Finding Time to Be Active

See if this scenario sounds familiar — your child has come home from school with 2 hours of homework, including studying for a math test the following day. He also needs to start working on a science fair project. And don’t forget the clarinet lesson that’s on his calendar as well. There seems to be barely enough time to fit in dinner and a bath.

No wonder some kids feel that they just don’t have time for physical activity. Their schedules are filled to overflowing, and when they’re overbooked, it’s easy for physical activity to fall by the wayside.

As a parent, you need to intervene to make sure your child has time for all the things that are important. Whether he’s overweight, physical activity needs to be a priority.

Sit down with your child and structure his time after school so he can fit in everything that’s most essential. For example, in planning the following day, you might say something like, “You have a block of after-school time tomorrow. Maybe the time immediately after school isn’t the best time for homework, because it will take up the daylight hours you could be outside playing.Why don’t you think about choosing to play outdoors for 30 minutes or an hour after you get home? Then we’ll go to your clarinet lesson, and once you’ve eaten dinner and it’s dark outside, you can do your homework. The evening is the time when you used to watch TV anyway, so it’s a good time to get your homework done. And let’s think about rescheduling your clarinet lessons for the weekends.”

As a parent, you can help your child find the opportunities to be active. If you’re creative, the time will almost always be there.

Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 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.

Urgent Care: Is It Worth the No Wait?

​​​The best place for children to receive medical care is at a pediatrician’s office. But, sometimes kids don’t wait for office hours to get sick or injured.

So, what should you do for those times when your baby runs a high fever during the night or your young athlete hurts his wrist at a weekend practice? It happens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that in cases like these, you should never hesitate to call your pediatrician’s office first, even if you know the office is closed. Pediatricians are very accustomed to taking phone calls at all times—day and night—and can often deal with problems over the phone. You are not bothering your pediatrician by calling.

However, you may notice new facilities popping up in your neighborhood that advertise that they offer “urgent” care services often with no appointments necessary. Before going to one of these clinics, the AAP recommends that your first step be to call your pediatrician’s office—your child’s “medical home”—to discuss your child’s needs. If your pediatrician is unable to see you but believes your child should be examined, he or she will advise you on the most appropriate place for your child to receive care and how quickly your child should be seen.


  • Urgent care and nonemergency hospital-based acute care: These facilities handle medical issues that may not require a visit to the emergency room but still deserve attention. They are often open after-hours and on weekends. Keep in mind that the physicians and nurses who work at these centers may not have advanced training in pediatrics and may not be comfortable treating infants and young children. Urgent care facilities are generally considered a higher level of care than retail-based clinics.
  • Retail-based clinics (RBCs): These clinics are typically found inside supermarkets, pharmacies and retail superstores. While they may seem convenient, they generally provide a very limited number of health care services for adults and children. Nurse practitioners or physician assistants—often trained in family practice but with limited pediatric training—typically staff RBCs; there is usually not a physician on site.


If your child is seen by someone other than his or her pediatrician—at one of the acute care services or clinics listed above—it is very important that you provide the clinic with accurate and complete medical information to receive the most appropriate care.

  • Bring information to the clinic about whether your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Let the provider know if your child has any allergies to medications and list the medications your child is currently using (including the last dose) and medicines taken in the past.
  • Don’t forget to mention any conditions such as asthma, diabetes, etc.
  • Request that information regarding the visit be sent to your pediatrician so he or she can maintain a complete picture of your child’s care. If the clinic does not offer this service, be sure to get copies of the services your child received and share this information with your pediatrician as soon as possible.

The management of acute care for children under age 2 requires special expertise.

Therefore, the AAP does not recommend RBCs, telehealth services outside of the medical home, and those acute care services without pediatric expertise for children younger than 2 years.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). 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.

Military Families: Child Care Support During Deployments

For your family, it may be that frequent moves have made it harder for children to know grandparents and other relatives. On the other hand, these family members may play a vital supportive role to your children during deployments and will have the opportunity to forge close lifelong relationships.

If extended family will play a greater role in caring for your child during deployment than they did previously, there are key things to keep in mind to allow smoother transitions.

