Books for 11 year olds

books for 11 year olds

Maybe on a list like this someday!

It can be tough to find the right books for 11 year olds. I am not an 11 year old, but I remember what books I loved reading when I was 11.  My oldest son just turned 10 and I exchange emails with an 11 year old boy about books. I am writing books and stories that I hope 11 year old boys and girls would want to read. That’s why I love this list from several well-known authors about books for 11 year olds. The list originally appeared in The Guardian, but I’m sharing it here and keeping track of what books I’ve read. What better way to write books for 11 year olds than to read great books for 11 year olds?

I’ve still got quite a lot to read, but I’m making my way through the list. Have you read any on this list? Which are your favorites?

Philip Pullman

READ * Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Indispensable. The great classic beginning of English children’s literature.

READ 2014 * Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. What effortless invention looks like.

READ 2014* Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. A great political story: democracy in action.

READ 2014 * Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. As clear and pure as Mozart.

READ 2014* Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken. If Ransome was Mozart, Aiken was Rossini. Unforced effervescence.

READ 2014* The Owl Service by Alan Garner. Showed how children’s literature could sound dark and troubling chords.

READ 2013 * The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Superb wit and vigorous invention.

READ 2014* Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson. Any of the Moomin books would supply the same strange light Nordic magic.

READ 2014 * A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna. A particular favourite of mine, as much for Richard Kennedy’s delicate illustrations (in the English edition) as for the story.

* The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé. Three generations of this family have loved Tintin. Perfect timing, perfect narrative tact and command, blissfully funny.

Michael Morpurgo

READ 2014* The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson. The heroine is blessed with such wonderful friends who help her through the twists and turns of this incredible journey.

READ 2014 * A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The first few pages were so engaging, Marley’s ghostly face on the knocker of Scrooge’s door still gives me the shivers.

READ 2015 * Just William books by Richmal Crompton. These are a must for every child.

READ 2014 * The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. This was the first story, I think, that ever made me cry and it still has the power to make me cry.

READ 2013 * The Elephant’s Child From The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The story my mother used to read me most often, because I asked for it again and again. I loved the sheer fun of it, the music and the rhythm of the words. It was subversive too. Still my favourite story.

READ 2013* Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson This was the first real book I read for myself. I lived this book as I read it.

* The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. A classic tale of man versus nature. I wish I’d written this.

* The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. A book for children from 8 to 80. I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many.

* The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy The story of two children who go to find their father who has been listed missing in the trenches of the First World War.

READ * The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I love this story of a girl’s life being changed by nature.

Katy Guest, literary editor for The Independent on Sunday

* Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah. Story of a young Ethiopian boy, whose parents abandon him in London to save his life.

* Finn Family Moomintroll (and the other Moomin books) by Tove Jansson. A fantasy series for small children that introduces bigger ones to ideas of adventure, dealing with fear, understanding character and tolerating difference.

READ 2013 * Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. It’s rude, it’s funny and it will chime with every 11-year-old who’s ever started a new school.

* I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Written for a teenage audience but fun at any age.

READ * The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. Be warned, these tales of hobbits, elves and Middle Earth are dangerously addictive.

* The Tygrine Cat (and The Tygrine Cat on the Run) by Inbali Iserles. If your parents keep going on at you to read Tarka the Otter, The Sheep-Pig and other animal fantasies, do – they’re great books – also try Iserles’ stories about a cat seeking his destiny.

* Carry On, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. A grown-up book – but not that grown-up.

READ 2015 * When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical story of a family fleeing the Nazis in 1933.

* Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Elaborate mythological imagery and a background based in real science. If you like this, the Discworld series offers plenty more.

* The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. The pinnacle of the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson’s brilliant and enormous output.

John Walsh, author and Independent columnist

* The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Irresistible puzzle-solving tales of the chilly Victorian master-sleuth and his dim medical sidekick.

* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Age-transcending tale, both funny and sad.

