Category: 1-year-old

Family Field Trip: Grocery

Want to upgrade your weekly shopping trip from family struggle time to — at least on a good day — an educational experience? We have four easy-to-use ways to keep your children (fingers crossed!) calm, curious and connected on your next trip to the grocery store.

Shopping list:
Before you head to the store, work together to create a shopping list. For toddlers, ask questions about what fruit, vegetables or other foods they want at the store. Two-year-olds and up can help make the list, either by saying items they want for adults to write or by drawing items. Then, when you head to the store, use the list like a set of directions. All of these actions build language arts skills!

Location, location, location:
On your way to the store, talk about what part of your community the store is in. Is it north? Right around the corner? Downtown? In town? All of these terms help your child explore geography, which is a part of social studies. For preschool and beyond, you can use maps to talk about location. You can use kid-created maps, paper maps or apps with maps.

Family Style Dining

Want to take the fun from the store to the table? Check out our post on family-style dining by clicking this picture!

Going on a food hunt:
As you shop, talk about the colors, shapes and location (under, over, beside, above) of each food item on your list. For toddlers, simply sharing those descriptions helps build math and science vocabulary. For preschool and beyond, you can invite your child to help you find each item with a grocery store version of “I Spy.” “I spy a white vegetable. It’s as big as your head and next to the broccoli.” Cauliflower is more fun if it’s part of a game!

Delicious AND nutritious?:
Build your child’s health skills by discussing what is healthy about items on your shopping list. Here are some easy ways to help your child explore food and nutrition by age.

  • One- and two-year-olds: Ask if a food is new or one they’ve had before. Then, use words together to describe the color, texture or time of day for each food. “This apple is shiny, red and gold. Would you want to eat this for a snack or with a meal?”
  • Preschoolers: Talk about which foods are more nutritious (vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, whole grains are all great options) and which are perhaps better for treats (nearly the snack aisle!). “Those carrots and plums are really healthy, so we can eat them all the time. If we get these cookies, let’s make sure to just have one each. Sweet treats like these have a lot of sugar.”
  • Pre-K: Discuss the link between a food and their individual health. Encourage your little one to consider which drinks, foods and serving sizes are healthiest for them.

Taking the time to encourage children to help plan your trip, staying engaged during travel time, and talking about foods gives you the chance to make the most of your grocery trip. As parents, we also love taking that time to connect. It makes a chore a little more fun, and helps us explore our children’s favorite flavors!

Do you have any tips on making grocering shopping with little eaters more fun? Share them below!

 

Cover image by Flickr user USACE Europe DistrictCreative Commons license.

“Pass the peas!” Family style dining helps little learners grow and thrive

Family Style Dining

Way back in the olden days or maybe not so long ago, families regularly sat down together at a table for meals. They passed the food around, talked about their day and learned from one another. Generations of family members all ate together, sharing their family culture and history. Fast forward to 2016, and we are in a different place. Families are not the same. Food is not the same. Our lives are faster paced, and many children spend most of their days in an early learning setting. The lessons learned from eating together “family style” are no less important than they were a century ago, but our lifestyles have made it harder to implement on a regular basis.

What is “family-style” dining?

Simply put, eating “family style” isn’t just about your family gathering together, though that’s an undeniably positive practice – it’s about passing food, serving ourselves and communicating with one another in the process. Something as simple as putting out bowls on the table, instead of serving from the stove, can actually have a big impact on your little learner’s skills and sense of connection to you.

Family-style dining has many benefits including teaching little ones about having conversations and building relationships. Just by saying, “Sweetie, can you pass the bread to me?” you can give your child the chance to be a helper and learn how to make polite requests from your example. Family-style dining also slows the pace of a meal, creating the space for children to take their time, try new things, learn table manners, gain coordination and increase their food vocabulary. Eating family-style also gives you the chance to share what an appropriate serving size is and what kinds of foods they need to grow up healthy. By supporting a relaxing and calm meal time we encourage a lifetime of healthy eating behaviors.

Can this approach solve mealtime power struggles?

In short, the answer to that is a solid “maybe.” If children see family members, young or old, trying unfamiliar foods, they are more likely to try them as well. Children gain independence as they scoop, use tongs, pour their own beverages and use forks and spoons, all with appropriately sized equipment of course. Sometimes, giving a child that sense of control with the details allows them to feel freer to experiment with new foods.