Planning Ahead = Smoother Transition

Try to make transitions between caregivers go as smoothly as possible. For example, grandmother may arrive in advance of the deployment so she will represent continuity and be associated with the loving nature of your home. Beyond that, children will benefit by seeing that the temporary caregiver has genuine respect for the deployed parent. If she arrives the day of departure, she may be associated with confusion or be viewed as a replacement.

No child will appreciate anyone replacing a parent, and that can breed unnecessary resentment. Fostering closeness between your children and a temporary caregiver far in advance will make your children feel more secure.

Try to have the caregiver connect prior to deployment through visits, phone calls, or social media. If you will be relocating to a family member’s home while your spouse is away, try to visit there prior to the move or, if that is not possible, use digital photos to familiarize your children with the environment.

Communicating Your Plan to Your Children

Children and adolescents need to know “who will take care of me” and that the adults around them are sensitive to their needs. You and your spouse should have a discussion with your children and caregiver.
The discussion should be targeted to the age of your children and should include the following key points:

  • You have given a great deal of thought about who can best help to care for your children.
  • Explain why this person was chosen. Ideally, you should be able to say that you have chosen someone who also loves your children.
  • Reinforce that this is temporary and that the caregiver does not replace the deploying parent.
  • The caregiver represents you and should be respected.
  • Explain that the distant parent will always be thinking of the children and will stay in contact whenever possible, but because of distance will be unable to give the daily attention the children deserve. Because you care so much for your children, you have carefully chosen someone who will do a good job of caring for those everyday needs.

Discussing Your Parenting Style with the Caregiver

You and your spouse should also find the opportunity to discuss your parenting approach with the caregiver. It’s important that your children experience consistency of care rather than having to adjust to new approaches. You should discuss parenting style, and the blend of control and rules with warmth and support. Ideally we strive for a balance between rules and warmth, remembering that discipline means guidance, not control, but adults disagree about these things. Even married couples don’t always see eye-to-eye on parenting style, but well-functioning households do the best they can to disagree behind the scenes to present a united front to the children. When they don’t, children learn to play parents off of each other. It’s important that you discuss this openly in advance so children don’t receive confusing messages.

If the temporary caregiver clearly understands your approach, hopefully she will remain as consistent as possible in maintaining that approach. Don’t be surprised if your extended family member from a different generation holds a different parenting philosophy than you do. She may be more lenient, or she may think you are too passive and she would be stricter. This is all the more reason to work this through openly in advance. This will make the household run more smoothly during deployment and hopefully prevent the returning service member from having to respond to a 7-year-old shouting, “Grandma never told us what to do.”

Author: Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, FAAP. Source: Source Building  Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2015 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, and Martha M. Jablow). 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.

Music and Mood

Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients. Modern research supports conventional wisdom that music benefits mood and confidence.

Because of our unique experiences, we develop different musical tastes and preferences. Despite these differences, there are some common responses to music. Babies love lullabies. Maternal singing is particularly soothing, regardless of a mom’s formal musical talents or training. Certain kinds of music make almost everyone feel worse, even when someone says she enjoys it; in a study of 144 adults and teenagers who listened to 4 different kinds of music, grunge music led to significant increases in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue across the entire group, even in the teenagers who said they liked it. In another study, college students reported that pop, rock, oldies, and classical music helped them feel happier and more optimistic, friendly, relaxed, and calm.

Music, Attention, and Learning
Everyone who has learned their ABCs knows that it is easier to memorize a list if it is set to music. Scientific research supports common experience that pairing music with rhythm and pitch enhances learning and recall. Music helps children and adolescents with attention problems in several ways. First, it can be used as a reward for desired behavior. For example, for paying attention to homework for 10 minutes, a child can be rewarded with the opportunity to listen to music for 5 minutes. Second, it can be used to help enhance attention to “boring” academic tasks such as memorization, using songs, rhythms, and dance or movement to enhance the interest of the lists to be memorized. Instrumental baroque music is great for improving attention and reasoning. For students, playing background music is not distracting. Third, musical cues can be used to help organize activities – one kind of music for one activity (studying), another for a different activity (eating), and a third kind for heading to bed. Fourth, studies show that calming music can promote pro-social behavior and decrease impulsive behavior.

