This is a guest post by Carlo Pandian. Carlo is a freelance writer based in London who writes on parenting, cooking and all things LEGO. If you would like to blog for us, email here.
Despite the global domination of the computer game, LEGO remains an eternally popular hands-on toy for kids. Of course it’s not just a toy, nor is it just for kids, and plenty of teens and adults have proved that sculpture is not confined to the world of bronze and/or structural steelwork. You can create some amazing displays in LEGO, and for those with a family obsessed with these diminutive plastic bricks the good news is that LEGO-themed foods are easy to create. Whether it’s a kid’s birthday or just for fun, these LEGO-inspired tasty treats are easy to, erm, construct.
The shape of LEGO blocks is probably what makes them an ideal basis for a range of foods. Forgetting the mini-figures for the moment, the basic structure is very blocky! The studs on the top are relatively easy to create with a range of ingredients and a little imagination.
Let them Eat Cake
Admittedly, Marie-Antoinette and her family were not overly fond of blocks but, LEGO fan or not, who doesn’t love a cake or two? Sponge, of any variety, can easily be baked in the required rectangular shape or, alternatively, a large square sponge can be cut into a range of different sized blocks. Circular sponge sections can then be placed to mimic the studs and the whole confection covered in suitable icing colored in bright primary colors like LEGO itself.
Made for Lego?
If bite-size Rice Krispie squares weren’t designed to be adapted into a LEGO-themed treat then I can’t image what was going through the head of their creator. Again, it’s easy to cut the stud sections and apply them to the squares using melted chocolate. If you use a basic white chocolate mix you can add appropriate coloring, to create the final constructed confection. These are great served up on a plate or can be popped onto lollipop sticks – either way they tend to shift quickly, so make plenty.
These are a combination of the above. Small pieces of cakes decorated with Smarties, to create the studs, can be covered in melted chocolate to create the desired form. Cake pops are not only popular at kid’s parties but also tend to be one of those activities that younger members of the family enjoy getting involved in. When preparing them you’ll need plenty of greaseproof paper to place the setting pops on, and plenty of kitchen-towel to wipe the kids with. A change of clothing is also a handy ingredient.
Healthy Alternatives Kids Will Eat
For those involved in the long-term battle of getting healthy fresh fruit and vegetables into smaller people, the watermelon is heaven sent. Sticky, juicy and tasty it appeals to kids in its natural form but can also be easily sculpted into melon-pops. Cut into squares and sculpt the Lego studs with an apple corer. It’s a good idea to chill these, to resemble lollipops, but also to reduce at least some of the sticky/messy content that develops when you add a child.
Mini-figures are not, it has to be said, the easiest object to sculpt in any edible media, but sandwiches can provide an excellent solution. These can be cut into mini-figurine head shapes and the tops decorated with a range of expressions, using a little of the filling of choice.
Mom and dad: What have you built with your kids recently?
Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs on free time activities, parenting and LEGO covering everything from LEGOLAND Discovery Center attractions in Dallas to teaching recycling to children. When he’s not online, Carlo likes cooking, gardening and cycling in the countryside.
This is a guest post by Larry Elder. He is author of Dear Father, Dear Son now available for order on www.larryelder.com. If you would like to blog for us, email here.
Heard of Tiger Moms? I had a Junkyard Dawg Dad.
For a very long time, I hated him. His anger. His volatility. His surliness. Today, they’d use the term “emotionally unavailable.”
“Dear Father, Dear Son,” my new book, is a 247-page apology to this very special, WWII retired Marine, my father. I knew virtually nothing of his life, and never had a conversation with him, until I was 25.
From the time I was fifteen -- when my father and I had a big, long-time-coming fight -- until ten years later, we did not speak to each other. I wanted nothing to do with this volatile person who, for reasons that escaped me, managed to marry my mother. Our little home, where my two brothers and I slept in the same bedroom, instantly became a place of tension the moment Dad set foot in the front door. Was it supposed to be like this?
After ten years I sat down and talked to the man -- for eight hours.
