How to Nourish Your Child’s Mind in Just 15 Minutes A Day

How to nourish your child's mind in just 15 minutes a day

Everyday, I make it a point to read to my children. They have always been excited to be read aloud to, and often bring me books asking me to read to them throughout the day. Many times I even see them in their room sitting, patiently turning through a book that they don’t even know how to read yet.

Reading is such an important part of a child’s growth. Did you know that only 33% of high school students are reading at “proficient” level, meaning that they just scrape by reading at grade level? In addition, those who struggle with reading proficiently for their grade level are much more likely to drop out of school and not attend college.

Words make up a lot of our lives anymore: we read signs, instructions, magazines. But in all reality, our children don’t read well. They can’t comprehend what they are reading, or they read slow, and that makes reading unenjoyable.

When you read to your child you are nourishing their developing brains! Reading increases vocabulary, comprehension, creativity, concentration, among a multitude of other benefits. Lack of reading skills is become a horrible problem. The Educational Testing Service says:

“Forecasters have predicted that if static literacy levels continue, then by 2030 the entire Literacy Level distribution of the U.S. population will have decreased, creating an American workforce that is unequipped and unskilled to work in the demanding global market.”

In just 16 years, it is expected that we won’t read well enough to compete in the global market. There is such an easy solution to this: read to your children. I understand that sometimes things get busy. That sometimes you have to juggle work, school activities, and Zumba classes. But it is so important to read to your child as frequently as you can.

And the best part is, it doesn’t really matter what you read them. They still get the benefits. Sometimes, I read my three and one year old my textbooks. I get my homework done, and they get the benefit of being read to. You can read the sports section, if that’s your thing, or the financial articles. Anything. Just read to them.

And if you prefer kids books, Amazon is a great place to shop for books. You can buy them digitally or hard copy for a good price on there. My favorite resource for a constant stream of new kids books is We Give Books. You sign up for a free account, and then have access to hundreds of beautiful digital books.

So what will reading books do to your child (besides give them a healthy background of learning)? Children who are frequently read to at a young age go farther in school than those who aren’t. Students who read through the summer have less learning-loss, and those who read throughout the year can gain 4,000-12,000 new vocabulary words a year.

Nourish your child’s brain. Feed them words.

Happy reading!

What’s your favorite childhood book? Answer in the comments below!

Easy Any-One-Can-Do-It Homemade (Healthy!) Pizza

Easy Homemade Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

But it gets expensive. And, with all the grease and who-knows-what in it, it really isn’t all that healthy.

But wait!

What if there was a healthier, family friendly, EASY way to make it at home?

There is!

I’ve tried out many recipes for a partial whole wheat pizza dough, but they were all too dense, too thin, or too blah. After some experimenting with mixing other recipes together, I created the BEST crust ever. It rises just the right amount, freezes well, and tastes delicious.

For the dough you’ll need:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour*
  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning works well)
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
*I use Hodgson’s Mill Whole Wheat flour because it is the only one that I have been able to find without any additives, preservatives, or enrichments.

Directions:

The first step is to put the warm water in a small bowl. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and set it aside.

Yeast/Sugar/Water

Next, measure the flour into a large bowl. You’re welcome to experiment on the ratios of the flour, but I’ve found that the measurements I use create a great crust. Add in the salt next. I don’t really measure this; I eyeball it. But for those of you less cooking-skilled (you know who you are) I guesstimated a close measurement of 1.5 teaspoons. Add in the seasoning at this point as well.

Add Salt

Mix the dry ingredients all together. Stir the yeast into the sugar/water mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix. It will start to get thick and chunky. thick dough

You can knead it in the bowl for a while to further mix everything together, then dump it on a lightly floured counter to finish kneading it. You may have to add more water if it is crumbly, but do so one tablespoon at a time. The dough will become smoother as you knead it, and should end up slightly tacky/sticky.

Before putting the dough back in the large bowl, grease the sides with some olive oil. There will probably be little crumblies on the side from when you first added the water to the dry ingredients. You can rinse these out before greasing the bowl, or be lazy like me and not worry about them. When you put the dough back in, roll it around a little to completely cover it in the oil. This prevents it from sticking to the sides as it rises. You’ll only need about a tablespoon or so. Cover it with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes.

Cover and rise

A cloth of some sort works, but I’ve noticed that the dough rises quicker and more when I use cling wrap to cover it. I  use press n’ seal instead of cling wrap, though, because it sticks to anything you want it to, and isn’t as difficult to work with as cling wrap is (I got mine with a coupon and after Christmas sale, and only paid $1 a box).

After it’s done rising (I only wait about 45 minutes. I’m impatient),  knead it slightly and then re-cover it and let rise another 10-15 minutes. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick, and make a circle for  a pizza, or roll and cut out circles to make mini pizzas, or whatever you want with it really. It’s very versatile. Then let it rise for about 5 minutes, while your oven preheats to 350 degrees.

If you are making a normal pizza, bake it for 4 minutes, add sauce and toppings (for my sauce I use Classico pizza sauce), then bake another 4-6 minutes. This crust doesn’t turn golden brown, you just kind of have to guess. If you cut it down the center, and it doesn’t seem done, it probably isn’t.

If you are wanting to freeze it for later use, bake it for about 4 minutes, add sauce and toppings, then wrap in cling wrap and freeze. When you are ready to eat it, cook at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then check it every 2-3 minutes until it is done (usually takes about 7 minutes for mine). I like to make a double batch, and then use half of it to cut mini pizzas out to freeze for quick lunches.

The result?

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Delicious, cheesy goodness (that’s also healthier!).

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As an added plus, the ingredients for the crust, jar of sauce, and amount of cheese used add up to about $5 for a large pizza! Wahoo!

Happy eating!

What’s your favorite topping on pizza? Answer in the comments below!