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Fun Physical Activities for Infants 0-12 Months to Build Strength, Coordination, and Bonding

When you think about exercise, you probably don’t think much about exercising your baby, but infants can benefit from fun, simple exercises that help them develop the strength and skills they need to thrive.

There are three main benefits of baby exercises:

1.       Exercise builds muscular strength needed to hold up the head and to begin sitting, crawling and eventually walking.

2.       It develops gross and fine motor skills for activities like rolling over, sitting, picking up small objects and grasping eating utensils.

3.       It strengthens bonds between baby and family members. Moms and dads can exercise with baby for family fitness time.

Needless to say, babies don’t need a ton of exercise. Just a few minutes a couple of times a day as a natural part of playtime is enough to give your little one a head start. Exercising along with your baby also has its benefits. We all know how hard it can be hard to squeeze in time for an hour of Pilates as a new parent, but working with your baby’s active time, you can also enjoy the stress relieving benefits of exercise together!

Here are some of our favorite physical activities for infants 0-12 months old and yourself that you can share!

Tummy Time

Infants spend a lot of time on their backs so tummy time can help develop underused muscles for even growth. When your baby is on her tummy, she will instinctively want to raise her head. This helps build strong muscles in the neck and shoulders that are necessary for sitting and standing upright. When you think of it from a design perspective, as adults our smaller, narrower necks must be quite strong from balancing such heavy and disproportionately large heads up all day!

Tummy time isn’t a marathon. Start with just a few minutes daily and gradually increase the time to at least 10 minutes per day as your baby’s strength grows. You should always supervise your infant during tummy exercises.

There are some great exercises and strength building poses that parents can do during baby’s tummy time, such as planking, cobra pose, or locust pose. The best thing about doing these exercises on the floor face to face with your baby is that they will see you modeling healthy behavior and as they grow, they’ll begin to mimic your poses and exercises to gain the benefits too!

Another good way to bond with your baby during this exercise is to place them on top of your legs. They get to enjoy their exercise while looking directly at mommy or daddy, and parents get a good lower leg strength workout!

Happy Baby

This relaxing yoga pose comes naturally to your baby over time and it feels great for adults too. With baby on his back, gently help him grasp his toes. Bring baby’s knees towards his tummy. Accompany this with some gentle rocking. If your baby is too young to grasp his or her feet, you can gently hold the baby’s feet and help them in this pose.

Happy Baby helps with hip flexibility, relaxing the spine and can be helpful in relieving gas or indigestion, which may burst your zen moment, but baby will feel better! For parents with limited flexibility, this pose can be modified by using a stretch band or strip of fabric around the bottom of the feet. This is a calming pose that can help soothe the mind before sleep.

Baby Sit Ups

No one is saying your baby needs to do crunches, but some gentle sitting exercises will help your infant build core and upper body strength needed for sitting, crawling and walking later. This is a fun exercise all family members can participate in. Place the baby on a blanket, on their backs. Making sure the blanket is supporting your baby’s delicate neck, grasp both sides of the blanket and slowly lift your baby into a sitting position. Gently return them to a lying down position. Surprising baby with silly faces and baby talk is a surefire way to get lots of those wonderful baby gurgles and smiles! Mom, dad, grandparents and even supervised older siblings can use this exercise to bond and play with baby. If only our own sit-ups were that fun and easy!

Downward Facing Dog

This restorative pose is great for adults and babies, although you’ll need to wait until your baby is crawling, typically somewhere between 6-10 months. A stretching and strength pose, adults will want to hold this pose for 1-3 minutes. You can involve your baby by modeling this pose and turning it into a game. Your baby will love hanging out upside down with you, playing peek-a-boo or making faces at each other! Downward Facing Dog is good for digestion, strengthens the arms and legs and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands. Child’s Pose is a natural next step after this one, which is another simple stretching and resting pose that both parents and baby can enjoy.

Just remember to take it easy when exercising with your baby. Keep sessions short and stop when the baby is unhappy or tired. Turning a little bit of your daily playtime with your baby into fun, healthy exercise will bring you both the benefits of strength, balance, coordination, and improved mental health!

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The New Parent Guide to Baby’s First Steps

Witnessing the miracle of baby milestones is an experience that crosses all boundaries. It seems like just yesterday you received a little bundle of joy and now here they are sitting, scooting, crawling, and headed for walking! What parent hasn’t wanted to stop time to enjoy just a little more of their baby’s early stages? They just seem so fleeting! But fear not, your baby’s first steps aren’t just exciting but open up a whole new, fun, developmental stage to experience together!