Why, I wanted to know, were you so damn angry all the time? Why did you whip the three of us -- my two brothers and me -- so furiously? Did you know that the three of us were scared to death of you? Did know that this fear crossed into hatred? Did you care? Does this even matter to you?
An only child, my father was a black boy born to an illiterate single mom in a rented room in Athens, Georgia. He was a child on the eve of the Great Depression in the Jim Crow South. He did not know his birth date, and used the one arbitrarily written down by a teacher when he started school.
He never met his biological father. His mom raised him with a series of boyfriends, one of whom was a man named Elder. That man never married my dad’s mother. Worse, he was an alcoholic who beat both my dad and his mom.
One day my dad came home from school and made too much noise for his mother and her then-boyfriend. They all quarreled, his mom siding with the boyfriend. My dad was thrown out of his house at age 13 -- never to return. A year later the Great Depression began.
He dropped out of school and looked for work wherever he could find it. After a series of jobs as a yard boy, shoeshine boy, hotel valet and cook, he finally landed a prestigious job as a Pullman porter, then the largest private employer of blacks in the country. It was as a Pullman porter that Dad first visited California. He thought of it as a less prejudiced place, loved the climate, and made a promise to someday return.
After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marines. Why the Marines, I asked? “I liked the uniforms,” he told me, “and they seemed to always go where the action was.” So they made him a cook.
He trained at Montford Point, the segregated Marine base next to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was soon put in charge of food services, and became a staff sergeant, stationed on Guam in the south Pacific.
But when discharged, he could not find work as a cook despite his now-considerable experience. He went to an unemployment office in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he was instructed by a white clerk to walk through the “proper door.” So he goes out into the hall, goes through the “colored only” door to the very same clerk who told him to go through the "proper door.” “Now, how may I help you?” she said.
There has to be better place than here, he thought. Dad left for California.
Restaurants in Los Angeles did not tell him -- as they did in the South -- that he’d not be hired because of his race. Instead, they refused to hire because, as he was told, “You have no references.”
He worked two full-time jobs as a janitor, and attended night school to get a G.E.D. He averaged less than four-and-a-half hours of sleep for years. Pressure, lack of sleep, “running from job to class,” he told me, makes a man a little grumpy and impatient -- especially when raising three loud boys with a stay-at-home wife.
He worked so hard, he said, because he never had a father, a secure home and “food in the icebox” to come home to after school. “So,” he said, “I did my best to give you kids what I never had.” He told me that growing up without “a real father in the house” was not a death sentence. If you work hard, and people “see you struggling,” they will help. But it’s up to you to play the cards you are dealt the best way you can. And the best way is through hard work.
Randolph Elder lived to see the completion of this book. He died two months before what we believe would have been his 96th birthday. I got a chance to read “Dear Father, Dear Son” to him. His verdict? “I have no idea,” he laughed, “why anyone would care about my little life.”
They care, Dad. For those born and raised in tough circumstances, you show the path: While we cannot control our circumstances, we are in complete control of our effort.
What would you tell your dad if you could sit down with him like Larry did his father?
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Amiyrah Martin is like most parents; she’s super busy. A self-professed “double booker,” she admits to giving a verbal RSVP to one party, then checking her busy schedule to see that her family is already expected at another place. In her blog 4 Hats and Frugal, she tells the honest parenting truth and confesses, “I've even double booked at the Pediatrician.”
Being a parent of one child is busy enough. Add more children to the mix and the busy-ness grows by leaps and bounds. So how do parents manage everything and still have time for tracking a child’s development and growth? The simple answer is: we need all the help we can get!
Amiyrah writes, “It’s easier than ever before to use technology for aligning busy family schedules, from calendars on a computer to apps on a phone, but there’s not a lot of tech-savvy ways to keep up with your child’s growth.” She also points out that while doctors may do a great job of informing and preparing parents during the visit to the office, it’s not always easy to stay informed between doctor visits. She says, “Usually I've just written down upcoming milestones as a note in my phone, or on a piece of paper, always wondering if there was an online tool I could use.”
