Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Babies

Massaging Mummies!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Kids Activities , Tags: bonding, massage, olive oil

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There is a lot to be said for a nice, relaxing massage; it soothes away worries and stress, relieves tension and can make mummies feel like new. But, don't forget the benefits of massage for babies. Infant massage can be beneficial for babies in so many ways.

You can go to scheduled classes and learn how to massage from a professional. But, if you are gentle, careful and sensitive to your baby's needs, you can do some basic massage at home.

Benefits of massage include:

  • weight gain
  • encourage peace and calm
  • bonding with baby
  • reduce pain
  • help with digestion
  • strengthen immune system
  • improve sleeping
  • plus and possibly most importantly it is a great chance to spend some quality time with baby.

How long to massage? 15 minutes is probably enough, but if baby is enjoying it you can go on longer. Similarly if they are not enjoying it, stop and try again later.

What to do?

  • Gentle strokes down each leg, from the thigh to the ankle
  • Walk your fingers over their arms and upper torso
  • Gentle circular movements with the thumb and fingers over the foot area
  • Gentle strokes down each arm and onto the hand
  • Avoid massaging the head and back

What to use?

Pure and simple extra virgin, 100% olive oil is best! It is not sticky and great for massaging. Try warming it up a bit first my rubbing your hands vigorously. This will make it more comforting and easier to use.  Enjoy!

Low Fat Yoghurt Affects Hayfever?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: asthma, eating, hayfever, health, pregnancy

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If women eat low fat yoghurt during pregnancy they could be putting their unborn child at risk. Recent reports have suggested that babies born of women who ate low fat yoghurt during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma and hayfever (allergic rhinitis).

The findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress. They were looking at whether fatty acids found in some dairy products could protect against the development of allergic diseases in children.

70,000 Danish women and their eating habits were analysed and then they were followed and tested until the children were seven years old. The researchers assessed milk and dairy intake during pregnancy and monitored the occurance of asthma and hayfever in the children.

Results demonstrated that milk intake during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of developing asthma. In fact, it actively protected against asthma development.

What did show up was the fact that women who ate low-fat yoghurt with fruit once a day were 1.6-times more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7. These findings are compared to those women who reported no intake during their pregnancy.

The reasoning behind the findings suggest that non-fat related nutrients in yoghurt could in fact contribute to increasing the risk.

Eating For Two During Pregnancy

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Kids Activities , Tags: babies, health, obesity

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So many mum's to be subscribe to the idea of "eating for two" - 'Yes, another slice of cake is okay and make it a hot chocolate with cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you please!'   However, research has shown that mums who eat too much during pregnancy can increase the risk of their babies being born with low IQ, eating disorders and psychosis. Sounds dreadful!

The researchers state that the average IQ of children of obese mothers was five points lower than the babies who had mothers of a healthy weight. The research (carried out at McMaster University, in Ontario Canada) was published in the international journal entitled Obesity Reviews and it looked at the impact of weight gain during pregnancy on child development.

The findings suggested there were country differentials:

Sweden - The children born of overweight mothers in Sweden were more likely to suffer from attention deficit problems

Japan - Japanese children born to overweight mothers increased the baby's chance of developing schizophrenia in adulthood by 24 per cent.

Australia - The chances of teenagers have an eating disorder increased by 11 per cent for those who has overweight mothers during pregnancy.


It might be linked to changes in the hormonal, cardiovascular and immune systems during pregnancy as a result of excess weight.

Obesity in pregnancy can impact on the mother's health too.

It can increase the risk of:-

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • blood clots
  • miscarriages
  • still-births and foetal death

So, dispense with the old wives tales of eating for two, shape up before planning a family and eat sensibly!

Learning Shapes and Shape Sorters

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: areas of learning, eyfs, fine motor skills, research, shape sorters, shapes

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Shape sorters feature in every nursery and offer a great way for babies to begin to understand the world around them and how they interact with it.  Research over the last few years, however, suggests that babies learn shapes regardless of whether they have access to these sorts of manufactured toys.  Studies of babies born in developing countries, without access to the toys we enjoy in the Western world, confirm that they are just as able to differentiate between different shapes regardless.

This prompts thinking that babies have a disposition to recognise lines that don't change as an object or shape moves in space before they recognise more complex shapes that do.  For example, they can see that straight lines remain straight while an object moves, even though the angles between lines change, making them harder to recognise.

This research helps us begin to form an understanding of how babies really begin to understand the world around them which in turn will allow us to develop aids that may help and accelerate children in their learning.

