5 Secrets to a Smarter Baby: School Readiness Can Start Now

As parents, we all want happy, healthy babies. Not only that, we want them to be smart.

Growing research in early brain development shows there are some basic things you can do right now to start raising a child who is curious about the world and ready to learn. These early education activities we’re talking about are simple―and screen free!

Use the “5 Rs of Early Education” in your daily activities right from birth:

1. READ together as a daily, fun, family activity.

  • The AAP recommends this to build language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. It’s never too young to start reading with your baby. Reading to your child, research suggests, boosts activity in parts of the brain that form the building blocks of language, literacy skills and imagination.

2. RHYME, play, talk, sing, and cuddle together often throughout the day.

  • The AAP encourages parents to use play to help meet their child’s health and developmental milestones, beginning from birth. Need ideas? Here are some great ways to do this based on your child’s age. Talk with them about things they see around them, at home, at the store, or while traveling. Enroll in quality early education programs and activities, take time to visit a children’s museum or local library, and enjoy story time.

3. Build ROUTINES for meals, play, and sleep.

  • This helps children know what to expect and what is expected of them. Brush, Book, Bed, for example, is a great way to structure your child’s nighttime routine. Eating at least three family meals together each week is associated with healthier kids, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

4. REWARD everyday successes (especially for effort toward goals like helping others).

  • Catch your child doing something good and praise them for it! Praise from those closest to a child is a very powerful reward. Talk with your pediatrician about how to shape and manage your child’s behavior, model the good behavior, and reinforce it by using positive discipline techniques that build a child’s self-regulation skills. Your child’s social, emotional, and behavior skills are equally critical to school success.

5. Develop RELATIONSHIPS that are nurturing, respectful, and consistent.

  • A strong parent-child relationship helps protect against the lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), traumatic situations that can lower a child’s chance of doing well in school. As you strive to teach your child about healthy relationships and choosing friends wisely, don’t forget to model them in your own life. Demonstrating good relationships skills with your spouse or partner, and taking time to nurture close friendships with others, is as important as simply talking about these skills–if not more so.

You are your baby’s best teacher.

A certain toy is not necessary for your child to reach his or her next developmental milestone. There is no one app that will teach your child to read. While it’s easy to fall victim to the marketing, YOU are what your child needs to start on the path toward school readiness with daily reading, rhyming, routines, rewards, and relationship building.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

How to Prepare Your Older Children for a New Baby

A new baby brings joys and challenges to a family. You’re excited, but you may also be nervous about how your older children will react to the newborn.

All sorts of questions come up: How should we tell our older children that they are going to have a baby brother or sister? Will they be jealous of the new baby? How can we help them get along? 

Children of different ages will react differently to a new baby.

Knowing what to expect from each age group will make it easier to handle the changes in your family.

Toddlers – Ages 1 To 2 Years

Children of this age will not understand much about what it means to have a new brother or sister. However, let your child hear you talk about the “new baby” and feel your excitement. She may not understand why you are excited, but your attitude will rub off on her and she will feel excited too.

Keep in mind, you may not be able to satisfy the needs of both children all the time—especially not by yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, look to your partner, other relatives, and friends for support and an extra set of arms.

  • Look at picture books about a new baby. At the very least, your child will become familiar with words like “sister,” “brother,” and “new baby.”
  • When the new baby arrives, try to do something special for your older child. Reassure her that she is still loved. Some ideas include giving her a special gift, letting her spend some time alone with dad, grandma, or another special adult, or taking her someplace special.

Preschoolers – Ages 2 To 4 Years

At this age, your child is still very attached to you and does not yet understand how to share you with others. Your child also may be very sensitive to change and may feel threatened by the idea of a new family member. Here are some suggestions that may help ease your preschooler into being a big brother or big sister.