* Mistress Masham’s Repose by TH White. Magical story of 10-year-old Maria, living in a derelict stately home, shy, lonely and under threat from both her governess and her rascally guardian.

READ * Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Inexplicably evergreen, trend and taste-defying 1868 classic.

* How to be Topp by Geoffrey Willams and Ronald Searle. Side-splitting satire on skool, oiks, teechers, fules, bulies, swots.

READ 2015 * Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. First of the action-packed adventures with 14-year-old Alex Rider.

* Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. “Dulce et Decorum Est” for pre-teens.

READ 2013 * Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Lively, amoral, wildly imaginative debut (six more followed) about the money-grabbing master-criminal Artemis, 12. The author called it “Die Hard with fairies”.

* The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. Inspiring wartime story of the Balicki family in Warsaw.

READ * Animal Farm by George Orwell. Smart 11-year-olds won’t need any pre-knowledge of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and 1917 to appreciate this brilliantly-told fable.

Michael Rosen

READ 2013 * Skellig by David Almond. Brings magical realism to working-class North-east England.

* Red Cherry Red by Jackie Kay. A book of poems that reaches deep into our hidden thoughts but also talks in a joyous voice exploring the everyday.

* Talkin Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah. A book of poems that demands to be read aloud, performed and thought about.

* Greek myths by Geraldine McCaughrean. Superheroes battle with demons, gods intervene in our pleasures and fears – a bit like the spectres in our minds going through daily life, really – beautifully retold here.

* People Might Hear You by Robin Klein. A profound, suspenseful story about sects, freedom and the rights of all young people – especially girls.

* Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. A book that dared to go where no one thought you could with young audiences because it raises tough stuff to do with race.

* Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World by Anthony McGowan. A crazy adventure set amongst the kids you don’t want to know but who this book makes you really, really care about.

* After the First Death by Robert Cormier. Cormier is never afraid of handling how the personal meets the political all within the framework of a thriller.

* The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. A book that allows difference to be part of the plot and not a point in itself.

* Beano Annual. A cornucopia of nutty, bad, silly ideas, tricks, situations and plots.

 

This list originally appeared on my personal blog, Try It and You May. 

Help for Moms of Picky Eaters: Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa

I am so thrilled to share the link to a truly fun conversation I had with Denisa LaRosa, host of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa. Denise and I are both Pittsburgh moms, but she is raising girls and I have all boys. We share a common goal in helping our kids develop a healthy relationship with food. Denise is a former elementary school teacher and I admire anyone who can tackle a classroom full of kids.

Denise is the founder and CEO of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa, LLC, a multimedia platform designed to motivate, inspire and inform mothers. Denise’s website focuses on “providing mothers with encouragement, support and resources as they travel the journey of motherhood.”

Denise and I had a inspiring talk about what inspired my books and how I encourage my kids to try new foods. But her website has many more resources for moms.

Moms learning from Moms

Moms learning from Moms

Denise and I are both supporting the Burgh Baby Diaper Drive and collecting diapers for the smallest members of our community.

Make a change in a little one's life!

 

It can be hard to be patient when kids refuse to eat. Moms know that many times dinners and meals with picky eaters end up in food fights and battlesI Denise and I shared great ideas on how we take our children to the grocery store, get them involved in cooking and encourage them to try new foods. I invite you to listen to this podcast and check out more from Denise!

 

 

Sexism in Kids’ Books

I read a lot of children’s books but lately I’ve been really angry to discover so much sexism in them. My second grader is now reading chapter books but he still wants me or my husband to read with him, so I get to check out of a lot of books I’ve never read before. One of our favorite series is Junie B. Jones. We found the Ready Freddy books to be enjoyable but a little too repetitive. But recently I’ve had two very unpleasant discoveries of sexism in some popular chapter book series.

Disgusting

Here’s one example that angered me:

flat stanley sexism

From The Original Adventures of Flat Stanley

IMG_0831

From The Original Adventures of Flat Stanley

I stopped reading here and had a conversation with my son about it. I asked him what he thought about it, and he said Stanley should just wear the costume to trick people. I explained gently that it hurt my feelings for someone to think it was disgusting to dress like a girl. In this case, I hoped to build the notion that all politics is local in my son, so he could realize sexist statements like this have implications for people he loves.

