Home Science: Make a colour changing magic potion!

These colour changing molecules can be changed from indigo to brilliant blue or bright pink with a few simple experiments!

Pigments are molecules that contain colour and the ones in red cabbage juice ( anthocyanin ) are pretty special. By adding a base or acid, we can both change their shape and their colour! The pigments are easy to collect and the basis for two easy home experiments: Colour Changing Magic Potions and Making Litmus Paper.

First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.

Materials

Change your purple cabbage juice to blue by adding a base and to red/pink by adding an acid.

Directions

  1. Pour your prepared red cabbage juice into two clear glasses or small bowls.
  2. Into one glass, stir 1 tsp of baking soda. Watch the solution turn blue – indicating that the pH has turned basic.
  3. Into the second glass, stir 3 Tbsp of white vinegar. Watch the solution turn red/pink – indicating that the pH has turned acidic.
  4. For fun, pour the glass containing vinegar into the glass containing baking soda and watch them foam! Tip: for less mess, pour both solutions into a big bowl!
Foaming magic potion fun!

Home Science: Making Litmus Paper

Make your litmus paper to test acids and bases – it’s easy!

You don’t need expensive chemistry kits containing dangerous chemicals to have fun doing science at home. This simple (and colourful) experiment will help you make you own litmus paper so that you can test acids and bases using simple household ingredients. You can also test these by making a colour changing magic potion!

First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.

Materials

  • Red cabbage juice
  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Vinegar
Making home made litmus paper
Home-made Litmus Paper

Directions – Part 1

  1. You will need your red cabbage juice (cooled and strained) and some paper towels. I folded mine twice to make thick squares.
  2. Quickly dip / submerge the paper towels into the red cabbage juice. Don’t hold them under for too long as you want them to collect the colour pigments but not get so soggy that they fall apart. It’s a little like candle dipping – you may need to do a couple of dips to get a good colour.
  3. Place the purple paper towels on a clean tray (that won’t stain) and put them somewhere warm (like the hot water cupboard) to dry until the next day.
  4. You now have litmus paper! Cut them into strips for easy dipping.
Testing Acids and Bases

Directions – Part 2

  1. Using glasses or small bowls prepare the solutions that you want to test. Your litmus paper will stay purple in ph neutral solutions, turn red-pink in acidic solutions, and turn blue in basic solutions.
  2. Dip away!

We used:

Bases: soapy water, baking soda, baking powder.

Acids: vinegar, lemon juice.

Don’t worry if your experiment doesn’t go perfectly (ours didn’t!); simply use it as a talking point to discuss why things didn’t turn out as expected. In our case, the detergent and baking powder didn’t dissolve properly which meant that out litmus paper stayed purple (recognising the ph neutral water). For more ideas on common acids and bases: click here.

Home Science: Making Magic Molecules

These colour changing molecules can be changed from indigo to brilliant blue or bright pink with a few simple experiments!

Pigments are molecules that contain colour and the ones in red cabbage juice ( anthocyanin ) are pretty special. By adding a base or acid, we can both change their shape and their colour! The pigments are easy to collect and the basis for two easy home experiments: Colour Changing Magic Potions and Making Litmus Paper.

Materials

  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • Hot water
  • A food processor (or a big pot)
  • Bowl
  • Fine colander or flour sieve
Simply blending the red cabbage in boiling water produces amazing bubbles!

Directions

  1. Shred or coarsely chop the red cabbage.
  2. You can then choose whether to boil or blend. I chose blending and it’s meant to result in slightly better colour.
    • Boil: Pop in a pot with enough water to cover the cabbage and boil for 15 minutes.
    • Blend: Pop in a food processor with about 3 cups of boiling / hot water. Blend until the cabbage is finely processed and then leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Allow the cabbage mixture to cool and then strain the juice into a bowl. Tip: The juice will stain so glass is great if you have it. I used a flour sieve to strain mine into a glass pyrex jug.

You now have the cabbage juice you need for your two science experiments!

Added Extras

You can also freeze leftover juice in ice cube trays to make all natural coloured icing for birthday cakes or cupcakes!

Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan)

Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan)

Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan). Free from dairy, egg, and soy.

These are a soft chewy peanut butter cookie with a hint of chocolate that went down very well with an audience of young taste testers. They are comparatively low in sugar with good amounts of fat, fibre, and protein. For a crunchier cookie try these Chocolate Peanut Butter breakfast cookies.