One day your little one might be unsteadily standing, clutching a sofa cushion and the next, they’re cruising using whatever they can grab to keep them upright. Before you know it, you’ll be in the next heart-pounding stage of independent walking, where they look like they’re about to topple over any second. But then they’ll gain their balance and it’s off to the races! And hopping, jumping, skipping and dancing! A bevy of incredible toddler milestones comes next, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Dos and Don’ts of Baby’s First Steps

As your baby develops, they’re gaining the strength and balance needed to keep them upright for the rest of their lives.  All babies grow at their own pace. There’s no “right” time for your baby to take their first steps. The best thing you can do is to help them build their muscles, coordination, and balance, then let them go at their own pace.

Here’s what you can do as parents to help guide your baby towards the walking milestone:

DO encourage playtime in the sitting position. Once your baby begins sitting upright without extra support, they are building the core strength to stand and stay upright. Help your baby develop strong back and abdominal muscles by playing games in the sitting position, such as rolling a ball back and forth or building with blocks.

DO give positive encouragement and praise crawling. Crawling is an important landmark prior to walking. Encourage your baby to distance crawl during this time with fun games like crawl chase or ball chase. Build tunnels for baby to crawl through and turn it into a peek-a-boo/hide-and-seek game. The important thing is to keep baby moving during playtime!

DO get your squats in. Once your baby begins pulling herself up into the standing position with help from furniture or parents, it’s important to teach her how to safely get back to the floor. You can demonstrate and help your baby with standing, then bending the knees into a squat, then help your baby gently return to a seated or crawling position. Not only will this build leg and glute strength (in both of you) but gives your baby the skills to prevent awkward falls in the future.

DO baby proof for cruisers! Soon your baby will be zipping around the house using furniture, the walls and other people as support. This stage is called “cruising.” This increased mobility can uncover new dangers for baby such as unsteady furniture, falling objects, and access to cabinets and drawers. Get down on your baby’s level to see what he can reach!

DO encourage standing without help. Once baby is ready to let go and stand on her own, she’s working on building balance. Encourage this milestone by helping her to stand, then let go and excitedly count. Give lots of praise when she returns to the floor. Soon you can play short standing games like patty-cake, peek-a-book, toss the ball, and blowing bubbles. Dancing is another fun way to encourage your baby to stand in one spot.

DO celebrate baby’s first steps! Those first steps are a monumental milestone for your baby so go ahead and celebrate the heck out of it! Cheer your baby on as they move on their own to give them the confidence and encouragement to keep walking. This is just the beginning of having a zooming toddler so cherish the moment and congratulate your baby on a job well done!

And, finally…

DON’T rely on baby walkers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly discourages the use of walkers, stating that they actually slow the natural development of walking and are very dangerous. More than 9,000 babies per year are injured by walkers and 2,000 of those end up in emergency rooms with serious injuries.

DON’T panic. The average age for walking is 12 months, but there’s nothing wrong if it takes longer for your baby’s first steps. Just continue with strength-building games and positive encouragement, soon your baby will join the ranks of walking, running, amazingly fast, toddlers!

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Family Table Setting Ideas for Instagram-Worthy Meal Photos

There isn’t much the internet can agree on, but cat videos and food photos are two of them. People love sharing pictures of beautiful food online. With the advent of social media, much of our experience is now conveyed visually, from photos and memes to emojis, the modern hieroglyphic. Once upon a time, you might tell your friends about an amazing meal you created or enjoyed, now you can just post a photo. A picture is worth a thousand words as the adage goes.

Social media is unavoidable in today’s culture. Getting your kids involved in posting fun and healthy social media content will show them the positive aspects of the internet and lay the foundation for making good choices later when they have more control over their own accounts. Be sure to set your own rules as to how much time can be spent on social media posts, when photos are edited and how often you post. It should be a fun family activity, not a distraction or source of conflict!

Family table setting ideas with props

How can you make your family table worthy of likes from friends and strangers alike? We’ve provided some family table setting ideas for taking Instagram-worthy food photos plus tips on how to get the kids involved in this fun food project!

1. Use props. If you’re not taking close-up photos of food, you want to make sure the background is enticing but not distracting. Spice up simple foods and plating with a few props to bring your photos to life. A few fall gourds or a spray of spring wildflowers can provide a boost of color and sense of season or occasion to your table and your photos. Brainstorm with your kids on what appropriate table décor might be for the meal you’re serving and let them pick out something special to place for the photos.

2. Play with plating. A clean white dish is a traditional (and boring) backdrop for food. Play with texture and color on your tabletop from mixing textile patterns to combining dish materials. Mix-and-match wood dishes with colorful plates and bowls. Use vibrant, patterned serving dishes with wood-handled utensils. You can even put cutting boards or paper bags and other craft supplies to work. Let the kids get creative, their unique family table setting ideas might surprise you!

