Goodreads Best Books of 2020

Earlier this month, Goodreads announced its Best Books of 2020. The Annual Goodreads Choice Awards is the only major book awards decided by readers, and here are their pics for the young readers in your life:

Best Picture Books
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Best Middle Grade & Children’s
The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

Best Young Adult Fiction
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Best Graphic Novels & Comics
Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman

Additional books were nominated in each category. Click here to see all of the results and get reading!

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.


Are holiday gatherings OK during the COVID-19 pandemic?

For many families, the holidays are about getting together with relatives and friends. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, gatherings with people outside your household continue to be risky this holiday season. Public health experts say that small household gatherings are some of the main ways COVID-19 cases spread so much again this fall.

With some extra planning and lower risk activities, though, your family can create lasting memories while lowering the risk of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19. Here are some tips I’m sharing with families in my practice this year:

  • Celebrate with members of your own household. Limit any in-person celebration to people you live with. Cooking with your children and decorating ​your home are great ways to enjoy each other’s company while protecting your family and others from COVID-19.
  • Find creative ways to share the experience remotely. Prepare a favorite recipe with extended family over video chat. Share what you are grateful for or light candles together virtually at the start of the holiday meal. Set up a group video call to sing songs, play instruments, share stories, open gifts together or count down to the New Year together.
  • Consider a drop-off treat exchange. Another way to share the holiday spirit is to prepare cookies or other special holiday treats for family and neighbors. Instead of exchanging them in person, delight them with a doorstep drop-off.
  • Shop online and help elderly or higher-risk loved ones. Do any grocery or gift shopping online with delivery and curbside pickup options, if possible. Consider holiday food deliveries to elderly relatives. If you need to shop in person, go when stores are not as busy.

Tips for a virtual holiday gathering with grandparents

With so many families turning to video conferencing platforms for their celebrations this year, the American Speech-Language​-Hearing Association recommends finding different ways to communicate for older adults who may have difficulty hearing. Try using closed captioning or a larger screen, and make sure that they are closer to the computer and speakers to better hear and see facial expressions. Limit side conversations to give everyone a chance to speak and be heard. ​

If you do have an in-person get-together…

Make sure everyone understands that gatherings with people outside your household can be risky. Here are some ways to help make them safer:

  • Keep the gathering small and short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would usually visit.
  • Wear cloth face coverings and keep your distance. People who live together can sit together, but arrange for those from different households to stay at least 6 feet apart—especially while eating. Remind everyone to wear cloth face coverings when they’re not eating.
  • Open windows and stay outside when possible. Open windows for better ventilation. If weather permits, gather outdoors. Stay a safe distance apart from others and wear cloth face coverings with multiple layers or medical masks, even outside.
  • Safer serving. Avoid buffet or family-style dinners and choose one person do the serving or get individual meals if ordering out. Remind children to wash hands often, and keep hand sanitizer within reach.
  • Take safety steps beforehand. For two weeks before the gathering, remind guests to follow steps that lower the risk of COVID transmission. This includes wearing cloth face coverings, physical distancing, and limiting outings and social gatherings as much as possible. Consider offering your guests a “self-screening” checklist and ask them to join you virtually if they realize they are at higher risk of exposing the group to COVID-19.
  • Safer travels. Guests traveling for the get-together should drive with family members in a private vehicle, if possible, and wear masks at gas stations and rest stops. Anyone who has to fly should be extra careful around groups clustered near security lines and concourses, wear masks in airports and on planes, and hang back until lines have thinned.

REMEMBER…Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others; has had any symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of the gathering; is waiting for viral test results; could have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days; or is at high risk.

Stay safe this holiday season and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.


©2020, American Acadym of Pediatrics. Article by Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a practicing pediatrician, author, and mom in Atlanta. 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.

Keep the Holidays Happy During COVID-19

 

The holiday season usually is a joyful time. Many families look forward to gathering with relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and celebrating traditions. But COVID-19 and physical distancing have brought a new kind of stress this holiday season.