Family-style dining is about the connection – not about perfection!

Want to make family-style dining successful? A few key practices will make it a good experience for both your child or children and the grown-ups in your family. Removing distractions such as televisions, phones and other screens can help everyone really focus on and engage with the meal time. Conversation around the food can flow easily – is it crunchy, salty, and smooth, where did it grow, what country is it from…the possibilities are endless!

Using sturdy and not-too-heavy bowls, spoons and utensils helps children feel truly included in dishing up dinner. Select bowls with wide lips to make it easier for children to pass the items to their neighbor. Tongs and appropriate-sized tableware encourages small motor development – which are the skills that allow children to color, write and manipulate small objects over time. Moms, dads or grandparents should also be prepared for the inevitable spills and mishaps. Having cleaning supplies close at hand and not losing our cool with spilled milk or a sneeze into the bowl of peas puts everyone at ease.

Try it out! Let us know how it goes – or if you have other tips for mealtime magic!

Bedtime Books to Move Mini-Readers from Day to Night

Beyond helping children gain basic literacy skills, reading can be a huge piece of building warm and loving family bonds. From babies to preschoolers, reading is an important piece of family connections and establishing routines. One of the most important book traditions that we can establish with our children is bedtime book time. Taking time every single night to read a book helps your child settle their busy brain and relax into a blissful sleepy time.

We conducted a very informal survey to find out which books have made a lasting impression on Hoosier families and got some great ideas:

  1. Good Night Moon – Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd
    This wonderful book about a mother rabbit putting her baby down to sleep was hands down the winner in our informal poll. Everyone loves how the words flow and lilt as everything in the room is told “good night.” Good Night Moon is a timeless treasure!
  2. Llama Llama Red Pajama – Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
    A cute story from the Llama Llama series came is also beloved. Mother Llama puts her baby down to bed but Baby llama still needs her – a dance familiar to anyone who has managed the long haul of toddler bedtimes. The rhyming words and soothing repetition make this one a got-to bedtime book.
  3. Guess How Much I Love You – Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram Rabbits are popular characters for sleepy children’s’ books – maybe because they are so cute and cozy – and this very sweet book provides a lovely touchpoint at the end of a day. A parent rabbit and fluffy baby telling each other, over and over and over, how much they love one another in increasingly meaningful ways. Many moms and dads like to repeat the sweet messages to their own little ones as they read.
  4. Good Night Owl – Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
    When a strange noise disturbs Owl’s rest, he has to investigate! This newer, beautifully illustrated book is as popular at baby showers as it is at bedtimes. The 2016 book recently won a Geisel Honor Books Award from the American Library Association, making it both family and librarian-approved.
  5. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train – Both written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Have a little one obsessed with vehicles of all kinds? These books, written in poetic and colorful language, offer the perfect way to wind down for kids who love anything on wheels. Indeed, as these books make clear, sometimes we need to make sure large machinery is properly put to bed as we help our little ones head to dream land.
  6. The Going to Bed Book – Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
    This book is short and sweet, perfect for babies and young toddlers – and it introduces the math concept of opposites like big and small. The sing-song story follows silly animals as they go through their bedtime routine. From brushing teeth to being rocked to sleep, the calming, rhyming story is perfect for bedtime.
  7. It’s Time to Sleep, My Love – Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
    From the illustrator of the popular On the Night You Were Born, you can expect the same beautiful illustrations and heartfelt message. This is another lovely selection if your little one love cuddly time or you want to increase your bond, giving your family a great opportunity to relax and share how much you love one another.
  8. Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey – Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
    This lovely bedtime book comes in both board book and standard story book printings — and either way, it offers beautiful illustrations of boys, girls and fanciful creatures who carry these diminutive dreamers to fantasy locations. Light on text, but heavy on dreamscapes, each page offers a chance to talk and notice the illustrations together.

We hope you and your little ones enjoy these books and that everyone in your home can get good night’s sleep! (We know how difficult that can be in these early years, but we also hear that it gets easier. We can dream, right?)

We’d love to hear your suggestions too – please feel free to share your family’s favorites in the comments below.

Cover image by Flickr user Lars PlougmannCreative Commons license.

Building a Relationship with My Child’s Teacher

I’m one of the few staff at Child Care Answers [Central Indiana’s child care resource and referral agency] who doesn’t have early childhood education experience. So why am I writing this piece about relationships with early childhood staff and teachers? What I do have is this – experience in being a parent who is inexperienced. I needed every bit of help I could get. I learned some things the hard way. Hopefully, sharing some of my stories can help families who are also in the same boat.

