What to Look for in a Good Babysitter

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What to Look for in a Good Babysitter

When searching for someone to look after your child, you want to make sure you find the best person. You may have several questions and considerations, and want more than a babysitter who simply likes kids. You want to know that your child’s caregiver will keep them safe, happy, and well taken care of.

Here are some characteristics to keep in mind when looking for a babysitter.

  • Experience with children. Ask about specific experience your potential babysitter has with children in the same age group as yours. The younger your child is, the more experience a caregiver should have.
  • Knowledge about children. Basic understanding of the practical aspects of caring for a child (such as diapering and feeding) and child development work in tandem with experience to create a trustworthy babysitter.
  • Training in basic first aid. Many parents want a caregiver who can perform basic infant and child first aid and CPR if necessary. Additionally, your local hospital, Red Cross branch, or YMCA may provide information on babysitters who have completed this training.
  • Safety-conscious. What is your potential babysitter’s attitude toward safety? Will they hold your child’s hand when crossing the street? Do they ensure that your child is playing with age-appropriate toys? Do they understand your child’s allergies or medication? Ensure the babysitter’s practices towards child safety align with your own.
  • Responsibility. Whether you’re meeting friends for dinner or taking a couple of hours to run errands, it’s important that your babysitter is someone who you can depend on. Look for a babysitter who respects your time, your home, and the most important aspects of caring for your child.
  • Good judgment and problem-solving skills. You know that life with children can be unpredictable, and a good babysitter is able to adapt to changing conditions. Look for a babysitter who can confidently handle issues that may arise, such as a fight between siblings over a toy, or a toddler who refuses to eat their lunch.
  • Appropriate communication with you. A good babysitter works with you to ensure your child is happy and healthy. Look for a babysitter who makes an effort to keep parents informed of any issues that arise, and gives general updates about the time spent with their child.
  • A bond with your child. The most qualified babysitter in your area likely won’t work out if they don’t connect with your child. A connection will take time, but you can look for a babysitter whose personality is likely to mesh well with your child’s.

When searching for a good babysitter, ask friends and other parents for recommendations to help you narrow down your options. Your child’s daycare center may also have suggestions. You might consider starting out by hiring your prospective babysitter for an hour while you do tasks around the house. This trial run can help you assess their abilities and observe how they interact with your child. This can help you gain confidence that you have found a good babysitter who you can trust to care for your child.

4 Science Projects for Preschoolers

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4 Science Projects for Preschoolers

Children learn through hands-on experiences, and are endlessly curious. You can help your preschooler learn more about the world around them and basic science concepts with these four easy experiments you can do together.

1) Water Displacement Experiment

This experiment can help your preschooler learn about buoyancy, volume, and mass. It can also be done easily with items you already have around the home. Fill a transparent jar or large bowl with a medium amount of water, and gather several small objects such as coins, toy cars, and stones. Mark the level of the water on the container, and help your child begin to place the objects into the container.

As the water level rises, you can begin to make observations together. Are the stones heavier than the toy cars? How many of each object does it take to make the water overflow? Does the size of the item make the water level rise faster?

2) Gummy Worm Ice Cubes

With Halloween just a few weeks away, gummy worm ice cubes are a fun activity that will also teach your preschooler about turning liquids into solids. You can ask your child what they predict will happen, and find out together how the ice cube will change once it’s placed in a drink.

You can find the instructions for making gummy worm ice cubes here.

3) Turning Grapes into Raisins

Grapes and raisins are both favorite child-sized snacks, but helping your preschooler see how one food transforms into another can be exciting. Allow for approximately three days of sunny weather for this experiment.

Start with clean, fresh grapes, and make sure they are thoroughly free from external moisture. Your child can help you select the best ones and spread the dry grapes on a baking tray. Cover the tray with a kitchen towel to keep the grapes undisturbed as they sit outside in a sunny area for two to three days. You may want to bring the tray inside overnight if it gets damp. Check the raisins and discard any that may have rotted.

As the days pass, you and your child can observe the experiment. How are the grapes changing? Are the raisins getting smaller and lighter? You can help your child understand evaporation caused by the heat from the sun.

4) Catching Bugs with Fruit

If your preschooler is interested in insects and living creatures, you can work together to understand how they live and behave with this simple project using only a grapefruit. Even a child who seems indifferent about insects might feel curious enough to participate, and they can observe from a distance if they are squeamish. You can ask questions about the sorts of insects you might see, and why they seem to enjoy the fruit. You can then begin to ask questions about the insects themselves, such as, “How do you think all those legs help it?” Your preschooler will begin to think more about other creatures and how they behave.

You can learn more about this insect science experiment here.

Helping your child learn basic science concepts can be easy, fun, and affordable. Try these four science projects for preschoolers today to help them develop their science and problem-solving skills.

How to Soothe Your Child’s Storm Anxiety

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How to Soothe Your Child's Storm Anxiety

When your area is experiencing severe storms, your child can feel frightened and confused. Although every child is different, there are some ways you can help your child cope with anxiety caused by severe weather.

Model calm behavior

If your child sees that you are able to react to severe weather in a calm manner, they will feel reassured. Ensure that your child sees you making plans in a composed manner, and review your family’s storm safety precautions with everyone. It’s okay if your child sees that you’re concerned, but explain your feelings in age-appropriate language for your child, and remain in control.

Communicate and answer questions

Your child will likely have many questions about the storm, and it’s important for them to know that you will listen and empathize with them. Encourage your child to talk to you about how they feel, and answer any questions as well as you can. Be truthful, but focus on alleviating your child’s immediate fears.

Get your child involved with safety precautions

Children learn through hands-on experience, and having them help you prepare for severe weather can give them a sense of control. Your child can help you stock a storm safety kit with flashlights, batteries, blankets, and a radio. They can also let you know what they will need in order to feel comforted, such as a favorite stuffed animal or book.

Limit your child’s news exposure

Repeated news reports and images of storms can cause increased fear and anxiety in your child. Younger children may also not understand the timeline of these images, and may believe that a storm is bigger than it is. If you do tune in for an update, keep it brief, and be available in case your child has any questions about what they’ve seen.

After the storm, keep positive

A child’s anxiety over storms can continue after the worst has passed, particularly if your region has experienced severe effects such as flooding or evacuation. To help your child cope, it can help to do something positive such as selecting clothes to donate to other children in need. It’s also important to maintain your regular routine as much as possible, continue to limit news exposure, and spend time together as a family.

If your child’s anxiety symptoms have not decreased after six months, or are impacting their daily life, you may want to speak with an anxiety disorder therapist.

Anxiety and fear caused by severe weather can be especially difficult for young children to cope with. However, by modeling calm behavior, encouraging communication, getting your child involved in preparations, and limiting news exposure, you can help to reduce their fear of storms.

Ideas for Preschool Lunches and Snacks

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Ideas for Preschool Lunches and Snacks

If you will be sending lunches and snacks with your child when they go to preschool, you may be wondering what your options are. Here are some ideas for preschool lunches and snacks that taste great and give your child the nutrition they need for a successful day.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

While dried fruit can seem ideal to include in your child’s lunchbox, they can be high in sugar and lead to sticky fingers. It’s best to stick to fresh options, such as carrots, apple slices, and even cooked vegetables left over from dinner.

Egg salad sandwich

This is an easy and kid-friendly sandwich that can be prepared the night before, when you have more time. Simply hard-boil some eggs, and mash with mayonnaise. This sandwich is highly customizable, and you can make adjustments based on what your child likes. You may also want to include diced celery, lettuce, or mustard.

Healthy muffins

Muffins are the ideal portable snack, but they don’t have to be loaded with sugar. Pureeing fruits and vegetables is an ideal way to help your picky eater enjoy healthy muffins. Get the recipe for Power Packed Fruit and Veggie Muffins here.

Breakfast for lunch

If your family enjoyed pancakes, French toast, or waffles for breakfast on the weekend, they can be repurposed into a lunch your child will enjoy. Simply cut them up into strips and include applesauce or yogurt for dipping. You can also make a double batch of pancakes, French toast, or waffles, and keep them in the freezer for a quick mid-week lunch.

Healthy preschool lunches and snacks can be interesting for your child and easy for you. These four ideas are quick and easy building blocks for a well-rounded preschool lunch that includes healthy protein, dairy, and carbohydrates.

For more ideas, check out these 5 Quick and Healthy Preschool Lunches.

The Importance of Music for Young Children

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The Importance of Music for Young Children

If you have a young child at home, you’ve likely noticed how much they enjoy listening to and moving along with music. Aside from being entertaining and fun, music has cognitive benefits for young children. Here are some reasons why music is important.

Music helps develop language and literacy skills

Studies performed in the 1990s showed that, “exposure to music from early childhood onwards helps children to speak more clearly [and] develop a larger vocabulary.” In addition, according to Susan Hallam of the University of London’s Institute of Education, speech and music have a number of shared processing systems in the brain. This means that listening to and singing along to songs can lead to improvement in a child’s understanding of language.

Music helps to strengthen motor skills

When a young child listens to music, they often cannot seem to resist clapping, jumping, or dancing. Exposure to music helps your child develop fine motor skills such as balance and coordination, and gross motor skills such as marching and sitting upright.

Music can help your child learn math skills

For young children, math concepts are simple, focused on pattern recognition and shapes. Even the most basic song features repeating patterns in its rhythm that a child can follow along with. Additionally, children can get hands-on experience in creating patterns when they perform a song themselves with instruments such as a drum or xylophone.

Music can relieve stress

From their earliest days, children can be soothed by gentle and relaxing music. Listening to their favorite song can help your child feel energized and uplifted, but it can also help them cope with stressful situations. According to neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, “There is no vehicle more joyful and playful for providing [resiliency] training than early childhood music.”

Every parent can help their child gain exposure to music. Whether or not you are musical yourself, you can encourage your child to sing, dance, and listen to music regularly. Many preschools offer music programs as part of their curriculum. In addition, local libraries, recreation centers, and places of worship can be ideal places to find musical experiences for your child.

How to Start a Morning Routine for Preschool

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How to Start a Morning Routine for Preschool

A consistent morning routine is one way you can help your child adjust to preschool. Whether your child is excited or apprehensive about this new stage in life, being able to rely on the same set of events each morning will give them the confidence they need for a successful day. Here are some tips for starting a morning routine for preschool.

Start adjusting your routine as early as possible

If your family has been enjoying the relaxed summer months, the days before preschool begins and the first weeks after your child starts classes are a great time to begin acclimating your child to their new morning routine. For example, if your summer morning routine meant family members ate breakfast as they woke up, you may want to begin transitioning to everyone eating together in the mornings. If your preschooler has older siblings, they might enjoy joining them in their back-to-school transition.

Begin the night before

For many families, the morning is the most hectic time of the day. However, completing as many tasks as possible the night before will mean the next morning will run smoother. If you will be sending your preschooler’s lunch and snacks along with them, prepare as much as possible in advance. Laying out the next day’s clothing before bed is another good way to save time in the morning.

Ensure your child has enough sleep

Along with preparing lunches and outfits the night before, the proper amount of rest will help your child have a smoother start in the morning. Though every child is different, preschoolers typically get 10-13 hours of sleep per night. To help your child unwind and prepare for sleep, read our tips on how to establish a bedtime routine.

Write down morning tasks

Even the most successful morning routine can experience some snags early on. One way to help keep your mornings organized is to create a chart listing all the tasks necessary to help your preschooler start their day. Some examples of these tasks include:

  • Washing their face
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Combing their hair
  • Getting dressed
  • Eating breakfast
  • Packing their backpack
  • Putting on their shoes

This chart can be a checklist on your phone, or a printout on your fridge. Even though your preschooler may not be able to read the chart, they can still feel a sense of ownership over helping you check off each item on the list.

Give yourself enough time

While an extra ten minutes of sleep can feel tempting to both you and your child, it can lead to delays later that could seriously impact your morning. Many parents benefit from waking up slightly earlier than their child to help themselves focus on the morning ahead, and to relax with a cup of coffee before their day starts. Giving yourself enough time will ensure that every member of your family can get their morning tasks done without pressure.

Make mornings fun

Your family’s morning routine may be dictated by the clock, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be enjoyable for your preschooler. Children love music, so choosing their favorite songs to listen to and sing along with can create a positive association in their minds with going to preschool. Music can also serve as an auditory cue for your children about their progress – for example, the end of a certain song can signal that it’s time to put their shoes on.

Life with a preschooler is never the same day-to-day, but developing a consistent morning routine is possible. According to Larissa K. Ferretti of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University, “children whose families follow a daily routine may be healthier, better behaved, and even perform better in school.” Finding the best morning routine for your family can take some experimentation, but it will give your preschooler a strong foundation for a successful day ahead.

How to Set Boundaries for Preschoolers

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How to Set Boundaries for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are endlessly curious, and like to test the limits of their behavior. This is an important way for your child to learn about their world, and the behavior that’s expected of them. However, boundaries are necessary in order for experimenting children to remain safe and secure. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with your preschooler.

Figure out your limits early

If you are clear about your boundaries, you can more easily explain them to your child, and more easily enforce them. Aside from obvious boundaries such as “no pinching your sister” or “hold my hand when you cross the street,” think of what your limits will be about things such as mealtime behavior, technology usage, and bedtime routines.

Set appropriate expectations

As the parent of a preschooler, you know your child’s natural limitations. When running errands with your preschooler, you know that they will not be able to wait in a long line as patiently as an older child can. Set your child up for success by keeping boundaries age-appropriate.

Use clear language with your child

Preschoolers are still learning how the world works, and are lacking the context necessary for many behaviors that adults take for granted. To this end, using clear language will help your child understand what behavior is expected of them, without room for confusion. For example, instead of saying, “When we go to the library, you have to be good,” say, “In the library, use a quiet voice, and walk slowly.” Kneel down so you are on your child’s level, and ensure your child understands what you are saying.

