Grow Your Own Healthy Eater

Keeping food and all meal time experiences positive help your children be more willing to try food and become adventurous eaters. Experts say that children often develop picky eating by modeling their parents’ fussy eating habits or when parents create a negative eating environment by using food to reward, punish or bribe a child. Some children are naturally more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. However, even if they do not like a food once, you should keep serving it to them at least another 10 - 12 times.

Just remember, you are in charge of buying – or growing – the food and control what, where and when food is provided. Involving your child in some of the decision making, such as picking out a vegetable to go with your dinner or a fruit for the week’s snack, as well as letting them help in the preparation and cooking of food could entice them to be more willing to eat those foods.

It’s the same with creating a garden. Let them help you grow some food your entire family can enjoy. The garden can be as small or as big as you want it, and in the ground, containers or a garden box. Let the planning process be something that you do with your child, including the decision to grow from seeds or plants purchased from your local nursery or farmers market. Once you have your basic plan together, you need to figure out what you want to grow. Tomatoes, blue berries, spinach? Be sure to pick one or two items that you want your child to try and some that you know they already like.

There are many resources on the Web to help you figure out exactly what will grow best in your garden and how to maintain it. During your planning, be sure to think about garden maintenance as well so they can learn how to take care of the garden – watering, weeding and spacing – as well as watch the veggies and fruits grow. If you grow your garden without pesticides, some of the fun will be picking and eating straight from the plant!

Tips for gardening with children:

  • Be patient. They will want to play in the dirt, look at the seeds or feel the plants, and spill the water before it gets to the garden. They’ll surely pick a green tomato too.

  • Explain what you are doing in easy to understand words and have them mimic your actions when planting and harvesting.

  • Make your planting rows obvious to deter your child from walking on or digging in areas where new plants are starting to grow.

  • Stay realistic about what your helper can and will do. While they can help with most everything, their attention span will not be as long as yours so once they help for a bit, it’s okay for them to wander off to play.

  • Read books about gardening and different types of gardens: urban gardens, country gardens, sensory gardens, flower gardens, etc.

  • Take trips to botanical gardens, local farmers gardens, and dairy farms.

  • Eat what you grow and make sure that they see you eating it too.


Making Early Literacy Fun

Language and literacy development start at birth, and is largely dependent on your child’s everyday interactions. The more time you and others -- such as grandparents, siblings, and child care providers -- spend singing, talking, telling stories and reading to them, the better their skills will be.

Simple things like a walk along your street or a trip to the grocery store can turn into a vocabulary lesson: point out colors in leaves or fruit, make up a silly song about vegetables or count cars. It all helps your child learn words and their concepts while having fun or just having mom or dad’s attention.

Early literacy looks different at six months than it does at six years. However, it’s important to know that it is never too early to start. The goal at the earliest ages, and every age, is for your child to have positive experiences and learn to love books, music and learning so that they want to keep learning. Help make the development of language and literacy skills fun and enjoyable to help set the stage for the later years.

Here are some ideas:

  • Fingerplay is brief stories that are often rhymes that use finger movements to help tell the story. Think of “Eensy-Weensy Spider,” “Where is Thumbkin?” and even “The Wheels on the Bus” to help you realize what fingerplay is. You can even make up your own stories with fingerplay, and should encourage your child to help act it out with you. Search the Web for more fingerplay activities or ask a librarian for book suggestions.

  • Play word and sound games that help your child understand that letters make different sounds that can be put together to create new words. For instance, if they like to say baa-baa, change the letters to make it la-la, then ma-ma and ha-ha. Have them repeat it back to you. Try pairing your game with an alphabet book or cards.

  • Scribbling, drawing or writing? Well, before young children can learn to write they begin scribbling, which shows that they understand that making marks on a page has meaning. The marks often turn into a story they created, then pictures that you can more easily identify and eventually into words. Help your toddler through this process by having plenty of engaging materials (crayons, markers, paints and paper) available.


Understanding Your Child’s Bond with Their Caregiver

If your infant or young child has a strong attachment to their caregiver, consider it a wonderful occurrence. It does not mean that they love you less, it just means that they have established a strong connection with the caregiver. Early childhood professionals who provide high-quality care understand that you are the most important person in your child’s life, but also know that they need to develop a bond with your child – and you -- to support their growth and development.

How can you support your child’s caregiver in providing top-notch care?

  • Get to know your child’s teacher. Ask about her/his life and share some about you and your family.

  • Respect her/his culture and differences.

  • Be open and honest with your caregiver about your goals and concerns regarding your child.

  • If your child’s teacher does not regularly share about their day, ask questions you would like to know. For example, how are they napping? Are they making friends? How are they progressing with their communicating?

  • Offer to visit your child’s program to share family interests, tag along on field trips or stop by for lunch. A quality program will value your interest in what is taking place with your child when you are not there.

What should you expect from your child’s teacher?

  • High-quality programs may have a great team of caregivers but usually one is mainly responsible for caring for your child and interacting with your family.

  • She/He should develop a nurturing relationship with your child that builds confidence in them. Also, your child will know who they can turn to when they need extra help, is feeling a little sad or very happy, or share their thoughts and experiences with.

  • Your child’s caregiver should show affection and happiness, and your child should feel that they are liked and understood.

  • She/He should welcome your questions, concerns and issues about your child and be open to suggestions, as well as provide you with thoughtful feedback.

  • Your caregiver should talk with you about your child’s accomplishments and struggles, as well as other daily routine activities. She/He should be able to answer questions about each day as well as regularly meet with you to talk about their progress.

  • Caregivers in high-quality programs listen to families and respect your difference and backgrounds.

  • Your child’s caregiver should be helping with language development, cognitive skills, as well as social, emotional and physical development.