When my first son Miles was born, I didn’t have a clue about what was supposed to happen in a child care setting.  Sure, I knew the basics. Caregivers shouldn’t lay babies down to sleep in cribs with blankets or pillows. I should not find a teacher in a room alone with 20 two-year olds. I shouldn’t walk away to hear adults screaming at the children (although my own kid screaming “Moooooooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!!!” was going to happen sometimes).

Thankfully, none of the above happened the first day I dropped him off when he was three-months old. Nevertheless, I was uneasy to hand him over to Ms. Sandra (name changed to protect the innocent). In my previous visits, she had been quiet, making as little small talk as possible. Although she had a grandmotherly vibe, she didn’t give off the goo-goo ga-ga baby talk that Miles had seen from his relatives and gray-haired church ladies. How was his day going to go without the over-the-top songs and silliness he was used to? I was nervous about my about my day away from him, my first day back to work, and about my first day pumping as a nursing mom.

Learn more about exploring quality care — which includes how programs support and welcome families — with our guide to finding early childhood program quality.

I was, however, fortunate to be able to go in to nurse Miles twice a week. The first time I came in, Ms. Sandra was just finishing up feeding another baby. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the morning drop-off, I caught a glimpse of her in a lovely quiet one-on-one moment, with just a hint of goo-goo and ga-ga. She looked up and offered me the rocker. At first, I froze, wanting to whisk Miles away to keep him to myself in a private room. I accepted, though, and I’m so glad I did.

That was the beginning of a long series of talks with Ms. Sandra – me at the rocker with Miles, her tending to the other babies, and us chatting about our days. I discovered she had quite the understated sense of humor with an amazing twinkle in her eye when she joked. I got to see firsthand as she changed a diaper on a wiggly worm like a champ or soothed a colicky baby after drop-off. She got to hear (whether or not she wanted to) about Miles’ crazy gas last night or his hilarious new trick. Eventually, the time came for me to wean Miles and for him to move to another room. Even so, I continued to visit at the same time to play and connect with him and his new teacher.

TIPS FOR CONNECTING WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER

How can you make the best of the time that you have to learn what in going on in your child’s classroom? Keep the following in mind.

  • Connect with the teacher in her “natural habitat.” If a teacher is covering for another teacher in a different classroom or is at a shift change, she won’t be giving you her best self. Set her up for that opportunity!
  • Try different options until you find what fits. Not everyone will have my same fortune to be able to visit twice per week during the day. Look at your own schedule and see what would work best to find time to regularly connect with your child’s teacher. If you can’t connect face-to-face, make sure that each of you have a way to ask questions and get answers. That could mean paper, text, app, phone, or some other way to communicate.
  • Keep the teacher’s needs in mind too. Remember that your teacher is caring for other children and cannot focus her attention solely on you and your child. If you notice you are being a distraction to her or the other children, wrap up your visit or conversation.
  • Don’t forget to make your child the priority. As your child ages, what works one month may not work the next. For example, when my youngest son was going through separation anxiety, I couldn’t come in the middle of the day anymore. So, I built in extra time and stayed a little longer when I picked him up.
  • Be flexible! This is the most important! There are a lot of people and parts to this equation, but remember that you’re doing this for the best interest of your child. If you’re making things difficult for the teacher, child, or yourself, then find a better way to do it!

Preventing Illness this Winter

Welcome to October!  As the weather changes, be sure to take extra steps to help prevent illnesses like the flu.  Wash your hands and the hands of your children often and make sure to scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. Be sure hands are washed after blowing noses and sneezing. You may want to wash pacifiers and toys more often in the coming months as well. Another step is to have your children vaccinated with the Influenza vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every season. Call your pediatrician today to learn more.

If your child comes down with a fever of 101 or higher please be sure to see your pediatrician and make other arrangements for child care. Many child care programs have a sick policy. You may want to follow up with your child care and refresh your memory of this policy. Some policies include but are not limited to the following:

  • A fever above 101 degrees taken orally (102 degrees taken rectally or 100 degrees taken axillary – armpit)
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or rash of unknown origin
  • Cold or other illness causing breathing difficulties or other symptoms that prevent the child from participating comfortably in activities
  • Positive reaction to tuberculin skin test
  • Ringworm
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

If your child has any of the following symptoms, you will need to wait 24 hours after the symptoms have subsided–without the aid of medication–before returning him or her to child care.

