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Archive for July, 2011

Playing it Cool During the Summer Heat

Infants & Teacher with Bubbles CWhen the summer sun blazes bright, children often spend more time outdoors—running, jumping, climbing, biking and being active. It is important to remember that physical activity in excessive heat can cause a variety of health issues including sunburn, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Below are a few tips that can help prevent your child from experiencing any of these heat-related illnesses. (Please note: If you feel that your child is experiencing symptoms of a heat-related illness, dial 911 and seek medical attention immediately.)

  • If you are aware that the day is going to be excessively hot, try to limit outdoor play time to the morning and evening hours (before 10 am and after 4 pm).
  • Sunglasses and hats with brims help protect against the sun’s harmful rays. Always apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or above that protects against UVA and UVB rays before your child heads outdoors. Apply liberally and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing should be worn in a single layer to help absorb and facilitate sweat evaporation. If your child should sweat through their clothing, have them change into a dry outfit before continuing their activity.
  • Fluids, fluids, fluids! Children should be well hydrated before they go out to play and have access to drinking water while participating in outdoor activities.
  • During prolonged outdoor activity, like a sports game or practice, children should be given frequent breaks (in 20-minute increments) to recover (in the shade) and rehydrate.

“Cool” (and Healthier!) Options to Satisfy to Your Child’s Sweet Tooth

Are you looking for “cool” (and healthier!) options to satisfy to your child’s sweet tooth?  Try these deliciously, sneaky snacks!

  • Dice mango and strawberries (or other colorful fruit). Gently stir into Greek yogurt and dish up this yummy snack.
  • Roast sweet veggies such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and then blend with a bit of apple juice. Pour into a popsicle tray, freeze and serve!

What healthy treats does your child love?

The Pacifier Perspective

Infant Boy AIn thirty plus years of  working with infants, toddlers, preschoolers (and their parents) and with four children and four grandchildren of my own, I’ve seen thousands of pacifiers come and go.  It can be hard to keep perspective when it’s your child who is drooling away on his pacifier. So many parents feel guilty about pacifier use as though it reveals them to be insufficient caretakers or giving in to the demands of the child. I confess readily that I, too, have searched in wee hours to find the nearest all-night convenience store, hoping against hope to find the required make/model of the ‘peacekeeper.’

So here’s the deal: pacifiers have their place. Once your infant is gaining weight and nursing reliably, a little non-nutritive sucking can be a good thing if your particular child is interested in it (most are). We’ve raised both kinds of children, so it’s worth waiting to find out if yours is interested, rather than giving a pacifier to a baby who doesn’t want it. It should be a joint decision between baby and parents.  However, babies who suck at night seem to have a lower risk of SIDS and tend to sleep more regularly for a bit longer as their sleep habits mature, so it might be worth encouraging, even if your child doesn’t take to it immediately.

Trouble with pacifiers doesn’t usually start until children start to walk. They start dropping the pacifier in the most disgusting places. If they also start to talk soon after, the cork effect seems troubling to parents. One of our early talkers would remove it to fire off a few sentences and then re-plug herself so quickly we had to turn our attention away to keep from laughing.

So when should the child stop? Most pediatricians in the U.S. (standards vary globally) will encourage stopping by age two.  I don’t believe that long-term pacifier use slows speech development.  However, my dental colleagues have stronger science backing up their concerns that ‘extended pacifier use (heavy use beyond 20-24 months)’ leads to crossbites and open bites. When back teeth close during chewing and front teeth don’t, a child has an ‘open bite,’ which can sometimes self-correct. When the upper palate and arch narrow through extensive pacifier use, self-correction is rare and your dental co-pay will get your attention.

If you’re worried that you’re approaching or in the ‘danger-zone’ of extended use, talk to your pediatrician about strategies for weaning your child from the pacifier – you’ll need the pediatrician to support your own resolve since fatigue so regularly erodes parental judgement. Strategies can range from helpful children’s books on pacifier farewells, outright bribery (goods and services in exchange for pacifier pitching), the invocation of magical forces (pacifier fairies) or promoting the joys of giving pacifiers to babies when you are not one anymore (passing down pacifiers). The earlier you start, the easier the process, but prepare for some tears and stress. As you’ve heard in this blog before, manageable stress ending in mastery is emotional nutrition and feels really good – eventually.