It really bothers me that my son read about a character, the hero specifically, who thinks it’s disgusting to dress like a girl. The Flat Stanley books feature a little boy who becomes flat and uses his flatness to help people. And his parents are unfailingly polite. But this is a pretty rude sentiment to indicate it’s disgusting for a boy to dress like a girl. It’s pretty culturally insensitive, too. While it may the reality that boys find it disgusting in our culture to dress like girls, what that does is reveal the underlying belief that girls represent something boys should not admire or want to look like. That being a girl, looking like a girl, is undesirable. But it’s ok for girls to wear pants like boys, wear sports uniforms like boys, and be called tomboys because it’s ok for girls to emulate someone with more power in our social system. But according to this passage you’d have to be an idiot to want to dress down the social power ladder.

This message is subtle but persistent. Kids are reading it and believing it. A similar sentiment is repeated in one of the newer chapter book versions of the Amelia Bedelia stories.

Even Worse

amelia bedelia sexism

Amelia Bedelia: Unleashed

When I read this passage to my son, I stopped reading and fumed. It made me so mad. I made myself calm down and asked my son about it. He said he didn’t know what to think. I asked him if he would let a girl help him at school if he was in trouble. He said “you’re a girl, Mom. You help me.”

I know the power dynamics are different when the kid is seven and he’s thinking about his mom. But reading this sentence indicates that boys should not let girls help them at school, because that’s proving he’s so weak, so incapable of protecting himself from bullies (who were mocking his purebred prize-winning poodle), he’s reaching up to girls for help. This statement from the author is based on the assumption that girls are weak and less powerful, and implies that getting a girl’s help means this character even weaker than girls.

It made me sick. I’m getting rid of both books.

I’m all for freedom of speech and I’m super against censoring and banning books. But that doesn’t mean I have to allow my children to read these books. It also means I’m ready to have this conversation with my kids whenever they encounter any kind of racist or sexist or discriminatory language in books.

Sexism is Scary

I supported the We Need Diverse Books movement and I really do believe books should reflect more about the reality of the world we live in. But even though institutionalized sexism is a reality, I don’t think it has a place in children’s books. I work hard to challenge ideas from our society that pink and purple are girls’ colors or that boys are better in sports. I let my boys wear nail polish whenever they want and I would even let them wear skirts or dresses if they asked. (They haven’t.)

It’s scary to think of our kids as objects of ridicule if they attempt to challenge sexism. But it’s scarier to me to think of my boys adopting sexist beliefs and then acting on them as adults.

I urge you to look for ways that books perpetuate sexism and have the conversations we need to have with our kids to change this inaccurate power dynamic. And I urge you to challenge your own thinking and look for ways you could be continuing these stereotypes. Talk to your children about sexism (and racism, and all kinds of discrimination) and be part of the change.

How to Find An Agent For My Novel

critique groups

Drafts & Revisions

Earlier this year, I finished the first draft of my middle novel, Dare Club. Once the draft was done, I dedicated the rest of the year to revision and to find an agent for my novel.

I knew that it would be tough to find an agent for my novel wasn’t going to be easy and would need the strongest possible manuscript, which is why revision was a huge part of ths. In order to tackle the revision process, I downloaded Kate Messner’s book Real Revision. I attended a writing retreat hosted by the Western PA region of SCBWI. I worked online with Margo Dill, a.k.a Editor 911. And I put in hours at my desk and laptop alone.

With revision underway, I needed to get out there and meet agents, both in real life and online. In May, I attended the Pennwriters Conference and pitched to four different agents. At the writing retreat, I put my first chapters in front of an editor. In September, I participated in Brenda Drake‘s Pitch Wars and in her Twitter-based #PitMad party.

And I crossed my fingers.

