Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog

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Healthy Cookies for Toddlers with Date Paste!

These “cookies” are so easy and healthy!  They are more akin to granola bars but we call them cookies.  I’ve posted about them before but since they are such a hit with my toddler I am posting about them again.  The secret ingredient is date paste.  You can mash and puree your own dates or just buy date paste.  A little bit goes a long way.  If you can’t find them in the baking section of your grocery store, then purchase them online.  I start with about 1 cup of date paste, the add 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cherries, apricots, peaches, apples, etc.), and 1/4 cup of chocolate chips (optional).  Then you can add whatever is available in your pantry, such as pumpkin sees, chia seeds, coconut, granola, etc.  It takes awhile to mash everything together but be patient and let your toddler help.  Then mold the cookies or bars into whatever shape you want.  You can harden them a bit in a dehydrator or the oven on low or just leave them out on the counter for a few hours.  I love cookies that you can’t mess up!

The “cookies” in these pictures are made with date paste, rolled oats, apricots, raisins, pumpkins sees, and chocolate chips!

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Montessori Shelf Work for Toddlers

Here are some new toddler activities you can do at home.  As you can see, we use a Montessori-inspired method of learning by keeping activities and toys on a shelf.  I rotate out the activities depending on B’s interest level.  B has learned to take activities down and put them back when he’s done.  He only takes one activity at a time.  We do many of the activities together but B also plays independently.  When not playing with these activities he is usually following me around the house helping with the chores, cooking and cleaning (as shown in my last post).  At two years old, B can pretty much help with everything.  He does laundry, makes snacks and meals, feeds the dogs, cleans up messes, and washes dishes – all with supervision.  I hope you find some of these shelf activities interesting.  I put much thought into what activities are placed on the shelf.  I try to provide a variety of easy and challenging activities and ones that cover math, language, practical life skills (such as transferring), sensorial, art, music and creative play.  I would love to hear YOUR ideas as well!

Here is our shelf downstairs in the playroom (right) and upstairs in B’s room.

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These two activities/toys were found on Etsy and given to B for his birthday.  Check out: Aroswoodcrafts and Richardsonrarities.

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The first picture below shows is a language activity.  I read the word and have B find and place the object next to the word.  The second picture is a sorting and counting activity with bears.  B loves feeling the bears.  He used to throw them but he’s gotten over that now.  The third picture is a practical life skill where B transfers the beads into the other bowl.  Always go from left to right.  The fourth picture shows a sorting activity where B puts all the spoon in one cup and forks in the other.  He likes real forks and spoons and it’s a challenge to keep the cup upright.  We are also working on the words “spoon”,” fork”, and “cup”.  The fifth picture shows some eco-friendly eggs that B can match and put together.  It’s too difficult to pull them apart but he can put them together.  The sixth and last picture shows a pinching activity with different sized clips.  B practices clipping the paper and exercises the finger muscles he will later use for writing.  Enjoy!



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Roll it, Pat it and Put it in the Oven!

My little guy (20 months) enjoyed helping me make homemade whole wheat bread today.  The last few weeks I’ve been learning to make bread.  It’s very satisfying to knead and pound dough.  I put my toddler next to me on a stool or in his high chair and let him maneuver the flour.  He likes to trace his finger through it and sprinkle it on our dogs.  Then I let him mix the flour and water and feel the sticky, pasty dough.  Ounce it gets completely covered with flour and is nice and soft, it’s like playing with play-doh.  We talk through the process of letting it rise and baking it in the oven.  He never takes the hot bread out of the oven but he likes to put on the oven mitts just the same.  It kind of makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Clean-up is just as much a part of the process as making the bread.  B loves to help wash dishes, wipe down the counter, and sweep the floor.  It’s amazing how difficult it is for me to let him do the work himself.  Maybe because I know I can do it MUCH faster and it’s easy to think the “activity” is over – now go play!  Today we worked for almost 30 minutes cleaning up dry rice that had spilled during a transferring activity (B will spoon the rice between two small bowls).  It was very challenging for him to push the rice into the dustpan!  Since he was intent on doing it and was not getting frustrated, I let him do it himself.  It was more challenging for me to keep quiet and not interfere!  He’s generally happier and more interested in helping the more I let him do things by himself.

