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Choosing Childcare for your Little One

Choosing Childcare for your Little One

Choosing a childcare center for your child is a big and exciting step. It can also be a daunting one for a lot of parents as they leave their child for the first time. Whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time care it’s important to start your search early as most daycares have limited space and a waiting list. Make sure you give yourself enough time to make this decision. Here are a few pointers to look out and to guide you in your search.

Some points in this article may be specific to the Netherlands but you may still find the equivalent information in your country.

 

Scheduling an appointment:

Make sure you schedule an appointment in advance so you can get a chance to talk to the daycare location director and see the place first hand. Many daycares may prefer to schedule parent tours at a “quiet” time such as mealtime or when one group is napping so the teacher can talk to the parent more freely. Make a mental note of that and maybe come back again during a more active time such as outdoor or free-play time to see how the child minders handle children in an active situation. Also feel comfortable to stay as long as you wish during your tour even after the designated time to observe how the teachers interact with the children till you get all the information you need.

Does the daycare feel like a “good fit” for you and your child?

What is the atmosphere like? Is it calm and warm? Is it active and loud? What do you think would suit you and your child’s temperament more?

Is this school accredited?

Before you look any further check out if the daycare is accredited and approved. Every daycare is issued a report stating how their evaluation went. This should be posted on their website for you to view freely and if not you can always ask for their latest evaluation report.

About the child minders:

Don’t be shy to ask what the teacher qualifications are. Child minders should have a background in childcare to work with young children, does this daycare meet those qualifications? In the group your child is likely to join, ask how long has the teacher been working with children and at the center? Is he/she a full-time or part-time employee? Who else will be involved in directly looking after your child. Go ahead and spend a few minutes in their classroom to chat and get a feel for the teachers that will directly be involved with your child.

What educational philosophy does the daycare follow?

Does the daycare follow a certain educational philosophy? If so, read up on it before your visit so you know what to look for while you’re there. Have the teachers received any training specific to that educational philosophy? Is there time for reading, puzzles, free play etc.? Think about if that way of learning suits you and your child. You can read up about educational philosophies for young children here.  Bottom line is; will your child be getting the time and opportunity to experience age-appropriate play during his day?

What is the teacher-child ratio?

This is an important point to consider. Teacher-child ratios are part of preschool regulations so that each child gets enough one-on-one attention and to comply with safety guidelines.  In the Netherlands the Dutch CAO Kinderopvang 2014 (p.150) guidelines the regulations are:

At day care, the ratio between the number of professionals and the actual number of children present is at least:

a. one practitioner for every four children under the age of one year;

b. one practitioner for every five children aged one to two years;

c. one practitioner for every six children aged two to three years;

d. one practitioner for every eight children aged three to four years.”

The day program:

Is there a schedule they follow for play, rest and mealtime? Will your child get enough outdoor or rest time? What kind of meals do they serve? Is there time for free play and structured play? What kind of activities does the teacher initiate with them?

What are the discipline policies?

How do they handle discipline and misbehavior? What happens if your child hits another child or refuses to have lunch? How do they handle this and communicate these situations to parents? Discuss this openly and decide if their techniques match your parenting views and values.

Communication with parents:

What is the daycare policy on communicating with parents? Will you get a chance to speak briefly with your child’s child minder during pickup? Are parent meetings scheduled regularly for updates? In case of a minor accident or situation with your child do they inform you immediately or at the end of the day? When can you meet with your child’s teacher if you want to discuss something? Daycares should have an open door policy;  can you drop in at any time to visit and observe your child in the environment? A provider that doesn’t have an open-door policy is a red-flag. A confident and good provider will not only let you in at any time but will also invite you to be part of the daycare events and activities.

 

Safety:

Are any of the teachers trained in first aid for young children? What is the procedure in case of an emergency? Does the daycare have a protocol to follow? What if you want someone else in the family to pick up your child?

Ask around:

Ask friends or family who go to the daycare what they think of it. Be precise in finding out what exactly they like and dislike. It’s also good to get a chance to talk to parents who have walked out of the daycare center. Walking out might mean that it just wasn’t a good fit not that there were negative reviews so it’s always important to get information first-hand.