Of course, shape sorters aren't just about learning particular shapes - they also help develop fine motor skills as babies practice picking up objects, rotating them in their hands and guiding them through holes on another object.  The ability to post objects through holes offers the first steps towards being able to pick up and control objects in the wider world.

Early skills form an essential part of the Early Years Foundation Stage - make sure that your babies are interacting with objects in a nursery setting and you are already following several Areas of Learning!

Protecting Children in the Sun

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Health, Preschool Children , Tags: clothing, hats, safety, spf, sun, sun cream

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There is a constant public health message that we must protect ourselves from the harmful damage that the sun can cause, but more importantly, we must look after our children in the sun!  We still have a limited understanding of long term damage that can be caused short term exposure to the sun, but increasingly it is believed that a single episode of sunburn during childhood could lead to skin cancer in later life.  It is essential, therefore, that you look after children when they play out in the sun, especially when on holiday to hotter parts of the world.  You must also ensure that anyone else looking after your children, at nursery, with a childminder, or at school, also looks after their health.

What precautions should you take to protect your children in the sun?

  • Apply sun screen with a sun protection factor of at least 50
  • Re-apply sun cream throughout the day at two hourly intervals
  • Re-apply sun cream after being in water, even if the cream states that it is water resistant
  • Make sure your child's body is clean before applying sun cream, rub off any sand particularly before applying lotion
  • Have the children wear sun hats, make sure that the backs of necks are covered too
  • Avoid being in the sun altogether during the hottest parts of the day
  • Create your own shade to sit in on the beach or in other exposed places
  • Wear clothes with a stated sun protection factor
  • In really hot places, keep t-shirts and hats on when swimming or playing in water

Be aware that sun cream is NOT recommended for babies under 6 months because their skin is delicate and very thin.  Chemicals in sun block may actually harm the skin of a baby.  Instead, make sure that they are protected by clothing and keep them in a shaded place, out of the sun.

Demand for Childcare Declines

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: childcare, childminder, cost, money, mothers, nursery, work

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A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year.  This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers.  As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.

Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves.  The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London.  This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!

Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.

On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places.  Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery.  It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break.  The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.

This isn't all bad news for private childminders.  The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years.  We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing.  Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day.  Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!

Nappy Changing Activities

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies , Tags: counting, nappy, nappy change, nursery rhymes, sensory toys

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Changing your baby's nappy may only take a couple of minutes, but given that each of your children may go through upwards of 4,000 nappies, that's somewhere in the region of a whole week, non-stop, changing nappies...for each child! If you're going to spend so long at the task, you may as well try and make it a slightly more enjoyable experience!

For toddlers, use the time to play colour games, recite the alphabet or practice counting.  Sing lullabies and nursery rhymes, and just talk with younger babies.  The more spoken or sung language that children are exposed to, the more quickly they will become familiar with it and the quicker they will learn both to understand language and later, to speak it.

You can also give babies sensory objects to handle during a nappy change.  Sensory toys are designed to stimulate baby's, giving them interesting textures and feels.  Sensory toys will give your baby something engaging to play with while you do the dirty work, changing their nappy!

Smile for the Camera

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Family, Kids Activities , Tags: camera, images, photos, tips

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It's so expensive to have professional photos taken of your baby, and with today's camera technology you can really create professional-looking and lovely photos with regular cameras.

Here are a few tips!

Keep it simple: try not to attempt catalogue style photos with a fussy background or certain tilt of the head required. Keep the shots easy and simple for you all.

Background: keep an eye on what's behind your baby and check there's no washing on the line, or dustbins in the background or a traffic sign coming out of their head! A leafy hedge, a grassy bank, a blank wall are all simple and effective backgrounds that will look good.

Lighting: light the picture naturally if possible so take pictures outside or in bright rooms. Flash is fine but can distort the colours in the picture or result in red eye or closed eyes!

Sunshine: it's lovely to take shots in the sun, but beware of sun shining in the children's eyes and causing them to squint or shut their eyes. Don't tell them to try and smile and look into the sun... it just won't happen!

Get up close: try to have the photo full of your baby so that about 3/4 of the photo will feature the baby and the rest is background or other things. You can always crop the image after if you don't want to hold the camers in your baby's face.

Practice: get to know what all the buttons on the camera actually do. You may find they enhace the shot with a bit of practice. Take plenty of shots too, don't spend ages lining up a shot and then just take one. You can delete any you don't like.