  • She/He should encourage families to provide objects, such as family pictures, that are familiar to each child.


Help Your Child’s Smile Last a Lifetime

When your baby is teething for the first (or the third!) time, you are probably focusing more on their discomfort and unhappiness than how to care for their shiny new tooth. They may not want you to touch it, or bite your finger when you do, but that’s okay as it will change with practice.

While you will not take your child to see a dentist until they are around one year old, you can start building healthy habits and helping them take care of their teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • Once your baby has their first tooth, make it a habit to gently wipe it and the ones that follow with a washcloth or a soft toothbrush each evening before bed.

  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle of formula or juice, as both can cause tooth decay.

  • As soon as your baby has teeth, they can begin getting cavities.

  • Make an appointment to visit a pediatric dentist around your child’s first birthday.

  • Do you have questions about teething, thumb sucking, or using a pacifier? Have those ready for your dentist.

  • Begin talking with your child about their teeth and taking care of them. Once you are ready to visit a dentist, talk with them about what to expect.

  • Once they are one year old, you can gently brush your toddler’s teeth with a toothbrush and water or a small bit of non-fluoride toothpaste.

  • Talk with your dentist about when you should begin using fluoride toothpaste.

  • As your toddler gets older, make brushing their teeth more fun: let them help choose a toothbrush and toothpaste flavor.

  • Read books and watch videos on dental hygiene so that your children see it as an everyday practice that everyone does.

  • Use a timer or a favorite song to help your child brush for two minutes or more.

  • Your child will need help brushing their teeth until they are about seven or eight years old.

  • Swap out toothbrushes every three to six months, or when the bristles look worn.

  • Teach them that it is not how hard they brush, but how well they do it.

  • Add flossing into to their daily regimen once they are a bit older. Talk to your dentist about what age it should start.

  • If your water does not contain fluoride, ask your doctor if your child needs to take an oral fluoride supplement.


Help! Why Won’t My Child Sleep?

If you are reading this, you probably don’t even remember your last night of good sleep. At this point, you’d probably be satisfied with some just okay sleep if it was for more than two - three hours at a time.

We wish we had a magic formula that would turn all babies and children who have trouble getting to sleep on their own, or staying asleep, into perfectly lovely little sleepers. Sadly though, we don’t. We do have suggestions that can help.

Create conditions that encourage sleep:

  • Create a bedtime ritual that includes some quiet time such as a warm bath, massage, or cuddling while singing or reading.

  • When creating your nighttime ritual, try to do most of it in the room where your child is sleeping.

  • Keep the same daily routine as much as possible: wake up at the same time, keep meals and snacks at the same time, and make bedtime the same time so your child knows what to expect.

  • As it nears naptime or evening bedtime, keep lights dim to signal your child’s brain that it is time to sleep. Make sure that their room is not too bright. If using a night light, find one that gives off a dim light.

  • Try to keep a consistent nap and bedtime. Infants who do this seem to have less trouble falling and staying asleep, and older children appreciate a consistent routine too.

  • Try nursing or bottle feeding your baby right before naps and bedtime. If they begin to drift off, then place them in bed and then quietly leave the room. For older children, a light snack before bed can help them but stay away from sugary foods and caffeine.

  • Adjust your sleeping arrangements, if needed, by having your infant and young child sleep in your room so that you can comfort them before they are fully awake.

  • Lots of babies love “white noise” that drowns out distractions and simulates the sound they heard in the womb. This sound can be from a vaporizer, a fan or even a sleep machine.

Some habits not to encourage:

  • Don’t put your children to sleep in a bed full of toys. It’s dangerous for babies, and distracting for older children. Plus, beds are to sleep in not for play.

  • Don’t soothe your children to sleep by placing a bottle of juice, milk or formula in bed with them. These liquids can cause tooth decay as well as sleep onset associations that increase sleep problems.

  • Don’t let your children use screens two hours before bed time and keep screens out of bedrooms. The lights from the screen interfere with their natural melatonin production.

  • Don’t punish your children by sending them, or threatening them with going, to bed.

Additional Resources:

Winter Car Seat Safety

It’s cold outside so naturally you want your children dressed appropriately for the weather. However, experts recommend that you leave off the heavy coats or any clothes that add extra bulk between their small bodies and the straps of car seats and booster seats. The extra space is compressible which means their bodies could thrust forward into the straps, potentially being thrown out of the car, in the event of a car crash.

Instead of dressing your children warmly for the car, dress them as you would if they were indoors before you buckle them up. To make sure they stay warm, you can warm the car before bringing them out in the cold, throw the coat over them once they are buckled or tuck a blanket around them. Be sure that there is nothing between their back and the straps.

Other tips for winter vehicle safety include:

  • Conduct the “Pinch Test” with your car seat straps: With your thumb and your index finger, pinch the harness near the child’s collar bone. If you are unable to pinch any excess fabric when you pinch the strap, the harness is considered snug enough.

  • Dress your children in thin layers; no riding in snow suits or puffy coats.

  • NEVER leave children in the car alone for any length of time.

  • Never warm up a car in an enclosed space such as your garage due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Before warming up your car, check to ensure that the tailpipe is not clogged letting carbon monoxide leak in.

  • Before backing up, be sure your rearview cameras are clear, and double check to make sure children are not behind you.

  • If you have a keyless ignition, be sure to check that the vehicle is turned off so that it does not continue to run with the potential of exposing your home to carbon monoxide.

  • Teach your children to never play in or around a vehicle.

  • Ensure that your vehicle is locked so children can’t play inside.

  • Keep a “winter safety package” in your car: ice scraper, blankets, extra gloves and hats, flashlight, water, snacks, supplies for your child, and a first aid kit.

Additional Resources: