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.

Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids

Our kids’ brains are tired, and children of all ages really need opportunities where they can take time out each day “unplugged” to relax and focus. Meditation offers this break and helps kids function more effectively and clearly.

Children today also have reportedly high stress levels. To help them take a break, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to share meditation with their children—and teachers to incorporate mindfulness training into their lesson plans.

The simple act of teaching children how to stop, focus, and just breathe could be one of the greatest gifts you give them.

Meditation Options for Children

Meditative practices have been used since ancient times to improve health and well-being. But, just as an athlete may do different exercises, people who practice meditation often use different types.

The most common types of meditation practice are concentration, mindfulness, movement based, cultivating positive emotions, and emptying. There are specific examples and ways to practice each type.

 

Many meditation practices use breathing techniques to promote a state of calm. Mindfulness meditation on breath, perhaps the most well-known type, involves sitting quietly, resting or closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. When your attention drifts away, which it is likely to do, simply usher your attention back to your breath without judgment.  You don’t need years of meditative practice to benefit from this technique, nor do your children.

There’s no doubt, however, that sitting still for any length of time can be difficult for some kids. For this reason, a movement-based meditation, such as yoga, may serve as a good introduction.

Research on the Benefits of Meditation in Children

Meditation is used to rest the mind, body and spirit. This, in turn, has many mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. Mindfulness meditation, specifically, is gaining a foothold in disease prevention and treatment.

A number of studies in school settings also show improved attention and behavior. Some research has shown benefits for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behavior problems, and eating disorders. For example, a trial of 300 low-income, minority urban middle-schoolers using school-based mindfulness instruction led to improved psychological functioning and lower levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

There are also physical benefits as it calms the nervous system and decreases stress hormones. Studies have shown benefits for gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure, pain sensitivity, and immune function. For example, a trial looking at the effect of mindful breathing meditation at a summer camp of 166 teens at risk for cardiovascular disease found that breathing awareness produced a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.

Meditation Tips

Meditation does not have a set of rules, but there are some tips that can help.

  • The length of time and frequency of meditating can vary for different people and different practices. But, pediatricians typically recommend the following time frames:
    • Preschool children: A few minutes per day.
    • Gradeschool children: 3-10 minutes twice a day.
    • Teens and adults: 5-45 minutes per day or more based on preference.
  • Try incorporating deep breathing into your children’s daily bedtime routine—it can help them wind down for the night and make meditation easier to do when other situations arise.
  • Remind gradeschoolers and teens to take a few deep breaths before answering a difficult question at school, taking a test, or before an athletic performance.
  • As young children learn to manage strong emotions, deep breathing can be part of the process—especially before and after time outs.
  • While meditation can be done on your own, it can also be done with the help of a trained professional. Some counselors and individuals with training in meditation can help others learn and practice meditation.
  • Meditation is not currently covered by most insurance plans unless given by a licensed counselor. It is always best to check with your individual plan. Flexible medical spending programs may count meditation training as a medical expense.
  • There are multiple ways to learn different practices of meditation. There are books, audio recordings, videos, online training, websites, and even smartphone apps to help children meditate. Choose and practice the one that works the best for you and your child, and enjoy a calmer body, mind and spirit.

Talk to Your Pediatrician

Since meditation practices are generally safe and have many possible benefits, they can be used without much risk. As with any lifestyle change, however, it is best to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician before adding meditative practices to your child’s wellness routine.


Source: Section on Integrative Medicine (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.

Permission to Unplug: The Health Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Yoga offers a release from today’s fast-paced and tech-heavy world. It only demands that your child “unplug” and leave his or her phone (and shoes) behind—focusing solely on the action of connecting breath and movement. Yoga can help kids learn to live in the moment, focus on the task at hand, and handle problems peacefully. The more often your child practices yoga, the greater the benefits.

Yoga: More Than Exercise, More Than Sport

While any sport played well activates the mind in addition to the body, the practice of yoga is meant to bring the two together. Yoga is much more profound than merely the yoga postures we are familiar with from classes, videos, or movies. It involves a combination of certain postures (asanas), regulated breathing techniques (pranayamas), hand poses (mudras), and meditation (dhyanas).