Music and Anxiety
Many people find familiar music comforting and calming. In fact, music is so effective in reducing anxiety, it is often used in dental, preoperative, and radiation therapy settings to help patients cope with their worries about procedures. Music helps decrease anxiety in the elderly, new mothers, and children too. Music’s ability to banish worries is illustrated in the Rogers and Hammerstein lyrics,

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid…
And every single time,
the happiness in the tune convinces me that I’m not afraid.”

Any kind of relaxing, calming music can contribute to calmer moods. Calming music can be combined with cognitive therapy to lower anxiety even more effectively than conventional therapy alone.

Some studies suggest that specially designed music, such as music that includes tones that intentionally induce binaural beats to put brain waves into relaxed delta or theta rhythms, can help improve symptoms in anxious patients even more than music without these tones; listening to this music without other distractions (not while driving, cooking, talking, or reading) promotes the best benefits.

Music and Moods
An analysis of 5 studies on music for depression concluded that music therapy is not only acceptable for depressed patients, but it actually helps improve their moods. Music has proven useful in helping patients with serious medical illnesses such as cancer, burns, and multiple sclerosis who are also depressed. If it can help in these situations, it may be able to help you and your loved ones experience more positive moods.

Music and Sleep
Many people listen to soothing music to help them fall asleep. This practice is supported by studies in a variety of settings. Just don’t try listening to lively dance music or rousing marches before you aim to fall asleep. Conversely, if you’re trying to wake up in the morning, go for the fast-tempo music rather than lullabies.

Music and Stress
Since ancient times, it has been known that certain kinds of music can help soothe away stress. Calming background music can significantly decrease irritability and promote calm in elderly nursing home patients with dementia. Music, widely chosen, lowers stress hormone levels. On the other hand, every parent of a teenager knows that certain kinds of music, particularly at high volumes, can induce stress. Knowing that certain kinds of music can alleviate stress is one thing; being mindful in choosing what kind of music to listen to is another. Choose your musical intake as carefully as you choose your food and friends.

Source: Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body (Copyright © 2010 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.

How to Reinforce Your Child’s Learning

In addition to doing homework, your children should spend time reading not only with you, but also on their own. If a child finds pleasure in reading, it will be­come a lifelong habit.

Let Your Children See You Reading
If your children see you reading regularly, there is a good chance that they will follow your lead and sit down with a book themselves. Set aside some time to talk with them about what each of you is reading. If you have been regularly reading aloud to your children, by school age they’ll probably want to read aloud to you, too!

Talk About Your Day
Find time to talk with your children about your respective days—in­cluding what they did at school. Even on a night when you are particularly busy, you should still be able to find a time and place to talk. This gives your children a chance to re-teach you what they learned that day.

Encourage Art & Writing
It is great for children to write and/or draw without any ed­ucational purpose in mind other than to express themselves. For example, you can encourage your children to write original stories, cards, letters, and invitations to friends and relatives. Keep paper, pencils, crayons, markers, and tape in a convenient lo­cation so your children can sit down and use them easily. Research has shown that writing improves a child’s reading skills—and vice versa.

Plan One-on-One Time
Plan some activities that you can do with your child—such as an art project. Keep phone call interruptions and media use to a minimum during this special time. Make it a time you are spending with each other. Some children say they wish they could call their parents on the phone, because a phone call or mobile device always gets first priority. See Parents of Young Children: Put Down Your Smartphones.

Use Caution with “Educational” Apps
Even though tablets, computer games, and apps are advertised as “educational,” the truth is most of them have not been tested to show that children actually learn from them. They teach very basic skills, so don’t assume an “interactive” game will be a good learning experience. Children learn better through creative playtime—where their brain takes the lead, not the app or computer game.