Trust your instincts:

If what you’re hearing and seeing looks good on paper and checks all the boxes but you still don’t feel good, trust your instincts. They are telling you something isn’t right here for you and your child. You need to feel comfortable and secure wherever you leave your child and if you are anxious every day during drop-off your child will pick up on that as well.

 

I hope these guidelines and tips will help you choose an appropriate daycare for your child.

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

Limit Screen Time By Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

I recently gave a new workshop on using media with young children. Naturally I was very happy to get this post from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen in my email this morning titled Limit Screen Time. The article has some great tips AND apparently a NEW book out on using screens responsibly with young children!  You can find the original article here

Limit Screen Time

For more on screen time and how to find a balance that works for your family, check out the new ebook, “Help! My Child is Addicted to Screens (Yikes! So Am I.)” by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Bartlett.

Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged. Learn Positive Discipline tools that will help you and your children connect more with each other and find a balance in your family’s media use.

There was once a segment on Oprah in which families where challenged to give up electronics for a week, including TV. It was interesting to watch how difficult it was for parents, as well as their children, to give up all of their screens. One scene was particularly difficult to watch. A five-year-old boy could hardly stand it to give up playing video games. His temper tantrums were quite dramatic. His mother shared that she was embarrassed when she realized he had been playing video games for five hours a day. The good news was that after the whole family went through “media withdrawal,” they discovered how to replace screen time with family activities that increased their family closeness and enjoyment. Take a look at this video from the Today Show about one family who gave up all screens for six months.

Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.

But what does this mean? Is it good? After all, aren’t children who grow up using electronic media learning skills that will keep them connected and current in in a technologically driven world? Or is too much technology a bad thing? Does it prevent kids from learning important interpersonal skills like live conversations and social graces?

There is research that demonstrates how the brain develops differently with excessive screen time, so it is true that screen time does affect a child’s development. But my guess is that you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. Maybe you’re not sure what to do about it, or you’ve avoided doing something about it because…

  1. You don’t like to admit that it is nice to have your children so easily entertained so you can have some time to yourself.
  2. It involves such a power struggle to get the kids to disconnect from their devices. It is easier to just let it go.
  3. You don’t realize that screen time is addictive.
  4. You justify it with the benefits technology brings: “Look at all the skills my child is learning.”

The key lies in finding a balance. Yes, kids are keeping up with technology and learning new skills that will help them if their lives. And yes, too much media use does prevent them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.

Try these Positive Discipline tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:

  1. Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
  2. Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
  3. Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
  4. Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.
  5. Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.

– See more at: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/limit-screen-time.html#sthash.RZhWfqjy.dpuf

 

This article is property of Positive Discipline.
Early Years Parenting does not claim ownership of  the above mentioned article.

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

4 Tips to an Enjoyable Day Out with your Toddler

Do you feel like you’re going out less since you had the baby? Going to out to dinner or shopping with your toddler can often feel more like a battle than a relaxing night out. The good news is that with a bit of planning and compromise you can still enjoy nice outings and dinners WITH your toddler!

First of all let’s try to put ourselves into your toddler’s shoes… “How exciting is it to go to a fancy restaurant where everything is sparkling and shinny but I’m not allowed to touch any of it! I have to sit still all the time, I can’t use my hands to eat and it sounds like it’s a big deal if I spill my drink. I don’t know why we came here in the first place, no one told me where we were going and this place doesn’t even have a swing!”

 

From your little one’s point of view this isn’t such a great experience either which can cause him to become restless and start acting out. Here’s what you can do to make outings a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Pick a suitable location

Try to find a place that is family friendly that has a children’s menu or high chairs for your baby. Check to see if they have a play area for kids. If you’re looking for a quieter setting without a lot of kids running around check to see if place has an outdoor area or space where you can walk around with your toddler in between courses to make sure he gets his energy out. This will make it easier for him to sit at the table when food is served. You can also bring along a story or crayons to keep your child entertained while at the table.