There are ways families can cut down their stress during the holidays. Sticking to routines as much as possible, exercising, eating healthy food, and getting plenty of sleep can help. Pay attention to how much time your kids—​and you—spend on screens. And avoid the pressure to spend a lot on gifts, focusing on the simple joy of spending time together.

If your toddler’s tantrums or teen’s mood swings seem more intense during the pandemic, though, it could be a sign that they need support to manage emotions and behavior.

Beyond “normal” holiday stress

Even if your family does not know someone who is directly affected by the virus, it may be hard for children to manage their feelings. When making plans, parents should think about how their child has handled holiday stress before.

COVID-19 is harder for some families

During a normal fall or winter, children and adults may feel lost, sad or isolated. Most times, a parent or another caring adult or friend can help a child or teen manage their stress. Your child’s stress this holiday season may depend on your family’s hardships. Think about getting extra support this year if your family is affected by the stress of:

  • job loss, homelessness, not enough food, problems with remote work and learning.
  • a parent or caregiver with mental health, substance use or health issues.
  • frontline workers (such as a police officer, firefighter, doctor, nurse or restaurant worker).
  • children with special health care needs or a mental health condition.
  • racial or ethnic minority groups.
  • grieving the loss of a loved one.

​When to seek help

​If a child is struggling for more than two weeks, it might be time to get help. Here are a few symptoms to watch for:

  • An infant or young child clings to parents, has sleep problems, doesn’t eat as much, or a preschooler starts thumb sucking or bed wetting.
  • An older child or adolescent acts fearful, anxious, or withdrawn, argues more or seems to be more aggressive. They also might complain more about stomachaches or headaches.
  • A teen or young adult gets into trouble, can’t focus, hides problems because they are afraid, feels bad about the problems, or feels like they are a burden to their family.​

Finding joy during the holiday season

Spend a few moments each day enjoying the company of your children this holiday season. It can bring your family closer and boost your mood. Try using extra downtime to do these things together as a family:

  • Use your talents to help others, volunteer and give back to the community.
  • Talk about your family’s culture, heritage, values and spiritual beliefs. Cook together​, for example, making favorite family recipes.
  • Find ways to play and laugh together. Consider making special cloth face coverings to wear during the holiday season
  • Aim to be present in the moment. Teach kids to use mindfulness and relaxation to cut down on stress.
  • Practice gratitude as a family.

Remember

It is perfectly fine to call your pediatrician. Get help right away if you are worried that your child might hurt themselves or someone else. Your pediatrician can help determine if any mood problems are caused by underlying health conditions or medications. They can put you in touch with psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers.

We are all going through unprecedented times, and the holiday season will not take away how difficult that feels for a child. Instead, families can try to focus on ways to give to others. When they learn to share their time or talent with those who have less, children build resilience that will last long after the pandemic is over.


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.

12 Tips to Keep Families Joyful this Season

  1. Stick to Your Child’s Usual Sleep and Mealtimes Schedules

    It’s not always possible when you are juggling the demands of shopping, cooking and travel to stick to your child’s usual sleep and mealtime schedules, but maintaining household routines will help ward off tantrums and maintain holiday cheer.

  2. Take Care of Yourself Mentally and Physically

    Children sense the emotional wellbeing of their parents and caregivers, and if you cope with stress successfully, your children will learn how to do the same.

  3. Don’t Overspend on Gifts

    Don’t feel pressure to overspend on gifts. Consider helping your child make one or two gifts. The chances are these will be the gifts most treasured by a parent, grandparent or special adult.

  4. Participate in a Volunteer Activity with Your Child

    Participate in a volunteer activity and include your child, whether it’s helping serve a holiday meal at a local food bank or shelter or writing letters to members of the armed forces who can’t be home for the holidays.