3. Compose the photo. Experiment with colors and textures on your table to see what complements your food best. This is a great time to teach young children about colors, textures, and shapes. Older children will enjoy choosing color combinations and backgrounds to try. Review the photos together and choose your favorites to post.

Colorful and textured family table setting ideas

4. Practice good photography habits. Shoot in natural light whenever possible and avoid using a flash. Instead, have someone use the light from another phone or flashlight to provide extra lighting. If you have a space near a window, dedicate it as your food picture corner. The kids can decorate it in advance and it saves time setting up lighting. It will also create a cohesive look throughout your photos. Hold the camera steady and instead of zooming in, which lowers the quality of your photos, just move closer. These are good skills to pass on to your kids who will be taking their own social media photos someday. The internet has enough photos of blurred, fuzzy food!

5. Make it active and engaging. Which looks more appealing, pasta piled on a plate or an artfully twirled forkful of saucy pasta? A stack of pancakes may photograph okay but add dripping golden syrup or a melting butter pat and you’ve got a click-worthy photo. This is where it’s useful to have extra pairs of hands. Involve your kids is helping you create the perfect food action shots!

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Self-Feeding Tips for 9-Month-Olds

When your baby reaches around nine months, things really get interesting! Emotionally you may find your little one to be clingy with primary caregivers and apprehensive or afraid of strangers. She probably understands the word “no,” and has started making word-like sounds such as “bababa” and “mamama” on the path to developing her new vocabulary. Physically, she’s gaining new skills too.

Although all babies develop at their own speed, this is a time of movement. Your baby will pull him/herself up, get into a sitting position by him/herself and eventually start crawling. You’re about to have a new little shadow! Both gross and fine motor skills are getting stronger and more defined. Baby can pass items from hand to hand, bring toys to her mouth and pick up smaller objects by pinching. These new skills are perfect for self-feeding training!

Help your child master new self-feeding skills.

More than ever your baby will want to be an active part of mealtime. He will be watching your every move and doing his best to mimic family members in both sounds and actions. Baby-led weaning focuses on allowing your baby to learn to feed themselves with regular food instead of liquid cereals and purees. This takes a burden off of busy parents by removing the need to prepare special foods. Instead, you can serve baby-friendly versions of whatever the rest of the family is eating.

Here’s how to put your baby’s new skills into practice with self-feeding tips for 9-month-olds!

1. Plate baby’s meal before you spice. Babies have new palates and have no need for heavy spices, sugar, salt, or fats. Your family may prefer buttered, seasoned steamed vegetables, but your baby will like her plain version just as much!

2. Cover-up. Learning to feed yourself is messy business! Invest in high quality, easy to clean bibs. We created our Roll & Lock  Silicone Bib, especially for self-feeders. It’s wide, extra-long, and has a deep pocket to catch all the mess. All-natural silicone is comfy for babies and won’t stain like fabric bibs. Just toss in your dishwasher’s top rack to clean. Learn more about why parents prefer our Miniware bibs here! 

3. Choose baby-safe finger foods. With her new pinching skills, your baby can enjoy a wider variety of safe finger foods. Crunchy foods like cereals and light, flaky crackers break down easily in the baby’s mouth to prevent choking. Fruits and vegetables should be firm enough to grasp but mash easily with a fork. Good foods to practice pinching skills on include well-cooked noodles, ripe banana chunks, soft tofu, peas, and cereal O’s.

Tip: If your baby is having a hard time grasping slippery foods like fruit, grind up cereal O’s into a powder and coat the chunks to give him a better grip!

4. Keep it simple. Offer your baby just a few pieces of food at a time. He won’t become overwhelmed and possibly cranky and it cuts down on the mess!

5. Introduce baby cutlery. Your baby is absorbing everything around her, including how and what you eat! At first they won’t be much use to her, but help her get used to chunky, baby-friendly utensils and soon she’ll be mimicking your scooping and spearing and on her way to feeding herself with a fork and spoon. Miniware’s My First Cutlery set is made of plant-based PLA with rounded, soft edge that feels good on baby’s gums, and features chunky handles for a sure-grip for little hands. 

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Maintaining Healthy Resolutions: Clean Eating Recipes for Families

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we always start out with the best of intentions! But as busy parents, we also know it’s not hard to get off track occasionally.