I note that the peanut butter used contains only two ingredients: peanuts + salt. It’s also easy to make peanut butter at home as an alternative to commercial brands containing sugar, molasses, and hydrogenated oils.

Ingredients

  • 2c flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup fine oats (i.e. Milk Oaties or Instant Porridge)
  • 2 Tbsp Dutch Cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Orgran egg replacer + 4 Tbsp water
    • OR: 2 flax eggs
    • OR: 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • approx. 100g apple puree
    • TIP: baby food pouches or tins are an easy way of adding fruit puree to baking recipes.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C / 360’F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. I prefer to add all the dry ingredients, and then in mix in the wet ingredients.
  3. Knead everything together. It will gradually turn to a soft cookie dough. 
  4. Roll the dough into small balls and lightly flatten (with a fork or fingers).
  5. Place cookies on a baking sheet / lightly oiled baking tray.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies begin to brown.

Summer Baking: Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Summer baking: Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple (peeled, grated)
  • 1 cup zucchini / courgette  (peeled, grated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (soft) or 1/2 cup Nutellex
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free*.

Note: Consider mixing this up by doing a 1/2 cup apple and 1/2 cup diced peaches.

Tip: Leaving the skin on the zucchini is fine but feel free to peel it if you don’t want any green specks in the muffins.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C / 360’F.
  2. In a food processor, blend the apple, zucchini, vanilla, eggs, maple syrup and coconut oil until smooth. (If you prefer a rougher texture then mixing in a bowl is fine).
  3. Mix in the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, almond meal, and wheat germ.
  4. Spoon mixture into muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 25-30 mins (or until a toothpick comes out cleanly).

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

This delicious slice is full of goodness from almonds, brazil nuts, and cashew nuts. It can be served as a dessert or be frozen and added to school lunches. I wish I’d found such an easy way to make allergy free chocolate earlier!

As an autism and allergy mum, this is also a great way to add some important trace minerals to a restricted diet. It deliberately has quite a smooth texture (which is why I have opted for coconut flour over dessicated coconut).

NOTE: This is a small batch perfect for an 18x15cm pyrex dish; feel free to double the recipe for a larger quantity.

Ingredients

BASE

MIDDLE

TOP

  • 4 Tbsp dutch cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Allergies: gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free. Contains tree nuts.

Directions

  1. Line a pyrex dish with baking paper with overhanging sides so that you can lift it out easily. (This works better than greasing for slicing and freezing).
  2. Place the base ingredients into a food processor. Blend until well combined and sticking together. Press into the prepared dish and place in the fridge.
  3. Wash the food processor and then use it to blend the middle ingredients until smooth.
  4. Pour the fruit mix over the base and then place in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
  5. Place the ingredients for the top into a bowl and blend until smooth.
  6. Spread the chocolate mix over the frozen middle layer and return to the freezer for another 20 minutes to set.
  7. Remove the slice from the freezer. Lift out the baking paper and slice into small serves. Enjoy delicious goodness!

Tip: The chocolate will soften easily in summer temperatures so this is best stored in the fridge or freezer. For school lunch boxes, place it in frozen.

Apple Nut Muffins

Apple Nut Muffins

Apple Nut Muffins

These sweet treats are high in natural goodness and fruit fibres, do not contain refined sugar, and contain valuable trace minerals from the almond, brazil, and cashew nut butter.

There are a few different ways that you can make this recipe and I have endeavoured to include options without over-cluttering. Keep in mind when subbing ingredients whether it will impact the recipe overall; i.e. coconut oil or butter will solidify in cold temperatures and hold a gluten free version together better than rice bran oil; using almond meal rather than flour will give a substantially different texture. Similarly, you can create a different texture by mashing the banana by hand + grating the apple; (for our family a smooth texture is imperative for sensory reasons).

