Summers are supposed to be sunny and hot, but here in Savannah the weather is so unbearable and the mosquitoes are so thick that we might as well be snowed in. Even the pool is already over 100 degrees, making it feel like a hot shower. So we take refuge in our air-conditioned home and try to come up with new and creative ways to spend our days together.
When trying to think up something fun, I like to take cues from Jack—to keep in mind what he already likes to do. He loves to create, especially when it comes to cooking. Each morning he gets up and asks me, “What can we make today?” Jamie and I have found that we can get him to eat healthy if we can figure out ways to make it fun. I’m not one of those people where everything’s got to be organic, but I go to lengths to avoid excess fat and processed food when I can, which is really important since Jack is in the middle of (another) growth spurt. For example, I try to not use butter when we do steamed vegetables and we always have fresh fruit on hand. So Jack and I have started a summer tradition of making fruit smoothies everyday. We try out all sorts of different ingredients but follow a general recipe that includes Greek yogurt for protein, one frozen fruit, one fresh fruit and a splash of apple juice for sweetness. I’ve included our delicious mango-banana-pineapple smoothie recipe for you to try (he named it “Jack’s Favorite”). He tops it off with a fun straw (we printed the straw toppers in the photo from the Nick Jr. site) and sucks it down. Jack’s gotten so good at making smoothies that he’s sure we could open our very own smoothie stand (clearly, he’s a Deen).
Some of the fruits we use come from Jack’s own garden. See, we also discovered that involving Jack in gardening has widened his appreciation for foods he otherwise may have turned up his nose at. We use a small window box in the backyard as Jack’s personal garden. There he’s planted different fruits and vegetables. Right now he’s got basil and tomatoes. And he’s really excited about it. He gets up each morning before it starts to swelter outside and he checks on his plants, waters them and picks the fruits and veggies when they’re ready. He eats them right there. Before he grew tomatoes, he wouldn’t have anything to do with them. But now that he can grow tomatoes and pick them right off the vine, he’s eating them! Gardening is such a great activity for all kids, and for 4-year-olds, a small container garden like Jack’s window box is a great place to start.
These morning rituals have become a big part of our summer together. And besides being fun, cooking and gardening teach young children to appreciate the taste of healthy foods and understand how we get them. And who knows, maybe Jack has a future in fresh-fruit smoothie sales. But for now, I think we’ll keep it indoors.
“Jack’s Favorite”: Mango-Banana-Pineapple Smoothie
1 Cup frozen Mango chunks
1 Cup frozen Pineapple chunks
1 Medium banana
1 Container vanilla Greek yogurt (5.3 oz)
1 1/2 cups apple juice
Place the fruit in the base of the blender. Add yogurt and juice. Blend on low, stopping the blender to stir if necessary, until smooth. Increase to high for a several seconds. Divide the mixture among your cups and top with fresh mango or pineapple.