Kid Friendly Lunchbox Hacks for School

Its been a few months into school and you may have noticed your child seems to be bored of their bag lunch and most of it being brought back home or dumped in the garbage.  Lunch is an important meal to get kids the energy they need to get through the second half of the school day.  Strive to include some protein, fruits and veggies/and healthy sources of fats. Now you don’t have to buy gourmet or even spend a fortune, it’s about making a few simple changes.  Here are 6 easy tips to increase the appeal of the what’s in that lunchbox.


Cut it up- if you want kids to eat, cut it in small pieces- an apple for example- sliced it will be gobbled up quickly but a whole apple will probably be used for playing catch and thrown right into the garbage.  Tip- slice up an apple in the morning and either add a few drops lemon juice or after slicing, put the apple back together and cover completely in plastic wrap. Both these methods will prevent the apple from turning brown.

Change the shape- peanut butter and jelly is a pretty standard lunch and can even get a bit healthier if made on whole wheat bread to add in some fiber. But the key to eating it all up is the shape. Evidence shows that if you  cut it on the diagonal to make triangles, kids will be more interested in eating it than if cut just straight in half.  Also, and this is simple, use a cookie cutter for fun shapes like a pumpkin for Halloween or even a heart to show how much you care. You can change up the shapes by rolling it up in a tortilla or trying a pita pocket. To healthify instead of jelly use real fruit like banana slices or strawberries.

Use dips- kids love to dip into almost anything, so instead of just thinking about ketchup, pack yogurt, guacamole, salad dressing, hummus and even a big favorite salsa. Then just cut up whatever fruits and veggies you have in your refrigerator from the week.

Do it your self lunchables- is you child always eyeing their friend’s store bought lunchable that’s probably high in salt and processed foods? Well easily you can make your own. There are so many types of lunch containers with lots of little compartments to put different foods in.  And let’s face it, kids love to use their imagination and create. Here is a chance to play with their food before eating it. Some suggestions whole grain crackers, cheese cubes, turkey, chicken, cream cheese, raisin, cucumbers, sliced hard boiled eggs, tuna, carrots and celery.

Use a thermos, now that bringing your own refillable water bottle is all the rage, how about a great metal thermos?  It’s not only good for soup, but also pasta, chili and macaroni and cheese. Here’s another tip- you can keep the thermos extra warm by pouring hot/boiling water into thermos for a minute then emptying it out before adding the food. Your child will be good to go until lunchtime.

Leftovers for lunch- this is my favorite, so I make extra food at dinner and use it for lunch. Change it up so it’s in a different form than served the night before.  For example roasted chicken can be then added on top of a salad, or rolled up in a tortilla like a burrito, add beans to some leftover rice, or cut up turkey sausage and toss it in with some pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Lastly as a bonus- add a quick note, with a heart or smiley face, it will surely put your child in a good mood and make for a more pleasant lunch experience. Let me know what lunch hacks work for your family!

12 Tips For a Fun Safe and Somewhat Healthy Halloween

Halloween is definitely a favorite holiday for kids. Children love getting dressed up in costumes, socializing with friends, trick or treating and yes, some candy too. As a pediatrician, I have seen my fair share of stomachaches, injuries and avoidable injuries. Here are some of my  top safety tips as well as some healthy  tips that I promise won’t put a damper on the festivities.

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1.     Make sure costumes fit properly. When sleeves are loose and flowing or pants drag on the floor, they are more like to get snagged or caught on objects leading to falls, scraped knees and even broken bones. Other items like long untied belts or high heeled shoes can be hazardous too. Be sure face masks fit properly, especially the eye and nose openings so as not to obscure vision or breathing.

2        Keep costumes brightly colored or use reflective tape.  Bold color or placing reflective tape on your child clothing or even trick or treat bag is important especially if outside in areas that are not well lit. This will make it easier for them to be seen particularly by drivers in cars.

3        Patch test all makeup before using. Kids love face painting, but many of the makeup kits for Halloween don’t use high quality ingredients and may have chemicals that react on skin causing rashes like hives, bumps, redness and itching. Be sure to test on a small area of arm before applying to face.

4        Avoid imported inexpensive costume jewelry for young children. Please be wary and if purchasing please supervise if your young child is wearing accessories that have small parts that can potentially break off causing choking ,be put up their nose or in their ears. In addition young children may put these accessories in their mouth to chew on, causing the paint to come off and be swallowed.  Imported painted costume jewelry items have been known to contain metals like lead and cadmium which are toxic if ingested so if you have a little teether avoid altogether.

