eaters, it will help them to see exactly what’s going into the meal.  In the kitchen, give them specific responsibilities for both food preparation and cleaning up.  You’ll be teaching them to useful life skills and they’ll be your willing little helpers, excited to try “their” recipe at the dinner table.

Schedule the dinner for a day and time when you won’t feel pressured.  Easier said than done, I know, but carving out a time to cook together is so beneficial for them that it’s worth the extra effort.  It’s not easy to be patient with kids in the kitchen when you’re tired and pressed for time.  Also, don’t schedule it right after you’ve mopped the floor.  You’ll only be more frustrated when the inevitable spill happens.

Give kids their own work area on the counter or table.  They can learn to how to keep it clean.  Be sure to keep their work area away from any meat preparation that you might be doing, and because of food safety issues, children should not handle raw meat.

If you’re using a recipe that calls for mixing ingredients, use larger bowls than necessary in order to minimize spills.  Also, place the bowl on a towel or rubber placemat to prevent slippage.

Keep it fun.  Give them assignments that will let them use their hands, like washing vegetables.  Also, look for simple recipes that have hands-on directions, like kneading dough.

Keep a sink full of soapy water and several cleanup cloths so you can clean as you go. But, once again, don’t fret the mess.  It all cleans up in the end.

Most of all, remember to have fun!  If you’re having fun, the kids will enjoy themselves even more.

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Finding (and Keeping) a Babysitter

So maybe you’ve decided to go back to work part-time. Or family next door has the chicken pox so you need to find a temporary after-school option for your kids.  Or you and your spouse are in serious need of a regular date night once a month.  There are lots of different reasons to need a babysitter, for various lengths of time and hours per week.  As seasoned in-home babysitter, I’m happy to give you a few tips on where to find and how to keep the right babysitter for your kids.

Be True to Your School
With Western Washington University sitting just below Sehome Hill, there are lots of college students in the Bellingham area.  Hiring a college student can be beneficial since they often have flexibility in their class schedules for daytime sitting.  Many have their own transportation and they don’t have curfews to prevent them from working late.  The downside is that they will be graduating within the next four years and you’ll be left sitter-less once again.  But they’ll probably know other college students looking for work and they can help you (and your friends) find replacement sitters.  If you’re interested in hiring a college sitter, consider posting a free ad on Western’s Student Employment website, although the response can sometimes be quite overwhelming (college students are always on the lookout for extra cash to support their coffee addiction).

Finding A Babysitter Help a sitter to feel comfortable with you and your kids.

First Impressions
When you’re interviewing sitters, keep in mind that the sitter is also going to be making a decision about you as well.  Make sure the house is moderately clean and have your kids nearby so they can get acquainted with the potential sitter before the first official sitting job.  You know your kids better than anyone, and you want to hire someone that will get along with them, but can still maintain authority.  Also, take an interest in the sitter as a person, not just an employee.  Ask questions that go beyond their background in childcare, like about their family, their academic major, and personal hobbies.  You might even discover that the sitter shares some of the same passions as you and your family.

If you’re looking for quality babysitting, you should at least match the state minimum wage ($7.93/hour). But when you consider that many hourly employees are also compensated with tips or commissions, I would recommend adding a few extra dollars to your rate.  And while it’s not required, consider the amount of driving your sitter does.  If you live in the county or in Sudden Valley, a sitter who lives near campus could easily spend an hour driving to and from your house on a regular basis (I speak from experience).  To ensure that this commute is time well spent for your sitter, offer a partial gas reimbursement each month or surprise them with occasional gift cards to let them know how much you appreciate the time and energy they devote to your family.

“Where did my baby brother come from?”
Communicate clearly with your sitter about your philosophies on childrearing.  The sitter is your mouthpiece when you’re gone so make sure you’re on the same page regarding punishments and privileges.  Also, if you have specific ideological beliefs that you’re teaching your children, let your sitter know.  While a sitter might not share your point of view or feel comfortable teaching those ideas to your children, you have the right to expect that a sitter will not undermine your word.  If kids bring up those tricky questions they’re so fond of asking, encourage the sitter to respond with, “That’s a great question.  We should ask your parents what they think when they get home.”

Extended Family
Although you are technically hiring the sitter as an employee, they are going to be working closely with you and your family in your home; it is mutually beneficial to treat them like a new friend.  If they do triathlons or play in band, ask about kid-friendly events that the family could attend to show support for your sitter.  And make an effort to invite them to the kids’ school performances or soccer games.  The more you attempt to include the babysitter as a member of the family, the more likely they are to stick around for a few years.

Hopefully these tips and hints have prepared you to find a babysitter that is right for your family. If you would like to share your own experiences and advice about finding childcare, please Contact Us to learn about becoming a contributor.

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Hooplah! at the Market

Debbie Lowery has been working the farmers market circuit for years, selling baked goods and handmade aprons and purses all over Whatcom County as Lummi Stitchcraft. Over the past year, she’s added handmade hoola hoops to her repertoire, calling her new line of hoops and toys “Hooplah!"

Debbie described the idea for selling hoops as “a product waiting to happen. It started last year when Jamie of “Fun to Shop” would bring a hoola hoop to play with during her breaks at the Wednesday Market on the Fairhaven Village Green. Her hooping always attracted attention, so Debbie decided to buy some hoops to use as a marketing device to draw in customers, but soon discovered that people were anxious to buy hoops of their own. After approval from the Bellingham Farmers’ Market jury, she began making and selling colorful hoops using materials from Yeager’s. She now offers a variety of sizes, including light-weight versions for toddlers and pre-schoolers, ranging from $15 to $35 in price.

Hooplah! Hoops and Toys A young customer checks out Debbie's toys and hoops.

In the summer time, you’ll see plenty of people testing out the hoops on the Village Green and on Saturdays at the Depot Market Square. With the weekend farmers market’s location right across from Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, known for its famous Hoola Hooping Nights during the summer, Debbie sells plenty of hoops to adults and kids alike on Saturdays. Both kids and grownups are equally excited to practice hooping as well. It’s my entertainment,” Debbie says. “The kids don’t even think about it, they just go for it and have fun.  The adults have a little difficulty getting used to my hoops, which are heavier than the plastic ones they played with when they were kids.  But after awhile, they get the hang of it. It’s really fun to watch them get their mojo back.”

Debbie’s hoola hoops, as well as the handmade juggling balls and rag dolls that she’s added to this year’s line, are available on Saturdays at the Depot Market Square Farmers Market at Railroad and Chestnut. She’ll also be selling her wares at the Pacific Arts Holiday Market throughout December.  It'll be one of your last chances to get these unique and locally made toys before the end of the year.

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