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Early Childhood Physical Development

May 2, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Early Childhood Physical Development | How to encourage your toddler's physical development with exercises and activities that nurture their gross and fine motor skills. | A young toddler squats to pick up a soccer ball.

As your baby becomes a toddler, they will grow physically stronger and will gain a better grasp of the movements they started when they were smaller. For example, their walk will start looking more like "one foot in front of the other" instead of a waddle. Soon, your growing toddler will gain more strength and coordination, learning aim and how to throw and catch among other activities. You can encourage their physical development with exercises and activities that nurture their gross and fine motor skills.

Gross motor skills involve larger movements using the whole body, while fine motor skills are more precise and will only use a portion, like the hands and fingers.

To help your child learn both skills, incorporate Albert Bandura's theory of observational learning (quoted below from a Cliffs Notes article):

  1. Observe the behavior in others.
  2. Form a mental image of the behavior.
  3. Imitate the behavior.
  4. Practice the behavior.
  5. Be motivated to repeat the behavior.

To nurture your child's gross motor development, try these efforts:

  • Provide a large, open, safe space for running, jumping, rolling, etc. to use big muscles.
  • Spend time at the playground teaching them to swing by themselves and climb around (stay close by for safety).
  • Set up a balance beam at home—on top of a soft ground, tape foam blocks together on the floor to allow your child to walk across the "beam" in a straight line.
  • Try some of Get Ready to Read's activities outlined here.

Help your child develop their fine motor skills with these activities:

  • Teach your child to brush their teeth by showing them how you do it and then asking them to imitate you.
  • Build something with large Lego blocks or Lincoln Logs. Let them learn to put the blocks together and pull them apart.
  • Draw or color with crayons, paint with watercolors, or do puzzles together with big pieces.
  • Try this mom's favorite activities for fine motor skills.

If you're wondering what developmental milestones your child should be at for their age, check with your pediatrician. He or she knows your child's medical history and can provide the most accurate assessment. For a quick check online, you can reference Gracepoint Wellness' article here.

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Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys

February 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys | A young girl plays with soft, plastic blocks on the floor.

If you're a parent and you're online, you've seen the news about Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, Sophie can develop mold on the inside if your teething child drools into the air hole, or if you ignore the manufacturer's cleaning tips and immerse it in water (even if that water is soapy or part bleach).

This news has sparked a bit of panic in parents—and rightfully so—as many people are allergic to mold and we want our kids to be healthy.

So how can you best keep those toys clean and prevent green fuzzy spores from forming on and inside them? These tips will get you started.

Good, Old Fashioned Cleaning Solutions
Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in hot water and soap to wipe down the surfaces of your child's toys and play areas.

If they need a stronger scrubbing, make a paste out of baking soda and water to scrub, and add vinegar for extra power.

You can even create a mild bleach solution. To be safe, confirm the proper ratio of bleach to water with your pediatrician. I have read that one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be fine, as long as you allow the solution to dry before giving the toy back to your child.

Let The Machines Do The Work
Plastic or rubber toys that don't have an air hole can usually go in the dishwasher on the top rack. If the toys are smaller, put them in a mesh bag first and tie it up tight so they won't get loose.

The mesh bag method also works in the washing machine, especially with Legos and other smaller toys. Instead of wiping each block down by hand, you can clean them at once one load.

Follow The Instructions
When in doubt, look at the manufacturer's cleaning tips on the box or online to see what they recommend. Some fabric toys can be tossed in the washing machine, but some should be spot-treated. Wood toys should be wiped down but not put in the dishwasher, as the heat may dry out or splinter the wood.

In the case of Sophie the Giraffe, the manufacturer recommends wiping her off, but not soaking her in water. Since Sophie has an air hole, water can get trapped inside and turn to mold. Keep that in mind when washing any toy and make sure you drain and dry it properly.

Do you have any toys that you've found tough to clean? Tell us in the comments below or email us at info@youparent.com and we'll help you find a safe way to clean them.

Tags :  healthbabyinfanttoddlersafety
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5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image

January 23, 2017

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image | A teenage girl looks into the mirror as she fixes her dress.

For preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. As their bodies change and they go through puberty, they are more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. As a parent, you have significant influence over your child and can help him or her develop a positive body image.

1. Model positive behavior by accepting your body.
Your children, no matter their age, mimic the behavior they see and hear at home. If you speak negatively about your body—or those around you—your teenager will likely share that attitude about their own body.

Do you complain about extra pudge on your belly? Your daughter will start looking at her stomach and thinking it's too large, even if it's perfectly healthy. Does Dad complain about hair loss? Your son might start worrying about losing his hair, instead of appreciating what he does have.

2. Encourage activities that feel good.
Shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise helps your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance. Focus on the positive feelings about being strong, healthy, and able to participate in different activities.

3. Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape.
We come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy your teen's body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing.

If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions. If your suspicions are confirmed, make gaining or losing weight fun and a family activity—everyone can eat more greens and protein and try new physical activities together.

4. Praise your child.
Teenagers need praise from their parents. They need to know you recognize when they're doing a good job, be that at school, in music, with friends, or in sports.

When you praise your child, be specific about the accomplishment and highlight positive character traits and talents. For example, tell your teen how you've noticed how compassionate he or she is with a friend who has been going through a tough time, or how you thought he or she did a great job in the game by passing the ball when a teammate was open. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.

