My 5 favourite meals for toddlers

I have always fancied my ability to cook up a meal for a special occaision but since my daughter started on solids, my reportoire of day-to-day cooking has expanded beyond ready meals and pasta. Here are my five favourite meals for toddlers, which fortunately my daughter doesn’t mind either! These are not the haute cuisine you get in some children’s cooks books – just basic but tasty meals.

Steamed cod, green beans and rice

I love my KitchenCraft 3 tier steamer. In fact it’s probably my favourite kitchen item and is a super efficient way to cook. You can boil rice or pasta in the pot at the bottom, steam cod loins or another fish in the middle tier and cook some greens (my favourite is sugar snap peas) in the top tier. Flavour the fish with some dill and/or a squeeze of lemon. This is simple but tasty food – when you’ve got your hands full dealing with a toddler or more, it’s a great way to cook!

Nigella Lawson’s chicken with lemon and orzo

When I first started cooking for my daughter, I got various cook books for toddlers before I realised I could just cook her ‘normal’ food with us all eating the same thing. One of my favourite dishes, especially over the winter, is Nigella Lawson’s chicken in a pot with lemon and orzo. The recipe is available here. It’s great one pot cooking and most of the preparation can be done before putting the pot in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. My daughter enjoys watching me cut up the carrots and the leeks – although I am not sure how long that will last! This is a great meal for an autumn or winter’s day.

Steak, mashed potato and greens

Some people question whether toddlers can eat steak but I beg to difffer. My daughter loves it! Of course, you need quite a thin steak that is manageable for their little teeth. Most supermarkets sell frying steaks that hit the mark and are well priced. I am unapologetic about pairing steak with microwave mashed potato and some veg.

Chicken and vegetable noodle stirfry

This is another simple meal that can be knocked together in almost no time. Just get some pre-prepared stir fry vegetables from your favourite supermarket along with chicken fillets that you can easily cut up into toddler friendly bits. The chicken “mini-fillets” packs usually work well. I usually use Amoy straight to wok udon noodles and keep a small reserve of these and flavour with light soy sauce.

Fish fingers, chips and veg

Fish fingers are a classic for a reason and a life line for so many parents. A natural accompaniment is frozen chips and vegetables. As a millennial, I prefer traditional McCain microwave chips but the Fries to Go ones are not bad either, even if the compartments for the fries seem a bit of an excess. For veg, I like BirdsEye Steamfresh, which can be microwaved from frozen in a jiffy.

Omar Salem is the founder of Better Daddies

My 12 favourite books for toddlers

I love reading with my daughter, who has just turned two, so I thought I would share some of my favourite books to read with her, which are also very popular with her.

I started planning to write a list of five books but I couldn’t keep the list that short, so it’s a list of 12 books! The books, given that my daughter is only 2, are necessarily aimed at younger toddlers.

These books have given my daughter and me hours of fun and laughter, and I hope you might enjoy them too.

Giraffes can’t dance

Spoiler alert! This books tells the story of Gerald, a giraffe who couldn’t dance until he found the right music. The lovely motto of the book is “We all can dance, when we find music that we love”.

Shark in the park

Shark In The Park : Sharratt, Nick, Sharratt, Nick: Amazon.co.uk: Books

I love this book! It follows a little boy, Timothy, as he tests out his new telescope in the park. The book is increadibly original and funny. It is also great fund to act out looking around the park with your toddler. The highlight of the book is the cameo for Timothy dad’s quiff!

Listen to the Dance Music

Listen to the Dance Music - Nosy Crow

My daughter and I had a huge amount of fun with this book, which is great for younger toddlers in particular. This soundbook has music for the waltz, tango, charleston, salsa rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop! All you need to do is sharpen up your dance moves so you can show them off to your toddler!

Nelly Gnu and Daddy too

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too : Dewdney, Anna: Amazon.co.uk: Books

This is a lovely story about Nelly and her Daddy doing all things together, from making a cardboard house to visiting the store.

Hug

Hug (Bobo and Friends) : Alborough, Jez, Alborough, Jez: Amazon.co.uk: Books

Hug tells the story Bobo the chimp. All the animals in the jungle have someone to hug but Bobo is looking for someone to hug him. This is a great book to help teach children about empathy for others.

It’s mine!

It's Mine! : Campbell, Rod: Amazon.co.uk: Books

This books gives children the chance to look out for animals’ tongues, necks and paws in the jungle. This can be a bit challenging for younger children but they should love the pop out lion that awaits them towards the end of the book!

Where’s Mr Duck?

Where's Mr Duck? (Felt Flaps) (Felt Flaps, 10) : Ingela P Arrhenius, Ingela  P Arrhenius, Ingela P Arrhenius: Amazon.co.uk: Books

This is a great book to start-off reading with your child. Younger toddlers love lifting the felt flaps to see what is behind them, eventually finding Mr Duck!

The wheels on the bus

Wheels On The Bus (BTMS edition) Teddy Sound book By David Ellwand | Used |  9781905765812 | World of Books

Toddlers love busses for reasons I don’t understand, meaning this sound book can provide hours of fun listening to the wheels on the bus go round and round. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, meaning that you will need to try to get a second hand copy that still has batteries that work. The search will be worth it.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?: A lift-the-flap board book :  Martin Jr, Mr Bill, Carle, Eric, Carle, Eric: Amazon.co.uk: Books

This is a great book for teaching toddlers colours and animals. Howeve, you should be warned that the plot, which is limited to what the Brown Bear sees, is not the most intricate, even by the standards of books for toddlers!