Each particular body posture has been cultivated and fine-tuned over thousands of years to bring about specific effects in the mind and body. Whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups. At the same time, a child becomes more aware of his or her body and how it functions. Some yoga poses are harder than others, and even flexible kids in good shape should start slowly.

Yoga for cross-training

Many student-athletes, for example, practice yoga as a way to cross-train and prevent overuse injuries. Runners strengthen and stretch the hips, legs, and Achilles tendons. Baseball players strengthen the arms and upper body muscles. Gymnasts increase flexibility, balance, and concentration.

Health Benefits of Yoga

Children and teens are an ideal population to benefit from the therapeutic and health benefits of yoga.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for children coping with emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral health conditions.

Children with special needs, for example, often have tension and rigid muscle tone—yoga can help with this. Stretching the body can relieve tension and holding yoga poses increases strength when practiced regularly. Yoga also has many bending and stretching poses that can help move and stimulate the digestive system and relieve constipation. Additional physical benefits from yoga include:

  • Regulated blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Regulated hormone levels
  • Decreased abdominal pain in children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Improved balance​

A study in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that daily yoga helps children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain calm and lowered their levels of aggression, social withdrawal, and anxiety. Further, a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that yoga during PE classes reduced teen mood problems and anxiety and also led to higher test scores. In numerous other studies, yoga has repeatedly been shown to improve:

  • Self-confidence
  • Mood
  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Classroom behaviors
  • Emotional balance

Parents: Calm Breathing Can Be Contagious!

It’s good for parents to put down their phones, too! Tantrums, sleepless nights, and morning rushing, for example, test our limits. In times like these, it can be very effective to take a few deep breaths instead of losing control of your own temper.

Basic yoga breathing and a simple pose or two can be important tools for managing a range of stresses and pain as well as everyday challenges. Lead by example. Get your child involved in yoga—or better yet—try a class yourself! Namaste.


Source Section on Integrative Medicine (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.

Helping Children Handle Stress

​​​​As children reach their school-age years, they may experience pressure from a number of sources. These may be from within children themselves, as well as from parents, teachers, peers and the larger society.

This pressure can take many forms, to which children must respond and adapt. Whether these are events are lasting, like the divorce of their parents, or merely a minor hassle like losing their homework, these demands or stresses are a part of children’s daily lives.

There is a silver lining is that when children get the chance to practice setbacks at younger ages. They develop resilience and the tools needed to be an independent adult and handle future challenges.

​Dealing with stress in daily life

Children welcome some events and are able to adapt to them with relative ease. Other events may feel to them like threats to their own or the family’s daily routines or general sense of well-being. These stresses can be more troublesome.​ Most stress faced by children is somewhere in the middle: neither welcomed nor seriously harmful, but rather a part of accomplishing the tasks of childhood and learning about themselves.

Children may have to cope with a bully on the playground, a move to a new neighborhood, a parent’s serious illness or the disappointment of a poor sports performance. They might feel a constant, nagging pressure to dress the “right” way, or to achieve ​the high grades that can put them on rack toward the “right” college. Children may also worry about making friends, dealing with peer pressure, or overcoming a physical injury or disability.

Children are sensitive not only to the changes around them, but also to the feelings and reactions of their parents. This is true even if those feelings are not communicated directly in words. If a parent loses a job, children will have to adjust to their family’s financial crisis; they must deal not only with the obvious family budgetary changes but also with the changes in their parents’ emotional states.

Good and bad stress

Not all stress is a bad thing. Moderate amounts of pressure from a teacher or a coach, for example, can motivate a child to keep her grades up in school or to participate more fully in athletic activities. Successfully managing stressful situations or events enhances a child’s ability to cope in the future.

Children are future adults, and through these experiences, they develop resilience and learn how to deal with life’s inevitable bumps and hurdles. However, when the stress is continuous or particularly intense, it can take a toll on both the psyche and the body.