5        Do not buy decorative contact lenses. Non prescription contacts can give you the appearance of bright colored eyes( magenta , neon green or Dracula eyes) however because they are not fitted properly, there is potential for severe damage to eyes such as corneal scratches, infections and in some cases even visual loss. It is not worth the risks.

6        Darkness can mean more dangers outside. Supervision is needed by adults or even responsible teenagers while out and about going house to house. It’s a great idea to have a designated route ahead of time. In addition carry flashlights as many neighborhoods may not have sidewalks or even street lamps.  I encourage all homeowners on Halloween to keep their outdoor house lights on as well as to make sure walkways are clear of wet slippery leaves to make the whole neighborhood brighter and safer.

7        Avoid candles in Jack-O -Lanterns.  Kids move fast and not always paying attention to their surroundings. Candles can cause burns and unexpected fires, so instead use a battery operated flameless light or even a flashlight to illuminate your pumpkins.

8        Restrain pets or keep in another room when trick or treaters come to the door. Even the most docile and friendly dogs can get over excited by all the kids and crowds. Children who fear animals may cry or be frightened, others may try petting the tail or animals face causing an unexpected reaction or even get bitten. To avoid any problems keep your pets away from the front door.

9        Eat a good meal before going out trick or treating. Starting out on a full stomach can help discourage kids from wanting to eat the candy and goodies throughout the night and it will help to cut down on binge/ overeating. Yes Halloween stomachaches are a real thing.

10   Walk to the farthest point you are traveling and then trick or treat on the way back home. By doing this, you and your kids are getting a bit more exercise and physical activity, because eventually you have to walk all the way back home.

11   Sort and inspect candy before eating. Even though it is rare for tampering of candy on Halloween, especially if you stick to neigbors that you know, its important to check the candy and home baked goodies, as well as remove any items that may be potential allergens to your child.

12   Share Share Share. Most kids have so much fun on Halloween, but it’s a great time to remind them that not all children may be able to participate in the holiday events. Let your child pick out their favorite items and then have them share and give away the rest to the local hospital, child care centers or even a favorite charity.


Remember, Halloween comes but once a year, besides the trick or treating, there are other fun activities to participate in such as drawing on pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds and drawing Halloween cards and posters. I wish and your child a spooktacular and safe holiday. – Dr. Jen

College Survival Care Package- A Doctor/Moms Perspective on Essential Items

Has your child settled into their new school, dorm life with a roommate, and eating cafeteria food 24/7?   It’s definitely a big transition for both parent and teenager. You may have initially spent hours decorating and assembling their room to provide comfort in their new surroundings, but what might have been overlooked is the fact that being in this new environment is akin to starting kindergarten when it comes to germs, illnesses and infections. I remember my son could not believe after seeming so healthy, how many coughs, sore throats, stomach bugs, and pains resurfaced when living in such close quarters with other teens that also weren’t always up to par with their hygiene? (right, how often is your child really washing hands, doing weekly laundry, getting enough sleep…)  So as a mom and a pediatrician, here are some college survival items that your freshman, just may appreciate receiving from you in the mail.

College Survival Care Package – Checklist of What to Send

Hydration- Drinking lots of water is a must, so sending a reusable water bottle that they can fill and carry throughout the day is a must

Sore Throats –  lollipops, sucking candies, lozenges  (to help soothe scratchy throats)  tea bags and a microwaveable mug

 Fever/ Pain -  Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen,  as the nearest pharmacy may be miles away, and often they just don’t want to get out of bed to head to the store

Hives/ Allergic skin reactions- antihistamine like Benedryl/Zyrtec/ Claritin/ Allegra

Skin Rashes- Cortisone cream, antibacterial ointment, and a good hydrating moisturizer to keep skin intact

Athletes Foot/ Fungal Infection  - antifungal creams, shower shoes, clean socks and extra towels (in case they aren’t doing their laundry often enough)

Stomach Upset- antacids, ginger and chamomile

Coughs- a jar of honey, extra pillow to prop up head at night

Nail Care- keeping nails short and clean decrease spread infection- nail clipper/nail file

Disinfectant – Air fresheners/ Lysol cleaner, Laundry detergent pods, hand sanitizer

Healthy Snacks  - nuts ,dried fruit, popcorn- for on the go or late night

Sleep/ Rest - ear buds to listen to music to help fall asleep, eye mask, lavender oil, magazines

Probiotic- boosting immune support and balancing digestive tract daily 

First Aid supply- ace bandage, bandaids, cold pack/ice pack, thermometer,

 These essential items will surely  be appreciated by any child  away on their own, especially for the first time.  What else do you think would be helpful?  Let me know in the comments.