Dear Zoo

Dear Zoo: Lift the Flaps: Amazon.co.uk: Rod Campbell: 9780230747722: Books

This is a classic children’s book from Rod Campbell and for good reason. Children love discovering the animals hidden behind the flaps in the books, and the book is also great for learning about shapes and colours.

That’s not my puppy…

That's not my puppy...: 1: Amazon.co.uk: Fiona Watt, Rachel Wells, Rachel  Wells: 9781474959063: Books

This is great book for teaching toddlers about different textures, from fluffy tails to shaggy ears!

I thought I saw a lion!

I Thought I Saw a Lion! : Templar Books: Amazon.co.uk: Books

Children have a special fascination for lions, so this book which challenges them to spot a lion in all kinds of unusual surroundings, such as beauty parlour and a library, is perfect! The book has moving parts so that children can move the lion in and out of view.

Covid’s been tough for fathers, let’s rebuild with a better and more modern role for dads

The last year has been difficult for everyone, including fathers, who have faced their own particular challenges, whether that is economic difficulty, men disproportionately dying from Covid, the stress of the pandemic, home schooling children while also trying to work or not being able to support their partners during childbirth. Father’s day comes as we are recovering from the pandemic and is an opportunity to reflect of how we could rebuild society differently and better.

The role of fathers in society is changing but more needs to be done to help them spend more time caring for their children and sharing household responsibilities fairly. This was shown up during the pandemic where women disproprtionatly felt the burden of childcare responsibilities and job losses. Changes are needed both in the home and the workplace to address this.

Greater involvement of fathers in childcare is good for women and gender equality It will mean that the burden of childcare is more evenly shared between parents, providing more scope for women to work full time or longer hours, if they wish, have more leisure time or study. It should also reduce discrimination against women in the workforce, as the amount of time men and women take off for parenthood becomes more even. 

The Better Daddies Charter sets out areas where action is needed to support fathers to be better fathers. This includes. better parental leave for fathers, more help for fathers to take it up and more support for fathers to work-part time and flexible. We are also think there should be a review of legislation to consider whether changes are needed to better protect fathers from discrimination. For example, looking at whether fatherhood should be a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act. 

Other areas where we would like to see action include more parenting and relationship support for parents to help them be the best parents and partners possible, more specialised support for single fathers to help them with the particular challenges they face and better mental health support for dads. It is a tragedy that suicide is a major killer of men, including middle-aged men. 

We also want to ensure that public services, such as maternity wards, are designed with fathers in mind. Finally, we want to see cultural change, so that things like men taking longer periods of parental leave and working more flexibly are normalised. 

These changes would not only be good for fathers but for their children and partners too. Children would have more opportunity to build a relationship with their father. Engagement of fathers with children is linked to a plethora of benefits, including health and education outcomes. In addition, high levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control in children.

Increasing the involvement of fathers in childcare, while an idea that many would support, is not straightforward. Research for the European Commission has found that “despite the positive effect of paternity and parental leave uptake by fathers on a number of economic, social and demographic outcomes, the current uptake of leave by fathers across Europe is low.” Possible solutions include making more parental leave non-transferable by fathers and ensuring better pay for parental leave.

My hope for father’s day is that it brings a wide-ranging discussion of the changing role of fatherhood and how to help fathers be the best dads and partners possible.

Omar Salem is the founder of Better Daddies.

My new year’s resolution: helping dads be better dads

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My experience as a father, like many modern fathers, who want to be more involved in the care of their children has opened my eyes to the need for better support for fathers. That’s why this year my new year’s resolution is to do more to help make sure fathers have the best support possible to be the best dads possible.

The role of fathers in society is changing but more needs to be done to help them spend more time caring for their children and sharing household responsibilities fairly. I have set up the Better Daddies campaign to make the case for more support to help dads be better dads.

The Better Daddies Charter sets out areas where action is needed to support fathers to be better fathers. This includes. better parental leave for fathers, more help for fathers to take it up and more support for fathers to work-part time and flexible. We are also think there should be a review of legislation to consider whether changes are needed to better protect fathers from discrimination. For example, looking at whether fatherhood should be a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act. 

Other areas where we would like to see action include more parenting and relationship support for parents to help them be the best parents and partners possible, more specialised support for single fathers to help them with the particular challenges they face and better mental health support for dads. It is a tragedy that suicide is a major killer of men, including middle-aged men. 

We also want to ensure that public services, such as maternity wards, are designed with fathers in mind. Finally, we want to see cultural change, so that things like men taking longer periods of parental leave and working more flexibly are normalised. 

These changes would not only be good for fathers but for their children and partners too. Children would have more opportunity to build a relationship with their father. Engagement of fathers with children is linked to a plethora of benefits, including health and education outcomes. In addition, high levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control in children.

Greater involvement of fathers in childcare is good for women and gender equality too. It will mean that the burden of childcare is more evenly shared between parents, providing more scope for women to work full time or longer hours, if they wish, have more leisure time or study. It should also reduce discrimination against women in the workforce, as the amount of time men and women take off for parenthood becomes more even. 

Increasing the involvement of fathers in childcare, while an idea that many would support, is not straightforward. Research for the European Commission has found that “despite the positive effect of paternity and parental leave uptake by fathers on a number of economic, social and demographic outcomes, the current uptake of leave by fathers across Europe is low.” Possible solutions include making more parental leave non-transferable by fathers and ensuring better pay for parental leave.

My hope for 2020 is that it brings a wide-ranging discussion of the changing role of fatherhood and how to help fathers be the best dads possible. 

Omar Salem is the founder of Better Daddies.