Follow through on boundaries

If you’ve told your preschooler that they cannot stop at the playground on the way to the store, changing your mind can send them confusing messages. If you have to enforce a limitation that you’ve set for your preschooler, remain calm but firm. Sending a consistent message to your child will help them to internalize what they can and cannot do.

Praise good behavior

Noticing when your preschooler is respecting boundaries is just as important as setting them. Praise your child when they are acting appropriately, so that they can better connect their behavior to your expectations. This positive reinforcement will also help to strengthen their self-confidence, and show your child that you love and support them.

Setting boundaries for preschoolers may seem difficult at times, but setting appropriate expectations, using clear language, and remaining calm and positive will help your child to experiment within safe limits.

Car Seat Safety Tips

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Car Seat Safety Tips

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages one to 13. Proper usage of a car seat is an important way to keep your child safe while in the car. Here are some tips for proper car seat safety.

Use the right kind of car seat

The proper car seat for your child depends on several factors including age, size, and your vehicle type. The American Academy of Pediatrics has several tips on how to choose and install the right kind of car seat for your child, including a handy at-a-glance guide.

Keep your child rear-facing until at least age two

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you keep your child rear-facing until at least age two, or until they are the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of your car seat. Rear-facing seats provide the most protection for your young child’s head, neck, and spine.

Have the car seat checked after installation

After installing your new car seat for the first time, you may want some additional assurance that everything is set up correctly. A certified inspector can check that your child’s car seat is installed correctly, and this service is often free of charge. You can find your nearest child car seat inspector here.

Check for an expired car seat

Though child car seats last for several years, they do have expiry dates, and it’s best to make sure that you stay within that date. An expired car seat can become brittle and unsafe for your child. You can often find the expiry date on the label of the seat, or on the seat itself. If you are unable to find the date, the manufacturer will have that information for you.

Don’t use a car seat that’s been in an accident

Even if there is no visible damage to your child’s car seat, it can still be unsafe if it’s been in the car when an accident took place. In an accident, a car seat can absorb some of the force of the crash, thereby weakening the structure. It’s best to replace a car seat if you have been in a car accident, even if it visually appears to be safe.

By choosing the right kind of car seat that is within its expiry date, properly installed, and has never been involved in an accident, you can help to keep your child safe and happy on the road.

Your Shy Child and Preschool

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Your Shy Child and Preschool

Preschool is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn new skills and socialize with their peers. However, if your child is shy, you may be concerned about the experience they might have in preschool. Here are some things you should know about your shy child and preschool.

What is shyness?

 Many parents are unsure whether a child is clingy or shy. While the two things can seem similar, the difference is that shyness is an individual temperament, whereas clinginess is a behavior that is sometimes present and sometimes not. John Malouff of the University of New England’s School of Behavioral, Cognitive and Social Sciences says that shy children “may remain silent around unfamiliar others, even when spoken to . . . may refuse to enter a new setting such as a classroom without being accompanied by a parent . . . [and] want to interact with unfamiliar others but don’t because of their fear.”

Helping your shy child succeed in preschool

While preschoolers are only just beginning to practice their socialization skills, there are ways you can help your shy child have an easier time in the classroom.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher. Your child’s preschool teacher has seen children of all temperaments, and has seen all kinds of behavior. They can share the latest advice from early childhood education experts, and work with you to come up with strategies to make your child more comfortable and confident.
  • Give your child time to adjust. If your child has only been at preschool for a few days, that might not be enough time for them to feel comfortable in their new environment. Shy children often need a longer adjustment period than more social children.
  • Model outgoing behavior. It can help your shy child immeasurably to see how you navigate social situations such as greeting strangers. For example, when grocery shopping with your child, make sure to say, “Hi, how are you?” to the cashier.
  • Empathize with your child. While you may not understand why your child is anxious in social situations, it’s all too real for them. Your child will feel supported and loved by you when you empathize with their feelings, without judgement or pressure.
  • Don’t discuss your child’s shyness in front of them. According to Psychology Today, if your child hears you call them shy, it can make “shy” their self-view. If your child doesn’t want to talk to a stranger, you can say that they’ll join in the conversation later.
  • Set up small playdates. If there’s another child in preschool who your child likes to play with, or a child who might also be shy, you might consider setting up a playdate. Invite the other child’s parents as well, so there is less pressure on the children. Often, shy children find it easier to socialize with one or two others, when they don’t feel overwhelmed by a preschool classroom full of children at the same time.

If your child is not confident or comfortable around others, there are ways you can help them have an easier time at preschool. By supporting your child, modeling social behavior, helping them to feel comfortable, and talking with the preschool, your shy child will be able to see that social situations don’t have to be scary.

6 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Families

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6 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Families

With your family’s busy schedule, you might worry that you don’t have enough time to do all the things you have to do and still spend time together. To help you save time in your day, try these six tips.

Make double batches of meals

On evenings where you have a bit of extra time, cook a double batch of that night’s dinner and freeze half. That way, you don’t have to worry about dinner on another, busier night – all you have to do is defrost what you’ve frozen and heat it up. Meals that freeze well include meatballs, casseroles, lasagna, and soup.

Organize your shopping list

You can save yourself some time in the grocery store by organizing your list before you go. While the specific aisles of your usual stores may differ, most of them follow a similar logic. Write out your grocery list grouped by section, such as Produce, Bread, Meat, Dairy, Canned Goods, Pasta, and Frozen. This will help you go directly from section to section in the store, and reduce the times you’ll have to return to an aisle you’ve already visited.

When running errands, plan your route

On days when you are going to run several errands in one trip, it can be quicker to plan your route beforehand. Much like the grocery store, having to backtrack can cost you valuable time. Map out where you have to go, and choose the fastest and most efficient ways to get to each location. Not only will this save time, it will also save money and gas.

Write out your weekly plan

Creating a family schedule is a good way to help keep your family organized when it comes to regular activities and events, but some families also create more focused weekly lists for everyday tasks. These weekly plans include things like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, and meals. Take some time at the beginning of the week to write out your weekly plan, and keep it somewhere where you can easily reference it.

Prepare for your morning the night before

For many families, the morning is the busiest time of day. There are breakfasts to make, clothes to put on, and lunches to pack. However, you can cut down on the morning rush by getting some things ready the night before. Some things you can do in the evening are: choosing your child’s clothing, washing and chopping fruit and vegetables, sorting snacks into plastic baggies, and getting any necessary jackets, shoes, and bags ready in the front hall.

Avoid complicated clothing

For most families, the amount of laundry to be washed each week can seem endless. However, you can cut down on the time and hassle involved with laundry by avoiding clothing that needs dry-cleaning or ironing. For everyday clothes, look for machine-washable clothes made of durable fabric. This can help you having to spend time and money cleaning just one or two items of clothing.

Time is a valuable commodity for most families. With our six tips, you can spend less time on errands, cooking, and chores, and more quality time with your family.

Ways to Encourage Sibling Closeness

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Ways to Encourage Sibling Closeness

While some minor sibling squabbles are unavoidable, you want your children to get along more often than not. Here are some ways you can encourage closeness in your children.

Demonstrate respectful behavior

Having basic respect for one another is the foundation for sibling closeness. You can encourage this respect by showing your children the right way to speak with one another. For example, if they’re in a disagreement about what to watch on family movie night, ask them to let the other person explain their feelings, rather than shouting. As always, modeling this same sort of behavior is key, as you are your child’s main source of information about the world.

Find things they have in common

Even if one child is obsessed with sports and the other is constantly drawing or painting, that doesn’t mean that they can’t find something they have in common. For example, perhaps they have the same favorite food, or both enjoy taking care of the family pet. Observe your children to find shared interests, and encourage them to explore those interests together as much as possible.

Avoid comparisons or labels

While finding common ground can help your children become closer, the opposite is also true. It can be tempting to label aspects of your children’s personalities, such as “the silly one” or “the serious one.” However, this can illuminate the differences between your children. The same can happen when children hear comments like, “Why can’t you eat quietly like your brother?” Focusing on the similarities between your children is more likely to help them foster a close bond.

Allow them to share experiences together

Memories developed as a family are wonderful, but memories your children develop entirely on their own can help to create a connection that’s unique to them. Let your children share “no parents allowed” experiences as much as possible, such as play, private jokes, or even stealing an extra cookie from the jar from time to time.

Don’t force it

While you may have dreamed of your children becoming best friends for life, the reality is that doesn’t always happen. However, that doesn’t mean that your children can’t love each other. The bond between siblings can be complicated and rewarding, and is rarely static. Forcing your children to spend time together doing activities they don’t enjoy, or when they are not in the best mindset to get along, can work against you and breed resentment.

To help your children develop a stronger sibling bond, encourage an atmosphere of compassion, appreciation, and kindness, and celebrate the things they have in common.

Fun Summer Activities for the Family

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Fun Summer Activities for the Family

The longer days and pleasant weather of summer can be relaxing, but even the most prepared families can still experience boredom. Here are some ideas for enjoyable summer activities that kids and parents alike can enjoy together.

Visit the farmers market

If there’s a farmers market in your area, it can be a great place for the whole family. Your child can help you choose the fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food for the week, and learn about where our food comes from. Vendors at the farmers market are more than happy to help educate your child about what they do, and your child can feel a greater connection to their community and local farmers.

Relax with some good books

A love of reading is an important skill to encourage in young children. According to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, observation and teacher assessments of older children “show positive effects of reading to children at age 4 to 5 on their reading skills at later age.” Summer is a great time to relax with some books, no matter where you are. The Association of Library Service to Children has a list of new books for kids, sorted by age group.

Create an obstacle course

Using items you likely already have at home, you can create a fun obstacle course in your backyard or local park. Look for ways to develop both your child’s fine motor skills (activities that promote balance and dexterity) and gross motor skills (activities such as climbing, jumping, and running). For some added fun, your child can invite some friends along and make it more of a game.

Go camping in the backyard

Whether or not your family enjoys regular camping getaways, sleeping in a tent in your own backyard can be a fun way to spend time outdoors while still being close to everything you need at home. To keep it as authentic as possible, you can pack a cooler with hot dogs, veggies, and drinks, and agree to go inside only if it’s absolutely necessary. Just like with regular camping, don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray.

Visit your local recreation center or library

Most recreation centers offer day programs for children, including swimming, sports, dance, and art. Many local libraries often hold story times for families in the community, as well as drop-in activities for kids to enjoy. Whether you want to spend an afternoon in a day program, or register your child for a multi-day program, your local recreation center, library, or summer camp can help.

Plan short trips

Whether or not your family has a big summer vacation planned, you can still enjoy shorter excursions closer to home. Some family-friendly day trip ideas include: visiting your local zoo, berry picking, a day at a children’s museum, and a water park. Overnight trips are possible with young children as well, even toddlers. Choose a destination that offers family-friendly activities, accommodation, and restaurants, and keep travel time within your child’s limits to reduce the risk of meltdowns.

Take advantage of the longer days of summer to help your child beat boredom, learn new things, keep active, and explore their community. These child-friendly summer activities will create lasting memories for the whole family.

Bicycle Safety Tips for Young Children

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Bicycle Safety Tips for Young Children

Summer weather is an ideal time to enjoy a bike ride with the entire family. However, proper bicycle safety is an important component of the fun, and it should be taught to your child early. Here are some bike safety tips for young children.

Insist on a helmet

According to pediatrician Kristie Rivers, MD, a bicycle helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88 percent. A well-fitting helmet should be worn on a bike ride of any length, anywhere – even if it’s just a quick trip around your own driveway. Getting your child used to wearing a helmet as early as possible will ensure that it becomes a lifelong safety habit.

Choose the right-sized bike

Children grow quickly, but selecting a bicycle that’s the right size for your child means they can operate it safely and confidently. You’ll know your child’s bike is the correct size if they can sit on the seat with their hands comfortably on the handlebars, and the balls of both feet touching the ground. Pedal brakes are often easier for younger children who may not yet have the strength to squeeze handlebar brakes.

Wear safe, brightly-colored clothing

Even during the daytime, brightly-colored clothing will help your child stay visible to drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Attaching reflectors to your child’s bicycle and clothing will increase their visibility as well. Ensure that pant legs or sleeves will not get caught on the bicycle’s moving parts or handlebars.

Stay off the roads if possible

Children younger than age 10 should stick to riding their bicycles on sidewalks or bike paths. Young children that are still building up their bicycling skills may become overwhelmed if they have to worry about vehicle traffic as well. Older children have usually developed their bicycling proficiency and are better suited to riding on the road.

Teach your child basic bicycling safety

Riding a bike is a fun activity for everyone, but children should be taught at a young age that it’s also an important responsibility. Even if you’re not riding on the road, you can teach your child basic safety skills, including: keeping both hands on the handlebars at all times; staying on the right side of the sidewalk or path; looking ahead instead of being distracted by things around them; being aware of cyclists and pedestrians coming in the opposite direction; and stopping and looking both ways before crossing the road or an intersecting path.

Ride along with your child

While your child may be eager to get out into the neighborhood and explore with their bike, it’s important that they are supervised until you’re comfortable they can ride safely on their own. Riding your bike along with your child is also an ideal opportunity for you to model safe bicycling behavior.

Bike riding is a great way for families to spend time together while getting some exercise and fresh air. Young children are often excited to ride their bicycles, and teaching them important bike safety skills will ensure the entire family will enjoy the experience.

How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Bullying

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How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Bullying

Many parents of older children are concerned about bullying, and want to ensure their child is being treated respectfully while also being kind to others. However, bullying behaviors can emerge in preschoolers as well. Here are some age-appropriate ways you can talk with your preschooler about bullying.

Identify the signs of bullying in preschoolers

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers are all too familiar with their squabbles over toys or games. These disputes are often minor and quickly resolved. Young children are still learning how to express and understand their emotions, so brief instances of impulsive acts are understandable. However, this conflict becomes bullying when there is a deliberate attempt to exclude, scare, or hurt another child. For example, a preschooler grabbing a toy truck from another child and then pushing the child over is an act of bullying behavior.

