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HELP 4 EVERY PARENT

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Playing with food

Most babies learn to eat solid food fairly easily. They may pull faces and shudder when a strange food is spooned into their mouth the first few times but very soon are eating a good helping and are eager to eat. By the age of two, however, the appetite gets smaller because the rate of growth is slower. A two year old may develop definite food preferences. Food that has been eagerly eaten previously, suddenly loses its appeal. What can you do at mealtime if your child dawdles when eating, refuses food, plays with the food, or wonít try new food?

Here are some suggestions:

  • instead of full meals, allow the child to have small snacks often

  • prepare a small plate of different types of food and allow the child to nibble while playing

  • avoid confrontation

  • prepare food in fun ways e.g. bread cut in different shapes, fruit faces, muffins and rice cakes decorated as faces

  • allow child to dip food into sauce or yoghurt

  • buy cream cheese

  • make the helpings small

  • donít let the child think food is an issue

  • ask child to help prepare the food

  • buy a kid's recipe book and look at the pictures get the child to choose a meal from the book and make it for the family

  • if drinks are most popular, puree fruit add yoghurt or milk

  • children who are fussy eaters often eat better at child care where they have peers eating food with them

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Remembering

Even young children have excellent memories but can also be very forgetful just like adults. My daughter was amazed recently when she told her 2 Ĺ year old that they were going to a nearby town. The child asked if they would be going to their old house, a place they left over a year ago. She recalled different places in the garden and what the inside of the house was like as well as games they used to play there. It is just as amazing to find that most children seem to forget within five minutes when they are asked to tidy up, wash for dinner, put dirty clothes in the laundry basket, turn off the TV, do homework or get ready for bed.

Children like adults seem to have selective memory. We remember pleasurable things. We remember stressful things, we delay doing things that we are not interested in or that donít have an immediate reward.  As children grow older, they take on more responsibility for their own actions. There is some gap between this stage and the stage in which they also consider the effect their actions or inaction has on other people.

We need to be:

  • patient

  • keep calm

  • give frequent reminders

  • explain why we need things done

  • ask the child if they have a problem with a request and discuss it  

  • decide on appropriate consequences that you can follow through with.

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Arguments

Arguments can be difficult in any family and the older the children get, the more arguments seem to occur. Babies accept everything the parents do but by the time the baby becomes a toddler, arguments begin. The first argument occurs when the toddler says Ďnoí as a response to a request or a direction to come, or to do something. It is an exciting stage in your childís development because it means that he or she can make a decision and has opinions about things and can express those opinions. The problems begin when saying no or refusing to follow directions becomes a testing of wills. The parent wants to stay in control and often needs to, because of safety, but the child is equally determined. What can one do?

One can diffuse the situation with a young child by

  • distracting hi/her

  • offer an alternative

  • give the child choices in many aspects of their life

  • be consistent

  • have suitable expectations for the child at each stage of development

  • be reasonable in your demands

  • discuss the reasons for your decisions with older children

  • ask them to explain their reasons.

Make a point of having family discussions about many topics on which people may have a variety of views, show that you can respect the views of others even though your values are different, discuss the consequences of actions if discipline is necessary and choose appropriate ones for the age and stage of development of the child.

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Opening doors

Doors fascinate small children. They practise and practise until they perfect the act of turning a knob or sliding the door panel. They devise games so that they are constantly coming in and out. Parents need to come to terms with doors that bang, doors that constantly open and let in flies, cupboard doors left open that reveal untidy shelves to visitors, and doors that can allow the child to have access to dangerous goods.  As soon as a toddler can climb, doors that were out of reach previously, are now attractive to the child. It is then necessary to have child-proof catches.

Keys are another fascinating challenge to children. They are harder to turn than a knob but can easily be drawn out of the keyhole and disappear during a game or even worse be dropped inside the room, before the door is shut. I was reminded of all this recently when my grand daughter was playing in an outside room that can only be opened with a key. I was gardening nearby but she wanted to go in and out of the room, shutting it and opening it constantly. I became very nervous. There is only one key and what would I do if Estelle shut the key in the room?  What if she found the little catch on the lock and locked herself in? I remembered Shirley Hughesís book Alfie Gets in First. I guess it is a situation many parents have experienced. My brother locked my parents out when he was small. They initially thought it a great joke but as time ticked away, the joke disappeared. With toddlers vigilance and safety measures are vital.

Children can learn quite early that there are some doors that they are not permitted to open. If you allocate a door or two they are allowed to play with, the problem might be solved.

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Speech and language development

Clear speech should be developing rapidly by three years and if this isnít the case, professional help should be sought. There are several reasons for speech and language delay.

