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Reading in early childhood leads to academic success

June 6, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Reading in early childhood leads to academic success

Think about when you're most proud of your young child. Is it when they conquer a skill you've been working on for a while? Is it when they use a word larger than you thought they could understand (or even a word they did—but shouldn't—have picked up from you *wink*)?

For young children, small steps in learning eventually become their academic development. Their ability to learn now will help them learn once they're in school. Reading can help your toddler develop those early academic skills.

Did you receive children's books as gifts when you were pregnant or after your baby was born? Keep those books out and accessible for your child to pick up. Flip through them together, looking at and talking about the pictures. Ask your child questions:

  • What animal is that?
  • What color shirt is he wearing?
  • Where do you think she is going next?
  • How does she know that woman?
  • Why is he sad?

These questions encourage your child to interact with the book, develop cause and effect critical thinking skills, and use their imagination about what could happen outside of the written story.

Once your child starts to develop an interest in books, head to yard sales and the library for inexpensive ways to expand their reading options. You can even use newspaper comics and magazines.

By including your child while reading books—asking questions during the story, pointing out details in the illustrations, and prompting your child to share their own version of the story—you are encouraging academic development in your child and setting them on the path to success.


How can you teach your child to read? Try this teacher's tips

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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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Life Skills for Every Age

January 3, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Life Skills for Every Age | Try teaching your child these life skills for his or her current—and future—age.

We spend at least 12 years in school expanding our academic minds and wading through social, emotional, and physical waters, but in all that time, we never take a class on life skills. Perhaps that is because those skills are better taught through experiences than in a classroom setting, and also because those skills can be learned before school begins and after it ends. Try teaching your child the life skills below for his or her current—and future—age.

Early Childhood
Infants
Babies start learning life skills from the moment they are born. Swaddling and holding your baby establishes comfort and trust between the two of you. Speaking and reading to your baby will help him or her learn to talk and read sooner than if you didn't practice these skills.

Toddlers
There are many things that toddlers can start doing to care for themselves, but you will probably need to help them start or finish these tasks. For instance, you can teach your toddler to put a shirt or pants on. He or she might need help with the armholes or taking the shirt off, but practice makes perfect.

Another big step for toddlers is learning how to hold a cup and eventually learning how to drink from a cup without a lid and without spilling. Use this learning opportunity with caution—start with a sippy cup with a lid and use clear liquids, staying away from more expensive furniture or rugs until your child has mastered this skill.

Elementary
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Once your child starts kindergarten and elementary school, social life skills will become more important. Model positive behavior by resolving disputes with your parenting partner or your child in a calm manner. If your child witnesses you arguing with someone else, talk to him or her about it afterwards, explaining in simple terms what the argument was about, how each person felt, and how you resolved it. Ask your child what he or she does at school when there is a disagreement to apply this concept to his or her life.

4th through 6th grade
At this stage in a child's life, academics become more rigorous so it's a great time to establish and/or cement strong study habits, as they will be even more important in middle and high school and on through college, especially as your child's social life expands. Boost your child's excitement about studying by creating a special study area for him or her.

Middle School
Even though you've been teaching your child about hygiene as he or she has grown up—including brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, etc.—puberty has its own hygiene rules.

Talk to your child about the importance of regular showers and where to clean (those armpits will be getting stinky now!), whether or not to start shaving, changing grooming habits, etc. Helping your child learn how to care for an adult body will save him or her from some of the embarrassment that comes with puberty.

High School
Exercise is an important part of a child's life, which is usually done through gym class, sports, and playing with friends. But as kids get older, they become less active, especially if they are not in sports. Since high school sports are more competitive, it's harder for less athletic teens to get the exercise they need.

Make an effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day into your teen's life. It can be as easy as an after-dinner walk every evening or finding an activity that he or she enjoys, like skateboarding, snowboarding, or golf. Getting in the habit of daily exercise now will help your teen stay healthy in college and beyond.

What life skills have you taught your children? Share your ideas and stories in the comments below.

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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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Backyard Summer Learning for Toddlers

June 21, 2016

By Nikki Cecala

Backyard Summer Learning for Toddlers | Learning opportunities exist right in your backyard! Try these fun activities with your toddler. | A young boy and his brother play with a water toy in the backyard, wearing matching plaid shirts.

I love summer. The season allows my son and I to have lots of adventures, creating bonding opportunities and memories for a lifetime. Although sometimes I get so wrapped up in planning these adventures that I forget he can get just as much out of playing in the backyard exploring as he could on a field trip with mommy and daddy.

Outside time is golden time for discovery, development, and growth. Children can learn on so many levels: basic, fundamental, and even about the universe. And they’re more likely to remember what they learned because it was a memorable and personal experience.

Take advantage of the summer for learning with your toddler by trying these backyard lessons.

Ice Block
Freeze a few toys in a block of ice overnight. On a warm, sunny day, bring the block of ice onto the porch or sidewalk and lay kid-friendly tools next to it.

Explain to your toddler that that the toys are frozen in ice and he or she needs to break the ice to get the toys out. Your toddler will see how frozen water melts, and you can answer any basic questions he or she has about liquids and solids (and even gases if you talk about evaporation).

Gardening
My son loves to garden so I picked up gardening tools at the dollar store. He was so excited to pull weeds, dig holes, and plant seeds.

Gardening is a great opportunity to teach your child how trees and food grow from seeds. Now that my son has played in the garden, he has an appreciation for plants and their importance for our survival in the world.

Bugs
There are a lot of neat bugs that come out during the summer, like worms, ladybugs, and fireflies. Why are these bugs so important and why do they only come out in summer?

The next time you see a worm, teach your child the importance of a worm’s role in increasing the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. When you see a caterpillar crawl by or a butterfly land on a flower, teach your child about the insect’s lifespan and how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

Space
For children, there is something magical and special about the night sky. The next time your child is up late enough, explain what the moon and the stars are. If you’re lucky you will see a shooting star!

Parents and relatives play a crucial part in advancing a child's learning, health, and well-being, so prioritize and have fun with these backyard lessons!

What are some activities you do with your child in the summertime?

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