Major events, especially those that forever change a child’s family, such as the death of a parent, can have lasting effects on children’s psychological health and well-being. Minor daily stresses can also have consequences.

Sudden stressful events will accelerate your child’s breathing and heartbeat, constrict blood vessels, increase blood pressure and muscle tension, and perhaps cause stomach upset and headaches. As stress persists, it can make a child more susceptible to illness and experience fatigue, loss of sleep,  nightmares, teeth-grinding, poor appetite, tantrums, or depression. Children may become irritable or their school grades​ may suffer. Their behavior and their willingness to cooperate may change.

How stress can affect children

A child’s age and development will help determine how stressful a given situation may be. Changing teachers at midyear may be a major event for a child in the first grade and merely an annoyance for a sixth-grader. How a child perceives and responds to stress depends in part on development, in part on experience, and in part on a child’s individual temperament.

How different children cope with stress

Children’s temperaments vary, and so can their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles. Some are easygoing by nature and adjust easily to events and new situations. Others are thrown off balance by changes in their lives.

All children improve in their ability to handle stress if they:

  • previously succeeded in managing challenges and feel able to do so
  • have a strong sense of self-esteem.
  • have emotional support from family and friends.

Children who have a clear sense of personal competence, and who feel loved and supported, generally do well. Talk with your pediatrician about ways to help your child manage stress.


Source: Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 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.

Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?

From infants and toddlers to school-aged kids and teens, parents want to know how many hours of sleep are recommended. While it’s true that sleep needs vary from one person to another, there are some very reasonable, science-based guidelines to help you determine whether your child is getting the sleep he or she needs to grow, learn, and play.

Childhood Sleep Guid​elines

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provides some helpful guidelines regarding just how much sleep children need at different stages in their development. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect total sleep hours in a 24-hour period. So if your son or daughter still naps, you’ll need to take that into account when you add up his or her typical sleep hours.

Sleep Hours Table

Do those numbers surprise you?

So, are you sending your child off to bed early enough? If those numbers are surprising to you, you’re not alone. Working and single parents, especially, are often forced to get by on 5, 6, or even fewer hours of sleep each night. This is likely impacting your own social and mental functioning, as well as increasing your risk for other health problems. It might be tempting to think that your children can also get by with less sleep than they need, or that they should be able to cope fairly well with a few skipped hours here and there. However, all children thrive on a regular bedtime routine. Regular sleep deprivation often leads to some pretty difficult behaviors and health problems—irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypertension, obesity, headaches, and depression. Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, and better school performance, behavior, memory, and mental health.

Healthy Sleep Habits – Tips from the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports the AASM guidelines and encourages parents to make sure their children develop good sleep habits right from the start.

