Category Archives: Learning

A Chef’s Best Tips for Raising Non-Picky Eaters

Letting them help in the kitchen may be the key.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the existence of restaurant kid’s menus. Why limit children to a basic menu of mac and cheese, chicken fingers and burgers? Kids shouldn’t automatically be put into a box that shapes them as selective eaters, when they really do not have to be. With more than 225,000 students passing through our doors each year at Young Chefs Academy, the kids' cooking school I founded, we’ve come to learn that there are many things that can be done to promote an adventurous palate and help raise non-picky eaters.

Children can become fussy eaters for a number of reasons. It can be from a parent’s influence, the style that food is served, kids being made fun of for something they brought in their lunch—the list goes on. In addition, there are many accidental things adults do that can cause pickiness. A prime example is parents who label their kids, especially in front of them. When kids are told they are picky eaters, they will believe it’s true and use the label as an excuse to not eat something.

Just as important, parents shouldn’t make a big deal when kids do eat a certain food. If they choose to eat broccoli, don’t applaud them—they should be eating broccoli! I’d veer away from making food associated with a reward process for your children.

If your kids do not like a specific food, suggest they choose how to prepare it the next time. For example, show them how to chop and sauté mushrooms instead of serving them raw. Changing the texture and consistency of a certain food can completely change one’s perception of it.

I am not a proponent of making a different meal for a child, based off of their seeming likes and dislikes, aside from what the rest of the family is eating. Encourage kids to experiment with food they may not initially like, but don't force them to taste anything. I'm a big fan of having fun and interacting with children. Their tasting of new food tends to follow naturally.

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. Working Mother

Pickiness often comes from attention-seeking behaviors. One of the best remedies is to involve kids in the food-making process. Children will become immersed in the creation and steps of making a meal and their perception of certain foods takes a back seat. The focus is taken off the food itself and shifts to the child creating their own meal for themselves. Never in a million years would a parent think that their child would come home after one of our classes and proclaim their new love for lemon grass soup or rhubarb! This stems from utilizing children’s sensory experiences. Have them pick out the veggies from the store, wash them, chop them and prepare them. You will be amazed at what they will end up eating—and thoroughly enjoying.

Also, encourage your child to cook with other kids. Children will listen well and get onboard with an idea if it comes from their peers. Sign up for your own kids’ cooking class, host a cooking birthday party or have a cooking playdate. Kids can experiment and encourage each other to try something new together.

Lastly, never forget that it is okay to not like certain ingredients. Adults are just the same! Pickiness will fade away naturally. A great way for children to expand their palates is through trying new foods with the family. Choose new ingredients from the grocery store to test at home. Experiment with new and adventurous ways to prepare different ingredients and get involved in the kitchen together. Most importantly, have fun!


Julie Burleson has served as Young Chefs Academy Founder and CEO for 14 years. Julie owned and operated two culinary businesses prior to franchising the Young Chefs Academy model and set out on a mission to teach children the joy and value of cooking. She was the recipient of Best Feasibility Plan from Baylor University’s John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship and is a proud member of the IFA (International Franchise Association).

Written by Julie Burleson for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Kleynimals and Baby Development – Guest Post from Dr. Patricia Bast

Tummy Time with Jangles

As parents something we always wonder and question is whether our baby is developing at a healthy rate. Here is a little glimpse at what to expect over the first 3 years. The Kleynimals toys are wonderful to encourage these developmental milestones. For example, the large ring of the Rattle is perfect for tiny hands to grasp, the Keys soothe sore teething gums while stimulating imaginations, and the Jangles keep busy little fingers occupied! 

Starting at 4 months old your baby may reach for toys with one hand, batting at hanging toys, and shaking toys with their hands. This is the beginning of using their hands and eyes together. This is also the stage where many babies will start bringing hands to their mouth and following items from side to side. This is the perfect time to introduce the Kleynimals rattle, with a large ring it is easy for tiny hands to grasp and explore.