Have conversations with your preschooler about their day

Some preschoolers may not be able to clearly discuss bullying, or become shy and anxious if asked directly. Instead, you may want to have more general discussions about their day, in order to reveal your child’s thoughts about the people around them. For example, you can ask questions like, “Who are your friends at preschool?” or “Do you still play with Kristen?” These questions can help you gain a clearer understanding of your child’s daily life, and how they feel about the behavior of other children.

Remain calm

If you believe your preschooler is being bullied, it’s important to remain calm. Acting upset or demanding answers may scare your child, and prevent them from talking about the situation. Instead, you may want to ask questions such as, “What name did he call you?” and “How did it make you feel?” It’s perfectly understandable to feel upset when you discover your child may be the victim of bullying, but staying calm will help you to better assess the situation, and show your child that you support them.

Offer strategies to help

Your child may find confidence with some age-appropriate strategies they can use to handle bullying. For example, you can role-play telling another child, “Stop that!” and then walking away from the situation, or you can demonstrate how they can talk to their preschool teacher if they’re scared. While it’s not reasonable to expect your child to stand up to a bully all the time, strategies such as these can help them navigate and possibly defuse the situation.

Discuss feelings and encourage empathy

Sometimes, your child may be the one who is exhibiting bullying behavior. While it’s difficult to imagine your child acting this way, identifying the issue early on is key to fixing it. Talk about your child’s feelings with them, and try to figure out what emotions cause their behavior. Encourage empathy for the other child without placing blame on your preschooler, and praise them when you catch them being kind. If possible, helping your child to apologize or make amends can show them how their behaviors can make others feel. Most importantly, model respect and empathy at home to ensure you are not unwittingly encouraging bullying behavior.

Ask your preschool for advice

Your child’s preschool will most likely have policies in place to prevent disputes from escalating into bullying. Review these policies with your child’s preschool teacher, and take this time to ask for any specific advice you may want. A preschool that teaches their children respect and encourages them to work through their feelings can give helpful strategies designed for your child’s specific personality and situation.

Bullying is never an easy topic for children to discuss, and preschoolers are still learning how to process and express their own feelings. However, by keeping the lines of communication open, remaining calm, and working with your preschool, you can show your child that they can trust you to help deal with bullying.

Fun Fourth of July Activities for Children

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Fun Fourth of July Activities for Children

The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate with the whole family, and kids are especially excited to join in the festivities. However, parents of young children are often concerned about the safety aspect of setting off fireworks. Here are some safe, fun, and fireworks-free Independence Day activities that young children can enjoy.

  • Have a Barbecue – A Fourth of July barbecue is a classic for a reason. It’s fun for the whole family, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take up a lot of time. Be sure to read our tips on eating outdoors with your child.
  • Hold a Scavenger Hunt – One fun activity that’s great for outdoors is a Fourth of July-themed scavenger hunt. You can ask children to search for things such as stuffed eagle toys, things in the shape of a star, or baseballs.
  • Draw with Sidewalk Chalk – You don’t need to limit yourself to the colors of the flag, but you can help your children celebrate the Fourth of July by getting artistic. You can ask them to draw what America means to them, or have them color in their own stars and stripes.
  • Attend a Parade – Many cities and towns across America have fun Fourth of July parades that offer entertainment for children as well as adults. Be sure to plan ahead and pack necessary items such as water, snacks, and sunscreen.
  • Read Fourth of July books – There are many books to help children understand the significance of Independence Day in terms they understand. Two highly-rated children’s books include The Fourth of July Story and Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney!
  • Make a Flag Mosaic – Crafts such as this colorful mosaic will not only help children learn about the American flag, it will develop their fine motor skills and teach them about color, too. Find instructions on how to make a flag mosaic here – you can make a smaller flag as well, using this template.
  • Create a Colorful Sensory Bin – Take the red, white, and blue theme one step further and create a fun sensory bin experience for your child. This site offers instructions for making red rice and blue star-shaped noodles. You can add mediums to the sensory bin such as scoops, animal toys, and star-shaped buttons.

 These seven ideas are fun, family-friendly ways you and your child can celebrate Independence Day this year. What’s more, they’re also fireworks-free, so you can feel confident that your child will have a safe and happy time.

All About Toddler Independence

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All About Toddler Independence

Toddlers are endlessly curious, and are beginning to understand the world around them. As the parent of a toddler, you are familiar with your child’s burgeoning sense of independence. They want to do everything on their own, and sometimes it can seem like protests are endless. However, the independence skills your child learns as a toddler will set the foundation for their future life. Here are some helpful things you should know about toddler independence.

Independence starts from a secure environment

Adults know that trying new things means taking risks – which can also mean making mistakes. As a parent, you can give your toddler a secure environment where they can expand their horizons and take risks that will not be harmful. Telling your child “no” every time they try to touch or do something dangerous can have a negative effect on their confidence, and is stressful for you. Instead, ensure that the home is as toddler-proofed as possible, so that your child can freely indulge their curiosity without risk of serious injury.

Non-negotiable rules should be clear

Toddlers testing out their independence will also try to bend or break rules. However, as a parent you know there are rules that are non-negotiable, such as holding your hand when your child crosses the street and not eating or drinking anything new without asking you first. Ensure that you remind your child of these non-negotiable rules and consistently enforce them. Explain to your child that these rules are in place to keep them safe. This way, they can better understand why some rules exist, and will find the all-important structure they need to build confidence and autonomy.

Choosing between limited options will keep you in control

Giving your toddler freedom to make some choices is a good way for them to practice independence. However, it’s important to narrow down the options available to your child, to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. For example, when getting dressed in the morning, you can ask, “Do you want to wear your blue shirt or your green shirt today?” In helping your toddler exert their independence, be patient and maintain a sense of humor.

Allowing your child to experience consequences will help them grow

Understanding cause and effect is a critical component of healthy independence. However, toddlers are often too excited about a new experience to think things through, or sometimes they don’t yet know what the consequences of their actions could be. Having conversations with your toddler about these concepts can help, but sometimes there is no substitute for a hands-on experience. If your toddler insists on trying to eat their crackers with a with a fork instead of their hands, they’ll soon figure out why it doesn’t work. Sometimes, letting your child experiment and make their own mistakes is more beneficial to their development then stopping them before it happens.

Toddlers thrive on praise – even if they don’t get it right

Even if your toddler doesn’t achieve their desired result with what they’re trying to accomplish, your praise will give them a sense of confidence and pride. In the earlier example of trying to eat crackers with a fork, telling your child that it won’t work can make them feel insecure and unwilling to try new things. But saying something like, “That’s a fun way to eat crackers!” will make the situation fun, and signal that you approve of them doing things on their own. This will help your child feel confident about trying more new things in the future.

Confidence, curiosity, and problem-solving skills are the foundation of successful independence. Toddlers are growing, and beginning to show interest in their own individuality. It can seem scary to parents, but finding small, safe ways for your child to assert their independence can help them to become successful later in life.

5 Preschooler Birthday Party Ideas

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5 Preschooler Birthday Party Ideas

Birthday parties are exciting for preschoolers. However, planning birthday parties for children can leave parents feeling tired and stressed. Here are five preschooler birthday party ideas that both you and your child will love.

1) Animal-themed party

For your animal-loving child, a farm or zoo-themed party offers many fun options. You serve food such as veggie sticks, gummi worms, or animal-decorated cupcakes. Decorate with balloons in the shape of your child’s favorite critters and enjoy activities such as animal charades and a piñata. You might also consider hiring a face painter to transform your child and their friends into tigers, zebras, and butterflies.

2) Teddy bears’ picnic

A teddy bears’ picnic is a great birthday party idea that doesn’t have to break the bank. For this party, your child and their friends will bring along a teddy bear or stuffed animal friend, and enjoy a picnic either inside or outdoors. For this party idea, you can lay down colorful picnic blankets, and serve easy-to-eat food such as gummi bears, cookies, cut-up vegetables, and English muffin pizzas. Depending on the number of guests, you may want to buy a small teddy bear or stuffed animal to give out as favors – put each child’s name on the toy and hide them around the house or park for each child to find in a treasure hunt.

3) Movie-themed party

For your young film buff, a movie-themed birthday party with all their friends can be very exciting. And what’s more, the movie is the entertainment, so there is one less thing to worry about. You can serve movie theater classics such as popcorn and candy, and you can create more seating space for this party by laying down lots of comfortable blankets and cushions on the floor.

4) Storybook-themed party

If your preschooler loves books, a storybook-themed party is a great opportunity to let their creativity shine. For entertainment, you can have interactive storytime, asking your child’s friends what they think will happen next in the book, or having discussions about the characters. You can also have each guest make up their own story, or draw scenes and characters from their favorite book.

Find more storybook birthday party ideas here.

5) Rainbow birthday party

Planning your preschooler’s birthday party around a color scheme rather than a theme can be much easier, as you have more freedom of choice. When planning the party’s food and decoration, all you have to keep in mind is incorporating as many colorful items as possible – for example, balloons or streamers, bright party hats, multicolored candy, and naturally-colorful fruit and vegetables. This idea also works well if your child has one favorite color.

Find out more rainbow birthday party ideas here.

No matter what your preschooler’s interests are, there is a birthday party idea that they’ll enjoy. These five birthday party ideas are fun for children, and easy on the parents, too.

Tips for Eating Outdoors With Your Child

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Tips for Eating Outdoors With Your Child

Summer is almost here, and you are likely looking forward to enjoying picnics and barbecues with your family. Here are some tips to help barbecues and picnics with young children run smoothly for everyone.

Prepare in advance

Picnics and barbecues can be fun spontaneous activities, but parents of young children know that a bit of planning in advance can help you prepare for various scenarios, as well as curb meltdowns. Prepare a bag or basket with the following items, and you can more easily take advantage of the summer weather:

  • A picnic blanket
  • Vinyl tablecloth for a barbecue
  • Paper plates
  • Disposable cups and plastic forks and spoons
  • Garbage bags
  • Toys and games suitable for the outdoors
  • Paper towels
  • Sunscreen and bug spray

Keep the food simple

Picnics and barbecues for adults are often more elaborate than those for children. Think about food that’s both easy to eat and easy to transport. Some examples for picnics include: Grapes, carrot sticks, simple sandwiches, crackers, and pasta salad. For barbecues, hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and fruit salad are classics that children also enjoy.

Pick the ideal location

A good picnic or barbecue location has plenty of space for children and adults alike to stretch their legs, and to enjoy outdoor games such as tag, Frisbee, or even hide and seek. Of course, your own backyard can also be an ideal spot for your family to enjoy a barbecue or picnic. No matter the location, spending time in nature can turn your family outing into a fun and educational experience.

Keep safety in mind

Eating outdoors in the summer is always enjoyable, but it can also pose a number of safety risks. If your family is barbecuing, keeping your child away from the barbecue itself is key. Explain to your child the dangers of getting too close to it, and let them know how far away they should be. No matter where you are, your child will likely be excited and eager to run around and explore, so help them to understand basic safety rules for being outdoors.

Get your child involved

Asking for your child to help you get ready for your picnic or barbecue is not only a good way to help them feel useful, but it’s also an ideal time for them to learn. For example, your child can learn math concepts by helping you count grapes, or by helping you pack food into containers.

Enjoying summer weather by eating outdoors is an ideal way for families to spend quality time together. With these tips for eating outdoors with your child, you can focus on creating fond summer memories for the whole family.

How to Choose the Best Summer Camp

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How to Choose the Best Summer Camp

Summer camp is an exciting opportunity for a child to learn more about their world, and to experience new things. However, not all summer camps are created equal. Here are some things to look for when choosing the best summer camp.

Will the camp fit with your family’s schedule?

Many camps offer overnight programs for older children, but even with a day camp, your family’s schedule must be taken into account. Is there a family vacation that could interfere with your prospective camp’s programming? Do the day camp’s drop-off and pick-up times fit with your daily schedule? A camp’s scheduling flexibility may make all the difference to your family.

What programs are offered?

Do you want your child’s summer camp experience to focus on purely outdoor pursuits, or are you looking for a program with indoor activities such as music or dance? Perhaps you would like to find a summer camp with a mix of both outdoor and indoor programs. Some summer camps are focused on activities like sports or arts. The ideal mix of programs depends on what your child is interested in, and what they would like to try.

What are the camp’s values?

A good summer camp should align with your family’s existing educational values and philosophy. For example, if your child is used to a range of different collaborative experiences at daycare and at home, a summer camp with a rigid focus on a singular task may not be a good fit. When discussing the camp’s values and philosophy with its directors, you may want to ask some of the same questions you asked when choosing your child’s daycare to ensure these experiences align as much as possible.

Does the camp meet safety and educational standards?

At the bare minimum, a good summer camp will be a clean and safe environment for your child, with well-trained staff members. When researching prospective summer camps, some things you may want to know are: how staff are screened and educated, if staff are trained in first aid, how children are kept safe both at camp and on field trips, and what the camp’s emergency procedures are.

It is also a good idea to tour your prospective camps to ensure that all structures and toys are clean, safe, and in good repair. Accreditation is not necessary for a summer camp to operate, but you should ensure that your prospective summer camp follows all necessary state regulations.

How does the camp accommodate children with special needs or considerations?

The best summer camp offers enjoyment for every child in its program, regardless of physical, mental, or medical considerations. If your child has a physical challenge, a medical condition, sensory issues, or a behavioral disability, look for a camp that can accommodate them, and delivers a meaningful and fun experience at the same time. A good summer camp promotes respect for all children, with guidance from caring and compassionate staff members.

What are the camp’s policies?

Whether your child will be attending a day camp twice a week, or spending an entire month away from home, you want to be sure that you understand exactly how the camp will handle certain situations. Here again you may want to ask the summer camp directors the same questions you asked of your child’s daycare, regarding topics such as discipline, meals, medical supervision, how they handle conflict, and extra fees or costs.