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Homemade Wheat Bread












In the afternoon, we had to run lots of errands around town.  Everything goes much more smoothly (meaning no temper tantrums) when I go at a very slow pace, or I should say B’s pace.  I internally want to get the errand down AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.  I would think B would agree with me if he knew that meant more time on the playground when we are all down.  But that’s not how it works.  We have a much better time when I go at a slow, toddler pace.  That means, lots of breaks for snacks, singing, talking with people, checking out signs and picture, and generally observing the world.  At one store, B and I spent a LONG time swinging before getting back into the car.  We had to try both swings and switch back and forth several times.  Ah, I love how my toddler makes me a better person – someone who stops to smell the roses and not force the bloom!













Daddy was very patient with B while they decorated the tree!  Everything is more fun with a toddler when you’re willing to go at their pace!  Even the cat got involved.  😉


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Homemade Bread for the Holidays Starts with Yeast Starter!

I’ve always wanted to know how to make homemade bread!  It’s healthier, cheaper and it tastes better than store bought bread.  Plus, it’s oh so good when it comes out of the oven hot!  When I visited my Aunt Karen (queen of all things homemade) she gave me some yeast starter.  She has cultivated this yeast starter for more than 20 years!  Needless to say, I handled it with care!  I carried a 1/4 cup of yeast starter in a plastic dish on the plane home and grew it into 1 1/2 cups by slowing adding more whole wheat and water.  I left the glass dish of yeast starter on the counter and added the wheat and water in the same ratio that was in the dish.  So, if you have a 1/4 cup of yeast starter you add 1/4 cup of dry wheat and 1/4 cup of water.  When the starter begins to bubble, you add more.  It took me a couple of days to go from 1/4 cup of yeast starter to 1 1/2 cups.  If you are interested in making your own starter, check out  It’s basically just flour and water!  The benefits of using the yeast starter is that it’s MUCH easier to make the bread!  Ounce I had 1 1/2 cups of yeast starter, I was ready to make 2 loaves of bread.  Imagine, you grow the yeast starter during the week and then ounce a week you make 2 loaves of healthy, hot, homemade bread!  And you know there are no chemicals or weird stuff in there.  Plus, it tastes better!  And you can experiment with different type os dough.  I also find it very therapeutic to kneed dough.  A little added benefit.  Make sure to reserve about 1/4 cup of starter for next time!  You MUST keep feeding the starter to keep it active.  It will keep inactive (without you adding more) for about 1 week in the refrigerator or about 1 day on the counter.

Here is the recipe for homemade bread with yeast starter (it’s easier with the yeast starter!):

1 to 1 1/2 cups of starter

3 cups of water (room temp.)

1/2 cup gluten or a cup of white flour

1 TB maple syrup (optional)

add enough flour to make an elastic dough ball (several cups) (I use whole wheat, but you can use white, or part white)

you can also add a 1/3 cup ground flax seed or chia seeds

Then, place the dough ball in a bowl on the counter covered with a towel for two to four hours (it can be flexible depending on your schedule).  Next, kneed the dough for about 5 min., divide in half and put into two loaf pans.  Slash the top of the loaves to encourage rising.  Allow dough to rise until doubled in size (usually two hours at the room temp.).  Then, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and carefully put raised loaves in the oven.  Cook for 40 min.  Enjoy!

Another option:  Roll out dough and top with cinnamon, brown sugar, nuts and re roll.  Then cut into cinnamon rolls!  Let them rise like bread and cook 25 min at 350.

Another option:  If you want to make crackers, roll the bread dough out as thin as you can and bake it at 350 till crisp (15 min.).  You can roll other spices into the crackers or sweeten.