At 6 months old your baby will start to focus on nearby objects and is now capable of bringing objects to their mouth. Baby may also reach for objects that are just out of reach and will begin to pass toys from one hand to the other. This is when I find my babies start to love their keys, the cold metal is soothing on the gums while the sound they make is beautiful. Learning they can make noise when they shake an object is huge for their development. 

By 9 months old babies develop preference for favorite toys, point to what they want, and may even look for things you hide. They can also now smoothly transfer toys from one hand to the other. All of the Kleynimals toys are perfect for hide and go seek. Shake the toy to draw baby’s attention and place it under a small lovey, baby will love peeking under the blanket to find their beloved toys.

Next, at 12 months old, babies will find hidden objects. In addition to placing objects into containers and taking them back out, this is also when babies love to bang objects together. With their increased awareness, babies love placing their toys into small baskets and dumping them out repeatedly. Another favorite activity is clapping hands together with bangles on their wrist. The musical nature of stainless steel captivates their attention while the cold texture stimulates their attention. 

At 18 months pretend play comes to life. This is such a fun time and the perfect opportunity to introduce the Kleynimals keys as keys. Model them for starting a toy car or opening a door, place them into a purse or backpack, the possibilities are endless. 

At 24 months your toddler will be able to find objects hidden under 2-3 covers, and begins to sort shapes and colors. Simple make-believe games are popular. Hand dominance may be apparent. The Kleynimals toys make the perfect objects for hide-and-go-seek.

Finally, at 36 months old your toddler can work with toys, buttons, and moving parts. They may also play make-believe with dolls, animals, and people. I find this is when jangles are the most enjoyed. The small beads and interlocking rings are perfect to keep fidgety little fingers busy. 

If you are looking for more than toys Kleynimals also makes the most beautiful stainless steel utensils, I highly recommend them!

6 Easy Holiday Decorations Kids Will Love to Make

Boost creativity along with family togetherness by getting your children in on the decorating action.

Children develop an understanding of the world through the senses. The changing seasons provide a great opportunity to engage them through the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feels of fall and winter, as we decorate our homes to reflect the seasons. This year, don’t resign your little ones to school crafts and jack-o’-lanterns—get them involved in decorating your home. Whether it’s baking cookies, hunting for leaves or planting evergreen branches, there are plenty of opportunities for the entire family to get involved in your home’s holiday decor. Here are some inspiring decoration ideas that are kid-friendly and family-approved.

1. Hang Autumn Leaf Wallpaper

Go on an outdoor trek with your children and collect bunches of colorful leaves around your yard, street or even at the park. Press them under a book overnight, then glue them to cut squares of textured paper. The result will be stunning enough to stay up year-round.

While you’re out collecting leaves, grab a few extra to adorn your mantel. Twigs and leaves add a natural, whimsical element to existing fall decor and give your children a fun way to put their stamp on your home.

2. Arrange Decorative Pumpkins and Gourds

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. Working Mother

Let your kids have fun and pick out their favorite pumpkins.

Photo: Julie Ranee Photography, original photo on Houzz

These lumpy, bumpy gourds add festive fall color, and the unique textures make them fun and interesting for little kids to check out. Decorations that engage the senses are always a plus.

3. Explore the Wonder of Japanese Washi Tape

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. Working Mother

The designs are endless with this versatile tape.

Photo: Pullga, original photo on Houzz

Washi tape—decorative Japanese tape made of paper—is a great tool for kid-friendly decor. I love how this homeowner made a simple vignette with a washi tape tree on the wall. It is easy to use, is incredibly affordable, makes a big statement and comes down without a fuss. There’s no need to stop at a tree with this stuff—encourage your kids to create snowflake, star and present shapes out of washi tape, too.

Encourage your children to go beyond traditional holiday colors. Give them free rein and see what creative color schemes they can create with a little low-VOC paint, some supervision and a few tree branches or blank ornaments. Who knows? They could come up with the star of your home’s holiday decor.

4. Get Creative with Classic Candy Canes

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. Working Mother

Make sure to save one for a treat after you’re done.