  • Make sufficient sleep a family priority. Understand the importance of getting enough sleep and how sleep affects the overall health of you and your children. Remember that you are a role model to your child; set a good example. Staying up all night with your teen to edit his or her paper or pulling an all-nighter for work yourself isn’t really sending the right message. Making sleep a priority for yourself shows your children that it’s part of living a healthy lifestyle—like eating right and exercising regularly.
  • Keep to a regular daily routine. The same waking time, meal times, nap time, and play times will help your child feel secure and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime. For young children, it helps to start early with a bedtime routine such as brush, book, bed. Make sure the sleep routines you use can be used anywhere, so you can help your child get to sleep wherever you may be.
  • Be active during the day. Make sure your kids have interesting and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air. See Energy Out: Daily Physical Activity Recommendations for more information.
  • Monitor screen time. The AAP recommends keeping all screens—TVs, computers, laptops, tablets, and phones out of children’s bedrooms, especially at night. To prevent sleep disruption, turn off all screens at least 60 minutes/1 hour before bedtime. Create a Family Media Use Plan and set boundaries about use before bedtime.​
  • Create a sleep-supportive and safe bedroom and home environment. Dim the lights prior to bedtime and control the temperature in the home. Don’t fill up your child’s bed with toys. Keep your child’s bed a place to sleep, rather than a place to play. One or two things—a favorite doll or bear, a security blanket—are okay and can help ease separation anxiety. See Suitable Sleeping Sites for more information specifically for babies under 12 months of age.
  • Realize that teens require more sleep, not less. sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. At the same time, most high schools require students to get to school earlier and earlier. The AAP has been advocating for middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. It is important that parents and local school boards work together to implement high school start times that allow teens to get the healthy sleep they need. See the AAP policy statement, School Start Times for Adolescents, for more information.
  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, or formula. Water is okay. Anything other than water in the bottle can cause baby bottle tooth decay. Feed or nurse your baby, and then put him or her down to sleep.
  • Don’t start giving solids before about 6 months of age. Starting solid food sooner will not help your baby sleep through the night. In fact, if you give your baby solids before their system can digest them, he or she may sleep worse because of a tummy ache.
  • Avoid overscheduling. In addition to homework, many children today have scheduled evening activities (i.e., sports games, lessons, appointments, etc.) that pose challenges to getting a good night’s sleep. Take time to wind down and give your children the downtime that they need.
  • Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnea, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher or child care provider about your child’s alertness during the day. Sleep problems may manifest in the daytime, too. A child with not enough, or poor quality sleep may have difficulty paying attention or “zoning out” in school. Let your child’s teacher know that you want to be made aware of any reports of your child falling asleep in school, as well as any learning or behavior problems.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician about sleep. Discuss your child’s sleep habits and problems with your pediatrician, as most sleep problems are easily treated. He or she may ask you to keep a sleep log or have additional suggestions to improving your child’s sleep habits.

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.

Helping Kids Stay Active & Eat Healthy During COVID-19

​​The pandemic has cut kids off from friends, nutritious school meals, sports and routines. With virtual learning and few activities outside the home, it’s no surprise kids are moving less and snacking more.

If your family has been eating more processed, high-calorie food and spends a lot of time on screens, you are not alone.

Increased Health Risks

The pandemic has put more children at risk of obesity. Children with obesity are more likely to have problems if they are infected with COVID-19.

The virus can affect children’s breathing, immune system, metabolism and cause inflammation. Those with obesity also can develop high blood pressure, liver problems or diabetes. Having these health issues puts them at high risk if they get COVID-19.

Black and Hispanic children and children living in places with high poverty rates are more at risk of obesity and COVID-19 illness.

Many parents are struggling to make sure their kids eat healthy foods, stay active and stick to a regular bedtime.

What Parents Can Do

Eating well and exercising can help children cope with stress and stay healthy. Parents can support healthy eating habits by offering their children a lot of fruit and vegetables, creating a schedule for meals and snacks, and keeping healthy food in your home. Motivate kids to get moving by limiting their screen time after they are done with virtual learning for the day. Model healthy habits by making sure you eat well and exercise, too.

How Your Pediatrician Can Help

If your situation seems too hard or you are worried about your child’s weight gain in the past year, seek help. Your child’s pediatrician can provide:

  • counseling for mental health issues or substance use.
  • screening for eating disorders.
  • help managing stress.
  • a personalized plan to manage obesity.​
  • help connecting you with resources that can assist with food, housing, child care and other support, such as 211.org​.​

Source: AAP News Parent Plus, ”Keeping kids active, eating healthy hard for parents during pandemic” (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.

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.


PRE-SCHOOL: Growing Independence

Children Love to Learn

  • Open and honest communication will create a lifelong closeness with your child.
  • Routines and responsibilities will let your child know what to expect. When a rule is broken, a natural consequence needs to follow.
  • As you teach your child how to be independent, you also need to teach how to be safe.
  • Learning how to be a good friend is an important skill you can teach your child.
  • Your little one is starting to explore the world outside your home. This is exciting, but can be scary!

Children from 4 to 6 years old are:

  • Beginning to develop their independence and form real friendships.
  • Learning rules to more difficult games.
  • Developing important life skills.

