Good Communication is Important for the Success of Any Relationship

Parents should seek to develop a strong connection with their child’s care provider as they both have a common goal: to help their child thrive and succeed in life. These early relationships help children feel loved and cared for, enabling them to learn important social-emotional skills and develop in every other aspect of their mental and physical health.

 Read the factors below to determine if you have a strong relationship with your child’s care provider or if you have work to do.

 Strong:

  • Do you greet your child’s primary teachers and other staff by first name every day?

  • Are you a good listener when your child care provider is sharing concerns with you about your child?

  • Do you regularly share important things about your child’s life? Such as that your child got a poor night’s sleep or that they are having a hard time with allergies?

  • Changes in family life, like a new job, a move, family visitors, or a divorce, are important events in your child’s life that could induce behavior changes and should be shared with the provider.

  • Do you take an interest in your child care provider’s life? Ask about their families, weekends, or special interests.

  • Show up for all meetings and conferences.

  • Collaborate with your child care team to help in the class when needed and support the program’s special activities.

  • Do you regularly tell and demonstrate to your child’s caregiver that you appreciate them?

Average:

  • You greet your child’s teacher and staff during drop-off or pick-up but do not linger to see if you can help or to talk with the teacher.

  • You attend one or more planned activities at the program.

  • You are congenial and open to feedback when discussing your child.

  • You ask how your child is doing during the day and what they are doing in the classroom.

Weak:

  • Do you know your child care provider’s first name?

  • Do you regularly drop-off or pick-up your child while on the phone?

  • Do you send your child to school sick?

  • Have you missed one or more planned meetings or conferences with your child’s caregiver?

  • Do you talk negatively about your child’s teacher to other parents or your child?

  • Are you open to suggestions or conversation about your child’s learning and behavior?

  • Are you responsive when the child care program or teacher contacts you?

All relationships need nurturing, clear communication that includes active listening, and respect to be strong. Below are some resources with advice on maintaining a positive relationship with your child’s teachers.

More information:

Create Good Eating and Physical Habits to Keep Your Child Healthy

In the U.S., approximately 7 in 10 adults and 1 in 3 children are overweight or have obesity. You can help your whole family maintain a healthy weight by balancing good, nutritious eating foods with physical activity. The earlier you start introducing fresh, non-processed foods to your children, the better they are as you are assisting them in creating healthy eating habits that will last for a lifetime.

Health Problems Associated with Being Overweight:

  • Low-self esteem

  • Being bullied

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Asthma

  • Heart disease

  • Sleep problems

  • Anxiety and stress

Get Physical!

  • Be more physically active as a family: Go on walks, bicycle rides, visit skating rinks, and have fun at your local pool with family swim races.

  • Let your children take turns choosing family activities that include exercise.

  • Limit screen time, which includes all computers, screen readers, TVs, smart watches, video games and smart phones. And, no TVs in your child’s room.

  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night as kids who do not are at higher risk of being overweight or obese.

Set Up Healthy Eating Habits

  • Eat as a family as much as possible and do not cook multiple meals to compensate for “picky” eaters.

  • Plan healthy meals with as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Eliminate, or include less, foods and drinks with added sugars, that are high in sodium or carbs, and that are processed.

  • Serve reasonably sized portions and limit seconds to only fruits or vegetables.

  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.

  • Let your children help plan meals, shop for foods or work in a garden with you, and prepare meals.

  • Provide a healthy breakfast with a protein to start the day and offer healthy snacks to help control hunger between meals.

What Should You Do If Your Child Is Overweight?

If you have concerns about your child’s weight, make an appointment to visit your pediatrician. When you make the appointment, share then that you are specifically concerned about your child’s weight so that the doctor can be sensitive about your concerns in front of your child.

More information:

Keep Summer Fun, Interesting and Full of Learning

Most of us can’t wait till summer and once it arrives, we wonder what in the world are we going to do with our kids while we work, attend classes, and manage the household. If your normal child care arrangement isn’t a year-round program, hopefully you have already arranged for summer care through a child care program, camp or with a nanny.