  • Wait a while before telling your preschooler about the baby. Explain it to your child when you start buying nursery furniture or baby clothes or if he starts asking about mom’s growing “stomach.” Picture books for preschoolers can be very helpful. So can sibling classes (ask your hospital if it offers them). Try to tell your child before he hears about the new baby from someone else.
  • Be honest. Explain that the baby will be cute and cuddly but will also cry and take a lot of your time and attention. Also, make sure that your older child knows that it may be a while before he can play with the new baby. Reassure your child that you will love him just as much after the baby is born as you do now.
  • Involve your preschooler in planning for the baby. This will make him less jealous. Let him shop with you for baby items. Show him his own baby pictures. If you are going to use some of his old baby things, let him play with them a bit before you get them ready for the new baby. Buy your child (boy or girl) a doll so he can take care of “his” baby.
  • Time major changes in your child’s routine. If you can, finish toilet training or switching from a crib to a bed before the baby arrives. If that is not possible, put them off until after the baby is settled in at home. Otherwise, your child may feel overwhelmed by trying to learn new things on top of all the changes caused by the new baby.
  • Expect your child to regress a little. For example, your toilet-trained child might suddenly start having “accidents,” or he might want to take a bottle. This is normal and is your older child’s way of making sure he still has your love and attention. Instead of telling him to act his age, let him have the attention he needs. Praise him when he acts more grown-up.
  • Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital. He may be confused when you leave for the hospital. Explain that you will be back with the new baby in a few days.
  • Set aside special time for your older child. Read, play games, listen to music, or simply talk together. Show him that you love him and want to do things with him. Also, make him feel a part of things by having him cuddle next to you when you feed the baby.
  • Ask family and friends to spend a little time with your older child when they come to see the new baby. This will help him feel special and not left out of all the excitement. They might also give him a small gift when they bring gifts for the baby.
  • Have your older child spend time with dad. A new baby presents a great opportunity for fathers to spend time alone with older children.

School-Aged Children – Ages 5 and above

Children older than 5 years are usually not as threatened by a new baby as younger children are. However, they may resent the attention the new baby gets. To prepare your school-aged child for a new baby,

  • Tell your child what is happening in language she can understand. Explain what having a new baby means and what changes may affect her—both the good and the not so good.
  • Have your older child help get things ready for the new baby by fixing up the baby’s room, picking out clothes, or buying diapers.
  • If possible, have your older child come to the hospital soon after the baby is born so she feels part of the growing family.
  • When you bring the new baby home, make your older child feel that she has a role to play in caring for the baby. Tell her she can hold the baby, although she must ask you first. Praise her when she is gentle and loving toward the baby.
  • Do not overlook your older child’s needs and activities. Let her know how much you love her. Make an effort to spend some time alone with her each day; use that as a chance to remind her how special she is.

Source: Adapted from Sibling Relationships (Copyright © 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics, updated 3/2007). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Taking a Mental Health Day Off from School

Taking a Mental Health Day Off from School: A Pediatrician-Mom’s Perspective by Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP

“I’m exhausted. Can I please have a day off from school?” My first instinct when one of my kids asks a question like this is to push them to get out of bed and get going. But when my daughter woke up last Friday and asked this question, I hesitated. My daughter has had a crazy month. Along with her usual load of 6th grade quizzes, tests, and homework, she’s had to stay at school until 7pm almost every day for rehearsals for the school play. After that, it’s a long drive home through traffic, and then dinner. She’s not able to sit down and start her load of homework until 8:30pm.

As a working mom and pediatrician, I’ve had weeks like these. The only difference is that I don’t have homework, studying, and projects to do when I get home after a very long day. And even without all of that, I will honestly admit, I have felt the need for a “mental health day.”

Kids and Stress

What I’m seeing as a pediatrician is that more and more kids are incredibly stressed. Not only have their academics been ramped up, but they are expected to do higher-level sports, high-level arts, and be on the go constantly. For many children, the lazy, after school, neighborhood playtime is long gone―as are the long summers of being bored.

What Parents Can Do

All kids are different and some can handle more than others. But as parents, we need to listen to our kids and know their limits. Studies have actually shown that boredom and long periods of unscheduled time can actually spur creativity and out of the box thinking, as well as reset the emotional needle. We ALL need this―and the kids do, too.