Once you have decided on the best summer camp for your child, read our tips on how to get your child ready to have the best experience at camp.

Tips for Traveling With Young Children

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Tips for Traveling With Young Children

Whether your next family trip will mean traveling by car, airplane, or train, you’re likely wondering how your young child will cope. Here are 12 tips to help make traveling with your toddler or preschooler a bit easier for the whole family.

  1. Investigate airline fees and regulations. If you’re flying to your destination, be sure that you are aware of any airline fees and regulations specifically regarding infants and toddlers. These policies differ by airline.
  2. Print boarding passes at home. Printing out your boarding pass before you arrive at the airport will mean less time standing in a long line with excited or tired children.
  3. Take advantage of early boarding. These days, most flights offer priority boarding to passengers with young children or needing extra assistance. Ensure you arrive at your gate early enough to board the plane and get everyone settled in before the rest of the passengers arrive.
  4. Help your child with ear discomfort. The altitude changes of flying can be painful to young children. When taking off, feeding your infant and giving your older child chewing gum are ways you can help them alleviate ear discomfort.
  5. Bring snacks. No matter how you’re traveling, snacks are key to avoiding hunger-related meltdowns along the way. The TSA has special considerations in place for bringing breastmilk and formula on a plane, so be sure to check their guidelines before you leave home.
  6. Bring toys and games. Prepare a bag of fun toys and games, such as coloring books, stickers, pop-up books, and playing cards. Parents who restrict their child’s screen time may consider making an exception while traveling, as the novelty can be a welcome distraction. Of course, ensure any toys are quiet ones, and headphones are used if watching videos.
  7. Talk your child through the trip. Toddlers and preschoolers are endlessly curious, and being able to understand what’s happening around them can help to calm any anxieties they may be feeling. You can also turn this into a fun game – for example, on a road trip, you can point out different-colored cars, or play I Spy.
  8. Choose appropriate clothing. Dress your child in clothes that are both comfortable for them, and easy for you to get on and off for quick diaper changes. Soft, manageable layers are ideal for traveling with young children, especially when you may experience varying temperatures on the way.
  9. Bring extra clothing. If you’re flying or taking a train, pack a change of clothes for your child in your carry-on luggage, as well as some spare diapers or underwear. Accidents happen even to the most prepared parents, and having a spare outfit will ensure everyone is happy.
  10. Take breaks to walk around. If you are driving to your destination, take regular breaks to allow your children to move around freely. On a plane or train, take your child for a walk up and down the aisle so they can stretch their legs and alleviate any boredom.
  11. Set expectations. While many parents let some family rules slip while traveling for the sake of an easier journey, it’s important to let your child know what rules are still in place. For example, remind your toddler that their quiet indoor voice is to be used in an airplane, and explain why they must stay in their seat when the seatbelt sign is lit.
  12. Try to relax and breathe. Traveling is rarely a perfect experience, and this is no less true with young children. Parents are often so concerned with their children’s comfort and behavior that their own stress levels rise. When traveling with a toddler or preschooler, plan ahead as much as possible and do your best. You might just find that your journey is running smoother than you imagined.

4 Quick and Healthy Family Dinners

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4 Quick and Healthy Family Dinners

Depending on your family’s individual tastes and schedules, sitting down to a healthy family meal may seem difficult. However, putting together a nutritious dinner during the week can be quick and easy. Here are some fast and healthy family dinners, offering a range of tastes.

Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas – 15 minutes

This vegetarian meal is filling, and full of flavors that adults and children alike will enjoy. This recipe can be customized depending on what your family likes. For example, leftover shredded chicken can be added, or the stronger flavors of red onion and cilantro can be removed. It also freezes well, which makes it ideal for busy lives.

Ingredients: Black beans, corn, red onion, garlic, cilantro, shredded cheese, taco seasoning, tortillas.

Get the full recipe at Budget Bytes.

Quick Chicken Parmesan – 25 minutes

Chicken parmesan is a classic family favorite, and this version cuts the cooking time to just seven minutes. Choosing skinless, boneless chicken breasts reduces the total saturated fat in the meal.

Ingredients: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts, breadcrumbs, shredded Parmesan cheese, oregano, egg, salt, olive oil, shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce.

Get the full recipe at Health.

Bow-Ties with Chicken and Asparagus – 25 minutes

Kids love pasta, and this dish is quick and easy to pull together for a weeknight dinner. If your child isn’t a fan of asparagus, you can use other vegetables instead, such as steamed broccoli or peas.

Ingredients: Uncooked bowtie pasta, asparagus, boneless skinless chicken breasts,

sliced fresh mushrooms, garlic, reduced-sodium chicken broth, cornstarch, green onions, basil, shredded Parmesan cheese.

Get the full recipe at Betty Crocker.

Kid’s Favorite Quick and Easy Veggie Stir Fry – 25 minutes

A stir-fry is one of the quickest and easiest dinners around, and there are many customizations you can make depending on what your family likes. With this recipe, you can add your favorite meat and veggies, or even a stir-fry sauce. No matter what flavors your family likes, you can create a healthy, vegetable-filled meal.

Ingredients: Uncooked white or brown rice, low-sodium soy sauce, extra firm tofu, garlic, green onions, ginger, broccoli, peas.

Get the full recipe at Gala Living.

Creating quick and healthy meals that your entire family will enjoy is possible any day of the week. These four family-friendly recipes will all be on your dinner table in 30 minutes or less.

Sun Safety for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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Sun Safety for Toddlers and Preschoolers

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s an ideal time to ensure that you and your family are protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This protection is especially important for young children, as even one severe sunburn can increase their melanoma risk later in life.

Here are some tips to ensure that toddlers and preschoolers are protected from sun exposure.

Apply sunscreen before going outside

Look for a child-friendly sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of at least 30. For younger children, a spray-on sunscreen may be easier to use. Applying sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure will ensure that it is absorbed by the skin and won’t rub off when your child is outdoors. Don’t forget areas such as the ears, scalp, and the back of the neck. Reapply every two hours, or sooner if your child has been swimming.

Avoid the sun during peak hours

The sun’s UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so reduce your child’s exposure during those times. Plan indoor activities if possible, or try to stay in the shade if you must go outdoors.

Choose appropriate clothing

During the hotter summer months, it may seem logical to dress your child in light clothing that reveals their arms and legs. However, clothing that covers the skin is one of the most effective ways to stay protected from UV rays. Opt for long sleeves and pants if possible, in darker colors that help to prevent sunlight from hitting your child’s skin. Accessories such as brimmed hats and sunglasses are also key for sun protection.

Stay protected all year

While the sun’s heat is strongest during the summer, UV rays can do their damage any time of year. In fact, they can penetrate cloud cover, and even reflect off snow. Ensure your child is adequately protected from the sun all year.

Protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays is critically important for young children, but it is also easy to incorporate into your family’s busy life. By limiting sun exposure during peak hours, applying sunscreen, and choosing appropriate clothing, your toddler or preschooler can enjoy the great outdoors safely.

Creating a Balanced Family Schedule

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Creating a Balanced Family Schedule

With today’s hectic lives, it can seem difficult to create a family schedule that works for all members. Whether your family is large or small, it’s important to manage the external demands on your time and energy, including work, school, extracurricular activities, and commitments to loved ones. As you may already know, stress arises from weighing these external factors against the need to spend quality time together as a family.

Here are some tips that may help you to create a balanced family schedule that’ll help your lives run smoothly.

Determine your values

You likely already know what values you want to pass on to your child, and your family schedule is an ideal place to reflect this. For example, if you want your child to share your love of nature, perhaps you can schedule a family walk each Saturday afternoon. Determining your values can help you see where your priorities lie.

Listen to your child’s feelings

You may love the idea of your child becoming a skilled painter or soccer goalkeeper, but is that thought giving them as much joy? While your child is unlikely to enjoy their extracurricular hobby all the time, it’s important to respect their overall feelings. If your child is feeling stressed and upset by piano lessons, it may be a great opportunity to create room in their life for something else they might enjoy. This will reduce their stress and encourage a feeling of ownership in their life.

Learn to say no

It’s easy to feel pressure to join every committee or attend every event you’re asked to. After all, there’s nothing on your calendar, so why not? Unfortunately, saying yes to everything can lead to an over-filled life, which will cause burnout and stress. If you are accustomed to saying yes to every request, practice saying no to a few minor things, such as staying at work late to get ahead on a project that can wait until the morning.

Occasionally saying no will help relieve your personal stress, and you will also have more time to do fun activities with your child.

Leave some time unscheduled

A balanced family schedule allows for breathing room. Leaving some blocks of your schedule empty will ensure that you have the time and energy to take care of unforeseen things such as helping your child with a last-minute school project. If nothing unexpected happens during this time, then you and your family can pursue any activity that you like. Space in your schedule can help ease the pressure on you, and leave room for unexpected errands or the simple pleasures of free time.

Ask for help or delegate

If you are feeling like your personal schedule is busier than other members of your family, think of ways you can ask for help or delegate. For example, if your partner has a more flexible work schedule than you do, they might be able to take over preschool drop-off duties from you, allowing for an easier morning routine. Children can help around the house, as well. Even preschoolers can assist with chores such as putting away toys and setting the table.

We all have varying interests and responsibilities, but creating a balanced family schedule doesn’t have to be difficult. By determining your values, saying no to some requests, leaving space in your calendar, and finding ways to relieve stress on yourself and your family, you can create a schedule that more easily promotes a healthy life for everyone.

Stop the Squabbles: Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

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Stop the Squabbles: Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

Parents of more than one child are likely familiar with the shouts, taunts, and even tears that result from a fight between siblings. While it might seem difficult to deal with, there are some strategies you can employ to help promote a better relationship between your children.

Understand the issues

Perhaps your children got along well until the eldest decided they were too old to play make-believe anymore, or maybe your youngest child feels pressure to do things the same way as an older sibling. Understanding what could be at the root of sibling squabbles could help you to begin solving the problem.

For example, if your preschooler is showing resentment towards their infant sibling, it could be that they feel they have been displaced. Try getting your preschooler involved by asking them to bring you diapers or helping you tell the baby a story. This may help your older child feel compassion and care towards their sibling, rather than resentment.

Help your children work through their issues

According to Psychology Today, “research shows that children with poor sibling relationships are at higher risk for behavior problems and that sibling bullying is strongly correlated to peer bullying.” Helping your children disagree without becoming verbally or physically abusive will teach them how to respect others.

For example, if your school-age child has begun calling your preschooler names or teasing them, take your older child aside and have a discussion. Remind them that your preschooler is younger and still growing and learning. Help your older child see things from their sibling’s perspective, and teach them coping strategies for frustration such as taking deep breaths or even leaving the room.

Avoid making comparisons

No two children are alike. One of your children may reach certain milestones earlier than another, and it can be tempting to ask one child to try emulate their sibling. However, your child may feel like they are being unfairly judged or criticized, and this can lead to resentment. Instead, identify and respect each child’s unique personality, motivations, and stage in life. This will show your children that they are each loved for who they are.

Respect each child’s feelings

Many parents of multiple children have gotten fed up with the fighting at one point or another. To an adult, a screaming match between siblings over a specific toy can seem frustrating and unnecessary. However, to the children, it can be about more than the toy itself.

While it is not advisable to take sides in a sibling dispute, it’s important to discuss your child’s feelings with them. Even if they may not be able to express themselves clearly, you may be able to discern the root cause of an argument. For example, it may be that the toy was a favorite of your eldest child, and they are hesitant to give it up to their sibling. They might feel embarrassed about being considered a baby, so they resort to forcibly taking the toy away from their sibling.

If your child was particularly angry, acknowledge their anger while reminding them that certain behaviors, such as hitting, are still inappropriate.

Pick your battles

While it might seem counterintuitive in the moment, letting your children argue might be the best option. They will often be able to settle minor disagreements on their own. However, do keep an eye on the spat, and be prepared to step in if necessary, especially if the argument is escalating to physical or emotional harm.

Give your children one-on-one time

Vying for their parent’s attention is one of the most common factors in sibling rivalry. Giving your children individualized, positive attention separately may help to calm the situation overall. Make a point to spend at least ten minutes of quality time with each child every day. This will show them that you do hear and understand them, and they may no longer find it necessary to fight each other to get your attention.

While it may seem like sibling rivalry is clashing with your vision of a peaceful household, these tips can help your children live together more harmoniously.

Tips to Reduce Screen Time for Your Young Child

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Tips to Reduce Screen Time for Your Young Child

These days, there are many apps, games, and online videos that are intended to entertain and educate young children. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over the age of two should have screen time for no more than two hours a day. This includes traditional television as well as tablets, smartphones, and computers.

Here are some tips to ensure your child understands that tablets and computers are just one part of daily life.

Lead by example

You’re well aware of how often your child observes and imitates your words and actions, and your relationship to your tablet or phone is no different. In our busy world, avoiding your own devices is likely not easy. However, try to reduce your screen time around your child, and let your child see you look at your device briefly and put it away. This will help them understand that the device is not the most important thing.

Offer your child a more interesting alternative

Your child is less likely to give up their entertaining tablet if the alternative is something they don’t enjoy. Enforce your limit on screen time by giving them something to look forward to, such as a trip to the playground. However, try to avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment.

Don’t rely on gadgets to calm or distract your child

It can be tempting to hand over your phone if your child is beginning to have a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. However, this can create a dependency on the device. Instead, help your child practice other ways to regulate their emotions, such as talking about their feelings or playing a game like I Spy.

Create family screen-free times

Having specific times when the whole family puts away their tablets and turns off the TV will help your child see that screens do not rule daily life. Some examples of screen-free times are during dinner, an hour before bed, or weekend afternoons. If it’s possible, enjoying a family activity during this time will help your child to see that screens aren’t the only source of fun.