Regardless, we have some ideas on how you can keep your children busy learning and having fun this summer.

Field Trips:

  • Plan a weekly (or biweekly) trip to the library.

  • Park meet-ups with other families and classmates in the mornings or afternoons when it is cooler.

  • Free family museum days!

  • Visit your local fire station. Bake some cookies to take with you.

  • Take advantage of your local attractions: zoos, botanical gardens, puppet shows and theatrical productions for children, and movies.

  • Cuddle and play with some cats and dogs in animal shelters.

  • Virtual field trips such as the Underground Railroad and the White House.

Summer Learning:

  • Stock an area with plenty of writing and art materials.

  • Create sicker stories.

  • Go on a word hunt.

  • Use chalk in the driveway or on sidewalks to help teach shapes, colors and numbers.

  • Make a “feelings” book to teach your child about emotions.

  • Make screen time count by watching a learning show like “Magic School Bus Rides Again” or playing new games from learning apps WITH your child.

  • Designate one day each week for your child to help you cook a meal. Use recipes, measurements and safe kitchen tools.

If you have not confirmed a child care plan yet this summer, it is not too late. While there may be many camps and programs full, there are resources to help you find just what you are looking for whether it is full-time or occasional care.

Child Care Resources:

Field Trip and Education Resources:

What Should Parents Know About Childhood Mental Health?

Children’s emotions are mercurial, changing from one moment to the next and their behaviors follow suit. Young children respond to emotional and traumatic events very different than older children and adults which makes it hard to distinguish the difference between typical child development behaviors and ones that are cause for concern.

While some children are born with mental health issues, others that have been frequently exposed to traumatic circumstances and toxic stress such as family stress, prolonged poverty, poor child care conditions, abuse, chronic neglect, domestic violence, or parental mental health or substance abuse problems are very vulnerable. Because the early brain is developing at a faster rate than any other period, these negative life events can cause mental health problems to emerge quickly after they have happened or later in life.

What Are Childhood Mental Health Disorders and Symptoms?
Occasional challenging behaviors, while frustrating, do not indicate a mental disorder. However, children can show clear characteristics of anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism, at a very early age. 

Parents and care givers should pay attention to serious changes in the way their child typically learns, behaves, handles their emotions and interacts with others during their day. Here are some behaviors to keep an eye on:

  • How do they play with friends or while alone?

  • Changes in appetite or sleep.

  • Repeated thoughts of death.

  • Any changes in speaking?

  • Signs of being upset, like sadness, crying easily and often, and loss of joy.

  • Once they are bothered, do they have a hard time rebounding and getting through the rest of their day?

  • Are they having problems in more than one setting, such as at school and at home?

  • Exhibiting behaviors associated with younger children, such as sucking their thumb or bedwetting.

  • Self-destructive behavior or talk of hurting others.

Toxic stress and other mental health issues, if not treated early, can impair a child’s self-esteem, their relationships with peers, school readiness, academic achievement, physical and mental health, as well as later cause them to make unhealthy life decisions and repeat some of the same behaviors with their own children.

Provide a Positive Environment for Your Child’s Mental Growth
The science around a child’s brain and development indicate that the foundation for positive mental health is formed early in life based on relationships with parents, caregivers, family members and peers. Here’s a few ways to help build sound mental health in your child:

  • Frequently demonstrate that you love your child and tell them “I love you” often.

  • Teach your child about compassion, and exemplify it in front of them.

  • Be understanding in situations with your child and others, and help them to learn patience and understanding with others.

  • Establish trust with your child at an early age.

More information:

Experiential Learning Supports Your Child’s Development

Movement is as critical for brain development as it is for gross and fine motor skill development. Since memory and movement are linked, the more times your child experiences specific activities they are also learning about skilled movements such as holding their own bottle or how to open and close a door.