Tilting: try out some different angles and tilt the cemera, turn it portrait or landscape and play around with what you can do to get the right image.

Eyes right: don't always insist your child looks at the camera.  Looking down, or into the sky or eleswhere can make gorgeous shots.

Make it fun!: encourage your children to laugh and enjoy their photo session by making it a game and fun!

Take pictures often: by taking pictures often the children will be familiar with the idea of a camera being used and will not find it intimidating or embarassing.

Good luck!

Drinking During Pregnancy - Latest Findings

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health , Tags: alcohol, birth, drinking, pregnancy, premature babies, research

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Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have discovered that drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth by three times.  There have always been conflicting messages about how much or even whether women should or should not drink when they are expecting a baby, and this new research attempted to clarify the conflicting messages.

A staggering 60,000 women were questioned,  all of which who were between 10 and 12 weeks pregnant.  The results they gave were then tallied up and studied once they had had their babies.  Those who drank more than 20 units a week were considered to be heavy drink drinkers, and it seems, they were more likely to have premature babies.

A fifth of the women said that they never drank and 71% claimed to be occasional drinkers (that's 0-5 units a week). However, some women could have been misreported or under-estimating their drinking habits.  >10% of the pregnant women drank a moderate amount of alcohol (which is 6-20 units a week). These women were more likely to smoke, be in work and to have private health care compared to those who never drank.

Approximately 2 in 1000 admitted to being heavy drinkers (which means they drank more than 20 units per week).  The babies born to these women we more prone to very premature birth and all the problems premature babies have.

The best advice is to avoid alcohol all together just to be sure!

Best Baby Shower Ideas

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting , Tags: baby shower, ideas for mummy, party, pregnacy games

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If you are having a baby or have a friend who is expecting, why not get together and have a baby shower? It's a great chance to have a friendly afternoon and have some fun too! Here are some baby shower ideas.

  • Guess the tummy size... you'll be amazed at how wrong you will all be! Get some string or wool and ask everyone to cut where they think the wool should be cut in order for it to fit round the tummy of the mum to be. See who is the nearest and they're the winner.
  • Baby's stuff... Give everyone an A4 page and get all those present to write down everything they can think of that babies need: from bottles and cots, to ear wax remover and Calpol! At the end of five minutes, the person with the most things on their list wins.
  • Guess How Many... place a load of tiny baby items in a couple of jars and get everyone to guess how many are in the jar. Try using cotton buds, safety pins or cotton balls. The nearest guess is the winner.
  • Steady hands... drop a pile of cotton buds or feeding spoon in the middle of the room and each person has to try to remove one at a time, without the others moving (like the game of sticks). The prize goes to the person who removes most.
  • Pin the baby on the mummy... cut out some pictures of babies and attach tape to the back. Choose one person and blindfold them, see if they can stick the baby onto the Mum in the right place! The one who gets nearest to the pregnant tummy wins.
  • Guess the item... place an oddly shaped baby item in a box and see if everyone can guess what it is without looking and just by feeling it.
  • Baby pictures... get all the guests to bring a baby picture with them and get everyone else to match the baby to the lady!
  • Food tasting... get some jars of baby food and get everyone to taste them and try to guess what the menu food is supposed to be!

Childminding Assistants - A Good Idea?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: childminders, childminding assistants, crb, employing staff, male influence, observations, ofsted, preparation

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More and more childminders are taking on assistants to work with them or their settings are proving so popular with parents that they are actually taking on full time partners or co-workers to cope with the demand.

What can the assistant do?

  • Help with school runs. The assistant can collect children from school or nursery and drop off.
  • Play Games: The assistant can participate in games and watch the children while you cook or prepare the next activity.
  • Be watchful: They can observe activities to record children's progress and just be another pair of eyes when out and about with the children.
  • Male assistants: Male assistants can also be of great value as they can add a male influence on the setting which is particularly useful if there is no male influence at home. Many parents seek out childcare settings with male childminders or assistants purely for this reason.

Employing as assistant:

  • You must inform OFSTED if you employ another worker.
  • You must have a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure carried out if the person is over 16. This includes all family, friends and neighbours who might be in your setting during hours when the children are in residence.
  • You will also have to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and it's against the law not to do so.
  • You should get references and check out their backgrounds thoroughly.
  • You will have to deal with the tax, National Insurance contributions and other rights (such as sick pay, holiday etc) that employees are entitled to.
  • You will need to inform your insurance company and ensure you have employer's liability insurance.
  • Wages will have to be negotiated. You must pay at least the minimum wage.