  5. Toys Don’t Need to be Expensive or Electronic

    Toys don’t need to be expensive or electronic to make great gifts, but they should be suited to the child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level. Be cautious about toys that contain button batteries or magnets, which can be swallowed by small children and cause serious internal damage.

  6. Be Mindful About Digital Gifts

    Speaking of toys, if you are considering a digital device for a child or teen, such as tablet, smartphone or game system, think about the purpose of the device and the rules you want to set around its use. Our customizable family media plan can help you set these rules for your family.

  7. Cook with Your Children

    Cooking with your children can be a great way to bond over a family recipe and offer a sense of accomplishment to budding chefs. Be sure to follow food safety guidelines, wash hand frequently and keep hot foods and liquids away from the counter’s edge. More kitchen safety tips here.

  8. Decorate for the Holidays

    When decorating, watch for fire hazards. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant,” and if it’s live, make sure it’s fresh and not loosing too many needles. Keep it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.

  9. Watch for Small Removable Parts

    Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling pieces. Find more decorating safety tips here.

  10. Remember That Other Homes May Not Be Childproof

    When visiting friends or family, remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways or hot radiators. When visiting others or hosting guests, make sure that any medications are stored safely away from curious kids. Pay special attention to narcotics and other prescription medications.

  11. Clean Up After a Holiday Party

    After a holiday party, clean up immediately. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come into contact with alcohol, tobacco or vaping products.

  12. Spend Time Together as a Family

    Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are- time to enjoy your family. Find ways to spend time together, whether it’s on a sled outdoors or over a board game or good picture book.


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 Things to Be Thankful for this Holiday Season

 

Vaccines
Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives. And they’re some of the medicine’s greatest discoveries, tackling diseases many have almost forgotten. We are fortunate to live in a country that makes vaccinations available.

Kindness
Now more than ever, it is important to recognize kindness. Model it: children learn by watching. Be thankful when others show you that same respect.

Our Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.” Hooray for grandparents, neighbors, teachers, friends and others who touch your life directly or indirectly.

The Power of Play
Playing is how kids learn. Plus, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships that children need to thrive. So, put down your smartphone. Play with your children. Be thankful for this magical age where fun and games can lead to so many joyful discoveries.

Our Differences
We live in a melting pot. Teach your children to honor those differences and celebrate the ways that make our country unique and awesome!

Our Children’s Friends
They come into their lives for a reason. Be grateful for the lessons each relationship brings, especially about helping them feel secure outside the family. Get to know your child’s friends.

Books
A really great book has the power to teach and inspire us, and that is a gift. Instill a love of books from a young age, and read with your child or have them read to you!

Sleep
A good night’s rest for everyone in the family is often what many parents are thankful for; we understand! How many hours does your child need?

Family Meals
Eating at least three family meals together each week is associated with healthier kids. Give thanks each time you are able to sit down, talk and eat together; not just on Thanksgiving!

Gratitude
Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?” Model the benefits of having a thankful heart while providing opportunities for your children to express their gratitude.


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.

Thanksgiving During COVID-19: Keep Safety on the Table

​​​​​For many families, Thanksgiving is about getting together to enjoy a meal with relatives and friends. But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on into the holiday season, social gatherings continue to raise health risks. In fact, public health experts say that small household have been a key reason COVID-19 cases are rising again.

However, with some additional planning and lower risk activities, your family can make lasting memories and new traditions, while minimizing the risk of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19.

How to help avoid getting and spreading COVID-19 this Thanksgiving

Celebrate with members of your own household.  The lowest-risk option, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is to limit in-person gatherings to people who live in your household. Planning a special feast, cooking with your children and decorating your home for the holidays are great ways to enjoy each other’s company while protecting your family and other loved ones from COVID-19.

Think of creative ways to share the experience remotely. Consider preparing a favorite recipe with extended fam​ily over video chat. Keep the tradition of sharing what you are grateful for, or set aside time to say grace together, for example.