So, let’s all take time regularly to have that break. Reset and recharge by staying home, by being with family, or by just simply taking a walk and looking at the trees and the spring flowers. It will calm our soul and give us the “mental break” we need to recharge ourselves.

That day, I gave my daughter what she asked for. I did let her stay home and just be. And the next day, she was ready to go full force again.


Source: Copyright © 2018 Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Cuts, Scrapes & Scar Management: Parent FAQs

It is almost impossible for a curious and active child to avoid some scrapes and cuts. And…while a kiss from mom or dad and some TLC is often all that is needed, it sometimes takes a little more know-how to help wounds heal properly.

The following FAQs will help you prevent serious bleeding and other problems such as scarring when your child gets a cut.

What’s the best way to treat a small cut or scrape?

Almost all active bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure with clean gauze or cloth over the site for five or ten minutes. The most common mistake is interrupting the pressure too early in order to peek at the wound.

  • Once bleeding stops: Gently wash the wound with soap and water for five minutes. If your child persistently objects, try soaking the wound in the bathtub. Cleaning the wound will decrease the chance of infection and prevent dark spots caused by dirt trapped in the skin.
  • After cleaning: Apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment to keep the wound moist and cover it with a dry gauze or bandage until healed.

How do I know whether or not my child needs stitches?

Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether or not stitches are needed:

  • Cuts that go all of the way through the skin may benefit from stitches.
  • Any cut that is gaping open with visible dark red muscle or yellowish fat should probably be closed, even if it is small.
  • Any cut that is gaping and is more than ½ inch long should probably be closed. Get a ruler and measure it if you are not sure. Cuts smaller than this may not require closure, but if they are gaping, then it is best to have them checked out.
  • Small cuts that are not gaping may not require actual stitches but may still benefit from steri-strips.
  • If your child has a cut that is deep, gaping, or in a cosmetically sensitive area, call your pediatrician to determine if stitches are needed.

What are the options available nowadays for closing a small cut?

  • Skin glue was approved for use in 1998 and has become very popular. It is applied by rubbing it over the cut while the cut is being held closed. It is a good choice for straight cuts and is quick and painless. If done well, the cosmetic outcome is the same as stitches. However, it cannot be used to close a wound that has any tension on it from muscle usage. This is because skin glue is not as strong as stitches and, when used in areas of tension, the risk of the cut reopening is high.
  • Steri-strips (or “butterfly” bandage closures) are narrow adhesive strips placed over a cut, with a bit of tension to keep it closed. They are used for small cuts that are not very deep or over a joint or areas of tension. If they stay in place for at least three days, the outcome can be just as good as stitches. However, they are not as strong as stitches and do not stay in place well.
  • Stitches provide more strength and little to no risk of being pulled off too soon. However, they can be traumatic due to the time and pain involved in putting them in. Absorbable sutures are stitches that do NOT need to be removed. Non-absorbable sutures are stitches that need to be removed, usually 5-12 days later, depending on the location.
  • Staples are most often used for cuts in the scalp (within the hair). They are very fast and close the cut almost as well as stitches.

How soon after an injury does my child need to see a doctor for stitches?

Most cuts can generally be closed as long as 24 hours after the injury. Some cuts should be closed sooner, but it is very safe to wait at least 8 hours to have a cut closed.

If you do decide to wait: Wash your child’s cut under the faucet to get out any dirt. Do not let the cut dry out. Wet some gauze pads and tape them over the cut. Change the gauze every two hours to keep it moist.

My child’s cut is on his face. Should I be concerned about scarring from the stitches?

Facial cuts in children usually heal remarkably well and with very little scarring. Pediatric plastic surgeons recommend that most facial cuts be repaired using simple interrupted sutures. The suture size and needle type are specifically designed for the delicate skin of the face.

How can I make my child’s scar less visible?

There are some simple things you can do to help minimize your child’s scar appearance once the skin has fully healed.

Note: Scars cannot be completely erased, and no treatment can return your child’s skin to exactly the way it looked before the injury.