Hearing is a major concern as children learn to speak by hearing speech. If the child cannot hear clearly, sounds wonít be reproduced clearly.

Ear infections are a common cause of hearing loss. It is not easy to diagnose deafness in your child because a child learns very quickly how to understand what is happening by clues in the environment, e.g. facial expressions and body language of those nearby. If people outside the family cannot understand your child, have his/her hearing checked by an audiologist.

Habit is another cause of poor speech. Always be a good model to your children. When your child is learning to speak, pronounce words correctly instead of copying their attempt. If you copy the childís speech, their immature words such at dat for cat and take for cake, will persist and become habit.

A three year old will have a vocabulary of almost 1000 words. If your three year old has only a very small vocabulary, or is not responding correctly to simple questions or directions, seek help.

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Bed time

Bed time should be a pleasurable time for both children and parents. In many modern families, children donít have a regular bedtime but are allowed to stay up until they fall asleep or until the parents are ready for bed. I canít see that this is in the best interests of either the children or the parents. Children must get sufficient sleep, up to ten hours is necessary, and parents too need child-free time if their own relationship is to thrive.

Children who develop night owl habits must wake early when they get to school age and late nights will cause them to wake grumpily. The earlier that a happy bed time routine is begun, the easier it will be to establish.  My little granddaughter was put to bed after each feed with a tape of soothing music playing softly. By the time she was a few months old, she shut her eyes and snuggled down as soon as she heard the music. Cuddles and quiet games and a bedtime story are part of her ritual at three years.

If you have a baby and older children too, the older ones will need your undivided attention in the evening for some quality time, so getting the baby down early is necessary. When baby is down, help with homework, play some quiet game with the kids and keep the bedtime story ritual going. Preparing clothes for the next day and preparing lunches can be part of the winding down time. This is  a good time to listen to, or report on the dayís activities.

When children can read to themselves, they still enjoy hearing a story read by a parent. Encourage them to read from a library book as well, before putting out the light

If your bedtime ritual isnít working try a new one and remember to consult the children about their ideas. Explain why they need a long sleep. For me there is nothing to compare with early morning and seeing the world come alive. I'm glad I'm not a night owl.

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Developing physical skills

Iíve been thinking about young babies over the past few days as I had photos from a friend with her newly born baby, and one from my niece who has a four month old. The photos are delightful. When I see the next photos, no doubt Iíll see a big difference in development. Babies reach new stages so quickly. The new born studies the faces within focus and listens to voices. Within a short time those familiar faces and voices are recognised and comfort him/her.

At six weeks baby begins to respond to our voices with soft sounds and smiles. By four months baby watches changes in the environment and is trying to interact with it by reaching out to touch things. Hands and feet are now used with a purpose.

At six months baby will be rolling over unassisted and sitting up with support. By eight or nine months, crawling is close, or maybe achieved.

At twelve months baby will be standing with support and trying to walk. Instead of gurgling, baby will understand many words and be trying to say some. What a huge achievement within one year. Of course some babies may achieve these milestones faster or slower than this. The daughter of another niece of mine was standing alone and taking several steps at seven months. She didnít bother with crawling at all!

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Immunisation

This year some babies in Australia have died from whooping cough and many cases have been diagnosed. It is a frightening disease when it strikes, as the baby is wracked by a continuous hacking cough that affects the whole body exhausting the infant and very quickly pneumonia sets in. The disease had been almost unheard of for decades as a vaccination program was introduced in the 1950ís. Doctors and child health workers recommend that babies be vaccinated by eight weeks of age. Thousands of children world wide each year are saved from contracting the disease and other life threatening diseases such as diphtheria, measles, tetanus and polio because of vaccination programs. However, not all people are in favour of vaccination. One group in Australia, the Australian Vaccination Network, actively campaigns against immunisation claiming that the toxins in vaccinations are too great causing severe side effects such as paralysis, autism and ADHD. Many parents, afraid of the consequences, are therefore choosing not to have their children immunised. It is true that some babies have a severe reaction but there is no scientific proof that the conditions above are caused by the vaccines. There is scientific proof that immunisation works. Ultimately parents must make the decision and take the responsibility, but if large sections of the population are not protected the disease will affect more and more children and tragically, deaths will occur.

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Babies and Hearing

Language acquisition begins before birth. In fact the foetus reacts to sound at 16 weeks. Before birth a baby learns to differentiate between the parents voices and how the voice expresses emotions. Baby also recognizes the most important words, remembers how words are separated, and learns the rhythms and tunes of speech and music. So any baby born deaf, has already lost months of language learning opportunities. Many children are not diagnosed until four or five years of age so have lost a great deal of learning opportunities when the brain is at its highest rate of learning. The earlier the intervention, the better it will be for the child. It is important to know the signs of hearing loss. In conditions such as glue ear, loss may come and go so any loss in hearing noticed during a cold, or at other times should be investigated further.