Let your child know in advance

Prepare your child for what to expect by telling him where you’re going, what you’ll be doing there, what behavior is expected of him and everyone else (no banging on the table or running around) and what he can look forward to as well. Make sure your sentences are positively phrased; “We should use our forks properly instead of banging with them”.  Let your child know that there’s something in this for him as well. He can bring a book, crayons and coloring book or his headphones to listen to music. Let him know if there’s a playground or outdoor space you’ll visit together before dessert. Remember to make sure you stick to your promise and follow through.

Compromise and respect your child’s needs

If none of the family friendly facilities are available then try to create your own! You might think of skipping dessert and walking to the ice-cream store next door for a treat and to get your toddler moving. Take your toddler for a brief walk to see the fish tank if you’re in a seafood restaurant or other interesting things while you wait for your order.

Don’t spend the evening prodding your toddler to finish his food or eat his veggies. Make it a treat and order something special for him off the menu. If there’s no kid’s menu ask your waiter if they can make a mini pizza for your child. Pasta is always a hit with kids! If you’re out shopping and don’t know where you’ll end up for lunch then pack an appropriate snack for your child that you can take with you on your outing. Similarly let your child know that after shopping is done that you’ll be going to a place just for him. A few places you can go to are the playground, toy store, children’s bookstore for story time, pottery painting café or even just sitting in a space where your child can run around with other kids.

Accept that tantrums may still happen

Remember that even if you go through all the planning and your child still ends up throwing a tantrum and throwing his spoon on the floor that it’s OK! Children are people too and can’t be molded to neatly fit a plan every time. They have needs and wants that might be different than their parents’. Don’t let this discourage you and make sure you respond to your toddler with love and patience when a tantrum happens. Remember to ask him what happened and how he felt after he calms down. This can help prevent the same problem from reoccurring.

I hope these tips help make your outings a more pleasant experience for everyone!

Image courtesy of Stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumb Sucking and Young Children

Thumb Sucking and Young Children

It is quite normal for most young children suck their thumb or use a pacifier. But when is it too much and how can we help our kids to stop this habit?

When does thumb-sucking start and stop?

Sucking is a normal reflex for young children. At 10 weeks your baby has already begun thumb sucking in the womb! Thumb-sucking is a natural way for babies and young children to soothe themselves when they feel stressed or anxious.

Most children out grow this habit on their own between the ages of 2 and 4.  Usually by the time kids enter a school setting the habit stops because of peer pressure.

Keep in mind that even though your child has stopped sucking her thumb she may go back to doing it in time where she feels stressed or anxious.

When is thumb-sucking a problem?

Thumb-sucking is not usually a problem unless your child continues the habit frequently after the age of 4.
Thumb-sucking and pacifier use can also cause dental problems. If you notice your child’s upper front teeth tipping towards the lip this may be a concern. Talk with your dentist about your child’s dental health.

Your child may have started to feel embarrassed by thumb-sucking and may need your help in stopping the habit.

How can I help my child stop thumb-sucking?

  • Ignore: sometimes children develop habits or behaviors to get their parents’ attention. If you notice that your child is sucking her thumb to get your attention it’s better to ignore that behavior. That way your sending your child the message that this behavior won’t get your attention and to try something else.Thumb-sucking usually goes away on its own and sometimes the less attention given to it the better to help children stop the habit.
  • Positive reinforcement: Praise and encourage your child when she doesn’t suck her thumb. This shows your child what behavior is acceptable from her and that she can get your attention in this positive way. 
  • Find out the triggers: If your child is sucking her thumb as a way to cope with stress or anxiety you can identify those moments and help your child relax in other ways like offering a hug or talking with her to prepare her for the situation.If your child is sucking her thumb in moments where she is bored then keeping her occupied or using her hands in play can help discourage this habit and help her have fun as well.
  • Gentle reminders: Sometimes your child may return to sucking her thumb out of habit. When this helps a simple reminder for her to stop is all that’s necessary.­­

What not to do:

We’ve talked about how to help your child stop thumb-sucking, however you should also keep in mind there are things to avoid when trying to stop this habit.