Thankfully, her online tool is here now! NFI’s Countdown to Growing Up allows you to track your child’s growth and save your questions as a PDF for your next doctor’s visit and to review on your mobile device or computer. You can also print your child’s chart if you like!
Take it from one busy mom: “Let's face it: even though we live busy lives, education about our children's health is top priority. It's essential to their development as a little person and our development as great parents.” Amiyrah continues, “Countdown to Growing Up provides a place where we can document milestones, track growth compared with the "average" child, while giving ideas to help development and suggesting questions we can ask the Doc next time we visit. And yes, it's information you can save, and print!”
You can read Amiyrah’s full blog about Countdown to Growing Up at the link below. Don’t forget to take the short survey and give us your opinion of the tool. As Amiyrah says in her post, “And don't be shy: use the heck out of this tool. I plan on doing the same.”
How to do track your child’s growth and development between doctor’s visits?
Amiyrah is a Wife, Mother, Airman in the US Air Force and all around Frugal maven. Learn more about Amiyrah at her site 4 Hats and Frugal.
As a parent, the questions about your child never end. There was probably a time when you thought that once your child was delivered, they'd end. But unfortunately, you were wrong. In fact, the questions only begin once Baby Boy or Baby Girl arrives. And as your child grows, so do the questions you have about their development. From day one, parents begin to wonder how their son or daughter compares to other children.
Enter the doctor's office.
As a parent, you will have to take your child to the doctor, and guess what your child's doctor will do? That's right, he or she will ask you questions about the growth of your child. At the end of the visit, he or she will typically provide you with a chart comparing your child to every other child in the United States. Sounds daunting? It is. But there is something you can do.
Enter Countdown to Growing Up. Writing on his blog, Dr. Choi, a pediatrician and father in San Fransico opens up about what he sees daily from well-meaning parents at his practice. He reveals, aside from the fearful child asking him, "Are you going to give me a shot?, the second most common question he receives is from parents asking, “Is my kid normal?”
In Dr. Choi's recent post, Is My Kid Normal?, he writes openly about how a typical patient visit goes, starting with his questions to the parent about what the child can and cannot do. Often, Choi says, when a dad brings in the child, he receives blank stares in response to questions like: “How many words can your child use in a sentence?" or “Can she follow two-step commands?” These visits, Choi says, usually end with dad calling the child's mother.
But Dr. Choi isn't all gloom and doom with dads. He makes it clear that dads play a critical role in a child’s development and health, pointing to new research studies showing just how important dads are to the health of their children.
In fact, Dr. Choi recommends NFI's Countdown to Growing Up tool to help the busy dad or mom get a sense for whether or not their child is “normal." Choi tells his readers to get online, add your child’s name, gender, and click on the age group. Then, out pops a questionnaire on child development.
When it comes to child development, tracking your child's growth physcially and socially is important, and although your child may not be progressing at the exact same pace as your friend's kids, its important that they are progressing. And isn't it cool that dads (and moms) can play a role in helping their children grow by engaging them in activities to spur them along?
After reviewing the new tool, Choi says: "It is a great way to stop and evaluate how your child is developing and start thinking about how you can help. Print it out and bring it with you to your child’s next doctor’s appointment. Now you are fully prepared for your child’s visit and can confidently answer whether or not your child is “normal”. You won’t even have to call their mother."
Dr. Choi is a board certified pediatrician based in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Physicians Alliance and is a national leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition to his role as physican and family man, he writes at The Huffington Post and on his blog. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.
Countdown to Growing Up helps dads (and moms!) know about what to expect and not to expect in terms of child growth over the months and years. You can use the tool to make notes and save or print your child's chart to take with you to your next doctor's visit. Be sure to click on the Complete Survey button and give us your feedback.
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photo credit: foshydog
National Fatherhood Initiative annouces the release of an updated version of InsideOut Dad®, the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers.
NFI’s team of fatherhood experts incorporated practitioner feedback and evaluation data from around the country to refresh the program, which is already standardized programming in 24 states and New York City.
InsideOut Dad® Second Edition is designed to reduce recidivism rates by reconnecting incarcerated fathers to their families, providing the motivation inmate fathers need to get out and stay out.