To make things simple, we’ve pulled together some of kids’ favorite finger foods with clean twists that are quick, easy to make and kid-approved! Eating healthy affects everything in our lives, from how we sleep to how much energy we have. We’re always thinking of ways to help our kids grow up healthy, but sometimes neglect our own wellbeing. Clean eating is something that everyone in the family will benefit from; it’s not just good for baby!

Baked Quinoa Chicken Nuggets 

Ah, chicken nuggets, the classic stand-by kid dinner! Store-bought and fast food chicken nuggets will do in a pinch, but these fast and easy homemade nuggets made with nutritious quinoa are a snap to make and don’t taste “healthy” at all! Quinoa is a super grain and one of the most protein-rich foods that exist. It’s also high in fiber which makes it filling and great for a healthy digestion. Since they’re homemade, you can opt for hormone-free, organic chicken tenders and make them as big or bite-sized as you like. Your kids will eat them up!

What you need:

2 pounds of chicken tenders or boneless thighs

1 cup of flour

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

2 cups of cooked quinoa

Salt & pepper

  1. Cut the chicken breast or boneless thighs into bite-size pieces. 
  2. Season the nuggets with salt and pepper, coat them with a thick layer of flour+garlic powder. 
  3. Dip the nuggets into the whisked egg and coat them with quinoa.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the nuggets 12-15 mins [ flip the nuggets halfway] 
  5. Check the nuggets with a toothpick to see if they are cooked through, serve with honey mustard or ketchup. 

Tip: Pack up leftovers in your kid’s Miniware GrowBento Box for lunch and store dipping sauce in leak-proof Silipods!

Kale Pizza (Vegetarian)

Okay, kale is probably never going to be your family’s favorite food, but we have yet to meet a kid (or adult) who will turn down cheesy, delicious, pizza! This recipe is easy to make on busy nights, especially if you opt for store-bought dough, then you’re looking at just 15 minutes to prep and bake. Add some of your favorite veggie toppings. Kids will love helping place toppings and sprinkle cheese! Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients and is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, needed for healthy blood and bone development. It’s also rich in vitamin C and valuable antioxidants, so bring on the pizza!

What you need: 

Pre-made pizza dough

1 can tomato sauce

2 cups (8 ounces) Mozzarella cheese 

2 fresh tomatoes

1 cup of clean kale chopped into bite-size pieces

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

  1. If you have a pizza stone or a baking sheet, remember to put it in before heating up the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 F. 
  2. Roll the pizza dough flat on a clean surface or baking sheet and use your palm to push the center of the dough thinner than the edges. 
  3. Use a spoon or knife to spread a thin layer of tomato sauce evenly on to the flat dough, add small chunks of mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato onto the pizza dough, season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Bake according to the pizza dough directions or until crust is cooked through and cheese is melted. 

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos (Vegetarian and Gluten-Free)

With a little advance prep, this delicious and nutritious taco recipe is quick to make and full of flavor. You can roast the cauliflower and prepare the avocado-yogurt topping up to a day in advance, then just reheat and assemble in the tortilla of your choice. Corn tortillas make it gluten-free! We also like that you can adjust the spice level to your family’s preferences. Make it extra mild for babies. Cauliflower is high in fiber and antioxidants while cumin is good for digestion and blood sugar. Kids love taco night (who doesn’t?) and will have fun adding their favorite toppings to tortillas. Leftovers can be stored for nearly a week in our Miniware Snack Bowls with Lids!

Two-Bean Veggie Skillet Nachos (Vegetarian and Gluten-Free)

Here’s a healthy twist on another popular Mexican favorite. Normally, we wouldn’t suggest nachos as a nutritious dinner, but this recipe contains two types of fiber- and protein-rich beans, plus lots of vitamin-packed vegetables. It’s not only easy to make but takes just 30 minutes from start to finish. Best of all, it’s completely adaptable. Add or remove vegetables, make with dairy-free cheese, or switch out corn chips for sweet potato, black bean chips or whatever your family loves to make it your own. We say add some fresh winter squash to your bean mixture and top with guacamole! It’s kid-approved finger food at its finest!

Have you resolved to eat healthier in 2020? Have you tried our clean eating family recipes? Make sure to let us know how you like them in the comments below!

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Reasons You (and Your Mini) Will Love Miniware

When we became parents, we wanted to find safe, natural dishes for our baby, something durable but also easy to clean. There wasn’t anything that met our needs or the needs of our growing child on the current market. We created Miniware to address the challenges facing parents and babies during self-feeding training and to have a low-impact, environmentally-safe product that was good for the earth from creation through disposal. Our Miniware family of health-conscious, modern parents love our dishes and we know you will too.

Why You’ll Love Miniware:

Safer for baby. Plastic baby dishes can leach toxic chemicals into food over time or when exposed to heat, such as in the microwave or dishwasher. Plastic-free Miniware is made from 100% all-natural materials without chemical additives. Perfect for health-conscious parents!

Long-lasting and durable. Baby dishes must stand up to the demands of even the most enthusiastic little diners. Ceramic dishes may be beautiful but there’s always a risk of chips or shattering. Plasticware can be durable but risks chemical leaching or plastic chips getting into food. Miniware is made from extremely strong plant fibers, molded into beautiful, sturdy dishware that can last for years with proper care. Great for indoor or outdoor use!

Easy to clean. Modern families require easy-to-clean dishware for busy lifestyles. Miniware can safely be placed in the dishwasher or hand-washed. For best results and to extend the life of your dishes, use the lowest dishwasher settings and avoid heated air-dry cycles.

Designed to help children learn to self-feed. The “easy-scoop” angle and wide openings of our dishes were created to help new self-feeders easily learn to scoop and grab different types of food. Combined with our Miniware cutlery sets, babies and small children will master self-feeding easily while developing their muscle control and balance.

Convenient and travel-ready. Miniware is ready to pack up and go wherever life takes you.

Low-impact and earth-friendly. Miniware is created from all-natural, sustainable resources with no chemicals used in manufacturing making it environmentally friendly from its creation through disposal. They’re a great alternative to plastic baby dishes which carry both environmental and health risks.

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5 Realistic New Year’s Parenting Resolutions

It’s Resolution Time Again!

Time to wipe the slate clean and give yourself a fresh start. Being a good parent is hard work and it’s natural to want to be the best for your kids all while berating yourself for not living up to impossible standards. So, there’s a laundry pile and you fed them pizza twice this week, cut yourself some slack and skip being super-parent. Instead, focus on the small things you can do that will make a big difference in your kid’s life. Here are some totally achievable New Year’s parenting resolutions for 2019! 

  1. Give your kids undivided attention every day. Just being with your children isn’t the same as being present with your kids. Being present means being fully focused and engaged in the moment, giving them your full device-free attention. Increasingly, we spend time behind screens capturing moments for social media or tweeting, texting, posting and tagging. Life is busy, so we multitask, but giving your child fifteen minutes of undivided attention, conversation and focus is worth more than an hour of distracted playtime. Put a cap on your workday (no email after a set time for example) and set aside some distraction-free time to spend with your kids.

Master time management

  1. Eat together. Schedules vary from family to family, but kids need to be fed on a schedule. Sometimes this means they eat before us, or with one family member but not others. Maybe eating dinner together every night isn’t realistic for your family but finding time to share food as a family is important to creating and maintaining bonds. If dinner isn’t in your schedule, try a family breakfast, brunch or lunch instead!

Plan meals with ease.

  1. Exercise more. This resolution tops most adult’s list this time of year, but kids need exercise too. Getting kids to exercise, especially if they’re not athletes, can be a challenge. Resolve to build fun activities into your time together that double as a workout. Think bike riding, nature walks, dance competitions, scavenger hunts, charity events, starting a garden or turning commercials into mini family workouts. Depending on your kids ages, you can have at least 30 mins of fun together every single day. Check out kid’s yoga and gymnastic stretching videos online which are fun for parents and kids to practice together. A simple jump rope can bring lots of fun. Creating a simple competition will make exercise more interesting for older kids and encourage them to participate.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

4. Learn a new language together. Another popular resolution among adults,  it’s never too early to get your kids started on learning a new language. Not only is it a fun activity to do together, but it can also serve them well in an ever-globalized world where being bi- or tri-lingual is a huge asset in any career. You can even set a goal of a country to visit together once everyone has reached a certain level. There are many ways to start learning together from apps that make learning a game to audio programs. Best of all, you’ll have each other to practice with in-between sessions!

Make learning a new language fun and easy. Check this out too: Gus on the Go

  1. Learn a new cuisine. Kids love helping in the kitchen. One way to spend quality time with your children is to involve them in cooking and baking projects. There are many types of kitchen tasks that even small children can help with like scooping, sifting, stirring and sprinkling. Older children will enjoy learning simple recipes and the science of baking. To add an extra level of motivation, choose a new cuisine (perhaps a future travel destination) and do some research with your child on traditional dishes and desserts. Together you can plan and execute an exotic dinner for your family that your child can feel proud of while teaching them about other cultures around the world.

10 New Cuisines You Need to Try.

There are no cookie-cutter families; each one is unique. What’s important is how we use the time we have with our families. Finding fun ways to share experiences and goals will help you build bonds and memories with your child to last a lifetime.