More Suggestions for Parents

  • Put a map on the wall in your child’s bedroom and refer to it frequently. You might ask, “Where does Aunt Linda live?” or “Can you find the city where the President lives?” You can also use the map to talk about history, especially around a historical holiday.
  • Have a family calendar where you can teach your child to plan ahead and stay organized.
  • Take your children to your local library and get each of them a library card. Because they use the school li­brary frequently, most children almost instinctively feel at home when they go to the local library.
  • Find community activities that are pure fun. Despite their recre­ational nature, these activities can still be viewed as providing support for what is being taught in school. They will broaden your children’s experiences and give them something new to write about.
  • Try reinforcing your child’s health education at school by making healthy food choices when you shop. No mat­ter what is taught in the classroom and served in the school cafeteria, your children will be influenced more by watching your own food selections. Actively involving your children in the cooking process—reading recipes and measuring ingredients—can reinforce nutrition education.
  • Schedule some weekend or after-school activities that are appropriate for the entire family. Swimming, tennis, bicycle riding, and skiing are some of the sports that children can participate in for their entire lives—long after they have left school. Do not overlook walking as a perfect way for the family to enjoy physical activity together. Studies now show that the more children exercise, the better they focus!

Source: Council on Communications and Media (Copyright © 2016 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.

New Year Parenting Goals

Making your family better, stronger and more harmonious may not require a complete overhaul, but rather a few strategic tweaks. Instead of making the same-old lofty NYE resolutions to hit the gym and eat healthier, here are five concrete and tangible parenting goals to set for the year ahead.

  • Keep kids riding rear-facing as long as possible, up to the limits of their car seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 and most children up to age 4. If you are past the car-seat stage of parenting, congrats! If you’re still in the thick of it, check for any new car seat laws that may be going into effect in your state in the new year. Remind anyone who transports your child by car.
  • Take a CPR class and learn to use an AED. Cardiac arrest kills more than 7,000 children and more than 345,000 adults every year outside a hospital setting. Some of these deaths could be prevented by bystanders with training in basic life-saving skills or access to an AED machine. When a child is not breathing in a drowning emergency, for example, CPR should begin immediately. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a class near you.
  • Get everyone vaccinated for flu. The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself, your children, and other loved ones from the flu! Children, especially those in child care or school settings, are more likely to get sick with flu and spread it to others. Here are some prevention tips. As adults, we know to wash our hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or wiping noses. Help your little ones learn good hand hygiene habits in the new year.
  • Do better with digital. What are your kids watching on TV and online? Devote some time to researching age-appropriate media, and remember that screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Watch a show together. Play a video game together. Understand what they are doing and be a part of it.
  • Practice some self-care. When was the last time you had a check-up? Got proper rest? Once a baby is no longer a part of your body, it’s easy to forget that tight association between how you care for yourself and how you care for your child’s health. We also know depression and anxiety can happen to both moms and dads during and after pregnancy. If this is you, you are not alone. Help is near.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). 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.

Winter Fun for Kids

The Connecticut Office of Tourism reports that “Connecticut winters are the stuff that childhood magic is made out of. But when the backyard sledding and a cup of cocoa just isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time to venture out and about. Whether you want to hit the mountain, learn to skate, explore a museum, or go on an adventure, the Nutmeg State knows how to cure the Winter Blues.”

Their website, with the help of, offers a variety of idea for you and your family to check out this holiday break. See:

55 Things to Do with Kids This Winter in Connecticut
Winter Fun Guide

Want to explore more? Click here now!

Cold Weather Safety

Heading outside for some wintertime fun like sledding, throwing snowballs or ice skating can be a sure-fire cure for cabin fever. It’s also a great way for kids to get the 60 minutes of daily exercise they need. Just be sure your child is dressed right–and know when it’s time to come in and warm up.

Children exposed to extreme cold for too long and without warm, dry, breathable clothing can get frostbite or even life-threatening hypothermia.

Little Bodies, Big Chill

Children are more at risk from the cold than adults. Because their bodies are smaller, they lose heat more quickly. Especially if they’re having fun, they may be less likely to come inside when they’re getting too cold.