For three energetic young taste testers, I made these containing gluten but free from soy, dairy, and egg. Feel free to adapt the recipe so that it works for you and your family.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour + 30g fine instant oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 ripe bananas (= 150g frozen sliced banana)
  • 2 apples peeled and quartered (= 350g intact apples)
  • 1/4 cup Almond Brazil Cashew nut butter (or almond butter).
  • 2 tsp Orgran egg replacer + 4 Tbsp water
    • OR: 2 flax eggs
    • OR: 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (melted)
    • OR: 2 Tbsp rice bran oil
    • OR: 2 Tbsp butter (soft)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon

Allergies: This recipe can be made gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free. Contains tree nuts.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C / 350’F. Grease a muffin tray or cupcake liners.
  2. In a food processor, blend the banana and apple until smooth. (If you prefer a rougher texture, grate the apple instead and mix in at the end).
  3. Add the egg replacer (or eggs), coconut oil, ABC nut butter, and maple syrup. Pulse to combine.
  4. Add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon (if using), and apple cider vinegar. Gently pulse to combine.
  5. Spoon your batter into the muffin trays and place in preheated oven.
  6. Cook for about 35 minutes. Check after 25 minutes (you may want to add tinfoil as a cover for the remainder).
  7. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

The Invisible Tasks of Food Allergy Parents

woman holding baby while sitting on fur bean bag

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

The often invisible cognitive load of food allergy families involves both time and heartache.
 
It’s needing to educate staff at childcare or schooling facilities that although lunchbox items may look similar to what other kids eat that varied allergies and intolerances haven’t magically gone away.
 
There are hours spent at home and with medical support staff planning nutritional intake (and addressing deficits). Special allergy free brands are researched and sought (often involving a substantially higher cost and extra driving time to that one special location that stocks a particular item but nothing else on your allergy list – meaning multiple item specific trips). Hours can be spent researching not just allergy free recipes but in needing to substitute ingredient (x), is there a risk of cross-reactivity from ingredient (y), in which case do you start all over again looking at a different ingredient or consider ingredient (z) as a back up?
 
Then there’s the extra time spent milling special flours from scratch because it’s too expensive to buy them pre-milled when you’re juggling multiple allergies/intolerances. There’s the time spent cooking and pureeing fruits and vegetables (not to mention washing up afterwards) so that you can make your own customized smoothie pops or home baking that incorporates ‘safe’ foods and ‘safe’ textures. There is the time spent agonizing over whether to make one allergy free meal for everyone or to make multiple meals each night. There is needing to pack food every time you leave the house because you can’t buy anything safe and easy to eat when out.
 
There is the heart ache of seeing your child sad because their friends have foods that they can’t have; of needing to take a packed lunchbox every time there’s a shared food event at their education facility or church or playdate or birthday party etc… There is the anxiety over trusting food that someone else has made (especially when you find yourself having to quite literally pull that awesome looking food item out of your child’s hands because someone has rushed over in the realization that they gave you the wrong information). For those with anaphylaxis, there is the ongoing anxiety around epi-pens, emergency hospital visits, and the daily concern of how easy it would be for a fatal accident to occur.
There is the emotional distress of wanting your child to find joy in food and knowing that instead there may be an invisible ribbon of anxiety. There is the heart ache every time you have to deny your child something because it will simply make them sick. There’s also the challenge of trying to explain to them why the doctor’s want them to have a tiny little bit of something but only every now and then (i.e. once every four days) and why it’s not ok for them to have more or to eat it when they’re not specifically being given it by mummy or daddy (or whomever their primary carer is).
There is the extra anxiety and tears and restricted eating because someone said something thoughtless in front of them about their food and now they are scared to eat.
There is wanting to wrap them up in your arms; to have them know just how much they are loved and that you would put in these invisible hours for them a thousand times over to ease their way just a little bit.

Extra Strategies to help with toilet training

pexels-photo-88808.jpeg

This is something of a personal issue for me since my 3.5 year old daughter has autism. She has twice shown an interest in toilet training and it was a disastrous affair since she simply lacked the interoception necessary to sense and control her bladder. At the time, she hadn’t been diagnosed and I simply accepted that she wasn’t ready.

I had researched toilet training by attending workshops, reading books, searching through blogs, and talking to other parents. I also wrote a series of articles myself which are aimed at neurotypical kids. These covered:

These are methods which will work for most families; however, some children need an extra level of support. For me, and others I know, it is because our children have special needs such as autism (ASD). Miss 3 struggles with sensory issues in a range of ways, including an awareness (and interpretation) of internal body signals such as the need to go to the bathroom. She’s not alone in this; many kids struggle with the leap from nappies to toilet for eliminating waste. Modern nappies wick away moisture and allow our little ones to stay comfortable without feeling a need to pause their play. We then place them in underwear and expect an awareness of being wet (sensory input) to result in a desire to be dry (perception) and a change in behaviour (action). In reality, these are all separate steps controlled by different regions of the brain and requiring different foundational skills; putting all of these together in a fluid and reliable manner is a complex change.