From birth, you can help your child with their mental and physical development by providing them with a safe place to move and experience their surroundings and senses. The more free-movement (rolling, scooting, running, skipping, hopping, etc.)  children have, the better for the development of their frontal cortex which is the location of higher order thinking.

How Can You Encourage Your Child to Move?

Infants:

  • Parents and caregivers should interact with babies often. For example: touching their baby’s faces and hands, guiding the baby’s hands to touch the parent’s face, gently moving their legs like a bicycle, etc.

  • Give your baby daily tummy time. Place toys just out of their reach to encourage them to stretch and begin to crawl.

  • Hang interesting and colorful mobiles in their crib that has your baby wanting to reach or kick towards it.

  • Play music and dance with your baby.

Toddlers:

  • Don’t try to restrict their movement. They need to try a variety of activities that help them learn gross motor skills. For example: play catch with a soft, small ball, let them kick a soccer ball around the house or outside, help them roll on big yoga balls while on their tummy, and etc.

  • Big building blocks, stacking cones and rings, and large floor puzzles are good for both fine and gross motor skills as well as creativity and problem-solving.

  • Find activities that promote cross lateral movement, such as hand clap games that stretch from one side of the body to the other or kicking a ball with alternating feet. These activities work both sides of the body evenly and involve coordinated movements of both eyes, hands, and feet.

Preschoolers:

  • Challenge your preschoolers to contests: hopping, balancing on one foot, crab-walking, etc.

  • The park can be a great place to encourage more activity such as dribbling a ball or hanging upside down on monkey bars.

  • Preschoolers love rough-and-tumble play like wrestling and climbing on you.

More information:

Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards (GELDS)

Movement Can Increase Learning in Children – Michigan State University

On the Move: Zero to Three

Spring Has Sprung So Shake Off the Winter Doldrums and Get Outside

Children of all ages love to play outdoors where they can run, spin, swing and be free. With the cooler temperatures fading, it’s the perfect weather to enjoy the sun – and even the rain – during the day.

Scraped knees, bumped heads and other mishaps are going to happen during playtime. But, with the tips below, we hope to help you address safety concerns and prevent serious injuries so that everyone has fun during outside play.

If you child attends a child care program, it’s always a good idea to inspect the outside play area. Other questions you can ask are:

  • How do the children travel to and from the play area?

  • Is the play area completely fenced in, with no holes or areas where children can squeeze through?

  • Are gate entrances secured while the children are in the play area?

  • How often is the play area and equipment inspected for damage or harmful objects?

  • How many children are allowed in the play area at one time, and what are their ages?

  • How many teachers supervise the children during play?

  • Is there a first aid kit stocked and available for the play space?

  • When traveling to nearby parks, do children need to cross a road? If so, how do the teachers handle this and what are the children taught?

General Tips for Parents and Caregivers for Outdoor Safety:

  • Never leave children alone outside.

  • Establish a play area and rules: Stay away from the street; grab an adult if a ball rows into a street or out of the play area; never wander off alone; tell an adult if they need to use the restroom; never eat anything, like berries, plants or mushrooms found outside; and, always stay in sight of their caregiver.

  • Check the outside play area regularly to look for any broken equipment, sharp branches or glass, trash, animal wastes, and etc.

  • If the playground has slides, check the temperature on the slide surface before allowing your child to go down it to prevent burns.

  • Keep sand boxes securely covered to keep animals out.

  • When riding on anything with wheels – scooters, tricycles, bikes, skates and skateboards – always wear a helmet in good condition and safety pads as needed.

  • Never leave a child alone during any kind of water play, even with a water bucket or table. It only takes a few inches of water for a child to drown.

  • Keep your children hydrated. Lots of water for drinking!

  • Apply sunblock liberally.

  • Use bug spray to help keep mosquitos and ticks away.

More information:

Playground Safety from KidsHealth

The National Safety Council