  • Sun protection. Damaged skin is very susceptible to becoming permanently discolored by the sun for up to 6 months after an injury. It is very important to minimize sun exposure to the healing cut. Keep it covered with a hat or clothing as much as possible or use a broad sunscreen to minimize darkening of the scar (called “hyperpigmentation”). Do not apply sunscreen until two weeks after the cut.
  • Scar massage. Scars may soften and flatten more quickly when they are massaged. To do this, use your fingers to apply moderate pressure and massage the scar in circles.
  • Silicone sheets or gels. Silicone products may help soften, flatten, and improve the coloration of a scar if used for at least 12 hours a day.

My child has a scar seems to be getting bigger. Should I be concerned?

Sometimes, no matter what you do, a scar might not look as good as you want it to. Most of the time, this is a cosmetic issue. Occasionally, there are medical problems that can arise.

  • Hypertrophic scar. These are prominent scars that form as a wound heals and may be pink, red, or purple. These are often thick and raised, but they do not extend beyond the initial injury.
  • Keloid. These scars have spontaneously enlarged to form a firm, smooth growth. They are typically raised above the surface of the skin, look shiny, rough, and irregular in shape. They can be pink, red, or purple. Some keloids can become quite large, much larger than the original injury and often extend beyond its original borders.

If you suspect a hypertrophic scar or keloid, talk to your child’s pediatrician. You may be referred to a pediatric plastic surgeon to see if treatment is needed.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

10 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas to Promote Kids’ Language & Learning

​​​Children of all ages are filling their holiday wish list with things like tablets, cell phones, wearables, headphones, and other tech-related gifts. But it’s important to find a balance and ensure that today’s connected kids ha​ve some quality off-line time, too. The holidays are a great time to get back to some of the basics in childhood play that foster communication and social interaction. Here are some ideas for a low-tech holiday gift list:

Traditional toys remain superior to electronic toys for children’s language development. For example, when toys talk, parents talk less—and subsequently, kids vocalize less. Blocks, dolls, musical instruments, cars, trains, shape-sorters, and other low-tech toys get kids—and parents—talking, singing, playing, and interacting. These all help build foundational communication skills.

Books always make excellent presents, and sharing the joy of reading is a lifelong gift.

  • ​For infants and toddlers: Books with textures inviting touch are ideal, as are colorful board and picture books.
  • For children learning how to read: Give books appropriate to their skill level to facilitate emerging literacy.
  • For older children: Find engaging chapter books and book series. Family members can take turns reading chapters aloud. This may be the start of a family book club.

​​Board, card, and conversation-based question games are great to enjoy and play as a family. They get everyone talking and laughing and build some great memories. There are games for all age ranges. And what better time of year than winter to begin family game nights for building conversation, connections—and fun!

Costumes and other dress-up accessories allow kids to use their imaginations and foster creativity. Children’s language skills expand as they make up dialogues, tell stories, sing, and take turns.

Building toys, blocks,​ and crafts make for some fun indoor activities to occupy kids on cold days. They also help hone fine motor skills for all ages. For young children, motor skills are closely linked to language development.

Outdoor toys such as balls, sleds, jump ropes, and yard games encourage running, jumping, sports and other active play. Physical activity and movement prime children for learning.

Puzzles — ranging from basic options for young children to complex types the whole family can attempt as a team—spur conversation while building analytical, problem-solving and other skills.

Cooking supplies work as fun gifts for children of almost any age. Involving young kids in making and trying new foods offers a wealth of opportunity for conversation and language-building, including likes and dislikes, tastes, textures, and more. For older kids, cooking together sets the scene for family bonding. Following recipes also helps improve reading and comprehension skills, planning, organization, sequencing, and following directions.

Crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and other writing supplies are a childhood staple, and they help children build fine-motor skills. Coloring also helps young children build their vocabulary and learn their color names.

​Tickets to child-friendly shows, sporting events, or other performances are great gifts, as they allow parents and children to enjoy special activities together. These outings promote family interaction, conversation, and bonding. In addition, memberships to local zoos, museums or aquariums make great gifts for entire families to enjoy!