Frostbite. Frostbite happens when the skin, and sometimes the tissue below it, freezes. Fingers, toes, ears, and noses are most likely to get frostbite. Frostbitten skin may start to hurt or feel like it’s burning, then quickly go numb. It may turn white or pale gray and form blisters. What to do:

  • If you suspect frostbite, bring your child indoors to gently warm up. Don’t rub the affected area, and don’t pop any blisters.
  • Avoid placing anything hot directly on the skin. Soak frostbitten areas of the body in warm (not hot) water for 20 to 30 minutes. Warm washcloths can be applied to frostbitten noses, ears and lips.
  • After a few minutes, dry and cover your child with blankets. Give her something warm to drink.
  • If the pain or numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your pediatrician.

Hypothermia. When the body’s temperature drops below normal from the cold, dangerous hypothermia begins to set in. A child may start shivering, a sign the body is trying to warm itself up, but then become sluggish, clumsy, or slur his words. What to do:

  • Hypothermia is a medical emergency, so call 911 right away.
  • Until help arrives, bring your child indoors. Remove any wet clothing, which draws heat away from the body.
  • Wrap your child in blankets or warm clothes, and give her something warm to drink. Be sure to cover core body areas like the chest and abdomen.
  • If your child stops breathing or loses a pulse, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR.

Preventing Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are different conditions, but some wintertime planning and safety steps can help protect your child from both:

Check the Wind Chill. In general, playing outside in temperatures or wind chills below -15° Fahrenheit should be avoided. At these temperatures, exposed skin begins to freeze within minutes.

What to Wear. Several thin layers will help keep kids warm and dry. Insulated boots, mittens or gloves, and a hat are essential. Make sure children change out of any wet clothes right away.

Take Breaks. Set reasonable limits on the amount of time spent playing outside to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure kids have a place to go for regular indoor breaks to warm up.

Source: Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention (Copyright © 2017 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.

Ignore the Flashing Screens: The Best Toys go Back to the Basics

The American Academy of Pediatrics finds the best toys for children’s development are those that foster play between a caregiver and child.

As digital media-based gadgets increasingly fill the children’s toy aisles, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns families against using them as a replacement to the traditional hands-on toys and games that fuel the imagination and aid in healthy development.

The AAP offers families and physicians guidance in an updated clinical report, “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era.” The report focuses on toys for children from birth through school age.

“Toys have evolved over the years, and advertisements may leave parents with the impression that toys with a ‘virtual’ or digital-based platform are more educational,” said Aleeya Healey, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the report. “Research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”

Ideal toys are those that match children’s developmental abilities, while encouraging the growth of new skills, according to the AAP. Toys are key to developing children’s brains, language interactions, symbolic and pretend play, problem-solving, social interactions and physical activity – and are increasingly important as children move from infancy into toddlerhood.

“The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending and interacting together,” said Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP, co-author of the report and associate professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. And when children play with parents – the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together.”

Electronic toys by themselves do not provide children with the interaction and parental engagement that is critical to healthy development, according to the report. Many of the new “interactive” media — including videos, computer programs and specialized books with voice-recorded reading — make claims about educational benefits in advertisements that are unsubstantiated, according to AAP.

The clinical report also covers safety considerations when choosing toys, and the appropriateness of toys for children with special needs. The AAP provides suggestions for how pediatricians can incorporate toys in the office setting.

The AAP recommends that parents and caregivers:

  • Recognize that one of the most important purposes of play with toys, especially in infancy, is not educational but rather to facilitate warm, supportive interactions and relationships.
  • Understand the most educational toy is one that fosters interactions between caregivers and children in supportive, unconditional play.
  • Choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations.
  • Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretending together while playing with toys.
  • Be aware of the potential for toys to promote race- or gender-based stereotypes.
  • Limit video game and computer game use by young children. Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than 1 hour per day for children 2 years or older, and avoided in those younger than 18-24 months. Children younger than 5 years should play with computer or video games only if they are developmentally appropriate, and they should be accompanied by the parent or caregiver.

“The more we know about early brain development, the more we understand the need for play that is based on human interaction,” Dr. Healey said. “There is no screen, video game or app that can replace the relationships built over toys.”

From American Academy of Pediatrics.