And somewhere along the line I realized how pitching and revision go hand in hand when it comes to writing the best possible book and in the search to find an agent for my novel. When I wanted to really hone in on the essence of my story and create a compelling pitch, I thought long and hard about if the 50,000 words on the pages actually told that story.

I sent my queries out there and posted my pitches on Twitter and got some interesting, thoughtful feedback that will help me revise even more and hopefully help me not just find any agent for my novel but to find an agent for my novel that is the right one. 

Have you ever sent a query out? And gotten a rejection back? I’ve received tons of rejections but I thought I’d share the ones relevant to my novel here.

Rejection 1: “Thanks so much for sending your novel along and for your patience while I considered it.  I’m sorry but I’ve decided to pass.  I think the concept is really strong, but I wasn’t drawn in by the writing, which felt a little too young in a way.”

Rejection 2: “Thank you for the opportunity to consider DARE CLUB. Though I really love this premise and you show a lot of talent as an author, I didn’t quite buy into the relationship between Tony, Inky, and Mara—the dynamic felt, at times, a tad too flat, and I’d like to have known more about Mara in particular. I am afraid that I don’t have the vision for this project—but I wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and a publisher for DARE CLUB. It’s a great premise, and with the right editorial guidance I think you could have something here.”

Rejection 3: “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to choose DARE CLUB. In this case it really came down to voice, and I just wasn’t personally connecting.”

Rejection 4: “Thank you for sharing your Pitch Wars entry with me! I received a lot of submissions, and unfortunately, I didn’t choose yours to mentor.I really enjoyed your entry, which made this a tough decision! You’ve got great MG voice, strong writing, and an intriguing concept. I think the one thing I wanted more of was Tony. He’s narrating the story, but I couldn’t get a good grip on who he was as a person (besides the fact that he likes challenges and hates his nickname). It might help to add a few more thoughts/emotions on his part as he narrates in order to shed more light on him as a character — things that give insight into his family, things he likes to do, other friends, pets, goals/desires (aside from getting to know Mara better, that is! 😉 You definitely don’t want to info-dump this kind of thing, but just adding a little here and there as it relates to the conversation or Tony’s observations would help flesh out his character. I hope that helps! I definitely think you should query this (if you haven’t already started), and enter it into some more contests. You should also consider doing the #pitmad pitch party on Twitter on the 9th–you’ve got a great hook, which is a must-have to get agent attention in 140 characters. 🙂 Best of luck to you.”

Something amazing just happened as I read those rejections in the process of posting them here to help inspire fellow writers to keep working on their dream novel. I felt inspired again. I wanted to let other writers know that rejections aren’t always filled with negative comments or with cursory dismissals. Rejections can help, especially when the agent or editor provides a useful critique! I know that’s rare enough these days so these kinds of rejections should be treasured all the more.

I’m still trying to find an agent for my novel. And I’m not giving up yet!

 

Kids Ebooks Project

kids ebooks dinosaurs

Kids roar for dinosaurs

I’m working on a new kids ebook project and it’s part bucket-list, part platform builder. I’ve created kids ebooks before, but for this project I felt it was important that the ebook exist as a standalone app and not get buried in an e-reader. I’ve also always wanted to create an app and I’ve had several simple ideas but I don’t have the skills needed to program an app. To be honest, I also didn’t want to spend the time to learn how to program an app using even the simple toolkits available online – and there are some good ones! I’d much rather learn the steps overall process but have people really skilled in certain areas complete the tasks and pay attention to details I would overlook.

So, here are the steps I’ve taken in creating my new kids ebook project.

 1. Identified the topic. I’m working with dinosaurs because my oldest has loved them since he was a baby and because lots and lots of boys and girls throughout the world love dinosaurs. I like kids ebooks that utilize take a familiar children’s song or tune, so I started there and added a dinosaur element. I brainstormed three ideas and then started doing some research on artists, copyright law, musicians, and app developers.