For example, a three-year study by the Indiana Department of Corrections found that fatherhood programs such as InsideOut Dad® were linked to prisoner return rates of less than 20%, compared to a national rate of nearly 38%.
These reductions in recidivism can lead to enormous cost savings for taxpayers and the criminal justice system. Nationally, the annual cost of incarceration per inmate is between $25,000 and $40,000. The cost to take an incarcerated father through the InsideOut Dad® program could be as little as $40.
Used by both inmates and ex-offenders, InsideOut Dad® has been proven, through an extensive evaluation by Rutgers University, to improve inmate knowledge and attitudes. Hundreds of state and federal facilities, pre-release programs, community organizations, and more are using this life-changing reentry program. Facilities such as Angola State Prison in Louisiana, the Rikers Island complex in New York, and U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth in Kansas are among the notable facilities that have run the program for inmate fathers.
Through practical, engaging material delivered in 12 core sessions and 4 optional sessions, InsideOut Dad® increases inmates' self-worth and gives them valuable relationship skills. It covers topics such as Being a Man, Co-Parenting and Communication, Men’s Health, and Children’s Growth and Discipline.
National Fatherhood Initiative started working with incarcerated fathers in 1999, leading to the release of the first edition of InsideOut Dad® in 2004. Through its use in over 400 correctional facilities over the years, NFI’s fatherhood experts gathered user feedback to create the second edition, a more content-rich, user-friendly, and engaging curriculum for fathers, which now includes video and other activities to maximize its impact.
More information on InsideOut Dad® Second Edition can be found at fathersource.org.
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For all the talk we hear these days about how “families can take many forms,” it seems there is one particular form that, if there was a popularity contest for family types, would be losing. It’s the one where dad is involved.
Every time I think NFI is in danger of exaggerating our claims around the prevalence of father absence and the lack of respect for the institution of fatherhood, a good reminder of our pinpoint accuracy smacks me right in the face.
The latest smack came in the form of a series of pictures in a book for toddlers. The book, First 100 Words, was sitting innocently on a shelf in my house. I mindlessly opened it and started flipping through, and came across the following picture.
In case you can’t make out what is going on there, it shows a picture of a family that includes “mommy,” “brother,” and “baby.” Where’s “daddy”? Well, he has his own separate, much smaller picture to the right of the larger “family” picture. (it is probably also worth noting that grandma gets the second largest picture)
Talk about a stark, visual representation of our culture’s general disregard for the centrality of responsible fatherhood. It is as if the editors did not want dad interfering with the pristine image of a mom-child family.
Moreover, this is a book designed to give toddlers their first lessons about the world around them. May as well get to them early with the notion that when we talk about family, we are really talking about a mom and her kids.
One might defend the use of an image of a mother-only family with the premise that we should be cautious about offending such families, or making them feel “left out.” But why is no one ever concerned with offending two-parent families? After all, 2 in 3 children still live in mother-and-father-present homes, and reams of social science research shows it is best, on average, for kids to live in such homes. So, shouldn’t we be “protecting” this family type?
These sorts of images reinforce the false belief that fathers are not as important as mothers. For a boy in a father-absent home, it reinforces the idea that he does not have to worry about being a central part of the family he will one day have. Mom’s got it covered! This attitude “empowers” neither men nor women.
For a child growing up with a father in the home, like my son, I am sure this image will be confusing. My 2.5-year-old son is too young to express himself about something as complicated as this, but this book -- along with a lot of other messages he will get from TV commercials, etc -- shows him that fathers are on the periphery of family. When he asks the question, “How now shall I live?” the answer provided by our culture will be vague at best. If it suits you to stick around for your family, that’s fine; but if not, don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.
Now, you may say that it is just one book, and maybe it’s not indicative of what the general belief about fatherhood is in our country. But that is a cop out. If “just one book” published an image of a blonde girl struggling with a math problem, a ruckus would be raised. Or if “just one book” published an image of a minority being belittled by a white person, a ruckus would be raised. Because we know that images and messages matter; they communicate our culture’s values. When such messages are allowed to see the light of day, it is an indication that there is little fear of reprisal for publishing them.