Healthy Homework Habits-Tips for Kids

Back to School is a great time to reset and impart some easy straightforward routines and strategies that can really help take the hassle out of homework time for your child.  As a pediatrician I am of the mind that homework should be to reinforce what was taught in school and should not be endless hours of just rote or busy work. More time spent is not always better or productive. The professionals I consult with agree that in general homework should be about 10 min per grade, so a second grader should not have more than 20 minutes of homework likewise a 9th grader should not be bogged down with more than 90 min (approx. 1 ½ hours/ night) including all subjects. I remind parents all the time that children also learn important skills through free play, whether they are drawing, doing a puzzle, riding a bicycle or other extracurricular activities. They are acquiring new skills in creativity, decision making, judgement, socialization and much more. It just makes sense that the sooner homework is finished the more time for other more preferred activities.

 Here are some of my tips to make homework time more productive and less of a hassle for your child.

Homework Tips

1 Create a study space. This can be whatever works best for you and your child. It can be a small desk or using the kitchen table. Make sure this is enough space for your child to spread out all necessary books and papers. The same location  adds consistency and it helps your child to know ahead of time where to go and how to prepare to start their homework.

2 Keep supplies in one location.  Starting off organized by having pens, paper, pencil sharpener, books, stapler, etc… easily accessible and in one designated school supply area (whether it’s a cabinet or even a big box),  having what you need, when you need it, cuts down on procrastination. Being prepared means your child can jump right into their studies.

3. Avoid Distractions. I know this is easier said than done. However most importantly avoid electronics likes cell phones, texting and messaging during homework time. It is a good idea to have a designated basket or charging area where phones are stored during homework time. Also want to limit background noise so turn off TV’s, radios as this will improve focus on the task at hand as well as increase efficiency and hopefully finish homework even sooner.

4 Make a Plan. Having a daily attack plan before starting homework is helpful and lets both you and your child know what is expected. If  there is a lot of homework consider adding in specific breaks after each homework task is complete or discuss if you think your child do it all in one setting?  You know  your child best. Set realistic expectations. You always want to set your child up for success. Breaks in my opinion are ok and often needed, just make sure your child knows how long is allowable. I would say a break to stretch and a healthy snack may be in order after a challenging or longer homework subject. The key is having clear communication plan prior to starting homework time.

5 Watch the Clock. There is no one right time to do homework but as a pediatrician and mom I can tell you from a load of experience that getting homework done early on after school is often ideal. It is never easy to get going and the longer your child waits to do it, not only are they tired, there’s much more resistance, procrastination and difficulty paying attention.  I believe homework is usually best to get out of the way, so having your child do it when they get home can be ideal and then once it is done the natural consequence of relaxing or playing with their toys or socializing with friends can occur. This truly cuts down on the homework battles.

6. Stay Involved.  This doesn’t mean you should do your child’s homework for them to get straight A’s. Their homework is meant for them and to gauge what was taught or needs more help learning.  It’s good to monitor and check homework when necessary and to make sure it’s done completely, but avoid making it your responsibility.  Its important to have open communication with your child’s teacher and let them know if your child is having difficulty with a particular concept or subject.  In fact, if the teacher hears that over half the kids in class had difficulty they should find another way for the information to be taught. There are many ways to learn not just one. And part of being involved is attending school events and activities (when possible) so your child sees that you value school and their education.

 Lastly, remember as a parent, be a role model. Let them see you also incorporate these techniques in to your daily life as well. Your kids will look up to you and eventually thank you for taking the time to teach them responsibility, organization and time management.

Also, check out my colleagues blog that has amazing tips and tools that will help keep your home and kids organized for Back to School


Diary of Your Child's Milestones First year- Part 2

So here is Part 2- the second half of baby's first year is also filled with some sweet and fun milestones that you don't want to miss. Compare your newborn baby's first picture to how they are now, and their abilities and changes by their first birthday! Isn't life amazing?  Read on for some more exciting milestones-

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Baby Milestones the First 6 Months - Part 1

One of the biggest joys of parenthood is watching and capturing your baby's first milestones. Its truly amazing how much they learn to do physically, socially and cognitively in such a short period of time.  No two children are ever exactly the same but in general miletones occur in a generalized time frame and order. This blog is part 1 of some very exciting milestones that occur from newborn to age 6 months. Remember to have fun with baby and don't do too much comparing to other babies, but if you ever have questions or concerns please bring it up with your pediatrician





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Making Ends Meet: Side Gigs That Can Provide a Substantial Second Income

Hey everyone, welcome to my first guest blog by Eric Kelly I thought it was such a great topic because we all know raising kids and finding quality time is a real balancing act. In fact, I too have recently started a so called side gig. Not only as Dr.Jen do I care for kids health and wellness but also integrate the importance of self care for parents too. It’s a necessity when raising kids, not always a luxury and so I want to let moms/dads know its ok and allow them time to care for themselves without the guilt, but also as a role model for their kids. (the added income is a plus too) Here is my side gig for skin care and wellness from the inside and out. Read on from Eric about the many other opportunities regarding side gigs- and find what works for you and your family.