What Our Children Teach Us

Infant Girl ClappingOur children come to us with a fresh look at life, full of uniqueness, purity and innocence. Each and every day, our children take joy in learning from us—not just the big life lessons, but the nuances, too. As grown-ups, we often rush through life, caught up in day to day tasks. In a blink, babies become preschoolers, and before we know it we’ll be cheering for them at their high school graduation.

Consider what our children can teach us, or remind us of, if we only let them. Our children can remind us what love is—true, unconditional love. They can remind us what it means to really apologize, to not just say “I’m sorry,” but to mean it. They can remind us what pure, raw emotion is—happiness, in its most genuine form, and sadness, too. They can remind us to look for joy in the smallest places. They can remind us to laugh and to laugh often—it lowers stress and it’s good for the soul.

What does your child teach you?

Milestones Matter: From Crib to Bed

Generally, the goal is to keep your toddler in a crib as long as possible. You’ll know it’s time to transfer them to a bed when they become persistent in trying to climb out of their crib, are simply too big or too active or are beginning night time potty training. By three years old, most children have made the transition. Once they are potty training they will need to be able to access the bathroom. Children rely on routine and rituals, so any major shift can be difficult—don’t rush into this change before it becomes necessary. Although crib climbing and toddler escape artists can be cause for alarm, so is the idea of a roaming toddler during the middle of the night.

When you decide the time is right for your child, place the new bed in the same place their crib was. If possible, include your child in the selection of their new bed or bedding. Add to the excitement by encouraging your child to show off their “big kid bed” to friends and family members. Some children are very attached to their crib while others readily adjust to the change. Be considerate of all the pressures your child is facing at this stage to “grow up,” and how those feelings may play into their reaction during this transition.

Don’t automatically give up if your little one has trouble adjusting. Persuade your child to give the new bed a chance. If you feel that the switch was too soon, try bed rails or encourage your child to select a new “lovey” to snuggle up with in the “big kid bed.” Give this transition several nights’ tries. In extreme cases, you may have to take a step back and try again later without presenting it as a failure or punishment.

Establishing a ‘School Day’ Routine

Although it may feel like summer has only just begun, soon enough you’ll be sending your little one back to school. During the lazy, hazy days of summer, routines may have become a bit lax. Below are some helpful tips to establish a daily school day routine.

  • Set a school-night bedtime. The entire family will probably need to start waking up earlier than usual once school begins, so set an earlier time for you and your child to hit the sack each night. This will ensure you all get the proper amount of rest needed to tackle the busy morning routine and be bright and alert for the school/work day.
  • Prepare the night before. Pack lunches, backpacks and choose clothes for the next day the night before. Check notes from the school/teacher to make sure your child has everything they need for school the next day. Find a location near the door to set shoes, backpacks and other school necessities so everything is ready to go when you leave the house in the morning.
  • Create your own “Have a great day!” signal. Involve your child in developing a special way for the two of you to say good-bye to each other when you drop them off at school in the morning. It could be a funny handshake, secret phrase or even just a wink and smile. Only the two of you will know you really mean, “Have a great day! I love you.”
  • Allow unwind time. Set aside some time to allow your child to unwind at the end of the day. Children need this, especially during the first few weeks of getting into the back-to-school routine. The change in schedule can be overwhelming, so having some time to relax or play quietly when they get home from school can be beneficial.
  • Recap the day together. Whether around the dinner table or during one-on-one time with your little one each evening, ask them about their day and share yours with them. You’ll both benefit from the special time together to listen and share.

A Day at the “Beach”

When it’s just too hot (or rainy) to go outdoors, consider creating your own indoor oasis for a day filled with summer fun!

Start by creating a space in your living room or play room that can be used as the “beach.” Have your child wear their best beach outfit, complete with flip flops and sunglasses, and lay beach towels on the floor. If you have beach balls or other beach-related decorations, bring them out to add to the fun.

During their day at the “beach,” encourage your child to use their imagination to pretend they’re swimming, surfing in the waves, or the lifeguard watching over all the swimmers. Read your child’s favorite beach-related books together, eat lunch picnic-style on your beach towels, play a game of beach ball catch and even take a nap on the “beach.”