Plan a drop-off potluck. Another low-risk activity, according to the CDC, is to prepare traditional recipes for family and neighbors. Instead of sharing them in person, delight them with a doorstep drop-off.

Grocery shop online and help elderly or higher-risk loved ones. Staying home as much as you can is the best way to reduce COVID-19 risk. Grocery shop online with delivery or curbside pickup options if possible, and consider holiday food deliveries to elderly relatives. If you need to shop in-person, try to go at a time when stores are not as busy.

Keep in mind: if you are having trouble affording enough food because of lost jobs or other challenges during the pandemic, your pediatrician can help connect you with community support programs, such as food pantries. Resources are available to help ensure healthy, nutritious meals for your family.

If you do gather in person with anyone who has been living outside your household, take these steps to help lower the risk:

Keep the gathering small & short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would ordinarily visit.

Wear cloth face coverings and keep your distance. People from the same household can sit together, but arrange for those who don’t live together to stay 6 feet apart–even while eating. Remind everyone to wear cloth face coverings whenever they are not eating or drinking.

Open windows & stay outside when possible. If you’re indoors, open windows for better ventilation if possible. If weather permits, gather outdoors (think Thanksgiving tailgating!). Consider cooking turkey on the grill or in an outdoor turkey fryer. Remember to maintain physical distance and wear cloth face coverings even outside.

Safer serving. Choose one person to do the serving to avoid everyone touching serving utensils. Remind children to wash their hands often, and keep hand sanitizer easily available.

Remind everyone to follow safety steps beforehand. For two weeks before coming to dinner, ask guests to be sure to follow steps that lower the risk of COVID transmission. This includes wearing cloth face coverings, physical distancing, limiting outings and social gatherings as much as possible, and washing hands often. Consider offering your guests a “self-screening” checklist and ask them to join you virtually rather than in person if they don’t pass the screen.

​If you must travel, keep in mind:

Traveling increases the chance of spreading COVID-19. If you will be traveling during this holiday season, take steps to protect yourself and others during your trip:

  • Drive with family members in a private vehicle to avoid exposure to people outside your household if possible.
  • Wear a mask when you leave your car (at gas stations and rest stops).
  • Make meals ahead of time to avoid restaurant stops if possible.
  • If you must travel by plane, be careful near large groups clustered around security lines and concourses.
  • If there is a crowd, try to wait until the line has thinned out.

Remember

Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others; had any coronavirus symptoms within 48 hours of the gathering; is waiting for viral test results; could have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days, or is at high risk.

Stay safe during Thanksgiving 2020 and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.


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.

RECIPE: Best-Ever Applesauce

This fall recipe will give you such a good I-can’t-believe-I-made-it-from-scratch feeling! Maybe because maple and apple trees grow in the same climate, the two flavors taste delicious together. Eat this plain, spoon it into yogurt, or eat it alongside potato pancakes, chicken, or pork.

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Kitchen Gear
Sharp knife (adult needed)
Cutting Board
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Medium-sized pot with lid
Wooden spoon
Potato masher or fork
Lidded container

Ingredients

  • 4 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled (if you like), and diced. “Diced” means cut up into cubes or squares about the size of dice.
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons
  • maple syrup

Instructions

Put the apples, water, and maple syrup in the pot, cover and put on the stove. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the apples are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes to make sure the apples aren’t sticking. Set aside to cool a bit, about 10 minutes.

Mash the apples using a potato masher or fork, and set aside to cool until just warm.

Serve right away, or put it in the container and refrigerate until cold. The applesauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

Or Else…

  • Chunky Applesauce: Don’t mash the apples too much.
  • Nutty Applesauce: Add ½ cup chopped lightly toasted walnuts or pecans after it’s cooked.
  • Cranberry Applesauce: Add ½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries when you add the apples.
  • Rhubarb Applesauce: Add ½ cup chopped rhubarb when you add the apples.

Source: ChopChop Magazine – Fall Issue (Copyright ©2012). 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.