Investigate apps that have screen time in mind

While there are some apps and games that a child can have seemingly unlimited access to, there are others that are designed with the parent in mind. Look for apps and games that you can set to turn off after a certain amount of time, or that you can pause remotely. This way, you will have more control over your child’s time with the device.

In today’s world, it can seem difficult to reduce the amount of screen time your young child receives. However, by setting an example, offering alternatives, setting family screen limits, and using technology to your advantage, you can show your child that electronic gadgets are just a small component of daily life.

5 Easter Crafts for Preschoolers

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5 Easter Crafts for Preschoolers

Easter is around the corner, and now is a great time to help your child express their creative side with these five easy and affordable Easter crafts for preschoolers:

Carrot Collage

Help your child create a snack for the Easter Bunny with this easy and fun carrot collage.

Materials

  • Orange and white construction paper or cardstock
  • Green crayons
  • Scissors
  • Child-safe glue

Instructions

  • Have your child tear up pieces of the orange paper – or, if it’s appropriate, they can cut small pieces with safety scissors (it’s best if the pieces are on the larger side, so that attaching them is easier).
  • In the meantime, cut the white construction paper or cardstock into a large wedge shape, and apply glue to one side.
  • Let your child place the pieces of orange paper all over the glued carrot shape.
  • Once the glue has dried, cut the remaining white paper into smaller triangles to represent the stem of the carrot, and glue or staple this paper to the carrot.
  • Have your child color this stem with the green crayons.

Painted Easter Eggs

You can make these eggs as large or small as you like, or even create a variety of sizes and colors. Traditional bright spring colors can be used, or you can let your child pick out their favorite paint colors.

Materials

  • White construction paper or cardstock
  • Washable child-safe paint or finger paint
  • Paper plates
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors

Instructions

  • Pour a small amount of each paint color onto the paper plates
  • Cut the paper into egg shapes for your child.
  • Place the eggs on top of the newspaper and let your child paint them in any way they would like.

Tissue Paper Easter Egg

These eggs are perfect for displaying in the window, letting the sun illuminate the bright Easter colors of the tissue paper.

Materials

  • Black or white construction paper
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Glue stick
  • Safety scissors

Instructions

  • Fold a sheet of construction paper in half and draw half of an oval. About an inch inside this, draw another line in the same shape.
  • Cut along both lines and unfold the paper. This will give you an egg-shaped border.
  • Help your child tear or cut large strips of the tissue paper, and glue them together, attaching the edges to the border of the egg. Ensure the tissue paper overlaps so that no gaps are visible.

Yarn Easter Egg

This easy and colorful craft needs only some leftover cereal box cardboard, yarn, and tape. Visit the Fantastic Fun and Learning blog for instructions for this Easter craft, as well as modifications for older children.

Handprint Easter Lamb

This craft involves a few more materials than previous crafts, but these cute handprint lambs make great cards and keepsakes for friends and family. View the full handprint Easter lamb instructions at Crafts by Amanda.

These five Easter crafts are a great way to help your preschooler express their creativity, and are quick, easy, and affordable.

Why Should You Play With Your Child?

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Why Should You Play With Your Child?

Whether it’s make-believe, hide-and-seek, or backyard soccer, toddlers and preschoolers love to play. Play helps them to learn about their world. It can even help them to develop crucial social, language, math, and motor skills. As a parent, you make a special effort to ensure that your child has access to a variety of play areas, tools, and toys. However, playing right alongside your child has a number of benefits too. Here are some reasons why you should play with your child.

Play helps you to understand your child better

You know that your child’s favorite snack is green grapes, and you know that they like to cuddle their stuffed rabbit at bedtime. But do you know why they always want to slide down the tallest slide at the playground, ignoring the sandbox? Playtime is a great opportunity to get to know your preschooler’s unique personality better, and help you to potentially make adjustments to your parenting style or the activities you encourage your child to participate in.

Play helps form a bond between you and your child

As a parent, you are the most important person in your young child’s life, so what could be more of a treat for them than to share their imaginative world with you? Playing with your child will form positive memories for both of you, and it will help them see that they are loved and appreciated just the way they are.

Play helps you to teach your child

Through play, toddlers and preschoolers figure out the world they live in, and their role within it. As such, it is an ideal complement to your everyday parenting. During playtime, you can help your child learn about colors, nature, counting, or music. You can even use play as a low-stakes environment to teach more serious lessons. For example, if your preschooler insists on grabbing the sidewalk chalk out of your hand, you can calmly remind them about a previous discussion on waiting their turn, and explain that you will be done with the purple chalk in a moment. According to Psychology Today, “Play requires negotiation and agreement, so everyone’s needs are met.”

Play helps relieve stress for both child and parent

You may already see the positive effects of letting your toddler or preschooler run and play in the park, or spend a rainy day indoors painting. Play is a chance for children to work through their stress and anxiety. However, it has the same benefits for parents too. You have a busy life, but even ten minutes spent building a pillow fort or playing make-believe with your child can leave you feeling refreshed and less stressed than before.

Playtime is a great opportunity for children to grow and learn in a controlled, safe environment. Playing with your toddler or preschooler will help you to understand your child better, strengthen your connection, complement your parenting, and relieve stress.

Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Children

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Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Children

A nutritious and well-balanced diet is vital in helping your child develop. However, you may know that encouraging your child to choose healthier options can be difficult, especially if they are a fussy eater. Here are 10 ways you can encourage healthy eating habits in your child.

  1. Limit junk food rather than banning it entirely. If your child is already used to snacking on unhealthy items such as chips or candy, taking that food away completely can lead to meltdowns that can work against you. Instead, reduce the availability of these snacks, and replace them with healthier options.
  2. Start small. When introducing new healthy foods to your child, try doing it slowly. Offering your child a spoonful of peas along with their French fries is less overwhelming to them than replacing the fries entirely with the vegetable.
  3. Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. It can be tempting to tell your child they can have a lollipop if they finish their vegetables, because it often works. However, it can also train your child to view healthy vegetables as undesirable food, and the unhealthy lollipop as the better food.
  4. Get your child involved. Help your child feel a sense of pride and ownership about healthy eating by getting them involved. For example, you can ask your child to help you choose the best apples at the grocery store, or help you stir ingredients in the kitchen (away from hot surfaces).
  5. Lead by example. Try to model healthy eating habits as often as you can. If your child sees you choosing water or juice over soda, or happily finishing all the broccoli on your plate, they will be more likely to take an interest in healthier options.
  6. Keep healthy snacks on hand. A plastic baggie of cut-up apple slices or mini banana muffins in your fridge will give you something healthy to reach for when your child is hungry. Portable snacks such as these are also ideal options for when you and your child are on the go.
  7. Work with what they like. Parents of fussy eaters in particular are well-aware of the unique dietary preferences children often exhibit. While a variety of healthy foods is ideal, sometimes your child may only like one or two kinds of fruits or vegetables. You can use this preference as a building block. For example, if they love the texture of mashed potatoes, you might try slowly incorporating mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  8. Keep mealtimes fun. Even if your child has only managed to eat one carrot stick out of the four that you’ve given them, that’s more than enough reason to praise them. Confidence and positive self-image can go a long way in developing healthy eating habits.
  9. Consult your daycare or preschool. Your child’s daycare or preschool caregivers deal with different dietary restrictions and preferences every day. They can give you general advice for healthy eating, as well as tips that are well-suited to your own child.
  10. Be patient. It may take several attempts before your child is willing to eat a new food. However, remain positive and patient, and soon your child may see that healthy eating can be fun.

With our busy lives, the occasional fast-food meal, cookie, or can of soda can be unavoidable. However, the healthy eating habits that your child learns early on will stick with them in later years. Encouraging healthy eating in your child as soon as possible will ensure that they receive the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

12 Springtime Activities for the Whole Family

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12 Springtime Activities for the Whole Family

Spring is just around the corner, and depending on where you live, that may mean your whole family is looking forward to resuming outdoor activities. Here are 12 fun springtime activities that you can enjoy together as a family.

  1. Go on a nature walk. Spring is a perfect time to help teach your child about animals and nature. Look for squirrels in the trees and listen for birds returning to their nests. Identify the colors of trees and budding flowers. You can even splash in a puddle together.
  2. Visit the beach. Though spring may not be ideal beach weather, you can still enjoy your surroundings by collecting rocks and hunting for shells.
  3. Feed the ducks. Children love to feed ducks and geese, and it is an ideal opportunity to discuss where birds live in the winter.
  4. Do some gardening. There are many fun and age-appropriate gardening activities that will educate your child about the life cycles of nature.
  5. Play in the park. Aside from your typical playground activities, a park is a great location for fun family activities such as a game of catch, tag, hide-and-seek, or soccer.
  6. Have a picnic. The warmer weather and longer days are ideal for enjoying a meal outdoors. You need not travel too far, as children will have fun picnicking in their own backyard.
  7. Visit a petting zoo. A petting zoo is a good opportunity for your child to get a hands-on introduction to animals, and to learn more about animal safety.
  8. Go on a nature scavenger hunt. A nature scavenger hunt can be a fun and educational outdoor activity. You can ask your child to hunt for items based on size, color, or texture.
  9. Get artistic with sidewalk chalk. Take advantage of a warm day by encouraging your child to decorate your driveway with sidewalk chalk. Children of all ages can have fun being creative – and parents too.
  10. Visit your local library. Libraries are a great source of entertainment and education for children. Many have free storytimes, as well as programs to help teach children about science, music, and nature.
  11. Visit a farmers’ market. If you have access to a local farmers’ market, it can be a great opportunity to help teach your child where your food comes from. Many vendors will be more than happy to answer your child’s questions about how their fruits and vegetables grow.
  12. Enjoy spring-related books. Spend some quality time with your child reading some books about springtime topics such as baby animals, flowers growing, or rainy days.

Spring is a great time to teach your child about nature and animals, while helping them to learn about their local community. Our low-cost suggestions are sure to offer fun for the whole family this spring.

Why Your Preschool is Your Parenting Partner

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Why Your Preschool is Your Parenting Partner

As a parent, you chose your child’s preschool because you believed it was the best environment to help nurture your child’s emotional, physical, and mental development.

Here are some reasons why you should consider your child’s preschool a partner in your parenting:

They have childcare expertise

Whether your child’s preschool is brand-new or a fixture in your community, the caregivers and educators working there possess a wealth of knowledge and experience. This can be an enormous benefit to you as a parent, and your child’s preschool teachers will be more than happy to answer your questions about such parenting topics as potty training or teaching your child how to share. They will also be aware of the latest research and findings in early childhood education. You can use this information to help you decide what strategies you try at home.

They know your child

While well-meaning friends and family members may give you advice on parenting topics ranging from proper meals to the best bedtime, they might sometimes miss the mark. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and it can even vary between children within the same family. The good news is, your child’s preschool teacher can give you advice and guidance based on your child’s specific needs, interests, and personality. This knowledge is invaluable when it comes to ensuring your child receives the care and attention that will help them thrive.

They know parents are a child’s first teacher

A good preschool teacher will support you as a parent, and work alongside you in your child’s successful development and education. It’s important to find a daycare or preschool that aligns with your own parenting style and philosophies. For example, if you would like your child to learn about their world through hands-on experiences and guided investigation, ensure that your preschool meets these needs. A good preschool will keep you well informed about your child’s progress, and respect your parenting decisions.

They encourage parental involvement

Along with informing you about your child’s progress, a good preschool will also encourage parents to become involved. By becoming involved through parent events, volunteer opportunities, field trips, or simply dropping in to say hi, you will strengthen the bond between home and preschool – the two most influential areas of your child’s life. Your child will feel nurtured, and their self-worth will grow.

Your child’s preschool is more than a place for them to play and learn. The teachers and caregivers at preschool are your partners in parenting, offering support, advice, and collaboration that’s specific to your child. Together, you will ensure your child develops a strong foundation for positive developmental outcomes.

How to Model Good Behavior for Children

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How to Model Good Behavior for Children

As a parent, you know how often your young child observes and even imitates your words and actions. A parent is a child’s main source of knowledge about the world around them, and your child will often look to you to understand what to do. In fact, in a recent study, adults demonstrated opening a box in a way that was more complicated than necessary. Most of the children who watched this demonstration opened the box in the same complex way, even if they had a chance to figure out the box on their own.

You can use your child’s constant observation and curiosity as a chance to demonstrate appropriate behaviors such as good manners, sharing, and respect for others. Here are some examples of ways you can model good behavior for your child:

  1. Say “please” and “thank you,” to your child and to others.
  2. Let your child see you sharing things with others, such as a snack or a book.
  3. When mediating a conflict between siblings or friends, use a calm tone and discuss the situation rather than shouting.
  4. If you are in a conflict with a family member yourself, show your child that conversation works better than getting angry.
  5. When upset, use general language rather than blaming language. For example, “I’m feeling worried because there is so much to tidy up before Grandma comes over. Can you help me by putting your books away?”
  6. Identify and discuss your feelings. This will help your child recognize and understand their own emotions.
  7. Follow the household rules you expect your child to follow, such as tidying up before bed or removing shoes after being outdoors.
  8. Follow the safety rules you expect your child to follow. For example, wear a helmet while on family bike rides.
  9. If your family holds certain values or parenting ideas, such as the amount of screen time your child should get, let your child see you reading books or playing board games more often.
  10. If you are trying to encourage your child to eat healthy food, choose more nutritious meals and snacks for yourself.
  11. Do good deeds for others, such as letting someone with fewer items go ahead of you in line at the grocery store, or donating old clothes to charity.
  12. Be patient in lines, traffic lights, and with other people.
  13. Do not lie or perform deceptive behavior in front of your child, such as sneaking candy into a movie theater.
  14. Demonstrate respect for the property of others.
  15. Use respectful language when discussing other people, even if you’re upset with them.
  16. If you are playing a game and lose, retain a good sense of humor and keep the mood light.
  17. When speaking to someone else, model the way you would like your child to wait their turn to speak and hold two-way conversations.
  18. Allow your child to see you accepting responsibility for your actions. For example, if you accidentally bump into someone while out running errands, apologize and ask if the person is okay.
  19. Apologize to your child if you slip up or lose your cool. This will help them to identify the way people should behave if they are in the wrong, as well as affirm that you care about how they feel.
  20. If you do accidentally model an inappropriate behavior, you can use it as a teaching moment by discussing why your behavior was not ideal, and what you could have done instead.