Of course, technology gifts will likely remain on your child’s shopping lists year after year—the reality of growing up in today’s world. Parents can help their children balance their online and off-line lives. If you do give your child a technology-related gift, use it as an opportunity to lay out some ground rules and make a family media plan.


Copyright American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association/ASHA Leader. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Is Your Child Ready to Read?

Is your child interested in learning the names of letters? Does he look through books and magazines on his own? Does he like to “write” with a pencil or pen? Does he listen attentively during story time? If the answer is yes, he may be ready to learn some of the basics of reading. If not, he’s like most preschoolers, and will take another year or two to develop the language skills, visual perception, and memory he needs to begin formal reading.

Although a few four-year-olds sincerely want to learn to read and will begin to recognize certain familiar words, there’s no need to push your child to do so. Even if you succeed in giving him this head start, he may not maintain it once school begins. Most early readers lose their advantage over other children during the second or third grade, when the other students acquire the same basic skills.

The crucial factor that determines whether a student will do well or poorly in school is not how aggressively he was pushed early on, but rather his own enthusiasm for learning. This passion cannot be forced on a child by teaching him to read at age four. To the contrary, many so-called early learning programs interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm by forcing him to concentrate on tasks for which he’s not yet ready.

What’s the most successful approach to early learning? Let your child set his own pace and have fun at whatever he’s doing. Don’t drill him on letters, numbers, colors, shapes, or words. Instead, encourage his curiosity and tendencies to explore on his own. Read him books that he enjoys, but don’t push him to learn the words. Provide him with educational experiences, but make sure they’re also entertaining.

When your child is ready to learn letters and reading, there are plenty of valuable tools to help him—educational television programs, games, songs, and even some of the latest age-appropriate video games and DVDs. But don’t expect them to do the job alone. You need to be involved, too. If he’s watching an educational TV show, for example, sit with him and talk about the concepts and information being presented. If he’s playing with a computer program, do it with him so you can make sure it’s appropriate for his abilities. If the game is too frustrating for him, it may diminish some of his enthusiasm and defeat the whole purpose. Active learning in a warm, supportive environment is the key to success.


Source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

 

Talking to Children about Racial Bias

By Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP

Given the tragic and racially-charged current events, many parents are wrestling with their own feelings, the hopes they have for their children, and the difficulty of helping those children thrive in a world full of racial bias.

Parents may better face today’s challenges with an understanding of how racial bias works in children, as well as strategies to help them deal with and react to racial differences.

How Do Children Learn Racial Bias?

Children learn about racial differences and racial bias from an early age and learn from their first teachers — their parents — how to deal with and react to these differences.

The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language (e.g., a child raised bilingual vs. a child who starts learning Spanish in junior high). Biology determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder.

  • As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
  • By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
  • By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.

But like language immersion, children exposed to society will gain fluency in racial bias even if their parents do nothing.

Strategies to Help Children Deal with Racial Bias

There are three strategies that parents can use to help their children deal with racial bias:

  • Talk to your children and acknowledge that racial differences and bias exist.
  • Confront your own bias and model how you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them.
  • Encourage your children to challenge racial stereotypes and racial bias by being kind and compassionate when interacting with people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.

How Parents Can Confront Their Own Racial Bias

Parents must first confront their own biases, so that their example is consistent with messages of racial and ethnic tolerance.

  • Be a role model. Identify and correct your own racially biased thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you want your children to believe what you preach, you have to exhibit those behaviors as well. Your everyday comments and actions will say more than anything else.
  • Have a wide, culturally diverse social network. Encourage your children to have diverse circles of friends, as well. This lends itself to engagement in multicultural activities and experiences.
  • Travel and expose your children to other communities. This can help them understand that there is diversity in the world that might not be represented in the community that you live in.
  • Do not reverse stereotype police officers and other groups or talk about law enforcement in a negative way.
  • Get involved in your child’s school, your place of worship, and politics. Parents who are involved in this way are better able to advocate for fair treatment of racially marginalized groups and raise awareness of race issues in other groups.