Signs of hearing loss in babies

  • Doesnít startle at loud noise

  • should turn towards source of sound from three months

  • should be saying single words such as dad at 1 year

  • turns head only when sees person, not when name is called

  • seems to hear some sounds but not others.

  • with older children, speech is delayed or indistinct speech. Child ignores or doesnít follow instructions, wants tv and radio up high, often asks 'what?' when you say something.

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Saying thank you.

ĎThank youí and ĎIím sorryí are two of the most important phrases in our society but sometimes they are hard to say or even to feel. We need to teach these words to our children when they are very young. Many adults say Ďtaaí to infants when they give or take something from babies. Some always say the whole phrase, Ďthank you.í From nine months my youngest granddaughter said her own version of these words whenever she handed an adult something. At 15 months, she is well on the way to understanding how to use the words. By example she will also learn when to use sorry.

With Christmas coming many families will exchange gifts. There are bound to be some disappointments as well as thrills and excitement. In my family it was always important that children contact relatives and friends straight away to thank them for gifts. I still carry this on and am disappointed if I donít even hear if a gift has arrived.

As children grow older, we need to remind them to keep being polite. Saying thank you isnít always easy. I was reminded of this when I read an article recently. We occasionally need to show appreciation for help, or for gifts that we didnít really want. Most of us have been hurt at some stage by the comments of children when our efforts to please them have been met with anger, displeasure, disappointment or rudeness. It is worse still to have reactions like this from adults, so we need to teach children how to behave graciously. Discuss with your children some appropriate ways to respond. Make a game in which the family pretends that certain difficult situations have arisen and it is up to everyone to come up with a suitable kind, polite response.

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Children in Kindergarten.

Did your child start school this year? Are you delighted with his/her progress or are you not sure what is happening? Is your child happy and enthusiastic? At most schools parents are welcome to ask questions and to visit the class to see the children in action. Throughout the year there will be several opportunities to do this so try to seize the chance. Look at how the children respond to the teacher, look at samples of the childrenís work. How well does your child concentrate?  Does the child seem to fit into the group confidently and happily? Does he/she complete work in the time given? Is you child sitting with children of similar skills? Can your child do the given homework easily?

The first year at school, with its very different environment, is the time when some learning difficulties are picked up. One difficulty is known as APD or Auditory Processing Disorder. The causes of this are not known but children with the condition often donít hear subtle differences in sounds especially in a noisy environment such as a classroom. They can have trouble concentrating, remembering instructions, and have problems learning letters and the phonics that will help them learn to read and spell. Of course kidsí rate of learning varies from child to child and if your child is slower at learning to recognise the letters of the alphabet or in copying words, it may not mean there is a learning difficulty. However, it is worth asking questions.

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Kids don't see danger

From the time they are toddlers, most kids love exploring things and places. They are not very conscious of dangers. They often learn through experience about things that are hot or sharp, but we canít let them learn through experience about traffic, seatbelts, drowning, electrocution, fierce dogs, stranger danger and other life threatening objects or activities. Kids need to be reminded continually to act responsibly in places where there is danger. There is no need to take away their natural curiosity but you need to teach them how to do things so they will stay safe.

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Kids and swearing

Swearing is a part of language development that most of us wish our children would skip. If the adults in the family donít swear, your child is unlikely to pick up swear words at home. They will however, pick them up at day care or at pre-school from other children who have picked them up at home. Children are learning words at a great rate between twelve months and three years and like to copy the words they hear others using, and unless the meaning is clear, will use all words without knowing the meaning. It is important to develop a policy about words that you donít wish to be used in your home. Both parents need to make a joint decision on which words are not acceptable.

  • Think about where your child may have heard these words.
  • Listen to the way in which your child uses the words. Is it to gain attention or to feel power?
  • What kind of reaction did the child expect?
  • Are they repeated just to annoy you?
  • Are they used when the child is angry? 

    There are several things you can do.

    • Stop swearing yourself.
    • Ignore the child when he/she uses that word. Children often stop using swear words if it get no reaction.
    • Encourage your child to express feelings in acceptable ways. Help him by modelling suitable words.
    • Explain that you donít like to hear that word and other people donít like it either.
    • Try to explain calmly, making no beg deal of it. Kids quickly learn the power they have by saying NO, so donít let them use swear words as power play weapons.