Dads are not a feared demographic; very few people are worried about ticking us off. NFI will do its part to expose negative representations of fatherhood and award positive ones, but until market forces start to move, little will change. We saw a hint of how powerful those forces can be when Huggies made a mistake with dads.
Here’s to hoping that the mistakes are always pointed out and the offenders learn a lesson.
If you are reading this, chances are good that you are already involved in your child’s life. Knowing this, we want to help make it easier for you to be involved and educated about the ages and stages of your child's development. We received such great feedback on our Ages and Stages Charts in the 24/7 Dad® curriculum - developed with contributions from Dr. Kyle Pruett and Dr. Yvette Warren - we decided to bring it you in a FREE online version!
The Countdown to Growing Up tool helps dads (and moms!) know about what to expect and not to expect in terms of child growth over the months and years.
You can also use the tool to make notes and save or print out your child's chart to take with you to a pediatrician visit for discussion if desired.
Be sure to click on the Complete Survey button once you have finished using the tool to give us your feedback. We'd GREATLY appreciate it!
To begin, simply enter the name of your child, then select his/her gender and age. If you have more than one child, we will provide you with an opportunity to enter his/her/their name(s) and age(s) after entering the information for your first child.
Depending on your child’s age, you will be taken through statements to answer Yes or No/Unsure for three targets: Physical Growth, Mental/Emotional Growth and Social Growth.
Please note, this tool is customized to track ages from birth to 18+ years and older.
For example, I chose to test "Fred," a five-year-old male for purposes of this review. For a five-year-old male, the Physical Growth milestone has statements like:
- Grows 2-3 inches but gains as little as 2-4 pounds a year. Children grow and gain weight at very different rates.
- Clearly right or left-handed.
- Learns to tie shoes.
You as the parent simply clicks YES or NO/Unsure box for each statement.
Using "Fred" as the example, the Mental/Emotional Growth milestone asks:
- Uses complete sentences with many words.
- Learns to name coins, colors, days of week, months.
- Takes basic care of self (dress, brush teeth).
- Helps with simple chores.
For the Social Growth milestone, statements such as:
- More settled and focused when with others.
- Begins to notice the outside world and where/how belongs.
- Enjoys doing things with parent of same sex.
Again, for you the mom and dad, it’s simple to click Yes or NO/Unsure for each item.
There is a section for "Additional Notes," which is optional for placing notes to yourself that will save and/or print with the PDF of the report.
Once you have chosen YES or NO/Unsure on each statement, you are taken to a list that reads: Milestones (Your Child) Has Reached. Below is an example from our test. Your report will be customized to your child's name, gender and age.
Additionally, a section is automatically created for your customized report that reads Milestones (Your Child) Has Not Reach, your additional notes from the previous page have now been added to the report.
Lastly, on the same report is invaluable “Tips to Help (Your Child’s Name) Grow" from physicians. This is free expert advice targeted directly at your child's gender and aged based on the information you provided in answering the statements. These tips from physicians offer you expert advice for what to watch for in your child's development as well as tips to help you grow your child.
Notice at the bottom of the above image, you have four options for what you can do with the customized report of your child:
1) View PDF
2) Save as PDF
3) Track Another Child
4) Complete a Brief Survey
Choosing “Save as PDF” will allow you to email it to yourself and then use it on your mobile device. For instance, if you have an iPhone or iPad, the PDF from your email can be saved in iBooks on your phone or iPad for easy, mobile and paperless reference at your child’s next doctor appointment.
There are two additional options, which are Track Another Child and Complete a Brief Survey. Please feel free to use this new and free tool for all of your children. Please also take a moment and complete our survey. We would love to hear feedback from you once you use the tool.
We know parents do not have a lot of time to study their children. We hope you this tool makes your life easier. Track your child’s growth today. Believe us, you will be prepared for your child's next visit to the doctor; and your doctor will never know how simple and easy it was for you!
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