  • Embarrassing or making your child feel guilty: Don’t try to use embarrassment as a way to stop this habit. This will only make your child feed bad about herself and more self-conscience. Avoid phrases like “be a good girl” or “stop being a bad girl” since these phrases talk about your child not the behavior itself. 
  • Punishment: Thumb-sucking can sometimes be a hard habit for children to stop. Young children especially find it hard to control their impulses for biological reasons. Therefor punishment for this kind of behavior is not very suitable and may just upset your child rather than stop the habit. In general positive reinforcement of accepted behavior can be more effective than punishment for unwanted behavior.
  • Avoid placing bitter tastes on her finger or pacifier: A common method parents use to stop thumb-sucking is to place a bad taste like vinegar on the child’s fingers or pacifier. Avoid using these negative methods, in general positive reinforcement is a more effective method. As mentioned, most children outgrow this habit in their own time. If your child is sucking her thumb to self sooth when she feels stressed or when she is bored it is more effective to address the reason behind the behavior to stop it altogether.

I hope these tips are helpful. Remember to talk to your child about stopping the habit as well so she accepts your reminders and cues.
Remember not to worry too much about it, this is a habit most children experience and usually outgrow on their own at some point.

References:

Zero to three

Mayo Clinic

American Academy of Pediatrics

Children’s Dayton

“mage courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

We usually think about a traditional family as mom and dad coming home to their kids at the end of the day. But what if one parent has to travel a lot for work and is away for days, weeks or even months at a time? How can you stay connected to your child during this time. I’ve put together a list of ideas that will hopefully keep you connected with your family till you’re back safely at home.

 

  • Make a Scrapbook: you and your child can each make a scrapbook while you are away. When you’re back you can swap scrapbooks and get to tell each other about every event that happened.

  • Record yourself: It can be great fun for young children to have a video recording of mommy or daddy reading a few stories. Your child can easily ask for the video recording and get to hear a story from you while you’re away/

  • Stay available: while you may be miles away, your child will still need the “live” version of you! Make sure you schedule time for a video call online so your child can tell you about his day. Video chats are now so stable and easy to use you can even share a meal or watch a movie together online! If you have an older child you can even be available for homework help.

  • Buy a book: Get your child a book about where you’ll be travelling. There are many children’s books that involve travel and new places. If you can’t find a book then you can use the internet to show your child where you’ll be going.

  • Send a gift: If you are a parent who travels for months away from your family it might be a nice idea to send your child a spontaneous gift with a little note telling him you’ve been thinking of him. Gifts don’t have to be expensive or frequent, just something small that tells your child you thought of him when you saw it.

  • Be predictable: let your child know in advance when you’ll be travelling. Mark the days on the calendar to countdown. This helps prepare your child for your travel date. Your child can also mark your return date on the calendar and mark the days till you arrive. For younger children having a visual option makes it easier for them to understand. Your child can mark each day on his own when he goes to bed.

  • Be honest with your child: If you can’t be available to video chat or call  then let your child know in advance and  explain the reasons.Children respond better to clarity  and honesty than vagueness.

  • Send a postcard: Yes! be old fashioned and send an old fashioned postcards from where you’re from. If you travel a lot your child will start collecting postcards from your travels. Some post-offices in Europe even offer the possibility of making a postcard out of a picture and sending it all via your phone!

  • Involve your spouse:  your spouse back home can be active too! He/she can help your child make their own video to send to you or maybe send a picture of his latest drawing.

  • Make the time: whether you choose email, postcards, video chat or a phone call the important thing is to make the time and be available for your child! With today’s technology there are so many ways to stay in touch. Taking a picture and sending it takes seconds! You can even video chat from your phone! So make sure you include time for your child in your travel plans as well.

    Have you tried these or other methods of staying in touch? Let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Raising Toddler Twins

Raising Toddler Twins

Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes!  When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?

How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.

There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.

What you can do:

  • Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
  • Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
  • Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
  • Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.

                                                   

Separate or Same Classroom?

 

The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.

Reference
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This article as features in Arabic on Supermama

Photo from  Michaela Spodniakova