Photo: Michelle Edwards, original photo on Houzz

Some of the best holiday decor is the simplest. Give your children some candy canes (maybe one or two extra for snacking) and craft glue to turn something as simple as a white candle into a colorful holiday accent. This easy DIY project satisfies both the taste and smell sensory categories—once you light the candle, it’ll give off a slight peppermint scent.

5. Pick a Bunch of Branches

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. Working Mother

Perfect for your favorite ornaments.

Photo: Planet Fur, original photo on Houzz

This decorative branch makes me think of adventure! Just imagine the fun you could have while hunting for the perfect collection of twigs or branches with your children. Add simple store-bought or homemade ornaments, or let your children paint it with kid-friendly paint.

6. Create a One-of-a-Kind Christmas Tree

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. Working Mother

No watering needed!

Photo: Julie Ranee Photography, original photo on Houzz

Spur children’s creativity by encouraging them to use everyday items in unexpected ways. This holiday tree made of straw hats is a great example. I love how this clever display can be dressed down (as with the straw hats in this photo) or dressed up (by using top hats, bowlers or other fancy hats).

Some other fun ideas:

Fill the Front Porch With Festive Gourds
Sketch Out DIY Ideas on a New Drawing Table
Stylish Plant Stands to Hold Holiday Arrangements

Written by Summer Baltzer for Houzz for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Montessori-Style Toys Foster Independence and Imagination

You’ve likely heard about Montessori education, which was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. This alternative education approach builds on the natural tendencies of children.

Montessori features readily available realistic play materials that are designed to help children relate to and process the world around them.

The Montessori Method of Teaching

Montessori education involves playful hands-on learning — children teach themselves through active exploration. The approach is:

  1. Child-centric: Children are eager to learn and absorb the world around them. They are encouraged to play with age-appropriate items to help them learn from their environment and grow in independence.
  2. Present tense: Children may repeat an activity over and over. A child is welcome to continue an activity for as long as they wish. In this way, the Montessori environment prioritizes the present and doesn’t look to the future or the clock to determine what comes next.
  3. Reality-based: In the Montessori environment, you rarely find fantasy-oriented play. Instead, children are encouraged to use age-appropriate items that have a real-life purpose. For example, they have access to plastic knives to cut real bananas and feed themselves (versus feeding fake bananas to a stuffed animal).
  4. Freely chosen: The Montessori setting offers a variety of materials for children to choose from (but not so many that they feel overwhelmed by the clutter). Children select activities that make them happy and keep their attention. Once they disengage from their selected activity, they choose another and work with it for as long as they wish.

Montessori Toys for Babies and Toddlers

Baby trying to open a door with a toy key

As a parent, I think it’s important to foster a Montessori approach from day one. We don’t have to wait for kids to enter preschool to help them develop their:
· Independence
· Imagination
· Self-discipline
· Love of learning

All you need are a handful of appropriate toys and daily interactions with your baby! At Kleynimals, we’ve designed several of our toys to mesh with the Montessori philosophy (and other holistic-education philosophies like Steiner and slow-learning):
· Flatware: In the Montessori environment, children feed themselves from a very young age. Self-feeding helps foster independence and fine motor skills. We designed our flatware to fit perfectly in baby’s hands.
· Keys: Babies love to play with metal keys. At first, it might be the sound or cool touch that interests them. Eventually, they may put them to use to “unlock” things around the house. We designed our clean key animals to stimulate the imagination and improve gross and fine motor skills.
· Rattles: As with our keys, the sound and cool touch of our stainless steel rattles will capture your baby’s imagination. Your child can wear the jangles around their wrist, so they feel like they’re wearing the jewelry mom does (Tip: You can also wear them as a bracelet when your child isn’t using it…no one will know!).

While my kids enjoy Kleynimals toys (obviously!), I know we aren’t the only company out there making Montessori-inspired baby toys and learning toys for toddlers. We make our toys from non-toxic, dishwasher-safe stainless steel, but other safe options include wooden puzzles, stackers and activity boxes. I also love wooden brushes with natural bristles.

Shop the Kleynimals lineup of Montessori toys. And give them as gifts whenever you can — I guarantee they will bring joy to the recipient over many years.