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Making Ends Meet: Side Gigs That Can Provide a Substantial Second Income

Sometimes, single parents need help making ends meet. It’s a shock to the financial system to be reduced to a single income after years of sharing expenses. Many people are taken by surprise and find themselves falling behind, not knowing where to turn for help. There may be relatives who can help out, but that’s not a sustainable solution. As a single parent needing to spend time with your kids, it’s tough to find a second source of income when it means being away from home for more than eight hours a day. Kids need emotional support, a role model, and help with their homework. That’s why a side gig can be the perfect solution, providing a valuable source of extra money while keeping you home at night.

Child Care

If you’re home with the kids, providing child care services can be a natural fit. There are lots of people out there who need child care services at different times of the day or night. You may know other single parents who are working a second job in the evening or on the weekends, which gives you a ready-made clientele. You’ll need to be sure your home is large enough to accommodate extra kids for a few hours a day and that you have plenty of toys and activities to keep them busy.


There are many opportunities via the gig economy for people who have specific skill sets. Freelancing allows you to work from home and set your own work hours. The key is finding the right niche depending on whether you’re a writer, graphic artist, website designer, and so on. Many companies need transcribers, fast and accurate typists who translate recorded items into written documents. Or, if you have a background in editing, there are lots of opportunities for proofreaders.


Use Your Creativity

If you’re a creative person who enjoys making crafts and giving them as gifts, there’s a side gig out there for you. Websites like Etsy are clearing houses for people who want an easy way to find a clientele online. There’s really no limit on the kinds of things you can sell, anything from handmade dolls to comforters can earn you extra money. Scrapbooking is a popular skill among people looking for someone to make theirs look nice. Or, you could try selling scrapbook layouts on the internet.

Virtual Assistant

Companies and websites often need help from a virtual assistant, someone who works off-site handling administrative duties like arranging conference calls, handling expenses, and responding to inquiries for bloggers. If you have a secretarial/administrative background and can multi-task, there are lots of VA opportunities out there for you.

Doggie Love

Pet sitting and dog walking are in-demand services these days as busy professionals look for ways to keep their pets happy during the week. It’s easily done from your home, and if you have a pet yourself, you’re on your way: your customers will have a ready-made playmate. If you’re only home in the evening, make it known that your services are available in the late afternoon and evening. You might be surprised at how many people need your services in the evening and on weekends.

The gig economy has opened a whole new world of money-making possibilities for people in every conceivable situation. It’s ideal for a single parent struggling to keep food on the table and maintain a nurturing home environment for healthy children. It takes a willingness to hustle and work hard, but it can make all the difference for you and your family.


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Tips on Teething for Toddlers and Babies

I love giving live seminars with mom and baby together as it's so helpful and satisfying when moms can get the information they need and ask their specific questions.  I was also introduced to an amazing new teether by that's great for small hands to play with and chew on, made of high grade silicone, dishwasher safe, and no place for germs to hide. Here's a few take aways from my talk and enjoy the live video as well below

Teething 101 Tips and Myths

Developmental age 3-4 month babies drool alot and learn to put hands together this is normal development and not necessarily at all teething

Hereditary -    most babies start to have teeth erupt around 6 months of age (yes it can be sooner) or  even not until after age 1

Helpful Hint-   massage gum with clean finger

                        use high quality teethers to gnaw on for comfort

                         try  a cold wet wash cloth to suck on 

                        if severe use a pain reliever only as needed


                      Use alcohol to rub on gums for pain- it can get absorbed and potential                                       intoxication

                     avoid gels with numbing properties (benzocaine) potential serious side effects   and can numb back of throat  difficulty swallowing

                    avoid homeopathic teething tablets (unregulated and may contain                                                   belladonna)  thats's a  hallucinogen

                    No to Amber teething necklaces- no evidence to support decreases pain of                                   teething  and is a choking and  strangulation risk

Myth- teething causes fever

                     Fever is not a symptom of teething-, nor is severe diarrhea , vomiting and if not drinking:or extremely irritable- if concerned see your pediatrician-

Truth           Teething is a diagnosis of exclusion- toddlers get sick often with colds, fevers stomach bugs, ear infection  and more, so don't blame teething until other causes are ruled out. We don't want baby to suffer if he has something else that needs treatment.