Tips for Talking About Racial Differences & Racism

Talking about race is not racist. It’s OK—and important. From a young age, children may have questions about racial differences and parents must be prepared to answer them. But, it’s important to keep your child’s developmental readiness in mind.

  • For preschoolers: At this age, your child may begin to notice and point out differences in the people around you (i.e., at the grocery store, at the park, etc.). If your child asks about someone’s skin tone, you might say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all so different!” You can even hold your arm against theirs to show the differences in skin tones in your family.
  • For gradeschoolers: This is the age that is important to have open talks with your child about race, diversity, and racism. Discussing these topics will help your child see you as a trusted source of information on the topic, and he or she can come to you with any questions. Point out stereotypes and racial bias in media and books such as villains or “bad guys” in movies.
  • If your child makes comments or asks you questions about race based on school incidents or something they read or watched: Further the discussion with questions such as, “How do you feel about that?” and “Why do you think that?” This is also helpful if your child heard something insensitive or if your child experienced racial bias themselves. Before responding to his or her statement or question, figure out where it came from and what it means from his or her perspective.

These conversations begin to lay the groundwork for your child to accept and respect everyone’s differences and similarities. As children mature, the answers to questions will become more complex. These are moments to learn what your child understands or is struggling to understand about racial bias.

Remember:

To create a culture of inclusiveness, we all must look at and acknowledge our biases, so we can do something about the ones that are unfair or cause harm to others—like racial bias. Understanding the way people feel about and behave toward those outside their own group can help communities heal after a tragedy, as well as prevent future ones.


Author: Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Working and Learning from Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak

To help contain COVID-19, many schools are moving children to online learning at home. In addition, many parents are being asked to work from home. These forms of social distancing are needed to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent overloading the health care system.

But many families now face new challenges: how do we care for our children while working and schooling at home, and not panic during this unprecedented outbreak? The first step: take a deep breath. Know that we are all in this together. And together we will get through it.

Here are some other tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help you cope with this “new normal” until the virus is under control.

Slow the spread

It may be tempting to get kids together for play dates or sleepovers, but this should be avoided. Social distancing only works if we all participate. And slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus will save lives.

Protect grandparents. This is also not the time to visit grandparents or ask them to help out with child care duties. People who are over age 60 are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and should not increase that risk by being around children who may be ill with mild symptoms. However, they may feel alone or disconnected during social distancing, so keep up communications through phone calls, texting, or video chats.

Keep a routine

Since changes in routine can be stressful, it will be helpful to talk with your kids about why they are staying home and what your daily structure will be during this time. Let them help create a daily schedule that can hang on the refrigerator or somewhere they can see it each day. Be sure to include breaks from tele-work or schoolwork to relax and connect with each other.

Here are some ideas to help you create a daily schedule:

  • Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time.
  • Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions.
  • List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.
  • For younger children, 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity might work well.
  • Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches, taking breaks between subjects.
  • Include your hours as well, so your children know when the work day is done.
  • Schedule time for nutritious lunches and snacks. Many schools are providing take-home school meal packages for students who need them.
  • Don’t forget afternoon breaks as well!
  • Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.
  • Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.
  • Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.

Try not to have the news on all day. It is best not to have the news on while kids are in the room as it can increase their fear and anxiety (and yours!). If they do listen to the news, talk together about what they are hearing and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.

Should I worry about extra screen time right now?

While limits are still important, it’s understandable that under these stressful circumstances, kids’ screen media use will likely increase. Here are some ways to help keep media use positive and helpful:

  • Contact teachers about educational online and offline activities your children should do. Preschool teachers may not have an online curriculum to share, but good options include PBS Kids, which is sending out a daily newsletter with show and activity ideas.
  • Use social media for good. Check in with your neighbors, friends and loved ones. If schools are closed, find out if there are ways to help students who need meals or internet access for at-home learning.
  • Use media for social connection. Social distancing can be isolating. If your kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.
  • Choose quality content and use trusted sources to find it. Common Sense Media, for example, suggests 25 dance​​ games and other active apps, websites, and video games​ for families hunkering down right now.
  • Use media together. This is a great opportunity to monitor what your older children are seeing online and follow what your children are learning. Even watching a family movie together can help everyone relax while you appreciate the storytelling and meaning that movies can bring.
  • Take your child (virtually) to work. Working from home? Use this time as a chance to show your kids a part of your world. Encouraging imaginative “work” play may be a way to apply “take your child to work day” without ever leaving home!
  • Limits are still important. As always, technology use should not push out time needed for needed sleep, physical activity, reading, or family connection. Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night.