Extra Strategies to help with toilet training

Start by writing down all the challenges you associate with toilet training. Sort these into challenges for you (as a parent) and challenges for your child. Think about how you can address these challenges.

Write down goals for yourself and your child. Your long-term objective might be toilet training but there might be a number of short term goals that you need to address first (and this is where it comes in really handy that you’ve already written down all the challenges you need to work through).

Your child needs to feel safe and comfortable in the bathroom. It’s often a very functional room that adults spend little time in but the journey your child is embarking on means spending a lot of time in there. For those with autism and/or sensory issues, identifying triggers can be critical.

I knew my daughter didn’t like the bathroom but I thought it was because of associating it with nappy changing and discomfort as a result of very sensitive skin. I patiently worked as a detective to try and observe her behaviour and work out what she couldn’t tell me with words. One morning, I sat down with all the towels on the floor and struggled to find the right questions to elicit a response. I could see the progress in sensory integration and vocabulary work we’d been doing for months but she finds it impossible to answer general questions. At last I narrowed down my questions to ‘Which colour makes your body feel most safe and comfortable and still?’, ‘Which colour makes your body feel most muddly, shaky, and unhappy?’

Through a mixture of words and gestures, we were able to establish that a warm palette of soft sandstone and mocha were acceptable (as were accents of pink, white, and gold) but the jewel-like mix of towels in brightly coloured greens, red, and blue were highly upsetting. Other triggers, included the bright light (with the noisy ceiling fan powered by the same switch), the strong smelling soap, and the toilet paper (which to her felt like sandpaper).

I needed to identify which of these I could change (like the soap and towels) and which ones I could only minimize (like using the light in the adjacent room unless we were having a shower).

Sitting on the toilet requires both proprioceptive and vestibular skills; your child needs to be able to sense their body’s position in space and be able to balance. Consider sending time practising activities like naming which body part you are touching while they have their eyes closed, running, jumping, climbing, and walking on a balance beam.

The sensory feel of the potty or toilet seat is important. Some kids are happy balancing on an adult toilet seat, others are terrified by the feeling of space beneath their bare bum and the fear they might fall in. There are lots of options available on the market, my favourite is a cheap one – buying a toilet seat with an integrated flip-up junior seat.

Help your child understand how they need to be positioned on the toilet (and this requires modelling by a parent or sibling). Show them how they need to sit or move for each part of the process. For a girl, I’ve needed to teach her that her bottom needs to sit near the back, her knees need to be together, and her pelvis needs to be tilted down. I have a large textured sticker on the toilet seat (rear-middle) which she can feel with her hand to help guide her bottom. I also bought a super cheap mirror which we decorated together in colours she chose and which I hung opposite the toilet so that she could see herself and how she was positioned. The mirror also has the advantage of keeping her entertained!

Be aware that using the toilet is a complicated process; you can help your child by breaking down the steps into manageable tasks. Consider making a social story for potty training and putting visual reminders on the bathroom wall.

“Our sensory integration occupational therapist handed me pages of pictures showing the individual steps for using the toilet. Frankly, I felt overwhelmed. It’s such an automatic task that it hadn’t occurred to me how many micro-steps there are!”

“One game we play is ‘What’s under my bum?’ She stands with her eyes closed while I put a tiny plastic animal on a chair behind her. I guide her into sitting and she has to try and feel which side the toy is, roll her pelvis, and reach with her hand for it. She thinks it’s hugely funny; more than a game, we’re building skills she will need for the toilet – sitting, balancing, and movements associated with wiping.”

Help your child understand how using the toilet will fit into their daily routine; for instance, needing them to sit on the toilet as soon as they wake up in their morning. Communicate what your expectations are and consider making a poster about how the toilet fits into their daily routine. Some parents find it helpful to use a digital timer or a smart watch with vibrating alarms (like the FitBit) to help remind children to take regular toilet breaks. Teach kids phrases like ‘pause my play‘ for going to the toilet; this is less frightening (and less likely to cause a power struggle) then ‘stop’ as it means they can return to their task after sitting on the toilet.

Create an elimination diary so that you can get a feel for how often they are eliminating; this is incredibly useful for identifying patterns. You may also want to seek advice from a nurse if they are regularly holding urine for 6-8 hours or have no bowel motions for four consecutive days or more. Constipation can become a vicious cycle when combined with dehydration and anxiety; it hurts when they eliminate and so that makes repeating the experience seem like a bad idea! There are great articles on how to help strong willed children who may have anxiety around bowel motions; this one includes a template for an elimination diary. These child friendly resources from Continence Foundation of Australia explain how the bowel and bladder work and can be helpful to support discussions.