2. Commissioned the artwork. Finding the artist came quickly. I’m working with artist Felix Eddy and her unique creations are both reasonably priced and beautifully done. She created the initial seven images I asked for to start the book. Right now she is on hold while we decide file formats and how many additional images I need to complete the project.

3. Learned about copyright law. So, my first ebook idea is had to be taken off the list. I can’t do a work based on the Hokey Pokey because that song is owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing and the idea I had was a derivative work, not a parody. Big publishing houses have the resources to use copyrighted material in kids ebooks, but not self-publishers like me. So I’m exploring options two and three which I think are also strong.

4. Find a musician. Thanks to a conversation with my friend Shawn, I was connected with Scott Imblum, who owns a music school and also worked with the Pittsburgh Technology Council. He is ready to help me with the audio portion of the ebook as soon as I get to that stage. And he also helped an incredible amount with finding a developer!

5. Developers are tough to find. They are out there, but this is a small project and not likely to earn a lot of money, so I’m looking for the perfect combination of a developer who’s willing to work on kids ebooks for a rather small amount of money but still has the skills I need to create a really great user interface. So far I’ve talked with two sets of people who connect me with developers and I have a phone call with a third person this coming week.

In a future update, I’ll share some of the simple app development toolkits that developers have shared with me and talk about the Kindle Kids Book creator program. I’ll probably use that to release a version of this book and see how easy or hard the process is.

What projects are on your bucket list?

Creative science writing

creative science writing

Inspiration from nature

Creative science writing, not exactly science fiction but fiction based in fact, is one of my favorite kinds of writing. Recently I finished a fun story about a worm who saves a compost pile. Lots of creative science writing in that tale.

And earlier this year my middle son asked me to write a story about a certain type of bee he invented. I was delighted with his character but struggled to come up with a story. So this week I grabbed a large stack of non-fiction children’s books about bees from the library. I have learned so much amazing detail about the lives of bees. There is fodder there for at least three different kinds of stories and maybe two decent poems. I have big dreams for this creative science tale, like middle grade novel or maybe even graphic novel length. If only I could draw!

Following along science-and-nature inspired creative writing,  I have rediscovered the most amazing book that I bought for my boys but selfishly I am now claiming for my own. The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination (A Poetry Speaks Experience). Seriously. Even if you claim you don’t like poetry, you must get this book.

What’s a book, story or poem that you love that is an example of creative science writing?

Tomboys or Sissies: Which do you want?

boys sculpture tomboys

My boys view Miro’s sculpture “The Caress of a Bird” described as a “totem of female sexuality.”

“I’m pretty sure my daughter will be a tomboy,” my friend, father of a nine-month old girl, proudly announced. I automatically smiled, because I think my friends would describe me as more tomboy than girly-girl. My sons are often surprised when I wear a dress. Because girly-girls wear dresses, right?

But then I started thinking about my three boys – and how the male equivalent of the word “tomboy” is not nearly as kind. If I said to another parent, “I’m pretty sure one of my boys will be a sissy!” I doubt they’d smile and congratulate me.

Books for Tomboys? Or Sporty Kids?

Recently I received an email from Kara Thom, the author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom announcing her new book series Go! Go! Sports Girls! The series really interested and excited me, but it also made me wonder what comparable series would be written for boys.

To be fair, Thom does state the series is for children – not just girls. And my boys willingly read books about boys and girls, so they’d probably love the books about soccer, swimming and running, three sports they really love. Here’s what Go! Go! Sports Girls! is about, according to Thom:

The 32-page illustrated books explore social-emotional growth through sport in engaging stories that empower children to “Dream Big and Go For It!” The titles are:

Soccer Girl Cassie’s Story: Teamwork is the Goal
Swimmer Girl Suzi’s Story: Winning Strokes
Runner Girl Ella’s Story: Family Fun Run
Gymnastics Girl Maya’s Story: Becoming Brave
Dancer Girl M.C.’s Story: One Step at a Time
Cheerleader Girl Roxy’s Story: Leading the Way

This project has been a passion for me as I raise three young athletic daughters, but also because I’m part of a movement to give girls better choices. Girls need more than the stereotypical options packaged in pink, as well as options other than over-sexualized toys such as Bratz, Monster High, and their ilk.