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Life with the newborn

A young couple with four week old twins came into the gallery yesterday . The young Mother had one baby in a pouch while the Father carried the other baby in the baby car capsule. Both babies were soundly asleep, but I was told that when one begins to scream, the other joins in and the babies are not yet settling well at night. These parents seemed quite relaxed and enjoyed their time looking at the works of art. (www.evansgalleryuralla.com).I thought what a good idea it was for them to take time out to do something completely unrelated to caring for their babies, but that must be hard for most parents to do.

Caring for newborn babies is challenging and to have twins or other multiples, must be one of the biggest challenges in life.  Lots of help right from the beginning is necessary. Even if your partner has taken parental leave, ask for extra help from grandparents, neighbours and friends. Help with washing, shopping, cooking, household tasks, walking the baby or babies while you sleep or eat or do something pleasurable. New parents never get enough sleep and are constantly tired. A new Mother is usually ravenous also so be sure to eat nourishing food, beginning with a good breakfast each day. Complex carbohydrates give longer-lasting energy. Drink plenty of water, especially just before feeding your baby and eating small nutritious snacks every few hours will help to keep your energy level up. Despite the tiredness and change of lifestyle, there is nothing more wonderful than a tiny baby in the family.

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Learning to play an instrument

When I was a small child the jingles about Happy Little Vegemites and I Love Aeroplane Jelly were just released and all the children knew them. My teacher predicted that soon such jingles would be a key part of advertising. She surely was right. Jingles are still catchy and I was amused when my youngest granddaughter began singing the Coles song, ĎDown, Down, the prices are downÖíbefore she was three years old.

Singing was an integral part of every school curriculum when I was in primary school, but there were not even percussion instruments for us to play. Only a handful of kids ever learnt an instrument. There are lots of opportunities for kids today. One of my granddaughters who is just turning eight, has been learning the violin all the year and loves it. Research shows that learning an instrument helps memory, organizational skills, self discipline, self expression, learning of languages, and even improves reading skills. It is also something that can be shared with family and friends. To play music does mean the child will have to practise and it is important that this is fun, not a chore. At least one of the parents must be prepared to help by setting aside time each day to listen, hum or sing along, help by playing an accompaniment, or by encouraging in some way. Encouragement could take the form of taking the children to a concert, buying special CDís or books about music.

There is no right age for a child to start music lessons, but if you have sung to your children when they were babies, and played rhythm games with them, and if theyíve been to an early childhood centre where musical activities were part of the program, theyíll already know the basics. Each child is different, but I think the beginning of primary school at about 8 years old is an excellent age for formal lessons to begin.  

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Itís bed time2

Children often resist bedtime but a regular time for bed and sleep is not only good for your childís health but for yours too. Establishing a routine doesnít take very long if you are consistent and you and your partner agree about putting it into action it.

Preparing for bed should be a calm time that is fun, but not exciting or over stimulating. Ideal preparation can include cleaning teeth, lowering bright lights, reading, listening to soft music, sharing the highlights of the day, cuddling. Avoid arguments, and ignore complaints.  Exciting stories, rowdy play, computer games and TV will stimulate your child and make bedtime difficult.

The final stages of getting your child to sleep should be done in the bedroom so that he/she learns to go to sleep in there rather than being put to bed after falling asleep. This will also help your child to stay in bed. The type of activities engaged in during the day also has an effect on how well a child settles. Try not to have too many events in one day. After a party or exciting trip somewhere, it will take longer to calm your child.  Having patience and being consistent at bedtime is a must if you are to avoid tears and hassles. If you want to get your child to bed earlier, reduce the time only slightly at first. When that is accepted, put the time back again just slightly so that the body clock wonít notice.

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Kid's baby teeth

Those first teeth make your babyís smile look so cute but are you cleaning them? It is important to clean your childís teeth from the time the first tooth appears. They can be cleaned with a damp cloth at first and then when a couple of teeth have come through, get a soft baby brush and use a fluoridated toothpaste. Tooth decay is common in children by age five and it is preventable with good diet and proper cleaning. Tooth decay is more common than asthma in young children.

Teeth should be cleaned after breakfast and before bed at night. At lunch time if cleaning isnít possible, food should end with fruit or a vegetable such as carrot that will stimulate the gums and clean the teeth. Restrict sweets and sweet drinks. Never let your child eat, or drink anything but water after brushing teeth at bed time as overnight the saliva will keep the teeth clean. My family dentist said I should clean my childrenís teeth for them until they were eight years old. Another dentist suggested that until your children can tie shoe laces effectively, you need to be cleaning their teeth for them .

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