Think about your stance on motivations vs rewards. A motivation is something that encourages your child to do something (a behaviour or action), a reward is something that comes after an action is successfully completed. Often parents use rewards for toilet training, this may include everything from stickers to jellybeans. Instead, consider creating a special toilet treasure box as a motivation for sitting on the toilet and tying reward charts to keeping underwear dry (rather than eliminating waste). Be consistent with your child that the treasure box can only be played with while sitting on the toilet.

An ideal treasure box will have a lid and can be decorated with the child’s name and any potty party theme you are using. It’s a good idea to include several books (including at least one relating to using the potty / toilet). Give careful thought to your child’s interests and sensory needs. Try to include a few small toys they can choose at the shop; pictures they can look at; things they can manipulate with their hands; things that make sounds. Get inventive!

“We found a dog toy that looks like a rubber zebra and makes a hilarious laughing noise when it’s squeezed hard enough.”

“She has a few princess dolls that sit on their own potty while listening to the music from a wind up jewellery box.”

“We got one of those dinner trays with a bean bag base, painted the top black and added white lines. He zooms cars around the race track.”

Find underwear they feel comfortable in. It’s a big step moving from nappies to something which feels completely different; this is even more true for children with sensory issues, sensitive skin, or eczema. Some children find it helpful to have a breathable material, no elastic, and to be seam free. Lulu Funk is one such online retailer specializing in New Zealand made underwear for sensitive bottoms.

Accept that accidents will happen. They do and sometimes in the most ridiculously awful of places; remember that if you are calm and matter of fact about it that your child stands a better chance of internalizing this without getting weighed down by shame. It can also be helpful to focus on praising them for keeping their underwear dry (rather than focusing on eliminating in the toilet).

“One exercise we did was to bring out a favourite soft toy, two identical pairs of underwear, a bowl, and some room temperature juice. Elmo put on some dry underwear and a pretend Elmo did a ‘wee’ in the other underwear. We practiced touching ‘dry’ and ‘wet’; I talked about how sometimes it can be difficult to feel warm wee when the weather is really hot. I froze the wet underwear and later we practiced ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ again.”

It’s a good idea to teach your child where they should touch their underwear to check if they are wet or dry; boys are often wet higher at the front, whereas girls tend to be wet lower down.

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Having worked out your game plan, share it with everyone else involved in your child’s toileting. It helps to have teachers at daycare, kindy, or school following the same methods and routines as at home (as much as possible).

Decide what success looks like to you. It can be easy to assume that every family has an easy time toilet training but I promise you that there are plenty that struggle. As adults, we may have a reasonable expectation of using a toilet 100% of the time whereas lots of young kids simply get excited or distracted and forget. Think about your child’s developmental age, temperament, and the challenges you wrote down. Success may involve focusing on a single micro-task and then adding a second step once that has been reasonably mastered. Remember that the long term goal is not only to help your child master a skill that gives them another step towards independence, it’s also about helping them to feel positive about themselves and successful along the way.

How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior

A child who appears to be oppositional or aggressive may be reacting to anxiety—anxiety he may, depending on his age, not be able to articulate effectively, or not even fully recognize that he’s feeling.

“Especially in younger kids with anxiety you might see freezing and clining kind of behavior,” says Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, “but you can also see tantrums and complete meltdowns.”

Check out this article on “How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behaviour” by Caroline Miller, editorial director of the Child Mind Institute.

The more commonly recognized symptoms of anxiety in a child are things like trouble sleeping in his own room or separating from his parents but it can also present as temper tantrums, or disruption in school, or throwing themselves on the floor while out running errands. It may present as violent outbursts, being easily provoked, or difficulty regulating emotions, just as easily as it can present as isolation, clinging to the familiar, and avoidance tactics.

It can be difficult to identify when it presents in young children or where communication is limited. Anxiety may be mistaken for ADHD, Oppositional Definance Disorder, or aggression. It may also be present in addition to other conditions such as Autism / Aspergers (ASD).

Everybody gets anxious sometimes but clinical anxiety can put the body in permanent Fight or Flight mode and severely restrict quality of life. It’s important to discuss concerns with teachers and doctors; advocate referral to a pediatric mental health unit for assessment and support.