5. Encourage your whole family to be healthy.
If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better self-image and healthier lifestyle, it will be easier for him or her to follow. The family can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals, and exercising together.

If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.

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Parent Engagement in High School

November 29, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in High School | Parents can facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships to help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college. | Two teenagers walk to class with books in tow.

High school is a big test for parent engagement. While it can be a time for parents to relax as their teenagers become more independent and take on more responsibilities, it’s also important for parents to facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships. As your teenager becomes an adult, these important skills and traits will help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college.

Emphasize Character
Since your teenager was a baby, he or she has learned the values and morals that are important to your family, which have shaped his or her personality and character. Now, your teenager is exposed to new ways of thinking and behaving every day. While it’s important for your teen to think for him or herself, you can reinforce those strong values and emphasize the importance of having a strong character.

For example, if your teen wants to quit a sport or a club because it’s too hard, discuss the importance of overcoming challenges and working hard. If he or she is challenging curfew, talk about responsibility. As you apply the concepts of these values to your teenager’s life, he or she will learn how his or her character influences everyday decisions.

Promote Healthy Relationships
As your teen develops stronger friendships, he or she may also start dating more seriously in high school. While you don’t have as much control over who your child dates or spends time with, you still have the power to encourage healthy relationships.

Think about what a healthy relationship means to you. Model that behavior with your parenting partner or significant other. Talk to your teenager about what makes a healthy relationship: open communication, mutual respect, trust, etc. Also discuss what makes an unhealthy relationship: constant fighting, feeling small or unimportant, and violence.

Learn to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and how to help your teen get out of it here.

Facilitate a Healthy Lifestyle
Teenagers are busy. Between school, sports, extracurriculars, and spending time with friends, it’s hard for parents to keep track of them. It’s also difficult to monitor their health, as they likely eat more meals and snacks on-the-go. Here are some tips to keeping them healthy during busy times.

  • Sit down for breakfast together every morning to ensure your teen starts the day with a nutritious meal.
  • Keep healthy grab-and-go snacks at home, like granola bars, apples, bananas, and oranges.
  • Ask your teen to sit down for a family dinner a few days a week if his or her schedule allows.
  • Take evening or weekend walks together to catch up while getting exercise.

Prepare for College
You have been and always will be an advocate for your child’s education. When it comes to preparing for college, ensure your child is taking the right steps and meeting with the right people from freshman year registration day.

  • Meet with the school counselor to determine what classes your child should take each year to qualify for college admission, including courses that count for college credit, like Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
  • Save your child’s best work for a portfolio, should he or she need it for college admission.
  • Encourage your child to get a well-rounded education by participating in extracurricular activities and clubs.
  • Stay on top of college testing deadlines, like the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT.

You have spent your teenager’s life preparing him or her for adulthood. High school is a critical part of the race, as your child will take what he or she has learned and apply it as he or she moves toward independence. Use these best parent engagement practices to keep your teenager on track.

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Parent Engagement in Elementary School

November 22, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in Elementary School | How to guide your child through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support. | A father plays cards with his son and daughter.

As your child begins elementary school, your role as your child’s primary teacher transitions to his or her official teacher at school. While the school will now lead your child’s formal education, you still need to guide him or her through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support.

Here are some ways you can practice parent engagement while your child goes through elementary school.

Encourage Friendships
As your child starts spending most of the day at school, he or she will primarily be socializing with peers. According to Sunny P. Chico, author of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “These early friendships teach your child how to interact with the world.”

Encourage your child to develop friendships with classmates and children from the neighborhood by arranging play dates outside of school, like inviting a classmate over on the weekend. Teach your child what being a good friend means: being kind and considerate of each other’s feelings.

Listen to Your Child
Think back to your childhood. Are there times when you tried to tell your parents something but they didn’t listen or didn’t understand the severity of what you were telling them?

Sometimes when our children reach out to us about problems, we dismiss them as trivial childhood quarrels or tattling. But it’s important for your child to know that he or she can express an issue and you will hear it. Listen to what your child is saying, ask questions about how he or she feels, and think about whether it might be a symptom of a greater problem, like bullying. If so, contact the teacher and work together to resolve the situation.

Eat Healthy
What are the typical breakfasts, snacks, and dinners your family eats during the week? If your refrigerator and pantry have healthy foods and limited junk or processed foods, your family is more likely to eat healthy, have better nutrition, and perform better at school and work.

Make slow transitions to healthier food. For example, the next time you’re at the store, instead of buying potato or tortilla chips, buy crunchy carrots and hummus to dip them in. Small changes can help your child transition to a healthier diet over time.

Address Struggles and Developmental Delays
If your child struggles with learning in any capacity, speak with his or her teacher about being tested for special education services. These services can range from speech therapy to additional help for disorders like autism or dyslexia.

By working with the teacher to determine what struggles your child is having in school, you will find out if there is a greater issue that you and the school can address to help your child learn and succeed. If so, start the process for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that defines what services, programs, or accommodations your child will receive from the school.

For a mother’s story about her son’s experience with an IEP, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

As your child grows, you will still nurture his or her social and emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development. Your role will change, but you are still your child’s strongest advocate.

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