When it comes to modeling good behaviors for your child, it is important to be patient and consistent. No habit is formed overnight, but modeling appropriate actions and speech will help your child understand how to properly interact with the world around them.

Helping Your Child Learn the Alphabet

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Helping Your Child Learn the Alphabet

Typically, children begin to recognize letters around the ages of two and three. They can begin to draw shapes that resemble letters, and start to understand that the words we speak can be written and read. As your child forms their relationship with the written word, there are some fun, age-appropriate ways you can help them to learn the individual letters of the alphabet.

Teach the letters of your child’s name

Identifying the individual letters of your child’s name will help to form a personal connection to the alphabet. Write your child’s name and point out each individual letter, and make a fun game out of finding those letters elsewhere, such as in books and on signs.

Find words that start with the same letter

Once your child understands that a certain letter makes a specific sound, it can be fun to help them discover more words that begin with the same sound. The popular game “I Spy” is ideal for helping your child identify objects that begin with the same letter.

Play alphabet games

In addition to “I Spy,” there are many ways you can make a game out of learning the alphabet. Some examples include: arranging magnetic letters on your fridge; writing letters and having your child trace over the shapes with crayons or paint; or playing letter hide-and-seek with letters printed on cards.

Read alphabet books

Visual aids such as books are a great way to help young children learn the alphabet. There are many good books available that focus specifically on the letters of the alphabet and help the child make connections between a letter and a familiar word, such as apple or giraffe. Even non-alphabet books can also become a source of learning. For example, when reading your child’s favorite book, you might ask them to point out the letters they know, or ask them to trace the shape of a letter with their finger.

Ask your child’s preschool or daycare teacher for advice

Working together with your child’s preschool or daycare will give you support and strategies that you can continue to use at home. Talk to your child’s teacher or caregiver to find out what ways they are helping children learn the alphabet during the day. This can help you to craft strategies that you can use at home to help strengthen your child’s growing knowledge of letters.

From an early age, children are curious about the alphabet, especially once they begin to understand that letters are the building blocks of the books and stories they love. Helping your child learn the alphabet can be a fun activity you can enjoy in your everyday life.

Eating at Restaurants With Your Preschooler

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Eating at Restaurants With Your Preschooler

While sitting down to a home-cooked meal is a wonderful experience for families to share, sometimes it can also be a treat to take a break from the kitchen and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. For families with young children, this might seem like an impossible task, but these tips can help you successfully eat at restaurants with your toddler or preschooler.

Teach your child how to behave in public

Many parents feel anxiety over the possibility of their preschooler being loud or misbehaving in a restaurant. However, you can begin to teach your preschooler good public behavior now. Show general respect for others, help your child practice being patient, teach age-appropriate table manners such as not shouting or throwing food, and praise good public behavior.

Set expectations for behavior

Restaurants are an exciting and stimulating environment for a young child, particularly if they do not visit many of them. They may want to investigate everything, and can become frustrated when they can’t. Remind them about the good public manners they’ve been learning, and enforce those rules once at the restaurant. For example, if your preschooler is making noise with their fork and spoon, remind them calmly that that is not one of the rules they promised to follow. Remember that enforcing these rules may mean removing your child from the restaurant temporarily until they are ready to try again.

Do your restaurant research

Before having children, it may have been easy to eat a meal in nearly any restaurant. However, not all restaurants are ideal for families with young children. It’s advisable to investigate some restaurants beforehand to ensure that they have high chairs or booster seats available, there is a kid’s menu, there is room for a stroller if necessary, there is enough space for everyone to sit and move comfortably, and there is an area to change a diaper. This may seem like a lot of work for one meal, but preparation will help the outing go smoothly.

Choose the best time

Visiting a restaurant with a tired toddler or preschooler will invariably mean that the experience will not go well. Along the same lines, a restaurant at peak lunch or dinner periods will be a noisy, busy environment that may work against you. Choosing the best time to visit a restaurant will ensure that your child is well-rested and happy, your daily routine will remain intact, and the restaurant will be calmer.

Order your child’s food first

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers are well aware of the effect of meals and snacks on their child’s happiness. To that end, it’s often a good idea to have a quick scan of the kid’s menu as soon as you sit down at your table, and order your child’s food as soon as you can. The restaurant may also be able to bring out bread or crackers for you while you wait. This will help to prevent frustrated and hungry meltdowns.

Be considerate

Modeling good behavior is critical for young children, and visiting a restaurant is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate proper behavior in public. Make sure your child sees you being kind and thankful to the restaurant staff and other diners, and cleaning up any small messes that your child may have made on and under the table.

With preparation and patience, you can successfully enjoy a meal outside the home with the whole family, and create fond memories.

Easy and Fun Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids

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Easy and Fun Valentine's Day Crafts for Kids

Play and crafting are fantastic ways for children to learn more about the world around them, and it’s also a great chance for you to become a partner in this learning. Now that February’s here, it’s a great time to try these four easy and fun Valentine’s Day crafts for kids.

Heart-shaped Crayons

If you have several bits of broken and discarded crayons in your home, you can melt them all down to give them new life as multicolored heart-shaped crayons. Kids will love the fun colors, and many of them enjoy helping to peel the paper off the crayons, too.

Materials

  • Broken crayons
  • Silicone heart-shaped mold or cups

Instructions

  • Peel the paper off the crayons – this is a great chance for kids to help.
  • Have your child fill the mold or cups with the crayons, in whatever color configuration they like.
  • Bake in a 250-275° oven for about 10-13 minutes, until the crayons are melted (do not let your child help with this step and the next).
  • Remove the mold or cups from the oven. Let the crayons cool completely before removing them from the mold.

Handprint Valentines

These valentines make wonderful keepsakes for family and friends, and kids can get involved by personalizing each one with paint or crayons.

Materials

  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Crayons and/or washable child-safe paint

Instructions

  • Have your child place their hand on the construction paper.
  • Trace around the hand, and cut out the handprint.
  • Encourage your child to draw or paint on the handprint as they like.
  • Repeat as necessary.

Cardboard Heart Stamp

This heart stamp is a great way to reuse a cardboard roll of paper towel or toilet paper, and it takes no time at all to prepare.

Materials

  • Toilet paper or paper towel cardboard roll (we recommend cutting a paper towel roll down so it’s not too big for your child to hold)
  • Washable child-safe paint
  • Paper plate
  • Construction paper or cardstock

Instructions

  • Flatten the roll, then press one of the creases in the other direction so a heart shape is created.
  • Pour out a small amount of paint onto the paper plate.
  • Dip one end of the roll into the paint, and show the child how to stamp.

Heart Collage

A heart collage is a great craft for children who like to express themselves, and it’s also a good way to use up any scrap pieces of paper you have around the house.

Materials

  • Construction paper or cardstock
  • Additional paper, such as construction paper, magazine pages, or newspaper pages

Instructions

  • Have your child tear up pieces of the additional paper – or, if it’s appropriate, your child can cut small pieces with safety scissors (it’s best if the pieces are fairly large, so that attaching them is easier).
  • In the meantime, cut a large heart out of the construction paper or cardstock, and apply glue to one side.
  • Let your child place the pieces of paper all over the glued heart shape.

These four Valentine’s Day crafts are fun and easy for children, and are a wonderful opportunity to help them develop their creativity.

Tips for Successful Potty Training

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Tips for Successful Potty Training

Potty training is a milestone that can seem both exciting and frustrating. If you want to help make the transition easier for both your child and yourself, try out these 8 tips for successful potty training:

  1. Make sure it’s the right time. There is no ideal time to begin potty training for every child, as each situation is different. However, there are several signs your child may be ready, including: they seem interested in the toilet, they are curious about wearing underwear, they tell you when they need to go, they stay dry for two hours or more, and they can follow basic directions.
  2. Start with the basics. You may have a potty chair, but your child will need help figuring things out. You can help get your child used to the potty chair by having them sit on it (with our without diapers), and you can help your child understand the toilet’s function by dumping out a dirty diaper into it.
  3. Be patient. Learning to understand your child’s cues and working potty training into your family schedule can feel like a lot of work, especially when your child doesn’t seem to be progressing in the way you’d envisioned. However, stay positive and be patient. Consistency and patience are key to helping your child understand this transition.
  4. Develop a schedule. “Potty training sessions” can be a good way to help your child adapt to a routine and make using the toilet a habit. Have your child sit on the potty for a few minutes at regular intervals, and help pass the time in a fun way with a book, a song, or a toy.
  5. Praise your child. Your child is looking to you for guidance to ensure they are doing the right thing in the transition to the toilet. Letting your child know when they have a successful potty experience, no matter how small, will help them feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Not only will this help strengthen your bond, it’ll keep your child motivated too. Depending on your parenting style, tangible rewards can also encourage your child to keep going.
  6. Deal with setbacks positively. Even if your child has been doing well for a few days, they still could have an accident. If this happens, keep things positive. If your child is embarrassed or upset, comfort them and let them know everything is okay. There may have been a cause to this setback that you can fix, such as bottoms that are hard to quickly take off, or misreading their cues.
  7. Read books together. There are several books for children related to potty-training. Reading these together will help your child understand the potty, and you can discuss it together and answer any questions.
  8. Seek guidance at daycare or preschool. The caregivers at your child’s daycare or preschool are potty training experts. Not only do they help all kinds of children with this transition, but they know your child’s unique personality as well. At any stage in your child’s potty training transition, their caregivers can be a valuable source of information, suggestions, and moral support.

While you are in the midst of potty training your child, it can seem difficult for both of you. However, with our 8 tips for successful potty training, you may soon see that your child is ready to say goodbye to diapers.

How Involved Should Parents Be in Daycare?

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How Involved Should Parents Be in Daycare?

You want to make the most out of your child’s preschool or daycare experience, and sometimes you might wonder if you can, or should, get involved yourself.

The good news is: you can get involved in your child’s daycare or preschool. In fact, research shows that parents who get involved in daycare end up helping their child both academically and socially.

The benefits of getting involved in daycare or preschool

The greater the role you take in your child’s education at any stage, the greater the benefits are to your child. As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. Stable, quality relationships during a child’s early years are fundamental for developmental outcomes later in life.

Building on this foundation, your daycare will collaborate with you in your child’s education, offering support and strategies that you can continue to use at home. In observing the interactions between you and their daycare, children will learn critical life skills such as compromise, reasoning, respect for others’ opinions, and a sense of community. When educational goals and strategies are consistent both at home and at daycare, your child will feel more secure, and can learn about their world more confidently.

You chose your child’s daycare or preschool because you trusted the education of the caregivers/teachers, and their ability to encourage independent learning and investigation. Their expertise in early childhood development can be a great resource for you as a parent, at any stage. Ongoing communication between you and the daycare can help you ensure your child is developing and thriving.

How to get involved in your child’s daycare

All good childcare centers will keep you informed of your child’s progress on a regular basis, and will offer opportunities for parents to get involved. These opportunities can include:

  • An open visit policy for you to drop in and say hi
  • Parent committees
  • Regular nights for parents to socialize with each other
  • Field trips
  • Focus or discussion groups between parents and the daycare
  • New parent information nights
  • Regular newsletters from the daycare
  • Daycare events, assemblies, and celebrations
  • Participating in daycare-led volunteer and community service opportunities

A good childcare center should encourage parental involvement and collaboration. Together, you and your child’s daycare or preschool work in partnership for the successful development and education of your child. Your child’s support network will strengthen, and they will feel valued knowing that you are taking an active interest in their life.

Guidelines for Your Child’s Daycare Clothing

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Guidelines for Your Child's Daycare Clothing

When getting your child ready for preschool or daycare, it’s important to consider the clothing they will wear that day. The right clothing will ensure that your child is comfortable and happy, and can focus on learning new things.

Does your child need a uniform?

Some childcare centers require that children wear a uniform. With a uniform, there is one less thing to worry about every day, and children aren’t distracted by things like the superhero on their friend’s t-shirt. With a uniform, getting dressed each day will signal to your child that it’s time to prepare for their day at preschool or daycare.

If your childcare center does require a uniform, they will provide you with a list of guidelines to follow. These guidelines will cover not only the uniform itself, but also the appropriate shoes and jewelry. Childcare centers with uniforms will often require parents to send along one or two extra sets of clothing.

If your child does not need a uniform

For childcare centers that do not require a uniform, there are some additional guidelines to follow when it comes to clothing, including:

  • Clothing should be practical and comfortable. Comfortable clothes that fit properly will ensure that your child isn’t distracted by what they are wearing, and can focus on playing and learning. Clothes for preschool and daycare should also be easy to clean and free from hazards such as dangling strings or beads.
  • Ensure clothing is easy to get on and off. In daycare, diaper changes and potty breaks are frequent, and sometimes urgent. Make sure that your child’s outfit for the day will help avoid frustration for both your child and their caregivers.
  • Shoes should be safe. Footwear such as flip-flops or backless sandals are generally not appropriate for daycare. When running and playing, these shoes could increase the risk of injury.
  • Clothing should be weather-appropriate. Most childcare centers have an outdoor play area that is used regularly, so ensure that your child goes to daycare with appropriate clothing for the weather. Don’t forget related things such as sunscreen or mosquito repellent.
  • Label your child’s clothing. Daycare is a busy place, and items of clothing are often misplaced, forgotten, or accidentally put on a different child. Label your child’s clothing with their name, particularly items that will be removed such as mittens.
  • Send along an extra set of clothing. Outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and food can cause clothing to become soiled during your child’s day at preschool. Make sure to send along an extra set of clothing – including socks and underwear – in case things get messy.