Quiet Please!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies , Tags: baby, david ferrer, hit ball, tennis

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A tennis star was openly booed recently when he hit a tennis ball into the crown towards a crying baby who had distracted him from his tennis game.

Spanish player David Ferrer was losing his match and the baby was crying so he threw up the ball, swiped it with his racket and aimed at the innocent baby.  He was clearly in a raging temper.

It was not a good shot - thankfully.  The baby was not hit, nor his father who was trying to comfort him.  However, the resulting mood-change of the spectators was tangible.  The crowd booed and showed their displeasure for the rest of the match.

It was a quarter final in Miami against American Mardy Fish.  Ferrer went on to loose the match.  He blamed a stomach complaint for the outburst.


Walking at Six Months!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Child Development , Tags: gross motor skills, six months, walking

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The youngest baby to ever start walking was only six months old when he took to his feet and walked - he couldn't even crawl!

Xavier King's parents were astounded when he took his first steps so early.  With his arms stretched out in front of him to keep his balance, he toddles across the room at about 6 foot at a time.

His parents had a feeling he would be a fast learner when it came to mobility as Xavier was sitting up at three months old.  Most babies begin to crawl at about 6 months and will pull to standing at about 9 months.  By 18 months most are walking although it can take longer for no reason at all!

However, it has actually caused the parents a little concern as they need to be nearby at every moment to make sure he doesn't get into any harm.  A play pen has proved very useful indeed.  His parents have suggested that the bouncy chair they had for their son may have contributed to his leg and muscle strength.  He loved the chair and would happily bounce in it.

Early walking is often said to be hereditary however neither of Xavier's parents walked particularly early.  They will now spend most of their time running behind him to make sure he is always in their sight!

Some Toothpastes Bad for Pregnant Women!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health , Tags: pregnancy, pregnant women, soap, toothpaste, triclosan

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A chemical present in some toothpastes and soaps has been linked with brain damage to babies in the womb.  Scientists fear that pregnant women who are exposed to particularly high levels of the chemical triclosan, may be putting their babies at risk.

The findings suggest triclosan could disrupt blood flow to the uterus thus starving a baby’s brain of the oxygen it needs to develop properly.  Urgent investigations into the dangers to unborn babies have been called for. Triclosan is a powerful anti-bacterial chemical that was developed nearly 50 years ago.  It is often used in toothpastes, deodorants and liquid soaps as well as washing-up liquid and anti-bacterial chopping boards.

Latest studies on sheep showed it interferes with an enzyme that allows the hormone oestrogen to circulate in the womb which helps keep open the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood to the foetus.  If there is too little, this artery narrows and oxygen supplies are depleted. In the UK, the chemical’s use is covered by the EU Cosmetics Directive, which says it is safe to use to the maximum content of 0.3 per cent. GlaxoSmithKline has phased out triclosan in its Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpaste. It is still used in Colgate Total.

Despite assurances, it has been suggested that pregnant women avoid triclosan... just to be sure.


Toxic Metals Found in Baby Foods

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: arsenic, baby food, breast is best, food safety, toxic levels, toxins

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According to research, some baby foods have been found to contain an "alarming" level of toxic contaminants including arsenic, lead and cadmium!  Something as innocent as baby rice, or fruit baby porridge has been found to contain albeit low levels of these poisons.

The researchers claim that feeding infants twice a day on shop-bought baby foods such as rice porridge can increase the baby's exposure to arsenic by up to fifty times when compared to breast feeding alone.

Officials at the Food Standards Agency and the European Commission are conducting an urgent review of the baby foods.  Products tested included brands such as Organix, Hipp and Nestlé - many of which are available in our supermarkets.

Parents all over the country trust these brands and are possibly unaware of this research and the implications. Just to be clear, none of the toxic levels exceeded official safety limits, but scientists believe they are still of concern if fed to very young children, suggesting that the guidelines themselves are too lenient.

New guidelines have been called for as well as an urgent review. Babies are particularly at risk because they develop so rapidly at a young age.  The Sweedish researchers said the toxins come from the raw materials.  And that all traces should be banned from baby food, not just levels reduced.  One way would be to source the rice from different parts of the world. The rice, wheat and grains absorb the aresnic from the soil as they grow.  Ambient levels vary across the world.

The World Health Organization recently changed the recommended levels of arsenic in our diet because fears that it can cause cancer even at very low levels.  Is this another case where breast is best?

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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