Homemade Wheat Bread

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Learning ABC’s with Letter Tubs

A confined toddler on a tiny airplane could spell disaster.  My toddler has been on a plane four times in the last two weeks.  Luckily, half those times he was asleep.  Some of the places we have been include San Francisco, St. Louis and Miami.  My little 19 month toddler is BUSY and changing all the time.  We had to be very creative on the plane and in the airport terminals.  I packed a bag of new goodies that he hadn’t seen before and surprised him on our trips with these presents.  The LeapReader Junior was a big hit.  I also brought 5 new Matchbox cars.  I brought a old wallet and small calculator he hadn’t played with and I also brought a couple of old favorite toys, like our Ikea cars.  We made it but I’m ready for him to have his own seat.  Do you have toddler tricks for traveling?

One of our trips was to visit family, including Aunt Karen.  She is a big inspiration for this blog and a great resource for interesting challenges.  Some of her challenges to me have been to make my own laundry soap and date bars.  One this trip, I spent a day following Aunt Karen around her home learning very cool ways of staying healthy and saving money, all of which I will post about later.  Aunt Karen runs a daycare in her home and has years of practice keeping toddlers busy and learning to read.  I was very fascinated with what I call her “Letter Tubs” and plan to make some of my own.  She saved old yogurt dishes and labeled each one with a letter of the alphabet.  Then she filled each tub with tiny objects that started with the corresponding letter.  For example, the tub for “F” had a tiny fence, frogs, flowers, felt and feathers.  Each tub also had a big letter and small letter, which were usually magnet letters.  You can also make Color Tubs using the same concept.  I will post about the other activities Aunt Karen shared with me including sprouting, raising active yeast for bread, composting in the back yard, art projects, bike riding and play dough just to name a few.  Just as soon as I get back from my next trip to DC!  Any suggestions for long car trips with toddlers! 🙂

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Busy Bag Ideas – Easy to Make Toddler Toys

Last week I attended my first Busy Bag party!  It’s a great idea.  One mom hosted the party at her house and the other moms brought homemade toddler/baby toy for all the other moms.  So, I made 8 puff ball containers – one for each mom at the party.  Each mom presented their toys to the group and then passed them out.  I left the party with 7 new toddler/baby handmade toys.  Pretty cool!  All the moms were REALLY proud of their toys and we all loved sharing what we had made.  We plan to do it again and use new toy ideas.  There are lots of ideas online.  Below are two that we have enjoyed so far.  I made the first one – the puff ball container.  I always save all my yogurt and butter containers, so I actually had 10 of them in the cupboard.  I knew they would come in handy at some point.  Baby B loves it!!  The second one is cut up pool noodles on a rope!  Baby B loves to pull them off but hasn’t figured how to put them back on the rope.  He’s only 14 months 🙂  You should be careful about your baby or toddler eating either the foam noodle or the small puff balls.  They shouldn’t be left alone with the toys.  You can use these toys to teach numbers, colors, and math concepts like adding and subtracting.  Have fun!



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Homemade Nutbutter and Applesauce!

In line with my goal to make more homemade goodies this year, I whipped up some nutbutter and apple/peach sauce last week.  I’m starting slow, okay!  I grabbed bags of nuts that I had left over for the nutbutter.  I used hazelnuts and almonds.  Since both these nuts are slightly dry, I added just a drizzle of olive oil for a creamy consistency.  I threw the nuts in my Vitamix and spun that sucker until the batch looked spreadable.  It turned out a dark, rich color with flecks of deep brown.  The apple and peach sauce was easy too and a few apples go a long way!  I cored and steamed about 6 apples and then threw them in the Vitamix after they cooled a bit.  Save that water from steaming for smoothies!  Then I added a freezer bag full of sliced peaches leftover from summer.  I kept spinning until the peels were ground up so Baby could swallow it easily.  The batch made two large jars full!  I keep adding the sauce mix to other things – hot cereal, yogurt, puree veggies.  I need to try an applesauce muffin recipe next.  Can’t wait to try some other homemade goodies this week!