What your child wears to daycare is an important consideration. With our guidelines for the right daycare clothing, your child will be comfortable and set up for a successful day of playing and learning.

What is a Sensory Table?

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What is a Sensory Table?

Children rely on their senses to discover and experience their world. While they may not be able to verbally communicate and investigate the way adults do, they can use their senses to gather information, and explore answers to questions they may have.

To this end, many childcare centers provide sensory tables to allow children to have the hands-on experiences that they use to help them learn.

A sensory table is typically a low table that holds one or more containers, which can then be filled with items. A tub can also be used, though a table can be more secure and comfortable for the child to use.

Typically, a sensory table is filled with mediums such as sand, water, and dried pasta; and materials such as buttons, scoops, and sponges. By interacting with all of the elements in a sensory table, the child can investigate different textures, weights, colors, and behaviors of objects. They may discover what happens to sand when it gets wet, understand that a small scoop holds fewer buttons than a large one, or learn that a sponge works by soaking up liquids.

Ideas for a sensory table

A good sensory table doesn’t need to be overly elaborate. Here are five suggestions for creating your own sensory experience at home:

  1. Miniature beach world – Your child can create a beach-inspired sensory experience with shells, water, sand, glass beads, and wood.
  2. Construction zone – Put existing construction toys to good use loading, lifting, and stacking rocks in different colors and sizes.
  3. Rainbow rice – Creating colored rice is easy, and children will love scooping, pouring, and mixing the colors together.
  4. Garden sensory bin – No matter the time of year, your child can learn about gardening with flowers, soil, rocks, shovels, and pots.
  5. Edible zoo – Children can design their own zoo, all with edible materials.

When planning your own sensory table at home, ensure that all mediums and materials are safe and won’t present a choking hazard. Playing with your children is a great way to not only keep them safe, but to also encourage them to investigate and explore.

A sensory table is a great way for children to learn how to independently explore the world around them, problem-solve, develop creativity, and refine conversational skills. Try making a sensory table for your child today and you’ll soon discover that the possibilities for learning are endless.

Choosing the Right Bedtime for Your Child

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Choosing the Right Bedtime for Your Child

Sleep is important for everyone, but particularly for children, who are rapidly developing both mentally and physically. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids spend 40% of their childhoods asleep.

Choosing the right bedtime for your child does involve a bit of calculation and patience, but here are some general guidelines you can follow.

Determine how much sleep your child needs

The amount of sleep your child needs at night depends on their age. Considering daytime naps, this is how much sleep each age group typically needs:

  • Infants from four to 11 months: 9-11 hours at night, 3-6 hours during the day
  • Toddlers: 10-12 hours at night, 1-3 hours during the day
  • Preschoolers: 10-13 hours at night, 0-2.5 hours during the day

Because every family and every child is different, these times are a guide rather than a strict rule.

Establish a set bedtime and wake-up time

Choosing the same time each day to put your child to bed and wake them up is a good idea, as it will help them understand what’s expected of them, and give them a predictable routine to follow. According to a recent study by London’s University College, irregular bedtimes are associated with behaviors such as hyperactivity, acting out, and not getting along with others. However, these behaviors are often reversible when the child is on a regular sleep schedule.

One way you can help to set your child’s regular bedtime is to watch their actions for sleep cues. These cues include rubbing their eyes, yawning, acting fussy, crying, or having difficulty focusing. Finding out when your child is naturally ready for sleep in the evening can help you pick a regular bedtime that will be easier to stick to.

Set up a nighttime routine

A regular and consistent bedtime routine is beneficial for everyone, children included. For toddlers and preschoolers, a bedtime routine is a series of cues that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

The ideal nighttime routine varies with each child and family, but the key is to make each activity relaxing. Some examples of good bedtime activities for children include:

  • Giving your child a bath
  • Brushing their teeth and washing their face
  • Reading together
  • Singing a lullaby
  • Choosing pyjamas together
  • Praying
  • Talking quietly together about the day
  • Giving your child a gentle massage

Successful bedtime routines are consistent and soothing, helping your child drift off to sleep happily. With these tips, you can help to choose the right bedtime to set your child up for a happy and fun day ahead.

Setting Family Goals for the New Year

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Setting Family Goals for the New Year

The new year is nearly upon us, and many of us use this time to reflect on the past twelve months, and set goals for the future. When you’re thinking about the new year, why not set some family goals as well as personal ones? Here are five ideas for family goals you can set this new year:

1) Have dinner together at the table. Many families have busy work and social schedules that can make it difficult to eat dinner together. However, try setting a goal to eat together as a family more often – distraction-free.

2) Plan a regular movie night. Pop some popcorn, put away the smartphones and devices, and settle in for a cozy family movie night at home.

3) Spend more time outdoors. This can be as simple as going for a walk around the block after dinner, or a game of soccer in the backyard. Families with older children may also enjoy more involved outdoor activities such as a hike through the woods.

4) Eat healthier. Try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your family meals, or replace sugary sodas with water and milk. Small changes are easier to stick with than big ones. You can ask your toddler or preschooler to help you by mixing ingredients in the kitchen, or choosing the best apples in the grocery store.

5) Practice better communication. All families can improve their communication skills, even toddlers and preschoolers. As a family, practice calmly discussing issues and feelings, ensuring that a respectful two-way conversation takes place.

Tips for setting family goals

Setting family goals for the new year is best done together, so everyone can share ideas and expectations. Preschoolers and toddlers can be involved in this process, too. Younger children may have more broad goals, such as spending more time with mommy or daddy. You can then take these simple goals and create a more detailed plan that incorporates what your child wants.

Setting an action plan is crucial to helping you meet your family goals. For example, if a regular movie night is one of your goals, you’ll need to decide when you will start, how often the movie night will occur, who will choose the movie, what snacks you will prepare, and what time of day it will take place.

Throughout the year, check in with your family to ensure the goals are proceeding according to plan, and that everyone is happy with the way things are going. Before long, you may see that your family goals for the new year are becoming a family routine.

Dealing With Family Holiday Stress

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Dealing With Family Holiday Stress

The holiday season can be magical and exciting for the whole family, but it can also feel like a whirlwind of activity. Often, this busy time of year can lead to stress in every member of the family. Here are some tips to help you and your children prevent and deal with holiday stress.

Set realistic expectations

For parents, the holiday season can feel extra stressful. You may feel self-imposed pressure to provide the perfect holiday for your children, or this pressure may also come from external sources. However, trying to achieve this level of perfection is unrealistic, and can lead to stress for everyone involved.

Instead, set realistic expectations for the holidays. Think about what’s most important for your family, and determine what things you can pare down or cut out altogether. For example, if you want to teach your children the value of spending time with loved ones, you may want to make your family holiday meal the main focus of the day, and worry less about having the perfect decorations around the house.

Plan properly for outings

While there’s no denying that a spontaneous family trip to get your child’s picture taken with Santa can be fun, it’s important to be prepared during the holiday season. At the very least, ensure that outings are scheduled around your preschooler or toddler’s naptimes, and bring snacks and distraction aids to help make the outing run smoothly. Discuss the day’s plans with your child, and help him to understand what’s expected of him. Respect your limits and your child’s limits, and don’t expect more than what anyone can handle.

Take time away together

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the holiday season’s external expectations. In fact, you might even find yourself pulled in so many different directions that your own family holiday planning can take a backseat. It’s important to spend time together as a family, whether it’s a day spent creating holiday crafts, or even a family movie night after dinner. Taking time away from holiday obligations to be together will help to recharge and relax the whole family.

Remember to communicate

The holidays are busy, and things will never go perfectly. When emotions run high, it’s important to keep the lines of respectful communication open with the family. Toddlers and preschoolers see the world very differently from their parents, but helpful two-way communication is still possible. Through conversation, you can help your child express and understand her emotions. You can also help her to understand your perspective. Sharing your feelings, expectations, and thoughts throughout the holiday season can go a long way in preventing stressful situations for the whole family.

No matter what you have planned, the holiday season can seem busier than any other time of the year. To help the whole family avoid and reduce stress, remember to be realistic, develop strategies and plans, spend time together, and communicate. You may find that the holiday season isn’t quite as stressful as it seems.

7 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Spirit

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7 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Spirit

No matter what you celebrate this time of year, you may be looking for ideas about how you can help your child celebrate the spirit of the holidays. Here are seven family-friendly ways to get into the holiday spirit this year.

1) Learn about holiday traditions around the world

This time of the year sees many different sorts of holidays celebrated all across the globe, and learning about them will help your child understand other cultures. Visit National Geographic Kids with your child to read more about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and others.

2) Create holiday crafts together

Your toddler or preschooler will love getting into the holiday spirit by making crafts and decorations to help your family celebrate. Some examples include: a paper wreath, handprint menorahs, and a flag made with traditional Kwanzaa colors. Decorating together is another way to help your child feel the holiday joy.

3) Focus on good deeds

The holiday season can seem overwhelming, with all the shopping-related advertising that begins before Thanksgiving is barely over. However, you can help your child understand that the holidays are about more than presents. Depending on your child’s age and what activities are available in your area, you can do any number of things from donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, choosing old toys or clothing to give to charity, or even helping you bake gingerbread men to give to his preschool classmates. By instilling in your child the importance of being kind and helpful to others, he will begin to see that the holiday season is a time for goodwill as well as gifts.

4) Spend time with family and friends

Another way to help your child understand the meaning of the holiday season is to spend quality time with family and good friends. Having a small group of people over for coffee, or visiting family for dinner, are two ways to help demonstrate to your child how nice it is to show your loved ones that you care this time of year. You can help her to feel like a vital part of the visit by asking her to help you with certain small tasks, such as helping younger kids with a toy, or setting the table.

5) Start new traditions

Young children love to feel like they are helping and being involved in family activities, and the holidays are an ideal time to show your toddler or preschooler he’s a vital part of the family too. Starting a new holiday tradition with your child, whether large or small, will help to build a sense of family unity and happy memories he will look back on fondly.

6) Track Santa’s progress

Beginning on December 24th, you and your family can track Santa’s progress around the world on the NORAD Tracks Santa website. Before Christmas Eve, the site also provides fun Christmas games and music to help get you and your child in the Christmas spirit.

7) Get out in your community

Most communities across America hold Christmas or other holiday events, and many are family-friendly. As a family, try to discover and attend as many of these events as you can. Not only will your child have fun and enjoy festive activities, but she’ll also begin to understand the importance of community, another important pillar of the holiday season.

There are many ways you can help your child celebrate the holiday spirit, including learning more about other traditions, creating holiday crafts, and tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. Try our seven family-friendly tips to experience the joy and magic of the holiday season today.

How to Handle Tantrums Gracefully

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How to Handle Tantrums Gracefully

When your child has a tantrum, it can feel very overwhelming for you as well. How do you handle your child’s tantrum without melting down yourself? Here are six tips on how to deal with your child’s tantrums as gracefully as possible.

  1. Understand what’s behind a tantrum. Tantrums are a symptom of frustration. When a young child lacks the necessary words to explain what she wants or how she’s feeling, she gets upset and breaks down. For an older toddler, tantrums can happen when they want to assert themselves, but are unable to get the result they expect.
  2. Try to catch a tantrum before it begins. Many parents quickly learn to recognize the signs of an impending meltdown in their child. One way to stop a tantrum before it erupts is to distract your child while he still has a handle on his emotions. For example, if he is growing frustrated at not being able to play with a certain toy, you might begin to read to him from his favorite book. He might forget all about the toy and continue playing happily.
  3. Get to the root of the problem. There are different kinds of tantrums, caused by anything from frustration to tiredness to your child not getting what she wants. Often, the type of tantrum will inform how you can best handle the situation. If your child is frustrated because she doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell you what toy she wants to play with, you can ask her to point to it. This teaches her how to cope with her frustration. On the other hand, if she is having a tantrum because she’s not getting the candy that she wants in the grocery store, the best option may be to remove her from the situation entirely.
  4. Don’t try to negotiate in the middle of a meltdown. When a child is in the middle of a tantrum, trying to reason with him is often futile. His emotions have taken over, and he likely won’t respond to you telling him that his sister didn’t mean to drink his water and she’s very sorry. Instead, the best thing might be to wait until he’s worked out his frustration, and try to talk to him about what happened when he’s calmer.
  5. Model calm behavior. When your toddler or preschooler is in the middle of a tantrum, it can also be very draining on you as a parent. However, if you do your best to remain calm and rational during your child’s tantrum, you’ll reinforce that yelling and screaming isn’t always the best coping strategy. Keeping your composure in the middle of a toddler meltdown isn’t easy, but take some deep breaths and remember that it’s okay to give yourself a time-out sometimes, too.
  6. Take advantage of the quiet times. When your child is happily helping you pick the best apples in the grocery store, it’s the perfect time to reinforce and praise her good behavior. You can also talk about ways to behave in public when she is calm enough to understand, such as before you arrive at the store. Set your child up for success by teaching her clearly what behaviors work. Of course, she won’t always remember, but she will have a strong foundation to start from.

Temper tantrums in toddlers and preschoolers are frustrating for every parent, but they are a normal part of your young child’s development, and something that he will grow out of. With our six tips for handling tantrums gracefully, you and your child can get through the meltdowns while teaching him important coping and reasoning skills.

Helping Your Child Overcome Fears

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Helping Your Child Overcome Fears

We can all remember being afraid of something as children, whether it was sleeping in the dark, monsters under the bed, or a neighborhood dog. As a parent, you may have noticed your own child exhibiting certain fears, and might wonder where it comes from and how to help him get through it.

Here are some tips to help your child overcome his fears.

Understand what children are afraid of

The sorts of things children typically find scary vary by age. Babies often experience anxiety around people they don’t recognize, or become distressed over loud noises. Between 10 and 18 months, toddlers begin to become afraid of their parents leaving, worried that they might not return. Preschool-age children begin to develop fears based in the imagination, such as monsters, or certain animals.