Set Limits

When children do something against the rules, explain simply and in a few words:

  • That what they did was wrong
  • What will happen if the behavior continues Consequences need to be logical, meaningful, and simple. For example: if your child rides a bike without a helmet, the bike is off limits for a day or two; or when your child won’t share a toy, that toy can’t be used for the rest of the day.

Create and Keep Routines

Teach about rules by setting up daily routines. Children do best when they know what to expect.

In the morning:

  • Use the bathroom
  • Get dressed
  • Have breakfast

At bedtime:

  • Take a bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Read a story

Schedule specific times for TV, video games, and use of the computer. When you know what your child is watching, you can avoid violence and other unacceptable content. Limit “total screen time” to no more than 2 hours a day.

Read at bedtime. This helps your child:

  • Settle down after a busy day
  • Learn how to read

Have meals together as much as possible. This is a great way to spend time together and share family traditions, while also teaching good eating habits and table manners.

Take Time to Talk and Listen

Children feel important when adults take the time to talk with them. Talking often, and about many things, helps them gain self-confidence. Ask about friendships and the activities that your child enjoys. Talk about your own best and worst experiences.

Ask your child:

  • “What was the best part of today?”
  • “What was the hardest part of today?”

Let your child know that it’s OK to have and talk about negative feelings. Share the best and hard parts of your day. This teaches your child that we all have ups and downs.

Assign Responsibility

When young children copy everyday household tasks, they are really learning how to contribute. With your support, tasks will soon be done with few reminders. As children grow older, they can begin to take on real responsibilities, such as:

  • Setting the table
  • Putting away their toys
  • Feeding the pets
  • Placing dirty clothes in a basket

Watch your child’s self-esteem grow when given the chance to help out.

Encourage Independence in Bathing and Dressing

At first, this may take a little more time than helping your child get dressed or take a bath, but it is time well spent. Independence comes with practice, and with your guidance.

If you get the clothes ready the night before, the morning routine will involve only getting dressed. This way, your child can focus on just one thing. Your child may need to be reminded of all the steps.

  1. “In the morning, when you get up,
  2. First, use the bathroom,
  3. Then, take off your PJs,
  4. And then, put on your clothes.”

Praise your child’s efforts and successes: “You did a great job getting yourself ready for school today!”

Teach Simple Rules About Safety with Adults

Keeping children safe is an important job for parents. You want your child to respect and trust others, but you also need to teach your child to be careful. Following are some simple rules and ways that you can start a conversation with your child about different safety issues.

  • “If you’re not sure, ask me.”
  • “If an adult asks you to do something that you’re not sure is OK, always ask me first. I won’t get mad at you for asking.”
  • “No secrets.”
  • “No one should ever tell you to keep a secret from me—one that might make me mad if I found out. Adults should never expect you to do this.”
  • “Certain body parts are private.”
  • “No adults (except parents, doctors, and nurses) should touch you where you normally wear a bathing suit.”
  • “If we get separated, find a security guard or police officer.”
  • “This is a very busy place. If you can’t find me, find a security guard or police officer, or ask someone to help you find one. That person will help you find me.”
  • When you take your child to a crowded place, look around and point out the person who is there to help if you do become separated.

Help Your Child Become a Good Friend

Four- to six-year-olds are learning what it means to be a friend. They will have fun times as well as arguments and hurt feelings. It can be tempting for parents to try to solve these problems themselves or by talking with the other child’s parent.  Instead, guide your child to solve problems. With your help, your child can learn how to solve social problems.

  1. Help your child understand the other child’s point of view. “I guess Suzie wants a turn too.”
  2. Teach your child to Stay calm, and Do not hit, grab, or shove
  3. Use words: “I get upset when you talk to me like that.” or “I’m sad you don’t want to play with me.” or “I’m angry you took the ball from me.”
  4. Stand close by and watch as the children solve their problem. Being close by puts the children on their best  behavior. This is how they begin to develop the confidence and skills to communicate honestly, calmly, and politely with others.

Source Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure (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.

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.