Remember

Staying at home and other social distancing recommendations may feel like an inconvenience, but it’s the best way right now to protect our family, friends, and neighbors who may be vulnerable.

If anyone in your home starts showing symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor to discuss what to do.


Written by Corinn Cross, MD FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Managing School Holidays and Vacations

Not surprisingly, some single and working parents have grown to dread school vacations, legal holidays (like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Washington’s Birthday), and “teacher in-service days.” These are days when the child is out of school but parents usually have to be at work. To make matters worse, care givers whom you might rely on at other times of the year often ask for time off during holidays, and community activities like art classes and Scouting often are cancelled too.

The good side of these situations is that you know they are coming and can plan for them. To help in that process, get copies of your child’s school schedule as early as possible so you are aware of vacations several months in advance. Children’s vacation schedules often dictate family vacation plans. With sufficient advance notice, you may be able to block out your own vacation time to coincide with that of your youngster.

Few parents have as much vacation time available as do their children, so arrangements have to be made for child care and supervision within the frame work of the demands of the parents’ jobs. If your spouse has some flexibility in his or her work schedule, divide the home responsibilities so one of you takes time off during different parts of the children’s vacation. Some couples are able to work out a plan where Mom is home in the morning, and Dad replaces her in the afternoon; perhaps one or both can work flexible schedules (6 A.M. to 2 P.M.; 2:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.) So that at least one parent is home at all times.

Fortunately, businesses are becoming more sensitive to the family needs of their employees. The federal Medical and Family Leave Act of 1993 is helpful to parents upon the birth or adoption of a child, or when a child is ill, but it does not have any provisions covering school holidays and vacations.

Sometimes neither you nor your spouse will be able to get off work. Or you will need a backup or alternative strategy for unexpected job demands or the sudden loss of a caretaker, both of which require some last-minute juggling of schedules. It is important that school-age children are always supervised, directly if possible and indirectly if not. Indirect supervision means providing a safe environment and a structured schedule of activities, including regular times to check in, even by phone, with a responsible adult. This latter option should be considered only for mature preteenagers and is never the preferred alternative.

When you can’t break away from the office, another option is to call upon extended family members to help. Some parents are able to work out a timetable with several families, where each assumes the caretaking responsibilities for all the children one day a week, or they trade hours of babysitting with each other. Some high school and college students, or after-school child care employees, are willing to work on holidays, perhaps coming to your home to assume the care of the children from several families. (Many high schools and colleges have job-placement offices to find employment for students on vacation; ask for and check references before hiring these young adults for child care.) You may also inquire about special holiday programs and camps that might be planned by local YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other com munity organizations. If none exist, gather some parents together and, as a group, urge local organizations or city leaders to provide holiday activities for children.

For some parents of school-age children, the best long-term solution is to work at home all the time, often in a small home-based business of their own. However, while this can be an ideal option, it is not available to everyone, and working at home poses problems of its own.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Sipping, Snacking and Tooth Decay


February is National Children’s Dental Health Month


Many parents across the country will issue a common refrain at dinnertime tonight: You’d better eat that, it’s good for you! There’s another old favorite in the parental arsenal of dietary admonitions: Don’t eat that, it’ll rot your teeth! Now more than ever, kids are faced with a bewildering array of food choices — from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.

Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear that junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, in the U.S., on average, individuals consume approximately 50 gallons of sugary beverages per year! Alarmingly, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary drinks. Consuming too much sugar can also affect your overall health, such as becoming overweight/obese, or getting heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.

Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids. Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption. Children should make healthy beverage choices such water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits

Public Service Announcement, ©2020, American Dental Association