Take additional steps like drinking plenty of water, getting as much sleep as possible and eating a healthy diet along with the vaccination to prevent the flu. You also may want to wash down table tops, door handles, and other surfaces more often to stop the spread of germs.

Click here to view tips for proper hand washing in child care centers. All child care centers follow this policy. View tips for sanitizing toddler and baby toys here.

Cover image by Flickr user Brandon OttoCreative Commons license.

Make your home safer for little ones

BABY’S SIDE OF THE STORY

“Ooh! Look at that pretty stuff over there! I should check it out!” thinks Baby, making his way across the living room floor.

Mom is busy making dinner in the next room. ‘Silence is golden’ some say. In this case, silence can be dangerous! Little eyes spot things adults wouldn’t even give a second glance to.

Baby makes his way across the floor and glances up at the colorful glass vase full of flowers. “I just need to get higher,” he thinks. As Baby pulls himself up to the low table, he is startled by someone saying his name very loudly. He starts to whimper. “You scared me!” he says in his mind.

Mom walks over, picks him up, and comforts him. She didn’t mean to scare him, but she needed to alert him of the possible danger.

SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR HOME

As parents, we want to keep our children from harm. Oftentimes, we don’t see or think about things that need to be “baby-proofed” in our homes. One way to see things the way a child would is to get on her level.  It may seem silly, but crawl on the floor around the house, looking high and low for things that could be a hazard. Pay attention to:

  • Electrical outlets – do they have safety covers?
  • Glass and other breakable items – can they be placed somewhere out of reach or packed away?
  • Cleaning supplies – are there any under the bathroom sink? In the bathroom closet? On the floor behind the toilet? In the hall closet? Under the kitchen sink? In the pantry?
  • Tip hazards – are all cabinets, bookcases, stands or tables, secure and unable for baby to pull over on himself?
  • Small stuff – anything we may drop – from cookie crumbs to earrings – Baby will find them! Keep the small stuff picked up or swept up.
  • Sharp stuff – big sister doing a school project? Make sure scissors are put away as well as sharp pencils, pens, and even paper.
  • Tablecloths – It may be time to take off the tablecloths and table runners. Anything that hangs can look fun to play with.
  • Stove handles – Do you have a stove with handles on the bottom front? Make sure they have safety handles.
  • The refrigerator – Need an easy way to keep it closed for little ones – and easy for us? Place two non-permanent hooks toward the top of the fridge, one on the side and one on the door. Place a rubber band or string around both hooks. Baby can’t open, but magically, you can!

OTHER HELPFUL SAFETY RESOURCES

There are so many things to think about when a little one is around. By taking these first few steps, you have made yourself aware of other possible hazards to take care of.  Below are some website addresses to further explore safety in the home:

Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.

Can my two-year old read?

We have all seen advertisements of babies and young children reading words off flash cards with proud parents beaming in the background.  While there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of these programs, the truth is that very young children are beginning to gain the skills necessary to be readers.

Adults in children’s lives can be integral in helping children to work on these skills.  How many young children can recognize the golden arches of McDonalds or the cowboy hat in the Arby’s sign? Guess what?  Connecting symbols with meaning is a huge step toward reading.

HOW DO I ENCOURAGE MY CHILD TO BE A READER?

When you are in the car with your children, ask questions about familiar signs and symbols.  If you see a stop sign, you can repeat the word “stop” and spell it. That will help children associate meaning with letters.

Make a photo album with your child of his or her favorite things with the word underneath the picture so they associate the word with the item.  It is through this association that children will eventually associate letters with sounds, sounds with words, and, finally, words with meaning.

SO…WHAT’S THE ANSWER? IS MY TWO-YEAR OLD READING?

The answer to the question above is yes! Your two year old is born curious and hard wired to learn language.  So, he or she is a born reader!

Cover image by Flickr user Dan Hatton, Creative Commons license.

Making Meal Times Positive

Family Style Dining

I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.

SO WHAT DOES A POSITIVE MEAL TIME LOOK LIKE?

To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.

During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.

HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS TO START MAKING MEALTIMES A MORE POSITIVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
  • Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
  • Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
  • Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.

Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn OoiCreative Commons license.