Of course, every child is different, but knowing what things could make your child afraid can help you understand why she reacts so strongly.

Respect your child’s feelings

While you can easily see that there are no monsters under your preschooler’s bed, that fear is very real to your child. Encourage your child to talk about what she’s feeling, and offer calm reassurance without judgement. Simply talking about why she’s scared can help her feel more connected to you, and your calm demeanor could help her see that the monsters might not be quite so scary after all.

Practice confronting fears

As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from what scares him. However, if you protect him too much, he might not ever learn how to cope with his fear. It’s important to find that balance between total avoidance and too much exposure. For example, if your child is feeling anxiety over talking to other kids, you can help him to practice by asking him to simply say “hi” to someone new the next time you’re at the park. He may feel comfortable enough to play with his new friend, but if he runs right back to you after saying “hi,” that is still progress that should be rewarded. If your child seems comfortable, you can build on that progress next time with another step, such as asking a new friend his or her name.

Teach coping strategies

Teaching your child coping strategies is an important way to help her work on overcoming her own fears, and develop a sense of self-confidence. In addition to the fear-confrontation technique described earlier, some other examples of coping strategies include: positive statements she can say to herself when she gets scared, drawing pictures of happy things that she can look at if she’s anxious, or physically calming actions such as taking deep breaths. These strategies typically work best before your child reaches a state of panic or excessive fear, so practice them with her as often as you can before things get too much for her to handle.

All children have a fear of some sort, and some of those fears may sometimes seem irrational to adults. However, by understanding where fears come from, discussing your child’s feelings, practicing confrontation in small steps, and teaching coping strategies, these anxious or scared feelings can be overcome.

Preventing Cold and Flu in Children

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Preventing Cold and Flu in Children

Cold and flu season is upon us, and many of your child’s friends may already have succumbed to sniffles, sneezing, and a runny nose. In fact, more than 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized due to the flu each year in America.

Even though your child can’t be guaranteed an illness-free winter, there are some precautions you can take to lower the odds.

  • Help your child wash her hands before and after every meal, after using the toilet, and after playing outside.
  • Teach your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his elbow instead of his hands.
  • Strengthen your child’s immunity with healthy foods and plenty of sleep.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the yearly flu vaccine, which protects against viruses that research suggests will be common that year.
  • Clean germs off from high-traffic areas such as doorknobs, countertops, tables, and toys.
  • Discourage sharing of food or drinks, even if the other person isn’t sick. This will help establish the habit for the future.
  • Don’t force your child to attend a party or playdate if she isn’t feeling well. This can help prevent the spread of germs to other children.
  • Keep active! Exercise helps to boost the immune system. Weather permitting, always try to go outside as a family and get moving!
  • Reduce your time spent in crowded areas during cold and flu season, which peaks between December and March.
  • Keep your child away from obviously sick people as much as possible. If contact is unavoidable, ensure your child washes his hands afterwards and avoids touching his eyes, nose, or mouth.

While there is unfortunately no cure for the common cold or the flu, there are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child becoming ill this year, as well as spreading germs to others.

6 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Gratitude

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6 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Gratitude

This Thanksgiving is an ideal time to help your preschooler learn about gratitude. Though young children may not be able to express gratitude in the same way adults can, teaching them how to be thankful will offer them many long-term benefits. Research has shown that thankful children and teenagers are more optimistic, more satisfied with their surroundings, give more emotional support to others – even have higher grades.

Try these six ways to help teach your preschooler about gratitude this Thanksgiving.

1) Model gratitude in your daily life. Whether it’s hearing you say a simple thank you, or having a discussion about the good things that happened during your day, small examples of everyday thankfulness will make an impression on your toddler.

2) Encourage generous acts. Preschoolers love to feel helpful, and Thanksgiving offers many chances to encourage this behavior. For example, you can suggest they help other boys and girls by donating a toy, or some of their old clothing. When having this discussion, avoid the tendency to motivate by guilt. Instead, explain to them that some children don’t have toys, food, or clothes. Your preschooler may surprise you with how much they are willing to give.

3) Say no from time to time. If a preschooler is always able to do what they want, or gets any toy or snack they ask for, they begin to learn that life is about endless rewards. Thankfulness is all about understanding that life’s rewards are not something to take for granted.

4) Teach them that things aren’t most important in life. With all the product advertising aimed directly at children, it can be hard for your preschooler to understand that objects are not the most important parts of life. You can help to counteract this by talking about less tangible things you’re thankful for, such as family mealtimes, having enough food to eat, or spending time with a friend.

5) Connect the act of giving with the meaning behind it. Whether your child receives a physical gift or an experiential gift, it’s important to help her understand the kind thought behind it. For example, you can say, “Wasn’t it nice for Grandma to knit you those mittens? She wants you to be warm in the winter.” This will help your preschooler see that gifts are given for altruistic reasons.

6) Ask for help around the house. Whether it’s putting away their toys or helping you to mix ingredients in the kitchen, age-appropriate chores can help preschoolers develop a sense of thankfulness. When they get first-hand knowledge about all the work that goes into the food they eat or the home they live in, they can begin to understand that these things don’t come easily.

The days leading up to Thanksgiving can feel like a whirlwind of planning, travel, and coordinating schedules. However, our six ways to teach your preschooler about thankfulness will give him a strong foundation in empathy, and will set him up for a grateful future.

The Daycare Adjustment for Parents

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The Daycare Adjustment for Parents

When your child starts daycare or preschool, it can be an adjustment for the adults in the family as well. You may be returning to work, or simply wondering how to get used to your child being in daycare. Here are some tips to help parents adjust to their child being in daycare or preschool.

Going back to work

Whether it’s the end of your maternity leave or you are re-entering the workforce, going back to work can be stressful. This is entirely normal – you have spent several hours a day playing, learning, and bonding with your child, so returning to the daily grind of work can be jarring. Many parents feel separation anxiety of their own during their first few days. You may wonder how your child is doing without you, or even feeling guilty about having to leave him at daycare. You may also experience struggles managing your new schedule and responsibilities.

The importance of daycare

Firstly, it is important to remember that you chose your child’s daycare provider because you knew that he would be in good hands there. While you’re at work, your child is being played with, sung to, read to, talked with, fed, and diapered. Daycare is a wonderful opportunity for your child to practice valuable social skills, learn educational concepts, and develop his independence. A good daycare center will also encourage two-way communication, and allow you to check in to see how your child is doing from time to time.

The work/life balance

When it comes to managing your work and home life, there may be some hiccups initially, but soon you will begin to see where you can make improvements to ensure you’re not underperforming in either area. For example, you might cook and freeze several days’ worth of dinners on Sunday, so that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping and meal preparation along with daycare pickups and your work responsibilities. Also, discuss dividing up home duties with other members of your family, to make it easier for everyone.

Parents returning to work can struggle with the adjustment to daycare. However, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself time to make the transition back to working life. Soon, you’ll find that your new daily life has become normal and enjoyable – for both you and your child.

Running Errands With Your Young Child

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Running Errands With Your Young Child

Sometimes, running errands with a preschooler or toddler can be stressful for both the parent and the child. Before you make your next trip out with your young child, here are some tips that could make things run smoother for everyone.

Start with a positive mindset

Toddlers and preschoolers learn by example, so treat your errands accordingly. While getting ready, talk about the things your child will see or experience that she likes. For example, “When we go to the library, we get to go on a bus!” or “You can help me choose the best fruit at the grocery store.”

Carry this positive attitude as much as possible throughout your errand, as well. While safety concerns will necessitate some sternness, don’t forget to praise your child whenever she does something good, such as talking in her indoor voice on the bus. Set behavior expectations and boundaries, but remember to let your child know when she has done well.

Time your errands correctly

You can likely guess how successful your trip to the grocery store will be if you go before your child has eaten or napped. If possible, it may also be wise to run your errands when places are likely to be quieter overall. Smaller crowds and shorter lines could reduce the likelihood of your child – or you – getting overwhelmed.

Keep your child distracted

Spending a long time in a line or in a waiting room tests everyone’s patience, but for a toddler or preschooler, that frustration point is reached much quicker. To help reduce the risk of a meltdown, occupy him with something he’ll enjoy. Bring along some fun distraction items such as a couple of books, or even some portable snacks such as crackers. You can also play games together while you’re waiting. For example, you can ask your child to point out all the things around you that are yellow, or count the number of people in the room with you.

Teach public manners as early as possible

At home, you can begin teaching your child how to behave in public. This can include things such as not shouting, waiting her turn, or speaking respectfully to you and others. While toddlers and preschoolers are unlikely to have good public manners all the time, you can teach your child important social skills she can build upon in the future.

As a parent, you know your child best. You may be able to do only one errand at a time with him, but with patience, consistence, positivity, and good planning, you might soon find that the process gets easier.

Teaching Your Young Child Manners in Public

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Teaching Your Young Child Manners in Public

If you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, you know that it can be tough to teach good manners and behavior in public. However, it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips for teaching your child good manners in public, so you can more confidently run errands, visit friends, and even eat in a restaurant with your young child.

Teach respect early

Respect is the fundamental foundation of good manners, and it can be taught even to preschoolers who are testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior. To teach your child respect, the most important thing to do is to model the sort of behavior you want your child to learn. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” and demonstrate respect in all your interactions. Even in disagreements, your child should see that calm words get a better result than yelling or shouting.

Practice patience

When out in public, you and your child may need to wait in line or sit for lengthy periods of time. It’s not realistic to expect your preschooler to sit quietly for a long stretch right away, but you can start getting him comfortable with waiting patiently at home. You can practice patience by encouraging sharing, or asking him to wait for one minute while you pour his juice. You can also ask him to sit with you at the table during family meals, but keep the length of time short to begin with. For example, try five minutes to start, and then build on that next time if all goes well.

Teach age-appropriate table manners

Getting your toddler or preschooler to demonstrate table manners as good as an adult’s isn’t reasonable, but you can start with some basics that are also restaurant-friendly. For example, you can encourage your toddler not to yell or throw food from the table. Preschoolers can learn table manners such as not talking with their mouth full.

Teach greetings

Depending on their age, a child’s greeting may range from a simple wave, all the way up to saying “Hello” and using the person’s name. Encouraging your child to say hello and goodbye to your guests may seem like a cute behavior, but it sets up a foundation for further interactions with people in a social setting. It also develops self-confidence, though shy children may not be very keen to say hello to strangers initially.

Praise good behavior

Children are more likely to repeat a behavior if they are rewarded for it in some way. When your child performs an act of good manners, such as picking up a toy that a playmate dropped, it’s important to let her know that what she did was good. However, resist the urge to over-praise. This can teach your child that everyday good manners are remarkable in some way, and not the norm. A simple, “Thank you for picking up Carly’s toy for her,” will be sufficient.

Don’t expect perfection

Toddlers and preschoolers have many things to learn, so don’t expect them to display perfect manners too soon. There will be instances where your child forgets to say “thank you,” or runs and hides instead of greeting a visitor, but that doesn’t mean he’s permanently forgotten good manners. Instead, try again next time. Treat good manners as an everyday life behavior, and it will eventually become second nature to him.

Dealing With Preschooler Nightmares

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Dealing With Preschooler Nightmares

As adults, we may have forgotten what it was like to have nightmares as a young child. With their expansive imaginations and lack of real-world context, a scary dream can seem especially vivid to a preschooler – even if he knows it wasn’t real.

Here are some ways you can help your preschooler deal with his nightmares, and reduce the frequency of future bad dreams.

Give comfort and reassurance

It’s a good idea to comfort your child with a hug or a familiar book after she’s had a nightmare. Your presence is very reassuring, and she’ll know that nothing bad can happen to her now that she’s awake. However, try to resist the urge to let her continue her night’s sleep in your bed; this could encourage a habit you may have a difficult time breaking later on.

When comforting your child, remember to stay calm and pragmatic. Your child models your own behavior, so listening to her describe her nightmare without seeming anxious will show her that everything is okay.

Be mindful of “monster-hunting” activities

Giving your preschooler tools to deal with his nightmares can help him feel secure. Many parents like to search the child’s room with him to show him there are no monsters. Others create imaginative solutions to help ward off scary creatures, such as a pleasant smelling “monster spray.” These actions can temporarily assure your child that he’s safe, but it may also accidentally reinforce his fear that monsters exist.

Instead, teach coping skills such as talking about their nightmare, and give him a sense of comfort by offering him a stuffed animal or nightlight. One interesting strategy some families use is having the child draw a picture of his bad dream, and then throwing the drawing away as a symbolic gesture.

Help to reduce nightmares

Even though you can’t completely prevent your child from having nightmares, try these strategies to reduce their frequency:

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Create a cozy, safe sleep environment for your child where she can feel comfortable and secure.
  • Ensure your child doesn’t read scary stories or watch scary movies too close to bedtime.
  • Try to lower the amount of stress in your child’s daily life.
  • If your child is anxious about something, talk through it during daylight hours.
  • If your child has recently experienced a traumatic event, seek help from a medical professional. It’s possible that your child needs outside help to cope.

Nightmares vs. night terrors

Preschoolers can also experience night terrors, which seem similar to nightmares. However, while nightmares tend to occur during deep REM sleep, night terrors happen soon after the child falls asleep. When a child is experiencing a night terror, he may appear to be awake and acting frightened. He may talk to himself or shout, or move around in his bed.

Because night terrors appear more dramatic and immediate than a nightmare, they can seem quite alarming to parents. However, a child experiencing a night terror will often calm down on his own and continue sleeping. It may help to gently comfort your child, such as rubbing his arm or back, but attempting to wake him may make it more difficult for him to fall asleep again. While night terrors appear very stressful, children rarely have any memory of the event the next day.

Nightmares are a common occurrence for young children. Though they are frightening and confusing for the child, parents have a wealth of strategies at their disposal to deal with preschooler nightmares.