Go! Go! Sports Girls are age-appropriate, proportioned to a real girl’s body, project a positive image, and deliver a healthy message. The Go! Go! Sports Girls better reflect our family’s lifestyle and values. Girls play sports and so should their dolls. My daughters McKenna, Kendall, and Jocelyn have grown up playing with Go! Go! Sports Girls, and still do. I might add that my son, Blake, who has no concept that his mom is the author, is a fan of the books as well.

To be clear, I completely agree with Thom’s goal of motivating and inspiring young girls in a different way than lots of popular media representations of girls. But what about my boys? How can I encourage them to follow their interests and passions if those interests aren’t typical “boy” activities? And how come we don’t have a cool word for boys who act like girls? It’s so unfair that girls can be cool tomboys but boys acting like girls is labeled an insult.

I’ve been trying to come up with examples of behaviors that are frequently seen as feminine that I’d want my boys to feel free to adopt in a world without gender stereotypes. Maybe being more empathetic? I wasn’t sure that what I thought was feminine was feminine, by social standards. I found this on Planned Parenthood:

WORDS COMMONLY USED TO DESCRIBE FEMININITY
dependent
emotional
passive
sensitive
quiet
graceful
innocent
weak
flirtatious
nurturing
self-critical
soft
sexually submissive
accepting

I wasn’t really thrilled when I read some of the items on the list. Because I’m certainly not graceful or quiet. But I would totally love it if my boys learned to be quiet sometimes! Maybe that would be one of the books in my series about boys exploring new behaviors: Little Tommy Learns Not to Scream Every Word! I could get behind a book for boys focusing on that. But I’m not really thrilled about a lot of those qualities on the list. And I think that’s why lots of parents are proud of having ‘tomboys.’ But they wouldn’t love it if their boys were described as weak or passive.

To be fair, Planned Parenthood didn’t make that list to say how women should behave. They follow the lists with this:

“Clearly, society’s categories for what is masculine and feminine are unrealistic. They may not capture how we truly feel, how we behave, or how we define ourselves. All men have some so-called feminine traits, and all women have some so-called masculine traits. And we may show different traits at different times. Our cultures teach women and men to be the opposite of each other in many ways. The truth is that we are more alike than different.”

What could we write?

But I’m really serious in my question here! I’m all for tomboys and girly-girls doing what they love most. And I love that these books for girls are about social-emotional growth through sports (traditionally and still a heavily male arena) because sports and physical strength are a key part of my happiness.

What series of books could we write about boys embracing traditionally female activities for social emotional growth?

Why Farm to Table is Great for Kids and Families

 

Farm to table Pittsburgh

March 21-22, 2014

This weekend is the 8th annual Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh! I am really excited to be involved in this year’s event again. The theme for this year is Food Sources and the conference again offers lots of excellent activities for children. The conference has always been family friendly, but a new feature of this year’s conference is the special Kids’ Track of programs! Both Friday and Saturday there will be programs and speakers just for kids and families. The Kids’ Track is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of eating healthy, local food. And if you’re not already convinced to bring your kids downtown, remember that kids under 12 are free!

We are so lucky to have this event in Pittsburgh. I recently spoke at the Parenting Expo here in Pittsburgh and discussed how helping children experience food with all of their senses increases their comfort level with foods and can help them learn to try new foods. Growing foods, shopping at farmer’s markets, attending events like Farm to Table and seeing gorgeous photos of fresh foods being grown, even meeting our local farmers, are all positive ways to help children develop a willingness to try new foods.

I’m so excited to be a part of the Kids’ Track on both days. On Friday, I’ll be hosting a special Tasting Party for kids, and on Saturday I’ll be hosting the Super Fun Local Food Challenge School Assembly! Both of these programs are available as school classroom workshops or assemblies and work with the Social Studies standards for Pennsylvania schools.

Of course in addition to these programs there’s the Local Food Tasting on Friday night and the Saturday Networking Breakfast. Both events are hugely popular. By the time I got to the Saturday breakfast last year all of the food was gone – it was so good no one left a crumb!

I’ll have an exhibitor table again and I’ll offer an encore to last year’s very popular Pizza on a Stick Tasting Party. My boys love coming to Farm to Table and roaming the tables, trying everything from local honey to local cheese, pickled vegetables, fresh milk, apples and more. This year I have decided to get one of those mushroom logs. I love mushrooms and Pennsylvania is the nation’s leading producer of these tasty fungi!

Looking forward to seeing you at the 2014 Farm to Table Conference. Bring the kids, stop by and say hello!

 

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Let’s Move Pittsburgh hosted their first ever Symposium on November 7, 2013 at Phipps Conservatory. The title was “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.” I really liked that title because so much research shows that when you give children choices at the grocery store, during preparation and during meals – and those choices are healthy choices – kids will choose good-for-them-food.

I also learned from Let’s Move that the USDA is rolling out a new Smart Snacks in Schools program.
Print

 

Healthy Snacks for Kids

I started thinking about places where I could increase healthy choices for my children, and our wonderful community soccer program came to mind. My boys have played soccer for about two years and I always cringe when they ask to buy Hugs at the snack bar after games.

So I started asking people about alternatives at the Symposium.

“Instead of Hugs, give the kids their water bottles at the beginning of the season and get them filled up at the snack bar,” suggested Jesse Sharrard, Food Safety and Nutrition Manager from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

I loved that idea because water is so important for young athletes and getting rid of those Hugs would reduce litter on the soccer fields.

But I know the soccer league relies on snack bar sales to fund a lot of the program. And if the snack bar has candy for sale, the kids will ask for that.  So I asked parents on Facebook what healthy snacks their children would actually buy.

Here are some of their answers:

  • Squeeze applesauce
  • Peanut Butter and apples
  • Fig Newtons
  • Carrots and celery sticks
  • Kid-styled Luna Bars
  • Pirates Booty
  • Frozen Go-Gurts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Bananas, Oranges, Apples
  • Yogurt-covered Raisins

So what are your thoughts? What healthy snacks would your kids buy at school or at concession stands?

How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables

how to get kids to eat vegetables

Give kids a choice

The secret

The secret to getting kids to eat vegetables is really quite simple. Give them the choice. Before you click away saying, “My kid would choose not to eat them,” hear me out. I didn’t say give them the choice whether or not to eat vegetables. Give them the choice of which vegetables and fruits.

There is real scientific evidence to back this up, but let me begin anecdotally. The photo above is from our Pittsburgh-area elementary school cafeteria. How does our school get kids to eat vegetables and fruits? They offer a choice.

And when my boys buy lunch, which is about once a week, I tell them they need to choose a fruit and a vegetable, but it’s up to them what to choose. I offer them a choice.

My second son, who is a bit picky, usually sticks with applesauce and carrots.

My oldest son almost always chooses grapes and the crunchy vegetable mix of cucumbers, celery and carrots. Choices within choices.

The science

Now for the scientific evidence. This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that offering kids a variety of vegetables and fruit and letting them choose which ones to eat led to them eating more fruits and vegetables!

The researchers observed that “children chose some pieces in 94% of snacks with variety and in 70% of snacks without variety” and “Providing a variety of vegetables and fruit as a snack led to increased consumption of both food types in a childcare facility. Serving a variety of vegetables or fruit as a snack could help preschool children meet recommended intakes.”

Think about your own eating habits. I am sure you prefer to have more than a little choice in the matter. We all love some control over what we eat. So if you are looking for ways to get kids to eat vegetables and fruits, offer a choice.

Have you given your kids choice in their foods? Has it helped?